January 25, 2007

Cabbages and queens

The film 'The Queen' is the kind of faction docudrama I avoid, but the reviews drew me. Helen Mirren is indeed terrific as Elizabeth Windsor. It's a deft, unsentimental, but not cynical, script about the political aftermath of Diana's death. Tony Blair is acceptably impersonated with one great moment near the end, but the Queen is there in front of our eyes. What gradually differentiates this film is how impressive and honorable is the Queen's dry-eyed response to the emotional blackmail all around. Cherie Blair's contempt for the Queen and for Blair's respect towards the Queen is laid out in its gorgeous, smirking shallowness. Maybe stoicism and duty are making a comeback in time for the battles to come. What next, a remake of El Cid?

Oh, and there's a bedroom scene with the memorable line "Move over, cabbage."

January 23, 2007

The subsidariat

The British press is far livelier than the US press. If I had to pick one title to live with, it would be The Guardian, altho and because I loath its politics. It is well designed and sometimes surprises. It's columns are often so grotesque (Polly Toynbee take a bow), that I get a freak-show frisson. My wife would choose The Daily Mail, a middle-brow, gossipy, somewhat palaeo-con, anti-Bush, anti-Blair tabloid. It has some of the best columnists like Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips and Peter Hitchens. The Mail is the one politicians curtsy to. It used to be The Sun. The Mail has flourished under the editorship of Paul Dacre, a rather private man whom I knew slightly at school. He is the most influential editor in Britain, tho I suspect his animus against the Iraq war is driven by an animus against Blair which is driven by an animus against Cherie Blair which has a root cause we know not where. Here the BBC reports Dacre's thunderbolts.

An extract from elsewhere:
Dacre also accused the "subsidariat", a group in which he also placed the Times, Guardian and Independent, of being "consumed by the kind of political correctness that is patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people.
These papers take bribes from the state in the form of ads for the marauding army of social engineers which infests the UK, hence "subsidariat".

For an excruciatingly funny first-hand account of Grub Street in recent times, I recommend The Insider by Piers Morgan, editor of the Mirror, fired for publishing faked photos of British soldiers torturing Iraqis. His caddish, intimate witness to Murdoch, Diana and the Blairs will define them down the ages.

The sound of one shoe dropping

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I'm running a short position in Apple stock and wrote here "The optics of the story are awful - backdated options grants, fictitious board meetings, Apple apparently lying outright to say that Jobs derived no value from the operation - but the market wants Jobs to get away with it (so do I in my heart) because he's so admirable...."

The market's discounting of Jobs's vulnerability was founded on an Apple board report exonerating Jobs, but if there's a smell test for whitewash, that report wouldn't pass it, tho the whitewash was applied by the Inventor of the Internet himself who may now be in line to be prosecuted. Anyone who bought Apple stock after the Gore report was published, may have a powerful case.

Since I placed my short last week the stock has dropped 10%, but after last night's close it emerges that the feds have questioned Jobs. Now the market may shrug this off, fairly reasoning that this Justice Department, which wouldn't prosecute Sandy Berger, lacks the balls to apply the law to Steve Jobs or Al Gore. But, you know what, greed is fully priced in Apple's stock and fear is a bouncing baby. Steve may look fetching announcing new products in an orange jumpsuit. Al Gore would look more fetching.

Why I love Steve Jobs
(14 minutes).

UPDATE: Another day, another dollar (down).
Tomorrow's Times (London) runs an Apple story, US investigators condemn Apple's options inquiry. Extract - "An SEC source said: “To have a representative from the Department of Justice — a criminal prosecutor — attend an interview with a company CEO is a very serious matter. This is not a polite request for information. The way the interview was conducted and the way the investigation seems to be moving forward [suggest] that Apple has a lot more explaining to do before the authorities will even begin to be satisfied.”"

The Times (New York) website runs an Apple story about designs for mythical Apple products. Also a story in the Tech section about how HDTV is showing up too much detail in porn movies. Now why would the omitters of truth at the NYT be playing down what may be the biggest business story of the year ?

January 17, 2007

Options on the optics of options

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Yesterday I shorted Apple stock by spread-betting long on $95 July puts with July at $98. I write this on a brand new Blackbook, recently added to my other 5 Macs. I love the idea of the iPhone and I am pretty sure that OS X (or its Unix based descendant) will displace Windows.

I used options, despite the high price of implied volatility, to be consistent with my rule of guaranteed stop-loss taking. I may very well be very wrong given that I'm trying to call the zenith of a rocket. I don't usually try to stop rockets or catch falling knives when I gamble in stocks or commodities, but this time there's something urgent in my thinking - Steve Jobs may be in deep doo-doo over the Apple options shenanigans. The optics of the story are awful - backdated options grants, fictitious board meetings, Apple apparently lying outright to say that Jobs derived no value from the operation - but the market wants Jobs to get away with it (so do I in my heart) because he's so admirable and there's so much money riding on Apple. So, if I'm right, the market is thinking egosyntonically and I, working with fingerspitzengefuhl + wit, will profit by sidestepping my own bias.

Oh, and a hell of a lot of good news is already in the price.

We'll see.

UPDATE: Apple stock fell 2.5% yesterday (good). After the close Apple announced spectacular Q4 figures, way ahead of expectations. The stock rose 5% in after hours trading (bad), then dropped back (good). Today's action will be interesting. Should the stock fail to surge or even close lower, that would be a classically significant repudiation of bull news (good). Should the stock do well, that would be normal and it will take a while to see what shakes out.

I remain an Apple fan, but not a fan of the stock price here and now. The undervalued bear factor is Jobs's vulnerability. The undervalued, but longer term bull factor is that Apple's Operating System will displace Windows.


UPDATE 2: It was an interesting day. Apple stock fell by over 6%.

January 10, 2007

Nuke Berlin

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Russian/Belarussian disputes and shenanigans over energy prices and transit fees in the Druzhba ('Friendship') pipeline are jeapordizing German oil supplies, so there's a rethink about nuclear power. Intellectual meltdown ensues:

"Those who use oil shortages in order to propagate nuclear energy are not capable of intellectually comprehending the topic of energy supplies," said Ulrich Kelber, the deputy president of the SPD parliamentary bloc.

Members of the opposition Greens also protested the idea of making changes to the nuclear phase-out.

"With uranium, you can neither heat your homes nor fuel your cars," said J├╝rgen Trittin, a Greens politician.


Well, my flat in London is heated by uranium which generates power which France exports to the UK. Electricity is in fact France's fourth largest export thanks to the 58 nuclear power stations built from 1974 in reaction to the 1973 Arab oil embargo. This program has been a success strategically, environmentally, economically, safetyally (help!) and Germany would do well to substitute its coal-burn, mega-windfarms and heating oil addiction with the wonders of modern nuclear power whose main feedstock is human ingenuity.

And...given the low marginal cost of nuclear generated power, it may be more attractive to displace the internal combustion engine with rechargable batteries. Greens may then boycott 'uranium' cars in favour of gasoline cars. Wankers.