Happy New Year! My Thoughts after Seeing “The Big Short…”

~By InsightAnalytical

Well, of course, the best time to release a movie about the 2007-8 economic crash is to release it during a holiday week at the same time the masses are being dished out “Star Wars”…again…

Being contrarian by nature, I made it over to see “The Big Short” which is based on the fantastic book of the same name by Michael Lewis.

Well, I went to the noon showing, this last day of 2015…the parking lot was full…of Star Wars fans, most likely.
I counted 20 people in for The Big Short. I was surprised there were that many…it’s only showing in one of the 3 movie complexes in town…seems it may be around for another week, but after that I bet it will be gone…

Of the 20, there were about 4 under the age of 60, probably in their 40’s/early 50’s.

Well, it was really gripping! It really was brilliantly done, esp. the asides with the “explanations.” I doubt, however, that many Selena Gomez fans will be in to see it, though.   I have to say the sleaze award goes to the guy based in New Jersey working for Merrill Lynch…figures.

After it ended I chatted with a woman who said they had lost $26 M in ethanol. Wants to get out the country (me, too!),  $300 for a visa to get out to Vietnam…or Cambodia ….or Thailand…Well, I cautioned her about a place like Vietnam being so dependent on China! Also, told her to watch “The Executioner” via MHzChoice (foreign TV series and one shot movies)….a Danish “movie” based on a true story…you will not want to go to Cambodia maybe after seeing the crap that goes on there. I also told her to read WallStreetWindow.com as well as Zero Hedge (but ignore most of the drek in the comments section…truly awful. I mean it…)
The truth is…with the global connectivity at this point, where is there anyplace “safe”??

She revealed that she had “insurance” in a safety deposit box…and I told her to get it out of that box in a bank!!!

When I got home I spotted the young man who works for Apple from home…he and his wife have just bought a house. I pulled over to say a final goodbye as he did his final move out of stuff….gave him the same info about a few sites that I gave to the woman at the movie and told him to save his money and learn what’s going on, not to keep all his retirement on one stock like Apple….exchanged phone numbers again and I gave him my email…told him I may not know all the answers, but I can figure out where to look most of the time…I’m sure I won’t hear from him again.

And then I came home. Hugged my dogs…and am checking my storage food for freshness…

***
Before going I was watching Bloomberg and the word SCARY came up twice from the anchors…the discussion has been about the 600,000 jobs gone from banking….. The site says 500,000 but they said 600,000 on air.
http://www.bloomberg.com/ne’sws/articles/2015-12-31/half-a-million-bank-jo…

They had a guy on talking about going into recession (for some reason I can’t find THAT video up on the site); the anchor brought up Marc Faber also forecasting that a day or so ago. Yesterday, I saw the mayor of Wilmington, DE talking about the loss of 1700 jobs from the DuPont-Dow deal…he was pretty grim….

Anyway, a couple of the people on air today looked pretty pale…and to hear the word ‘scary’ TWICE, no matter in what context…well, THAT was scary!!!

CNBC’s Fast Money is having a party at the moment…party hats, champagne, are they kidding me?? ….can’t even stand watching CNBC much anymore…Bloomberg seems a bit more “sober” but …where IS that video from the recession talker today??

Stay safe out there in the New Year….

Advertisements

HULU — “An evil plot to destroy the world”: A Mainstream Media Creation (FOX, NBC et al) to Squeeze Out Independent Media Content

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

If you any doubts about how the mainstream media is playing us, then here’s the proof that they indeed are.  It’s easy to see when you take a look at Hulu. Most of the uniformed world think FOX (News Corp.) and NBC/GE are “enemies”  but we see that they’re working together to suck the air out of independent media content available on the web.

Hulu–“An evil plot to destroy the world.”  I didn’t originate this description; Hulu did. It’s in their ad which features the obnoxious Denis Leary jabbering away about TV content turning your mind to mush and snarking at a “brain dead” (those are the ad’s words) geek who’s getting a stream of green stuff passed into his ear.  Before he’s through, Leary says that the folks at Hulu are  “aliens” and then winds up with the tag line, “Hulu…an evil plot to destroy the world…Enjoy.”

The ad is up at the company blog under the title “The Evil Plot Continues.”  Go see for yourself…(and be sure to “click” to see the full ad after the initial clip is over or click here for the video without the blog post.).  This week, Hulu has released a “Video Panel widget”:

To continue to deliver on our mission to connect audiences with their favorite content wherever they are — or, as Denis Leary would say, on their “bliggety blogs, facey spaces and tweety pages” — we are releasing a new embeddable product this week: the Video Panel widget.

The ad is supposed to be a cool joke aimed at the younger crowd, but in reality, it may not just a joke!  A couple of weeks ago I happened to be watching CNBC and caught an interview with the young CEO who was talking about how successful Hulu had become and how it would be even more successful as it closes in on YouTube, which is currently the top video site.

And who’s behind Hulu?  According to Hoovers (with my bolding):

Hulu Company Description

When the rich and famous name their offspring, anything is possible. NBC and FOX had a digital baby. And they called it Hulu. Initially formed as a joint venture between NBC Universal (a unit of GE) and News Corp. (the parent of FOX), Hulu.com is a video site that features video from more than 100 content providers. Offerings include TV shows from FOX and NBC, as well as from subsidiary cable channels such as Bravo and the SCI FI Channel. Hulu also shows films from studios including Sony and MGM. Content — all total, some 900 TV series and full-length movies– is streamed on demand, free of charge the day after its broadcast debut. After a nearly five-month long beta version, Hulu.com was launched in 2008.

And, there’s another player now: Disney/ABC.

Disney Buys Into Hulu. YouTube Should Be Worried.  (4/30)

As the initial exclusivity for NBC and Fox content expires, Hulu will be adding Disney/ABC videos and TV shows to its distribution mix as well. Hulu is becoming the preferred distribution channel for the big media companies. And it is succeeding in attracting the fickle Web audience. This should worry YouTube, which is still casting about for a business model that will pay for its enormous storage and bandwidth costs. The media companies cannot ignore YouTube just yet, but by strengthening Hulu they can give it their best content first.

A couple of days earlier, this article provided some extra background:

Hulu Now The Number Three U.S. Web Video Site. Soon To Be Number Two.  (4/28)

Just last month, we wrote that Hulu had gained some 10 million viewers to become the fourth largest video portal on the web. Now, it’s slain another rival to the list: Yahoo, to move into #3 — at least in terms of videos viewed.

To be clear, the new March U.S. numbers released by comScore show that Hulu is still slightly behind Yahoo’s video properties when it comes to unique viewers. But the NBC and Fox-backed Hulu should pass it any day now in that category as well. Meanwhile, the number two player, Fox Interactive Media (which runs MySpace), is slipping just as quickly as Hulu is rising in videos viewed. It could well be as soon as this month when Hulu moves into the number two web video position.

Needless to say,  I wondered about the name. Silly me for thinking it was a take-off on “hula” or something Hawaiian. NOOOOOOOOOO, it’s actually a Chinese name! From Wikipedia:

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words, hulu (simplified Chinese: 葫芦; traditional Chinese: 葫蘆; pinyin: húlú; Wade-Giles: hu-lu) “calabash, bottle gourd” and hulu (simplified Chinese: 互录; traditional Chinese: 互錄; pinyin: hùlù; Wade-Giles: hu-lu) “interactive recording.”

The company blog explains:

In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission. The primary meaning interested us because it is used in an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the hulu as the holder of precious things. It literally translates to “gourd,” and in ancient times, the hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is “interactive recording.” We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu. [4][5]

(Here’s the link to the above-mentioned blog post at Hulu with a picture of the young group (mostly of Chinese background?) who worked on choosing the name: http://blog.hulu.com/2008/05/13/meaning-of-hulu/.) (Note: For all their care, it seems that “Hulu” has some unusual meanings in other languages anyway. For a sampling, see:  Hulu Translates To “Cease” and “Desist” in Swahili. Oops.)

My next stop was a visit to the Hulu site at http://www.hulu.com/.  The “News” channel has a few sub-sections, but I just looked at the Politics section closely. Of course, it varies day to day, but it certainly is NOT a comprehensive news site…an awful lot of clips featuring unchallenged spin from the Administration and cable talk shows on the day I looked.  Hulu is entirely commercial content, so you won’t see any original “ads” or political discourse from the peons here, like you see at YouTube.

Who’s running Hulu for NBC, FOX, and Disney?

The CEO is one Jason Kilar. From Business Week:

Jason Kilar serves as Chief Executive Officer of Hulu, LLC. Mr. Kilar has been Chief Executive of online video joint venture of NBC Universal, Inc. and News Corp., since July 9, 2007. He serves as Special Advisor of KBL Acquisition Corp. IV*. He served as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Application Software at Amazon.com Inc. since May 2003 and was responsible for Amazon’s Marketplace business. From February 2002 to May 2003, Mr. Kilar served as Vice President of Worldwide Application Software of Amazon.com Inc., where he joined in May, 1997 as a Product Manager. From October 2001 to February 2002, Mr. Kilar served as Vice President of Marketplace of Amazon.com Inc. and served as its Vice President of Books, Music, and Video & DVD from February 2001 to October 2001 and serves as its Vice President. He began his career with The Walt Disney Company, where he worked for Disney Design & Development. He serves on the board of Management Leadership for Tomorrow. He has been Director of AdReady, Inc. since November 28, 2007. Mr. Kilar received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School…

The company is providing  investment capital for Hulu is Providence Equity. Of course, there’s a “global presence”:

Working collaboratively from offices in Providence, New York, London, Hong Kong and New Delhi, our 74 investment professionals pursue opportunities as a unified team across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Our sector focus and international mandate enable us to dedicate our full resources to building global leaders in the media, entertainment, communications and information industries, regardless of location.

The large “team” running this firm has some interesting names on the roster.

Michael K. Powell, now a Sr. Advisor for PE, formerly FCC chairman during the Bush Administration

In addition to Kilar, there are a lot of people with Harvard ties, work history with some of the large investment banks (with a number of them with a history at Morgan Stanley), and other interesting backgrounds. Here’s a sampling of some of the names I peeked at…there are many others with similiar ties on the long list of “the team”:

  • Chief Compliance Officer Fred Franklin (who “served for ten years as Assistant Director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement”)… from Bear Stearns

So, it looks like the total capture of the minds of the younger generation by the mass media will be complete if most of them gravitate to Hulu.  If YouTube can’t survive, will the creative video we see there dry up or become fragmented across many smaller sites?

Hulu is just another piece of the puzzle as the media “clamps down” to control what media content users see.  Scary, very scary indeed.

***

*KBL Acquisition Corp. IV is involved in “miscellaneous”  investment services but is a big player in the healthcare industry (also KBL I, II, III)

Hulu Company Profile.

GE media holdings (From Columbia Journalism Review site)

News Corp. media holdings (From Columbia Journalism Review site)

Disney media holdings (corporate site)

Canadian Banks On the Move Buying U.S. Banks While Bailout Recipient AIG Sells Canadian Life Insurance Business to Bank of Montreal (“Picking over the Carcasses”)

“…Canadian subprime holdings amount to less than 5% of mortgages, compared with 20% in the U.S….”

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

A couple of days ago we featured a couple of stories about the Canadian banking system.  See: The SCANNER–International/Political Edition, 2/24/09 (Which Deficit is Obama “Halving”?; Canada Rubs U.S. Nose into Its Stable Banking System; GM/Chrysler Beg for Bailout Help in Canada, Too; Half of Foreign Criminals in Canada Are Fleeing to the U.S. [???]).  Here’s some more background on how Canadian banks are taking advantage of the current financial mess here in the States.

First, here’s some information on the status of the Canadian banking system which was part of a report issued back in October 2008 by the World Economic Forum. Read the “grading system” and you’ll understand completely why the U.S. has fallen to 40th place.

Canadian banks ranked soundest in the world

U.S. has fallen to No. 40 in World Economic Forum list

Canada has the world’s soundest banking system, closely followed by Sweden, Luxembourg and Australia, a survey by the World Economic Forum has found as a financial crisis and bank failures shake world markets.

Britain, which once ranked in the top five, has slipped to 44th place behind El Salvador and Peru, after its government pledged the equivalent of $97 billion Cdn this week to bolster bank balance sheets.

The United States, where some of Wall Street’s biggest financial names have collapsed in recent weeks, rated only 40th, just behind Germany, at 39th, and smaller states such as Barbados, Estonia and even Namibia, in southern Africa.

MORE

Over the summer, stories began surfacing about how Canadian banks were gearing up for an acquisition spree.

From June 13, 2008, this report from Reuters:

Canadian banks seen hitting U.S. acquisition trail

SNIP

“I think they’re in a position to really pick over the carcasses,” said Bushell, who runs the C$4.2 billion CI Signature Select Canadian fund.

Dennis Gartman, the Virginia-based author of investment newsletter The Gartman Letter, said at the same conference that Canadian banks would be “in the driver’s seat” for the next decade.

“They’re going to come around buying everything in the United States … they’re in great condition.”

MORE

The story goes on to report that Royal Bank of Canada had already acquired Alabama National Bancorp earlier in 2008 and how “Toronto-Dominion Bank just swallowed New Jersey-based Commerce Bank.”  Other big Canadian players were staying on the sidelines at that point.

By August 2008, more transactions were brewing:

Canadian banks may profit from U.S. banks’ pain

Doug Alexander and Sean B. Pasternak, Bloomberg Published: Monday, August 25, 2008

SNIP

Lenders including Bank of Nova Scotia and Toronto-Dominion Bank spent a record US$10-billion on U.S.-owned assets over the past year. Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal may also continue shopping, according to CIBC World Markets analyst Darko Mihelic, with potential targets including Regions Financial Corp. and Huntington Bancshares Inc.

