Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray63 [at] (Be patient, I don't check it often.)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In case you missed it ...

Here's the video of Miss South Carolina, during the Miss Teen USA Pageant, attempting to explain why so many Americans can't find the U.S. on a world map. If you want to go insane, try diagramming her response.

I'm torn between finding it hilarious and feeling compassion for anyone who has an embarrassing moment viewed by millions of people, live and through clips like these.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Not everyone's a victim.
Media critic Howard Kurtz makes a valuable point today: "Everyone who is defaulting on a home mortgage is not necessarily a victim."
I feel sorry for anyone in that situation. Losing a home is an awful thing. Some were undoubtedly pressured into buying by unscrupulous lenders. Too many greedy players on Wall Street got away with making shaky loans for too long. They sliced and diced mortgage debt into increasingly exotic paper and lost sight of the risks involved, figuring the Fed would bail them out if things got out of hand.

But let's face it: Most of the people who took out home mortgages for no money down knew that this was a roll of the dice. Who gets to buy a house without a down payment? And most of those who took out adjustable-rate mortgages knew that their rate would balloon in a couple of years, and could do so at a level that would be hard to afford. They took the risk anyway. No one forced these folks to take on big mortgages they could barely handle ....

Like people who raced to buy dot-com stocks of companies with no profits, folks bought houses they couldn't afford because the escalator had been going up so quickly for so long that it seemed like a reasonable bet.

But when the mortgage meltdown pieces are written or broadcast, the lead is inevitably someone who is about to lose his or her house, with not so much as a nod toward the notion that these people might have overreached or bears any responsibility at all for their financial plight.

Perhaps inevitably, Hillary Clinton has now proposed a $1-billion fund to help struggling families catch up on their mortgage payments, and John Edwards also wants to give money to those who can't make their payments. So the taxpayers should bail out folks who took out these loans with their eyes wide open?

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Monday, August 20, 2007
Oh, those hot tips.
I hope you weren't investing based upon Jim Cramer's recommendations on his CNBC Mad Money show. Barron's explains:
Cramer, by all accounts, had a stellar career as a hedge-fund manager. And he is held out by CNBC as the guy who can help viewers make big money. But a comprehensive and careful review of his stock picks by Barron's finds that his picks haven't beaten the market. Over the past two years, viewers holding Cramer's stocks would be up 12% while the Dow rose 22% and the S&P 500 16%, according to a record of 1,300 of the CNBC star's Buy recommendations compiled by, a Website run by a retired stock analyst and loyal Cramer-watcher.

We also looked at a database of Cramer's Mad Money picks maintained by his Website, It covers only the past six months, but includes an astounding 3,458 stocks -- Buys mainly, punctuated by some Sells. These picks were flat to down in relation to the market. Count commissions and you would have been much better off in an index fund that simply tracks the market.

When we asked Cramer and CNBC for their own records of Mad Money's stock-picking performance, they had more excuses than a Tour de France cyclist dodging a blood test....

This is not so much about picking on Jim Cramer as it is a reminder to view all stock tips with caution. To their credit, SmartMoney magazine revisits all of their stock suggestions on a regular basis to check their performance.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Die, SCO, die.
Excuse the schadenfreude, but a computer company called The SCO Group is going down in financial flames ... and it couldn't be more deserved.

Since 2002, SCO's entire business model has been to intimidate and sue users of the Linux operating system, claiming that the OS infringes on its purported ownership of patents on the UNIX operating system. Shunned by users and facing an angry open-source software community that banded together to disprove their claims, SCO decided to play chicken with IBM. They sued IBM for selling systems running Linux, expecting IBM to settle, and then everyone else would cough up too.

Except IBM didn't blink. They eagerly went to court to force SCO to prove their claims. SCO demanded outrageous amouts of evidence from IBM, but dragged their feet continually when ordered to produce their own evidence.

(An aside: SCO was on its deathbed a few years ago. And then Microsoft invested in them, an amount that was lunch money to one of the world's largest corporations but enough to keep SCO going. As usual, Microsoft was trying to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about a threatening competitor. Today they're huffing and puffing that Linux contains some of their copyrighted code -- which they won't reveal -- and encouraging companies to pay them a licensing fee. Yes, pay to license alleged infringing code without proof. But they're big and scary, so some companies have caved.)

And then last week the judge ruled that virtually all of the UNIX patents that SCO claimed to own actually belong to Novell. Cue the sound effect of air leaking from a tire as the stock, which had once traded at about $20 a share, plunged. As I write this, it closed at 44 cents.

Ironically, a previous incarnation of the same company (Caldera) was highly regarded by the Linux community. But new management in 2002 took them down what appears to be a dead-end.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007
Adobe retreats.
Adobe had the good sense to retreat yesterday on the Reader toolbar's FedEx Kinkos button (and FedEx let them):
Adobe is removing the button with a version 8.1.1 update to be released in about 10 weeks, said John Loiacono, head of the company's creative products division, on his blog.

"I know that there are a lot of folks who will be asking why we can't do it this afternoon. The answer is we can't just go back to the 8.0 release since the 8.1 release that contains the button included a lot of critical security and quality updates in addition to the new print option," Loiacono said.

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