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The Best of Five Things You Need to Know

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What you needed to know (and what it meant)!

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Kevin Depew's daily Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street:

1. Kevin Depew Announces $1,275 in New Writedowns

Late night I was forced to disclose more than $1,275 in additional writedowns tied to the subprime mortgage mess, and the failure of certain horses to run as expected at Aqueduct, including the collapse of the 8 horse in the 9th race despite having a three-length lead in deep stretch. I mean, who gives up that kind of lead in deep stretch? The horse was literally running backwards in the final furlong!

Investors, meaning "my wife," called the new writedowns "unexpected, shocking and disappointing," especially following on the heels of writedowns last Saturday night totaling more than $500 due to the subprime mortgage mess, and Auburn's inability to cover the spread against Georgia.

The new writedowns are taking place despite a statement released last Sunday morning where I said, "Although the ongoing subprime mortgage market issues are a concern, I am quite confident I have a pretty good grip on the situation at Madison Square Garden today where the winless Heat stand virtually no chance against a Knicks team rejuvenated by the addition of Zach Randolph."

That statement was followed by a clarification the following day: "The ongoing conditions in credit markets, and last night's unexpected three-point loss by the Knicks may adversely impact our ability to eat dinner going forward. However," I cautioned, "should credit market conditions materially improve, and should the track at Churchill Downs come up sloppy this afternoon, there is no reason to expect additional writedowns forthcoming."

For a brief period it appeared I was on track for a profit. The exacta at Churchill in the 3rd race returned $213, and I had the winner of the 8th that paid $11.80. However, as the subprime mortgage market began to show additional signs of stress late yesterday afternoon, also pints of Guinness, those profits quickly evaporated.

Following last night's disclosure of additional writedowns, investors (Hi, Honey, I love you!) called an emergency board meeting with one of her sisters to discuss my exposure to subprime mortgage products, the OTB and whether I would be able to retain control of the firm's debit card. Meanwhile, I am still scheduled to meet this afternoon with Independent Banker, the 8 horse in the 7th at Churchill (seriously!), who is listed at 15-1 in the morning line. However, the possibility of additional writedowns related to subprime mortgages, and the difficult outside post given Churchill's one-turn mile, cannot be completely ruled out.


2. What Would Abraham Lincoln Do?

We miss Chris Black's excellent HideousJabberingHead.com site. Now lost in cyberspace after debuting in 2000 - perhaps a victim of the "cyclical" bull market - it was the first and, until now, the last Web site we know of to feature the hideous jabbering head of Abraham Lincoln.

Because we are living through such a difficult, divided time in America, not unlike the Civil War during which Abraham Lincoln was President (except for all the brother-against-brother killing and slavery and stuff), Minyanville Senior Editor Jon Schwartz (email complaints here) thought it would be an ideal time for me to sit down with President Lincoln for an interview.

Minyanville Presents an Interview With Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Presid...

Please, call me Rail Splitter, sonny.
I'm not going to call you "Rail Splitter", Mr. President.
Why not?
It's too weird.

Mr. President, I'd like to get your perspective on the increasing division between Haves and Have Nots in our society, the apparent growing class divide and how it may compare to the problems you faced during your own administration.

Mr. President?

Ok, fine. Rail Splitter, I'd like...
There you go! That's the spirit!
Fine. I'd like to get your perspective on the increasing division between Haves and Have Nots in our society, the apparent growing class divide and how it may compare to the problems you faced during your own administration.
Good Lord, son. Because you people got a few folks that can't afford a plasma TV you think you got a damn Civil War on your hands!? I had whole states forming their own country for crying out loud! Whole states! That's a Civil War.
Well, with all due respect Mr. Pre... Rail Splitter... I think the divide between Haves and Have Nots in our society runs a bit deeper than who can own a plasma TV.
Ha! Have you seen those things?! They're crystal clear! Crystal Clear! You watch a football game and it's like totally being there.
Well sure, they're nice, but that's completely beside the point.
Poppycock, m
an! Poppycock! I would've given my right arm for a plasma TV back in my day. Imagine it, the ability to watch theater-quality entertainment in the privacy of your own home! I dare say things might have turned out a bit differently for Ol' Rail Splitter with a plasma TV.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
I'll tell you what's a good idea... home movies on demand. That's a good idea.
Right. I don't think I have anything else then.
Yessir, let's look at the pros and the cons of going to the theater versus home video on demand. Let's see, the theater has... assassins! You go to the theater... and you get assassinated! That's a pretty big con in my book. Yet home movies on demand seem to come without assassins!
Hmmm, which do I choose, assassins or no assassins?
I have to go now.
Want to go see a play later?
Seriously, I have to go.
Don't be so squeamish.


3. Minyanville Oracle Index

"Oh Oracle, we pray to receive thy wisdom and guidance, that it deliver us from our epic journey; beset on all sides by villains yet vanquished, battles yet fought, ships for now unbroken upon the rocks of unknown lands. Tell us, oh Oracle, what should be the fate that awaits us?"
- Unidentified self-described huge oracle fan, circa. 1929

If there is one thing that can truthfully be said to have endured the inexorable progress of time, it is this: Everybody loves a good oracle!

In ancient Greece, no self-respecting warrior would have dreamed of making an important economic decision, or brutal and unprovoked cross-border invasion, without first consulting an oracle. If the King of Thebes had only listened to his oracle, perhaps he could have avoided being viciously murdered by his own son, Oedipus, who would later go on to sleep with his own mother before scratching his eyes out. At the very least, he might have decided against naming his son Oedipus.

What is it about an oracle that inspires such awe and reverence? Could it be the fancy robes they wear? No, it could not be. Instead, it is their ability to see and predict the future!

