Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Libby, Labels, and Liabilities

A slight revision to the Libby’s soup jingle from a few years back might be appropriate following yesterday’s conviction of former Vice Presidential helper, Scooter Libby: “If it says Libby Libby Libby on the label label label, it’s guilty guilty guilty…for lying and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.

Can’t wait for the DVD of this one…

Did you see all the dour-faced talking heads on the network last night with their “reaction” stories and pontification about what’s next for The Bush Administration in all this. Katie Couric could barely hide her glee, despite the strained expression of concern on her face, and Bob Shieffer was intoning how bad this would be for the White House.

Folks, there’s a whole lot of more important issues on the President’s plate this week…there’s a war (both in Iraq and in Congress) as well as other foreign and domestic issues that truly matter a lot more. The president's plate looks more like a buffet tray.

The political arena is truly becoming a multi-ring circus, with Hillary faking a southern accent as she addressed a church in the south over the weekend…and on the front page today’s New York Times is a piece describing the financial shenanigans of Sen. Obama Barak, who apparently bought stock in two speculative companies who stood to gain from legislation he pushed through Congress…

The Times says Barak apparently purchased more than $50,000 in stock in a satellite communications business whose principal backers include four friends and donors who had raised more than $150,000 for his political committees.
Man, I want the back-scratcher concession business on Capitol Hill…

What would Wall Street be without a soap opera?

A spitting match between Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) kept traders entertained... . Like a couple of 5th grade girls competing for attention on the playground, a lawyer for Microsoft accused Google of being one of the "companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the back of other people's content, are raking in billions through advertising and initial public offerings."

I’d like to see both attorneys on that new FOX Show, "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grade Student?”

UnitedHealth Group says options backdating issues will result in a $1.5-billion dollar hit to previously reported earnings. Seems some Einstein in the accounting department thought it would be a swell idea to re-price the stock options based on events already transpired.

To me, this is like betting on The World Series outcome the day after the game.

Actually it’s more sinister than that: UnitedHealthGroup was one of a half dozen companies that back-dated stocks to October 2001, so that insiders could profit from depressed markets following the 9/11 attacks. KLA-Tencor is another company that has emerged as an abuser of the system by backdating stocks to take advantage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on civilized society.

Speaking of transparency…

Did Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin not tell the whole truth to Congress in testimony meant to gain approval for his bid to merge Sirius and XM Satellite Radio channels? The New York Times says the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, is questioning how Mel said what he said about the proposed merger of the nation’s two satellite radio companies, and that subscribers would both pay the same monthly rate and receive significantly more programming.

Mel promised last week that prices would not be raised and the advantage to listeners would be the combining of the best programming from both satellite radio operators.

Ain’t necessarily so.

You may actually have to pay more than the current monthly rate of $12.95 if you want all the Major League Baseball feeds, which are now only on XM, plus all the pro football broadcasts, which are available only on—surprise!—Sirius.

Mr. Karmazin backpedaled yesterday and said his testimony was not misleading, what he meant to say was two things: a.) subscribers wanting to keep their existing service would not face a price increase—and—b.) listeners who wanted the best of both services would pay less than the combined rate of $25.90.
Smells like a rate increase to me.

FCC Chairman Martin says those nuances of detail were not clear from Mel’s testimony, and that the commission will “need to determine the benefits to consumers of this deal, and in doing that, we will need to carefully look at what price will be frozen and what consumers will be getting for that price.”

So a combined XM and Sirius operation really would be to Radio what Cable has been to TV: Greater choices, yes.
Greater expense, definitely.
Getting what you pay for from Cable and Satellite Radio—priceless, so far…because no one has a clear picture of the structure.

No comments: