Category Archives: news

Pakistan is the enemy

The latest from Christopher Hitchens at Slate.  Nothing new, but acerbic and well-written as always.  The Indian intelligence agencies are probably dealing in smug “I told you so”s right now.


Tuscany Trembling

A panther terrorizing the Tuscan countryside.  The panther must be more surprised than anyone else about what it’s doing 4000 kilometers away from its natural habitat.  Details here.


Greece’s Future Is With Euro Zone, Say Merkel and Sarkozy

After much noise over the past week in the German press about German preparations for a Eurozone sans Greece, Fr. Merkel comes along and stresses that the possibility kicking the Greeks out does not arise.

What we have here is a high-stakes game with a multitude of players positioning themselves to benefit most or lose least no matter what the final outcome.  (I was tempted to draw an analogy to a poker game, but the analogy fails because the rules are rather murkier here.)

Yet, I would say that slowly but inexorably the Greeks are being pushed out of the Eurozone.

The WSJ piece that inspired this rumination is here.


Greece en route to default

From Spiegel Online.

The rest of Europe is losing patience with Athens. And after 18 months of crisis in the country, there is still no improvement in sight … there are growing doubts over whether the Greek government truly understands how serious the situation is.

Greek government has been unable to meet its fiscal responsibilities and promises.  The failures have been on multiple counts.  Tax evasion remains widespread.  Worse, some tax departments have stopped working, protesting their 20% salary cuts.

Greek citizens and companies owe the state a total of almost €40 billion in taxes. The sum would more than cover the government’s budget deficit for 2011 … Some 17 tax offices did not perform a single audit in the first seven months of the year.

There have also been problems with proposed privatizations because of fears regarding labor union intransigence.

Union organizers at the electricity monopolist DEI are seen as especially radical. They have already threatened to cut off electricity if the company is privatized.

The German finance ministry has been working on a how to minimize the pain for the Eurozone.

The German plans focus on two instruments … preventive credit lines, which would involve the EFSF issuing bridge loans to financially weak countries … [and] financial injections for banks …

Care is being taken to build a fence around Greece.  The current message is that only the Greek situation is irredeemable.  The other vulnerable economies have been able to push through EU or IMF recommended measures, or at least seem more serious about implementing said measures.

The Irish … [are] regaining the confidence of financial markets, as evidenced by a significant decline in the risk premiums on Irish government bonds in recent weeks.

Portugal… is cutting back healthcare services and salaries for government employees. Hardly any government expenditure has remained untouched. At the same time, Coelho is raising taxes … There has been some grumbling so far, but they have largely tolerated the government’s decisions

But the Greeks also promised higher tax revenues and lower expenditures.  Will Portugal be able to deliver? Or will we hear the same words spoken to another country next year?


Oil Spill

A minor oil spill in the Bohai Gulf off the north Chinese coast.

[ConocoPhillips and the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC)] said about 3,200 barrels of oil had been spilled (compared with the millions in the Gulf of Mexico last year).

But the incident has raised a disproportionate stink as

THE attitude of ConocoPhillips, railed a Beijing newspaper, shows that the American oil company regards China as an ordinary developing country, “and not, as Westerners often call us, a ‘rising great power’.”

All Sino-American collaborations are vulnerable to bad press as often sentiments of jingoism and nationalism rear their heads apropos of nothing.  Here, at least, there is a putative hook on which to hang the the nationalist sentiment.

Perhaps unusually, some Chinese news outlets have even gone on to criticize the government for its handling of the issue, insinuating nepotism, corruption and “special care.”

More at The Economist.


Tablet computers: Reality dawns

The prediction at the Babbage blog at the Economist is that HP has made a great move in getting out of the tablet business.  They can now focus on core competencies, rather than waste resources trying to wrest market share from a dominant Apple.

Apple’s share of the tablet market is over 61% and growing, while all the Android tablets together make up barely 30% and are being squeezed … Windows tablets account for 4.6% and Research in Motion’s 3.3%.

Fighting Apple would always be a losing proposition since no competitor could hope to match the iPad in the quality of the consumer experience.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab is not bad, but even that feels derivative.  HP’s business plan was even more flawed in that they originally matched the iPad price-wise.

poor\; product + same\; price = no\; contest

Since the news caused HP shares to fall precipitously, naturally this presents a great buy opportunity.  HP is getting rid of a product line that is dragging it down.  It will emerge leaner.

The article also has a discussion of the relative merits of the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.  I did not know that the Nook has a 20% market share in the e-reader market.


The singularity is coming

From Jane Wakefield at BBC News.

Should we be careful? Oh so very careful?