Scripting News for 9/17/07

Alan Greenspan, Dale Bumpers & H.L. Menken 

Yesterday, former top US central banker Alan Greenspan, a very respected public official, said: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows — the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Dale Bumpers, former US Senator from Arkansas, defended President Bill Clinton when he was on trial. He said, memorably: “H.L. Mencken said one time, ‘When you hear somebody say, This is not about money, it’s about money.’ And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex,’ it’s about sex.”

Bumpers might say today: When you hear somebody say the war in Iraq is not about oil, it’s about oil.

And Greenspan was absolutely right. Everyone knows that so many US trops and so much US money would not be deployed in Iraq if it weren’t in the middle of the oil reserves of the world and if Iraq itself didn’t have so much oil. It’s ridiculous to argue otherwise. Yet, this admission is causing a major recalc in US political discourse. Had Greenspan said something so obviously true in 2003 or 2004, we might have avoided this national catastrophe. And I think this says more about us, and our desire to be misled, to have our lives simplified, to delegate our intellectual existence.

Yes, our troops are there because of the oil. Don’t doubt it.

Postscript: The Bumpers speech is worth watching again, for its eloquence and simplicity. It wasn’t so long ago that we rose to this level of discourse.

Seth of the Obstructionist: “There’s still some people in this country who, alas, still believe in it’s values.”

Today’s links 

TimesSelect goes onto the scrap heap tomorrow night. Now I’ll be able to read Frank Rich and Paul Krugman once again. :-)

I have a new Jotit site. Simple but well thought-out.

I didn’t know there is a bill before Congress to impeach VP Cheney.

Okay I didn’t like the ending, but I’m glad the Sopranos won the Emmy in its final season.

TechCrunch 40, day 2 

Following up on yesterday’s piece about Demo-like conferences.

Eric Norlin proposes that the economics are still out of whack. The people providing the value, the people attending the show, should get in for free. The demoers should pay. He has a point. In my HyperCamp proposal, that is how it works. The premise is that in 2007 everyone who attends is as much press as anyone else (everyone’s a blogger) so what’s the justification for some people getting in as press (i.e. free of charge) and others paying $2500.

Richard Wolpert: Crunch Crunch.

Valleywag says JC is really Willy Wonka. :-)

Paul Boutin has a list of the companies demoing at TC40.

The unofficial back-channel for the TC40 conference.

JS Pepper’s photos from TechCrunch 40.

Frank Gruber’s photos from TC40.

Too bad they don’t have a live video stream from the conf.

Wait a minute — justin.tv has a stream:

Watch techtalk live video and chat on Justin.tv

Bad news, they turned off the video and audio in the afternoon, so we can’t catch the demos from remote. We had an interesting discussion going on the IRC about the stuff going on in the morning, but it’s not happening in the afternoon. Sorry, we did the best we could.

Currency accounts, day 2 

Yesterday, I asked how an ordinary American investor could hedge against weakness in the dollar. To clarify, I wasn’t thinking of converting stocks or bonds, it’s just a question of what currency I keep my cash in.

Anyway, this is something that a fair number of Scripting News readers know something about, and lots of great advice came back in short order. A summary follows.

1. ETFs are stocks traded on the NYSE that track various currencies.

2. HSBC and Everbank have multiple-currency accounts. But watch out for commissions every time you convert from one currency to another. They could wipe out all the gains you may have from holding assets in one currency vs another.

3. Becoming a currency trader may not actually be so hard, and you get the best rates on currency exchange.

4. Paypal lets you store value in a variety of currencies.

Thanks everyone for the excellent info! :-)

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on September 17, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Dave:

    I think you missed my point a tad. My point was that it sounds like you’re too liquid. You shouldn’t be worrying about “diversifying” your cash accounts, you should be worrying about diversifying your investments.

    Basically, you should not have enough money in cash at any given time to make the diversification benefit of holding money in multiple currencies worth the transaction costs associated with buying foreign currency, which are substantial.

    You might buy some specific foreign currency because you think it’s going to rise in value against the dollar, ie. as a form of investment. In that case, diversification of the minimal short term risk of holding value in cash would be a side benefit. But that doesn’t seem to be what you are interested in doing — and, all other things being equal, it’s better for amateurs to avoid the currency markets.

