Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Times Up

We begin 2018 and “The Year of the Dog” should be very interesting.

It will be “Times Up” for many individuals and causes this coming year, here is what Rink Rats thinks will go down in the coming year.

2018 DEPRESSION TOPICS -  U.S. is starting to see notable declines in areas that matter most to regular citizens:

We're dying sooner.

Student debt is piling up.

Homes are out of reach for the youths.

Mass shootings result in a shrug.

The opioid crisis is staggering.

Our education system is middling.

Our infrastructure is falling behind.

The United States is still the only developed country — and just one of a handful overall — that doesn't guarantee paid maternity leave.

We drink too much.

Fewer people want to visit.

2018 RISKS - China loves a vacuum: China is setting international standards [on trade and investment, tech, values, and security] with less resistance than ever before.

Accidents: It's impossible to ignore the risk of a major crisis today, because there are too many places where a misstep or misjudgment could provoke serious international conflict.

Global tech cold war: Achieving dominance in emerging technologies is the world's most important battle for economic power.

Erosion of institutions: Conflict will become more frequent, decision-making degraded, and internal chaos common.

This is a White House that's headed toward massive distraction from a Mueller investigation, over and under for impeachment are now thirteen months.

And maybe the most sobering of all: The decline of U.S. influence in the world will accelerate in 2018.

2018 OPTIMISM - After a dismal run in world politics, it is certainly time to be reminded that there can be good, as well as bad, surprises.

We predict that most of the big risks that currently worry pundits will not happen.

There will not be a war on the Korean peninsula, nor will there be one in the South China Sea or in Eastern Europe. The EU will not fall apart, Brexit negotiations will not break down and markets will not crash. By contrast, there will be big and positive change in the Middle East. And England will win the World Cup.

It may be hard to believe in the United States, but 2017 was again the best year in history, based on the aggregate well-being of humanity. People have never before lived so long, so well or so freely.

Oil prices are projected to be hovering higher this year than in previous years. One big question is whether oil companies will boost their investments and ward off a supply crunch — and subsequently much higher prices — in a few years, as the International Energy Agency has been warning for at least a year.

Saudi Aramco would be the world's biggest initial public offering ever. The state-owned oil giant in Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil-producing company in the world, has said it's sticking with its plans to sell up to 5% of its shares this year.

2018 will be a year when democratic governments can either work together to safeguard electoral processes or face a future where democracy is more fragile.

This needs to include work to protect campaigns from hacking, address social media issues, ensure the integrity of voting results, and protect vital census processes.

While technology companies have a high responsibility to help, there is no substitute for the effective and unified voices of democratic governments themselves.

NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS (A SAMPLE)

Keep my inbox more organized
With over 10,000 emails in my inbox, I am going to start using rules and folders to stay on top of my messages. It takes time to set up but will for sure lead to a more productive year. I will also schedule time for periodic inbox cleanups.

Put cash to work
Letting cash build up and sit in bank deposits or money market funds might not be the best strategy depending on your goals. You might be missing out on interest that could accrue from bonds and not keep pace with the Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) interest rate hikes. Consider short-term bond exchange traded funds (ETFs) for the core of your portfolio.

Stick to the long-term plan
2018 is likely to see a number of market disruptions, but don’t panic! Possible catalysts include continued Fed rate hikes, the flattening of the yield curve, the potential resurfacing of inflation, a pickup in equity volatility, and geopolitical events. Don’t be distracted by the latest news and make rushed portfolio changes. Know your long-term portfolio plan and stick to it.

Simplify and streamline my life
We all end up with an accumulation of possessions and responsibilities that individually may make sense but in aggregate are unmanageable.

Home in on costs
Consider replacing the complicated and expensive (such as an active growth mutual fund that’s delivered index-like returns for the last 10 years) with more transparent, consistent and cost effective solutions (like a smart beta momentum ETF). Learn more about the differences between ETFs and mutual funds.

Prepare for volatility
Brace for some ups and downs in markets, but consider positioning your portfolio to pursue income through preferred stocks, total shareholder payout and high yield bond-oriented ETFs.

Strike a balance
Stay balanced with a meaningful focus across all key aspects of life: work, family and health, and learning. For investing, the same approach applies: Consider thoughtfully allocating your portfolios across asset classes, regions, sectors and factors.

Listen more
Stay humble and accept I don’t have all the answers. I want to listen and learn more, and talk less.

Seek out opinions different than your own

Live by design, not by default

Update Your Software
This rule of thumb applies to anything that touches your information security: operating systems, antivirus software, your internet router, your password management app and your web browsers. Keep these important components up to date with the latest security enhancements, and you will be better off than most.

Read Privacy Policies
So make it a habit to read a company’s privacy policy. As boring as it sounds, a bit of reading will go a long way. I recently considered using a free internet service for sending a fax, and upon reading the privacy policy I learned that the company collects sensitive information like Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. (I went out and found a traditional fax machine instead.)

Delete Unnecessary Apps
At least once a year, it’s worthwhile to do an audit on your third-party apps. On your smartphone, delete apps that you have not touched in several months. For a clean break, in some cases you will also have to visit the company’s website and request that your account be deleted entirely
Also check your primary online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter or Google, to see which apps are hooked into them. Chances are you have used those accounts to quickly sign up for a web tool or app. The ones you never use may still be leeching off your personal data, so you should disable them.
On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to the account. On your Google account page, you can find a similar apps list labeled “Connected apps & sites.” And on Twitter, go to the Apps page under “Settings and privacy.”
On my neglected Facebook account, for example, I had 82 connected apps. After removing many unused or defunct apps, like LivingSocial, Words With Friends and Draw Something, I had 32 left.

