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Mark's Market Blog

7-3-11: Egalia

By Mark Lawrence

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QE ended. Consumer confidence is down for June. Unemployment is up for June. Bonds are down for June. Bank stocks are down for June. And stocks are shot up for the week, ending up for June. Who ya gonna believe?


S&P 500 January 1 2011 to June 24 2011

Some years ago, Thailand had a prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin became a billionaire by selling cell phones to Thais, then ran a populist government. The army staged a coup in 2006, and he's been on the lam ever since, latest in Dubai, trying desperately to get some of his money out of Thailand. Earlier today Thailand had elections, and Thaksin's sister Yingluck was the big winner. What does this mean? Hard to say, but if she gets too close to Thaksin's policies and/or lets too much of his money slip out of the country, you can expect another army revolt. Thailand has a very popular king, Bhumibol, but he's quite old and in questionable health. His children do not command the respect and adoration that he does. When the king dies we might also expect an army coup, perhaps followed by a constitutional convention, changing Thailand from a monarchy to something perhaps more like a European constitutional monarchy. Thailand, the foundation of stability in South East Asia for the last 300 years, is looking a little rickety these days.

Greece has gotten approval for their next slab of bailout money. France and Germany have also strong-armed their banks into accepting a deal where when the Greek 3-year bonds expire, the banks will exchange them for 30-year bonds. S&P has announced this will be a default in their eyes, and lower Greece's rating further.

A new poll by The New York Times has found that 9 out of 10 Americans still believe home ownership is a crucial part of the American dream. Meanwhile the American Dream keeps falling in price each month. The bottom in home prices clearly has not yet been seen.

I dunno what these mean, I just liked them.

On Friday, July 8th, the space shuttle will fly its last mission. What's next for NASA? I doubt we'll hear much for well over a decade. I expect NASA launching men into space is over for a long, long time. The Russians are using old-style huge rockets to launch at a much lower cost than the space shuttle ever achieved. So, why don't we bring back the Saturn 5, the rockets we used to send me to the moon? Part of the deal for funding the shuttle was all the tooling and blueprints for the Saturn were destroyed back in the 70s.

War against boys: At the "Egalia" preschool in Stockholm, staff avoid using words like "him" or "her" and address the 33 kids as "friends" rather than girls and boys. From the color and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don't fall into gender stereotypes. "Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing," says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. "Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be." Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase, she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg. Nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play. "A concrete example could be when they're playing 'house' and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble," she says. "Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on." Egalia doesn't deny the biological differences between boys and girls - the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct. What matters is that children understand that their biological differences "don't mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities," Rajalin says. "This is about democracy. About human equality." Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said "The kind of things that boys like to do - run around and turn sticks into swords - will soon be disapproved of. So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness." I sent an email to Dr.Belsky, thanking him for his comments. Apparently I was one of very few, he got a lot of emails giving him crap for being unsupportive of this important effort at equality.

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