Explaining Southern California's economy

Disney earnings: Maybe there isn't a tech-entertainment connection

World of Color

Susan Valot/KPCC

"World of Color," a water show that opened last year, is credited with drawing more people to Disney California Adventure.

Walt Disney Co. reported first-quarter earnings yesterday, and they were fairly good: net income was up 12 percent.

But the growth came largely from ESPN and theme parks. If you study the earnings statement, you can spot something alarming in two critical parts of the business of the Mouse: movies and video games.

This is from Bloomberg:

Seven Disney films in U.S. theaters in the quarter collected ticket sales of $239 million, a 33 percent drop from $357.6 million generated by nine movies a year ago, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher.

The studio is in talks with Coinstar Inc.’s Redbox and other services to impose a 28-day delay on rentals of new DVDs, [CEO Bob] Iger said on the call. The delay is being sought because of the industrywide drop in DVD and Blu-ray sales, he said.

The consumer products unit reported profit little changed at $313 million on a 3 percent higher sales of $948 million.

Disney’s interactive division registered a loss of $28 million. Sales tumbled 20 percent to $279 million. The unit is cutting costs and taking steps to raise revenue with a goal of becoming profitable in the next fiscal year, Iger said. It hasn’t shown a profit since Disney began breaking out the results in the final three months of 2008.

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I am still a Bitcoin trader

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Mark Scott

Bitcoin: It isn't money, but you can trade it.

Just a quick update on my adventures in Bitcoin, the cyber- or crypto-currency I've written about several times — and traded!

There was what seemed to me like a Bitcoin bubble at the end of last year and the beginning of this. I made a nice return on my first trade and then set up what I thought would be a way to "short" Bitcoin for a while. As it turns out, the market at Mt.Gox has been sort of flat since then. So I haven't changed my position. 

Stay tuned for more!

If anyone want to speculate about why there was a run-up in BTC value in December and January, please do so in the comments. I welcome your point of view. Remember, the idea here isn't for me to make money. I've only bought $10 worth of BTC. I'm trying to learn more about cybercurrencies and how they behave.

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Charles Murray and the challenge of being rich and white

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed Americans line up to enter a job fair on the first day of the Labor Day long weekend in the City of El Monte outside of Los Angeles on September 4, 2010. US unemployment jumped to 9.6 percent in August, the Labor Department said, showing the recovering economy is still struggling to create jobs.

I've held off for a bit on writing about Charles Murray's new book, "Coming Apart: The State of Whiteness in America 1960-2010." I wanted to see how his thesis was sorted out by various commenters, after I first came across an excerpt a few weeks back in the Wall Street Journal. It might be Murray's best work yet, although it's sure to provoke years of heated debate. The book is vintage Murray: it's "Bowling Alone" with a right-ish agenda, "Stuff White People Like" with piles of hard data. NPR gets hammered. The "elites" are scolded like spoiled children.

Just for the record, I've strongly disagreed with Murray's views on education, outlined here a few years ago. I think everybody should go to college, if they want. And it's up to us as a society to figure out how to make that happen. Murray thinks that a four-year university education may not a useful path for many Americans. But it's increasingly the only path to economic competitiveness.

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Where's the inflation? It's Ron Paul versus Ben Bernanke

There's probably no more dogged critic of the Federal Reserve than Ron Paul, the Texas Republican congressman who's also running — and running, and running — for President. Paul had a halfway decent showing in the most recent primaries and caucuses. And there's a school of political thought that figures his staunch base and need to spend very little money to stay in the race will keep him hanging around long after more legitimate contenders had dropped out. Plus, he has an heir in his son Rand Paul, a Kentucky Senator. 

Ron Paul is the most economic of the current crop of Republican presidential candiates. There are times when his entire campaign seems based not on solving domestic problems, nor pursuing America's foreign policy, but on getting rid of the twin evils of paper money and the Federal Reserve. A lot of people find Paul sort of daffy. See the video I've embedded above, in which he meanders through a host of very Ron Paulist conspiracy theories, laconically foiled by the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke.

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Business don't need no stinkin' philosophers!

Idealab-Outside-MDB

Matthew DeBord

Welcome to Idealab, a new business incubator founded in 1996 and located in Pasadena, Calif.

Bronwyn Fryer has a sneakily important post at the Harvard Business Review blog. It's about how completely essentially it is for business to have what she calls "idea fusers" — people who can practice synthetic thinking, figuring out how to stick seemingly disparate pieces of production, data, insight, strategy — whatever — together to yield breakout results. I have my own term for this: "free range thinking." 

When I was in grad school, we commonly called this approach "dialectical," echoing the Marxist view that history was a process of two opposing ideas conflicting — or ideas developing internal conflicts — until they produced a third option. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The concept was actually adapted from Hegel, the study of which was to Marx what rocket science is to lawn mower repair (sorry, Karl).

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