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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Lot Happened While I Was Away

Chart of the ever-lovin’ day …
This chart is just the beginning of the new report I just sent to my Red-Hot Global Small-Caps subscribers, “3 Red-Hot Picks From Vancouver.” If you’re a subscriber, look in your in-box. If you’re not a subscriber, you can change that pretty quickly and act on these three recommendations immediately: click here.
Anyway, I’m back from Vancouver. Here are some of the things that caught my eye while I was away …

First, the Guardian in the UK gives us
“25 People at the Heart of the Meltdown.” It’s a bit British-heavy, but that’s understandable for a paper published in London. But why’d they leave out Robert Rubin? Maybe I should make my own list.

Meanwhile, John Hempton at Bronte Capital believes the
Fed should literally try throwing money out of helicopters. I have to believe there are aspects to that plan that he is just not thinking through.

Now for the story that caused steam to come out of my ears in my Vancouver hotel room. Remember how the US taxpayers have bailed out Citigroup (
C: 4.06 -0.14 -3.33%) with $45 billion of our hard-earned money? Well, Citi turned around and was going to buy a $50 million corporate jet from France.

Citigroup is one of the biggest recipients of TARP funds. It received $25 billion under the original payout late last year and received another $20 billion after its stock started to sink in November. It also got the government to backstop some $306 billion in troubled assets on its books. <>So, naturally, buying a $50 million corporate jet is the only thing to do <>

Perhaps I missed it because I was running around Vancouver like a crazy man, but I didn’t see this story on CNBC. Maybe that’s because back in 2007 — almost exactly two years ago – CNBC’s
Maria Bartiromo got in some hot water for taking Citi’s corporate jet with then Citi-executive Todd Thomson.

Oh, wait, look here: CNBC prints an AP story that
Citi will not take possession of the new jet. That story ran at 8:04 pm the day the scandal broke. Yeah, hot on the trail of that one!

And it’s not that Citi suddenly developed a sense of shame.
ABC News reports that Obama administration officials called Citi execs about the jet and told them to “fix it.”

Now, don’t you go feeling sorry for the Citi execs. Even after reducing the size of their air fleet, they STILL have two jets.

In other news, the
Congressional Budget Office compared the economic downturn we’re experiencing today to the Great Depression. Does that make it official? Someone find out for me.

Now for three non-business stories that interested me and may interest you …

1) Here is some comic relief if you have a weird (gallows) sense of humor:
An Interview With The Central Banker of Zimbabwe. And if you think a trillion is a large number when applied to currency, brace yourself for “sextillion.” I assume the central banker of Zimbabwe didn’t scream that number while spitting blood and tearing his hair out in clumps, so you’ve got to admire his coolness in crisis.

2) It will surprise many leaders in the business community (but should surprise no one) that
Free Monty Python Videos on Youtube Lead to 23,000% DVD Sale Increase. Why does that work? Because no one wants to watch bad-quality YouTube videos for very long.

3) The headline says it all:
Pakistani Taliban Turns Honeymoon Spot into Slaughterhouse. Such lovely people. And yes, that was sarcasm.

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