Use a VPN
In April, Congress voted to overturn privacy rules that would have made it more difficult for broadband providers like Comcast and Charter to track and sell information about your browsing history to advertisers. The stronger privacy rules never went into effect, meaning nothing changed. But the privacy repeal underlined the sheer magnitude of data that internet service providers can collect and share about you. Subscribing to a virtual private network, or VPN, is a meaningful safeguard for your online privacy.
When you browse the web, a broadband provider helps route your device’s internet traffic to each destination website. Every device you use has an identifier consisting of a string of numbers, also known as an IP address. When you are on the internet, a service provider can see which devices you use and which sites you visit.

RINK RATS 2018 PORTFOLIO – My portfolio for purchase this 2018, buy was made Friday January 5. We will track throughout 2018, we need your prayers.

General Electric: Shares of General Electric Co. GE  have declined over 42% in the past 12 months to levels not seen since the late 1990s. Chalk it up to a string of disappointing quarters and a dividend cut. But the venerable industrial giant is not down for the count. Buy @ $18.54 10 shares = $185.40

Weatherford International, Ltd.: WFT under prior management, Weatherford branched out into too many businesses, and took on too much debt to do so. That didn’t work out so well. The stock now trades near an eight-year low. Under the new leadership of Haliburton Co. HAL, veteran Mark McCollum, Weatherford is unloading non-core assets and paying down debt. Buy @ $3.87 10 shares = $38.70

Walt Disney: DIS shares have been beaten down too far by investors overly worried about weakness in its ESPN division, and competition from Netflix Inc. NFLX,  and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN. After all, Disney has great content, too. And it’s bulking up with a planned purchase of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox Inc. FOX. Buy @ $111.62 10 shares = $1,116.20

Merck & Co.:  MRK stock has been hit by concerns about the prospects for cancer drug Keytruda, and upcoming competition as drugs roll off patent. Those worries have knocked Merck shares down to attractive levels. It trades for around 14 times forward earnings, compared with a 10-year average price-to-earnings multiple of 19. This is one of the highest-quality pharmaceutical companies out there, its strong pipeline of drug candidates and solid financial strength. Buy @ $56.99 10 shares = $569.90

Fluor Corp.: FLR  in engineering and construction. Nobody can do big construction projects like Fluor, always a RR favorite. Buy @ $53.41 10 shares = $534.10

Cummins Inc.: CMI which makes engines used in heavy construction equipment like earth movers. Infrastructure could be a big deal, especially for companies that will benefit. Two of them happen to look relatively cheap right now (FLR and CMI), because their dividend yields are not too far from historical highs. Buy @ $181.46 10 shares = $1,814.60

MRC Global Inc.: MRC a huge distributor of equipment used in energy production and industry, like pipes, valves and fitting products. The company has been cutting costs, paying down debt and repurchasing shares. Meanwhile, its customers are increasing their spending because of strength in energy and the economy. Buy @ $17.59 10 shares = $175.90

Michaels Cos.: MIK a large arts-and-crafts retail chain. Unlike a lot of retailers, Michaels isn’t beaten down by worries about competition from Amazon. But this makes sense because customers like to see and touch crafts products before they buy them, to make sure they are right for the task at hand. Buy $24.55 10 shares = $245.50

Tellurian Inc.: TELL an undiscovered company that will become a big player in liquid natural gas (LNG) exports over the next few years. How do I know this? I don’t, for sure. But it’s a reasonably safe bet given that CEO and founder Charif Souki and his management team are responsible for creating 25% of the LNG export capacity around the globe. Buy @ $11.08 10 shares = $110.80

Lending Club Corp.: LC an online peer-to-peer lending platform. LendingClub recently tightened its lending standards, which hurt loan growth, so the company missed earnings estimates and guided down. But it still expects 15%-20% annual revenue growth over the next few years. This seems plausible given how many people with OK credit would like to refinance their credit card debt with loans. Lending Club estimates $300 billion to $350 billion in credit card debt could potentially be refinanced in this way. Buy @ $4.07 10 shares = $40.70

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Bob Earhart …famous pin ball wizard; Natalie Gulbis (35) Newport Beach, CA.; Miguel Angel Jimenez (54) Madrid Spain; Henry Kravis (74) New York, NY.; Walter Mondale (90) Edina, MN.; Charles Osgood (85) Whispering Pines, NC.; Sander Vanocur (90) Tucson, AZ.

2018 WEIGHT LOSS TIP, SOUP - Soup is a good choice as an appetizer, or your main meal if you’re trying to lose weight. The water in broth-based soups stretches the flavor of meats, veggies, spices, and other tasty morsels without adding calories. It fills your tank faster and satisfies hunger longer than other heavier foods. Plus, it’s hard to gulp or guzzle soup if it’s hot. Eating slowly gives your body enough time to signal the brain that you’ve had enough.

Want your soup ready when you get home at the end of the day? Try using a slow cooker. They’re great for soups made with meat. Slow-simmering soup boosts flavors, cuts prep time, and does the cooking while you’re away. It can trim your budget, too. The slow, low technique tenderizes tough, lean cuts, which cost less than prime. Always thaw meat before you put it in a slow cooker to be sure it cooks through.

Many veggies lose nutrients when you boil them, but a few get better when the heat is on. Canned tomatoes can be more healthy than vine-ripe because cooking breaks them down, releasing lycopene and chemicals that are good for your heart. Processed corn and spinach have more lutein, an antioxidant that protects your eyes. Have these quick-start items in your pantry for your own homemade soup.

Finally, scientists have proven what grandmas knew all along: Chicken soup is a feel-good food when you’re down with a cold. The steamy, salty broth opens stuffy sinuses and thins mucus so it drains. It warms and soothes sore throats and quiets coughs. The chicken, onions, garlic, and other stuff in it can help fight inflammation. But be careful. Too much salt can cause water retention and contribute to swelling.

Days until the 2018 election: 301

IRS FILING SEASON: Tax-filing season will begin this year on Jan. 29, according to an IRS announcement Thursday. The agency said that it "set the Jan. 29 opening date to ensure the security and readiness of key tax processing systems in advance of the opening and to assess the potential impact of tax legislation on 2017 tax returns." It will run through April 17 rather than the usual April 15 deadline because April 15 falls on a Sunday and the following day is a legal holiday in Washington, D.C. - Emancipation Day. The agency also warned that it won't begin issuing refunds to people claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the child credit until mid-February. That's because a 2015 law requires the IRS to hang on to those refunds longer so they can scrutinize them for possible fraud.

TEXTBOOKS, PENCILS AND TAMPONS: School districts in California and Illinois have begun stocking student restrooms with free menstrual hygiene products, as legislation aimed at keeping low-income students in school takes effect this week. In the Golden State, any middle school or high school where at least 40 percent of students meet the federal poverty threshold must now offer tampons and sanitary pads in at least half of the building's restrooms. Illinois' law, IL HB3215 (17R) , is much more expansive, covering any school serving students in grades six through 12.

At least three other states are considering similar proposals, aimed at ensuring that girls who can't afford the products stay in school during their periods and are able to learn comfortably. Proposals pending in Tennessee and Washington state would compel schools to offer the products at no cost regardless of their low-income population, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while a proposal pending in New York targets schools serving many low-income students.

TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, CANNABIS EDITION: Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León told us late Thursday he is consulting with former Attorney General Eric Holder on possible responses to current Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement he was rescinding Obama-era guidelines that had limited marijuana-related prosecutions in states where the drug was legal under state law. Holder was enlisted by the state Senate to help battle Trump on multiple fronts last year.

Recreational marijuana was passed by the voters, so it's constitutional," de León said. "We are researching ways that we can uphold the Constitution and the will of the people of California against an overreaching federal government that is meddling in our state's ability to govern as we see fit."

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a prepared statement that his department will "vigorously enforce our state's laws and protect our state's interests."

Trump administration targets recreational pot, placing thousands of marijuana businesses in California at risk: Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era federal policy that provided legal shelter for marijuana sales in states that have allowed recreational pot, placing thousands of marijuana businesses in California and other states operating legally under state law at risk of federal raids and seizures.

TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, OIL EDITION: - President Trump aims to open California, Florida, Atlantic waters for oil drilling: The Trump administration unveiled a plan Thursday to open vast new stretches of federal waters to oil and gas drilling, erasing the policies put in place by previous Democratic and Republican administrations and setting up a conflict with state governments fearful about the risk of spills.

Gov. Jerry Brown joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a joint statement decrying the proposal. "This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California - from Republicans and Democrats alike," the governors said ... "For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action."

California has ample weapons to fight Trump on drilling: In the decades since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara tarred sea-life and gave rise to the U.S. environmental movement, politicians and environmental activists have built up ample ways to make it difficult but not impossible for the Trump administration to renew drilling off California's coast.

TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, TAX EDITION: In an effort to blunt the effects of the federal tax overhaul, California Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation that would give California taxpayers an end-run around limits on state income tax deductions. The measure, dubbed the "Protect California Taxpayers Act," would let California taxpayers make charitable donations to a state government fund in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. The contributions taxpayers make to the state could be deducted on their federal tax returns.

The GOP tax scam offers corporations and hedge fund managers massive tax breaks and expects California taxpayers and other blue states to pick up the costs of that windfall from the super rich," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said. "California is already a huge donor state, meaning we send far more money to Washington than we get in return. So we don't plan on bankrolling this trillion dollar tax giveaway as well."

Democrats are moving the legislation as a majority-vote bill. If enacted, it would take effect immediately. New California bill could serve as national boilerplate for skirting Trump's tax law: A California Senate leader introduced legislation Thursday aimed at circumventing a central plank in the new Republican tax law, introducing a model that - if successful - could be replicated across the country.

WAGE WATCH 2018 - Friday's reading on job creation in the final month of last year will be a sideshow to what economists and investors both say is the most important question for the markets and the U.S. economy in the new year: Is the pace of hourly earnings for Americans kicking into a higher gear?

Higher wages would be welcome news for Federal Reserve officials, who have long predicted that a tightening labor market will eventually nudge inflation higher. Faster inflation readings could alter central bankers' calculus for stimulus efforts and, more importantly, tip the apple cart in terms of what investors make when they own risk-free assets such as government bonds.

Average hourly earnings have increased at a consistently middling rate of about 2.5% from a year earlier since 2015. That bites at the classical economic tenet that broad-based demand for employees should eventually reward workers with higher hourly earnings.

