Monday, February 28, 2011

The Last US Veteran of the Great War Dies

Well, that marks the end of an era.

Frank Buckles enlisted for World War I at 16 after lying about his age. He made it home again and ultimately became that war's last surviving U.S. veteran, campaigning for greater recognition for his comrades-in-arms before dying at 110.

That marks the end of a war that claimed 8 million dead and 21 million wounded. Many of them died in the mud of Belgium and the mosquito laden coasts of the Dardanelles, or some forgotten wasteland on the Russian Steppe. Some died from U-boat sinking their ships, or in the massive naval battle off Jutland, or from poison gas clouds streaming across battlefields, or simply from marching directly at a MG08 after going "over the top."

It was a war were brave men were led by inept generals who were fighting the previous war. It was a war where on July 1st 1916 57,470 men were wounded and 19,240 were killed most of them in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme. That is 7 times the number that died on D-day and 5 times more then died at Shiloh. The 10 month battle of Verdun alone cost the lives of 306,000 men. If the next war wasn't so much more horrific than WWI would have been the greatest tragedy of the 20st century.

The bad part is there probably would never had been a WW2 if WWI wasn't so horrific and prolonged. If there weren't so many dead then Britain and France might have been more lenient on Germany at the peace table. Maybe a wall-paper hanger and no talent artist from Austria would have stuck to his craft instead of unleashing a war that would claim as many as 80 million people. Maybe the son of a cobbler from the nation of Georgia would have followed his fathers trade instead of becoming one of the great monsters of history. In fact if Russia wasn't so devastated by WWI the Soviets might never had come to power and there would never had been a Cold War.

The death of Pvt. Buckles marks the end of an era that will be remembered always but will hopefully never be repeated again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama Finally Condemns Violence in Libya

I understand being cautious and all but why does it take all sort of hemming and hawing to get this man to take a stand on anything.

"We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya," Obama said. "The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. . . . This violence must stop." 

Obama added: "I've also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we'll carry out through multilateral institutions." 

A few warships off the coast of Libya would sure make Gadaffi rethink using fighter jets to dive bomb his own people. I guess the White House is like Britain in the Civil War. We wait until a certain battle or threshold is reached before committing to a position. Before that you take no notice until you can see a clear winner. It is craven but I guess it might work in this case.

Umm, Obama what Say you on Libya?

Whomever said that this guy was supposed to be the next JFK needs to have his tenure taken away. Libya is on fire and Gadhafi seems to be holding on by massacring whomever they can to stay in power. JFK would have long ago imposed a no-fly zone to protect the protesters. They can't rely on a few patriotic Libyan pilots to keep people safe.

Two air force pilots jumped from parachutes from their Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet and let it crash, rather than carry out orders to bomb opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, the website Quryna reported, citing an unidentified officer in the air force control room.

One of the pilots — identified by the report as Ali Omar Gadhafi — was from Gadhafi's tribe, the Gadhadhfa, said Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, which crashed in a deserted area outside the key oil port of Breqa.

I guess the idea of refraining from "foreign interference" is gripping the White House right now.  I think America should intervene whenever dictators massacre their people no matter what the outcome. That would be the kind of pro-dissident sentiment that used to be the hallmark of the Democratic Party. I guess the new "pragmatic" White House needs to wait until one side or the other gets the upper hand and then rush in late to the party. Well at least John Kerry is speaking out:

"The Gadhafi government's use of deadly force against its own people should mean the end of the regime itself," Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said in a statement. "It's beyond despicable, and I hope we are witnessing its last hours in power. Libyans should have the opportunity to choose leaders who respect their basic rights."

He called on the international community to "put (Gadhafi) on notice that his cowardly actions will have consequences."

These words should be coming out of the White House and not Capitol Hill. Maybe Obama wanted to meet Gadhafi "without preconditions" and this whole "Democracy thing" is putting a cramp on his arguments.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bahrain Decides to Use Cowardly Sneak Attack to Stop Protesters

Now this is one sneaky way to break a protest.

