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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (4895)7/11/2006 12:34:34 PM
From: ms.smartest.person
   of 5140

Here's a very complete listing of trading-related blogs, organized by category, including technical analysis, fundamental analysis, and blogs devoted to specific markets.

General Market Blogs
Blogs that have general market news and commentary as their primary focus. These blogs are useful to get an overview of what's being said about the market each day. See all blogs

Technical Analysis Blogs
Using charts, technical indicators, and mathematical analysis, technical analysis blogs focus on disciplined trading strategies. By pinpointing entry and exit points, technical analysts seek to maximize profit and minimize emotional involvement in their trades. See all blogs

Fundamental Analysis Blogs
Why would you buy anything if you didn't think it was valuable? Fundamental analysis preaches understanding of the underlying value and potential for any stock that you purchase. By doing your homework, you can make wise investment descisions time and time again. See all blogs

Options Blogs
Whether buying or selling calls or puts, options contracts come in all shapes and sizes. Options traders have traditionally been known as the compulsive gamblers of the financial world. But it doesn't have to be that way. With understanding, one can be very successful trading options. It's that understanding that these blogs seek to provide. See all blogs

Contrarian Blogs
It doesn't matter if all the lemmings are running the same way--they all end up falling off a cliff. By discerning where the general sentiment doesn't match the facts, one can make investment decisions that will really pay off. "A sucker's born every minute", but it doesn't have to be you. See all blogs

Commodities Blogs
Tired of just trading equities? These blogs deal with issues surrounding the exciting world of commodities derivatives and futures.. See all blogs

Forex Blogs
Got a yen to trade yen? Forex Blogs focus on issues specific to foreign currency exchange See all blogs

Miscellaneous Blogs
We put everything here that doesn't quite fit in any other category. Look around--This category is a collection of surprises! See all blogs

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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5039)7/14/2006 12:08:59 PM
From: ms.smartest.person
   of 5140
&#9658 Fall Street Feed - Complete Feed FREE Today, Friday, July 14, 2006

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From: ms.smartest.person7/15/2006 7:30:38 PM
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The Bear’s Lair: A tale of two countries

July 10, 2006

Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia is corrupt and despotic. Mexico is a functioning democracy with an open economy and a well run recent election. They are roughly equally wealthy, both with large oil reserves. Yet it is Russia, not Mexico, whose economic potential inspires more confidence.

Russia and Mexico are at first sight two very dissimilar countries with entirely dissimilar histories. Yet their economic trajectory over the last couple of decades has brought them to very similar positions, and thus a comparison between the two is instructive.

In terms of Gross Domestic Product, Russia and Mexico are closely comparable. Russia has a larger population, 142.9 million compared to 107.4 million, so its GDP at market prices is also larger, but only by $741 billion to $693 billion. Russia is thus at market prices poorer per capita, but on the basis of purchasing power parity, Russia is slightly richer, at $11,100 per capita compared with Mexico’s $10,000. Really not a lot in it either way.

Both Russia and Mexico have benefited enormously from the rise in oil prices in the last few years, which has softened the effects of fundamental problems in their economic management. Russia’s exposure to oil is relative to population about 50% greater; its proven reserves are 69 billion barrels compared to Mexico’s 33.3 billion or 482 barrels per head compared to 310. However in terms of exports the contrast is much greater since Russia exploits its oil reserves more efficiently; Russia’s exports are a net 5.14 million barrels per day (13.1 barrels per head per annum) whereas Mexico’s are only 1.66 million (5.6 barrels per head per annum).

The reason for this is the more open ownership structure of Russian oil. While the Mexican oil company Pemex remains wholly state owned and closed to foreign investment, the Russia oil company Rosneft is currently in the process of doing an international initial public offering, and has entered into joint ventures with Western oil companies on several exploration properties. Admittedly, much of Rosneft’s asset base consists of properties seized from Yukos, whose unfortunate former Chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, still languishes in a Siberian prison camp, but in a easy money atmosphere such as currently pertains internationally, foreign investors don’t seem to mind that. If further assets are sequestered, or contracts re-written, foreign investors may come to object, particularly if money is by then tighter, but by that time the Russian oil sector will have secured the foreign investment and know-how it needs.