Stagnant wage gains and muted consumer price increases could hinder U.S. central bankers from boosting short-term interest rates as quickly as they would like. Fed officials have penciled in three quarter-point rate increases for this year.

The U.S. economy added 2 million jobs in 2017, another solid year of gains.

In December, the economy added 148,000 jobs, according to Labor Department figures released Friday. That was below what economists expected, but still the 87th straight month of gains -- the longest streak on record.

Unemployment remained at 4.1%, matching the lowest level in 17 years.

MARKET WEEK - New Year, New Milestone: The Nasdaq Composite closed above 7000 for the first time, picking up from a strong 2017—when its 28% gain beat the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 25% and S&P 500’s 19%—as investors continued to bet on the large technology companies that are the index heavyweights. The latest 1,000-point milestone was reached in just over eight months, a pace unseen since the heights of the technology boom. Though investors and analysts say there are few signs of a stock bubble today, the recent rapid appreciation in assets from techs to industrials to bitcoin does have some concerned about the nearly nine-year bull market. The Nasdaq’s biggest winner in the latest 1,000-point charge was Riot Blockchain, formerly Bioptix, whose stock surged more than 640%. Once a maker of diagnostic machinery, the company re-christened itself in October and shifted to investing in blockchain technology, which underpins virtual currencies like bitcoin.

GOOD READ - "There Is No Case for the Humanities," by Justin Stover in American Affairs Journal: "In 1773 Samuel Johnson visited the ancient University of St Andrews ... [which is] one of the twenty or so oldest universities in the world, formally established by a bull of Pope Benedict XIII in 1413. Three hundred and fifty years in, it had evidently fallen on hard times. Fewer than one hundred students remained, and one of its old colleges had been dissolved. ... Yet St Andrews survived. Today it has more than ten thousand students, and is highly regarded, particularly in the humanities." http://bit.ly/2DwWRQm

GOOD READ PART DEUX -  N.Y. Times Magazine Sunday January 7 ... "The Case for the Subway: It built the city. Now, no matter the cost — at least $100 billion — the city must rebuild it to survive," by Jonathan Mahler:

"For all the changes in transportation technology since the first tunnels were dug ... the subway remains the only way to move large numbers of people around the city."

"Today, New York's subway carries close to six million people every day, more than twice the entire population of Chicago. The subway may no longer be a technological marvel, but it continues to perform a daily magic trick: It brings people together, but it also spreads people out."

"It is this paradox — these constant expansions and contractions, like a beating heart — that keep the human capital flowing and the city growing.

Why it matters: "New York's subway has no zones and no hours of operation. It connects rich and poor neighborhoods alike. The subway has never been segregated. It is always open, and the fare is always the same no matter how far you need to go.

OUT AND ABOUT – The St. Lawrence University Women ice hockey team visited Southern California this past week, yes Southern California. While the temperatures were well below zero back in Canton, New York, the Skating Saints played a two game series versus Lindenwood University at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

The team lost game #1 5-4, but won game #2 in overtime 2-1. Justine Reyes (’19) of Chino Hills, California scored the game winner for the Lady Saints in game #2. Congrats to Coach Chris Wells (’92) for bringing St. Lawrence hockey across the country.

Many alumni came out for the games, including Rink Rat friends Tricia (’74) and Chuck Gomer, and of course Reggie Dunlop. At this game we remembered Bernie McKinnon ('57) who in 1978 after coaching the St. Lawrence Men's hockey team from 1971 - 1976 was the first coach of the Women's hockey team from 1978 - 1996. A true St. Lawrence treasure.


SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS

NFL Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/13, 4:35 PM EDT, NBC: Divisional Playoff – Atlanta Falcons (11-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3). No QB the Eagles are ripe for an upset, Falcons win 21 – 15. (Season to date 10-8).

College Football Pick of the Week – Monday 1/8, 8:00 PM EDT, ESPN: National Championship – Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (14-1). Roll Tide 38 – 28.   (Season to date 10-7)

College Hockey Pick of the Week – Monday 1/13, 7:05 PM EDT FoxOhio: #8 Ohip State Buckeyes (14-4-4) vs. #14 Penn State Nitany Lions (12-7-3). A Big Ten matchup, Buckeyes win 6 – 4.  Season to date (6-5)

NHL Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/12, 7:00 PM EDT, CBC: Boston Bruins (23-10-7) visit The Bell Centre Montreal Canadiens (18-20-4). Les Habs win a good one 4 – 3.  Season to date (9-2).

NBA Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/12 8:00 PM EDT, FSDetroit: Detroit Pistons (21-17) vs. Chicago Bulls (14-26), Pistons are playing good basketball, they win in Chicago 97 – 88. (season to date 2-0)

Final 2017 Season to Date (102 – 73, .583)

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Trump speaks Monday afternoon at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in Nashville and will then attends the college football championship game in Georgia ... Trump meets with a bipartisan group of Senators on Tuesday to talk about immigration ...

House Financial Services has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday on CFIUS ... Senate Banking has a money laundering hearing at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday ... House Financial Services has a hearing at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday on federal financial regulations.

The University of La Verne begins what might be their most important Winter Term in many years: one word; management.

Get ready it will start, Oprah Winfrey for President….