Troops and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault Thursday that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.

Now America needs to condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms and work in the UN to sanction Bahrain for their actions. Whenever peaceful dissent is crushed like this then the nation should be brought to task for going the the truncheon instead of the negotiating table. One way America can show its dissasitfaction is this:

Tiny Bahrain is a pillar of Washington's military framework in the region. It hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran. Bahrain's rulers and their Arab allies depict any sign of unrest among their Shiite populations as a move by neighboring Shiite-majority Iran to expand its clout in the region.

Draw up a plan to move the 5th Fleet to another site like Qatar or something.They shouldn't be getting our jobs and aid if they are massacring their people who are peaceably dissenting.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If you Feel A Cold Coming On Take Zinc ASAP.

It seems that at least 15 studies are saying that it is a good idea because it reduces the severity of the cold.

The moment you're semi-sure you're getting a cold, get some zinc lozenges. That's the result of a meta-analysis of 15 different scientific studies of the mineral, and cut the length of coughing and sneezing days by 40 percent.

The other trick that I use is as soon as you know it is an upper respiratory cold I start to flush out my sinuses as fast as possible. I use this saline nasal spray something like Afrin one after another. I'm not sure why but it seems to lessen how much mucus is coming out of my nose and prevents it from getting hard.

Amazon and the E-Reader (and a huge debt load) Claims Borders

Well, this was not much of a surprise.

Borders President Mike Edward said his chain "does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor." He said the bankruptcy was essential to restructure its debt and still operate.

Borders had liabilities of $1.29 billion and assets of $1.28 billion as of December 25, according to documents filed on Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

The pioneer of book superstores plans to abandon some of its highest profile locations, closing a store in its hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as one on Manhattan's Park Avenue.

Well, hopefully the restructuring will allow them to pare down and actually present a decent e-Reader or maybe an Android tablet PC that can act as both an e-Reader and an internet browser. Anything to shake things up and get people to exited about their stores. The book superstore concept might still have some legs especially if you can go there and purchase e-Books on the cheap. At least people can enjoy the cafe as their books download.

Norwegian Shipping Magnate Advocates Summarily Executing Pirates

Well, I would have to agree with him. Make these pirates fear for their lives and they might not want to be so quick to do it.

The 79-year-old is the founder of Stolt-Nielsen Ltd, one of Norway's biggest shipping companies. He stepped down as chairman two years ago but still serves on the board.

"Pirates captured in international waters have always been punished by death, often on the spot," Stolt-Nielsen wrote Tuesday, arguing that modern navies should deal with the problem like Roman pirate hunter Pompey did more than 2,000 years ago.

"Not arrest them and say, 'naughty, naughty, shame on you,' and release them again, but sink their boats with all hands," he wrote. "The pirates won't be frightened by being placed before a civilian court."

I mean the British would execute a pirate and put them on display in a gibbet to warn other pirates not to do it. It didn't stop the piracy but it at least showed the pirates that the British meant business. Nowadays a civilian court would just give them a few years in jail or something. I mean pirates caught by the US who are sent to our prisons would love how better they are treated then in Somalia.

I have to agree with this guy when it comes to at least arming the crews of these boats. Allow them to defend themselves from these pirates like the merchantmen of yesteryear. These pirates would think twice if they had to face heavy machine guns and shipboard howitzer when they are looking for an easy score.

I'm pretty sure the pirates would not attack Norwegian ships if they had standing orders to shoot at any boat approaching them from the Solmali Coast.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clinton Makes Plea for Cyber-freedom. Well at least it is a Start

After pretty much abandoning the Green Movement in Iran to its fate the White House is finally stepping up for the dissident and his right to Cyber-freedom.

