Opening Bell: 8.10.06

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AFL-CIO Aligns With Day-Laborer Advocates (Washington Post)
This ain't your father's AFL-CIO. There was once a time when aligning with poorly-paid day laborers would have been completely anathema to organized labor, as the raison d'etre of the union was to represent its well-paid blue collar laborers, and keep non-members out of the workforce -- hence the union's advocacy of higher minimum wages. But the union's attitude has been changing. They're not on the Lou Dobbs side of the immigration issue, as they've stood up for the rights of illegal immigrants. How did this change occur? It probably has something to do with a change in the organizers. It used to be that the unions had ties to organized crime; now college students (the ones who couldn't get internships on Wall St.) work as organizers over the summer. And with all this fresh college blood comes the idealism that all men should work together, and that rent-seeking, by keeping others from feeding their family, is a bad idea.
Theorist vies for poker title (Information Processing)
Don't you just hate quants? Or your friend who studied physics in college while you were reading Alchemy of Finance, but then he landed the awesome Wall St. job, while you're working 7 days a week cleaning up spreadhseets. Maybe he's even obnoxious enough to say at parties "I'm not really that interested in money, it's more the applied chaos theory that fascinates me". Well, the imperialism of physics goes beyond Wall St. and is moving into poker. Michael Binger, a Stanford PhD physicist sits in 8th place currently at the World Poker Championship. Binger, "hopes to continue doing research in physics without having to run the rat-race of getting a job and impressing all the right people as he puts it." Jerk.
There’s Money in Thirst (NYT)
Have you ever been in a serious conversation about oil markets and oil prices, perhaps over coffee or after dinner, when one wise ass who never contributed anything to the conversation states "yes, but oil is still cheaper than what you pay for a bottle of Dasani bottled water", as if he's the first person to think of that, and as if that is in any way a meaningful contribution to the discussion. We were once at a lecture on oil markets, during a conference, when a fellow attendee actually slipped us a note that read "yes, but how much is a can of Coke?". Ah such abortions of logic; and please sir, no more note passing, thanks. But it is true that Water is also an important commodity in its own right, and unlike oil, access to water is considered a 'right', which means it has to be heavily regulated to avoid the whims of the market. As such, water isn't distributed all that well. Meanwhile, as companies look at exploding populations, and the difficult challenges of distribution, investment is being made into water infrastructure and services. As one analyst from Goldman put it "Water is a growth driver". It sure is. Of course, no matter how expensive water gets, there will still be some brat who says "who cares about the price of water, have you checked out the prices on Veuve Clicquot lately?".
Police: Plot to blow up aircraft foiled (CNN)
Look for the markets to be jittery today. While you were sleeping, police in London nabbed 21 people alleged to be part of a plot to blow up US-bound airlines originating in the UK. At this point, police believe it to have been an Al-Qaeda plot, prompting US Homeland Security officials to raise our color status to 'red'. Already the index futures are pointing south. But check this out, with respect to the oil market: Oil slid in early trading on expectations that the new terrorism concerns could cut travel and demand for oil. U.S. Excuse me, but yeah right.


FCC Sells Air (ABC News)
Game on. A much anticipated auction for a fat slice of premium wireless spectrum started yesterday. Several different companies are bidding including cable TV providers, wireless operators, satellite companies, etc. all for the purpose of bringing fast wireless services (internet, chiefly) to customers. The first round was won by the combined entity of Dish and Echostar, satellite TV giants that have teamed up to bid together. They won a pair of licenses that covers area of Mississippi. Check here for some killler round-to-round coverage of the action.
The Election Cycle Revisited (Crossing Wall Street)
Eddie Elfenbein has some nice charts that explore the way the market behaves around election years. There does appear to be some historical patterns, though in reality it's hard to imagine why there's really a direct correlation. Does anyone actually trade on the election patterns? If so, someone should start a fund betting that the pattern is just statistical noise, and that it's bound to correct.
Alaska threat to sue BP for oil tax losses (This is Money)
In politics, you never know who your friends are until you stop paying the piper. Then you can see how you'll really be treated. Generally, Alaska has a reputation for being oil-friendly, which it should be, since oil is such an important part of the economy. It doesn't want to see any excessive environmental regulations slapped on the companies, no sabre-rattling about windfall taxes, etc. But now that BP has shut down production of its field, due to corroding pipes, watch out. Now the state government is threatening to sue the company over lost taxes. Yeah, that's reasonable. Can an entity really sue over something like this? It can when it has absolute power; who's gonna stop it? The state also plans on holding hearings. Apparently there have been whistleblowers in the past warning about pipeline corrosion, so this could get fun.
Ford exec: Company considering $1 billion investment in Michigan (AP)
In one state the government sues its big industry, in another one it offers them big tax breaks so that they won't shut down manufacturing jobs. Instead of offering Ford $1 billion in tax abatement and other incentives, why doesn't Michigan just sue the hell out of Ford for its declining assets, failure to anticipate the shift away from trucks and SUVs, sloppy management of its pensions, and past decisions to move manufacturing out of the state? Then with the money, they could offer tax breaks to other companies to get them to relocate into the state.
Blogs – Our “Morning Paper” (A VC)
Local venture capitalist Fred Wilson says that in the past he and people he worked for would read the Wall St. Journal for 20 minutes before starting the day. Now, he and the people he knows read blogs first thing off the bat. No need to add anything more, but, take that as a hint.

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