Friday, May 30, 2008

Cheney and the Likud Party Might Put a Hit on Obama when he goes to Iraq?

Now there are some real crazy people on the left but this one has to win some sort of "Golden Straitjacket Award."

Darth Cheney has made repeated promises to both the Saudi royals and the Israeli Likudists (in my minds ear) that America will destroy the energy capabilities of Iran, but to date, Darth has not been able to manufacture the impetus for it. My conspiracy theory is that a false flag attack on Obama, would inspire the shock and anger of the American people to give the green light for the mass bombing of Iran, perhaps including nukes.

So Cheney and Likudists will collude to bump off Obama when he goes to Iraq and blame it on the Iranians? So then America gets so angry we will bomb Iran in retaliation? It sounds like a Tom Clancy novel or the new season of 24. The scary part is this person actually lives in a world were this kind of thing is possible. Scary stuff.

The Oil Bubble: Even More Evidence

This is another article siting the oil bubble and this demand figure is really interesting.

Hedge fund manager Michael Masters testified before Congress last week that while China’s demand for oil has increased by 920 million barrels in the past five years, demand for petroleum index futures has increased by 848 million barrels. This means the effect of speculators in just about as large at all the growth from China. This is amazing.

So according to Mr. Masters index futures have created almost as much demand for oil as all of China? Now that is a real eye opening figure I should think. I guess we can now blame oil index funds as a new cause of what Arjun Murti calles a "Superspike" in oil. I just want to see what event actually pops the bubble. I read that if oil goes below $120 then there will be a rush for the exits.

Xbox 360 Controller to Fly Predator Drones?

Now this is a very interesting article on how the gaming industry is influencing the military of the future.

I used the controls to perform a target lock on an unsuspecting civilian Fleet Week spectator, and as the rooftop turret followed the poor fellow around the area, I remarked to one of the ONR representatives how frighteningly similar the whole system was to a video game. He agreed, then showed me a military spec version of an Xbox 360 gamepad that was an alternate interface for the same machine. (It wasn't all that different from the one we thumbed to test drive the Army's robotic MULE vehicle from Lockheed Martin earlier this year.)

So yes your twitch skills may one day allow you to blast Al-Quida scum hiding in the hills around Jalalabad with the machine guns on a Predator Drone. I wonder if the Predator pilots of the future will be shouting "boom, headshot" over and over as they rack up the Frags? I would be willing to bet even money that eventually we will see Predator Pilot sponsored by the US Air Force out for the Xbox 360 in the next few years.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Obama Heeds My Advice and Might go to Iraq

It is nice to see that Obama actually agrees with something I said.

You know, what they're doing over there is separated from their families, giving for their country. It's truly, truly amazing, and I think we would want to go over there and talk to them and see what sort of difficulties they're facing and see how it is that we can begin to carefully remove them and carefully bring them back to their families and bring them back to the United States."

So are they really going to go to Iraq and say to the troops in the field and tell them that they will bring them home withing 16 months whether the country is stable or not? Will he look General Petraeus in the eye and tell him that he has failed in his mission and must start to draw down troops in 16 months no matter what the situation on the ground is? Will Obama actually gainsay a career military man with the direct responsibility of keeping a 300,000 US fighting men and women alive and an entire country of 27 million people from decending into chaos?

I think this Iraq visit is fraught with potential gaffs and may be Obama's moment to shine or an opportunity to look like an ass in front of the American people. If he has a "Dukakis in the tank helmet" moment that may spell the end of his campaign. Or he might look like an actual leader of men walking tall and hanging out with the men and women that he might be commander and chief of one day. It seems a little like putting the defendant on the witness stand. It is massive all-in gamble.

If I was of a Rovian mindset I would put operatives in place to make sure some anti-Obama soldiers are planted in a crowd to boo him or turn their backs on him or something. Maybe you could have one hold up a banner that says "we shall not have died in vain" or "Don't send us home before the job is done" or something to that effect. In any case this could be Jeremiah Wright times 100 or it could win it all for him.

Pulling the Rachael Ray Ad is a Reason Why Muslims Hate Us

I think this is Ad is case-in-point on why Muslims say that the US against them. Here is the ad:

That ugly scarf around her neck is supposed to look like a kaffiyeh which is now somehow tied to Muslim terror groups. Of course if Americans read a little history they would know that kaffiyeh is just a standard headscarf that Arab men wear to ward off the sun. It is about the same thing as a baseball cap is for an American.

How the thing is attached to the PLO is basically because of Yasser Arafat used to wear one. Of course he wore the thing on his head and not around his neck. Hell, it would have to be green and black to represent Hamas or yellow to represent Hezbollah. Even Al-Quida operatives usually wear all-white or all-black turbans and not kaffiyehs. I would understand the furor if Rachael Ray was wearing a black mask and had on a green headband with "Allah Akbar" written on it.

I think this is exactly what fuels Muslim hate against the US. Americans can't even accept something that looks vaguely like Arab headgear without seeing terrorists. Even if it is draped around the neck of a celebrity chef in an ad for Iced Lattes we still see a terror group.

It just proves their point when they say that Americans are stupid and reactionary and that they view Muslims and Arabs as just a bunch of terrorists living in the desert somewhere in the Middle East. Despite what Michelle Malkin says it is not the same symbol as a picture of Che Guevara or Mao Zedong on a T-shirt since they depict evil mass murderers. This is also not the same as a clan hood since that is not a signature garment of anyone other then the Spanish Inquisition. This is instead an everyday piece of clothing worn by millions of Arabs and Muslims that is used to keep your head from getting sunburned. It has been over-inflated into a "terror symbol" and Palestinian liberation fetish and we are taking the bait.

