Amazon.com, your virtual department store
Lawnmowers, milk, furniture, appliances. Here's a comment from buyer Lileks on his purchase of a toaster:
Our Hero Insty has been singing the praises of Amazon’s non book/CD/DVD aspects, and I have to agree. My wife and I came upon a toaster whose aspect and features pleased us greatly, but yea it was somewhat pricy for a bread-burner. I looked it up on Amazon the other day: two-thirds the price. I bought it. This is like going to the bookstore to buy a hammer. But hey: if it’s a good hammer, and it’s cheap, why not?You can buy a whole range of things now. And, apparently, people actually are.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:16 AM | Permalink
"Anxiety is turning to paranoia about jobs. Take a deep breath: most Americans have rarely had it better."
That, according to the Economist, whose job it is to know.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:11 AM | Permalink
Eats, shoots and leaves
Grammar sells! A new book on punctuation has climbed to the top of the best-seller list in the U.K. and will soon be published in the U.S. Its success comes as a complete surprise to the author and to her publisher, as well. When people have commented to Lynne Truss, the book’s author, “this must be every author’s dream,” she always says, “No. Nobody older than 12 dreams of this sort of thing, because it actually doesn’t happen.” The book, a first to be devoted solely to punctuation, sold over half a million copies during the last four months of 2003.
Asked what might explain the popularity of a book on punctuation, Ms. Truss says she can only speculate, but is willing to share her best guess: “I think it’s because sticklers are very, very fed up with the state of punctuation (and grammar) in this educationally benighted country; because clever young people are keen to learn something they were never taught; because it is a wonderful thing to make it a subject for general debate; and because people think the book is about pandas and are too embarrassed to take it back when they realize their mistake.” The book is currently number one on the Sunday Times (UK) bestseller list, having been on the list for 16 weeks.
The title is taken from the joke about a panda who goes into a restaurant, orders breakfast, eats it and when the bill is brought to the panda’s table, the panda stands up, shoots the waiter and walks out of the restaurant. When asked what just happened, a by-stander explains, “it was a panda – you know: eats, shoots, and leaves.”
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:08 AM | Permalink
More, and more significant, problems at Shell
This past Thursday, Shell cut its estimate of proven reserves for the second time in three months. The first reduction, a 20% cut, resulted in the resignation of Shell’s chairman and the departure of Shell’s head of exploration and production. The group faces investigations by Holland, Britain and the United States.
Now KPMG has refused to sign off on Royal Dutch/Shell’s accounts because of concerns about the quality of the information and potential liabilities to the Securities and Exchange investigation of the group. Shell management is further embarrassed by the revelation that the royal Dutch family, the firm’s single largest shareholder, has lost nearly a half-billion dollars of stock value since January. Shareholders are asking for an explanation of the latest news about KPMG’s audit concerns and the further reductions in proven reserves.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:05 AM | Permalink
Las Vegas is taking a big gamble investing in the U.K.
Las Vegas casino owners are investing nearly $4 billion in Britain now and are set to spend another $6 billion opening up to 20 giant casinos and creating 50,000 new jobs. It is the biggest gamble by Las Vegas casinos since Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo 50 years ago, reports the Sunday Times of London. “We’re taking a huge risk on Britain,” according to the Senior Vice President of the MGM Mirage Group.
About 100,000 Britons travel to Las Vegas each year. The casinos currently invest heavily in British entertainers with Elton John at Caesar’s Palace, Tom Jones at the MGM Grand, plus Sting, Rod Stewart and David Bowie are all set to be on the Strip later this year.
British law makers have promised a change in the laws regulating gambling casinos by the time the Queen gives her speech later this Spring. The MGM Mirage Group and Harrah’s, who together operate 40 large casinos in the U.S., are both investing heavily in the development of new casinos in the U.K. because their information shows that even though a large amount of gambling goes on through bookies and race tracks, fewer than 3% of Britons have been to a casino.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:03 AM | Permalink
The impact of the Madrid bombings on global economies
The early result, according to the Sunday Times, is that the bombings have not derailed world markets and that the official growth estimates are unchanged. The consensus view is that the American economy will expand 3% to 3.5% this year and Europe will grow about 1.5% during the same time. The concern of many of the largest investors, however, is that these numbers may be a bit optimistic for the longer run.