More startling is the economic result of the recent sharp rise in oil prices. With a price rise between 2002 and 2005 of approximately $40 per barrel, Russia has received a windfall of roughly $75 billion per annum, Mexico a windfall of $24 billion per annum. Yet the two countries’ trade, budget and reserves positions in 2005 were quite different. Mexico, in spite of appropriating 85% of Pemex revenues to the state budget, ran a modest budget deficit, while Russia ran a $51 billion budget surplus. On the balance of payments, Mexico again ran a modest deficit while Russia ran a surplus of no less than $89 billion. No surprise then that at the end of 2005 Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were $181.3 million, more than 17 months’ imports, while Mexico’s were a mere $68 billion, little more than 3 months’ imports.

Another major contrast: in the Russian economy as a whole, labor productivity has been growing since 2000 at over 5% per annum, whereas Mexico has suffered negative labor productivity growth since 1990, in spite of the huge investments resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1995.

The difference in economic results between Russia and Mexico is partly due to differences in policy. In Mexico, corporate tax rates are a maximum of 35% and individual rates up to 32%, while tax evasion is rampant, particularly among the very rich. In Russia, the 2001 introduction of a 13% flat personal income tax hugely increased state revenues and the tax incentive structure is now as efficient as anywhere in the world. Until this month, Mexico had the advantage of a convertible currency, but on 1 July the rouble was also made almost fully convertible.

In some areas Mexico has an advantage. It is less corrupt, with a Transparency International score of 3.5 (equal 65th) in 2005 compared with Russia’s score of an appalling 2.4, equal 126th, down among the Africans. Its population is younger – median age of 25.3 compared with Russia’s 38.4, and its life expectancy is 75 years compared with 68.

However the statistic much cited by demographers, population increase, where Mexico’s population is increasing by 1.1% per annum while Russia’s is decreasing by 0.4%, is in all but the very longest run a weakness, not a strength. Population increase means more need for infrastructure and an ever fiercer struggle for resources; its corresponding advantage, a greater ability to pay old age pensions, can be attained fairly easily by simply postponing the retirement age, particularly in a country with a life expectancy of only 68.

Against Mexico, too is its inequality; the Gini (inequality) coefficient for Mexico is currently estimated at 55, high enough to damaging both economic growth and the social structure, whereas Russia’s is 40, close to the U.S. level and around the optimum for economic growth without excessive social conflict.

Neither country has covered itself in glory in the privatization field. Russia privatized its corporate crown jewels to insider oligarchs during Boris Yeltsin’s reelection campaign of 1995-96, and has been struggling to reverse the result ever since. In Mexico, when privatization has occurred, it has led to cartels not competition. The telephone company Telmex was privatized in 1990, but telecom prices have remained high, telephone density is only 15.2 lines per 100 persons and Telmex main shareholder Carlos Slim is now the world’s third richest man. It’s clear that even partial privatization on the Russian model could greatly improve the operations of Pemex and the electricity company Comision Federal de Electricidad (which completely failed to take advantage of its business opportunity in the 2001 California power shortage crisis) but a Mexican (or 1995 Russian) privatization-to-oligarch would not necessarily help matters.

In terms of property rights, both countries have their lacunae. Not only Yukos, but many small and medium sized companies with valuable assets have found themselves deprived by insiders operating through the Russian legal system, while private land ownership only became fully legal in Russia in 2003.

In Mexico, corporate assets are safer (though the courts are also highly corrupt). On the other hand, even though Mexico’s notorious 1915 system of “ejidos” – tiny communally farmed land holdings to which the holder did not have proper title, could not sell, and could not reliably transfer to heirs, was abolished in 1992, bureaucratic obstruction has prevented a shakeout and agriculture remains atomized and labor intensive. It’s probably easier to be a foreign investor or a small landholder in Russia, but as a small businessman I’d rather operate in Mexico.

In both countries, there’s a moderate political risk of things getting worse. In Mexico, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came within a fraction of a percent of attaining the Presidency, and may still disrupt the system by street protest, legal challenges and refusal to accept the result. President-presumptive Felipe Calderon won’t help matters; he has promised to follow Fox’s economic policy, and has repeatedly opposed privatizing Pemex and CFE. However Lopez Obrador would undoubtedly make matters worse, and produce a genuinely hostile environment for foreign investors and business in general.

In Russia, the political risk is not so much change as continuity. If President Vladimir Putin retires as expected in 2008, even if he gives way to another ex-KGB hard man, it’s likely that Russian economic policy will not change much. Economic success is valued by Putin because it brings respect for Russia in the councils of the world; if a certain amount of foreign investment and private sector development is necessary to produce economic success a like minded Putin successor can live with it.

