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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Internet as a Garbage Dump

The Wall Street Journal's weekend edition (3/15-3/16/08) noted the passing of Joseph Weizenbaum, 1923-2008, in its Remembrances column. Some excerpts from writer Stephen Miller--

'As author of a computer program called Eliza that was designed to simulate a psychiatrist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Joseph Weizenbaum created a beguiling artifact of early computing. But after test subjects told him the program really empathized with their problems, Mr. Weizenbaum became a digital Jeremiah, and spent decades preaching the computer apocalypse.'

'The program was in effect a form of a Turing test, named for the computer scientist Alan Turing. In 1950, Turing predicted computers would soon be invented that would appear to think, and said a test of that development would be whether a person could distinguish a computer's dialogue from a human's.'

'...He soon soured on computers and condemned automated decision making as antihuman. In a lighter moment he called them "a solution looking for a problem".'

...'Even the rise of the Internet, with its seemingly boundless possibilities for communication, failed to impress Mr. Weizenbaum.'

"The Internet is like one of those garbage dumps outside of Bombay," he told the New York Times in 1999..."There are people, most unfortunately, crawling all over it, and maybe they find a bit of aluminum, or perhaps something they can sell. But mainly it's garbage."

MrKen has to agree that this observation is right on the money. Much of what is described by some as "opinion" posted on the Internet by the unwashed masses is just simplistic, uninformed nonsense. Unfortunately, these rants greatly outweigh in volume the articles and research posted by professional writers.

But these inane rants and scribblings would certainly not pass the Turing test!

To visit the Wall Street Journal Online, follow this link:

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Quantum's Jim Rogers says US 'out of control'

The case for commodity stocks has been forcefully, and in my opinion, quite correctly expressed by Jim Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Fund. While sharp corrections are possible at any time, Rogers is taking a longer term view.

Especially alarming is his thesis of armed conflict over resources. But of course we have already experienced this; the U.S. invaded Iraq to secure the desperately needed oil resources of the region. To the conservative neocons** out there who insist that we selflessly sought to bring democracy to Iraq--well, Karl Rove appeared on Fox News on Sunday (3/2) as an analyst to point out that the U.S. could not allow Al-Qaeda to build up a base in Iraq because it would endanger our oil supply.

**The Wall Street Journal, for example, has written many silly, disingenuous editorials about this county's putative motives for invading Iraq; e.g., the invasion was not about oil but only about the fact that Saddam Hussein was a 'bad, bad man & killed many of his own people' & the U.S. is so selfless and pure that it was a moral imperative for our 'Dear Leader' to send its imperial armed forces to Iraq in order to topple him. As if siding with dictators with blood on their hands ever bothered Amerika; re Stalin, Batista, Franco, Shah Pahlavi of Iran. Not to mention supporting Saddam against Iran in the almost decade-long war in the 1980's and selling him much of the chemical weapons technology he later used to kill his own people (along with France & other European countries).

Memories tend to be quite short in the U.S.A.--as short as attention spans...

From the London Times Online (2/28/08):

And he also warned that it “made sense” if global competition for resources ended in armed conflict.

Mr Rogers told delegates to the CLSA investment forum that the prices of all agricultural products would “explode” in coming years and that the price of gold, which hit an all-time high of $964 an ounce yesterday, will continue its surge to as much as $3,500 an ounce.

Gold would continue to rise, the analyst Christopher Wood told fund managers, “because it is the exact opposite of a structured finance product”.

In a blistering attack on US monetary policy and the “helicopter cash drop” responses of the Federal Reserve, Mr Rogers described the American dollar as a “terribly flawed currency”.

He said that the plan by Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman, to “crank up the money-printing machines and run them until we run out of trees” had exposed America’s weakest point to her rivals and enemies.

The dollar may have declined recently, he added, “but you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Talking to a room almost exclusively populated with Japan-focused equity investors, Mr Rogers recommended an immediate language course in Mandarin and a switch into commodities — the second-biggest market in the world behind foreign exchange.

Mr Rogers said that historic drains on wheat, corn and other soft commodity inventories have created market dynamics that could lead to severe food shortages.

The outlook over the next two decades would see prices of everything from cotton and sugar to lead and nickel “going through the roof”.