Maybe the terrorists are winning the war since they have us so scared that when we see a Latte ad we immediately see their "message." They want us to see terrorists under every rock or in every Internet banner ad. We see Rachael Ray in a scarf and we think "yup Palestinian terror." We are attacking Latte ads with questionable scarves when we should be attacking radical Madrasas, countering Wahabi thinking with the reason of the West, and trying to create an alternative to the Palestinian Death Cult.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Evidence of Oil Demand Dropping

Well at least it is dropping in the US.

"There is a very limited demand for fuel oil in the U.S.," said Stephen Schork, editor of energy industry newsletter The Schork Report. "Consumers are responding to high prices, which makes the rapid rise in crude oil of the last few weeks hard to sell."

I guess Americans just aren't willing to drive a bunch of miles on $4 gas for pretty much no reason this past Memorial Day. Maybe this is a firm rebuke against all of those people talking about $6 gas. I would bet even money that there will be a lot more bus riders and people buying Honda Civics and selling their SUVs if gas was $6. There is just not enough demand to support gas over a certain price.

Obama Should go to Iraq

I think Obama should head to Iraq and see the soldiers and commanders that he said have "failed." The idea of him traveling with McCain to do it is very interesting and should not be dismissed out of hand.

John McCain on Wednesday repeated his challenge to Barack Obama to take a ride with him over to Iraq and see the situation on the ground before concluding that U.S. efforts have failed to get the war-torn nation back on track.

This is real canny gambit that McCain is playing. On one hand he is reaching out to Obama in a bipartisan manner saying "lets go together and see if there is any progress in Iraq." But McCain can hit Obama with the "he would rather meet with the Mullahs in Iran then with Gen. Petraeus" if he is rebuffed.

So now the Obama campaign is stuck wrongfooted. They look like they are rejecting bipartisanism but at the same time the idea that "Obama won't even see the boots on the ground after the Surge" is in play.

The Republican Days Since Obama has been to Iraq clock is also a stroke of genius idea as well. It shows that Obama just parrots "Bush's failed policies in Iraq" over and over again but has no facts to back up this assertion. Now McCain needs to head back to Iraq and Afghanistan again and extend a hand to Obama and watch the fireworks when he is rejected.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Super Investor Ken Heebner Likes the China Trade

It seems that this guy is betting big on Chinese demand for raw materials still staying up.

These days Heebner is keeping close tabs on the latest economic data out of China, because China is the key to his enormous bet on commodities. As of March, 64% of Focus's assets were invested in commodities-related stocks. His biggest stakes are in steel (ArcelorMittal, Nucor, and United States Steel) and in oil (Apache, Devon Energy, Petrobras, and Schlumberger). Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company that has announced two giant offshore oil discoveries, is his favorite. "Petrobras could become the biggest stock in the world," he says.

I like the steel stocks especially Nucor and I have seen multiple sources pushing Schlumberger so his shortlist looks like something worth checking up on.

OPEC Chief Blames Speculators

It seems that even the OPEC secretary-general is coming down on speculators.

Abdalla Salem El-Badri said speculation and the weak dollar are responsible for record crude prices — which topped US$135 (€85.70) a barrel on Thursday, up nearly 4 percent from US$130 (€82.50) on Tuesday.

"We are not very happy with the rise in oil prices... it has nothing to do with OPEC," El-Badri told reporters during a visit to Ecuador.

That guy has a cool Dungeons & Dragons name as well. My PC would be nicknamed Abdalla the Bald and would probably be a mage wearing a multihued Keffiyah and black robes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Olympics Causes the Chinese to Switch from Coal to Oil

Hmm, I came across this tidbit while reading the transcript of the Frontline Q1 Earnings on this site. Frontline is a Tanker company and CEO Jens Jensen was talking about the Chinese shipping more crude before the Olympics.

Subsequently, we have seen the Chinese oil imports rising quite a lot, and the increased activities for the East.

We believe that China has been adding extra imports, maybe to build up some stocks before the Olympics should they decide to maybe, use a little bit less coal for pollution reasons.

That would dovetail nicely with the idea that the Chinese are increasing near-term oil demand and driving up prices. So they are planning on burning less coal for their power plants and more oil during the Olympics so we don't see Chinese stadiums wreathed in yellow smoke and marathoners coughing up black phloem.

I can see the Chinese paying any monetary price in order to make this Olympics go 100% perfect. After all they view it as their coming out party for the world. So as I see it oil prices will probably come back down to $100 a barrel or less by June or July. That is because Chinese oil purchases should go back to normal as they go back to using coal to feed their power plants.

Hmm, so we have Indian Subsidies and Chinese anti-pollution window dressing as a few new causes for this $135 spike in oil. I guess the price rise can't all be pinned on shady money-men and billion dollar hedge funds as the media would have us believe.

Hillary Brings up Bobby Kennedy's Assassination

I think she is just chronically unable to refrain from verbally abusing herself in this race.

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.

When I first read this statement I got the correct inference that Kennedy still did not wrap up the nomination in June when he was assassinated. Too bad it will be spun to say that Hillary is staying in the race because Obama just might get shot by a deranged gunman while cutting through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel while on a campaign stop. I think she needs to spend less time answering the phone at 3AM and more time concentrating on getting a good nights sleep.

Yahoo Blinks: They Postponed Their Annual Meeting

It seems that Yahoo's board is running scared or are simply playing for time to work out a deal with Google or something in order to save their skins. The shareholder meeting has been moved from July 3 to sometime at the end of July. They should have taken that sweetened offer from MSFT since Yang and Co. might be out on their asses after that date.

The Internet media company also disclosed in a regulatory filing that shareholders other than billionaire investor Carl Icahn plan to nominate candidates to its board.

Two individual shareholders other than Icahn have informed the company they plan to nominate themselves to the board, and another shareholder has notified Yahoo of plans to nominate an alternate slate of nine directors, not including himself, according to a filing.

$130 Oil Bubble: Some Support from the Press

Just as I thought the media is now saying that $130 oil is starting to form a bubble.