    Buying ETFs, on the other hand, is not “diversifying your cash holdings.” It’s buying a security, like any of the other securities in your portfolio, except that it is a new-fangled sort of security based on the currency markets. It may be, and probably is, a good way to hedge against loss in value of the dollar, but it isn’t the only way by a long shot – it’s just the vehicle most closely tied to the specific market that you’re concerned about.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Henri on September 17, 2007 at 8:41 am

    In a global inflationary environment like this one, you shouldn’t forget about owning gold. In the short term it might take a hit, but in the medium term if there’s huge injection of currencies then gold will shoot up.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Nick on September 17, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Dave,
    I like your comments about platforms and Ive wondered why RSS isn’t more of a platform.

    I would like a little bit of interactivity in a feed. For example, I would like a personalized news feed. By personalized I mean I would love to be able to select what stories I get in a feed by what tags they have and other common attributes.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Paul on September 17, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Henri –

    I forgot to mention, commodities are the traditional hedge against currency devaluation. Not sure I would recommend precious metals at the moment, though.

    Reply

  5. Don’t dare become a “gold freak” Dave. In the event of an economic melt down no one has the wherewithal to buy gold.
    Silvedr is even worse. First. it’s too commodity like. Second, it’s not actyually a precious metal (FYI, silver is found generally wherever lead is and often in the presence of galina. It does look nice and it’s somewhat harder than gold and that’s it’s historical reason for being used as a precious metal.)
    If you ever get eally interested in goild, you’re welcome to come with me into the high end of the gold country here in CA for a day of panning on the Yuba River, or Bear Creek orpoking around a mine like the 16:1 in NevadaCity, CA near Grass Valley. I come from a long line of mine and land surveyors, which is where I get my somewhat skeptical view of precious metals and related infrastructure.

    Best,
    JimF

    Reply

  6. Posted by Phil Thompson on September 17, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Jottit looks cool – but where is the RSS feed for that currency page? I’d like to know when it changes.

    Reply

  7. Posted by -grobin- on September 17, 2007 at 10:51 am

    jottit is very nice. but no rss? is this 1993?

    Reply

  8. Posted by Paul on September 17, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Jim – Agreed. Anyone tempted to buy gold should listen to right wing radio for an hour or so and ask themselves whether they want to be invested in a commodity that advertises itself to Rush Limbaugh listeners.

    Reply

  9. On Dave’s post about the origins of Demo.

    >> The idea then was to take the drudgery out of going to huge shows like Comdex, where you’d have to walk past miles of meaningless booths to find the really interesting products, which often weren’t even on the show floor. >>
    Dave–
    No the idea was to make money, by leveraging the Agenda brand and doing an Agenda with products. There is nothing wrong with making money.–Jim (I was also around back then, Dave).

    Reply

  10. Posted by Brutus on September 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    “Becoming a currency trader may not actually be so hard”

    Actually, I would say consistantly profitable retail spot fx trading is quite possibly more difficult than almost any other asset class. Most pro’s who wish to speculate in currencies with risk capital will use CME options derivative products in relatively safe hedging scenarios.

    Reply

  11. @Mencken

    I think perhaps this is truly (and sadly) America’s saving grace: we’re not good at imperialism. We can’t stomach it and we fail at it, over and over again. Had this been the British just a century ago, they would’ve went into Iraq, chosen a side (probably Sunni), let them massacre the others, and then would’ve quickly defeated the survivng side. We, on the other hand, go in for oil, stay for “freedom”, and won’t leave for “honor”, meanwhile gas stations here have to install LCDs because the price rises so rapidly–so what was the point, anyway. The British never would’ve been so dishonest, they’d state quite plainly that they needed oil, “so, get out of the way.” Our leaders can’t do this because there’s still some people in this country who, alas, still believe in it’s values.

    Reply

  12. Regarding TimesSelect, I feel you are going to win your long bet with Martin Nisenholtz.

    http://www.scripting.com/davenet/2002/03/25/longBetWithTheNyTimes.html

    Don’t forget to complete the bet process. It will make nice news for January 2008.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Gabriel Montreuil on September 18, 2007 at 3:18 am

    It is about oil…

    It won’t come as a “shock” to many of you that Naomi Klein expands this theory quite a bit in her latest book:

    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/naomi_klein/2007/09/the_shock_doctrine_extract_two.html

    Reply

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