Yes, after a vacation-induced hiatus (the missus insisted), the Linkfest has returned!

I put the L-fest together as the workweek progresses. I read through a lot of data and analysis, including MSMedia items, and each day, I set aside (virtually) four or five of the most interesting items. By Friday, I have a ton-o-stuff.

But I know your fingers are itchin' to get clickin', so let's not delay this any further:

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¿ Earnings season began rather inauspiciously: Alcoa ( AA), 3M ( MMM), EMC ( EMC), Lucent ( LU) and AMD ( AMD). The spin has been that these are all company-specific issues, but after 14 quarters of double-digit growth, it smells a lot like earnings are softening.

¿ Mideast Strife Wounds Stocks: That's been the major headline this week, but it is somewhat overstated. Why? From the June lows till last week, the S&P 500 index rallied 5%. That's 60% annualized, and that's simply unsustainable. Between that and the poor earnings kickoff, we were due for a correction anyway. The strife in the Middle East makes for as good an excuse as any.

¿ Russell explains What War Means for your Wealth.

¿ Oil futures did move toward $80, so the situation there is not completely irrelevant. But as Howard Simons pointed out, last we checked, there's no oil in Gaza or Lebanon. With Iran as the likely source behind the Hamas and Hezbollah attacks, an Israel-Iran war becomes a possibility, and that would certainly be a major issue for energy markets and the equities. As this goes on, it's becoming clearer that China and Russia are the real beneficiaries of our incursion into Iraq. The U.S. has very little leverage to deal with abundant global crises. And you know things have gotten really weird when Patrick Buchanan sounds increasingly reasonable on foreign affairs.

¿ Energy is the fulcrum here, and these few items stood out from the fray:

- Study: Ethanol won't solve energy problems

- IEA Sees Oil Supply Growth Exceeding Demand in '07

- Few US Workers Who Could Telecommute Do So

- A disruption in Iranian oil exports looks unlikely

¿ OK, enough overseas news. Here at home, options-granting issues refuse to go away. Spring-loaded options were the previous scandal. Today, The Wall Street Journal discusses the newest options mess: post-9/11 options. (If no WSJ, go here.) It's a disheartening tale of greed and un-American behavior from a large group of corporate ass-clowns. Robert J. Samuelson is almost as blunt: He writes about the Delinquency of the CEOs.

¿ The Fortune Global 500.

¿ One thing that really stood out this week was the discussion of the budget deficit and savings. It all started with a surprisingly upbeat article in The New York Times on the deficit: Surprising Jump in Tax Revenues Is Curbing Deficit.

A few discerning deficit watchers noted the NYT had been punk'd. The White House has pulled a page from Wall Street and is playing the game of beat by a penny. Budget-watcher extraordinaire Ron Elving calls this an annual game in which the White House overstates expected deficits, and then manages to produce an "upside surprise." He details this in Deficit Reduction: Stop Me If You've Heard This One.

The Los Angeles Times is even more succinct. In Deficit's Good News Less Than Meets the Eye, Joel Havemann writes:

"This will be the third year in a row that the administration put forth relatively gloomy deficit forecasts early on, only to announce months later that things had turned out better than expected. To some skeptics, it's beginning to look like an economic version of the old 'expectations' game."

The last word on deficits and tax cuts comes from the WSJ's Washington Wire, in which David Wessel notes that the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves is belied by the administration's own budget.

¿ The Stock Trader's Almanac laid out the the bull case last week.

¿ It is not only the federal government (see the deficit discussion above) whose spending exceeds its income -- it's the American family also. The Kansas City Star -- about as heartland as you can get -- is warning that our savings trend is troubling. Paul B. Farrell goes even further in America's savings hoax exposed.

¿ The good doctor inquires: So you want to write a market blog?

¿ Laurence J. Kotlikoff of the St. Louis Fed asks, Is the United States Bankrupt? The answer will surprise you.

¿ One of the reasons I've been so negative on big-cap tech is history. Here are some data on Why Former Market Leaders No Longer Lead.

¿ I found this version of Dante's Inferno amusing: Henry Paulson and the Five Circles of Economic Hell.

¿ The nonfarm payrolls report last week was a huge disappointment. That oughta teach the dismal set not to rely on the ADP data. Any time we get a major shortfall, it always brings out the intellectually bankrupt, who insist we should rely on the household survey. As the Federal Reserve, the BLS and Alan Greenspan have contended, you shouldn't. Merrill Lynch's David Rosenberg calls the ploy "a hoax of gargantuan variety." Dan Gross calls it "the job wars".

Forget the various surveys for a minute and look at this chart from HVB Group. Temporary employment and the Help Wanted index both point to a slowing -- not tightening -- labor market. Something perhaps that the Fed might want to note.

¿ Rev Shark and I had an interesting discussion about what capitulation really is.

¿ INVESTING: All that stuff above and we haven't even gotten to anything investing-specific. Here's a quick roundup:

- How the Market Confounds Human Nature

- Online Stock Trades Get Even Cheaper

- Ignore Inverted/Flat Yield Curve at Your Own Risk

- Stagflation: A new peril for stocks (It's really more of " stagflation lite.")

- Corporate Debt Begins to Worry Bond Investors

- There's No Such Thing as Idle Cash on the Sidelines

- Mark Cuban's Share Sleuth has launched.

- S.E.C. Looks to Cut Costs of Meeting Audit Rule

¿ I've discussed real estate enough that you should be well familiar with the slow motion slow down idea. Now high prices are crimping affordability. But what if you have to sell? Here are two pieces of good advice:

- Surviving a Real-Estate Slowdown

- Four Steps to Selling Your Home for Top Dollar

¿ There was tech and science news aplenty over the past week:

- It turns out that Van Gogh painted perfect turbulence in Starry Night.

- On one hand, we have The MySpace Bubble. On the other, MySpace Moves Into #1 Position for all Internet Sites.

- SOBs: Spyware developers net huge profits, outrage

- Red flags raised over eBay as rival Google nips at its heels

- This is what the universe looks like in 10 Dimensions.

- Go Ask Alice: Mushroom Drug Is Studied Anew

- Of course, what would a tech roundup be without an Apple ( AAPL) mention? While the press naively repeats Microsoft's ( MSFT) vaporware announcements, Apple keeps the iPod humming along. Meanwhile, MarketWatch asks: Can GM learn something from Apple? (Hint: It involves design.)

¿ On to Media and Content:

¿ I am enjoying free streaming videos from Amazon.com, such as this John Fogerty concert.

¿ Not surprisingly, a federal judge ruled against film sanitizers.

¿ Meanwhile, network TV continues to fade (must be all that downloading).

¿ Interesting data on the publishing industry.

¿ I am really enjoying the book The Long Tail. I couldn't get a date for Wired's book party in Tribeca, so I was forced to spend the evening chatting with David Byrne (so cool!).

¿ Speaking of world music, my favorite boxed set this year has to be This is Reggae Music. It is simply awesome.

¿ I loved this year's World Cup -- even the flawed ending. My favorite aspect of the head-butting incident? This little picture of Chirac and Zidane. (See also: The Rednecks of Britain)

¿ Lastly, check out Pop Culture Monsters

That's all from sunny New York, where the rain seems to have finally stopped, a nice weekend is in store and the beach beckons. Enjoy the weekend.
Barry Ritholtz is the chief market strategist for Ritholtz Research, an independent institutional research firm, specializing in the analysis of macroeconomic trends and the capital markets. The firm's variant perspectives are applied to the fixed income, equity and commodity markets, both domestically and internationally. Other areas of research coverage also include consumer, real estate, geopolitics, technology and digital media. Ritholtz is also president of Ritholtz Capital Partners (RCP), a New York based hedge fund. RCP is driven by the analysis performed by Ritholtz Research. Ritholtz appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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