In an impassioned speech on Internet freedom, Clinton said the administration would spend $25 million this year on initiatives designed to protect bloggers and help them get around curbs like the Great Firewall of China, the gagging of social media sites in Iran, Cuba, Syria, Vietnam and Myanmar as well as Egypt's recent unsuccessful attempt to thwart anti-government protests by simply pulling the plug on online communication.

I guess Obama finally understands that these Freedom Movements are an opportunity for the US instead of some nefarious plot to keep him from meeting Ahamdinajoke "without preconditions." Maybe someone told him that if Iran goes Democratic like Egypt then the nuclear bomb problems goes away. It will look like he is a winner in foreign affairs instead of a naive dullard.

What was interesting about this whole two step in Egypt and the abandoning of the Green Movement in Iran was that America seems to always be on the wrong side of the argument. If we were in support of the dissidents as a reflex action instead of reluctantly choosing sides after the strongman is on the way out we would have a much better reputation in the world.

The hemming and hawing with supporting the Shah instead of cutting him off as soon as he started massacring his people is what help doom Iran to the Mullacracy. Perhaps the idea that if the dissidents are peaceful and want democratic change then America should try what we can to help them can be known as the "Clinton Doctrine." If these dissidents are jailed or massacred then America will pressure their governments by any means necessary.

I mean France was there for us 228 years ago so America should be there for Myanmar, or Bahrain, or Iran, or whomever. The Era of the Dictator should be moved into the Era of Democracies. That will drain the swamp of terrorism faster then any invasion will ever do. What it does is turn the anger of the people at the Jews or America or whomever right onto their own dictatorial governments who have done way more to rob and disenfranchise them then anyone else.

Bahrain the Next Domino to Fall

The Winds of Change are blowing through the Middle East. I guess you could call this a full blown "Liberal Revolution" since it seems to be happening in one country after another.

Thousands of protesters took over a main square in Bahrain's capital Tuesday — carting in tents and raising banners — in a bold attempt to copy Egypt's uprising and force high-level changes in one of Washington's key allies in the Gulf.

The move by demonstrators capped two days of clashes across the tiny island kingdom that left at least two people dead, parliament in limbo by an opposition boycott and the king making a rare address on national television to offer condolences for the bloodshed.

This take-over-the-square tactic or the "Tahir Tactic" seems to be pretty successful for the most part. Just form up a large group of people and squat in a large square and you might have a chance to overthrow a dictatorial regime that has been in power for decades. My next suggestion is for Iran's Green Movement to take over a square in Tehran and see if they can get the Mullahs to budge.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Some BS "Ethics" Group Blasts Congressmen Sleeping in Offices

I think these kind of groups should just butt out when it comes to this kind of thing.

According to CREW, press reports indicate that at least 33 members--26 Republicans and 7 Democrats--currently sleep in their offices at night.

"House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. "If members didn't want to find housing in Washington, they shouldn't have run for Congress in the first place."

Sloan argues that turning a congressional office into a living facility violates House rules prohibiting the use of taxpayer resources for non-official duties.

Hell, if these Congressmen simply want to stay close to their desks by sleeping in their offices then who is CREW to tell them otherwise? I mean most of these people aren't multi-millionaires who can just buy a Washington home to stay in for a few years and be done with it.

I applaud their willingness to give up some comfort to get our work done. Sleeping in their offices shows that they are frugal with their own money so hopefully they will be frugal with our tax money. It also shows they aren't going to get into the "Washington orbit" and instead stay in the Capital just long enough to do their jobs and fly back to their home state.

White House Wants Government to Back out the Mortgage Market

Wow, who took Obama's brain and transplanted it with someone that has some common sense?

But rather than making a single recommendation, the administration offered Congress three scenarios and will let lawmakers shape the final policy.

The options are:

• No government role, except for existing agencies like the Federal Housing Administration.

• A government guarantee of private mortgages triggered only when the market is in trouble.

• Government insurance for a targeted range of mortgage investments that already are guaranteed by private insurers. The government guarantee would kick in only if those private companies couldn't pay.