"This thing has to turn around, it's insanity," said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst at the consultancy Cameron Hanover. "Ultimately we'll see a huge collapse in prices."

Beutel doesn't know when that collapse would come, but he predicts it will be within weeks or months, not years.

But he doesn't know just what might bring it about - perhaps the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates or a big drop in consumption as people worldwide can no longer afford to fuel their cars or heat their homes.

"If these prices stick, you may see whole neighborhoods where people abandon their homes," he said predicting that in the Northeast U.S. it will cost $5000 to heat a home unless prices fall.

We are already seeing all sorts of signs that demand is decreasing in the US and in Europe. China even seems to be slowing its demand to growth of only 4.7% according to the IEA. While Indian Oil Demand remains at 8-10% demand growth but seems to be mostly sustained by Indian Government intervention. The top Indian Refiner has losses on paper of $55 million per day and the Indian government will absorb 80-85% of that loss. This is of course with oil at $117 a barrel. If oil stays at $135 a barrel then you might see either retail prices rise and crimp Indian retail demand or the Indian Government pull back on the intervention.

People Drove 11 billion Miles Less in March

It was the first reduction in driving since 1979. This is good news as well.

Travel over the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend will fall for the first time since 2002, auto and travel group AAA said this month.

Some 37.87 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home for the holiday, which falls this year on May 26. That would be down 0.9 percent from 38.23 million last year, according to AAA's survey, which was conducted among more than 2,000 Americans.

I think high gas prices are finally changing the behavior of Americans. Also I wonder how many vacations will be spent staying at home instead of flying all over as well?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Next Bubble: Alternate Energy?

First we had the .COM bubble then we had the housing bubble but this article points out what may well be the next one.

There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy, the development of more energy-efficient products, along with viable alternatives to oil, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, along with the use of nuclear energy to produce sustainable oil substitutes, such as liquefied hydrogen from water. Indeed, the next bubble is already being branded. Wired magazine, returning to its roots in boosterism, put ethanol on the cover of its October 2007 issue, advising its readers to forget oil; NBC had a “Green Week” in November 2007, with themed shows beating away at an ecological message and Al Gore making a guest appearance on the sitcom 30 Rock.

What is interesting is that each bubble that we have had in the 2000s might be able to be picked up by looking for so-called "bubble signs." The .COM bubble was supposed to be the triumph of the Internet economy and how it will "change our lives" with all its new economy vs. old economy BS. I think that when paid millions for their SuperBowl ad when they had no revenue to speak of was a sure bubble sign. Or you could site's idea of delivering groceries (which which have always had a notoriously low margin) to your home as another bubble sign.

Then the housing bubble cam along and created the idea that your home is your best investment so you should buy multiple homes and "flip them and become a real estate millionaire." I site the rise of the Kiyosaki Method and the mania surrounding home flipping as a sure bubble sign. Also seeing a mortgage broker on every block is a sure tip off as well.

So this next bubble could very well be "alternative energy" bubble. This one is even more insidious because it is a get-rich-quick scheme like most bubbles mixed with a feel good message of helping the environment. That feel-good message will trap a lot of investors because they will be seen as preventing global warming when they invest in that switchgrass to ethanol company with no revenue that spends millions on advertising. The idea of promoting social consciousness will end up losing people alot of money when this bubble pops.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

$133 Oil Is Based on Speculation?

It seems that everyone is going crazy about high oil prices but it seems that quite a bit of it has nothing to do with the supply demand picture. You can tell that much of the price is driven by speculators according to this article.

The nature of a crude oil's term structure tells you what the broad energy market thinks about the future state of oil supplies, according to Schork. Oil in backwardation indicates that the market is concerned about tight oil supplies, because buyers will pay a premium to assume ownership today rather than waiting for a better price later but risking that there might not be any oil to buy. Oil in contango signifies that demand for the commodity is less anxious, and that future supply constraints are not a major concern.

Oil in backwardation is when the near month contract costs more then the later month contracts. While contango is the opposite. So that means people were pouring money into oil futures in the near term contract and thus artificially creating these "record prices."

Supply and Demand dictates that when lots of money is chasing a finite resource like a futures contract then prices will go up. It seems that when both WTI and Brent futures are in contango (which this analyst stated will happen in the next few weeks) then the normal supply demand picture will again take shape. So all this bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico and Nigerian output fears and other nonsense is just buy-side propaganda made up just to keep inflating what some are calling an oil bubble.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hillary Whips Obama in Kentucky

This time it isn't the so-called uneducated white guy vote going her way again. I think Jeremiah Wright has made it tough for Obama to win over a white America. The sad thing is I can see these same whites voting for Obama in large numbers if they weren't subjected to Wright's anti-American conspiracy theorizing.

With votes counted from 23 percent of the Kentucky precincts, Clinton was gaining 54 percent support, compared with 42 percent for Obama.

Interviews with Kentucky voters leaving their polling places showed Clinton's victory was roughly as sweeping as the rout she fashioned last week in West Virginia.

Almost nine in 10 ballots were cast by whites, and the former first lady was winning their support overwhelmingly. She defeated her rival among voters of all age groups and incomes, the college educated and non-college educated, self-described liberals, moderates and conservatives.

Teens Have Gas At the Top of their Shopping Lists

It seems the trend of using credit to pay for gas is really on the rise. This sounds like a good idea if you own Visa stock as long as these kids don't get in over their heads and can't pay it off. Imagine beings $1000s in debt and not even out of high school. That would be a tragedy.

In the most recent survey, about 69% of teens said they use credit cards for gas, up from 52% a year earlier and 46% in 2006. Gasoline now tops the list of things teens are charging, above "clothes," which had led the list in previous years.

Joleen Martis is one teen whose style has been crimped by surging fuel costs. She budgets $80 per week for gas to fill up her Honda(HMC - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) Pilot SUV.