The real danger is that Putin himself succumbs to what must be a considerable temptation to alter the Russian constitution and run again in 2008, securing his repeated re-election by the usual dubious Russian means. At that point both Russian prosperity and the peace of the world would be in severe danger. A Putin in power for life would very likely be tempted by the power that prosperity brings Russia to engage in military adventurism. Foreign investors in such a case would have very little protection indeed, even if their head offices were not reduced to glowing rubble.

Nevertheless on balance the verdict is clear. Absent major political change, the outlook for investors and the economy in general is better in Russia than in Mexico. In terms of political freedom, Mexico is far ahead, having demonstrated last week admirable political maturity in that most difficult of democratic situations, a disputed election, while Russia’s claim to democratic legitimacy is shaky at best. However, economically, Russia’s better managed. Yes there are risks with the Russian approach, but it’s not clear that allowing corrupt local oligarchs to become the world’s richest men works any better than sending them to Siberia.

Thus even though Mexicans may politically be nicer guys, in economics as in life, nice guys very often Finish Last.

(The Bear's Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that, in the long '90s boom, the proportion of "sell" recommendations put out by Wall Street houses declined from 9 percent of all research reports to 1 percent and has only modestly rebounded since. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)

Martin Hutchinson is the author of "Great Conservatives" (Academica Press, 2005) -- details can be found on the Web site

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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5055)7/15/2006 7:43:24 PM
From: ms.smartest.person
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Disputed election leaves Mexico adrift

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - The stock market is dropping. Protesters are marching on the capital. Citizens are lighting candles in hopes of divine intervention.

Two weeks after a still-undecided presidential election, the suspense is testing Mexico's young democracy. The highly respected Federal Electoral Institute is charged with making sure that the tug of war doesn't reverse democratic gains made since President Vicente Fox's stunning victory six years ago ended 71 years of one-party rule.

Mexican stocks have given up nearly all of the huge gains made after the July 2 vote, and the peso, which initially rallied on news of conservative Felipe Calderon's apparent victory, has stalled amid confusion over who won.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who refuses to concede, has given Mexico's electoral court what he says is evidence of fraud. He calls Calderon a fascist, and is demanding a nationwide, vote-by-vote recount.

Lopez Obrador will lead hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - in a Mexico City march to demand that electoral officials review all 42 million ballots cast, something those officials say they can't do. Thousands of his supporters have converged on Mexico City in caravans after scattered nationwide protests.

Some of his supporters have been adorning their windowsills with votive candles normally reserved for saints, praying that the former Mexico City mayor will reach the presidency.

Calderon is building a transition team and planning a victory tour, even though his 244,000-vote advantage - just under 0.6 percent of the vote - isn't official until the elections court weighs all appeals and issues a final decree.

This week, the electoral court will hold public sessions to sift through claims by both sides of irregularities - including a television juice advertisement whose blue background matching the ruling party's color allegedly sent subliminal messages in support of Calderon. On Friday, electoral officials from around the county were turning over to the court electoral materials.

Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party has handed over a nearly 900-page legal challenge claiming the election was tainted by fraud and that his rival's attack ads - including spots that were eventually banned for comparing Lopez Obrador to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - were illegal.

Calderon's ruling National Action Party has filed its own appeals using an army of about 1,000 lawyers, most of them volunteers. It alleges human error at 500 polling places, and has also filed responses to Lopez Obrador's allegations.

The court could uphold Calderon's victory, rule that Lopez Obrador really won, or annul the election completely and order another. Since 2000, it has annulled election results in two gubernatorial races: in Lopez Obrador's home state of Tabasco in 2000, and in the western state of Colima in 2003.

No decision is expected for weeks. The Federal Electoral Tribunal, which handles appeals and certifies the presidential race, has until Aug. 31 to rule, at which point the magistrates will add up the votes that survived challenges. The court's decision is final, and a president-elect must be declared by Sept. 6. He will take office on Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising between the supporters of the candidates. Illustrating the divide the race has caused, a local television station recently aired a homemade video of an angry confrontation between a middle-class, middle-aged Calderon supporter and a crowd of Lopez Obrador followers.