Next Blog: Dear Rink Rats

Until next time, Adios

Claremont, California

January 8, 2018
#VIII-22-364


CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Barbara Smaller, The New Yorker

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Fini

We complete another year of Rink Rats with our thirty second blog of 2017 on this last day of 2017. 

We are in Michigan bringing in the New Year with family, in I might add sub-zero temperatures.

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the moments that defined 2017.

ME TOO - Among the most important developments of 2017 was #MeToo: the renewed determination of women to stand up to sexual harassment, and the new willingness of (some) institutions and corporations to take action. Although the movement itself started several years ago, it has gained a new urgency since October, when the New York Times and The New Yorker reported on appalling allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein; since then, the wave of repercussions has grown, and it has yet to crest.

DIVERSITY FATIGUE - For many, the rise of Donald Trump was a manifestation of this long-brewing and ideologically varied skepticism toward diversity. On the right, it was a backlash against things changing too fast, and too much. And, for some on the left, the success of Trump-style populism suggested that liberals had focussed too much of their energy on multiculturalism and identity. Over the last couple of years, this skepticism has rippled outward in bizarre, troubling ways. For decades, diversity was generally accepted across the political spectrum as a common goal, something that at least merited lip service. In Trump’s wake, it’s become increasingly mainstream to question the concept’s very legitimacy. When the Iowa congressman Steve King tweeted that “diversity” was not a “strength,” a politician who once embodied a nativist fringe seemed to speak with renewed purpose. Diversity was recently included on a list of words that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were discouraged from using, perhaps, according to one sympathetic account, “so as not to raise red flags among Republicans in Congress.”

Diversity is increasingly the scapegoat when something old and reliable begins to falter. This year, the supposed overemphasis on diversity was invoked to explain everything from ESPN’s falling ratings to the middling quality of U.S. soccer, from flagging enthusiasm for the Star Wars universe to a dip in comic-book sales. (A recent MarketWatch piece wondered if the increasingly diverse world of Marvel superheroes—which included “Afro-Latino Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, a female Thor, a gay Iceman, a Korean Hulk, an African-American female lead in Iron Man, and a lesbian Latina America Chavez”—had alienated “traditional” fans.) Perhaps, some suggested, we simply need to disrupt our conventional views on diversity. This spring, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke of the need for “ideological diversity,” particularly among his closest advisers. He was defending the presence of the Trump adviser Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board, and sidestepping criticisms of the minuscule size of his company’s black workforce. But Zuckerberg was also trying to spin diversity in a way that could make a wider swath of Americans feel included—except, perhaps, those who were once central to the diversity debates. The Times invoked a similar principle—a “diversity of views”—when they were criticized for publishing the dubious claims of a recently hired conservative Op-Ed columnist.

Diversity has become a worn and misapplied term partly as a result of its messy origins. The term as we use it today first emerged in 1978, as part of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in University of California v. Bakke. The court struck down quotas but upheld affirmative action, allowing an applicant’s race to factor into college-admissions policies. It was a divisive case, which resulted in a total of six opinions. The judgment of the Court was written by Justice Lewis Powell, who argued that the state had an interest in maintaining a “diverse student body.” Powell’s rationale differed slightly from the rest of the majority, who predicated their support for affirmative action on an acknowledgment of America’s legacies of discrimination and inequality. From the very beginning, then, there was something vague and ahistorical about diversity, particularly in the context of higher education. Rather than a means of historical redress, it was meant to be useful.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that diversity’s most enthusiastic proselytizers are in the world of business. In 2008, Scott Page, a professor of complex systems, political science, and economics at the University of Michigan, published “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies.” Drawing on empirical research, and also the wisdom of Ben & Jerry’s, Douglas Adams, and “Seinfeld,” Page argues that “cognitively diverse societies, cities, and teams perform better than more homogenous ones.” This fall, Page amplified his pro-diversity argument with “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy.” His rationale isn’t moral—this would make it easily susceptible to cynicism, or bad faith. Instead, he points to the bottom line, offering a series of case studies where individuals with different backgrounds, skill sets, or forms of expertise came together to illuminate new solutions to old problems.

The true casualties of “diversity fatigue” are the ones who never feel entitled enough to complain about it. We’re living in a time when those drafted in the name of a more diverse society have new ways to speak for themselves, and, in many cases, a different perspective than the trailblazers of previous generations. As the past few months’ stories about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace suggest, just being present is not sufficient. There’s a familiar refrain to so many of these stories, as women entered into spaces previously closed to them and then underwent a kind of hazing. They’re stories of diversity told from the inside out, by people who were assured that this is the way it is because this is the way it has always been: a boys’ club, business as usual.

“We’re hearing a lot about diversity,” the filmmaker Ava DuVernay said last year, in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign. “I hate that word so, so much.” She explained that there was something “medical” and cold about diversity, and that speaking of belonging or inclusion seemed a more accurate way of describing what long-marginalized people actually wanted. Progress isn’t just a seat at the table anymore but the ability to command it, too. This week, Time magazine features Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling, the leads of DuVernay’s new film, an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” on its cover. Witherspoon said that she’s “never seen somebody demand inclusiveness” the way DuVernay did, casting a film with black, brown, and white leads. Belonging and inclusion will probably seem like old, useless buzzwords someday, too. But that’s the point. Images like these still matter, in small, mysterious ways that won’t be grasped for generations. It’s just a movie, ultimately. But it’s also a fantasy, a version of the world that was once unthinkable, which will produce new people and new languages.

