Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Appreciating the Underappreciated

I was intriguied -- and delighted -- to find Nanotech as #4 on Sam Jaffe's list of under-reported news stories by the media. As I noted in my book, Quantum Investing, investors who take their eye off exponentially growing technologies often get knocked on their butt (and many times they are so weakened they can't get back up!)


Four Under-Reported Stories

Here are four stories that should be huge, but seemed to have been missed by most journalists.

*Al Zubaydi—The Pentagon keeps catching 'important lieutenants' of Zarqawi's, and we all yawn (mainly because the car bombs keep happening at a terrifying rate). This one is different though. Most of Zarqawi's who have been captured to date have been Ansar al-Sunnah graduates from pre-war Kurdistan or foreign Jihadis. Ammar Adnan Mohammed Hamza Al Zubaydi, on the other hand, was a high ranking, trusted apparatchik of the Baath regime and part of a family that was very close to Saddam. Just the kind of person who would have been given the directive to foment a post-invasion insurgency with the help of Al Qaeda. Now that we have him, we can ask him: Did Saddam order you to liase with Al Qaeda? If the answer is yes, then we have first-rate proof that the war was justified for the simple reason that Saddam had aligned himself with our number one enemy. Even if we had found a few beakers of Yersenia pestis in Saddam's underpants, few Americans would really have cared. But it would be hard to find an American outside of Manhattan who would disagree with the invasion if he knew that Saddam and bin Laden were rowing the same boat. Of course this is all hindsight, but as we have seen with the issue of WMD, hindsight matters in our pop culture.

*I Spy with My Little Eye in the Sky—The New York Times reported that U.S. Satellites observed a massive tunnel being dug in North Korea, and then being backfilled with concrete. And then they saw what looks like a reviewing stand. Either it's a makework program for North Korean pep squads or...In fact there is not other explanation besides the one that says: They're going to test a bomb. This has been mentioned in many news sources, but the gigantism of this fact is understated. North Korea is about to test a nuclear bomb! If it happens, that means that the whole world is about to change in huge ways. Why isn't the front page of every newspaper covered with think pieces, news analysis and preparatory graphics? Why is any journalist assigned to cover the Michael Jackson trial instead of being sent to Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo and the Chinese/North Korean border?

*GM and Ford are Junk—Downgrading corporate bonds to junk status is not done lightly. It takes a huge amount of ill will, bad management and poor decisions to get so low. Yet Ford and GM were both downgraded last week to junk by the major credit rating agencies. One of the sharpest investors out there, Kirk Kerkorian, is amassing GM stock. This all points to one thing: GM is on the auction block. In fact, who wouldn't want to buy a company where you get more than $10 in annual sales for every dollar you spend on stock. And maybe Ford is acquirable too (although family control issues make that a much harder sell). The most likely winner? Toyota. Imagine the headlines such news would make. But anyone who doesn't read the business pages regularly (which is about 95% of the population), have no inkling that such a bombshell might drop. Stay tuned because this one is going to get ugly.

*Nano for the Masses—Product launches don't usually have Earth-shattering implications, especially when the 'product' is only a prototype. Motorola's announcement of a carbon nanotube-based television is enormously important, and it has nothing to do with televisions. Sure, it drops the price of an HD monster TV to less than $500 (that's a factor of 10). But the more important implication is that this will be the first consumer killer app that can be attributed to nanotechnology research (no, pants that stain less don't count). It also opens up the door to dirt-cheap computer monitors, which in turn make the $100 laptop that runs for a week eminently achievable. And this is just the beginning of the nano-age.


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