Friday, March 07, 2003

Oh Happy Day

Cuba's Castro was elected to serve a sixth term as President. I would like to extend my congratulations to President Fidel Castro, I understand it was a difficult campaign. The people of Cuba had recently started to wonder if the direction he has taken the country has been for the better. Whether the physical intimidation, torture and executions have been worth while. Castro pulled a rabbit out of a hat with this election, using his "star" power and with help from celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Spike Lee, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, and others, to "convince" his constituency that he was the only man for the job.

Once again, Fidel congratulations and long live the socialist revolution.

Sadaam's Future

It looks like Sadaam Jun 03 futures are going to break their high today, the ask is at 87%. The March, April and May have also "rallied".

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Words Fail Me

Words fail me, but a 2x4 would be perfect. Amitai Etzioni in Davos reports
Professor of David Held (London School of Economics) tells the audience that the U.S. lost only three thousand people on 9/11; it kills 30,000 children every month. He refers to poverty and illness, which the U. S. is not doing its share to eradicate. (I loose my cool, and suggest that even one who is very critical of the U.S. would realize the difference between deliberately setting out, in cold blood, to kill thousands of civilians versus not doing one’s share in a complex chain of events, under difficult conditions – for instance, corrupt governments that eat up much of the aid they get. Held has the decency to correct his statement).
You got that? Its not only your fault if you walk up to somebody and shoot them, but you are guilty if somebody dies across the world from starvation. Remember the "joke" about finishing your food because there are starving people in Ethiopia. Apparently, at the London School of Economics they take this very seriously. And the rule only applies to you if you are an American.

Not a penny more. I don't want a single f*cking penny of my taxes spent on these a-holes. Enough is enough. Via Instapundit.

My Head Hurts

You know I can talk, talk in a loud voice, scream, about people like Rep Marcy Kaptur and Senator Patty Murray till I am blue in the face. In fact my face is a lovely shade of sky-blue right now. I would like for these folks to actually read a history book besides the historical materialism they have apparently taken as their gospel. But what I would really love is to somehow convince these people to move to North Korea. I really think they would be much happier there.

Both of these smart ladies are up for re-election in 2004.

A Warning for South Korea

The North Korea problem is just getting started. And it is only a matter of time before Dan Rather makes a trip to see Our Dear Leader. Moody's ratings agency has lowered its outlook on South Korea's rating from positive to negative. Last year Moody's had moved Korea's outlook to positive, how times change. Currently, South Korea's rating is A3 for sovereign debt (in local and foreign denominations), but if the political situation does not improve in a few months Moody's will likely cut the rating.
Taken By Surprise: A senior official from the South Korean finance ministry said he was taken aback by the Moody’s move but played it down. “It is surprising because Moody’s delegation in January said there would be no change in its rating outlook,” said Kwon Tae-shin, director general of the ministry’s international finance division.

“But we don’t need to take the Moody’s decision too seriously because it is only an outlook downgrade and not a rating downgrade.”
Fair enough. Lets hope South Korea, US and Japan find a way through this.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Man of Steel and Friends

The history of "useful idiots" by Amir Taheri.
[Stalin] was the father of the first "peace movement," which for years served as an instrument of the Kremlin's global policy.

Stalin's "peace movement" was launched in 1946 at a time when he had not yet developed a nuclear arsenal and was thus vulnerable to a U.S. nuclear attack. Stalin also needed time to consolidate his hold on his newly conquered empire in eastern and central Europe while snatching chunks of territory in Iran.
Read the whole thing if you are interested in history.Thanks to No Watermelons.

Good Riddance

Almost forgot, but today is the anniversary of Joseph Stalin's death. He died March 5 1953. This day might be worth celebrating if people like Kill'em-Joe were the exception, but we have not and will never see the last of him, ever, ever. From Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago"
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Stalin left some advice for those that will follow him...
For the election workers
Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.
For the journalist
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
For the teacher
Ideas are more dangerous than guns...We do not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?
For the social scientist
History is politics projected into the past.
For the military strategist
There is no such thing as an invincible army.
For everbody
Death is the solution to all problems...No man, no problem.
For himself
If you kill one man, you are a murderer, if you kill a thousand men, you are a conquerer, if you kill everyone, you are God.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Sign Of The Beast

My lunch today cost $6.66. Is it a sign? Maybe I should take the rest of the day off. But
idle hands do the devil's work.
Better stop idling.

The Good Ole Days

I had forgotten how lovely the Russians were in Afghanistan until Rantburg jogged my memory.
During the Soviet occupation, between 1.5 and 2 million Afghans were killed, out of a population of about 15 million.
But there is more...
The Soviets had all sorts of innovative methods for "pacifying" villages that were suspected of collaborating with rebels. One was to kidnap a woman, take her up a few hundred feet in a helicopter above her village, strip her naked, and push her out the door. The Soviets would also do things like leave toys laying around the countryside for children to find--said toys being wired to bombs that would dismember or kill any child foolish enough to try to pick them up.
A standard method of "pacifying" a particularly troublesome village was to walk into town with tanks and troops, and start chucking grenades into people's homes. Then they'd shoot anyone--any age, any sex, armed or unarmed--who fled out the doors.
And one of the comments had this gem
when I was there, the muj war is a distant memory, a legend almost. something akin to our civil war. Although they know the stories, the emotional impact is a bit muted.