“Madrid changes nothing,” according to Pelham Smithers of investment advisor Andrew Smithers. “What it did was highlight the uncertainty factor.” The Smithers are devoted followers of Q, a measure of a stock’s value developed by economist James Tobin of Yale University. Q is based on the replacement cost of a company’s assets. Q measures indicate that markets are in the middle of a global liquidity boom, so in the short run stock prices could actually go higher. It’s the longer term that is a concern: “Entering the market today is like entering a casino. Some people may be clever enough to win. But the longer you play, the more the odds are against you,” says Smithers.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 07:00 AM | Permalink
Green power in the UK
The British government’s goal is that 10% of its power will come from renewable energy sources by 2010, primarily wind farms. This, it estimates, will require an investment approaching $16 billion in addition to increased rate-payer bills to continue paying for the operation of these new sources of energy. The Sunday Times reports that the UK’s energy minister, Stephen Timms, has invited 150 of the UK’s largest financiers from the Square Mile, including bankers, private-equity investors and institutional shareholders to a seminar this next week, hoping to convince them of the wisdom of putting their capital into renewable energy sources.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 06:59 AM | Permalink
Le Pen's political legacy
Jean-Marie Le Pen is still the leader of France’s Front National. He received international attention when, in April of 2002, he beat the former Socialist primer minister Lionel Jospin, going on to lose to Chiraq in the run-off. But now a younger face is representing FN in an upcoming regional election: Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s daughter. At 35, her pedigree is perfect for an FN candidate: she graduated from Paris’s most prestigious law school in 1994, practiced as a barrister for six years and then became FN’s legal adviser as well as the leader of FN’s youth movement.
She is a candidate to be one of 209 councilors for the Ile-de-France, the country’s most important regional economy, comprising Paris and its seven neighboring departments. If elected, she will be part of the Regional Assembly, France’s second tier of national government.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, her agenda is the same as her father’s: renegotiate France’s EU membership, curtail immigration and asylum, give housing and benefits priority to frnch nationals ahead of immigrants and foreigners, reform the gigantic welfare state, increase police powers and introduce harsher sentences, and abolish income tax for all but the very wealthiest.
The election results will be determined by the end of March.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 21, 2004 at 06:57 AM | Permalink
At the core of the current campaigns
... is some of the most sophisticated, cutting-edge technology and savvy that marketing science has to offer. This article by a marketing strategiest describes some of the details and what to watch for over the next nine months. He adds (ads?) that no marketing contest has as definitive a conclusion as the Presidential election. It's 1:1 marketing with a judgment on who is best scheduled for a specific day in November.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 16, 2004 at 02:43 PM | Permalink
Sedna losing support for "planet" status
The most recently-discoverd member of the solar system is not only going to find it difficult to get classified as a planet, it is likely to influence Pluto's planetary status, as well. At 1100 miles in diameter, it is less than half the size of Mercury, the next smallest planet. Pluto, at about 1400 miles in diameter, is not much bigger. Many astronomers have been trying to get Pluto de-listed as a planet for years based on its size and irregular orbit. Now that Sedna is in the picture, their fates will likely be set together. Sedna has little support of being classified as a planet and if it doesn't make it, it will be hard for Pluto to retain its planetary status.
We will all have to leave off the last letter of whatever acronym we learned to remember the planets. It seems like there should be some statute of limitations on recending membership in the "Planet club." Pluto was discovered in 1930.
Sedna is the Inuit goddess of the ocean; she is up there in orbit with some other famous bodies circling the Sun: Beethoven, Shakespeare, Martin Luther, Lennon, Pele, Mr. Spock, and smaller asteroids Clapton, Tomjones, Jamesbond, Einstein, and all four Beatles. Stellar company.
Posted by Dan Brooks on March 16, 2004 at 02:35 PM | Permalink