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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Monday, October 31, 2005

Thanksgiving Is Coming.....

Just 4 weeks till Thanksgiving. Its my favorite holiday and is the quintessential American festival. This is a harvest festival where we give thanks to God for the bounty that he has provided to us over the past year.

In addition to the religious overtones, Thanksgiving represents a family gathering time, more important to me than Christmas that has transformed into a secular holiday. It also is the beginning of winter, and is the end of the Fall season, my favorite time of year. I enjoy the changing colors of the leaves and the cool crisp air that marks autumn.

On the 24th, I will go to the American Club here and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast with my friends and family. I very much look forward to it. I particularly look forward to cranberry sauce. I don't really like the jellied version that comes in a can but the homemade variety where the raw berries are stewed with sugar. My mother makes it with less sugar than traditionally recipes suggest and the sauce is more tart and lively as a result.

Cranberries are a very strange fruit. They grow in bogs and swamps and are very difficult to harvest.
The cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs in the genus Vaccinium subgenus Oxycoccus, or in some treatments, in the distinct genus Oxycoccus. They are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs to 10 cm tall (often less), with slender, wiry stems, not thickly woody, and small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant. It is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe.

The name cranberry probably derives from their being a favorite food of cranes, though some sources claim the name comes from "craneberry" because before the flower expands, its stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Another name, used in northeastern Canada, is mossberry.

So I am amused to see that someone has come up with a machine to assist in the harvesting effort.
His invention-five years in the making-promises a much faster way to harvest the popular fruit that is a staple of Thanksgiving Day tables and a $200 million-a-year industry.

"If it works as well as it appears it does, yes, it will revolutionize cranberry harvesting," said Teryl Roper, a fruits crop specialist and professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "I don't know why no one thought of it before. It is elegantly simple."
An invention that won't make the inventor rich, but his "ruby slipper" will surely make him famous among cranberry growers and aficionados.

Everyone Is Demanding.....


Chinese Body Paiinting.....


Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween Isn't Only For Children....

The apparent suicide of a woman found hanging from a tree went unreported for hours because passers-by thought the body was a Halloween decoration, authorities said.

The 42-year-old woman used rope to hang herself across the street from some homes on a moderately busy road late Tuesday or early Wednesday, state police said.

Farm Subsidy Talks Facing Problems...

Farm subsidy talks are stalled with France balking at further reductions. France that benefits from nearly 25% of all European subsidies does not want to go any further. However, other EU countries are tired of supporting Frances pseudo-efficient agriculture and want to reduce European subsides. This line says it all where this world is on farm subsidies...
EU tariffs on food imports average 13.9 percent, compared to 2.4 percent for the U.S. and 29.4 percent for Japan, according to the World Bank.
Additionally, as Jacques Chirac descends in a hyperventilated hallucinogenic state of denial had this to say...
Chirac blamed the U.S. and ``large emerging countries'' for ``impoverishing'' the world's poorest countries by forcing them to buy U.S. food surpluses.
I am sorry, how does this work? Oh yes, Europeans that have no argument points left automatically accuse the USA of causing the problem. Sorry, I forgot that this is the proto-typical response. How droll.

Macau Getting Its Banking Act Together?

After a devastating run on Banco Delta Asia, cited by US authorities for laundering money, for nuclear bad boy, North Korea, was seized by Macau authorities, US investigators are pleased with Macau's response to close loopholes.
"I've been encouraged by the reaction I had in Macau, including a meeting that I had with [Chief Executive Edmund] Ho," US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes Stuart Levey said in Hong Kong.

"They are obviously taking these issues very seriously. We have a very good understanding between us about how important this is, not just to Macau but to the United States, and how we believe this implicates our national security."

Levey last month proposed requiring US banks to block Macau's Banco Delta Asia from conducting transactions in the United States in response to the bank's alleged involvement in North Korean money laundering.
Macao's lax response prior to the Banco Delta Asia debacle was probably was due to several factors, one being that triads control too much business and therefore money laundering is very difficult to control The other is that uber-wealthy tycoons that control the rest of the legitimate businesses there think that are above the law not subject to normal moral codes that bind us to do what is right.

Of course the straight laced Hong Kong financial institutions are well prepared and have effective systems in place to stem illegal money movement activities.

Iran Is Run By A Madman...

Iran President, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was quoted as saying Israel "must be wiped off the map." Of course, Europe is all upset that their mamby pamby pampering of these Iranian idiots has come to naught and condemned the President's message...
"Calls for violence and for the destruction of any state are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community," leaders of the 25-nation EU said in a statement today during a meeting at Hampton Court outside London, adding that they were concerned about Iran's "future intentions."

Ahmadinejad's remark yesterday at a conference in Tehran called "A World Without Zionism" came as Islamic Jihad, a militant group with ties to Iran, killed at least five Israelis with a suicide bomb in the Israeli town of Hedera. The EU made reference to that attack in today's statement.
But the EU's position is manifestly idiotic. They have long outsourced the difficult work to the United States, rely on the impotent United Nations and now carry so little political weight around the world, that who would bother to listen to them anyway except American liberal Democrats.

The Iranians were just laughing at the Europeans while they were negotiating with them buying time while they build nuclear weapons. Then we all know what they will do with them? They will threaten Israel, actually attack Israel with one or attack anyone else that tries to get in their way.

These clowns in Iran are telegraphing their intentions to us. The late Leo Strauss warned, a German Jew that left Nazi Germany early on, University of Chicago philosophy professor and father of the centrist neo-con political movement [He is frequently called a fascist himself becausehe abhored liberalism],
According to Drury, Strauss's attitude towards liberal democracy was at the root of this thought. "Strauss abhorred liberal democracy because he associated it with the Weimar Republic whose constitution was drafted at the end of World War I." Many Jewish European expatriates, who, like Strauss, survived World War II, identified American liberal democracy with the Weimar Republic, and the weakness and decadence of Weimar with the rise of Nazism. Strauss persuaded students such as Allan Bloom, Henry Jaffa, Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and many others of this connection. He convinced them that liberalism was the root of Nazism and therefore abhorrent.
Replace Strausses concern of American liberalism with Europes more potent liberalism and one gets a decadent liberalism that cannot face up to its responsibilities and is ineffective in its international pursuits of self interest. Europe despite its protestations would sooner sell out Israel's independence and the lives of its citizens then defend them against the wicked tyranny that is festering in Iran today.

The United States is the only nation that has the guts to even attempt to contain Iran while Europe dithers about and wonders where they are going to get the money to pay for their next welfare check.

October 27, 1787....

Please note the names of the following writers that wrote under the nom-de-plume, Publius, are credited with producing the Federalist Papers and compare them to the name of this blog. As far as I am concerned, these three guys are among the most important people of the past 500 years.

A New York newspaper published the first of 77 essays explaining the new Constitution and urging its ratification, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay and later combined as The Federalist Papers.
Milton Friedman was not an inspiration for this blog but was an inspiration for me as were several University of Chicago thinkers. So Milton is really Alexander Hamilton, J. is John Jay and Madison is James Madison.
Madison is generally credited as the father of the Constitution and became the fourth President of the United States. Hamilton was an influential delegate at the Constitutional Convention, and later the first Secretary of the Treasury. John Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Hamilton penned the majority and Madison made several significant contributions to the series. Jay, who fell ill early in the project, wrote but five.
I think the name of my blog is quite clever.

The American Constitution has proves to be the foundation of the American success and has also proved to be flexible and able to change with the times. These writers wrote essays published in the newspapers of the day that were designed to influence public opinion to accept and ratify the document.
The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, as they outline the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government. The authors of the Federalist Papers were not above using the opportunity to provide their own "spin" on certain provisions of the constitution to (i) influence the vote on ratification and (ii) influence future interpretations of the provisions in question.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Its Not Very Safe To Be A Terrorist In Iraq...

So, don't even dress like one...
The people there are becoming less and less tolerant of the mass murders there. Baghdad - At least 27 people, most of them police, were killed in clashes with civilians in Nahrawan township, 30 kilometres south of Baghdad, Thursday, said Iraqi army sources.

Captain Ahmed Jassin of the Iraqi army told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa that forces belonging to two brigades of the Interior Ministry launched a raid in Al-Haj village of Nahrawan to release a kidnapped person.

He said the police were in civilian uniform, prompting the villagers to open fire thinking that the police were terrorists. Jassim's army brigade intervened to end the fighting.
If you run into a village armed and you are wearing civilian clothes, they locals will attack you thinking that you are a terrorist.


Iraq Fatalities By Month - iCasualies.org
































Nam Tai Electronics Pulls An Incredibly Sleazy Stunt....

Nam Tai Electronics, traded under the symbol NTE on the New York Stock Exchange announced this past weekend that they intended on taking their two Hong Kong listed companies private. One may say ok, so what. However, there are some interesting facets to this exercise that one should be aware of.

The Hong Kong listed entity [HK 2633] dropped dramatically during August, as indicated on the following chart....

Normally, I would say so what. Some times shares go down and this is normal. Sometimes a large seller of the stock decides that there is too much risk with the company or that earnings prospects do not look as bright as they once were and sells shares. However, this situation is even more interesting. The US listed company sold shares of the Hong Kong company as follows:
....528,000 shares @ HKD 1.625 11 Aug 2005
14,585,000 shares @ HKD 1.754 10 Aug 2005
..6,024,000 shares @ HKD 1.858 09 Aug 2005
..1,437,000 shares @ HKD 1.943 08 Aug 2005

As reported by the HK stock Exchange here. Please note that the dramatic fall in price coincided with the share sale by Nam Tai itself. The stock fell from around HK2.00 per share at the beginning of the month to around HK1.40 or a drop of nearly 30%. I looked at the news services and other news sources and I see NO MATERIAL PUBLIC INFORMATION that the company released that could possibly account for the fall in price of that magnitude. Additionally, it appears as if other market participants got wind of the share sale plan and ran infront of the sale since the share price drop started before Nam Tai did the selling.

And the mystifying sale by the company itself represented several times the normal daily volume that trade on the HK Stock Exchange. So, market participants probably wondered what was going on with the company and as a reflex stayed away from buying the shares until the situation was straightened out.

So, what did the company do? Last weekend they offered to buy out the remaining shareholders at HK1.80. This price is just too cheap for this company at around 7 times trailing earnings when the New York Stock Exchange listed shares trade at around 20 times earnings. This is just another example of the screwing by sleazy managers of the minority shareholders in Hong Kong. It is shameless and the management of this company should be chastised for the greedy and manipulative and possibly illegal behavior that they have engaged in. Others have also noted the sleazy behavior. The mangers and directors names can be found here.

And what will the HK Stock Exchange do? They rarely do anything in these situations ecept explain to exasperated people that there is nothing illegal in what they have [even though it appears as if the company intended to manipulate the price lower] and go back to sleep on their desks. The HK Stock Exchange inexplicably has done a very very poor job of protecting minority shareholders rights and tend to favor the tycoons over the indivdual shareholder. Its truly a sad state of affairs for Hong Kong and the transparency of the markets in this part of the world. Sleaziness abounds in the boardrooms in the SAR and the people of Hong Kong are the ones that will suffer.

For disclosure purposes, I have been or currently shareholders of both the New York listed and Hong Kong listed entities. I purchased New York listed NTE shares late last year at $19.39 and sold them this year at $27.50 for a profit of around US$6,500. Additionally, I purchased a small amount of shares in Hong Kong at around HK$1.40 in August and still hold them. So I am not a completely disinterested party in the outcome of this situation.

Throw On A Burqah And Check It Out...


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tonya Harding....

Remember Tonya Harding? She was the Olympic figure skater whose now ex-husband whacked her American competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, on the knee in order to injure her so that Tonya could win and take home the gold. Harding, the cigarette-smoking, pickup-driving bad girl, had said she would "kick some butt" in the Olympics. This tale is now a musical opera...
The Nancy Kerrigan -Tonya Harding soap opera is now a musical opera. The figure skating saga that captivated the country 11 years ago -with the ubiquitous video of Kerrigan crying "Why me?" after being attacked and hit in the knee- is the basis for "Nancy and Tonya: The Opera," to be performed at Tufts University (search) next spring.
Well, she is in the news again. After being banned from skating after that lurid incident, she has taken up boxing and most recently, beaten up by her own boyfriend who was admittedly heavily intoxicated on booze.

White trash definitely lead strange lives, don't they!

So What Else Is New?

Remember political asylum seeker in Australia, Chen Youglin, who claimed that there were 1,000 spies roaming Australia? Well he is back in the news with some further commentary....
A high-profile defector from China's diplomatic corps has warned that Western businesses are wrong to step up investment in the mainland, saying the political environment there is dangerously unstable.

"I would not suggest to French businesses to invest in China. The government is not stable," Chen Yonglin, a former first secretary at China's consulate in Sydney, said in Paris Monday.

"A lot of businessmen from the Western world [believe] that China is growing ... there are actually deeper crises under the surface," he said.
I seem to recall that there were some questions on the reliability of Chen's earlier statements on the number of Chinese spies in Australia. Really now, 1,000 spies? Several hundred may be spying on the millions of cattle that roam Aussie's outback?

However, it seems as if Chen's most recent statements are designed to raise fears of political instability that are lurking in many investors minds anyway. China IS ungovernable as my piece on local officials ignoring the central government directive requesting them to divest all of their mining assetsleads me to believe. The power of the central authority in China flows from the local officials. If they don't comply with orders, it will be very difficult to get much done. And heavy handed central government intervention risks driving the country to fracture along regional lines and potentially causing a tremendous amount of the feared instability.

