Watching this BBC video, Rocky observed dozens of Philippinos carrying umbrellas amidst the flood. He asks, “If you are waist-high in flood waters, why carry an umbrella?”
Click here to watch this bizarre BBC video clip:
In one scene, people grasp for a safety rope with their right hand — yet keep their umbrellas erect with their left hand.
Any theories or explanations to explain this seemingly odd behavior would be greatly appreciated.
[Disclosure: Rocky is neither callous nor insensitive to the obvious human suffering in the Philippines. He simply is puzzled by this widespread, seemingly irrational behavior.]
Over at Jeff Watson’s excellent blog, he’s been debating whether gold is going up or going down. Rocky asks a slightly different question, “At $1,000 per ounce, is gold expensive?”
The following graph shows the behavior of gold and the behavior of the US Consumer Price Index going back to 1947. While examining this chart, it’s important to remember that:
1. It was illegal for US citizens (anywhere in the world) to own gold from 1933 until 1974.
2. In 1944, the “Bretton Woods” agreement fixed the price of gold at $35 per ounce.
3. In 1971, President Nixon unilaterally took the USA off a gold standard, and from then to the present the value of gold (and the US Dollar) were allowed to float freely.
So, the question remains, is gold expensive at $1000 per ounce? As those annoying math textbooks like to say, “the answer is left as an exercise for the reader.”
The black line is the CPI Index. The yellow line is the price of gold. Both values were normalized to make the visual relationship easier to see.
In light of the revelation that Chef Peter Wallner kept his wife’s body in a freezer in their suburban London home, guests at the Nutfield Priory Hotel & Spa Restaurant might also want to consider whether their dinner entrees were fresh or frozen.
The former Head Chef at the aptly-named Nutfield, admitted that he kept his dead wife’s body on ice for several years, but he denied killing her. For the UPI news story: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/09/16/Husband-admits-keeping-dead-wife-on-ice/UPI-22831253122641/ For the BBC news story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/8258755.stm
Evidently, the Chef needed more room in his freezer, so he recently moved the body to a trash dumpster outside the couple’s home in Cobham, Surrey. Nosey neighbors noticed a foot, and became suspicious. (Mrs. Wallner had not been seen since 2006.)
In a court appearance at the Old Bailey in London, Chef Wallner pleaded guilty to “Preventing a Lawful and Decent Burial.” But he pleaded not guilty to murder.
[Disclosure: Rocky admits that elements of this story may be in "Bad Taste." Nonetheless, it helps explain Rocky's preference for fresh ingredients, as well as fastidious shredding of confidential items (which may include private parts) -- before -- placing them in the dumpster.]
Rocky just learned that “man’s best friend” is being blamed for contributing to insurance giant AIG’s collapse, as well as the skyrocketing cost of health care.
The Insurance Information Institute reports that dog bites represented a third of all homeowner insurance liability claims in 2008, and cost insurers $387.2 million, up 8.7% from 2007.
“In the last year, the number of claims rose nearly 9% from 14,531 to 15,823. More than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, with nearly 900,000 requiring medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2006, more than 31,000 victims required reconstructive surgery.”
Click here for the Insurance Information Institute report entitled “Avoid Being Bitten By A Lawsuit By Being a Responsible Dog Owner:” http://www.iii.org/Press_Releases/Avoid-Being-Bitten-With-a-Lawsuit-by-Being-a-Responsible-Dog-Owner.html
[Disclosure: Rocky lives in a state where repeat Felons face a "three-strike-and-you're out," mandatory life sentence. His state also has a "One-Bite Rule"where the owner is not liable for the first bite, but is fully liable for the second. Rocky believes that the Criminal and Dog Laws should be harmonized ... so either wayward dogs get three bites or repeat felons only get two. Accordingly, Rocky hopes Congress convenes a special Committee on Canine Culpability. ]
For really great Super Bowl parties, Rocky’s neighbor would ”buy” large-screen TV’s at Circuit City on Saturday, and then return the TV’s the following Monday morning for a full refund. No questions asked. No cost. (Except that Circuit City eventually went bankrupt.)
