Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Does being Critical of Israel make One an Antisemite?

Many on the left deny a connection between being "critical of Israel" and being antisemites. This mirrors their denial of any connection between Islam and terrorism. But they are unfairly and consistently "critical of Israel", and unfairly and consistently critical of no one else. It is a fair assumption that they are both enemies of Israel and enemies of the Jews. And we should say so to their faces.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Little Boys Fighting Inside a Sack

Something is afoot but it is not clear what.

In the past six months W.R. Grace & Co. a big chemical company has increased in value by 140%. Its market capitalization has gone from $600 million to $1.47 billion. That is a LOT of money to increase on no increase of earnings. Its p/e ratio has risen to 80, unthinkable for a big industrial company. One of the things Grace makes is catalysts which make heavy crude into light crude. They also make chemicals for desulfuring petroleum. It may be that Bush's decision, announced in his State of the Union address, to double the size of the emergency reserve was made months ago and known to some but not to all. Could that happen? Is the pope a Texas oilman?

Anyway, here are my stock picks for today, based on best balance between volatility and appreciation -

GRA - W.R. Grace. Though a huge old line company, it has to be considered dice-y with that high a p/e ratio, and because it has already appreciated so much. It might be worth a small flyer.

TRA - Terra, another chemical company, makers of nitrogen products. Has a big facility in Trinidad and Tobago. Up 90% in last six months. A very smooth low volatility chart since August.

CHL - Chinese Mobile Phone company - up 91% over last 12 months, 48% over last 6. Not a US company so lower beta to NYSE.

PCP - Precision Cast Parts - High-tech metal fabricator. Sells to aircraft industry, military, and many others. Another huge old company. Up 79% over 12, 50% over 6.

HAS - Hasbro - makes toys, children's books, and media. A big old line company. Up 33% over 12, 51% in the past six months. Notice that it went down over the first six months. Not a good sign but not too significant since the market was generally going down until the August turnaround.

DB - Deutsche Bank - The largest bank in Europe, it also does business in the US. Most of its assets are Euro-denominated so, assuming that the shares are in the whole bank and not just the US branch, its appreciation represents in part the decline of the dollar. It is up 32% over the year, and 27% over six months. That is not as large an appreciation as Grace or Terra but it has been amazingly steady since the turnaround. Its chart since August has been an almost straight line.

This is a perfect example of the value of the buy-low-volatility strategy. Since the price range is so narrow, any price move outside the range will be instantly obvious and should be followed by immediate sale.

Logically, the safer the investment the larger it can be. The scarier it is, the smaller the bet. A buck on Deutsche Bank, a dime or a nickel on Grace?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wonderful News

Among the more irritating features of a long bicycle trip such as I went on last summer is the ubiquity of immense over-powered gas guzzler pickup trucks. The most successful distributor of these environment-killers has been Ford with its huge F-150, huger F-250, and ludicrous F-350. These things piss away gasoline at such an embarrassing rate that Ford and the other sellers of these climate wreckers have wangled an exemption from publishing the EPA fuel economy ratings on them. The wonderful news is that because of its greedy and irresponsible reliance on these profitable but otherwise pointless display pieces Ford lost $12.9 billion (billion with a 'b') last year when sales of pickups moved down as gasoline prices moved up. It was Ford's biggest loss ever and the second biggest loss ever suffered by an American corporation.

Monday, January 22, 2007

An Admission

Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, "I am not a crook." Jimmy Carter says, "I have lusted after women in my heart." President Reagan says, "I have just taken a urinalysis test, and I am not on dope." --Art Buchwald (1925-2007)

Now that the Cracker Antisemite is momentarily in the news, I will meet his moral challenge and admit that I have lusted after women in my pants.

New York Times Drops Pretense of Honest Reporting Early

"Rush of Entries Gives ’08 Race Early Intensity"
[click on photo for larger version]

The article goes on to describe Edwards as "a former senator from North Carolina", omitting to mention that he was the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 2004. What does it mean that the most prominent news source reduces itself to a mere propaganda rag? And for no better a cause than the candidacy of Hilary Clinton?

Not that I bear any brief for Edwards. He was on Jay Leno's show recently. When asked about immigration he replied, "The southern border is a mess. Something has to be done to fix that." So we are not going to hear the words "employer sanctions" coming out of his mouth anytime soon. One more standard-issue public liar.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Editor of Turkey’s Armenian Paper Is Killed

Muslims once again affirmed their willingness to assassinate anyone who accuses them of being violent.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Jews

Not only do we win lots of Nobel Prizes, the current world champion poker player is a guy named Michael Mizrachi.

American Woman Was Killed After Visit to Sunni Office

Would it be better for the murders and endless violence in Baghdad to continue forever? Or better for the Baghdad Sunnis to be resettled elsewhere?

Is Jimmy a Complete Idiot....

or a stalking horse?