The woman, a Calderon campaign sticker stuck to her shiny new sport utility vehicle, was shaking and near tears, screaming hysterically that the Lopez Obrador supporters were being manipulated by the leftist campaign and that the country needs to wake up.

The Lopez Obrador supporters yelled back that she was crazy, shaking their heads in disbelief and laughing until she drove away.

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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5054)7/16/2006 5:23:10 PM
From: ms.smartest.person
   of 5140
testing 1, 2, 3

&#9658 Fall Street Feed



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From: ms.smartest.person7/18/2006 1:06:46 PM
   of 5140
Second Atlantic tropical depression of 2006 forms

Tue Jul 18, 2006 11:39 AM ET

MIAMI, July 18 (Reuters) - The second tropical depression of what is expected to be a busy 2006 Atlantic hurricane season formed on Tuesday, prompting a tropical storm watch for the North Carolina coast.

The center of the depression was about 220 miles (355 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT), and a storm watch was issued from north of Cape Lookout to south of Currituck Beach, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin.

The weather system was moving toward the north at 5 miles per hour (8 km per hour) and its maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph (55 kph).

The Miami-based hurricane center said the depression could become a tropical storm later in the day, or overnight, with winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph). It would then be called Tropical Storm Beryl.

The first tropical storm of the season, Alberto, spluttered harmlessly ashore in the Florida Panhandle on June 13, bringing heavy rain, a sloshing storm surge but little damage and no deaths.

Alarm over Alberto had, however, been widespread following the destruction wrought during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season by monster storms such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,500 people.

Last year's six-month hurricane season saw a record 28 tropical storms, 15 of which strengthened into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph).

Forecasters expect another busy June 1-Nov. 30 season this year, with up to 17 tropical storms.

Hurricane experts believe the Atlantic has moved into a decades-long period of naturally heightened hurricane activity.

But climatologists are increasingly finding evidence that global warming could be increasing the strength of storms, with serious implications for the energy and insurance industries, and for people living on the hundreds of miles of vulnerable U.S. coastline.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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From: ms.smartest.person7/21/2006 1:22:56 PM
   of 5140
Should Wal-Mart Be Broken Up?

by Thomas DiLorenzo

[Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2006]

Wal-Mart-hating interventionists are running out of reasons to hate Wal-Mart. Incapable of making any kind of coherent argument that America's biggest retailer is harmful to consumers or workers, they are now rewriting American business history — including the history of antitrust regulation — to vent their hatred of an institution that has done more to help the poor than all the government welfare programs devised in Washington.

A case in point is the cover of the July 2006 issue of Harper's magazine that demands: "Break Up Wal-Mart!" Inside is a jumble of inaccuracies, fabrications, and economic mythology in the form of an article by one Barry C. Lynn entitled "Breaking the Chain: The Antitrust Case Against Wal-Mart." Lynn is a "fellow of the New America Foundation," which claims to espouse "new ideas" for public policy. In this case, Lynn espouses the "new idea" of applying nineteenth-century antitrust law to twenty-first century commerce.

The article begins with a straw-man caricature of market exchange. Ask yourself this: The last time you went to the store to buy a carton of milk, did you engage in a death "struggle" against other customers, as well as the merchant? Did you "grasp and elbow" your way to the milk aisle and then back to the checkout? Did you "shout and shove" your way through the store, amidst hundreds of others doing the same? Or did you simply pay for the milk, receive a "thank you" from the checkout clerk, after which you returned the pleasantry?

If you answered "yes" to the first three questions then you agree with Lynn about the essential nature of market exchange, or "laissez faire," as he labels it. You would also be speaking absurdities.

After grossly mischaracterizing free-market exchange, Lynn doesn't even wait until the second paragraph to present an incorrect rendition of business history. "From Adam Smith onward," he declares, "almost all the great preachers of laissez faire … accepted the need to use the power of the state" to battle monopoly so as not to "throw off basic balances," whatever that may mean.

In reality, as opposed to Lynn's theory, from Adams Smith on (and before that), monopoly was always understood as being created by government. Indeed, The Wealth of Nations was a critique of mercantilism, the system of state-sponsored monopolies, protectionism, and monetary superstition that plagued European economies at the time (1776).

Lynn gets Adam Smith completely backwards. For example, in the famous passage in The Wealth of Nations where Smith remarks that businessmen "seldom meet, even in merriment," where the conversation does not turn into some sort of rhetorical conspiracy against the public, in the very next sentence he says that any laws to prevent such meetings would be inconsistent with liberty and justice. He was not a trust buster, as Lynn would have us believe.