However, since it seems as if more and more real power is flowing down to the local level, how does the government effectively control this? They can't. However, they can give more autonomy to the people through voting rights and this may have the effect of actually reducing local officials unchecked power. Its food for thought.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Sad Story Of The Nigerian Plane Crash.....

probably means that I will get dozens of pleas from [fake] relatives looking for business deals with a well respected foreigner who may have lost a long lost cousin that cannot claim the cash and the millions of $$ in the deceased bank accounts. I get dozens of these things a month.

Just like here, here and here.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

If You Are A White American, Then Nigerians....

"have the belief that white men are stupid and greedy."
Of course, Nigerian scammers end up stealing money from other ethnic groups in the US and gullible people in other countries. But they justify it figuring that they are stealing from wealthy white people. If I called all Nigerians or Blacks criminals, then I would be called a racist. But in popular Nigerian culture, this song is a hit...
Their anthem, "I Go Chop Your Dollars," hugely popular in Lagos, hit the airwaves a few months ago as a CD penned by an artist called Osofia:
"419 is just a game, you are the losers, we are the winners.
White people are greedy, I can say they are greedy
White men, I will eat your dollars, will take your money and disappear.
419 is just a game, we are the masters, you are the losers."
Never respond to these clowns.
The U.S. Secret Service estimates such schemes net hundreds of millions of dollars annually worldwide, with many victims too afraid or embarrassed to report their losses.
I actually have a set method to waste their time and paste in responses to their idiotic stories so that at least they have to work harder or spend less time working on someone that my be drawn into the scam.

Hong Kong Property Market Set For Reduced Supply....

According to industry insiders, new supply of housing flats will be fairly light for the next couple of years.
Supply this year is expected to be about 20,000 units, down 23 percent from 26,000 units in 2004, and well below the average annual take-up of 24,000 to 27,000 homes over the past decade, industry watchers said.

The quarterly statistics, released by the Housing Department, showed that newly completed flats in the private sector fell about 31 percent to 4,600 units in the third quarter from 6,700 in the same period of last year.

The government said its report is a snapshot rather than a forecast.

Pacific Century Premium Developments executive director Wendy Gan estimates that the annual supply of new homes will plunge to about 13,000 in the coming two years from about 26,000-30,000 between 2002 and 2004.
I just don't believe these numbers. If you take the bus to the airport, there are dozens and dozens of new residential buildings being constructed within sight of the highway. In addition, the government has tried to create this environment by reducing land sales to in order to inflate prices, but this is an artificial shortage.

A real free market would build as many flats as are demanded and price rises should increase the supply not reduce it as we are seeing by these statistics.

It is really a sad state of affairs when the government has to be complicite with the uber-wealthy greedy developers to strip hard earned cash from the working citizens of this state through such sleazy methods. Shame on all of you.

All those things that you figured you didn't have to do or didn't want to do now have to be done. Too bad.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Other Question That I have.......

Who shines his face?

Bird Flu Victim In Thailand Dies...

The 67th reported victim of bird flu died in Thailand after being infected by slaughtering and then killing a sick chicken. The unfortunate fellow was 48 years old.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mid 1960's....

My dad and I went to a conference one winter and we played outside in the snow and went swimming [indoors of course]. We went tobogganing on a toboggan track and I remember being really scared since it was so fast. I also got a cut on my finger from ice and I still have a scar from it.

I scanned this picture and did some photoshop work on it since the humidity caused some rivets behind the picture to rust and burned holes in the original. I have fixed it but it still have some rust miscoloration that I want to remove.


What is the significance of the 49th parallel?

Answer here.

How To Drive A Liberal Democrat Absolutely Nuts...

I have tried this several times and its lots of fun. Remember, you have to do this with a straight face and serious tone. And the script rarely deviates from the one below.

1. Engage a Liberal Democrat in a discussion on some of Bush Admin. policies.
2. Get the tempo and the loudness up so that other people over hear.
3. Cave in to some argument point with the LD so that he thinks that he has won.
4. Shrug your shoulders and say that "no one is perfect."
5. This will irritate the LD to no end.
6. Then say that you don't like Bill Clinton.
7. Get a reaction like... WWWHHHAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTT?
8. Draw out all the great stupendous things that Bill Clinton has done from the LD.
9. This will invariably include:
....Ending welfare as we know it.
....The wild economy and the roaring 1990's.
....The balanced budget.
10. Say to the Clinton supporter, "Is that all?"
11. There is very little else that a Clinton supporter can offer as achievements.
12. Say, "See I told you." The LD's face will be red with rage at this point.

This is indescribably fun to do.

For Sale On Ebay....

Leather Pants.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I Remember When Used to Tell Me That I Should Take Vitamins...

Buy sauerkraut and kimchi futures and Romanian real-estate. Remember that no Koreans got SARS a couple of years back? Maybe it IS the kimchi. I have no idea if this is a hoax but I figured that it is fun to read.
A cure in a meal: U.S. Sauerkraut sales expected to skyrocket.

In yet another indication that Sauerkraut is the super food of the 21st century, scientists at Seoul National University have successfully used Kimchi Sauerkraut to treat chickens infected with avian flu. Kimchi is a seasoned variety of sauerkraut that shares Lactobacillus bacteria with traditional Sauerkraut, which may be the critical element in preventing Avian Flu. Both Kimchi and traditional Sauerkraut are made by fermenting sliced cabbage, producing a highlevel of lactic acid.

According to an October 2005 BBC report, Kimchi was fed to 13 infected chickens and 11 of them started recovering within a week. South Korean Kimchi consumption is up as a result of this report and U.S. sales of Sauerkraut are also expected to spike up.

The October 14, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal cites growing U.S. concern over a potential avian flu pandemic based on the occurrence of birds found to carry the virus in Turkey, signaling the first instance of an outbreak outside of Asia. Fears of a U.S. pandemic were increased following the release of a study on the
1918-19 pandemic which originated in birds before mutating to a humanstrain and killing approximately 50 million people. Avian flu has been on the watch lists of the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1997, with a recent surge in activity as drug makers race to find a cure and a vaccine.

According to an October 17, 2005 story on the MSNBC/Newsweek website and carried on the NBC Nightly News, "Washington was turning its attention to the threat posed by an exceptionally lethal strain of flu virus that could, in the worst case, kill as many people in a few months as AIDS has done in two decades."

The November 2005 issue of Men's Health Magazine advises constructing a pandemic kit, including nonperishable foods: "Make a few of cans of the sauerkraut; it's packed with lactic-acid bacteria, shown by Korean researchers to speed recovery of chickens infected with avian flu."

"If you look at a 19th century Old Farmer's Almanac you'll find recipes for sauerkraut to treat virtually every ailment under the sun. Now in the 21st century it's been cited as having cancer fighting abilities and may be a cure for avian flu. It's truly one of the most unassuming super foods ever created. We expect to see sales go through the roof this Fall" says Chris Smith, VP of marketing for Frank's Sauerkraut, one of the United States' leading brands of

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What Do These Things Have In Common?

