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Jade Queen

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  • WSJ Weighs in on Peter Schiff [View article]
    These guys who could see what was coming were so upset about it that it clouded their investment judgment, I think. I respect Ron Paul enormously also, but I can't buy the precious-metal-lifeboa... theory because I think there is enormous cultural change away from attributing as much value in metal as tradition would have.

    Does anyone here remember Julian Simon's bet with a famous population doomster? Julian Simon postulated that the rise of composites would cause some metals to lose. I can't remember exactly what the time period was, but Julian Simon won the bet.

    Eating, drinking, and staying warm enough in the cold are seeming valuable to people where I live. There is also a great deal of internet activity on these subjects.

    National statistics may also mislead. Maybe gold is still the thing in upscale parts of Manhattan, but I live on the Upper Left Coast. I know someone who sold a skirt made of organic produce ties off the lower part of her body at a Halloween party that drew party people who flew in to party. Granted, there was some metal in the ties, but It's not your classic metal play.

    The silver lining of an appointment of Geithner is that we now have the Geithner defense concerning tax payments.

    I guess what I am saying here is that it is a different game now. We had a top-down decider who decided against the average guy and whose reign was an absolute disaster of sending dollars off-shore in counter-productive activity. Little seems to have changed with the new king so far, but some parts of the U.S. population have shrugged and decided to start trading locally.

    How have we calculated underground activity in the past? Where does it show up in statistics, and how do we figure it in with investment activity? I left money I might need soon in a local credit union in Franklin Templeton double tax-frees. So far that has worked out pretty well, compared to other scenarios. I almost wish I had put my IRA in it, though my advisor would not have let me. I feel fortunate I seem only to have lost about a third of the IRA money.

    Anyway, I'm looking for some conversation that is between buy-gold and buy-McDonalds.
    Jan 31, 2009. 01:43 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • While Negativity Rules, A Little Optimism Is Warranted [View article]
    I agree that China is a bright spot. European and Australian media probably have more realistic reporting on China than our major media here. I have commented in more detail about this elsewhere. I think many of the Chinese have good will toward ordinary Americans and understand the difference between us and our assorted forms of officialdom. When I went there with a professional group, we had one U.S. group leader and one Chinese. When I asked what the best group had been, the American said, "Oh, by far, the birders." I asked why. She said, when I was having trouble getting people loaded on the bus, I asked one what to do. She said, that's easy, just yell out Type A Flocking Behavior. She did, and they all came. When I asked who were the worst, she said, lawyers. I tell this story because our Chinese guides clearly enjoyed the group, with all its craziness. I think the group served the purpose that Dwight Eisenhower intended when he funded the foundation that supports these trips. He intended to have ordinary American people interact with those of former combatants, with the notion that if enough voters have had positive experiences with ordinary people of other places, they will vote against vain sword-rattlers. I hope the tipping point on this will happen in the next four years. Sword-rattlers have almost bankrupted a place that had more surplus than it knew what to do with. China has surplus now. I think they have watched our leaders carefully. I'm long what I perceive as the best U.S. solar, SPWRA and STP, which I perceive to be the best Chinese solar, and I'm contemplating purchasing some more China plays.
    Jan 28, 2009. 02:41 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Three Payoffs from an Investment in China [View article]
    I strongly agree with Keith and Yamu. When I was in China, I was impressed by the merchandising, by the broad participation in the economy, and by the wisdom both of sending many of their brightest abroad and by fishing for information as westerners and others flood through. Students would flock around us, eager to practice their English, especially the girls. Teaching themselves English is a way to show initiative and to widen job skills. Curiosity and hard work were evident everywhere. This is a very diverse and entrepreneurial society. The Mao phenomenon was brief, but probably leaves a little residue, in that corrupt Chinese CEO's may worry more about getting busted that Madoff did here. I sensed far less distance between classes than here. China has a huge land mass, as does the U.S., and I doubt all their natural resources are yet mapped out. For the U.S. to think China needs us is plain hubris in my book. I just don't see it. China is diversified now. Five-star hotels in China see at least as many Japanese and European tourists as U.S. I judged this by the breakfast buffet, heavy on salad items, veggies, and fruit. When I raved about how good it was and asked why, I was told that this hotel is favored by Japanese businesspeople. If it bleeds, it leads, and the worst Chinese businesses, prompted by our own corrupt corporations, have sent some not-good products here. The best products go to Europe, whose inspectors test for carcinogens. As usual, we in the U.S. see a different picture from what the rest of the world sees. Too bad for us that we put up with shallow media that don't let us know what is really going on in the world. Maybe we will get some better acts going. I hope so. In the meantime, we pay a price for being arrogant and U.S.-centric. Incidentally, the Chinese students who come here to study may be the ones who are too clever and connected. I think the smartest ones don't get to come here, but they are the ones who learn to be street-smart. A lot of them are women. They are the salt of the earth for China. I hold STP, the biggest Chinese solar play, and I'll look into EDU and YUM.
    Jan 28, 2009. 02:15 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The 'Big Effects' of Big Government [View article]
    What staggers the mind as well is how many mutual fund managers missed either the Community-Reinvestment... ratio for Washington Mutual or the implications of the ratio.