Moving on to paragraph two, Lynn complains that the Reagan administration "eviscerated America's century-long tradition of antitrust enforcement…" Tell that to Bill Gates and other victims of the federal government's nonstop persecutions of successful businesses under the guise of antitrust. Lynn seems oblivious to the easily discovered fact that the budget of the US Federal Trade Commission is more than triple what it was in the last year of the Reagan administration; that there are still thousands of private antitrust lawsuits filed every year, and that growing armies of government bureaucrats, always seeking to justify their existence and expand their budgets, are employed not only by the FTC but also by the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice and by state attorneys general, who also regulate "monopoly."

Lynn, whose resume identifies him as a business consultant, blames General Motors's current economic woes on "intense competition" while ignoring the role of labor unions and massive government regulation in destroying one of America's great corporations. He is in a panic over the fact that there is "consolidation" in the iron ore and glass container industries, and the fact that Nike and Adidas "split a 60 percent share of the global market" for sneakers. In doing so he ignores the past half century of research — and experience — on and with corporate mergers.

Beginning in the 1960s economists began to discover the old learning that "industrial consolidation" is typically caused by the fact that in many industries there are simply one or a few firms that are just better than the others at serving the consumers. This was widely understood at the time the first federal antitrust law, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, was passed, and is why virtually the entire economics profession was against it (see Thomas J. DiLorenzo and Jack High, "Antitrust and Competition, Historically Considered," Economic Inquiry, July 1988).

By the early 1980s literally hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles and books on the subject could be cited by Yale Brozen in his landmark book, Concentration, Mergers, and Public Policy. Lynn seems oblivious to all of this research. His only comment on it is to mock a statement by a former University of Chicago law professor who referred to the research as "science."

Lynn also fails to understand that in a market economy it is the consumer who is in charge, ultimately. In the absence of government mandates, no business can become "powerful" (a word that he uses repeatedly) or profitable unless it can persuade consumers to buy its product, period. Failing to understand this freshman-level economic lesson leads Lynn to make dozens of silly statements about companies like Wal-Mart that "fence off entire marketplaces" and "issue decrees" to their suppliers (like "supply us with products that our customers will like").

Wal-Mart has undeniably been a glorious economic blessing for its mostly low- and middle-income customers; has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs; has enriched thousands of small business owners who supply its products; has invented many new and superior management techniques; and has been a driving force of a large segment of the entire US economy. In addition to all these benefits, and more, Wal-Mart has also compensated for the government's assault on competition. This assault has taken the form of anti-corporate takeover legislation and regulation.

During the late 1980s and 1990s dozens of states passed laws that made it more difficult for corporate takeovers to occur. They were the result of lobbying efforts by corporate executives who wanted legal protection from competition for their own jobs. The essence of the "market for corporate control" is that if a team of corporate executives is mismanaging a company, being lax in their work ethic, and generally causing the company to be "undervalued" and therefore less profitable than it could be, groups of investors can challenge that management through proxy battles and other means of acquiring ownership.

If successful, a takeover will throw out the incompetent managers and replace them with a better team. It doesn't always work out that way, since no one is omniscient, but the market for corporate control is nevertheless an important free-market institution that serves to greatly benefit customers, employees, and shareholders by encouraging efficiency in business operations.

All of those laws and regulations that handicapped the market for corporate control weakened this important element of the competitive process, rendering many American corporations less efficient and less competitive on international markets than they could be.

Enter Wal-Mart. One thing Wal-Mart is known for is demanding that its suppliers follow a similar business model to its own, which involves a no-stone-left-unturned approach to cost cutting. If you want to sell a zillion items in Wal-Mart stores, Wal-Mart executives will say to their suppliers, then you'll have to come up with the best price for consumers. There's always room for improvement in that regard through human initiative and imagination. This, in effect, replaces the competitive pressures on many American corporations that were taken away or watered down through the government's anti-takeover legislation.

But to the economically misinformed like Barry C. Lynn, such "pressure" is an unequivocally bad thing. He sheds crocodile tears for the poor, poor, Coca-Cola Company which was "forced" to "meet Wal-Mart's decree" regarding the quality of its products sold in Wal-Mart stores. Kraft was supposedly forced to "swallow" costs and "tear itself to pieces." Well, not exactly. Costs can be reduced in order to increase profit margins. Ask the incredibly successful Japanese automobile manufacturers.