Left-wing Cindy Sheehan rallies in Washington, elite dinner parties with tea-drinking arts patrons on 5th Avenue, the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)and African dictators that savagely murder their people in their quests to remain in power..... the answer is that they all think that Bush and Blair are terrorists and Nazis.

Interesting bunch of folks all these people. If I was anti-Bushite, I would definite denigrate Zimbabwe's President-for-life thoughts and distance myself from his reasoning.
Mr. Mugabe's remark about Hitler drew an immediate rebuke from Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.

Mr. Mugabe "starves and suppresses his own people. His shameful exploitation of Nazism and the Holocaust ... is the act of a demagogue who utterly disdains the values of tolerance and democracy," Mr. Foxman said.
Good for Mr. Foxman. Maybe the imbeciles at the UN could have figured this out too. Additionally,
Mr. Mugabe accused Britain and the United States of working to unseat him because of his forcible redistribution of white-owned farms among blacks, helping plunge his country into its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980.

Regime critics in Zimbabwe and abroad say Mr. Mugabe's land policies have turned what was the breadbasket of southern Africa into a country facing mass shortages at home.

Aid groups estimate 5 million of Zimbabwe's roughly 12 million people may need food aid this year.

But U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall, who protested Mr. Mugabe's presence at the celebrations, said it was "very unfortunate" that the Zimbabwean leader had politicized an event that was supposed to draw attention to world hunger.
So there we go. Mr. Mugabe playing the race card [He could be a great Democrat]. Like anyone gives a shit about a handful farmers, but now we have to feed 5 million Zimbabweans that are short of food. And people in the world are somewhat upset at him? Why? Because we are racists. Okaaayyyyyy.

So Bush and Blair want him out of power? Unfortunately, they are correct, like they were with Saddam Hussein. This fellow is a self-indulgent prick and the UN is showing how incredibly idiotic they can be by inviting this clown to speak about food shortages.

Link REIT Escape Clause Designed To Protect The Small Investor...

The aborted attempt to securitize the retail shops and parking space assets of Hong Kong's public housing estates in last year's failed issuance of the Link REIT, caused losses for retail investors, but of varying degrees. If one had oodles of cash in their bank accounts and posted the money for a week or so in the underwriting process all that was lost was the forgone interest and rates were about 0% at that time.

However, those investors that borrowed funds, up to 90% of the allocation that they put in for, ended up paying interest on the borrowed funds but never had the opportunity to recoup when the deal collapsed.

So, new rules have been put in place to protect the small investors. The principal reason why this is even relevant is that the demand for these securities outstrips the supply and small investors either want to get an allocation that makes sense [a small allocation of say 1,000 shares can be irrelevant for some people] or not get shut out at all from investing. So one has to use gamemanship and subscribe for a much larger allocation than one actually wants with the understanding that the deal will be multiple times oversubscribed and the investor will get cut back substantially. You can see my earlier piece on this process.

This new scheme, although protecting investors somewhat, still does not go far enough to alleviate the issues of another court challenge. I suppose if the courts challenge the deal and the underwriting period is extended indefinitely, then theorectically, those investors that borrowed funds may pay very high interest charges. So they may be inclined to cancel and the shares will be allocated to institutional investors that are not required to post cash for the shares subscribed to.

So, the legal challenges should be addressed through proper legislation allowing the deal to go forward, not some allowance that precludes individual investors from participating.

Applying Our Tribal Logic To Iraqis...

Christopher Hitchens piece in Slate on the way we look at tribal logic in Iraq and also Bosnia, creates perplexing problems. The media penchant for stereotyping so that we can define who the good guys are and who the bad guys are [or using these simple-minded categorization to push an agenda or story-line] is just ineffective and misleading.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Liberals As Scary Monsters....

For kids but adults can enjoy too.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Passage Of The Iraqi Constitution On Tradesports....

The Irish betting site, Tradesports, has political and current events markets available to punters. Passage of the Iraqi constitution is around 10-1 odds now.

The Lose-Lose Of American Media Position....

As much as it amazes me that the American media has taken sides with the terrorists in the battle of Iraq, it amazes me even more that these clowns have put themselves into this position. What will happen if Iraq actually works out as GWB has planned it? Oh-no, what are we going to do George, what are we going to do?
Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie [the press] dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own. But after they come to work on a ranch in the Salinas Valley their hopes, like "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men," begin to go awry.
Duh? All the months of gloomy predictions and the grilling of administration officials, slanting news and misreporting events are going to come to nothing. And all these bloggers will be able to tear apart every slant, misrepresented fact and absolutely lie.... How awful will my life be, George? How awful will be my life? Maybe we can lie our way out of it, maybe we can create an alternative universe?

What now? Maybe some gnashing of teeth or something? Katrina may have been the key to the presses plan to divert attention away from their failings in Iraq but only to open up the new wounds of their absolutely awful job on reporting on their own territory. No excuses now. I am sure that maybe the press can do a good job reporting on a royal wedding if only the US had royalty. Or some royal scandal would come in handy right now! where is Richard Nixon when one needs him? Maybe there are some cats stuck in the trees in Iowa that need reporting on. Quick get on that! Clowns!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Take On The Miers Nomination For SCOTUS....

I figure that she is an adequate nomination. A person that is intellectually as well as physically capable to do what is being asked of her.

What bothers me the most about the nomination, is the right-wing pundits actually being upset about this. Its as if they think that there won't be another Republican President for the rest of our lifetimes. How absolutely silly. If this one doesn't work out, there will be plenty more chances to pack the court with ideologues.... but first you guys have to win the Presidency again. Its not as if you gave GWB as gigantic mandate, just a nice one. If Hillary wins, then you were wrong anyway weren't you. What are you lazy? I for one would never vote for another Democrat for a long-long time. So you weak kneed partners better buckle up.

China Construction Bank IPO Will Be A Blowout....

According to The Standard, investors are heavy subscribers to the CCB shares slated for issuance next week.
CCB, which is seeking to raise up to HK$73.1 billion from its global offering, lifted its IPO price range to HK$1.90 to HK$2.40 from HK$1.80 to HK$2.25 to reflect overseas institutional investors' warm reaction to the IPO. It also cut the lot size to 1,000 shares from 2,000 to be able to satisfy as many retail investors as possible. Phillip Securities senior research analyst Stephen Tse said, "The response would be stronger if the price range had not been revised and if the lot size had been left unchanged at 2,000 shares."

Kingston Lin, an associate director at Prudential Securities, said, "We estimate that CCB's shares have to go up at least 5 percent to allow margin borrowers to break even. The higher IPO price may trim the upside potential since it makes CCB's price-to-book value about two times, which is even more expensive than a blue-chip bank like HSBC Holdings."
Here is the game for Hong Kong investors.... put in for a multiple of the number of shares you want, lets say for example you have HK$100,000 that you want to invest. Your bank will lend you HK$900,000 so that you can subscribe for HK$1,000,000 of shares. Given that everyone is playing this game, the retail traunche will be heavily oversubscribed, and you will only get a small fraction of what you originally indicated. Say only a few thousand shares. You immediately sell these shares when the deal frees to trade and hopefully the profit will be greater than the interest that paid on the HK$900,000 you borrowed for the few days during the subscription period.