This morning, GM announced a similar no-questions-asked, 60 day full refund on its cars. The promotion is called “May the Best Car Win,” and GM Chairman Whiteacre coyly “declined to put a price tag on the overall promotion.” That’s probably a good thing, since US Taxpayers are paying for this.
Click here for the full story from the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/business/11gm.html
Forget about free toasters for opening new bank accounts. Forget about value meals at fast food restaurants. For consumers with a chunk of cash in their checking accounts, this is the largest giveaway in recent history. (An even better deal than “cash for clunkers.”)
Although the exact details have not been disclosed, here’s Rocky’s arbitrage analysis:
1. Money market funds are yielding approximately 0%, so there is no cost of money.
2. Buyers empty their savings accounts and purchase a new GM car. They pay cash.
3. Title and registration (non-refundable) will cost about $250. Sales tax will be refundable if the transaction constitutes a “return.”
4. After 60 days, the car gets returned to the dealer. (And GM has lost 10%-15% of the car’s value.)
A Hertz rental car for 60 days will cost about $3,000. A GM “rental car” for 60 days will cost about $250.
[Disclosure: Rocky has no position in Hertz Group (HTZ) or Avis Group (CAR). He does have a position as a citizen and taxpayer in the USA.]
Yesterday, the Federal Reserve reported that consumers reduced their debt by a remarkable $21.6 Billion during July. Click here for the story: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=avvF5aNtrCfc
Bearish economists will seize upon this data to show that the consumer is retrenching; final demand will not grow; and the economy may lurch back into a sink hole.
Bullish economists will seize upon this data to show that consumers are finally behaving prudently, their balance sheets are being repaired, and the seeds are being sowed for a more-balanced, sustainable expansion.
Rocky will seize upon the data and say, “If you extrapolate the acceleration of this decline, consumers will be entirely debt free in a couple of years. That seems pretty unlikely.”
A picture is worth a thousand words:
The following letter was published in the Financial Times of London.
It appealed to Rocky’s sensibilities:
From Mr Eric Keetch.
Sir, In a sleepy European holiday resort town in a depressed economy and therefore no visitors, there is great excitement when a wealthy Russian guest appears in the local hotel reception, announces that he intends to stay for an extended period and places a €100 note on the counter as surety while he demands to be shown the available rooms.
While he is being shown the room, the hotelier takes the €100 note round to his butcher, who is pressing for payment. The butcher in turn pays his wholesaler who, in turn, pays his farmer supplier.
The farmer takes the note round to his favourite “good time girl” to whom he owes €100 for services rendered. She, in turn, rushes round to the hotel to settle her bill for rooms provided on credit.
In the meantime, the Russian returns to the lobby, announces that no rooms are satisfactory, takes back his €100 note and leaves, never to be seen again.
No new money has been introduced into the local economy, but everyone’s debts have been settled. Is this “quantitative easing”?
London W4, UK
[Disclosure: Consistent with Rocky's past practice, any reader who can identify the logical flaw in the above, should contact Rocky and claim a prize of dubious monetary value.]
“Shocking,” is the adjective that comes to Rocky’s mind after perusing the SEC Inspector General’s report on the botched handling of Bernie Madoff.
Rocky is shocked and appalled by the multiple grammar and syntax errors in the Inspector General’s report. Rocky’s tennth-grade Inglish teacher, Mrs. Calabash wud have flunkked that authhor (along with Rocky too, of course.)
Rocky’s readers, with sharp red pencils at the ready, can find the SEC Inspector General’s report here:
[Note: Any reader who correctly identifies five or more grammar errors should notify Rocky, and claim a unique prize of dubious monetary value. And to Mrs. Calabash, "Good night, whereever you are!"]