Wednesday, 28 September 2011

08:51 – Finally, some MSM commentators are saying what should have been obvious to anyone all along. Germany could not bailout the southern tier countries even if it wanted to. Although Germany is normally presented as a “strong” economy, that’s true only relative to the other, pathetically weak, eurozone economies. Much of Germany’s putative strength results from two interrelated factors: its strong export performance and its AAA credit rating. But the only reason Germany’s exports are strong is that it has the rest of the EU as essentially a captive market, with the euro artificially keeping the prices of German exports low in other eurozone countries. Germany has been reaping the benefit of this arrangement while other, less productive eurozone economies have been paying the price. As I’ve said repeatedly, Germany has for years been shipping products to other eurozone countries on what amounted to easy credit terms. And now those other countries find themselves unable to pay their bills. So much for Germany’s vaunted export economy.

And therein lies the problem with Germany’s AAA credit rating. As some billionaire or other commented when the US credit rating was reduced from AAA to AA+, it should instead have been raised to AAAA. Most people probably thought this was just a quip, but in fact it stated a profound truth. There is no country whose credit rating should be equal to the US credit rating, let alone higher, because the US is far more credit-worthy than any other country, most particularly including Germany. As I’ve said, the US can never, ever be forced to default because we’re a real country. We can print our own money. Germany, like the rest of the eurozone, is not a real country because it does not control its own currency, at least as long as it remains a member of the eurozone, and so Germany can most definitely be forced to default. And it will be so forced, eventually, if it’s foolish enough to backstop the gigantic debt of the southern tier nations. Based on the current situation, if I were assigning a credit rating to German “sovereign” debt, I’d place it five levels below the US, maybe six. Call it BBB, give or take. France belongs another several levels below that. And the rest of the southern tier belongs several levels lower still, because all of them will inevitably default. And that is why Germany, along with the other FANG nations, should depart the EU and eurozone as soon as possible. There is some hope for their relatively stronger economies; there is no hope for Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, and the rest.

11:45 – Wow. Four new Kindle models, but what surprised me was that Amazon didn’t discontinue any of the three existing models, at least not yet. I was disappointed that the current Kindle 3 Wi-Fi remains at $139 ($99 with ads) and the Kindle 3 3G remains at $189 ($139 with ads).

There’s a new Baby Kindle 4 for $109 ($79 with ads) that lacks the keyboard of the Kindle 3, and has half as much memory and half the battery. The real new e-ink model is the Kindle Touch, available in WiFi-only ($139 or $99 with ads) and the Touch 3G ($189 or $149 with ads). The main differences between the Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch models is that the Touch models have only touch, replacing the keyboard, 5-way controller, and page-turning buttons of the Kindle 3.

With the prices identical except for the $10 premium on the Touch 3G with ads, I think anyone who buys the Touch models is making a mistake. But perhaps not. I’ll have to think about whether touch is a good substitute for buttons. For browsing around, perhaps. But for reading, I definitely prefer buttons. If the Touch had page-turning buttons as well as touch, I’d go for it, but I really don’t want to be constantly touching the screen to turn pages. As to the Kindle Fire, I suppose it’s exciting if you like that kind of thing, but it looks like it’ll suck as an e-reader, at least compared to the e-ink devices.

As to a Kindle for Barbara, I’ll have to think about this for a while longer. If I had to order today, I’d order a Baby Kindle 4, probably with ads. It’s available now. Barbara wouldn’t care about what the thing displays when it’s asleep, and some of the Kindle Special Offers actually are pretty good deals. But I think I’ll hold off a bit longer to see if Amazon discontinues the Kindle 3. I suspect they will, and if that happens a Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with no ads might sell for $79 or less.

13:41 – Okay, I thought about it a while longer, and just ordered a Baby Kindle 4 with ads for Barbara. Except, as it turns out, I just ordered it for myself. When I called Barbara to let her know what I’d ordered for her, she pointed out that she plays Scrabble and other games on the Kindle, and therefore needs a real keyboard. Oops. Doesn’t matter, of course. She gets the current Kindle 3 and I get the Baby Kindle 4.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my first impression of the Kindle Touch was correct. It’s unusable without dedicated page-turning buttons. I think Amazon really screwed the pooch by not including those buttons on the Touch. And I’m not alone. I’ve already read a slew of comments by people saying that the lack of those buttons was a deal-breaker for them, so they ordered the $79 model instead. By saving at most a buck per unit, Amazon has really made the new Kindle Touch unappealing to a very large group of potential buyers. And speaking of saving cents, the $79 model comes with a USB cable, but not with the dongle that allows you to connect the USB cable to an AC power receptacle. That’s no problem for us, because the one that came with the Kindle 3 will work with the Baby Kindle 4, and I can just charge it via USB connected to a computer anyway. But charging $10 for the dongle does seem excessive.