VIP movie theater in Beijing

Luxury is popular in Beijing. Consider the VIP movie theater.
Owned by Hong Kong's venerable Golden Harvest Company, Orange Cinemas is more club than cinema. Covering more than 1,300 square meters, there are three screening halls (and each one as big as the screening hall of your average cinema), but with only 83 seats. Though to be exact, they aren't seats so much as large, comfy sofas placed four in a row, spaced more than a meter wide. All halls are equipped with SONY's latest 4K digital cinema system, giving this VIP viewers the perfect movie-watching experience. Not only that, but the theater also houses a “relaxation area” composed of a music bar, a cigar bar, a drink bar and, of course, VIP rooms.

The cinema was designed by Robert Majkut, a winner of the British Council's “Rising Star” award in 2002. His design features smart usage of rectangular and round shapes, with some natural elements thrown in. As a whole, the cinema is characterized by irregular round shapes, and Majkut uses blacks, pinks and oranges as the major color scheme, creating a private, cozy, yet low-profile flavor.

For now, Orange Cinemas has a regular screening schedule just like any other movie theater, and is open to commoners willing to pay RMB680 for one ticket. Membership fees start from RMB30,000 a year. Members can order any latest blockbuster or classic film (art house films supposedly coming soon), and watch it at anytime. Orange Cinemas also provides a variety of “client-tailored” services, such as private parties, special menus and business events. Also, live sports games and concerts are said to be available for order sometime soon.


Where socionomics meets 1984

Fake tweets by 'socialbot' fool hundreds of followers
When the experiment ended last month, a before-and-after comparison of connections within the target community showed that the bots were "able to heavily shape and distort the structure of the network", according to its organiser, Tim Hwang, founder of the startup company Robot, Robot and Hwang, based in San Francisco. Some members of the community who had not previously been directly connected were now linked, for example. Hwang has not revealed the identities of the entrants, or of the members of the 500-person Twitter network that the bots infiltrated.

The success suggests that socialbots could manipulate social networks on a larger scale, for good or ill. "We could use these bots in the future to encourage social participation or support for humanitarian causes," Hwang claims. He also acknowledges that there is a flip side, if bots were also used to inhibit activism.
Corporations, the military and activists of all stripes will be interested in nudging social networks, but they are looking for targeted strikes on a sea of social mood. If social mood is negative, a corporation wants to mitigate damage to its reputation or brand. A government, on the other hand, may want to push the entire social mood. In order to know where they are, they need a map, which socionomics provides. If they then have an effective tool to influence social mood, they can take propaganda to a whole new level.

Canadian government falls; bloodbath in NSW

Election leads to Labor's bloodbath
Until yesterday, Labor held 50 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the Liberals and Nationals 37, and six were held by the independents.

Late last night, Labor had been reduced to a rump, holding just 18 seats, while the Liberals won 61. Three independents picked up seats, and 11 were too close to call.
The Shooters & Fishers Party, what appears to be a right-wing alternative to the Greens, also may have picked up seats.

Canadian government falls: Bloc Quebecois will rise
But this is what I’ve seen: Canadians really are one of the most unique peoples in the world, and when they fall into the American tailwind Quebec will react. Quebec will demand that they come back to the fight between the Habs and the Leafs and leave the Americans behind. A liberal Canadian government following in the wake of Obama would bring with it a Tea Party reaction, and Canada already has one. It is called the Bloc Quebecois and it is the mother of all Tea Parties.


CFTC Charts

Reuters now aggregates the information in chart form, showing the managed money speculative positions.

Chinese tea party

Missed this from a couple weeks ago.

Analysis: China's "Tea Party" starts call for lower taxes
While the economy has grown by an annual average of 10.5 percent over the past decade, government revenues have increased by an average 20.1 percent a year during that time.

That has directly contributed to imbalances in the Chinese economy. Mirroring a fall in the share of national income going to workers, consumption has gone from 46.4 percent of GDP in 2000 to 35.6 percent in 2009, abnormally low for a peacetime economy. Investment -- a reflection of the government's spending power -- rose to 47.7 percent of GDP from 35.3 percent in the same period.

"The system has to be reformed, otherwise China's economic transformation won't be realized," said Zhang Xiaojing, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Beijing will soon move in that direction by raising the minimum threshold for income taxes from the current level of 2,000 yuan ($305) a month. Local media reports say it may be lifted to 3,000 yuan, but critics call for more aggressive change. Zong of Wahaha has called for the floor to be set at 5,000 yuan.

There is no talk of lowering existing income tax rates. In China's graduated system of personal tax, the rate for the lowest bracket is 5 percent.


Lite posting

I have been busier lately, so posting is more scattered, but a new problem has emerged in strengthened Internet censorship. As long as I have access, I will post here, but if it's lost, I'll move everything to the Chinese language blog (but I'll still post in English). If you haven't seen a new post in a long time, it means I can't access this site.

I don't anticipate losing access soon, but it seems like that will happen at some point, possibly later this year. If the protests around the globe continue, no doubt agitators will be using workarounds here and when the hammer drops, everyone gets hit.

French right wing back on top

The French battleground
This shock is not due to the fear that the younger Le Pen will become France’s president. This is highly unlikely. What caused it was that this would mean either Sarkozy or a socialist candidate would not be present in the second round of the election, as only the two candidates with the highest score in the first round participate. It reminded the French of April 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen confronted President Jacques Chirac in the second round of the presidential elections. Le Pen was heavily defeated and got only about 20% of the votes.
The last time the right wing was on top was during the previous bear market. If the party manages to take one of the top two spots, what will be their final vote total in a run-off? More than 20% for sure. Here's the author's take:
The National Front was a declining force under Jean-Marie Le Pen. Yet the present political climate in France is more favorable to the party’s ideas the way Marine Le Pen presents them. It is quite possible that she will reach a substantially higher percentage of the vote in the presidential elections than the 20% her father received in 2002.
She's doing better because of social mood for sure. If she's also a more capable politician, then I'd expect she could really turn in a surprising result, if she gets the chance.