Any kind of competition is a bad thing, according to Barry C. Lynn, who attempts to portray himself as a champion of competition. When Wal-Mart came up with its own brands of products that competed with Proctor and Gamble products, poor, poor Proctor and Gamble was "beat … into submission." And what did Procter and Gamble "submit" to? Offering consumers better and cheaper products, that's what. That's a no-no according to Lynn.

Lynn is frustrated that, at least statutorily and rhetorically, the antitrust laws are supposed "to protect only the consumer." He wants the laws to "protect" people like some of his business consulting clients who have a hard time competing in the market place with their high-priced and inferior products.

It is certainly true that antitrust regulation has in the past been used as a protectionist device by punishing firms for being too good at pleasing consumers, thereby taking business away from economically inferior but politically connected competitors.

Indeed, from the very beginning antitrust has been a protectionist racket (see Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "The Origins of Antitrust: An Interest-Group Perspective," International Review of Law and Economics, June 1985; Dominick Armentano, Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure; and Fred McChesney and William Shughart, The Causes and Consequences of Antitrust: A Public-Choice Perspective).

It has been a tool of mercantilism, the very system that Adam Smith railed against in The Wealth of Nations. The thoroughly confused Mr. Lynn, however, thinks that Smith actually advocated this very system!

Lynn points to the worst examples of governmental tyranny exercised through antitrust regulation to argue, effectively, that we need more such tyranny. Not only does he speak wistfully of the "good old days" when antitrust laws would be used to punish business firms from cutting their costs and prices and improving their products so as to "protect" price-gouging merchants with inferior products from competition; he also praises the heavy-handed destruction of property rights by the state in other ways.

"The Justice Department routinely used antitrust suits to force high-tech firms to share the technologies they had developed" with their competitors, he declares. He makes no mention of the injustice of forcing someone to "share" his private property with others, nor does he seem aware of the fact that such "sharing" will destroy incentives to invest in such technology in the first place.

It is Lynn who advocates heavy-handed, fascist-style regulation and regimentation of industry by the state, including the "break up" of Wal-Mart and other successful corporations, yet in fine Orwellian fashion he refers to these free-market success stories as resembling "the Soviet Union in 1950" with "a certain Stalinist flair." He makes such stupid remarks because of his fundamental misunderstanding that Wal-Mart — or any other private business — has no "power" at all to coerce anyone to do anything. They can only hope to succeed by persuasion; it is the state that has a legal monopoly of coercion that it every so often uses in Stalinesque ways, including many of the ways that are recommended by Lynn.

Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College; a member of the senior faculty of the Mises Institute; and the author of How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present (Crown Forum/Random House, 2005). Send him mail. Read his articles. Comment on the blog.

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From: ms.smartest.person7/22/2006 5:28:00 PM
   of 5140
Convenient Canadians


What in heaven's name are 50,000 Canadians doing in Lebanon?

Surely they can't all be there for a wedding, or a family reunion, or an academic conference, or even as tourists?

The estimated 50,000 are roughly 20% of all the Lebanese who have become Canadian citizens -- about 250,000 of 'em.

Put another way, there are twice as many Canadians in Lebanon as there are Canadians in the army.

Are they all in Lebanon for a visit? Hardly.

Most are dual-citizenship Canadians who've chosen to return to the motherland to live as Lebanese -- until trouble strikes and then they want the Canadian government to rescue them, not the Lebanese government.

Under terms of Canada's dual citizenship policy, the country in which people choose to live, or to visit, takes precedence over Canadian law -- which isn't to say we, as a country, shouldn't help people in trouble.

Frankly, any dual-citizenship Canadian who chooses to live in one of the danger areas of the world should not expect Canada to rush to his aid and rescue him and relatives when danger threatens.

Instead, appeal to the government you prefer to live under, rather than the Canadian one.

Now Canada is chartering seven ships and a bunch of aircraft to rescue these citizens, many of whom have chosen not to live in Canada. Does Canada have an obligation to be responsible for them? The cost to taxpayers of removing tens of thousands from Lebanon is enormous.

How many, one wonders, of these people will move back to Lebanon when the crisis is over and security is restored -- assuming it ever will be in Lebanon?

