Opening Bell: 8.20.08


Heelys(R) Responds to Skechers USA Inc.'s Proposed Acquisition
So you've been following this one really closely, right? Heelys, the maker of shoes with wheels, has come under a takeover attack from Skechers, which is probably like the most fitting acquire we could think of. Both brands have the same thing at play: Total lameness with the prerogative of coolness and hipness. Actually, we kind of like Heelys, and every time we see a kid riding on them, we realize that they're probably having more fun than us "walkers".
Clear raises fat $44.4 million round to expand airport fast pass system (Tech Confidential)
Do any of you use Clear? It's the expedited line at the airport -- you pay some annual fee; do a background check, and you get to move through security quicker. It's just raised $44.4 million to expand its efforts. And we had no idea it was started by Steven Brill -- yes, that Steve Brill. The idea isn't ridiculous. But in a way it's totally ridiculous. You understand the absurdity of it right? Yep. You still have to go through security at the airport, just like anyone else. The background check, then, is meaningless -- it's just a smokescreen for a service that lets payers move through security quicker. Let us know what your experiences are with it.
Foreign Policy Boosts Biden (WSJ)
So in the last day or two it seems that Joe Biden's stock has risen pretty sharply in terms of the veepstakes. On Intrade, he's way ahead of the field, including Evan Bayh who's numbers have dropped sharply. We will say this for Obama: Selecting Biden would be a mature, un-cynical move. In other words, Biden can't really deliver any states or help him make progress in certain demos. He's very dry and the media bounce should be short lived. But if hit main priority is in selecting one of those "ready to lead" types, then a Biden logic probably makes some sense.
Stocks point higher after Hewlett-Packard report (AP)
Supposedly, if stocks do well, we'll have HP to thank. The tech glom reported solid earnings last night. We're guessing it was helped by a weak dollar, as the company has nice geographic exposure. Bad news: Oil is back to $115.

EBay Is Planning to Emphasize Fixed-Price Sales Format Over Its Auction Model (NYT)
eBay is going to put more emphasis on its fixed-price sales rather than its auctions. Good timing. Its audience has been moving in that direction for awhile already, as fixed-price sales have soared, esp. compared to auctions. It makes sense: auctions are kind of lame as a means of selling most items. Sure, free market and econ nerds, but really, what's the point of having an auction for a pack of 10 Bic razors? It's absurd. Everyone knows the price where it's going to end up (somewhere around the price at Eckerds, minus shipping, minus some time value). Can you imagine anyone hopping around on one foot in utter excitement during the closing moments of an auction for a pack of AA batteries?
Do Sprinters Cheat, or Is 100m Sprint Performance a Jump Function? (Infectious Greed)
Do you know what the first thing we thought of when we got up this AM? Yep, getting to watch Usain Bolt's 200M run this evening. Will he break Michael Johnson's blistering pace set at the 1996 games. We were big Michael Johnson fans, but it is a joy getting to watch Usain run and simply demolish everyone else. Paul Kedrosky has an interesting discussion comparing the history of Boston Marathon records to the history of 100M dash records. For Boston, the record time has totally plateaued over the last 20 years -- a bit surprising, especially when compared to the severe drop in 100M times in recent years. The question: Why? Steroids is one possibility, but are there other better ones?
San Francisco Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution? (WSJ)
A 65-year old San Francisco is holding up the creation of bike lanes, arguing that they cause more pollution. Of course bikers are apoplectic at the notion and his reasoning: since there will always be more cars, space allocated to bikes means more traffic jams and hence more pollution. Ok, interesting and a vaguely unorthodox so bonus points for that. But if you take it futher, more traffic increases the costs of driving, thus making it more likely that people will use other forms of transportation -- like bikes. That's not saying we like cities making that decision for people, but the pollution argument rings a little hollow. It all sounds like something Jane Jacobs should've put put to rest years ago.