MARKET YEAR - Stocks could ride a tailwind into 2018, bolstered by the best annual gains in four years and the promise of a generous earnings boost from corporate tax cuts.

With the holidays over, it's time to get back to work quickly in the four-day week. December's employment report looms Friday as the first major economic report of the year. There are also ISM manufacturing and monthly vehicle sales data on Wednesday.

The minutes from the Fed's December meeting will also be released Wednesday afternoon, and that could provide some important clues as to Fed thinking on inflation and interest rates. The Fed has forecast three rate hikes for 2018, and some economists are now expecting four. Inflation, which has been lagging the Fed's target, could be the deciding factor in how aggressive the Fed will be.

Strategists expect 2018 to be another up year for stocks, but with smaller gains than 2017 and most forecasts falling between 2,800 and 3,000. The S&P 500 finished Friday at 2,673, slightly lower on the week but up 19.4 percent for the year, its best performance since 2013. The Dow was down 0.1 percent for the week at 24,719, but saw a gain of 25.5 percent for the year. The Nasdaq was down 0.8 percent for the week, at 6,903, but scored a gain of 28.2 percent, also the best year since 2013.

"Barring any surprises, I'm hoping for new money for the new month and the new year," said Art Cashin (Rink Rats reader), director of floor operations at UBS. He said he's also watching the first two trading days of the year, to see if they are positive. If they are and the S&P 500 is higher when taken together with the past week's performance, that would be a positive "Santa rally" period. The Santa rally period is the last five trading days of the year and the first two days of the new year, and if the market is higher, the odds are better for a positive year.

Market milestones for 2017 include a return to higher oil prices, with West Texas Intermediate futures closing Friday above $60 per barrel, for the first time since June 2015. That has helped drive a more than 6 percent gain for energy stocks in the past month, even though the sector was down 3.8 percent for the year. The best performing sector was tech, up 37 percent for the year.

The dollar continued its yearlong slide in Friday trading, with the dollar index ending the year down 9.7 percent, its worst performance since 2003.

Meanwhile, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.409 Friday afternoon, just slightly under the 2.43 percent level where it started the year. The 2-year yield meanwhile rose from 1.19 percent at the start of year to 1.88. The two yields are getting closer together, or flattening, and are now at the "flattest" in a decade. Some investors worry that's a sign of economic weakness ahead.
Washington will also be a focus in January as it now gets down to business on spending issues, after the White House and Congress delivered a big tax cut package reducing corporate taxes to 21 percent from 35 percent, just before the holidays. But in 2018, the political scene promises to be more difficult, with potential fights over the debt ceiling and other issues ahead of key midterm elections.

Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas said there are other issues that could also emerge early in the new year. "Goodbye tax, hello trade. That's the start of it, right there," he said, with news on the administration's review of potential steel and aluminum tariffs expected in January.

"I'm just outlining that there's a little bit of risk now," he said. The administration could decide tariffs are warranted on aluminum for national security reasons. "This is a brush fire, not a forest fire."

Some strategists believe there are good odds that the negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement could fail, threatening the trade agreement. NAFTA is being renegotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Traders have been concerned about Trump's potential to be protectionist, and whether he would really take action.

NEW WORLD ORDER - China eagerly and systematically asserting itself as a global force with trade deals, investment and posturing. The nation, despite all its flaws, is rising.

Trump abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational trade deal, gave China huge political and economic openings in its neighborhood.

Trump eagerly and systematically shaking up U.S. engagement overseas, and attacking the U.N. and other institutions that helped hold together a post-World War II world.

Germany, France and Britain, hammered by surging populism similar to the disruption that hit U.S. politics, are increasingly looking inward, and away from a unified European voice. Europe's influence is on a clear decline.

L.A. Times correspondents interviewed leaders, diplomats and scholars around the globe, and found other powers eager to fill the void as the U.S. retreats: "On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant."

"China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led."

"Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration."

"France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to."

While Trump sucks up a lot of attention and blame, a lot of this change was set in motion before he arrived. The combo of social media + identity politics + fake news has resulted in less legitimacy for most, if not all, Western governments.

BEST BOOK - In a year that too often seemed like fiction, my favorite novel was one that felt utterly true to life: “Conversations with Friends,” by the Irish writer Sally Rooney. It tells the story of Frances, a watchful, sharp-witted college student in Dublin and her best friend, Bobbi, who together fall into a risky intimacy with Melissa and Nick, a couple in their thirties with glamorous artistic credentials and a fraying marriage. Like the best coming-of-age novels, it captures the beautiful confusion of being an intelligent young person with lots of ideas about the world and no clue how to live in it. This is the first novel that Rooney has written; I was so engrossed in its world that when I finished it, I flipped back to the first page and read it straight through again. I hope her next book comes soon.

BEST TV SHOW – “Big Little Lies”
Gorgeous, sensual, and seductive, beautifully directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with perfect, slow-build pacing, this beachside murder mystery was the year’s best surprise. Among an A-list cast of movie stars, Nicole Kidman stood out, playing a woman struggling to admit the truth about her abusive marriage. By the final episodes, the plot became a wrenching exploration of the hidden bonds between women who have been hurt, a #MeToo thriller with the rare finale that satisfied on all levels.

BEST MOVIES –
1. “Get Out” (Jordan Peele)
In his horror comedy, Peele uses familiar devices to convey philosophically rich and politically potent ideas about the state of race relations in America.

