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Opening Bell: 8.9.07

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Blockbuster buys movie download service Movielink (Reuters)
Blockbuster is busily trying to come up with a plan for the post-disc era, when DVDs or even HD-DVDs go the way of the floppy disc and VHS. Yesterday evening, the company announced the purchase of Movielink, a movie download site owned by the studios. Now for those who haven't been following the company, let's just put it right out there -- Movielink sucks. It gets horrendous marks in terms of value and ease of use and it's easy to see why legitimate movie downloading has yet to move the needle in this market. So unless B-buster is prepared to do a major overhaul of the site, it's hard to see it having much success with it.
Murdoch complains of 'genocidal tyrant' treatment (Guardian)
The term "Godwin's Law" refers to the phenomenon on internet message boards and newsgroups whereby some commenter inevitably invokes Hitler at some point in the argument, at which point all rational discourse goes out the window. We need to come up with a new variation on this term to describe what's going on here, as Rupert Murdoch has complains that others treat him like a 'genocidal tyrant', essentially saying he's received the same abuse as Hitler would, were he to have tried to buy the Wall Street Journal. Any suggestions?
Airline returns the frills to flying (LA Times)
From what we read, Stephen Colbert failed to show up for Virgin America's loss of virginity, when it flew its maiden voyage from New York to San Francisco. But that's okay, since a number of other celebrities were on including Today in the Sky's Ben Mutzabaugh, who, frankly, would've been a much more enjoyable row-mate than Colbert. By all accounts it was a successful and swanky affair.
Bush Faults Easy Money for Volatility (NYT)
President Bush discovered his inner Austrian economist, citing the availability of too much easy money, for the wild economic gyrations taking place. We don't typically hold Presidents responsible for the economic cycles that take place on their watch. Clinton had little to do with the robustness of the 90s, nor does Bush have much to do with what's taking place now. Still, we can't help but wonder how Bush's tax cuts unpaired with spending cuts have something to do with all this easy money. Wasn't Bush the one who decided to send a $300 check to every American, completely separate from one's deserved tax refund?

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A Good (but incorrect) Argument over Bonds' HRs (Art De Vany)
As unrepentant Barry Bonds fans here at the Opening Bell, we've been doing a lot of reading lately in regards to the statistical and scientific aspects of his recent accomplishments. What's the connection to finance? As economist/scientist/athlete Art de Vany points out in much of his work, HR activity is a random walk. It observes a stochastic process. There's no "normal" home run tally, not for the league or for an individual. Those who would claim that Bonds' 73 home runs were anomalous and thus necessarily the result of some illegal potion just don't understand the math. Also, he has some good stuff about steroids and why you can't confidently link their use to home run production.
Harrah's Earnings: A Look at an Industry Bellwether (Poker News)
Harrah's, the casino operator, is all set to go private, so the company's recent earnings statement will be the last chance to get a glimpse at how they're doing, at least for some time -- until TPG flips it back into the willing arms of the public. Basically, the company is doing okay. Its strip properties continue to do well, but its operations elsewhere are nothing to get excited about. On the whole, revenues and profits are way up, but when you strip out one-items, things are looking fairly ho-hum.
European Stocks, U.S. Futures Decline; BNP, Citigroup Fall (Bloomberg)
And we'd been behaving so well this past week! Nonetheless, European stocks fell overnight (daytime their time, overnight for us), and US stocks look set to do the same, at least at the open.
Johnson & Johnson Sues Red Cross Over Symbol (NYT)
During a time when we were living in Geneva, we happened to spend some time at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the international relief agency. We remember one specific thing about them: they take the use of the Red Cross logo very seriously. As they see it, it's practically a war crime when companies used the logo for their own purposes -- although the logo is used ubiquitously. However that was in 2000. These days, the American Red Cross (different, although related to the ICRC in Geneva) makes money by licensing out the logo to third parties, a practice that's enraged J&J, who thinks it should be the only legitimate commercial user of the red cross. Now there's a lawsuit, which will forever sully this sacrosanct symbol regardless of how it's decided.