Afghanistan is a country that on a whole, does not know their own history except for a few stories and legends.

well, that was in Bamyan anyway. teh seperate cites and regions all have feeling all their own. however, most of what is though about afghanistan is false. A reporter cannot possibly understand what is going on there by spending a week or two in country and then reporting back to mr and mrs public about what's "going on". I spent 8 months there and I know that I barely got a chance to scratch the surface.
This internet thing is really going to take off.

Real Estate Bubble

Is there a real estate bubble? No not NY, but Baghdad. Don Sensing "reports"
We might be able to discount the occasional statement of disgruntled, embittered Iraqi exiles about how happy their countrymen will be to see American troops lift the yoke of oppression from them; after all, the exiles have an agenda of their own.

But the economic patterns of the people of Baghdad can't be dismissed. They are betting with their wallets that their day of liberation is at hand. And they think they will be better off for it.

What I find fascinating is that privately held real estate's values are booming now in anticipation that Saddam's personal and regime-held real estate will be literally booming shortly from JDAMS.

Story Tellers

MSNBC is signing up Mike Savage for a talk show. The Prowler reports that "conservative" views are in demand.
"We don't want people who just read the New York Times," says a New York-based MSNBC producer. "We've got plenty of those types. We want people who read and understand National Review, the Drudge Report and Lucianne.com." Understand?
The folks at Nat Review are gussing up their resumes. Is MSNBC collecting opinions like a menagerie or are they journalists. Are they going to have a rainbow of views, with a show for each perceived political stripe? Lets get Al Sharpton to host a show. Lets get that fat guy from the American Muslim group on CNN to host another. Or are they doing journalism over there at MSNBC. That's a rhetorical question. If they were doing journalism their people would read more than the NY Times, and reading The Nation does not count.

HK Perspective

Dan Dorfman, the newly minted NY Sun's financial columnist, had an article in yesterday's paper which is worth repeating. Unfortunately, the Sun does not put all its content on line so I will summarize.

Dan talked to Mr Ortz at HK Investments in Hong Kong. Ortz is lowering his portfolio's weight in the US towards 9% from a usual 25%-30%. Ortz is not convinced of the Iraq war's outcome (Sadaam has been preparing for this conflict for 10 years, presumably). He thinks people may be a bit too optomistic in this regard. Ortz looks at North Korea's increasing beligerence and sees a higher probability of a hot war between North, South Koreas and the US. The weak response by the UN in contrast with US's hawkishness highlights a global rift [Please spare me the responses about the UN being a club for dictators. Lets not get emotional.] Ortz perceives the US loosing the public relations war. End of summary.

Bottom line, regardless of the Iraq outcome there will be more problems coming from North Korea and the US and its interests will have less "good-will" to bank on. All these factors contribute to a tougher time for US equities.

Personally, I think this assesment has some merit. Happy days of globalization are taking a bit of a breather. The US accounts for about a third of the world's production, so a global retreat from globalization has a pronounced impact on the US. But there is also a strong possibility that all the talk about globalization taking a beating are a bit of a leftist wet dream. Despite the Chavez coup in Venezuela, the socialist Lula's election in Brazil, and a socialist's election in Ecuador, there are signs of hope. Eastern european countries have GDP growths of 3%-5.5%. Russia's GDP grew 5.5%. Contrast that with the EU 1% or less. South Asia is growing 5%-6%. Thailand was recently buying planes from Boeing, 5 years back the country was in a deep crisis.

Another reason why US equities may not hold the allure they once had, may be simply that there are more opportunities around the world. You have to remember that during much of the 90's the US remained a virtual oasis when you compare it against the rest of the globe. This type of shift in interest is not something that is noticed or talked about much, because it occurs slowly. Watching the bombs fly and buildings get blown up make for much more interesting news regardless if you are CNN or the Financial Times.

Another, possibly hidden, trend is the shrinking importance Europe is playing in the global economy. The EU has drastically lagged nearly every region of the world, including Africa. This lack of momentum is not lost on the investor. Most business and mainline media are spawned from the US-European sphere and may not be as aware or interested in the incremental gains much of the world is making. As a matter of economic size and momemtum the EU's GDP is nearly the size of the US at about $8 trillion, the next closest GDPs are Japan ($4.2 trillion), the UK ($1.3 trillion), China ($1 trillion), Brazil ($800 billion), Canada ($618 billion), ASEAN countries ($564.2 billion) and Russia ($462.4 billion). Many of these countries have a long way to go before their size forces more people to pay attention.

Monday, March 03, 2003

MediCare

Normally, I could care less about Medicare. But I have several people close to me that work in the health profession and have come to believe that Medicare is already a failure if you measure it by the cost and quality of care. Medicare is one of two largest social programs (the other being Social Security) funded by yours and mine tax dollars. Tomorrow President Bush is coming out with a proposed Medicare reform plan, so it will be interesting to see what is going to be in the bag. Judging from the problems created by Medicare it does not sound like blind support for the status quo is going to be a winning strategy with the electorate.