The private sector will assume a greater role in housing finance under all of the options. The government currently owns or guarantees more than 90 percent of new mortgages.

They all sound like good enough proposals as long as they are done slowly and carefully. I'm sure big banks would love to get into the mortgage insurance market as long as the government is backing the instruments to some extent. The whole idea of a quasi-independent company owning 90% of mortgages was a bad one in the first place. We blew $150 billion trying to recover from this idea. I'm pretty sure banks will scrutinize things better if they would be on the hook for more losses if someone defaults on the home.

Well, this is the Obama we all know:

The housing finance system should guarantee access to affordable housing for Americans who can afford it, they said. To that end, any plan would increase support for rental housing, add safeguards for people in rural and underserved areas and preserve FHA loans for low- and moderate-income borrowers. 

I'm not sure how these things will be done unless the government encourages them somehow. I can see increasing the rental tax credit, or somehow subsidizing the loans to the rural and underserved areas. I'm sure banks would love to preserve FHA loans if the government is footing the bill to insure them. It is just the idea that some people who cannot afford these loans might still get them and the government will have to insure that move that makes me leery of it.

Holy Crap! Bush Was Right: Egypt is the Bush Doctrine Made Real!

For all those people that damned Bush about "democracy in the Middle East" being a fairy tale (like Senator Barack Obama) can pretty much put that thinking into the dustbin of history. Egypt proves that the Bush Doctrine might have been the correct move when viewed decades from now. Here what he said in 2004 Republican Convention Speech.

''The terrorists know that a vibrant, successful democracy at the heart of the Middle East will discredit their radical ideology of hate,'' the president said. ''I believe in the transformational power of liberty. As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region. Palestinians will hear the message that democracy and reform are within their reach, and so is peace with our good friend Israel. Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming. Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror.''

The Egyptians are now getting all the freedom and liberty that they can stand right about now. I mean if you think about it they might have the first free election in their 5000 year history in the next 6 months to a year. That is pretty historic stuff if you look at it. They have found out that "national progress and dignity" was found in liberty and not Mubarak's tyranny.

So I wonder if any pundits or Democrats will give Bush any credit for this? I mean he deposed an Islamic dictatorship in the Taliban and a secular dictatorship in Iraq. Both countries still have their problems but the purple ink-stained finger was the first sign that days of the Middle Eastern strongman was over.
It is so funny to read John Kerry's views on Middle Eastern democracy from 2004.

Kerry, too, envisions a freer and more democratic Middle East. But he flatly rejects the premise of viral democracy, particularly when the virus is introduced at gunpoint. ''In this administration, the approach is that democracy is the automatic, easily embraced alternative to every ill in the region,'' he told me. Kerry disagreed. ''You can't impose it on people,'' he said. ''You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process.'' 

In other words he was flat-out wrong. Viral democracy did not have to be invited or nurtured or brought to the people of Egypt. They took it with little or no help from the US. In fact we waffled on it and even flirted with keeping Mubarak in power and they still won the day. They made their dictator fall and luckily it will make the rest of these Middle Eastern autocrats fall as well.

The stupid Mullahs who faked their election rather then letting the chips fall where they may be the next in line. I mean the world watches this stuff so a massacre would hopefully be off the table. The Green Revolution sputtered out but I will be willing to bet you that Green Revolution 2: Mullahs on the Run would probably succeed for the most part.

I mean the kids in Egypt with a little help from Google, Twitter and whatever else got rid of a 30 year dictatorship. It would be the same sort of thing for the kids in Iran to do the same. That is after the kids in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and wherever else get their say first. Bush may be dumb but that doesn't mean he might be right in this case.

Twitter Message on Egyptian Revolution Hits the Mark.

I have to say that who ever tweeted this saying is spot on when it comes to the possible future of the Middle East.

A Twitter message from Egypt played on the digital lingo: "Uninstalling dictator, 99 percent complete." 