Well, this isn't investing its speculation or taking advantage of market liquidity. It has nothing to do with the value of the investment or whether or not it is a sensible investment. If the deal doesn't go as well as one thinks, you may get a lot more shares than you wanted and be forced to sell them irrespective of the price.

As far as I am concerned, one has to discern value when one makes an investing decision. For me, there are very few Chinese banks that I would have interest in investing in. Most are run by party officials that have zero knowledge of banking and only have interest in lining their own pockets. The banks are still technologically underinvested and really do not know what they are doing making loans. And also, I am sure that 6 months from now there will be a big scandal surrounding some senior managers at this bank. I, for one, am staying away. I can't be bothered with this kind of nonsense.

Don't Patronize Fenwicks....

Sometimes, the greed of Hong Kong people is absolutely stupefying. Don't go to Fenwicks. Its owned and run by bad people.

A little explanation is necessary, I think. The place is essentially a house of prostitution and this takes a couple of different forms. First, you have your typical prostitutes, in the biblical sense, sex for money. The second are what I call the drink whores. They are Filipino gals that come up on two week visas that hangout there and get guys to buy them 'fake' drinks at exorbitant prices. They receive a commission on them and the chits are paid out in cash to them at the bar. I watched this phenomenon one night in total fascination. Its not a small amount of money that these gals make.

But this isn't what I am angry about, people can make their own choices since they are adults and if this is what they want, then so be it. A few nights ago, I stumbled by and there were a couple of Indonesian maids hanging around outside and I asked why they didn't go inside. They told me that they weren't allowed in. So I took them down and tried to get them in. The guards said that they had to pay to get inside. I asked why and the manager [you know the Chinese guy with the secret service type of earphone that wanders around looking upset all night] came out and said that they couldn't come in since they didn't drink.

OK. Its the perogative of a businessman to allow someone into a place for whatever reason. But these people are so unbelievable greedy. They make an absolute fortune there and is probably amongst the busiest discos in Hong Kong. A few hard working maids coming in isn't going to make that much difference to them.

So, I called the police and reported that they stole my congee [which they did] and that I wanted a report written up on it. Of course the manager was absolutely furious which is what I wanted to achieve. So, I had the police hanging out there for 15 minutes or so while we went through the procedure. I hope that the SS manager enjoyed that 15 minutes, he looked angrier than usual.

As far as I am concerned, they don't deserve my business and please do not patronize them either.

Zimbabwe Continues To Play Games With The Rest OF The World.....

In the latest incidence of wild man diplomacy, Zimbabwe detained the US ambassador during a walk in a national botanical park under the silly claim that it was a restricted area. Furthermore, they claim the US envoy was "lucky to still be alive" in an attempt to terrorize American diplomats there that have been highly critical of the Mugabe regime and its severe human rights violations.

And of course, the unbalanced UN has invited Dictator Mugabe to speak at a hunger conference in Rome on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"I find it amazing. What can he possibly say to us at the conference, when he has done so much to hurt his own people. Food has been used as a weapon against his own people," Hall told AFP late Friday.
Mugabe, who went from freedom fighter against white apartheid Rhodesian rule to despot over his 25 year tenure as leader, is now 81 years old. We have to hope that this crazy man will not be around much longer to wreak his special brand on havoc on the poor people of Zimbabwe.

I did come across this unfortunate and interesting name in Zimbawean freedom fighting history, Ndabaningi Sithole. Who says that only Hong Kong people have interesting and unusual names?

American Firms Are Assisting Human Rights Violations By Selling Internet Censoring And Tracking Equipment....

China, Iran, Singapore, Myanmar [Burma] and dare I say, the United States [see below for THAT explanation] have adopted internet filtering technologies that block citizens from seeing sites that are deemed to be politically incompatible with these repressive regimes policies and dogma.

The newest report is that Myanmar has adopted technologies developed from a Sunnyvale, California company that goes by the name Fortinet. This is apparently being done despite an embargo or sanction on the selling of high-tech equipment to Myanmar by US companies.

None of these things can or would happen without the express consent of Fortinet, or other hardware and software providers such as Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and the cabal of other technology firms that value profits over moral obligations.

However, it would be difficult for the US Congress to outlaw the selling of this equipment to foreign government or companies that desire to install the troubling equipment since I suspect that most of it was originally developed for internal US consumption. Due to the plethora of sexual harassment rules at US companies, corporations are forced to block the content of websites that may be deemed inappropriate in the workplace lest they face expensive and time consuming lawsuits from victims. Additionally, there are lots of stuff that allow parents to monitor and block the sites that their children can view and use to protect them from offensive internet material.

So what is good for the goose is good for the gander. By allowing companies in the US to block sites that they deem inappropriate, then the US Congress would be hard-pressed to be able to justify not selling these technologies to others. The US would be forced to reverse a couple of decades of rules and regulations and sexual harassment precedents set by courts in order to free up the ability of our overseas friends to see banned material.



Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A living Wage?

The bankruptcy of Delphi, an auto parts maker that spun-out of General Motors several years ago, may portend to further changes in the U.S. manufacturing markets. There are two problems facing U.S. manufacturers today, first is that current labor costs are uncompetitively expensive, but probably not as much as some would argue since foreign car manufacturers have been opening up new manufacturing plants in the US. Secondly, the high costs of providing benefits, such as healthcare for current workers and pension and healthcare for retired ones, will not allow these old companies to survive and are making their products too expensive.
Among the thorniest problems will be deciding who is responsible for post-retirement and health-care benefits that GM, which shares many of the same problems that sent Delphi into Chapter 11, has said could cost it up to $11 billion.

The broader issue, however, is whether Delphi will get a court-ordered mandate to tear up its labor contracts with the UAW and set dramatically lower wage and benefit levels for its U.S. hourly employees.

Alluding to that possibility, UAW leaders said in a statement on Saturday that it would be "an extremely bitter pill" to swallow.

"I think this case is, in fact, a watershed. I think what it does is -- in the most dramatic way we've seen to date -- it introduces the wages of the global economy into Main Street in Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere," said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley specializing in labor issues. "Delphi has essentially said: 'We need competitive wages.' Those wages currently are being set in China, not Flint, (Michigan)," Shaiken said.
I read recently that healthcare costs for each car that GM produces is around $1,500, a large proportion related to retiree benefits. This is absurdly high and is very telling in that US manufacturers cannot last very long with such high cost burdens.