"It wasn't always that way -- I used to try to shop here and there but since gas prices are high, I don't really shop as much," she says. The 17-year-old Rahway, N.J., native has a part-time job at Best Buy and spends most of her cash on fuel and food, but keeps a side-stash in case of an emergency or necessary shopping spree.

The $175 Burger Looks Like Crap

Who would pay $175 for a burger that looked like this? It looks like a mutants head that has been blown apart by a shotgun. Also those greens to the left of the burger look like something you would see in a compost heap. Even the fries look unappetizing with some kind of possibly-fungal garnish sprouting from it. I think people at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe need to take some lessons in making their food look less like garbage.

The Case for BioFuels

A great rebuke to all those anti-Biofuel nuts that think food for fuel is hurting people in the long run. I really agree with this part:

Instead of financing terrorism, our energy dollars could be used to fund world development. Instead of selling control of our banks and media to Saudi princes, we could be selling tractors to Africa. Instead of buying arms for our enemies and chains for ourselves, we could be building a world of prosperity and freedom. Instead of paying for death, we could be helping to spread life.

I still hate the idea that whenever you fill up your car it goes into the pocket of a scumbag like Hugo Chavez, spreads Wahhabism, or funds the nuclear aspirations of Iran. If we don't buy what they are selling then we can finally get out of the Middle East game entirely.

House Passes Anti-OPEC Legislation

It looks like the House is going to shoot itself directly in the foot by passing some anti-OPEC regulations.

"This bill guarantees that oil prices will reflect supply and demand economic rules, instead of wildly speculative and perhaps illegal activities," said Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who sponsored the legislation.

They do know that OPEC might retaliate against US refiners by slowing the amount of OPEC crude coming into our country. Also any actual lawsuit finding against OPEC will be pushed directly back to us in the form of a surcharge. So the Congress would be directly responsible for increasing the price of gas. Sounds about right.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Myanmar Junta Has a Friend in Beijing

It seems that the Chinese are going to step in and back up the Junta in their slow response to their crisis.

Other countries must show ``due respect'' to Myanmar, said Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, at a briefing yesterday. ``Myanmar is a sovereign country. In the end, rescue and relief work will have to rely on the Myanmar government and people.''

That "due respect" is going to doom 100,000 or more people to death by starvation and disease. The Chinese don't want to jeopardize that natural gas coming in from the Junta. And they accuse the US of looking at the dollars and cents over lives? This looks like just another case of the world watching while people are dying by the thousands.

Petrobras Tries to Corner the Deepwater Rig Market

Well they are pretty close to it since they are hiring 80% of the 21 of the rigs that can drill in 9,800 feet of water.

Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based company is known, is hiring rigs that can drill in at least 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) of water, Chief Executive Officer Jose Sergio Gabrielli said in an interview last week. The world has 21 such vessels, according to, which tracks the offshore drilling industry.

The day rates on these things are outrageous as well. They are going for $600K a day and Petrobras is driving the prices up to get at that Tupi discovery. Some people are saying that the Tupi discovery with its 12-30 billion barrels of oil may be as big or bigger than the 18.75 billion barrels in the Gulf of Mexico.

McCain is Right on Talking to Iran

I think it is Obama who is "naive and irresponsible" when he believes that he can jawbone Iran without preconditions.

McCain rejected the naive comment, saying Obama should have known better, and added: "Talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, in unconditional meetings with the man who calls Israel 'a stinking corpse,' and arms terrorists who kill Americans, will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. It is reckless. It is reckless to suggest that unconditional neetings will advance our interests."

The trick that Obama needs to learn is you have to have a "stern public face to Iran" while acting behind the scenes through covert back channels. He should know that you give legitimacy a regime that wants to destroy our ally by meeting them with your public face and with no preconditions. It also ties the hands of your back channel people and freezes out other nations that have better standing with the rogue regime.

Also with any meeting that goes badly you have the potential to look weak when only strength is respected. Obama just needs to adjust the preconditions and state them clearly through the back channel. If Iran turns down the "destroy Israel" language and then proves that the nuclear program is peaceful then we will sit down and hash out a deal together. This is the Khadaffi method. Or the US could simply wait for the Mullahs to die of old age (or be ousted) and then we sit down and hash out a deal with the future leaders of Iran in a decade or so. This is the Arafat method.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blackstone Group says "Signs of Recovery" in economy

Hmm, it seems that the huge buyout firm is starting to think the economy is on the mend.

``Markets have stabilized and we have seen signs of recovery,'' Schwarzman said today on a conference call with investors. ``We don't think we're completely through it, but we're seeing signs of improvement.''

Hmm, I think the Bear Stearns bailout may have been the height of the crisis. Things were on the edge of a cliff at that time and could easily fall either way. It was either backwards into the grass or forward into the ravine. The FED was there to stabilize the markets and may get some broad new powers out of the deal. We see now that inflation at a low point and even an modest expansion of consumer spending. If oil drops back down then the recovery might be truly on the way. I guess the Dems will have to go back to the Iraq War as their tent pole issue since the economy may be right on track by October.

Yahoo Rebuffs Ichans Offer

I think the execs at Yahoo are living in a dream world rebuffing another offer to sell.

``The board of directors of Yahoo has acted irrationally and lost the faith of shareholders and Microsoft,'' said Icahn, 72. ``I sincerely hope you heed the wishes of your shareholders and move expeditiously to negotiate a merger with Microsoft, thereby making a proxy fight unnecessary.''

It looks like they might go to either a proxy fight or maybe Microsoft will come back with a raised offer. I do think that the "vote no" campaign will go a long way to either ousting their board or booting Yang though.

Farm Bill May Hit Ethanol Producers

I was looking at the new Farm Bill passed by the Senate and this part was interesting.

_Increase loan rates for sugar producers.

_Urge the government to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol producers for use in a mixture with corn.