Another — perhaps inadvertently — appeared to carry a message for the rest of the region as he joined the avalanche of posts about Mubarak. 

"Dude, Egyptians invented writing on the wall," it said. "You really should learn to read it." 

I'm sure the autocratic regimes in the Middle East are rushing to learn that fact. The age of the strongman dictator of the Middle East is in the past. Now we just have to wait and see if we see one giant Turkey-like democratic system rolls through the area or not.  I know Turkey is going more Islamist at the moment but they might get voted out in the next election. It is the same system like we have in America. If you don't like the government then wait a few years and it will probably switch over to the other party.

What is funny too is that the dictator will have a pretty good chance of winning new terms even in an actual democratic election if they treat their people well. I mean he has the civil service behind him as well as a money advantage almost built in. A man like Jordan's King Adullah as popular as he is could win multiple terms pretty easily.

Bye Bye Mubarak, Let Freedom Reign in Egypt (Hopefully)

Well the dictator finally had enough time to rebury the bodies and move the money he stole from his Egyptian bank accounts to his Swiss bank accounts so he can finally leave office.

Fireworks burst over Tahrir Square and Egypt exploded with joy and tears of relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday and handed power to the military.

Well, now lets see how the election comes out. My money is on a secular Turkey style government backed by the military with Muslim Brotherhood representation of 10 - 15%. In other words you would need them to pass some legislation but they will not hold any sort of real power in the country.

Let's hope this new government diversifies their economy away from tourism into biotech or low cost manufacturing for Europe or something. Let's get some of these protesters some decent jobs now that they put in the sweat equity it takes to oust their dictator.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Red Velvet Cake: Are People Doing it Wrong?

Wow, I did not know that this cake was so demanding. Here are 8 rules that you have to follow for the right sort of Red Velvet Cake.

1. The cake must have some cocoa, but not too much because it is not a chocolate cake.
2. The cake must have red food coloring; beet juice does not add the right kind of red.
3. The cake must have cream cheese frosting.
4. There should be pecans. (This was news to me.)
5. You must use high-quality ingredients, including White Lily flour, a Southern specialty flour.
6. Precise measurements and meticulous attention to detail are key for this cake; therefore, it must be made in small, easy-to handle, family-sized batches. (Mass-produced batter just doesn't cut it. Sorry, large-scale bakeries.)
7. You must use a hand-held electric mixer, not a stand mixer: Larger machines can over-mix the batter, which sometimes prevents the cake from rising properly.
8. Red velvet cake batter needs vegetable oil, not butter or shortening. Oil yields a very moist cake.

I have had Red Velvet Cake a few times and I really enjoy it but not as much as a standard Choclate Devils Food Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting. The sweet of that kind of cake and the sour of the frosting is a good combo. 

Activision Gets Hammered: Decides to Axe Guitar Hero Franchise and Cut Back

Well it seems that Rock Band has finally won the battle of the Guitar games.

The Call Of Duty owner is thought will make an unknown number of staff at London and Leamington Spa studio FreeStyleGames redundant, while the future of Canadian studio United Front is also in doubt.

Eurogamer understands that the Guitar Hero franchise will be abolished completely – a move which casts doubts over Activision’s subsidiary studio Vicarious Visions, which was handed development duties on the series last year.

The upcoming True Crime project, in development at United Front, is said will not make it to retail.

I think these music rhythm games might be near the end unless something fresh comes out. I'm pretty sure that EA will keep Rock Band going now that they will own the genre completely. However, the high water mark of revenue may be over for them.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Anti-Abortion Group Uses the ACORN Gambit against Planned Parenthood

Who would have thought that pretending to be a pimp peddling underage prostitutes can catch so many large well-funded liberal organizations in this kind of trap. The seem so nonchalant in doling out this kind of advice to what to their mind should be a sick predator that needs to be locked up. I am not anti-abortion but these allegations need to be investigated.

