Bits & Pieces (Wednesday Night Open Mic)

Bits & Pieces may be spotty or non-existent through the holidays. You know, for kids.

The first Hobbit Trailer is out. That’s all you need to know about anything, for now.

“Bagginses? What is a ‘Bagginses’?”

While I imagine a lot of work was finished in order to deliver for the trailer, it seems to me like they must have had a lot of the first movie done, given what’s in the trailer. I’m surprised we’ll be waiting until December 2012 to see it. Ah, well.

I’ll just have to content myself with repeatedly watching the trailer, and wondering what they’ve come up with for Gandalf’s interaction with Galadriel. To the Tolkien purists, all I’ve got say is: you’ve still got the books. I’m as excited as I can be to see what connective tissue to LOTR that Jackson and Walsh and Boyens have invented, and seeing Gandalf chatting with Galadriel, and knowing that Saruman will make an appearance—it all makes me very happy.

At some point, I’m looking forward to watching the extended editions of the two Hobbit movies and the three LOTR movies on Blu-Ray. Sometimes in 2014 or 2015 I imagine. Not sure how I’ll schedule it, but I’m going to make it happen.

Insanity in the UK

I just read on ESPN that John Terry, Chelsea’s center back and captain of the England national football (read: soccer) team, is to face criminal charges for allegedly uttering a racial slur in a match against Queens Park Rangers.

England captain John Terry will face a criminal charge over allegations that he racially abused an opponent in the Premier League.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said Wednesday that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the Chelsea defender for his on-field exchange Oct. 23 with Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

The Telegraph has the history of the case.

This is complete insanity. It is not at all clear what Terry is alleged to have said (which is bizarre in itself – the “victim” is reported to have told police that he did not accuse Terry of making a racist remark), but it doesn’t really matter to me. It is just words, said on a football pitch. I’m not going to defend racist remarks, and if the league wants to punish Terry for any remarks he may have made, more power to them. But for this to be a legal matter, that there actually exists laws prohibiting the uttering of racial slurs, shows how utterly confused our good friends across the ocean have become regarding the notion of freedom that they themselves did so much to introduce to the world.

Our polticial, legal, and indeed national culture owes much to the UK, and I have long been a fan of the nation, both historically and contemporarily. But contrasting this foolishness with the recent events between the Cincinnati and Xavier basketball teams where real, phsyical harm was done, and the fact that it will lead to no criminal charges, shows how very far apart our cultures, and the role government should play in it, have grown.

Morning Report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1231 -5 -0.40%
Eurostoxx Index 2253.2 -9.210 -0.41%
Oil (WTI) 98.17 0.930 0.96%
LIBOR 0.5713 0.002 0.26%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.997 0.165 0.21%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.94% 0.01%

S&P futures are slightly weaker on a miss by Oracle and European weakness. Oracle blamed the miss on customers delaying purchases and economic weakness in Europe. Analysts are forecasting a drop in corporate IT spending in Q112. Separately, RIMM is up over 9% on reports that they are an acquisition target by AMZN, and that MSFT and NOK considered a joint bid.

Speaking of takeovers, a lot of merger arbs expected the Obama FTC and DOJ to be aggressive antitrust enforcers, similar to the Clinton Administration, when Robert Pitofsky headed the FTC. (Anyone remember Staples / Office Depot?). Well, the Obama Administration finally blocked one – the Verizon / T-Mobile Deal. The Bush Administration had a particularly benign view of antitrust – allowing the merger of Whirlpool and Maytag / Quaker Oats and Pepsi among others. Obama more or less continued the benign view that the Bush Administration followed. It will be interesting to see if this is part of a trend.

The National Association of Realtors just released existing home sales data for November, including revisions going back to 2007. Due to errors in methodology, existing home sales have been overstated by about 14% – 15% for the last few years. Other data in the report: there are about 2.58 million homes for sale, or a 7-month supply. The median existing home price dropped 3.5% YOY to $164,200. 29% of all home sales were foreclosures or short sales. While the naturally bullish NAR is trying to put a happy face on the data, it shows the housing market still has a long way to go in order to reach normalcy. It also demonstrates how much the government efforts to limit foreclosures have depressed sales and delayed the necessary process of moving the distressed inventory. House prices won’t recover (and the economy won’t experience a robust recovery) until the shadow inventory has traded.

Chart: US Existing Home Sales (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate)

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