Social mood and TV

A new show from ABC slated for this summer: ABC Picks Up '101 Ways To Leave A Game Show'
101 Ways, which shot a pilot for ABC last summer, features contestants competing in a series of multiple-choice questions for a $50,000 cash prize. The twist is that the main attraction comes after a contestant is actually eliminated as each of them is being ejected from the show in a spectacular fashion - i.e., being flown away strapped to the wing of a biplane, shot out of a cannon, pushed off the top of a moving semi-truck, dragged underwater by a one-ton anchor or yanked off a dock by a speedboat.
It's a two-fer. Inflicting pain on the contestants and doing it after they've lost.


Europe and African refugees

‘Biblical Exodus’ of Refugees From Africa Unrest Spurs Backlash in Europe
One solution proposed by Chantal Brunel, a lawyer of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement, was to “put them back on their boats.” While she apologized for her March 8 remarks, her stance reflects the will of governments outside the Mediterranean rim to keep refugees at bay.

“We are ready to help in economic terms, but I don’t see the future in having us expand legal immigration,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Brussels on March 15.

For Italy, the financial toll comes after the Europe’s fourth-biggest economy promised 11.6 billion euros ($16 billion) in spending cuts to trim its deficit with EU limits. Italy’s EU partners have ignored a request for 100 million euros to help Silvio Berlusconi’s government with the crisis.

Since Jan. 15, more than 9,000 people -- twice the number in 2010 -- have crossed 110 kilometers (70 miles) in boats from Tunisia to Lampedusa, inhabited by less than 6,000 people, the Italian Interior Ministry said.

Italy and Malta face the prospect of an influx of Libyans after severing ties with the former colony.

‘Become Black’

Last December, Qaddafi warned EU leaders that their region may “become black because millions want to come to Europe.”

As part of a reparation deal with Italy worth $5 billion, Qaddafi agreed in 2008 to tighten border controls. That led to the number of Libyan migrants to Italy falling to fewer than 3,000 in 2010 from a record 37,000 two years earlier. In Malta, the influx dropped from a 2008 high of 84 boats bringing 2,775 people to 2 boats carrying 47 in 2010.
The acceptable level of immigration continues to decline in Europe, both among the population and increasingly, among the politicians.

A look at Japan's crisis through the lens of socionomics

Nation of Experts Confidently Able to Comment On Nuclear Reactors, Macroeconomics, Central Banking, Currencies, Commodites and NCAA Basketball Tournament
Also, note that social mood is profoundly negative despite the two-year equity rally. Put one and two together and it allows us to write our own negative story without any real knowledge of the facts. The fact that the story in question is a Japanese nuclear power plant -- really, how many of us know a thing about Japanese nuclear power plants? -- makes this perfect."


Belgian breakup

Daniel Hannan has a favorable take on the leading Flemish politician.
The essential facts are these. The last Belgian general election, held on 13 June 2010, was won convincingly by a Flemish autonomist party, the N-VA, which wants a gradual evolution towards an independent Flanders. Its leader, Bart De Wever, is the most popular politician in the country, a quiz show maestro and an Anglophile, who cites Edmund Burke and Theodore Dalrymple among his influences. His party’s policy strikes the outside observer as remarkably moderate: he wants Flanders to assume more control over its internal affairs – a process which might, in time, lead to full statehood.


Nikkei plunges

Nikkei down 6%, third nuclear plant explodes. And the aftershock, probably almost an 8 on the Richter scale, has yet to hit.

Pray for Japan.


Why you should read Drudge

There was an article a few days ago by some liberal complaining that the left doesn't have a Drudge. Drudge is personally on the right/libertarian side of a lot of issues (having listened to his now defunct radio show), but I don't think that influences his work. His main concern, (as I understand it from listening to his radio show and his postings) is government power and privacy in the information age. He has some other topics he likes to follow, but these are a potpourri of issues.

Drudge is the number one news setter is because he has a feel for the mood of the readers. He has a sense for what stories are hot and which ones will become big news. He now has the ability to bring an under reported story to national attention, but I've been reading him for more than a decade and the reality is that he was always two to three days ahead of the mainstream media. His influenced has increased because in order to stay ahead of the curve, the media now reads Drudge.

Here's a case in point. I took a picture of the current front page of Drudge Report and highlighted several topics that are indicative of social mood.

Jacques Chirac is on trial in France for events that took place 20 and 30 years ago. Why now?

One not in the picture: Glenn Beck's alarmism is growing stale. Interesting counter to negative social mood. I'll keep that in the back of my mind.

The new German minister of the interior says Islam doesn't belong in Germany. Ongoing slide in social mood...

It also paints a clear picture of very negative sentiment on the U.S. dollar. Bearish sentiment is now front page news for Drudge with Traders ‘short’ dollar as currency loses attraction

Adding to that is the situation with Spanish savings banks. Spain's savings banks race to find funds by Thursday

In this case, we have attention to the unfolding crisis in Europe alongside sentiment in the U.S. dollar. It's not everyday or even every week that Drudge serves up this useful of a snapshot, but it only takes a moment to scan the headlines and integrate into the big picture.


Euro bulls increase, silver bulls cash in

The speculative long silver traders are exiting the market in the midst of the short squeeze. However, according to the LBMA website, silver remains in backwardation, though much less as of today.

The euro is starting to look more interesting with U.S. dollar index is right at its lower trend line and the euro nearing its upper trend line. There are a lot of speculative longs here and a reversal could be quite strong.