A California-based anti-abortion group that has been waging a campaign against abortion provider Planned Parenthood released a videotape Tuesday that the group says shows an employee at a New York City clinic giving advice to a man posing as a pimp and seeking health services for underage sex workers.

Planned Parenthood of New York City said the videotape does not accurately portray the agency's practices.

Live Action, based in San Jose, Calif., claims the video demonstrates that a clinic employee was willing to help someone who was sexually exploiting minors by doling out advice on testing for sexually transmitted diseases and abortions.
Um, what should have happened is the "To Catch a Predator" guy comes out from another room and confronts the Live Action actor while a group of cops wait outside to tackle and send the person to jail. Instead these Planned Parenthood people like ACORN before them just dole out the advice and send them on their way. Instead of tax evasion advice like ACORN provided these Planned Parenthood people just keep the advice to a medical nature.

Planned Parenthood should have locked the door to the interview room and called the cops immediately so that these fictitious under-aged girls could be freed. It is cases like this that makes me question that liberal groups actually have any compassion or concern for the well-being of exploited women at all.

Hipmunk? I'm Barely Getting Used to Kayak. Technology Marches On!

In fact I am barely getting used to using travel sites in the first place. I guess I was raised in a time when you had to go to a travel agent to buy a ticket. Those days are long dead but this new site called Hipmunk sounds pretty interesting. Here is a link to their website. They have a cute mascot but too bad it couldn't be Flying Ratty or something like that.

Hipmunk, which just raised $4.2 million from a roster of online travel veterans and venture capitalists, gives users access to the familiar airline fares they’re used to on other sites. But the company has a slick visual interface that arrays all of the travel options for a given trip on a grid that shows the hours of day along one axis. Each airfare is represented by a rectangle (color-coded for each airline), the length of which is determined by the duration of the trip, layovers included.

The layout makes it easier to see lots of airfare options at a glance. But another key feature of Hipmunk is its method of ranking the most attractive travel options according to an “agony score.”

The selections all in a grid delineated by time is really nice. Normally you have to scroll through like 20 pages of flights in order to pick out the one that I want. I hate having to be at the airport for a flight at 0-dark-30 to get on a plane leaving at 8am or something. I hate it so much that I would actually pay extra to avoid it. Also this "agony score" will hopefully help me avoid the 5 minute dead sprint from Terminal A to Terminal D that sometimes occurs when a plane is slightly late to arrive.

This Hipmunk site makes it easy to check when flights come and go without having to search through a bunch of pages like on Kayak. The article also mentions Kayak potentially going public.

According to a filing with securities regulators for a possible initial public offering, Kayak said “advertising and other” revenue accounted for 57.9% of its $128 million in revenue during the first nine months of 2010, while referral fees from travel partners accounted 42.1% of that figure.

I guess those extra pages of results gooses that 57.9% of revenue figure. I guess they want you to look through 25 pages in order to have a place to host 25 ad impressions. In any case Kayak might be a very interesting stock going forward but I have to look at more financials to see if that is true.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Democratic Fund-Raiser Runs Our Luxembourg Embassy Into the Ground

Wow, Obama can't even get his patronage appointments to work out for him. Let's hope "our man/woman" in Cairo is better than this Stroum character.

- Stroum wrongly threatened embassy staff that "her appointment letter from the President gave
her the right to read any email messages" they wrote, and staff had "no expectation of privacy" in their e-mail or phone calls.

I guess this move is strait out of the "What would Himler do? Run Your Business Like the SS" line of management books.

- For 6 weeks, multiple employees worked full-time to find Stroum a "suitable temporary residence." They screened 200 residences and visited 30-40 houses in Luxembourg. Stroum rejected them all, again costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars unnecessarily.

I'm pretty sure house number 41 would have been perfect. Doesn't Luxembourg have any palatial mansions to pet her in? After all she did raise $500K for Obama.

