No Dumping

April 16, 2010

From Pops at http://twitpic.com/1g44xs

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Bouncing To Paradise

April 13, 2010

Can you imagine, someone actually had to invent the trampoline!  That person was George Nissen who died last Wednesday.  He was 96.

He created his first “bouncing rig” in 1930 and trademarked the name Trampoline (Spanish for diving board + “e”) in 1937.   He had been a tumbler since his youngest days, and he took his rig on the road with a group called The Three Leonardos in the 1930s and 1940s.  He lived long enough to see his invention become the equipment for a brand new Olympic sport at Sydney in 2000.

What a fun and interesting life!


Chinese Art Market Booming

April 5, 2010

Record prices for Asian artworks are being made at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this week.  The auction is “marked by signs of return to pre-credit-crisis prices” reports Bloomberg.

This work is called “Bali Life” and is by Chinese (via Singapore and Indonesia) artist Lee Man Fong. It was sold for $3.3million, a big jump on the previous record for a Southeast Asian artwork.   Other major Chinese artists were selling at multiples of their expected price.  The new capitalist elite in China are behind this latest boom.

“The Chinese are bidding,” said Huang. “That’s driving prices up.”  Wang Wei, wife of millionaire stock-investor Liu Yiqian, was among the fiercest bidders for the top lots. She won a Zao Wou-ki painting for HK$15.2 million.   Asked if prices were rising too much, Wang said, “Not even if the sellers added another zero to the tag.”

With attitudes like that, combined with the recovery of the Russian oligarchs’ fortunes, we could soon see even more ridiculous valuations at all the major auctions.


Diabetics On The Futures Market

April 4, 2010

I’m a diabetic.  And I could be worth more than $12,000 a year to you.  If you are an Australian doctor, that is.   According to ABC News, the Australian Federal government has decided to put more than $400 million into treating diabetes because,

“In 2007-08, around 237,000 hospital admissions were related to complications from diabetes that could have been avoided through better management,” said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  “This is 32 per cent of all avoidable hospital admissions.”

The way they have decided to deal with this is to pay doctors $1,200 a year for every diabetic they treat, with an extra $10,800 a year to be given to the practice if their patients’ health improves.  Diabetes Australia acting chief executive Professor Greg Johnson endorses the plan.

“For people who’ve got diabetes we need to focus on good management of their conditions so we prevent the avoidable complications,” he said. “It will save money in the long term. It’ll save hospital beds … People with diabetes are frequent flyers in our hospital system.”

If we could persuade more governments to follow this plan, then we, as diabetics, could become a valued commodity, courted by specialists from around the globe seeking our names on their lists for government handouts.  Maybe there’s a new career beckoning — professional patient.


Bottom Feeders

April 3, 2010

In every recession, in every depression, even, there will be those who find some way to make money off the other fellow’s misfortune.  In this extended economic dislocation, while hedge-fund managers are taking profits in billion-dollar bites, Talx Corporation makes a dollar screwing the average working man out of his unemployment benefits.  According to a New York Times article:

Talx, which emerged from obscurity over the last eight years, says it handles more than 30 percent of the nation’s requests for jobless benefits. Pledging to save employers money in part by contesting claims, Talx helps them decide which applications to resist and how to mount effective appeals … “Talx often files appeals regardless of merits,” said Jonathan P. Baird, a lawyer at New Hampshire Legal Assistance. “It’s sort of a war of attrition. If you appeal a certain percentage of cases, there are going to be those workers who give up.”  When fewer former workers get aid, a company pays lower unemployment taxes.

A number of States have complained about their practices:

Wisconsin and Iowa passed laws to curtail procedural abuses that officials said were common in cases handled by Talx. Connecticut fined Talx (pronounced talks) and demanded an end to baseless appeals. New York, without naming Talx, instructed the Labor Department staff to side with workers in cases that simply pit their word against those of agents for employers.

Just can’t beat that capitalism-thing for finding ways to make money out of trash.


Gordon Gekko Lives!

April 2, 2010


Less than a year since global taxpayers threw literally trillions of their own money into the pot to save the banking and financial system from collapse, the greediest ghouls on the planet just don’t get it.  While thousands of those same taxpayers are now wondering what happens when their unemployment benefits end in the next month or so, the top 25 hedge fund traders paid themselves more than $25billion last year — an average of one billion dollars each. For a single year.

They produce nothing but paper profits. They create no jobs, invent no products, design no life-improving processes. They are card sharks making huge bets with their own and other very rich people’s money.  And there lies a multiplying problem.  The massive caches of capital that are plunked down with every bet belong to a highly restricted group of investors.  As they use these market-making chunks of money to manipulate the odds enough to protect their downside without restricting their upside, the multi-billion dollar gains are shared only with this small group of individuals.   The rich very much do get richer, and the poor get nothing but generations of income tax and reduced services.

Can this bubble of greed truly survive?