Delphi claims that unskilled labor should cost around $10 an hour. Yes, this is true, but even for foreign car manufacturing plants in the US, wages are higher than that. So in any bargaining position, Delphi offers $10 per hour as opposed to the $27.50 per hour workers currently get paid, the union has to think long and hard on how they are going to deal with this. The United Auto Workers [UAW] has a big problem, by stonewalling and not seeking concessions, they risk more and more bankruptcies where US manufacturers will essentially be able to tear up old union contracts, impose new wages and benefit packages and abrogate their responsibilities with retired workers by reducing their pensions and benefits that they were promised under the old systems.
Neither Gettelfinger [UAW president] nor any other leader from UAW headquarters was prepared to negotiate away hourly wages of $27.50 and replace them with $10-an-hour wages. Unfortunately for Delphi workers, that's what the company said is the value of unskilled assembly-line labor in the U.S. today.
And going through bankruptcy is not as difficult nor destructive as one may think. Companies can get rid of contractual obligations that no longer make sense but continue to operate, in many cases.
The company employs 185,000 worldwide, including about 33,000 hourly workers in the U.S.

Delphi has a good chance to emerge from bankruptcy because many of its 160 or so parts factories around the world have plenty of customers. And a post-bankruptcy Delphi won't have a labor agreement like the one it has now with the UAW, which put the company's U.S. labor costs out of whack. That's a problem the bankruptcy judge can fix if the UAW resists.
So now, the UAW has put themselves in a worse bargaining position than they were before. Now they have almost no bargaining power, since a judge will decide what will happen and its likely that Delphi will move even more parts manufacturing offshore. And, furthermore, they are losing their bargaining power with other companies in similar situations.

What is the union going to do? A Bank of America equity analyst raised the probability that GM will file for bankruptcy to 30% from 10% following the Delphi bankruptcy and GM shares fell 10% yesterday.
Perhaps as Delphi factories close, workers are fired, and others begin to receive drastically smaller paychecks, UAW leaders may realize such a scene is headed for GM, Ford and lots of UAW- represented suppliers. If so, Wagoner and GM's shareholders may be beneficiaries of a more realistic UAW.

Gettelfinger has to know that UAW members may be questioning whether it makes sense to belong to a union at all, if leaders no longer can guarantee above-market wages and benefits.
Unions are supposed to represent the interests of labor but how is labor's interest represented if one company after another files for bankruptcy, and uses this tool to rationalize their wages and benefits and then emerges with a lot more control over their labor costs, the union is essentially giving away its bargaining powers for nothing. Furthermore, the unions are completely ignoring their retirees. These people no longer have any leverage over employers and stand to lose when these companies cut their retirees pensions and benefits.

I do not think that the UAW has played their cards very well and it appears as if they have put themselves in an even worse position.
"The choice is no longer between keeping the same job or keeping the same job at a lower wage," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told local radio on Monday. "The choice is now keeping the same job at less compensation or having no jobs at all in this country."
The wages decided by the bankruptcy judge will probably set a framework for all UAW negotiations going forward and this does not look good for the wages of these workers. It appears as if the only leverage that the UAW now has is to cripple the U.S. automobile industry with strikes that could hurt many many people if they don't get what they want. But do the 100's of thousands of auto and auto related workers want to do this? I guess that we will have to see how this plays out.

Just Another....

depraved slave.

Cuts In Farm Subsides And Tariffs Are Long Overdue...

Farm subsides are as much about politics as they are about economics, maybe even more-so. Farm subsides have been the in the political landscape for generations since farmers in many countries have lots of political clout. For example, in Japan, due the districting methods that they use for representation in the Diet, farmers have an inordinate amount of power. Additionally, Narita airport that serves Tokyo, has been hamstrung by farmers that do not want the needed 2nd runway built and this has been held up for years. Irrespective of ones opinion on development, its just an illustration on how a few people can affect the lives of the many.

Recent statements by US trade representative, Portman, offers that the US is willing to reduce and eliminate tariffs and subsidies if Europe and Japan also make significant concessions.
U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman (news, bio, voting record) gave negotiations a boost early Monday when he laid out a new proposal on agricultural tariffs and subsidies, saying the EU and Japan must now promise to do more to cut aid to their own farmers.

The EU responded with a proposal to make deeper cuts in subsidies to its own farmers. But the necessary reforms are expected to be a tough sell to farmers on both sides of the Atlantic who have profited from generous government handouts.
The US is taking the lead on this initiative now since their are several salient points that need to be addressed. First, the damage that is being done by protecting local markets hurts poor farmers in the developing world the most. The beneficiaries are the large industrial farmers with political clout. Secondly, a country that is protecting less efficient producers should be migrating their assets to more productive uses. This is the benefit of international trade, that resources are freed up to more efficient and profitable uses. Without concessions by others, the US will bear the costs of the reductions and pickup the necessary offsetting gains.

Europe and Japan along with the US have gigantic subsidy programs that have cost taxpayers extraordinary amounts of money through taxes and higher costs of products. There is a tremendous amount of resistance from all three parties to changes due to potential political costs.
Europe and Japan maintain high farm tariffs and want to protect some products from cuts.

"The US proposals are likely to be seen as excessively ambitious by a vast majority of WTO members," an EU official said. Japan said the US offer was "not a basis for negotiation".

Though much of the public focus is on farm subsidies, World Bank economists calculate that 92 per cent of the benefit of rich nations' agricultural liberalisation to the developing world will come from tariff cuts.
No one is innocent, but the US has taken a bold step with potential political ramifications.

And I love Tom at Daai Tou Laam, he is sees the grey cloud in everything when it involves anything that Bush says or does. When one looks through the grease covered glasses of Bush haters, one cannot get a sensible picture of what can be achieved and what has to be achieved.
Typically it's the Bushevik exponents of "Free Trade" who have their heels dug in and demanding other people have to give in first.
He is definitely missing the whole point on this one. One cannot make bold steps without defining what the other parties have to achieve along with the US. It is not digging one heels in but having a sensible strategy so that US isn't forced once again to unilaterally make moves for the benefit of many while Europe and Japan make no concessions what-so-ever. Tom, I guess that you aren't involved in negotiations too frequently.

As A Shareholder Of China SOE's, You Are Treated Arbitrarily....

If you are a foreign investor in China, its difficult to be treated in a sensible manner and one can never expect to be treated fairly. Recent announced schemes to unlock the non-tradeable shares of various SOE's, is arbitrary and difficult to understand. Foreign shareholders, the dopes, get nothing, while local shareholders get protected through put options and new shares schemes.

B shares on China's stock exchanges fell 5% on Monday as it became obvious that foreign shareholders will be treated unfairly relative to their local counterparts and one can probably expect poor treatment to continue into the foreseeable future.
The regulators have yet to say explicitly whether holders of B shares - or Hong Kong-listed H shares - will be entitled to compensation as the share structures of mainland firms undergo reform.

However, in August the regulators said that for those A-share companies also listed in the H- or B-share markets, the non-tradeable share riddle should be solved in the A-share markets.

Holders of H shares are unlikely to receive any compensation since they are categorized as foreign investors, market watchers said.
If you are a foreign investor in China's stock markets, then you are an idiot.

Amongst The First On The Scene.....

The US military is already providing assistance to Pakistan's needy after an earthquake devastated parts of the country. Of course, due to the US military involvement in Afghanistan, they were well placed with equipment and supplies to help. The US military was also amongst the first on the scene after last year's tsunami devastated coastal provinces of Indonesia.