- Stroum rushed to spend $3,400 in Embassy funds on European wine and liquor before the end of the year, even though State Department rules say “in no case, is the post authorized to use excess year-end funds to purchase wine." Secondly, all wine is supposed to be American.

I mean its not like the taxpayers are paying for that European Wine. No wait I guess we are. 

- After learning about a school in Switzerland that trained employees to work in places such as Buckingham Palace, Stroum and an assistant flew to Switzerland solely to hire a chef, billing taxpayers more than $1,200 for the trip and ignoring embassy rules to hire locally.

I'm sure the proles in Luxembourg cannot compare the the chefs trained for royalty by Swiss Masters. Now that she lost her job she should have to reimberse the US Government for the total cost of messing up our embassy in Luxembourg or face criminal charges.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

interCLICK? 700% Earnings Growth? Time to Research

Well, I was doing some research on Internet stocks and came across this kind of unknown stock called interCLICK which trades at $5 or so a share. It has been trading fairly anemically with only 47,246 shares changing hands today. According to Yahoo the company does the following:

interCLICK, Inc., an audience intelligence and targeting company, engages in developing and executing data-driven campaign strategies for digital agencies and marketers. The company offers interCLICK, an online display advertising network with proprietary data-enrichment technology platform. Its interCLICK empowers its clients to reach desirable audiences in brand-safe environments. The company was formerly known as Customer Acquisition Network Holdings, Inc. and changed its name to interCLICK, Inc. in June 2008. interCLICK, Inc. is headquartered in New York, New York, with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Miami.

It seems like a company that serves up value-added advertisments on the internet. The data enriched part is feedback that the advertiser can use to see if their ad is hitting home or not. I'm not sure what companies are using interCLICK but I will check to see who they are and what they do. As the economy improves you will see more ad dollars deployed and in some ways Internet advertising is still cheaper to buy into than other forms of media. The idea of serving up local ads or ads targeted to specific demographics and then getting up-to-the-minute feedback seems worth paying a premium for.

The thing that caught my eye was the 700% earnings growth year-to-year with a PEG rate of only .48 and a price/sales ratio of 1.52. That means you are paying  $1.52 for each $1 of revenue they bring in. That is pretty low for a company that is growing so fast. That 0.48 PEG means that the stock is undervalued as a rule of thumb. So in other words you are paying a discount for that monster EPS growth.

One thing that I wanted to check out was if the company might be takeover bait. Some of the metrics are there but it does have a very high Enterprise Value/EBITDA of 24.41. I was looking through their 10Q and this part jumped out from their Line of Credit from Silicon Valley Bank:

The Loan Agreement also contains negative covenants that limit the Company's 
ability to (or to permit any subsidiaries to), subject to certain exceptions 
and limitations, merge with or acquire other companies, create liens on its 
property, incur debt obligations, enter into transactions with affiliates, 
except on an arm's length basis, dispose of property or issue dividends or make

I'm sure Google or whomever can just drop the $15 million it would need to buy this thing out but it does provide something to think about for the company going forward.

Another potential thorn is that they are being sued by someone named Sonal Bose regarding their use of what is known as "history sniffing"

Recent research from the University of California, San Diego found that Interclick engaged in "history sniffing," a technique that allows websites to spy on their visitors' browsing histories.

Interclick said last month that it used the technique for eight months but ended the experiment in October because it wasn't successful in matching advertisers to groups of Internet users. The disclosure prompted a lawsuit by plaintiff Sonal Bose filed last month in federal court in New York.

That is a potential problem and caused the stock to drop from when this story broke on Jan 3 when the stock dropped to 4.66 from 5.32. The stock has since recovered but it is still kind of an overhang.