2. “A Quiet Passion” (Terence Davies)
Davies’s Emily Dickinson bio-pic is an absolute, drop-dead masterwork.

3. “Good Time” (Josh and Benny Safdie)
“Good Time,” starring Robert Pattinson, streaks and smears and shreds the screen with a sense of furious subjectivity.

4. “A Ghost Story” (David Lowery)
The movie’s dramatic power is inseparable from its quiet, sensuous splendor.

BEST PODCAST - “Ways of Hearing”
The way we listen has been revolutionized by digital technology, which in turn has transformed our world, including podcasts. “Ways of Hearing,” hosted by Damon Krukowski and based on his excellent book “The New Analog,” is about listening. (It’s the first of a series of podcasts in the Radiotopia show “Showcase.”) Krukowski makes complex ideas delightfully accessible, and in audio form he’s able to include wonderful sounds: street noise, song bits, chitchat at a record shop. Krukowski, the drummer of the great band Galaxie 500, illustrates points in Episode 1 with gorgeous strains of “Tugboat.” Krukowski is a fantastic observer; I often think of the ideas he articulates in “Ways of Hearing,” and I feel like I perceive the world a little more acutely because of listening to it.

TOP GOOGLE SEARCHES OF 2017 –

Hurricane Irma
Matt Lauer
Tom Petty
Super Bowl
Las Vegas Shooting
Mayweather vs McGregor Fight
Solar Eclipse
Hurricane Harvey
Aaron Hernandez
Fidget Spinner
How to buy Bitcoin
How to freeze your credit

INEQUALITY REPORT - New research from the Ford Foundation and Thomas Piketty with the World Inequality Lab is "is the first research study to comprehensively examine wealth and income inequality trends across developed and emerging countries over approximately 40 years."

Among the findings: "Globally, few are enjoying the benefits of economic growth. The richest captured most of the growth, as those who are enjoying the growth are the top 10 percent, with an exponential growth for the top 0.1 percent. The global top 1% earners captured twice as much income growth as the 50 percent poorest individuals.

"Global wealth and income inequality will steadily rise, if countries follow the trajectory they have been on since 1980, notably in the U.S. Though, if all countries follow the moderate inequality trajectory followed by Europe over the past decades, global inequality can be reduced.”

CALIFORNIA HERE WE GO - For many of the state’s residents, one question is omnipresent: Is this worth it?

The threat of earthquakes, annual wildfires and high taxes have contributed to a net outflow of residents for more than three decades.

Still, the wrath of God has failed to deter companies from thinking this is a great place to be, although it is expensive and crowded.

MICKEY FOX - Walt Disney Co. has signed a deal to acquire a large piece of 21st Century Fox Inc., ... in a pact that could help the entertainment giant accelerate its ambitions in streaming media, shore up its television business and grab hold of lucrative movie franchises.

Why it matters: Most of the assets Disney is buying would be put to use in Chief Executive Robert Iger's quest to transform his company into a streaming-video giant that can go head-to-head with rivals such as Netflix.

Mr. Iger wants Disney to have its own relationships with consumers and a broad array of content to offer them online.

P.S. Layoffs likely in Disney-Fox deal," per an L.A. Times A1 teaser: "Substantial job cuts in Southern California could result." “The companies have many overlapping departments and Disney would look to wring savings."

TRUMP’S ECONOMY - President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are about to own the U.S. economy in ways that could revive their party's brand or make the next three years a political nightmare. The president and GOP leaders were all smiles celebrating passage of a giant tax cut bill that will slash corporate rates and offer more limited relief to individuals. They are counting on the widely unpopular measure to produce a series of economic benefits including faster growth, fatter paychecks and a bigger, more productive labor force. ... Essentially, Republicans are betting they can take the fairly strong economy Trump inherited from President Barack Obama and fix the remaining broken parts, which include a shrunken labor force, limited wage gains and stalled worker productivity. If they succeed, the GOP could start to reverse their big polling disadvantages in the 2018 midterm elections and set Trump up to win reelection in 2020 if he can somehow navigate the Russia investigations and avoid major foreign policy disasters.

POTUS 101 - Peter Baker puts on his historian's cap for his installment in the N.Y. Times series, "Trump's Way" ... "A Year of Reinventing the Presidency ... Under Trump, a Once Unimaginable Presidency Becomes Reality":

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly: "I'm not put on earth to control him ... But I have been put on earth to make this staff work better and make sure this president, whether you voted for him or not, is fully informed before he makes a decision. And I think we achieved that."

Kelly on POTUS: "He remains fairly unconventional ... But as I point out, he now is fully briefed on the issues and the pluses and minuses, pros and cons."

Ron Klain, a White House official under Clinton and Obama: "It's a presidency of one person ... That's really kind of a stunning thing. There is no Trump doctrine. There is no Trump plan. There is no Trumpism. There's just Trump."

Peter notes that Trump has referred to his targets as "crazy," "psycho," "short and fat," "crooked," "totally inept," "a joke," "dumb as a rock," "disgusting," "puppet," "weak and out of control," "sleazy," "wacky," "totally unhinged," "incompetent," "lightweight" and "the dumbest man on television." (BTW, that was CNN's Don Lemon, and Trump often watches.)

Under Mr. Trump, it has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. He has revolutionized the way presidents deal with the world beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dispensing with the carefully modulated messaging of past chief executives in favor of no-holds-barred, crystal-breaking, us-against-them, damn-the-consequences blasts borne out of gut and grievance.