Heavily playing down the prospects of a big recovery in Japan, Mr Rogers said that the country’s demographics — as the fastest-aging country in the world — would cause it greater problems and an ever-diminishing quality of life for ordinary Japanese.

But he also said that other countries — including Britain, Italy, China and the US — should take note of what their own demographics would look like without the effect of immigration.

“Japan will be the perfect laboratory for the world to watch how a demographic crisis plays out,” he said.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Stock Picks for this Major Bear Market

MrKen has recently returned to trading stocks, as he has recently retired (62) and now has the free time to study and trade the market. Happily, I am showing @ a 15% profit for the January/February period in a most challenging investment environment. Here are the 3 long positions I currently have:

Coeur dAlene Mines Corporation (NYSE:CDE) -- silver, gold, lead & zinc
Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL) -- silver, gold, lead & zinc
Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE: SWC) -- palladium, platinum & other metals

Almost all of the profit has been from HL; SWC was only purchased on 2/29. CDE has risen modestly in the Jan/Feb period.

My short pick is: (but do not have an actual position at present)

Citigroup Inc (
NYSE:C) -- financial products & services


The rationale for these positions are both technical & fundamental:

TECHNICAL: The long positions have very high relative strength rankings (RS) as indicated in IBD (Investors Business Daily). The short pick has an extremely weak RS ranking. As discovered years ago by Edward O. Thorp (The Relative Strength Concept of Common Stock Forecasting--now out of print), stocks that are sharply above their 200-day moving average (MA) tend to outperform other stocks that have weaker rankings, with the converse being true for issues sharply below their 200 day MA.

FUNDAMENTAL: Silver, gold, platinum & palladium are soaring due partially to the decline in the dollar to record lows against the euro, yen & basket of 16 currences--and partially to favorable demand-supply considerations.

The greenback's slide is being caused mainly by the weak U.S. economy and the Fed's decision to "reflate" (print lots & lots of money) in order to avoid a sharp economic contraction (the dreaded 'R' word).- {More on this in a later post}-

Silver is beginning to outperform gold and most likely will actually benefit from the recently announced contemplated sales of gold by the IMF. Silver may be thought of as the "poor man's gold". Platinum, palladium & rhodium are also benefiting from power outages in South Africa (78% of world platinum productioncomes from South Africa) due to electrical infrastructure problems. These are not expected to be rectified until 2012!

And now on to my specific picks:

In 2007, Hecla Mining produced
5.6 million ounces of silver at an average total cash cost of negative $2.81 per ounce, after by-product credits. The company also has significant tax credits at its disposal.

Coeur dAlene Mines had 2007 cash costs of $3.97 per ounce of silver. Coeur has no silver or gold production hedged.

Stillwater Mining- The precious-metals miner reported a $14 million loss for 2007 on essentially flat revenue and experienced labor problems. But 'The Motley Fool' notes that--

"How many of the companies you own have roughly doubled in 2008? None? You must not be on board the Stillwater Mining (NYSE: SWC) express. Homegrown Stillwater, which is going into 2008 with a minimal amount of hedges remaining on its platinum output. Although the company is predicting a roughly 10% rise in per-ounce cash costs, its margins ought to be magnificent."

Citigroup Inc. - Commodities, with their transparent pricing and liquidity, are the exact opposite of the toxic products that Citigroup and its ilk have produced. CDO's, sub-prime mortgages & tens of millions in trading losses are what you get if you try to 'bottom fish' this dog. OPCO analyst Meredith Whitney, who correctly predicted a cut in Citigroup's dividend back in October, last week indicated that C could fall to 16 or lower on more writeoffs. A great short!


All ideas, opinions, and/or forecasts, expressed or implied, are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendations to invest, trade and/or speculate in the markets. Any investments, trades and/or speculations made in light of the ideas, opinions and/or forecasts expressed or implied herein, are committed at your own risk, financial or otherwise.

MrKen is NOT a registered Investment Advisor & therefore NONE of the above discussion should be taken as investment advice. It is the writer's personal opinion ONLY, except where specific cites from financial publications & professional analysts are given.

As indicated above, MrKen at the time of this posting has long positions in CDE, HL & SWC.

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