However, these sorts privacy lawsuits seem like small potatoes A similar settlement regarding "Flash Cookies" used by Quantcast and Clearspring cost them a total of $2.4 million. If they are found liable interCLICK could pay this out of their cash which sits at $11 million or so. Also since they have stopped doing it then they hopefully won't have to worry if "history sniffing" becomes banned by the FCC.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

20 Super Bowl Foods: 4 Words: Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

This has to be the greatest list of Super Bowl foods ever assembled. Just looking though it made me want to make like 5 of them just from idle clicking. Bacon wrapped anything is good. But hot dogs? God in Heaven that sounds good!

Barbecue Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs
  • 4 beef hot dogs
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup honey barbecue sauce
  • Chopped onions, mustard, relish
Slice the bacon in half lengthwise.  Wrap one of the strips of bacon around each hot dog.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and the hot dog is browned.   Serve on hot dog buns with your favorite toppings.

This picture does not do them justice because there is too much relish for my tastes but I will be trying to make them soon enough.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Mubarak Will Not Seek Nor Will he Accept the Dictatorship of Egypt for Another Term

Make sure you say the title in an LBJ-style Texas drawl.

In a speech aired on state TV Tuesday night, Mubarak said, "In all sincerity, regardless of the current circumstances, I never intended to be a candidate for another term."

He says he will work during "the final months of my current term" to carry out the "necceasary steps for the peaceful transfer of power."

President Obama asked Mubarak Tuesday not to seek re-election in September, effectively ending his 30-year reign, a source tells Fox News.

Now lets see how the Egyptian elections will pan out. Unlike in Gaza I'm pretty sure the Islamic Brotherhood will not win the Presidency (or Prime Minister-ship.) That is unless there is like 20 years of corrupt rule like the Fatah party had already engaged in. 

I have a pretty good feeling that Egypt may be on their way to being like Turkey or Jordan since democracy usually moderates a country. I was watching Glenn Beck last night and he was all apoplectic about something like that happening. Egypt is going to become like an 80 million person Gaza in his mind. If that happens it will shock the world but the chances are so low it is laughable. 

My money is on an Egypt that looks westward to the other budding democracies and northward to Europe. They will probably try to wash its hands of the whole Israel mess. I mean they won't be attacking Israel and other then stopping border traffic they will probably have not much to do with them.

The Media is Coming Around: Facebook Backlash at Last

Well that didn't take long but here is what could be an early outlier of the inevitable "Facebook backlash" from the media.

Complexity is the enemy of social networking, and complexity is killing Facebook. The beauty of the ancient bulletin board systems from the eighties was that there were so few people on them you didn't need to worry. And no one thought about using something you posted against you in a job interview; they flamed you in ALL CAPS and that was that.

Facebook realizes it has a problem. There's already a "what's the next big thing?" vibe permeating its pages, as if everyone knows we've stopped honestly sharing things on the site because we're either too fearful or simply tired of friending and unfriending romantic partners (or just unfriending people who post too many funny possum videos -- you know who you are).

Um, I'm sorry to have to report there really isn't a "next big thing" as far as I can tell. Email will probably be a big bust and this article points out that if they try to sell your info people will freak out. I'm sure they can link more services like Skype or Netflix or something but these would be add-ons. What will be the next killer app for Facebook? If it is nothing $50 billion dollar market cap will go to $50 million in a big hurry.

So you can't use Facebook for fun any more. It's also not really for business. And it certainly isn't a safe place to pick up a date. So is the Facebook fad already over?

Um, not quite yet but check back this time next year and you might start nodding your head. One thing Facebook could do is allow companies to create social networks for their employees. Close it off from the outside and just let their employees collaborate and post Excel Files and schematics instead of pictures and Farmville Requests. Maybe people will pay for this service and maybe not.

A lot of big money is betting that the answer is "not yet." But there's no such thing as brand loyalty on the Internet. Remember Prodigy? Remember Pointcast? Remember AOL and Yahoo? They were are all darlings of the digital age, too.

Also remember MySpace? People dropped it like it was garbage just a year or so after it was taking the world by storm. This can happen to Facebook so fast it would make your head spin. Then you will read an article on how "Facebook squandered millions in search of the next big thing."