There are already 20,000 dead in Pakistan and expectations are that there may eventually be upwards of 40,000. These are staggering numbers even when compared to the 220,000 dead from the December 26th tsunami, last year.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Collusion Between Local Officials And Mine Owners Continuing...

Despite a directive to end ownership of coal mines by local officials and senior executives of state owned enterprises, very few have complied and are defying Beijing, according to a commentary in today's Standard.
The directive clearly indicated that Beijing recognizes that collusion between officials and mine owners is the main reason authorities ignore safety rules, and wants to stem it.

According to the toughly worded directive, the officials had to clean up their mess by September 22 or be sacked pending further investigation.

But by the night of September 25, only 497 officials and SOE executives in nine provinces had agreed to give up their stakes in local coal mines, according to the State Administration of Work Safety, which oversees the execution of the State Council's order.

This figure is almost laughable, given that there are 24,000 small, privately run coal mines across the mainland. The administration itself estimates that "a considerable number of these 24,000 coal mines" have local officials as their shareholders.
The writer says that this result is predictable since any official that sells their stakes in these mines, will have to explain, at one point, where they got the money to buy the stake in the first place.

Despite good intentions by Beijing, the troubles in China's deadly coal mining industry are probably not going to be solved any time soon. I suspect that miners will continue to die, needlessly, due to greedy and corrupt local officials short-changing the hard working miners safety.

Furthermore, officials will probably just hide ownership or transfer to relatives or some other vehicle to divert attention away from them. Beijing, surprisingly, appears to have little control over local officials if they are defying this order as the writer claims.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Today, On This Date In History.....

Besides these things:
1934 King Alexander of Yugoslavia was assassinated by a Croatian terrorist during a state visit to France.

1974 Oskar Schindler, the German businessman credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust, died at the age of 66.

1975 Andrei Sakharov, father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, became the first Soviet citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Its my mother's birthday. Happy birthday Mom!

One Of The Things That I Miss......

Upon my return to New York after my first visit Asia, September-November 1982, I realized that I had completely missed my favorite time of the year, Autumn. Actually, I wasn't really aware that it was my favorite season except that since I had missed it, that I really missed it. The changing leaves and the crisp cool dry air, leaves lasting memories that rarely recede from my inner thoughts. The mental thoughts have become a physically comforting feeling.

Changes in the colors of the leaves on trees, sometime spectacular are just a manifestation of chemical changes in these organisms. I wrote about this before, here.

But the question that I have beyond the chemical reasons for Fall colors are why do they exist at all? Was it designed just for our pleasure or what other rationale is there for such a splash for the senses?

Hong Kong People Live A Long Time!

Despite, an unhealthy polluted environment, poisonous food from China, an unwillingness to exercise and yucky mosquito borne diseases such as Dengue Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, Hong Kong residents tend to live longer than most.
Hong Kong-..male: 78.72 years, female: 84.30 years
China-..........male: 70.65 years, female: 74.09 years
Germany-.....male: 75.66 years, female: 81.81 years
Japan-.........male: 77.86 years, female: 84.61 years
Britain-.........male: 75.94 years, female: 80.96 years
USA-...........male: 74.89 years, female: 80.67 years
I personally think it is because Hong Kong people always eat vegetables.
Hong Kong's 6.9 million crowded, stressed, sedentary citizens seem to be confounding everything that environmentalists and healthcare specialists argue for.
Come to Hong Kong and live to a ripe old age!

Why Is Iran's Stock Market Collapsing? And Lots More!

Investors in Iranian shares appear worried as the bourse in Tehran has fallen 15% since the June election of Islamic hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and 27% over the past 14 months, from the high in August 2004.

Since there is little foreign participation in the Iranian stock market (foreigners have not been allowed to invest) the drop is most likely the result of local investors worried about the fate of the economy or the political ramifications of the government's program to develop a nuclear bomb or maybe even under-reported social unrest amongst its young population.

Iran is just one of those places that it is difficult to get ones arms around. [See an interesting historical timeline here].

Demographically, the country of 70 million souls is ethnically two-thirds aryan.....yes the ones that Hitler thought of as blue-eyed blond-haired Germans are also found among the Persian peoples of Iran. Additionally, the population is quite young at a median age of around 24 [China compares with a median age of 32, the US at 36, Britain at 39 and India at 25]. The young population and high literacy has created generational problems between students and their more conservative parents resulting in periodic student rioting at universities and not very Islamic attitudes.
Anecdotal and statistical evidence of the alienation of the youth from the fundamentalist regime are overwhelming. For example, a government conducted survey revealed that
86 percent of the youth say that they do not perform the obligatory daily Islamic prayer.
In early 2003 a large Internet poll of students of the Amir Kabir University (the second most prestigious university in Iran) was conducted.
Only 6 percent of the students said that they support the hardliners,

while another 4 percent said they support the reformists within the regime.

A mere 5 percent said they support the return of the former monarchy.

Most significantly, 85 percent of the students said that they would support the establishment of a secular and democratic republic.
The student movements of today's Iran are almost the anti-thesis of the student movements of the 1960's in Western nations where,
For the overwhelming majority in this generation, personal survival trumps any notion of personal sacrifice for the common good. Thus in just one generation cynicism has replaced idealism among vast majority of the population. Economic hardships and lack of freedom have resulted in a mixture of materialism and individualism -- of coveting a Western life-style as seen on satellite television and of believing that it can be achieved only on a personal rather a societal level. It is easier to imagine that you can move to the West and dress like Brittany Spears than it is to believe that everyone can one day be like her here in Iran.
Also, many of us are not fully aware of the devastating war with Iraq in the 1980's, where human waves of underarmed Iranian men attacked Saddam's better equipped defense forces and were slaughtered by the 10's of thousands. The war, where Saddam attempted to capture Iranian port and oil assets, appears to be a strategy that drove him to invade Kuwait in the 1990's, too.

And ask Iranians about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, many of whom are still suffering from the effects of his attacks.
With more than 100,000 Iranian victims of Iraq's Chemical and Biological weapons during the eight-year war, Iran is, after Japan, the world's top afflicted country by Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans of Iran.

Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 90,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions. Many others were hit by Mustard gas.
Iran has always been a place that I have been interested in visiting since I understand that there are lots of interesting and historical sites to visit. But unfortunately, given all the weird stuff going on there, I just don't think that it is a wise idea.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Weak Retail Sales Here In Hong Kong Is No Surprise To Me....

The news reads as if the economy is booming here. Its kind of puzzling to me, but it just doesn't feel that way. And today's Standard article points out that Golden Week holiday sales have been disappointing...
Hong Kong's retailers have reported disappointing sales for National Day Golden Week, with only moderate growth reported midway through the mainland holiday break and less than the expected benefit coming through from newly opened Disneyland.
In addition to a moderately growing economy, there are other looming problems that lead me to believe that Hong Kong is destined to just muddle through over the next couple of years.