    I used to bank with Washington Mutual. I liked the lineworkers, who were proud of their CRA statistics.

    I switched to a credit union when the scary news began about Wamu.

    The credit union has a fusion account where you can get 5% if you comply with certain requirements. It has worked well so far. It baited a lot of switches from banks in trouble. Another selling point for them is that they keep local mortgages and do not pawn them off. This appeals in the sense that they keep a vested interest in local property.

    Obama has expressed unease about allowing things to get "too big to fail." Will he do anything to promote lender oversight over local property? Will he work to keep the wrong dynamics of Freddie and Fannie?

    If he wants to encourage local investment and oversight, he will have to deal with congresspeople who may not willingly get on that train.
    Jan 26, 2009. 03:21 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • What Are You Being Paid for Your Bonds? [View article]
    Thanks. I've been concerned about municipal bonds because property values have gone down and unemployment up.

    A question I have is whether particular regions have greater risk than others and whether there are multiple ways to gauge this? In these times, I hesitate to trust one source.
    Jan 26, 2009. 03:06 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Evidence That Big Inflation Is Coming [View article]
    The plea to look at value has prompted me to add things to this discussion that have to do with sectors and locations.

    If the banks won't lend to ordinary wage earners at rates and with down payments they can afford, there will be a rise in owner-carries and lease options. These contribute to velocity, so long as the payments are made.

    Even if the payments aren't made and evictions have to happen, there may be enough potential buyers for the process to start over. Property prices in places with higher employment rates will hold up a bit more than if bank loans were the only way to go.

    What it means locally would be hard to track by looking at national bank statistics.

    In addition, there are some local credit unions who do not sell residential paper away from where they can eyeball the collateral. Will people move their money from banks to credit unions and use credit unions more for mortgages? When people talk about the banking sector, are they including credit unions in the discussion?

    Properties that were owner-occupied are likely to turn into renter-occupied to some extent. Seldom is the entire value of a property destroyed by renters, especially in these times of often careful examination of renters before they move in.

    People worried about this sort of thing are unlikely to be buying gold bars.

    Then there is the food issue. I do not detect a drop in food prices where I live. What I do detect is a lot of rumbling about taking out the lawn to put in fruit, vegetables, and greens. This is not just about prices. Trucks have been stuck on freeways behind floods around here, so it is also about reliability of supply and about convenience.

    Moving on to energy. The gas company announces a big price hike. The wood-stove guy gets very busy, as do some insulation companies. If I burn wood from my own property, that energy-use is not included in velocity any more, though the stove purchase, installation, and maintenance might be.

    Clothing I hardly want to talk about because buying and trading at thrift stores can happen in tough times.

    Low-cost gyms don't seem to be suffering. If you're laid off, and you already had a $20 per month membership, you might as well go work off steam until your last $20.

    I agree with those who have said this is sort of a new situation. This is a country of such wealth and surplus that there is a lot of elasticity in how we can respond. It is also going to vary a lot from region to region.

    Is the Southwest draining its below-ground water to a point where people are going to have to conserve or move? How many are going to move?