_Cut a per-gallon ethanol tax credit for refiners from 51 cents to 45 cents. The credit supports the blending of fuel with the corn-based additive. More money would go to cellulosic ethanol, made from plant matter.

I wonder how this change will affect corn and sugar prices. Much of the high price of corn is due to its use as fuel for ethanol. Also I wonder if sugar prices will rise now that it might be used to fuel cars and not just to make Americans fat. That 3rd thing may be a terrible blow to some of the ethanol refiners that are right on the bubble as well. I think you might see some consolidation and bankruptcies in that industry in the near future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sweden a Bad Example for US on Carbon Tax

Although I agree with some of the message of this article on why gas prices should stay high to help the economy. I take issue with using Sweden as a model for the US to follow.

Is there a model for a carbon tax? Yes, Sweden has had one since 1991. While it has not been perfectly implemented, the Nordic nation of 9.2 million people has seen a 9 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions – more than required under the Kyoto treaty – while maintaining a healthy economy and becoming a "clean tech" leader. A German environmental group finds Sweden has done the most of all countries to protect the climate. It also helps that the country relies on nuclear and hydro power for all its electricity.

The US has 301 million people living in it and has a landmass that is quite a bit larger then the California sized Sweden. It would be fairly easy to implement a system that taxes carbon emissions when so few people are affected by it. Also with a landmass so small there is hardly any need for interstate trucking or huge railroad networks. If you think about it the Swedes hardly have much of a need for a domestic airline industry as well. A "carbon tax" would decimate these industries in the US because there is no alternative to filling up a train or a truck with non-carbon emission producing forms of energy just yet.

This tax would hurt just about every American since all of these industries would just jack up their prices to cover these new taxes. If you thought food was expensive now wait until the railroad or truck that ships the food to your supermarket gets taxed merely for for the act of moving.

However I think the idea of a Green Marshall Plan where the government throws billions of dollars into green research is the way to go. The government should create a GARPA (Green Advanced Research Projects Agency) and fund it to the hilt and draw the best scientists from all over the world to work in Seattle or someplace and have them concentrate on reducing the need for fossil fuels and provide plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Also there should be a plan in place to replace every coal fired power plant in the US with a nuclear power plant. We should have like 70% of our energy provided by nuclear power by 2020 or some other arbitrary date. That should cut emissions by millions of tons per year. Environmentalists that stand in the way of nuclear power are actually part of the global warming problem since they are just encouraging coal plants to continue on.

Weird Ants Overrun Houston

Now this is a strange story about something called crazy rasberry ants and how they seem to be terrorizing Houston residents.

Worse, they, like some other species of ants, are attracted to electrical equipment, for reasons that are not well understood by scientists.

They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction. They have been spotted at NASA's Johnson Space Center and close to Hobby Airport, though they haven't caused any major problems there yet.

I wonder why these ants are attracted to electricity like this. Perhaps it is related to the chemical control network that gets ants to behave in colonies and take care of their queen. Or maybe there is some frequency given off by these devices that the ants pick up on their antennae. It is just strange that an ant would eat a non-food object just because there is electricity flowing through it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Now Carl Ichan May Lauch a Proxy Fight for Yahoo?

This saga is getting stranger and stranger.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is considering launching a proxy fight at Yahoo, according to people who have spoken with Icahn.

Icahn has declined to comment.

Late last week, Icahn began building a significant position in Yahoo that may be as much as 50 million shares, these sources said.

That is some serious money he has invested in Yahoo. Ichan must have been the big investor that was propping up the price at $25 a share last week. I wonder if he can pull off the proxy fight before Thursday when the offer expires?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why US Broadband Sucks

This is an interesting article about why US broadband sucks in comparison to foreign broadband.

Despite the repeated claims of the current administration that our "broadband policy" is working, the US actually has no broadband policy and no aggressive and inspiring goals (think "moon shot"). The EDUCAUSE model suggests investing $100 billion (a third comes from the feds, a third from the states, and a third from companies) to roll out fiber to every home in the country. Whether the particular proposal has merit or not, it at least has the great virtue of being an ambitious policy that recognizes the broad economic and social benefits from fast broadband.

It seems like part of the problem is the big US broadband carriers have no real reason to offer better service for a cheaper price. There is just not enough competition to spur the companies to offer a Japan like price per Mb. If consumers are willing to pay $45 a month for 5Mbs download, 1Mbs upload with almost no alternatives then that is what companies will charge you for it. It seems that only government intervention would either drop the price or raise the speed.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Circuit City Opens their Books to Blockbuster

It seems that Circuit City is going to let Blockbuster do their due diligence to narrow down their bid.

Shares of Circuit City Stores Inc. rose on Friday, after the consumer electronics retailer said it would allow Blockbuster to review its books.
Also, the Blockbuster's largest shareholder, Carl Icahn, said he would buy the company on its own if Blockbuster doesn't find financing.

I think it is positive for the stock that Icahn will backstop the deal if it falls through. I am still sceptical this tie up though. I think if people get used to visting a Blockbuster that would be inside of a Circuit City store then maybe it could work. I know Blockbuster will be able to close some stores and that would provide a nice bump in same store sales.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Democratic Consumer-First Energy Act is a Joke

The Democrats are going after Big Oil again. Here is my opinion on their plan point by point:

Roll Back Tax Breaks for Oil Companies and Invest in Renewable Energy – In 2004 and 2005, the Big Oil companies received tax breaks worth $17 billion over 10 years. The Consumer-First Energy Act will roll back $17 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies and instead invest those taxpayer dollars to improve consumer price protection, renewable energy development and energy efficiency technology through a designated Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund.

I think this may be a good idea as long as those tax breaks go back in if the price of oil drops back to $40 a barrel like it was a few years ago. Of course the Dems are going to stick the money in some Trust Fund that will probably be raided for an earmark or for some Senators pet project. However, $17 billion in tax breaks for Solar companies or fuel cells or other renewable energy would be a good idea (and boost their stocks.)

Force Big Oil to Pay Their Fair Share through a Windfall Profits Tax – Since the Bush Administration came into office, the five biggest oil companies have made over half a trillion dollars in profit. The Consumer-First Energy Act creates a 25 percent windfall profits tax on companies that fail to invest in increased capacity and renewable energy sources. This provision would not apply to the profits those companies reinvested in clean, affordable, domestically produced renewable fuels, expanding refinery capacity and utilization, or renewable electricity production. The proceeds of the tax will be invested in consumer price protection, renewable energy development and energy efficiency technologies through a designated Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund.

This is an absolutely dumb idea that I guarantee would have unintended consequences. The Dems are purposing a 25% tax on top of the 43.41% tax rate that Exxon is already paying? This Windfall Tax would have resulted in $10 billion extra that would be taken from Exxon, $4.5 billion taken from Chevron, and $3.6 billion taken from ConocoPhillips in 2007. Of course these companies would either cut production or slow their exploration to make up for this sudden shortfall. Cutting production would raise the price of oil since it would crimp supply and slowing exploration would make oil prices even higher in the future once oil starts to run down. So this bill would actually raise the price of oil while insuring there will be higher prices for the next decade. Good work Dems!

Also what do they mean by "5 biggest oil companies?" Would this be only US oil companies because the 5 biggest Integrated Oil Companies by by Market Cap includes PetroChina, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP? After all PetroChina made $21 billion, Royal Dutch Shell made $31 billion, and BP made $22 billion in 2007. Why do these foreign oil companies get out of paying an extra 25% tax on their earnings? I mean BP for instance is only paying 34% taxes compared to the 43% taxes that Exxon is paying. So the Dems actually think that Exxon would just grin and bear it and pay nearly 68% of their income in taxes while their competitor pays only 34%? Is that any way to stay globally competitive?

Halt Government Purchases of Oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – The Administration continues to place between 70,000 and 80,000 barrels of oil a day underground in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which is 97 percent full. The Consumer-First Energy Act calls for suspending through December 2008 oil purchases for the SPR. Filling could resume when the 90 day average price of crude oil recedes to $75 or less. Energy officials have stated that by halting purchases for the SPR, the price of gasoline can be reduced 2 to 5 cents per gallon.

Wow, this is one smart thing in this whole mess. The SPR should not be filled with $123 oil by any stretch of the imagination. This past week it looks like they are slowing down the purchasing since it went from 701,339,000 barrels to 701,331,000 barrels. At least some bean counter in Washington is waiting a few weeks for prices to drop before they commence buying again.

Protect Consumers from Price Gouging – The Federal government’s authority and enforcement actions are inadequate to protect consumers from artificially created spikes in retail gas prices are inadequate. The Consumer-First Energy Act would give the President the authority to declare an energy emergency should there be a shortage, disruption or significant pricing anomalies in the oil market. Once an emergency is declared, setting an “unconscionably excessive price” during such an emergency would be deemed unlawful and subject to civil penalties.

This sounds unconstitutional for some reason. It would effectively give the President pricing power over gasoline. For instance if gas hits $4.00 a gallon he can declare an energy emergency due to pricing anomalies in oil markets (whatever the hell that means) and then immediately drop the price of gas to $2.00 a gallon since anything higher would be "unconscionably excessive." It just sounds like the kind of power that the Politburo would have and not the President of the United States. Also aren't there laws on the books already dealing with price gouging?

The Administration’s failure to regulate the oil futures market has lead to exorbitant speculation. The Consumer-First Energy Act establishes two key limitations on speculation. First, the bill prevents traders of U.S. crude oil from routing transactions through off-shore markets to evade speculative limits and sets forth reporting requirements. The bill also requires the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to set a substantial increase in the margin requirement for all oil futures trades, contracts or transactions. Recently, one oil company executive indicated crude oil prices could be inflated due to speculation in the futures market.

I wonder if Congress knows that crude oil futures are an international business and is only denominated in US dollars? Setting limits on US traders and not international traders again puts our country at a disadvantage. Also making traders have larger margin requirements is like putting a tax on those traders. They also need to know that forcing the biggest oil company in the world, Exxon, to cut their production to avoid paying 68% in taxes would really be something the long side speculators would love. I mean after all these speculators spun nonsense like fog in the Gulf of Mexico into a supply reduction that justifies $123 a barrel oil.

Stand Up to OPEC – OPEC’s near-monopolistic control over oil prices has lead to record oil prices which have driven up the cost Americans pay at the pump. The Consumer-First Energy Act allows the U.S. Attorney General to bring an enforcement action against any country or company that is colluding to set the price of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product. Enacting this provision will make it clear to nations that participate in the oil cartel that engaging in conduct designed to fix the price of oil is illegal under U.S. law. As such, nations concerned with maintaining good diplomatic relations with the U.S. will likely be reluctant to blatantly act in a way that is counter to U.S. law.

So the Dems want to sue OPEC? That is idiotic. What happens if they retaliate and cut production due to "pipeline improvements" or something like that. We might see some $300 a barrel oil if we get into a shouting match with OPEC. I guess there are some Dems that are nostalgic for those Carter oil shock years.

Also are the Dems really thinking of souring relations with Saudi Arabia or Nigeria simply because they want cheaper oil? I thought the GOP were supposed to be the avaricious oil grabbers. The Congress does know that protecting the price was exactly what OPEC was formed to do right? OPEC controls the supply spigot and thus as a result of their cutting and raising production they control the price lever as well. I think the Dems need to go back and take Economics 101.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Niger Delta Rebels Want Jimmy Carter?

Okay I guess it seems like a pretty good deal for oil prices anyway. Carter also mediated in 1999 but it didn't solve any of the problems. I guess Carter is turning into the go-to guy for terrorist organizations all over the world.