Toronto-Dominion, based in Toronto, spent about US$7.1-billion in March for Commerce Bancorp Inc., New Jersey’s biggest locally based lender, setting a record for foreign bank purchases by Canadian companies. Scotiabank, also based in Toronto, is acquiring the Canadian unit of E*Trade Financial Corp. for US$442-million and has said it may buy more U.S. assets.

One reason for the gap is that Canadian subprime holdings amount to less than 5% of mortgages, compared with 20% in the U.S., according to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals.

Royal Bank targets may include Regions Financial, the biggest bank based in Alabama, and BB&T Corp. in North Carolina, while Bank of Montreal could pursue firms such as Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp. and Huntington Bancshares Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Mihelic said. Any of these targets would represent record takeovers for the two Canadian banks.

MORE

Again, get that amazing comparison??  “…Canadian subprime holdings amount to less than 5% of mortgages, compared with 20% in the U.S….”

That sums it all up in a nutshell.

By September 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the record, declaring:

Harper says no bailout for Canadian banks similar to U.S. plan

By THE CANADIAN PRESS

2008-09-19

SNIP

Harper said Friday the Canadian financial system is very strong and the balance sheets of the banks and insurance companies are solid enough that they don’t need any financial aid.

MORE

Then, on January 9 of this year, there was this story:

Canadian banks to be patient in the U.S.

Senior executives from the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal said at an investor conference in Toronto that they will be cautious and patient, though they added they will be on the lookout for small acquisitions, according to press reports.

“We’re looking at opportunities as a result of the turmoil to add to our existing franchises in a sensible way where we can take advantage of them,” Royal Bank president and CEO Gordon Nixon was quoted by Reuters as saying. “But in terms of significant dramatic transformational acquisitions, whether it be the U.S., Europe or Asia, we just don’t believe in this environment that it’s the appropriate time to be aggressively deploying capital.”

All three banks already have a beachhead in the United States:

  • Royal Bank, the largest Canadian bank, already owns the RBC Centura banking operation in the Southeast.
  • Toronto-Dominion operates TD Bank on the East Coast.
  • Bank of Montreal, the No. 4 Canadian bank, is the parent of Harris Bank in the Midwest.

The Globe and Mail added that TD chief executive Ed Clark said the Canadian banks have increased their capital and taken government funds because the market expects them to do it. But he also added the banks don’t need it and will emerge from the recession extremely well capitalized. “Canada will emerge, as long as we don’t do anything stupid, as the only country in the world where the banks didn’t need the government help,” he was quoted by the Globe as saying. It is an opportunity to redefine Canadian banking, and the country, “to say, ‘somehow you guys did it right,'” Clark said. “And so I think that’s worth fighting hard for.”

So apparently some government money is going to Canadian banks, but not for the reasons banks in the U.S. are receiving government money. (But don’t ask me the details of what THAT’s all about…)

A few days later, an interesting deal was reported involving AIG, one of the first companies to get U.S. bailout funds in September 2008, just after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America. To refresh your memory about these 10 days of financial hell, see this article from the Washington Post, dated September 16, 2008 : U.S. to Take Over AIG in $85 Billion Bailout; Central Banks Inject Cash as Credit Dries Up/Emergency Loan Effectively Gives Government Control of Insurer; Historic Move Would Cap 10 Days That Reshaped U.S. Finance

The London Free Press

Banks in buying mood

ACQUISITIONS: With plenty of capital, Canadian banks are finding bargains

Wed, January 14, 2009

By GARY NORRIS, THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Canada’s big banks are sitting on plump capital cushions, waiting for healthy assets of distressed foreigners to fall into their laps.

In what could herald a series of deals, Bank of Montreal is paying $375 million for the Canadian life insurance business of American International Group Inc.

The cash transaction comes as AIG, once the world’s biggest insurer, restructures following a US$150-billion bailout from the U.S. government after its near-death.

Last week, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., a U.S.-based brokerage owned 40 per cent by Toronto-Dominion Bank, agreed to buy online operator Thinkorswim Group for US$606 million. It’s paying about US$8.70 a share for Thinkorswim shares valued at US$16 a year ago.

BMO said yesterday AIG Life of Canada, bringing 300 employees and 400,000 customers, will add to the bank’s earnings within a year, expanding its array of investment, financial planning and insurance products.

MORE

At the rate things are going, Canada will be moving in to the U.S. banking sector bigtime.  Get ready to speak “Canadian” when you go into a bank to cash a check!  And it may be sooner than you think!

***

Click here for an overview on the “Big Five Banks” in Canada.