    I would argue that putting value on currency should be based on a basket with energy, shelter, food, and to really screw it up, a health-service indicator. Maybe we should have independent geek-groups come up with indicators for particular regions, because heating costs are a bigger deal in the north, and cooling a bigger deal in the south.

    I have a greater need to know what is going on in my own region than I do to know what is going on in the country at large.

    However, if one region does better with health care, other regions may be able to copy what works.

    There are so many variable in prices and the inflation/deflation discussion. I would find it helpful to break it out by region and by sector.
    Jan 26, 2009. 01:46 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple's Q1 Blowout [View article]
    I much enjoyed this comment, constantnormal. I would say that an Apple laptop could be included in a basket of goods that a somewhat ordinary U.S. person might want to include for coping with contemporary situations. With beans, corn, squash, a wireless-equipped laptop, and a few feet to crash in, your laid-off couch-surfer with sufficient urban friends can probably survive for quite a while. I find this happening in the place where I live. Young, carless, militant vegans are camping out in what urban planners call high-density. If you've ever practiced martial arts in close quarters, you will have observed the changes in heat and humidity this close-living engenders. Fewer btu's are required to heat such places. The ubiquity of Apple laptops in wire-less enabled coffee shops bodes well for the medium distance on Apple. I don't know about 70 as the buy-in point, but if Apple sends tentacles out toward renewable-energy initiatives, I would really want to get in. I'm still just watching the stock for now.

    On Jan 22 09:31 AM constantnormal wrote:

    > @ SkateNY -- I presume you're doing a preemptive flaming of the inevitable
    > "Apple is a fad" comments, as I could detect nothing of this sort
    > in the article. In fact, the word "fad" appears only in your comment,
    > and no where in the article.
    > The article was a good summary of the conference call, but if you're
    > interested enough to read the article, you really should download
    > the call from iTunes (a free download, search on "Apple earnings")
    > and listen to it in its entirety.
    > Nice job with the summary, John. What I'd really like to see is
    > an article that looks at the incredible depth and breadth of management
    > talent in Apple, vis-a-vis other companies, not just in the consumer
    > electronics realm, but ALL other companies. The incredible wealth
    > of talent and experience inside Apple is unmatched by any other company
    > I am aware of, bar none. Steve Jobs as the greatest pitchman alive
    > today is merely the cherry atop the whipped cream. The company would
    > continue to be unstoppable even if Steve were to leave.
    > It's a testimony to his leadership that he has managed to inculcate
    > his modus operandi throughout the company. It will take a long,
    > long while before Apple begins to misfire.
    > That's not to say that they're not going to slide downward during
    > this depression -- they are, after all, in the consumer electronics
    > field, and are undeniably makers of discretionary purchases, not
    > water or food or medicine. But due to their strong management team,
    > top-notch talent, and huge cash position (still increasing, by the
    > way), they will slide lower a lot slower than their competition,
    > gaining competitive ground all the while.
    > I can't wait until the stock gets down below 70 so I can back up
    > the truck and go all-in on AAPL.
    Jan 22, 2009. 02:41 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Eli Lilly Pays the Price for Off-Label Promotion [View article]
    Marketing to seniors is just the beginning.

    Over time, the biggest repercussions from the neuroleptic class of drugs will be the metabolic changes in younger people and the consequent loss in life expectancy.

    The exposure here is huge, and it's not just one company, and it's not just one class. If you own a company with a significant part of its income in psych medications, you had better take some defensive action.

    I know of a case where a doctor told a patient he could no longer prescribe for him given the side effects and that he could go elsewhere if he still wanted the medication. The patient appreciated the care and was prepared to taper off and to substitute more healthful lifestyle options.

    I have posted before on this issue, but it is so serious I am not going to pull back from repeating myself. Supply-chain problems need also to be considered. There are other places to invest with better implications for good health.
    Jan 17, 2009. 03:24 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lilly Litigation Begs the Question - Should Whistleblower Employees Profit? [View article]
    Individual settlements with harmed people usually include gags.

    This means the whistleblower may be the only one standing against massive harm. It takes extraordinary courage to stand in such a place.

    Universities could have been allies with truth, but many of them have been corrupted. The exploration of this is just beginning, with the exposure of Joseph Biederman at Harvard. This is another mess that it will take a long time to unravel.

    Sen. Grassley is on the prowl for more exposures of this type. Few pharmaceutical companies may escape the coming deluge.

    Ordinary people, with heightened skepticism about mainstream medicine, are exploring natural substances. Some universities are researching the biochemistry of exercise and other non-medication strategies.

    Add to this supply and manufacturing challenges, and it is clear that change is in store for the pharmaceutical companies.

    It seems a good time to get out of pharmaceuticals.
    Jan 17, 2009. 03:03 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A Depression and Recovery in Internet Time [View article]
    We are in times where past performance provokes jaded skepticism.

    One thing I agree with in the article is that those holding great piles of dollars, as Saddam used to, will not rush to dump them all in one place at one time.

    China, for example, can use judicious amounts here and there to buy raw materials to make things for off-shore or on-shore consumption. Many places with raw materials still accept dollars.

    Buying some things to reverse-engineer might make some sense. Buying some expertise to staff universities might be a deal.

    Some places that own a lot of dollars don't grow their own foods or manufacture much, and they import a great deal of labor and expertise. The Saudis fall into this category.

    Some places that own a lot of dollars are interested in growing more food and developing next-generation energy sources. Some of the United Arab Emirates are busy with these activities, for which dollars can be used.

    In the meantime, many U.S. people hold opinions of their congresspeople similar to the opinions of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. These wry individuals are growing their own rainbow chard, dinosaur kale, and other upscale and fashionable vegetables and fruits in the spaces where grass used to grow. Then there are the chickens. I live in a city where the annual Tour de Coops sells out.

    The U.S. Congress is not stopping the rains that flood the interstates and stop the trucks. Some of us still want to eat.

    Who knows what is going to happen to prices when the feds are throwing money around with such wild abandon, and none of it seems to show up anywhere that anyone can detect.

    Couldn't they put tags on some of it and track it with global-positioning detection equipment?

    States that take a stand against the worst of federal behaviors will do better.

    States with cultures that promote class mobility will also do better. I mean this in the sense of individual states in the United States, but it is also true of nation states.

    I wish I had a nickel for every surgery on an American performed in Thailand. The value of going home to practice is rising for physicians trained in this country. It may actually be easier to get an E-Bay-like rating on an offshore surgeon than on an on-shore one. There is still value in accepting dollars in many of the places who have sent students here.

    Many new ideas debut here, but the carry-through may be easier to do elsewhere. Maybe our legislatures will get this some day. In the meantime, I will tend my urban fruits and vegetables and buy my clothes at the thrift shop.

    I will not bet against China or against some of the best U.S. companies either. I own STP and SPWRA.
    Jan 17, 2009. 01:44 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News [View article]
    Thank you very much for posting, Daniel H. My computer set-up would not let me E-Mail you. My son was given Zyprexa in 1996. The weight gain is truly frightening, as are other side effects. The tide is turning I believe. Most of the pharmaceutical companies sell neuroleptics, and they are all at risk as doctors taper off these medications. Some doctors take seriously the saying about doing no harm. Waiting in the wings with strategies that work, with side benefits, are gyms. Depression medications are also going to lose, as research continues on other treatments. I just finished an exercise clinical trial for breast- and prostate-cancer survivors. We harvested friendship and good stories as well as better bone health from our participation. I pray this is the way of the future. I know the pharmaceutical companies have good friends in Congress, but there comes a time when that game is up. Disclosure: I do not own any pharmaceuticals. I would like to invest in gyms, but I'm not sure how to do the due diligence on them.
    Jan 15, 2009. 12:32 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • What's in Store for Regional Banks? [View article]
    I am part of a credit union that does not sell its loans. I also live in a place high in the estimates of trust funders and retirees. My credit union has a checking/savings product called Fusion. You put up to $35,000 in it, and when I first joined in March 2007, you got over 5% interest on your Fusion account.

    The last I checked in with a manager, they had plenty of money to lend and not enough borrowers. This is a problem for them, which would necessitate lower interest rates on Fusion.

    Fusion is marketing for them, and it is doing the job nicely, with much inflow in refugees from big banks recently in the news.