The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose campaign of violence helped lift oil prices to a new record on Tuesday, said Carter had accepted its offer to mediate in the conflict "on the condition that the Nigerian government and any other relevant stake holder invites him."

Yahoo Shareholder Revolt

It seems that spurning Microsoft's sweetened offer may create some real ire among shareholders to boot Yahoo's board.

In my opinion, they all need to go. Sunday, I launched a "withhold" campaign aimed at Yahoo!'s board. I'm asking all Yahoo! shareholders, whether you're Gordy Crawford or Bill Miller or John Doe Investor, to mark the "against" box on the Yahoo! proxy, which you will receive in the coming weeks, ahead of the July 3 Yahoo! annual meeting.

Also this article pointed out some really sad attitudes from Yahoo as well.

People close to Yahoo said that the chief executive, Jerry Yang, and his team, who told Microsoft they would not sell for less than $37 a share, greeted Microsoft’s decision as a victory. High-fives were exchanged Saturday afternoon when they learned Microsoft was backing down.

Yup they pretty much celebrated that they thumbed their noses in the faces of the Evil Empire from Redmond even to the detriment of their own stock. I think if Yahoo had a CEO that was looking out for the shareholders then they would have pulled the trigger on the sweetened deal or maybe even agreed to $34 a share. It is sad to see billions of dollars in investors money wiped out to further an anti-Microsoft agenda.

My prediction is Yang and the board will be out on their ear come that July 3rd shareholder meeting. A bunch of "Abstains" or "Against" votes from shareholders that have lost faith in the leadership at Yahoo (and have lost millions each) will doom them.

Oil Superspike?

At least that seems that way according to Goldman Sachs.

Oil prices have nearly doubled from about $62 a barrel a year ago, which Goldman sees as a sign that the world is in the midst of a "super spike" in oil prices. Analyst Arjun Murti said in a research note released Monday that prices would ultimately force demand to fall sharply.

I would have to agree with Mr. Murti. I think demand will be crimped at prices that are higher then $120 and that would drop the price eventually. Once demand heads down then there will be an oversupply of the amount of oil needed. I still think oil will drop to an equilibrium level at about $100 or so once the high prices start to kill demand. I'm thinking that the supply estimate may be higher then normal tomorrow.

Earth to Hillary: Windfall Profits Taxes are a Dumb Idea

I think the whole idea of a windfall profits tax is asinine.

The reality: It's not clear how much revenue either candidate's windfall profits tax would raise.

"It depends on how it is structured and what future oil prices are," said Gilbert Metcalf, an economics professor at Tufts University who specializes in taxation, energy and environmental economics. "For what it's worth, the previous windfall profits tax consistently raised less revenue than was predicted," he added.

I think Prof. Metcalf is 100% correct. If there was a windfall profit tax lets say on revenue over $100 billion dollars or other such nonsense. I would be willing to bet her a million dollars that Exxon or whatever company hits that magic number will make exactly $99 billion in revenue by any means necessary including pumping less oil or shuttering refineries. Of course that would make crude prices and gas prices even higher so they will have to keep cutting production to stay under that number.

A tax like this would penalize the company from doing the one thing that the company was built to do. Namely pumping oil and selling it for the highest price that they can. If she really wanted to create a sound policy then she should offer Exxon an incentive to pay a higher dividend. That anemic 1.8% yield is embarrassing for a company that raked in $116 billion last quarter. Of course the Dems won't get to rob Exxon so they can fund some pander bait like the gas tax holiday.

Also if Dems want to encourage a green industry then they should provide tax incentive for a company to put in solar panels to reduce their energy cots or simply invest in green initiatives. Obama's so-called Green Marshall Plan would be a springboard. They could shift the tax incentives that big oil receives (but add them back if oil drops to $20 a barrel again) to the solar, geothermal, fuel cell, biomass, etc. industries. Too bad that doesn't fit the wealth redistribution paradigm that the Dems are so short-sighted about.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Is LDK Solar A Takeover Target by Siemens?

At least it might look that way if these rumors are true.

LDK Solar (LDK) is up 4.5% to $34.92 on speculation Siemens (SI) is preparing a bid for the company.

Siemens makes grid-compatible inverters under the SINVERT brand name so they are active in the solar space. These inverters change the DC power that a solar cell generates into the AC power that can be added to the power grid.

The only problem I have is that LDK makes solar wafers and not the finished products. From looking at Siemens portfolio of products (and there are a ton of them) I see that they are mostly finished machines like switches and motors and such. LDK, however, makes the ingots and wafers that solar cells are built out of. It would kind of be like GE buying a steel company in order to make turbines cheaper. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

It would seem to me that Siemens should instead invest in a company more down the chain. For instance First Solar or SunPower actually make the solar panels themselves and not just the wafers. If Siemens bought one of these companies then they could build the solar cell and provide the inverter system all in one package.

They could create a so-called SINVERT All-In-One Solar Array System (SINVERTAIOSAS which sounds like a skin condition) built entirely by Siemens. I can see a European country sit down with Siemens and say "here's $10 billion we need some solar plants." Then Siemens could build the cells, plan the grid, and even build the power plant without having to go out of the company.

The better takeover target would probably be SunPower since that company's market cap is only $6.81 billion while First Solar is a whopping $21 billion. Siemens has $14.92 billion in cash so they could scoop SunPower pretty easily and move right into the space. IMO a SunPower acquisition would be a much better buy then a wafer maker like LDK.

Yahoo Blows it and Rejects the MSFTs Sweetened Offer

It seems that Yahoo is too rich for MSFTs blood and the Redmond seems to have walked away from the deal.

"We were negotiating a way to find common ground and then on Saturday they chose to walk away," said the 39-year-old co-founder of the pioneering Internet company. "They started it and they walked away."

The reason why they walked away Mr. Yang is that you valued the company at $37 a share while MSFT was willing to pay $33 and that was only after you yanked them around. The company hasn't been worth $37 a share since January of 2006 when the company was still growing at 34% year to year.

