first majestic silver

Bungee the Dow?

September 21, 2001

It is clear that stocks are not attracting much buying interest unless allowed to freefall for a scary hour or two. So, do the specialists go for broke by pulling their bids on the opening today (Friday), allowing the DJIA to plummet to 8000 or even lower? If so, it'll be almost as scary as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. The market desperately needs some small piece of good news to spark a "technical" rally, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine what that news might be. It's possible that President Bush's speech , one of the most inspiring ever delivered before Congress and the nation, could do the job, lifting America's sagging spirits to staunch the blood on Wall Street. Indeed, it has defined America's mission in a way that compels each of us, heart and soul, and with every fiber of our courage and determination, to fight for those things that we cherish most. God bless America!

Get Saddam

Word that 100 U.S. fighter jets were being deployed in the Middle East rallied stocks for an hour or so the other day, but with America's mood manifestly in need of an even stronger boost, one wonders what "Operation Infinite Justice" might do for an encore. My guess -- make that, fervent hope -- is that we will go after Iraq, finishing the job that we started with Operation Desert Storm. There are reasons to think we would enjoy the blessings of the civilized world in this enterprise, even if the evidence is not yet airtight that Saddam provided seed capital and logistical support to last week's terror strikes in New York and Washington. There are other, equally compelling reasons for taking out Iraq, not the least of which is that country's frightening ability to produce, and perforce deploy, biochemical toxins. Do we need a better excuse to send in ground forces? Only if you think Israel acted imprudently when its air force destroyed a French-built reactor that was to have provided Iraq with a ready source of weapons-grade plutonium. If Israel were to be unleashed on the PLO the same day we hit Iraq, it would be a counterstrike worthy of the name. Unfortunately, with Colin Powell at the helm, I doubt we'll attempt anything nearly so bold. It is hardly reassuring that he is trying to bring Arafat and the Israelis together for more "talks" -- or that the Bush Administration evidently thinks Syria a worthy partner in an anti-terror coalition.

Airline Stupidity, or Greed?

A story in today's edition of the Boulder Daily Camera has left me less than enthused about a possible government bailout of the airlines. I wrote here last summer that the carriers' punitive pricing policies were suicidal, given the apparent downward drift of the economy at the time. I was reacting to the $460 I had just shelled out for each of four round-trip tickets, Denver to West Palm Beach. This was in the heat of summer, mind you, when places such as South Florida are not exactly swarming with tourists. In fact, my hotel bill was half the in-season rate, and the Volvo I rented cost less than a standard mid-size would have in-season. But airline tickets were at their highest levels ever. I said back then that the carriers were headed for a fall if they didn't know enough to reduce their prices at a time when passenger traffic was falling precipitously. Now, with business travel declining more steeply than ever, and pleasure travel almost non-existent, the airlines evidently are at it again. The article in the Daily Camera concerned a local woman who was shocked to discover that the cheapest round-trip fare she could find recently from Denver to L.A. was $600. This was on six days' notice, but it is still astounding that, facing bankruptcy from a dearth of traffic, the airlines have yet to remove some of the onerous restrictions on tickets, or to provide deep discounts to entice passengers back. The woman decided to use a mileage coupon rather than pay up. Usually there aren't many seats set aside for coupon passengers, but in this instance, the woman evidently had no trouble whatsoever reserving a space.

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