The view that "a Canadian is a Canadian" and all should be treated equally may need revising.

Why should the government be responsible for naturalized citizens who return to live in a dangerous country in which they are also citizens?

Tourists or short-term visitors are in a different category.

Some MPs have suggested Canadians in Lebanon whose principal country of residence is Canada, should be rescued first, since those whose primary home is Lebanon are better able to survive than visitors.

Although Lebanese have settled in Canada for well over a century and are productive citizens, Canada's current policies risk clogging the country with people who shouldn't be here and whom we don't want.

Already, we won't deport terrorist suspects or criminals if there's fear they may be executed or tortured in their birth country. This means virtually no bad guy can be deported to the Middle East.

Canadians of Syrian or Iranian descent should avoid visiting Damascus or Tehran where they're in danger of being grabbed on phony charges -- which in no way is to suggest that the Lebanese Canadians being evacuated have done anything illegal.

We already have a self-described al-Qaida family in Canada, with one member charged with murdering an American soldier in Afghanistan. Many feel this family doesn't deserve to be Canadian, since their allegiance is to an enemy of Canada.

Canada accepts that dual citizens have special rights. But the policy needs fine-tuning. It can be argued -- as some countries do -- that allegiance should be to one country, not two or three.

If someone wants to be a Canadian, that person should give up citizenship in his birth country.

An exception should be made with the U.S. on grounds that we are geographically, traditionally and culturally close.

But for other immigrants, the choice should be one citizenship and one passport.

It's too late now for Lebanon, where 50,000 Canadians outnumber Americans by a two-to-one ratio.

Ludicrous. Change the law before the next crisis!

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From: ms.smartest.person7/22/2006 6:10:13 PM
   of 5140
Why Oil May Plunge Before Election

July 21, 2006

International energy tracker Robert Berke is really going against the grain. He's convinced that America and Iran will resolve their differences before the November elections, leading to a precipitous drop in the price of oil. It's a scenario he's conveying to institutional investors both in America and abroad.

In line with his scenario, he looks for oil — which has fallen a bit from its recent high of more than $78 a barrel, to about $74 — to plunge to around $50 by October. Accelerating the drop, he figures, will be a dramatic decline in the terrorist premium, currently $10 to $15 a barrel. This is a change of heart for Mr. Berke, who about eight months ago was predicting $80 to $100 oil.

Mr. Berke, an energy adviser to liquidity tracker TrimTabs Research of Santa Rosa, Calif., observes that according to, a widely respected source of "insider intelligence," American-Iranian talks are believed to be well advanced and have been ongoing for some time. It says the results could well mean a titanic shift in the tectonic plates of global politics. Mr. Berke, who has tracked the global energy scene for more than 10 years, points out that both America and Iran have much more to gain than lose in terms of national interests by adopting the so-called Lybian agreement — that is, swapping terrorism and nuclear ambitions for security, trade, and lifting of sanctions, a deal that would finally lift Iran's isolation and start an enormous flow of Western investment.

Although the American-Iranian talks are likely to be frustrating, volatile, and drawn out, the outcome is virtually guaranteed, as is the likely timetable, Mr. Berke says.

For those who argue that an American agreement with an untrustworthy Iran is a fairy tale expectation, Mr. Berke points out that in 2003, after America's quick and decisive military victory in Iraq, Iran, fearful it was next on the list for regime change, reportedly made a secret offer to America in which it was ready to agree to give up nuclear aspirations, renounce terrorism, and recognize Israel in exchange for a security pact. America, riding high at the moment, refused to respond on grounds that an Iranian-American accommodation would be a reward to an avowed terrorist nation.

The period just before the November election, Mr. Berke says, would be the optimum time for Iran to extract the best deal it will ever get from the politically weakened and faltering Bush team, which desperately needs some resolution on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Such a deal, he says, also could spell a dramatic reversal for the president and his party's political fortunes.

Suppose he's dead wrong and Iran refuses to cave in? What then? While he says he feels pretty strongly this will not be the case, Mr. Berke believes the president's attitude would then harden, leading to an eventual attack on Iran from the West. (The general view on Wall Street is that such an event would quickly push oil to $100 a barrel, if not higher).

What about the dogged refusal of Russia and China to get tough with Iran? Mr. Berke says he believes that when push comes to shove, neither would be willing to jeopardize its extensive trade with the West to placate the Iranians. He also points to recent press reports that Russia is considering supporting U.N. sanctions against Iran.