The company is barely growing its EPS from one quarter to the next and is locked in 2nd place behind a giant rival. If the two companies joined up they may have been able to challenge Google. I think MSFT might scoop up Yahoo for a song a few years down the line if Yahoo doesn't do something drastic. It sure would suck if MSFT comes up with a $15 a share bid or something when the stock is in the high teens. Good thing I opted out of this entire mess.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Miley Cyrus Backlash, Teens Think She's Whore now?

It certainly seems that way to this group of New York teens interviewed by the New York Times.

It stung to hear the word; another version of it came up a moment later. Looking quickly at the image — Ms. Cyrus with her hair damp, her back bare, a sheet draped over her front — another Beacon sophomore looked not so much shocked as disturbed. “Is this who we’re supposed to be growing up to be?” asked the young woman. She wore sunglasses, a tight baby-T and short shorts over black leggings. “I don’t want to be that,” she said. “It’s sending a message that girls are supposed to be whores.”

In the strange world of teen girls it is okay to dress sexy but damp hair, bright red lipstick, a sheet, and a bare back is the implication that she just hooked up. It puts her in the same category as Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Just another "celebrity whore" and not the wholesome girl from Hannah Montana.

I think the idea that what these girls are fighting back against is growing up too fast. There is just too much oversexualization in pop culture today and these girls seem to be sick of it. So when a wholesome girl with good values like Cyrus takes it off for Vanity Fair then no one is safe.

I think Annie Leibovitz has much to answer for in what could be a career destroying mess. She knew full well that a 15 year old girl could be coaxed to do almost anything by a famous photographer like herself. She made Cyrus feel comfortable and did something that a sleazy porno photographer would do. She said to Cyrus "now that your Dad left let's take a few art photos with your top off." I wonder if Leibovitz cued the cheesy saxophone music as well?
I guess the 15 year old girl part totally slipped Leibovitz's mind when she made Cyrus "whore it up" for her famous lens.

What was Leibovitz thinking? She knows that this girl is adored by teens and by subjecting a 15 year old girl to a sexually suggestive photo session could damage her career. In any case I hope Miley Cyrus recovers from this and Leibovitz doesn't get another chance to photograph underage girls with their tops off in the future. After all it isn't like she is Joe Francis or anything.

It Seems Microsoft May Blink on Yahoo Deal and Offer $35 a share

It seems that way to "a person familiar with the matter."

The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported Microsoft boosted the offer by "by several dollars" per share, lending weight to the assertion by many market analysts that Microsoft can afford to pay up to $35 a share.

Representatives from Microsoft and Yahoo declined to comment on the negotiations. The talks were expected to continue into the weekend.

I guess the good trade was to be long Yahoo and short Microsoft after all. I was thinking of going long Yahoo to catch this deal but I was too afraid of Microsoft walking away from the thing all together. If MSFT did walk away then you would see Yahoo's shares drop back down to the teens. Now it looks like a $31 to $35 or so a share sweetened deal may be on the table. If Yahoo walks away from this offer, however, then I would be betting that Microsoft scuttles the whole thing and their share price should head back north of $30 again.

Silver Star Winning Female Soldier Pulled from Combat

I guess you could say this is the ultimate insult to a woman who is a true hero.

Within a few days of her heroic acts, however, the Army pulled Brown out of the remote camp in Paktika province where she was serving with a cavalry unit -- because, her platoon commander said, Army restrictions on women in combat barred her from such missions.

Where is the feminist outrage that a woman who risked her lives for her fellow soldiers was pulled out of a place where she has the opportunity to save those soldiers lives. At least some women are questioning whether women should be kept out of combat at all. In any case I think Spc. Monica Brown should have a lot more right to being a celebrity then some freak like Tila Tequila. Let's hope the Monica Brown story will be made into a major motion picture.

"Bull" Connor was a Democratic National Committeeman?

This blog talks about this day in history "Bull" Conner the Democratic police commissioner of Alabama attacking black school children with dogs and water hoses and arresting thousands of them. I didn't know how high a functionary he was in the Democratic Party though:

At the time, it should be noted, Connor was the Democratic National Committeeman for Alabama. Connor's men used high-pressure hoses, clubs and dogs in their assault, and then jailed nearly a thousand children.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan, Connor had been a Democrat state legislator and a delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention. A year after attacking the African-American children, Connor was elected, as a Democrat, president of the state Public Service Commission.

The US Should not Fill the SPR with $116 oil

It seems that suspending the gas tax will only have Americans a few hundred dollars at most over the summer. However, I do agree with McCain that stopping adding to the SPR is the way to go. In fact they seemed to have added another 208,000 barrels to the SPR this week and they paid $116 a barrel for that oil.

Why are they buying more oil to fill the thing at this outrageous price? They need to stop filling the thing when prices are high and ramp up the purchases when prices are lower. The classic doubling down strategy. I mean the thing has 710 million barrels of oil in it already. What constitutes full capacity? Or do they just buy more on some kind of autopilot plan?

I think demand reduction is an important tool to combat high oil prices. The government shouldn't be buying $116 a barrel oil just to stick it in some salt-mine somewhere. They should just wait and fill the thing up to the brim at $80-$90 oil instead. Also the idea that the US government will not be buying at really high prices might drain some speculators out of the market. Oil demand according to the IMF is already going down as economies start to slow.

Also I seriously doubt that Americans will be driving like crazy during "driving season" with gas prices at $3.60 a gallon. They might be taking vacations as close to home as possible (or not at all) to save money. They might even stay home and fill up the backyard pool and spend their time off in their own houses doing repairs and enjoying themselves in their own cities. I'm still short oil since I really don't think the demand metrics will be able to hold prices at this level and the supply concerns seem to be more and more smoke in mirrors and "fears of uncertainty" then real concrete disruptions.