It is possible that Carter is a senile fool doddering into anti-semitic fantasies of the blameless peace-loving Palestinians victimized by heartless Israelis. But it ain't likely. It is possible, if one were sufficiently suspicious, to imagine Carter's book as a trial balloon and Carter a stalking horse. Is it possible that the Democrats are testing the waters to see if they can get away with running against Israel in 2008 for lack of any other foreign policy plank whatsoever?

By 2008 US troops will likely be out of Iraq. The Iraqi militias will have given up any pretense that their objective is anything other than mutual slaughter and partition. Power in Baghdad will be either in the hands of anti-US pro-Iranian Shi'ite government or of a virulently anti-US Sunni jihadi one. The Democrats will have set themselves up for taking the blame for the consequences of the withdrawal in the November election. The Republicans will be shameless and aggressive in holding the Democrats and not themselves accountable for the defeat. "Who Lost Iraq?" they will ask. I think the Democrats see this coming.

The way to energize their own leftist base and to blame someone else for the Middle East is to blame Israel. Historically this has been a loser because the facts just aren't there to support the position, but politics has its own facts. The facts are that the left, the Muslims, and the African-Americans viscerally dislike Israel and that Arab money can be had in large amounts in support of an anti-Israel position.

So Jimmy is out there venting his own cracker antisemitism, but he may also be testing the waters to see if Europeanization of the Democratic Party's foreign policy can help them in 2008.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Obama Phenomenon

has more than a little irony to it. He is the beneficiary of a euphemism. The underclass has changed from black to colored to negro, back to black, of color, and now in imitation of other immigrant groups, African-American. The problems with African-American is that the connection with Africa is vanishingly thin, modern Africa is nothing much to be proud of, and that Africa is a geographic area not a country nor a people. (Asian American is equally useless - it includes Israelis, Tamils, and Russians from Irkutsk.)

But African-American and only African-American is permissible (aside from the penumbra of the n-word, used among themselves but forbidden to others). Now they are hoist on their own petard. Obama is an outsider to the underclass. Since he is literally an African-American there is no denying him the description. So the result is that many African-Americans see him as an interloper, an opportunist, because he is not one of them. Similarly, many whites like him for the same reason - because he is not one of them. African-Americans lose their main weapon, the race card, and liberals get to feel good about themselves.

The whole situation is reminiscent of the controversy over who actually wrote the Shakespeare plays. Mark Twain opined that they were either written by William Shakespeare or by someone else of the same name.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Man Meets a Penguin

A man meets a penguin. He says, "You look as if you're wearing a tuxedo." The penguin replies, "Who says I'm not?"

Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Might Also Add...

to my December 31 post...

The problem is not Jimmy Carter's cracker antisemitism, the problem is Israeli oppression of the peace-loving Palestinians.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Comet

will be visible at sunset in the western sky. It will be visible first with binoculars and then as the sky darkens with naked eye. It will fade fast as it leaves the inner solar system so the time to see it is this evening or next (Friday or Saturday). It is a fine comet.

The Rematch

Calloo Callay! Second reading of the second act of 'Prequel to Hamlet', this time at Berkeley Play Cafe. I chopped the second act from 6800 words Tuesday in San Francisco to 4500 words this evening in Berkeley, a reduction of a third. They loved it! Everybody said it was great. Even with another botched reading. The only complaint anyone had was the actor who thought King Hamlet's speech, which I trimmed less than the rest, was still too long. I agree. Still walking on air from the change, after nearly getting thrown out of the "Off Market" Theater in the city Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reading of Second Act of 'Prequel to Hamlet' Opens to Critical Semi-Acclaim in San Francisco

The reading and the comments afterwards:
I have seen friendlier lynch mobs. There were about twenty comments, all of them harshly negative. A lot of the comment was stupid or irrelevant. One of the actors dwelt at length on the fact that I have a cutesy comment about ebony and ivory and he objected strongly on the basis that the piano was not invented until well after Shakespeare's time. The same guy also objected at length to my stage instruction that when the musicians are tuning their instruments they should play the first few bars of Beethoven's 9th which opens with what sounds like the musicians tuning up. He lectured me on how Beethoven lived hundreds of years after Shakespeare. A man with an enormous beard pointed out that it was not as good as Shakespeare. At this I laughed aloud and the others were forced to laugh also. Unabashed the same guy who had complained about the piano and Beethoven claimed that every word in Shakespeare had a purpose and mine did not. I dutifully wrote all of this down as though I gave a shit. One thing I noticed was that I did not get the tepid response the other two readings got. Everyone hated it. That alone is worth something.

However the first comment had been that it was too wordy. I thought it was too, and asked who else thought it was too wordy. Everyone raised their hands. I asked how many thought it was WAY too wordy. They all raised their hands again. This I take to be relevant criticism. I am going to have it read again tomorrow at Berkeley Play Cafe. I mean to cut it to about a third or half of its current length by then. Nay - abridged.


Pearls Before Swine

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All the News that's Fit to Print

From a New York Times article dated 9 January 2007 -

"In Geneva, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced an emergency appeal today for what it said were an estimated 3.7 million Iraqis who had been displaced internally or had fled abroad as a result of the fighting.

The agency said that about 1 in 8 Iraqis had left their homes, in what it called “the largest population movement in the Middle East since Palestinians were displaced following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.”

“There is currently no end in sight” to the Iraqi exodus, the agency’s statement said.

John O’Neil contributed reporting from New York."

Since the Palestine Mandate had 1.8 million total population in 1948 this is about what one expects from the UN and from the NYT.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Q: Why are Hamas and Fatah fighting?

Question from a friend: Why are Hamas and Fatah fighting? How will it affect Israel?

Short answer - because they're savages.

Longer answer - Palestinian society seems to have two groups of elites, one the fanatic wing of the Sunni clergy and the other everybody else. The umbrella group for everybody else was the PLO. When the PLO became institutionalized as the PA, the Palestinian Authority, under the Oslo Accords it was assumed that it would be essentially a mere renaming since it never occurred to anyone back in 1993 that Arafat and the PLO would ever not be re-elected.

When Hamas won a landslide electoral victory two years ago, the PA wound up with an insane constitutional arrangement - a president of one party and a legislature of another party. In the US the president is also Commander in Chief of the military - there too. Here the military is at least nominally kept out of politics. There the military arises as political militias representing political factions. There the "congressional" party, Hamas, also has a strong militia. Here the Democrats and Republicans snipe at each other using talk shows and speeches. There the parties snipe at each other from rooftops using AK-47's. Did I mention that they're savages?

The polite politically correct answer to how it affects Israel is that since the Abbas and Fatah side are willing to negotiate with Israel and the Hamas side are not, that a defeat for Fatah would be bad for Israel. With Hamas there would be no partner with whom to negotiate peace. The assumption is that Abbas, Arafat's handpicked successor, and Fatah are interested in peace and willing to negotiate for it in good faith. For anyone not suffering from amnesia, it is clear that the Palestinians have never negotiated in good faith and have no interest in peace. The Oslo Accords were followed not by peace but by the second intifada.

For Israel Hamas is much the better prospect because they are unwilling to lie about their intentions. The Europeans, because of their own Muslim populations, are unwilling to fund Islamists even against Israel. The European Union was the main source of support of the Fatah-led PA. The aid cutoff has crippled Hamas and led to some of the current instability. The PA funded and politically supported by Europe and possessed of a powerful public relations machine was a formidable opponent. The Hamas PA without funds (not from the other Arabs either) and screaming Muslim jihad slogans is impotent - except internally. The Fatah PA has been so consistently corrupt and a failure that the Palestinians turned to Hamas because it was an outsider and seen as not corrupt.

The effect on Israel that I am concerned about is not what will happen during a Hamas - Fatah civil war but afterwards. The best outcome would be an endless bloody draw. But after such a war, both sides would have large numbers of combat-experienced troops. Veterans of combat are almost invariably better troops than those who have not been in combat. One would have to hope that the war's end left both sides intact enough to be more concerned about one another than about Israel.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Nancy, Alcee, and Charlie

One can only hope that the new speaker of the People's House will not repeat disasters like the attempted Alcee Hastings appointment. That was scary. Hastings would have been chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. It suggested to me that, for all her talk of bipartisanship, she has so little confidence in party discipline and cross-aisle support that she was willing to make a dangerous concession to the Black Caucus because she felt she had to. Pelosi herself voted to impeach Hastings when he was a federal judge caught taking bribes, so it was not news to her who he is. It also suggests how patronage-driven and unprincipled the Black Caucus is that they would press Hastings on her. Charlie Rangel is like Henry Clay, "brilliant and corrupt, like a mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks." It was not a promising start. Still, one has to be hopeful and optimistic that things will get better under the changed regime.

Humor in the News

Am I the only one who finds the Bush's request for more troops for Iraq humorous? The domestic argument over the war has gone something like this:

The Democrats all voted for the war initially so they cannot claim to be against the war, even though they have become so as the war has become unpopular. Since they have yet to articulate an argument other than that wars and casualties are bad, it appears they are opposed mainly because the war has become unpopular. (The voters expected a short war and have no stomach for a long one.) They argue instead that the Bush administration has botched the war, managed it badly. That Rumsfeld ignored advice that more troops would be needed has been the main argument. Bush has called them on it by asking for more troops. The Democrats are cynical enough to be willfully and publicly deaf to the hollowness and hypocrisy of their opposition to the troop increase.

The correctness of my position of contempt for both parties continues to be writ ever larger.

More Luck

I am enamored of the Monty Python line while they're carrying Michael Palin out of a medieval village in a wheel barrow-full of Black Plague victims, "But I'm not dead yet!", and of course they argue with him about it. Every morning I check to see if I'm dead yet, but so far I have had a remarkable string of luck.