Although he expects oil to stabilize at lower prices, Mr. Berke views the energy sector as a solid long-term investment because demand from China, India, and others is not going away. Likewise, he points out, cheap crude is gone and oil companies can still make plenty of profit with oil in the $50 range.

From an investment standpoint, he expects the big energy winners to be in Russia, a country he says possesses some of the world's cheapest energy plays. His best bets — two stocks he owns personally — are Lukoil ($85) and Gazprom ($40), Russia's largest oil and gas companies, respectively.

Domestically, he favors Conoco Phillips ($65.82), which owns nearly 20% of Lukoil, and Chevron Corp. ($65.54), which has several projects going in Russia.

Mr. Berke's says his projection for a sharp drop in the price of oil spells bad news for alternative fuels, which, he feels, will find it much more difficult to remain price-competitive.As a result, he says he believes Colorado oil shale projects will completely disappear, Canadian tar sands — with their recent huge cost overruns — will be especially hard hit, and investors in clean coal and ethanol are likely to take their lumps.

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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5061)7/22/2006 6:37:23 PM
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Oil revenues fuel spree in Venezuela -
Economy, sales soar as Chavez loosens cash flow

Bloomberg News

Ana Maria Gomez, a 38-year-old Toyota Motor Corp. saleswoman in Caracas, no longer finds it challenging to sell new cars because demand is so strong. The tough chore is to calm down customers after they're told of a nine-month wait for delivery, she said.

"People think I have an easy job," said Gomez, who has worked at Toyoca Motors, a Toyota dealership in the Venezuelan capital, for 10 years. "But it's not fun when people get mad or have long faces."

Venezuelans are flush with cash generated by a doubling in the price of oil, the country's biggest export, in the past three years. They're using some of that money to buy a record number of cars, both imports and locally made. Some are purchasing vehicles not just for transportation but as investments.

Consumers also are scooping up mobile phones, televisions and new homes, spurring annual economic growth of more than 9 percent, the fastest pace in Latin America.

President Hugo Chavez is using oil tax receipts to swell government payrolls, boost wages, build roads and schools, and subsidize the cost of food and medicine.

"They're growing like China," said Alberto Ramos, a Latin America economist at Goldman Sachs Group in New York. "Chavez is overstimulating the economy in the short term through loose fiscal and monetary policy."

Government spending up
The shopping spree comes as Chavez, 51, raised government spending 66 percent in the first four months of this year, after annual increases of 43 percent last year and 61 percent in 2004. Asdrubal Oliveros, an analyst at Santander Investment in Caracas, said the spending is aimed at maintaining support for Chavez during his bid for re-election in December.

Chavez is failing to set aside money for times when oil prices may be lower, said Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister who teaches economics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Oil is the lifeblood of the Venezuelan economy: about 90 percent of exports, half of government revenue and a third of the GDP.

By seizing private property Chavez deems "underutilized," he also is scaring off investment, depriving the country of the capital it needs to sustain growth, Hausmann said.

Investment 'advancing'
"Private- and public-sector investment, which are very important for economic growth, are still not high enough yet to meet all the challenges we have, but we're advancing," Finance Minister Nelson Merentes said.

Venezuela's economy expanded at a 9.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter, after 9.3 percent growth last year. Retail sales surged 30 percent in the first four months of the year, according to the central bank.

Gasoline in Venezuela costs 97 bolivars a liter, about 18 cents a gallon.

Sales of household furnishings and electronic goods jumped 77 percent. CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, the country's biggest telephone company, forecasts a 70 percent increase in mobile-phone subscribers this year.

Demand for autos has been swelled by Venezuelans buying them as an investment, said Enrique Pinochet, head of sales and marketing in Venezuela for Toyota.

There are few other savings options. Restrictions Chavez imposed on foreign-exchange trading in 2003 make it illegal for Venezuelans to buy dollars and invest abroad. The average bank deposit rate is 6.8 percent, 5 percentage points below inflation.

As waiting lists for new vehicles grow, impatient buyers have pushed the prices of used cars above those for new autos.

A 2006 Toyota Corolla, for example, sells for $30,740 on Web site That same model — new — costs $27,010 at dealerships.

"Normally, when a car leaves the lot, its value falls 10 to 15 percent," Pinochet said. "Here, it rises by that amount." -- | Section: Business
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