People who can accurately predict the future tend to freak other people out. Especially people who have trouble remembering things that have already happened! We at Minyanville, like you, are among those totally freaked out by people who can predict the future. Who knew? The oracle knew, that's who.

Last year, while pretending to do science we constructed what we call the Minyanville Oracle Index. The Minyanville Oracle Index is a capitalization-weighted* (see chart below) basket of 10 oracles that were carefully selected from among the 10 oracles that immediately came to mind.

Thanks to the Minyanville Oracle Index, traders and investors will one day be able to accurately predict the future of a basket of oracles who are themselves predicting the future. This could theoretically allow an investor or trader to potentially predict the future of the future itself!

Friends, what if I told you that not only could you know the future in advance, but you could also know the future of the future even before those who already know the future? Would you consider that to be an advantage in today's highly competitive market? I should think so. In fact, thanks to the Minyanville Oracle Index, I don't just think so, I know so. Moreover, several minutes ago before I even wrote that last sentence I knew that I would know so! And I knew that I would know that too! Yes, I even knew that. And that too. I know! Whatever.

The most famous oracle of all time, and the largest weighting in the Minyanville Oracle Index, is the Oracle at Delphi, which carries a 28% weighting in the index.

Oracle at Delphi - Pythia

Dating back to 1400 B.C. the Oracle at Delphi, known as Pythia, lived in a shrine around a sacred spring near the foot of Mount Parnassus. People traveled from all over Greece to ask the Oracle at Delphi questions.

The Greeks considered the Delphic Oracle to be the center of the world. This is probably because no one thought to ask her if she was located at the center of the world, because if they had thought to ask , "Hey, are you located at the center of the world?", she of course would have replied, "No." Why would she have replied no? Because she is an Oracle, jackass, and so naturally she would have known the answer to such a simple question right away. Moreover, the question "Hey, are you located at the center of the world?" is not even about the future. It's about location, which exists outside of time in what is called Real Estate. But I digress.

One funny thing about oracles: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Several years ago scientists discovered that the Oracle at Delphi sat above a fault line running east to west. That would be no big deal, except for the fact that the location above the fault line meant the oracle's trance-like behavior was simply the result of constantly inhaling ethylene gas produced from below the surface of the earth. That too would be no big deal, except ethylene gas produces a narcotic effect in those who inhale it. Turns out that what the oracle meant by "predicting the future," was "sitting around in a temple-like shrine all day getting high and saying weird stuff." It's a long way down from the top.

Minyanville Oracle Index
* By "capitalization-weighted," we mean random.



4. Reconstituted and Rebalanced Minyanville Oracle Index

In addition to the Oracle art Delphi, the Minyanville Oracle Index consists of 9 other components. Below are the reconstituted and rebalanced components and weightings of the Minyanville Oracle Index:

1. Oracle of Delphi

Dude, it would be awesome if the Oracle at Delphi really looked like this!
28% weighting

2. Oracle of Omaha

Classic oracle pose.
Warren Buffet, 19% weighting

3. Oracle of Oracle

Semi-modified modern oracle pose.
Larry Ellison, 16% weighting

4. Oracle of Urkel

That's one way to do it.
Jaleed White, 10% weighting

5. Oracle of Motorcycles

The Adventure MotOracleCyclist pose.
Jim Rogers, 9% weighting

6. Oracle of Margin Calls

Prediction: More selling.
Bear Stearns, 4.5% weighting

7. Oracle of U.N.C.L.E.

We think he's predicting danger.
Robert Vaughn, 4.5% weighting

8. Oracle of Barnacles

Classic oracle "ready" pose.
SpongeBob SquarePants, 4% weighting

9. Oracle of Anti-Cristal

Definitely not predicting any bubbles in the near future.
Jay-Z, 3.5% weighting

10. Oracle of LA County Jail

Didn't see this one coming. No, wait, actually we did.
Paris Hilton, 1.5% weighting


5. MV's Worst of the Worst College Rankings

The much-anticipated (or loathed) U.S. News and World Report College Rankings for 2008 was recently released.

  • U.S. News' 2008 college rankings will be released online Aug. 17 and will arrive at newsstands Aug. 19.
  • The rankings, although intended as a quick snapshot of where colleges stand among their peers, have over the years become quite controversial.
  • New this year, 61 college presidents have "dropped out" of the college rankings game, citing among other things, concerns that the rankings:
    - imply a false precision and authority that is not warranted by the data
    - obscure important differences in educational missions
    - encourage wasteful spending and gamesmanship in institutions' pursuing improved rankings
  • Even though some schools say they'd prefer to drop out altogether, U.S. News will continue ranking schools that don't fill out the survey, the group says.
  • Meanwhile, Minyanville has taken the liberty of creating our own college rankings system.
  • Look, let's be honest.
  • After the initial 25 job interviews and your first full year on the job, nobody much cares where you went to school.
  • The goal then is not to go to the best school, but to make sure you don't go to the worst school.
  • To help you in your mediocritic learning endeavors, Minyanville has created MV's Worst of the Worst College Rankings.
  • Where do you stand among your college-going peers? As Jeff Saut would say, that depends on where you sit. Let's hope you're not sitting in class at any of these schools.


Minyanville's Bottom College Rankings
The worst of the worst

1. Spellchekc Laerning Acadamy
2. Grifter College at Belmont Park
3. Abacus Applied Technology
4. University of Kegstand
5. Sloth
6. Homeschool Junior College at Home in Your Spare Time
7. West Virginia Institute of Whittling
8. Trump Condominium College
9. SWU Advanced PhD Program
(Sidewalk University, Advanced Pimp and Hustler Degree Program)

10. ESPNU

No positions in stocks mentioned.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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