In general, prices seem to be quite a bit higher, but this is more the result of an accommodative monetary policy emanating from the US Federal Reserve than from anything fundamental in Hong Kong. Easy money from the Fed is being slowly but surely tightened, so this will dampen the enthusiasm for some of the raising price mania that I have noticed.

Many have put so much currency in the opening of Disneyland, and yes, this is a big positive for the transitioning of the economy away from manufacturing into services such as entertainment, but it is only part of the puzzle.

I feel that much of the problem facing Hong Kong's long-term prospects revolve around the crushing of competition and entrepreneurial spirits by uber-wealthy Hong Kong tycoons. A 2002 study found that Hong Kong ranks among one of the lowest countries in the world in entrepreneurship.
Hong Kong's total entrepreneurial activity (TEA) in 2002 is among the lowest in the world, with only three per cent of Hong Kong's adult population initiating new ventures.
There are more "opportunity" entrepreneurs (two per cent) than "necessity" entrepreneurs (one per cent).
The "opportunity" entrepreneurs are more likely to have post-secondary education and to come from the wealthiest third of society.
The youngest age group (18-24) is also the most entrepreneurial.

Professor Chua's team has identified a number of strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include Hong Kong's great location in the rapidly growing and entrepreneurial Pearl River Delta; excellent physical and legal infrastructures, low taxes, pro-business government; Hong Kong people's superior business skills and entrepreneurial, self-reliant tradition; a world-class banking system as well as abundance of informal capital for business start-ups.

Weaknesses range from high costs, small markets, an education system that is not conducive to creativity, poor links between research and development; Hong Kong people's poor knowledge of and connections with the Pearl River Delta and banks' conservative bias towards asset-based lending.
My theory on tycoons being the root of the economic malaise in Hong Kong is not borne out by the research done here, but it is compelling in my mind.

So, why try to compete if the tycoons, with greater access to favors by government officials and huge financial resources, may decide to crush your initiatives if you tread on their turf? In my real-estate ventures, this is one of the considerations that we have to address every day!

I Just Don't Have Much To Say These Days.....

But I am sure that that will change.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Time To Visit The Subservient Chicken Again.....

Subservient Chicken. Any verb will do I have tried to type "die", and he really dies some nouns work, like "kungfu", and he knows it very well. I have also typed "dance", "sleep" all these can do, you can also try: sing, kiss, eat, read, drink, jump, bounce, fly.....

Home Sales Hit A 13-month Low In Hong Kong....

The ridiculously expensive housing market in Hong Kong is in a slump and unit sales continue to slide.
The 7,100 residential units sold last month represented a fifth consecutive monthly decline since April, when 14,124 units were sold, Land Registry figures showed.

The 435 sale and purchase agreements in the primary market were the lowest since December 1997, according to Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau.
The most amazing thing about these statistics aren't the numbers but the analyst's name; Buggle Lau. Wow, that is one for the odd naming book if I ever saw one. But I digress.

Of course the primary market is affected by the completion and sale of new projects or the mysterious process of 'release' of units for sale by developers where 'inside' transaction prices are not disseminated, making the whole primary market unit sale and prices received data nothing more than smelly garbage.

But their is one economic fact and that is that unit sales volume is falling. Declining sales unit volume is a pre-cursor to declining prices. Sellers try to get prevailing prices, but as buyers shy away, sellers hold prices firm. Eventually, a small percentage of sellers will need to sell or will be forced to liquidate and they will lower their asking prices till a market clearing price is reached. These lower prices are then recorded and we therefore, can expect to see actual reported price declines. If a property doesn't sell, then it price hasn't declined according to the way prices are recorded. But, a so-called expert in real-estate economics is quoted as saying...
However, falling home sales and rising rates have so far failed to dampen real estate prices, according to Eddie Hui, deputy director of Hong Kong Polytechnic's Research Center for Construction and Real Estate Economics. "With the improving economic conditions in Hong Kong, home prices are expected to rise steadily in the fourth quarter despite falling home sales," Hui said.

Home prices jumped as much as 10 percent to 15 percent in the first quarter this year, followed by a minor correction of 3 percent to 5 percent in the second quarter. They remained stable in the third quarter, according to Ricacorp Properties.
But I argue that the economic argument, that the Hong Kong economy is improving is something that has been widely anticipated and price rises already experienced have largely discounted this. So, I think that the argument on economic conditions is large a fallacy and only serves to push those suckers that want to believe that prices will continue to rise into the market place. Property buyers, here, are the Hong Kong equivalent of livestock on their way to slaughter. Consumers are penned up and directed to the Hong Kong real-estate abattoir by the Hong Kong uber-wealthy well-connected tycoons and their slobbering media slaves, who are most interested in parting hard earned cash from gullible Hong Kong consumers than to delivering good products at reasonable prices.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Happy Upcoming Shana Tovah.....

Shofar idol.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Death Cult Called Islam, Continues Its Horrific Indiscriminate Murder Of Innocent Civilians.....

The 7th century cult of death, the hate filled religion called Islam, continues its indiscriminate slaughter of innocents with another attack, yesterday, on the island of Bali. Bombs carefully placed to murder unfortunate victims while dining, detonated, taking with them at last count, 36 souls and maiming over 100.

Moderate Muslims have the responsibility to contain the wackos in their midst that are doing this but, unfortunately, the moderates are failing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Is This Just Junk Journalism, Lazy Work Or Designed To Further An Agenda Or Position?

This piece written by AP military affairs writer Robert Burns rehashes much of the problems going on with recruiting facing the army this year. In particular, I would like to point out a couple of interesting tidbits that the writer poses on the outlook for army recruiting and why he thinks that the army's recruiting woes will continue into next year...
The outlook is dimmed by several key factors, including:

*The daily reports of American deaths in Iraq and the uncertain nature of the struggle against the insurgency have put a damper on young people's enthusiasm for joining the military, according to opinion surveys.

*The Army has a smaller-then-usual reservoir of enlistees as it begins the new recruiting year on Saturday. This pool comes from what the Army calls its delayed-entry program in which recruits commit to join the Army on condition that they ship to boot camp some months later.
Both of the previous points are valid towards the difficulties facing recruiters today. But not once, does the writer mention that recruiting has also proved difficult during periods when the economy is doing very well. He notes shortfalls in 1998 and 1999, we know that unemployment reached historic lows those years and the army also did not meet recruiting goals, by 6,200 recruits in 1999. But he doesn't speak to that connection. It only makes sense to talk to this issue since it is a very real consideration for recruits; when the economy is good and they have other options, it naturally becomes more difficult to recruit fresh applicants. Duh. But no mention, what-so-ever on this.

He also does not present information on the recruiting goals themselves. It appears as if the recruiting goals may have been higher since there was a mandate to increase the number of personnel but the writer skirted the issue.

Agenda laden journalism is just a piss poor substitute for real reporting and journalism. The media is not a trustworthy partner in a news consumers daily life anymore.