Explaining Southern California's economy

The Trouble with Triblets: Why Tribune's proprietary tablet is a bad idea

I don't know how I missed this, but I did. One of the things I learned after Russ Stanton stepped down as editor of the Los Angeles Times is that the paper's parent company, Tribune Co., is developing its own tablet — not a new and special app for the tablet market, but an actual proprietary tablet — and, from what I gather, it intends to give it away to subscribers. Presumably, the glorious Tribune content on this tablet won't be paywalled, although to Web users the paper will. Who knows, there may even be be content that's exclusive to the tablet.

The Tribune tablet — the Triblet? — is not a good business idea. It's worse than New Coke. Worse that Qwikster. Worse the the DeLorean. Worse than the Edsel. I'd have to stretch to find a more foolhardy concept, far back beyond the meager parameters of my own lifetime. Napoleon's invasion of Russia leaps to mind...

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James Altucher: A financial pundit who's worth watching

James Altucher is a crazy guy with a crazy blog who has some fairly offbeat ideas about all manner of stuff. He's also one of the most original talking heads in the financial talking heads business, as evinced by his appearances in a variety of media outlets. He seriously cuts against type. He still looks like the science-wonk he was as an undergrad and doesn't particularly mind functioning as mild comic relief, especially given that he's been around the money game for years and can talk the talk quite well.

Personally, I like it when he goes up against the rough-and-tumble panel on CNBC's "Fast Money," typically with positions so contrarian — and of late, so optimistic — that he seems to have the fellas on the point of cracking up with every prognostication. 

Currently, he's arguing that things are much better than they seem, economy-wise, in the U.S. To him, stocks look cheap and a meltdown in Europe would be no big deal. He may be right. But he also thinks Apple will see a trillion dollar market cap, something like three times its current level of about $360 billion.

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It's Black Friday versus the eurozone crisis

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Black Friday at Macy's in Manhattan: Shoppers lined up.

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. In fact, it appears as though many of you did enjoy the holiday — enough to hit the malls in force on Black Friday. According to the LA Times, retail activity was up 16 percent over last year. And the markets are responding: all the major stock indexes have climbed this morning. 

Meanwhile, the neverending eurozone crisis appears to have entered a new phase. We keep waiting for an endgame here, with the likely demise of the euro single currency. But then Germany and France get together to pull the eurozone back from the brink. This dynamic has caused predictable volatility in world markets for months now. But in the U.S., there's at least some improving news, giving markets the chance to rally on their own and somewhat ignore Europe.

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Is this what Occupy Wall Street is all about?

Wall Street Protest Spreads To Other Cities

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 01: Protesters hold signs after a march to Los Angeles City Hall during the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The protesters slogan, "We are the 99 percent," calls attention to the fact that marchers are not part of the one percent of Americans who hold a vast portion of the nation's wealth. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I've been meaning to link to this post from a wonky econoblog, The Slack Wire, for a while, but I haven't gotten around to it. Given that I haven't posted about the Occupy Movement for a week or so, it seems like a good time:

The key thing is that at one point, large businesses really were run by people who, while autocratic within the firm and often vicious in defense of their privileges, really did identify with the particular businesses they managed and focused their energy on their survival and growth, and even on the sheer disinterested desire to do their kind of business well. You can find a few businesses that are still run like this -- I've been meaning to write a post on Steve Jobs -- but by far the dominant ethos among managers today is that a business exists only to enrich its shareholders, including, of course, senior managers themselves. Which they have done very successfully....

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Meet Starbucks, your new neighborhood investment bank

Customers queue for coffee at Starbucks

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to your friendly neighborhood investment bank. Do you want them to leave room for...return on investment?

Here's an idea that's going to get people talking — and funding small businesses. The New York Times' Joe Nocera writes his column today about Starbucks' plan to partner with microfinance organization Opportunity Finance Network to solve a major American problem: a lack of small-scale lending. The project is called Create Jobs for USA. It's a great idea, but it has at least one significant problem: return on investment for the Starbucks customers who would be putting up their money.

Starting November 1, while waiting for you nonfat vente caramel latte, you can donate, say...$5 to the cause. You'll receive a red, white, and blue "indivisible" bracelet (the bracelet is an inevitable piece of viral marketing these days). Starbucks will seed the fund with a $5 million donation. As Nocera points out, this will enable Create Jobs for USA and OFN to borrow against this fund, utilizing a 7-to-1 leverage ration. Presto! Your $5 becomes $35.

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