"He has kept a business on the side; attacked the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other institutions he oversees; threatened to use his power against rivals; and waged war against members of his own party and even his own Cabinet. He fired the man investigating his campaign and has not ruled out firing the one who took over. He has appealed to base instincts on race, religion and gender as no president has in generations. And he has rattled the nuclear saber more bombastically than it has been since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The presidency has served as a vehicle for Mr. Trump to construct and promote his own narrative, one with crackling verve but riddled with inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies, according to fact checkers. Rather than a force for unity or a calming voice in turbulent times, the presidency now is another weapon in a permanent campaign of divisiveness. Democrats and many establishment Republicans worry that Mr. Trump has squandered the moral authority of the office."

SCIENCE - The Moon shines brightly among our 2017 highlights. Whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating our human space exploration plans.

MORON OF THE YEAR – “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”
Guess who????

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Richard Chute…famous Claremont, CA resident; Sean Hannity (56) Alexandria, VA.; Donald Trump, Jr. (40) New York, NY.; Meredith Vieira (64) Scarsdale, NY.

ON THIS DAY – December 23, 1947: 70 years ago, at the end of a miracle month of breakthroughs, John Bardeen & Walter Brattain demonstrated the first transistor to colleagues at Bell Labs. It's been described as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century.

STATISTICS OF THE YEAR:  Americans killed annually by

All Islamic jihadist terrorists 9
Armed toddlers 21
Lightning 31
Lawnmowers 69
Being hit by a bus 264
Falling out of bed 737
Being shot by another American 11,737 

CASHLESS - As 2018 looms, the dawn of a cashless society feels at hand. Don't believe it? Try throwing a couple $20 bills on the table next time you're splitting the check. Or better yet, ask anyone not standing behind a cash register to break a $10 bill.

While the rise of Venmo, Uber, Seamless and Bitcoin et al have made it practically gauche in certain circles to flash a wallet thick with bills, there are many urban workers for whom the shift away from cash represents a serious financial problem. Doormen, elevator operators, manicurists - any employee who relies on small, spontaneous cash tips - are finding themselves left out in the cold by an increasingly cashless world.

SPOTTED – Avid Rink Rats reader and former Claremont, CA. resident, Tom Playford at Heroes (131 Yale Avenue) in Claremont. Tom is fighting the battles of Trump in Durham, North Carolina these days. 

2017 TOP SPORT STORIES –

NFL kneeling.

College basketball comes under the microscope after a federal investigation reveals recruiting corruption.

Houston Astros win their first World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 to lift the spirits of a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

In a season that included his four-game suspension for "Deflategate," Tom Brady engineers a record-breaking comeback as the Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons in first-ever Super Bowl overtime.

The president of USA Gymnastics resigns amid a sexual abuse scandal that includes some of the sport's biggest stars.

Russia is banned from the Winter Olympics for a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Clemson mounts a last-second comeback to beat Alabama for college football's national championship.

The U.S. fails to qualify for soccer's World Cup for the first time since 1986. Four-time champion Italy also fails to qualify.

New acquisition Kevin Durant leads the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Mixed Martial Arts star Conor McGregor steps into the boxing ring to face undefeated champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.

JOHNNY BOWER – Old Time Hockey, end of an era.

It was 1963 or '64, but Mark Howe is pretty sure it was 1964. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final, and in the handshake line at Maple Leaf Gardens, Maple Leafs goaltender Johnny Bower traded sticks with Red Wings forward Gordie Howe.

Before each series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gordie would ask his son Mark, "When the series is over, whose stick do you want?" That time, Mark had said, "I want Bower's."
"I still have the stick to this day," Mark said Wednesday.

Bower died Tuesday at age 93. He played on the Maple Leafs' last four championship teams, in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967; was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976 and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian on Jan. 1.

SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS

NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 12/31, 4:25 PM EDT, Fox: Carolina Panthers (11-4) vs. Atlanta Falcons (9-6). Plenty of playoff implications in this one, Falcons win 24 – 17. (Season to date 9-7).

College Football Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 5:45 PM EDT, ESPN: Bowl Season, Rose Bowl from Pasadena, CA: #4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) vs. #1 Clemson Tigers (12-1). Alabama seeks revenge from last year, they get it 38 – 35.   (Season to date 9-7)

College Hockey Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 6:00 PM EDT FoxDetroit: the 52nd edition of the Great Lakes Invitational tournament, Bowling Green University Falcons (8-6-6) vs. University of Michigan Wolverines (7-7-2), we like the Wolverines 5 – 3.  Season to date (6-4)

NHL Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 1:00 PM EDT, NBC: Another edition of the Winter Classic, this years’ game is at Citi Field in New York. New York Rangers (20-13-5) vs. Buffalo Sabres (10-20-8). Not an attractive game, Rangers win in a romp, 7 – 2.  Season to date (8-2).

NBA Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1 7:30 PM EDT, FSWI: Milwaukee Bucks (19-15) vs. Toronto Rapters (24-10). Raptors have a solid club this year, they win this one 101 – 92.r4 (season to date 1-0)

Season to Date (98 - 72)

Next Blog: 2018 What Next?

Until next time, Happy New Year

Jackson, Michigan
Temperature at edit: 0 Degrees

December 31, 2017
#VIII-21-363


CARTOON OF THE WEEK – 2017