    Disclosure: I have $5 in a no-interest savings account, which was necessary to get the Fusion deal.
    Jan 5, 2009. 03:03 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Firefox Browser Share Tops 20% in November; Microsoft Still Number One [View article]
    My son is in a Ph.D. program at MIT, supported by work he got after he did his one year's master's there. When his old windows laptop, bought for him by his subsidy, gave out, it was decided he would have a new all-bells-and-whistles Apple laptop. He loves it, and he is in geophysics, so he is a serious number-cruncher. He is not an artsy-craftsy person for which Apple used to be, and still is, so famous.

    I have also to say that Free Geek, in Portland, OR, installs pretty good Linux on everything that goes out their doors. True geeks around here tend to like Linux a lot, and my son's math genius friend (800 boards) from his undergraduate days, has always used Linux.

    Microsoft, more than Apple, seems to consider its customers to be its slaves. Apple and Linux are not like that, in my experience, which I admit, is limited.

    Disclosure: Seriously contemplating AAPL purchase.
    Jan 5, 2009. 01:02 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Seven New Developments in Renewable Energy [View article]
    The dam is going to break even in the U.S. where a dazzling array of corruption has up to this time prevented us from leading.

    Here, public-utility cooperatives can probably lead the charge because they don't have to be burdened with the drag of greedy-CEO syndrome, anyway some of them don't.

    I know China has probably has some dazzling corruption of its own, but given the consequences if one is caught, I really don't think it comes up to our knees, if there is a way to measure corruption.

    Is there a greedy-CEO corruption index some place? If not, there should be. It might help out the ordinary working people of the world.

    Having been to China, I just did not detect our level of corruption.

    Maybe rate of incarceration per 100,000 persons would be a measure. I believe if we measure that way, the U.S. comes out first (Cheney owns private-prison stock, according to a recent lawsuit in Texas).

    China, I believe, comes out second.

    Disclosure: I own STP

    Jan 5, 2009. 12:36 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Is Looking Fragile [View article]
    China can afford to go shopping for commodities, talent, and information from around the world, not that this has not already been going on.

    Many new ways of constructing homes for energy efficiency, for example, are minimally more expensive in the West and maybe even less so in China. There may be fewer barriers to distributed-energy systems in China. Pioneering with micro-grids there would be a service to the world, which needs to gear up with this technology.

    If fewer solar cells are being purchased by the west, installing them domestically could begin to happen at a faster clip. The Henry-Ford way of wanting workers to own what they make is still a good business model. China has many reasons to pioneer distributed-renewable-... systems. Competition in this sector comes from Dubai, but China has more brains to throw at the issue than Dubai, though I am aware Dubai is recruiting with its dollars.

    When I went to China in 2001, I was on a tour of medical facilities. The doctors assigned to talk with us were remarkably open. When asked to comment on their approach to dementia care, for example, they were direct and practical, with a series of physical things to check given perplexing behaviors. They were also open about suicide by pesticide, a problem for women left in the countryside when men have moved to the city for work.

    To some degree, they were jaded. So many westerners were traveling to China and had shared their own perspectives. In mental health, for example, China was doing all sorts of interesting things, including ballroom dance therapy, karaoke therapy--you name it. European groups had shared, and Japanese groups had been through. Tour guides could choose to be trained in American English, English-English, Australian-English, and so on.

    Western nations who had not shared with each other in all likelihood, had shared with China. I felt I really got my money's worth because it was like a world tour rolled into one, and accessibility in the West would likely have been less.

    In some ways, when pent-up demand to go to China burst through, The Chinese could stay home and fish valuable information out of the stream as it passed by dropping off-shore currencies. They have enough manpower and cash to go offshore for information, as has been pointed out.

    If the world needs to learn to do less with more while capitalizing on colorful history, I would say China has got a leg up. Try, for example, to keep Kissinger out of China. When I was there, my group was bumped from the section of the wall we had been scheduled to see, because Kissinger was going to be there privately with an entourage. Is Kissinger unique in his fascination with Chinese history and culture? I don't think so.

    What are some U.S. pundits saying were the biggest TV moments of 2008? Replaying the Olympics at year-end wind-ups is incredible PR for brand China. I will not be betting against China. I'm in a renewable-energy stock, STP.
    Dec 29, 2008. 12:03 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment