Monday, June 27, 2011

Never Trust a Squirrel

The last month or so I have had a visitor every morning to my garden/patio. This creature (The Squirrel) is looking for his or her daily meal of bird seed that I place out for the birds in our neighborhood. I give him/her the benefit of the doubt and let The Squirrel have its meal but I inform him/her that they must share with their fellow neighborhood inhabitants. The Squirrel agrees and spends the balance of the day sunning and relaxing in the garden.



But when the new day comes Mr./Ms. Squirrel is back eating all the bird seed and keeping the birds at a distance. After repeated attempts of therapy, water spraying, playing Wayne Newton CDs (I know Squirrels hate Wayne Newton) and reading out loud Sarah Palin speeches. The same routine repeats every morning; The Squirrel is becoming a menace.

I have begun to correlate the Squirrel to other things or people who bother me these days: Consultants who say one thing to a client and then change their tune when they feel the client does not agree or firms that hire Consultants, when all they need to do is take advantage of the qualified people who work for them, or finally, firms who do not like what one Consultant advises them so they hire another one to tell them what they want to hear; Politicians (national, state, and local) who continue to show a total lack of leadership and intelligence when it comes to making the tough decisions of the day; Commercials during the network evening news – what is with our American society? Is everyone depressed, have allergies, have erectile dysfunction, can’t sleep, or have gout?

It all goes back to The Squirrel, if you can’t trust them, who can you trust?

CALIF., TEXAS ARE NATION'S TOP TWO ECONOMIES -- USA Today lead story, "Texas' economy takes a big leap: Industrial states were biggest losers," by Dennis Cauchon: "Texas became the USA's second-largest economy during the past decade - displacing New York and perhaps heading one day toward challenging California - in one of the biggest economic shifts in the past half-century. The dramatic realignment of the nation's economy was illustrated by North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia all overtaking one-time industrial powerhouse Michigan in economic size from 2000 to 2010. The economic winners of the last decade are states that focus on raw materials, government and senior citizens. The big losers are places that make things - industrial states and even California. USA TODAY examined each state's gross domestic product to determine how the country's economic output has shifted within its borders. ... Florida's share of the national economy grew more than any state except Texas as seniors took their wealth south."
--The top 10: Calif., Texas, N.Y., Fla., Ill., Pa., N.J., Ohio, N.C., Va. (Vt. is 50!)

THIS IS DODGER BASEBALL - Over the next two weeks, Bud Selig will face the defining moment of his career as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.... Commissioner Selig has rejected the Dodgers-Fox television contract, seized control of the Dodgers, and will sell the team to a responsible owner who will (with the grateful help of millions of my fellow left coasters) restore the team to its former greatness. Selig must act to prevent Frank McCourt from continuing to plunder the team. Selig must act before the team is saddled with even greater debt, while the team’s reputation can still be salvaged and the team is still marketable to a worthy owner....

How much have the McCourt’s managed to extract from the Dodgers? Well, if we ignore the debt the Dodgers took on so that the McCourt’s could buy the Dodgers but include the McCourt salaries, the McCourt’s have withdrawn from the Dodgers anywhere from $109 million (Frank McCourt’s estimate) to $141 million (Jamie McCourt’s estimate). The truth is, the real amount the McCourt’s plundered from the Dodgers may be more than $141 million – at the moment, all we have to go on is what each McCourt has been willing to admit to.

(In case you were wondering, during their ownership of the Dodgers the McCourt’s have paid not one penny in income tax.)

MOST POPULAR L.A. SPORTS TEAMS – Per Chris Dufresne’s Sunday L.A. Times article:

1. Lakers
2. Angels
3. Dodgers
4. USC Football
5. Chivas Guadalajara – yes you read this right

Oakland Raiders (9), Kings (10), Ducks (11), Mater Dei High School (17).

A sad state of affairs.

TOP STORY - "Historic N.Y. vote is a win for Cuomo, gay rights activists," by Reid J. Epstein: "New York on Friday approved same-sex marriage, making the Empire State the sixth and largest state to allow gays and lesbians to marry The 33-29 state senate vote is an enormous victory for first-year Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged during last fall's campaign to push for gay marriage. It comes after an intense public and private lobbying campaign from a wide cast of politicians, celebrities and athletes, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton. Cuomo, whose two daughters attended the vote in the senate gallery, signed the bill five minutes before midnight after a victory lap press conference.

"It will go into effect July 24, and when it does, the population of Americans for whom same-sex marriage is legal will double. ... Of the 33 senators to vote for the bill, 29 are Democrats and four are Republicans. Of the 29 who voted against it, all but one are Republicans. ... Gay marriage is already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. It was briefly legal in California until voters passed Proposition 8, which is being challenged in federal court, and in Maine, where voters in 2009 overturned legislation signed six months earlier by then-Gov. John Baldacci."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Dan Aykroyd (59) Canada (144), Larry David (64), Richard Petty (74), Kellie Pickler (25).

OCS UPDATE – Email from GB reports all is well, picture included shows Heartbreak Ridge style of haircut. Seven more weeks to go, we are all pulling for you.

NEW ERA BEGINS – July 1 Dr. Devorah Lieberman begins her job as the 18th President of The University of La Verne. The University of La Verne is a private research university located in La Verne, California (about 35 miles (56 km) east of Los Angeles). Founded in 1891, the university is composed of the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Business & Public Management, College of Education and Organizational Leadership, College of Law, and a Regional Campus Administration that oversees nine regional campuses. It awards both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many of their classes are taught at smaller campuses throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

The University of La Verne was founded in 1891 as Lordsburg College by members of the Church of the Brethren, a German Christian sect originating from the Schwarzenau Brethren. Historically, the Brethren are considered one of the "peace churches", like the Quakers and the Mennonites.

Both the surrounding agricultural community and the College were renamed La Verne in 1917. The College reorganized in 1977 as the University of La Verne. The school conferred its first master's degree in 1965 and began an adult education program in 1969. ULV awarded its first doctorate in 1979. In 1981, the University founded a campus in Orange County and has since opened campuses throughout southern California, including on some military bases.

ULV has (FY 2010) an Endowment of $62 million, an Operating Budget of $103 million, $97 million of debt and a credit rating of BBB+ by Fitch Ratings. The investment grades include bonds ordinarily bought by individuals and institutional investors seeking stable income and safety. BBB/Baa is the lowest rating that qualifies for commercial bank investments. It's a borderline group for which, in Standard & Poor's words, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity to pay interest and repay principal than for bonds in higher-rated categories. Student generated revenues account for 92% of the operating budget of the institution.

Fall 2011 Undergraduate tuition is $31,300, Room and board is $11,280. The average financial aid package is $27,624, average undergraduate student debt at completion is $31,112. ULV has a freshmen undergraduate class of 538, total undergraduate enrollment of 1,896 students, and graduate enrollment of 2,572 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. La Verne has 19 intercollegiate athletic teams participating in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

RR wishes Dr. Lieberman much success and watch out for those Squirrels.

Next week, we celebrate July 4.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
June 27, 2011
#II-9

Monday, June 20, 2011

Opening the Door

It is interesting to watch and observe family members, colleagues, associates, and students begin their journey into the world of the internet. Today with cloud computing, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (overrated), YouTube, Smartphones, Tablets, many people who thought they would never spend time on the internet are beginning their travels into the social networking world.

What they are soon learning is that it becomes quite time consuming and mundane. The daily tasks of updating followers, cleaning up messages, keeping weird stalkers out, reading ridiculous postings, and reading interesting postings becomes one big hassle.

So beware present and future social networkers, when you open that door to the internet it is not all that it seems.

WELCOME TO CLAREMONT – with summer approaching we begin to have new neighbors arriving in Claremont, California. For our new residents of this fair city we welcome you and pass along some key points of interest.

Best Cosmo – Tutti Mangia, 102 Harvard

Best Pizza – Pizza N’ Such, 202 Yale

Best Place To Get a Traffic Ticket – Towne Avenue just south of the 210 Freeway

Best Breakfast – Roady’s, 160 West Bonita, San Dimas

Best Road To Avoid – Arrow Highway, yuk

Best Club – Claremont Tennis Club, great pool and spa

Best Sports Bar – Heroes, 131 Yale, used to be much better but still a good place to have a good beer and watch a game

Best Bartender – Phil, Tutti Mangia

Best Park - Johnson's Pasture

Best Restaurant – Sorry Claremont, you have to go to Pasadena where it is a tie between Parkway Grill (510 S. Arroyo) and Smitty’s (110 S. Lake)

QUESTION OF THE WEEK - Comes from The Atlantic's Derek Thompson: "When your household gets a credit card bill, do you: (a) Convene the entire family to vote on paying it off (b) Threaten not to pay unless you get special remote control privileges for the week (c) Pay the damn bill. If you answered something other than (c), you should probably explore your financial and familial relationships with a professional ... But think about how the federal government deals with debt. Our legislators pass laws. They incur debt. They get the bill. And then, against all reason, they vote on it."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Billy Casper (80), Beth Elmore …famous #3, Mick Fleetwood (69), John Goodman (59), Pete Hamill (76), Don Henley (64), Juli Inkster (51), Derek Jeter (37), Nicole Kidman (44), Mike Myers (48), Carly Simon (66).

U.S. OPEN GOLF PICKS – we liked Steve Stricker (T19), Phil Mickelson (T54) and Lee Westwood (T3) this year at Congressional. Rory McIlroy wins the $1.2 million first prize in record fashion.

GDP PREGAME: HOW LOW WILL IT GO? - The Fed statement and presser went pretty much as expected (no new bond buying; continued zero rates; no balance sheet shrinkage; inflation a concern but not a mortal threat). Today's initial read on first quarter GDP is a bit more of a wild card. Most expect a winter-weather driven slowdown to sub-two percent growth. But the question is how low it will go. Some at the highest levels of government expect the number could be as low as 1.2 percent or so, which might come as an unwelcome surprise to increasingly anxious consumers.

Of course these officials could also be trying to push down expectations and set up a solid beat that helps reverse the darkening mood. Whatever the case, a 1.2 percent or 1.3 percent GDP growth figure would not mean much on its own. But if it causes consumers to get even more worried it could help knock back what is expected to be 3 percent-plus growth the rest of the year. The GDP number this morning comes alongside initial jobless claims. If that figure is above 400,000 and GDP is around 1 percent that would be ... not so good.

THE ROYALS : "William and Kate to live in Diana palace" - AFP/London: "Prince William and new bride Catherine will within the coming months move into Kensington Palace, the London residence once shared by the prince and his late mother Diana, St James's Palace said Sunday. The newly-titled Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry lived in the palace after Diana and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, but the newlywed couple will move into a different property within the grounds. A spokesman from St James's Palace said: ... 'A number of options for longer term solutions are still being considered. The couple's main home will continue to be their house on Anglesey, and their Household Office will continue to be based at St James's Palace' ... The duke and duchess currently live on the north Wales island of Anglesey, where the prince works as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot."

UNDERWATER - Almost 40% of homeowners who took out second mortgages—extracting cash from their residences to cover everything from vacations to medical bills—are underwater on their loans, more than twice the rate of owners who didn't take out such loans.

The finding, in a report released by real-estate data firm CoreLogic Inc., illustrates the consequences of easy borrowing amid the housing boom's inflated prices. The report says 38% of borrowers who took cash out of their residences using home-equity loans are underwater, or owe more than their home is worth. By contrast, 18% of borrowers who don't have these loans were underwater.

It's not clear how much cash withdrawn from homes during the boom was used to acquire luxuries such as expensive automobiles, and how much went to basic necessities, including tuition expenses, or renovations intended to raise a property's value.

LIVING HISTORY : Six months ago, Dec. 17, a frustrated Tunisian fruit vendor torched himself in an act of protest that's credited with igniting the Arab Spring. So in six months, we have lived through Mubarak's abdication (Feb. 11), uprisings in Syria and Yemen, the Japanese earthquake (March 11), allies striking Libya (March 19), and the death of bin Laden (May 1). Plus the shooting of Rep. Giffords (Jan. 8); the royal wedding (April 29); repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"; a threatened government shutdown; Alabama and Missouri tornado tragedies; Moody's downgrading U.S. credit (June 2); a new tech bubble; a sharp hiring slowdown (announced June 3); and the resignation of Anthony Weiner.

BREAKING: EUROPE DELAYS GREEK DECISION - Reuters: Luxembourg/Athens: "Euro zone finance ministers postponed a final decision on extending 12 billion euros ($17 billion) in emergency loans to Greece, saying Athens would first have to introduce harsh austerity measures. The ministers said they expected the money, the next tranche in a 110 billion euro bailout of Greece by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, to be paid by mid-July. Greece has said it needs the loans by then to avoid defaulting on its debt. ... "In a statement issued after a seven-hour meeting in Luxembourg that ended in the early hours of Monday morning, the ministers also announced they would put together a second bailout of Greece, which missed debt targets in the first rescue plan by big margins. The new plan, to be outlined by early July, will include more official loans and, for the first time, a contribution by private investors"

Note: this will happen in Ireland, Portugal and California.

WORDS OF THE MONTH

sojourn \SOH-juhrn; so-JURN\, intransitive verb:
1. To stay as a temporary resident; to dwell for a time.

noun:
1. A temporary stay.

“Yet he is now an accomplished student and speaker of English, a literary editor and television producer, someone who has sojourned in Paris and in his spare time is an Associate Vice President of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations.”

pareja, noun
partner; couple

Pareja is a word that people commonly use to talk about a person who is in a relationship, particularly if they don’t want to specify whether they’re married or not.

“Nos present√≥ a su pareja”.
She introduced us to her partner.

Next week, our monthly finance/economy snapshot.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

June 20, 2011
#II-8

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Guard That Password

New York Times Sunday Business Section, page 3: “For a pretty strong password, think 10. If your password contains 10 characters, you should be able to sleep well at night – perhaps for 19.24 years.”

“That is how long it would take hackers to try every combination of 10 characters, assuming that the password is encrypted and that the hackers have enough computing power to mount a 100-billion-guesses-a-second effort to break the encryption. But if your user names and passwords are sitting unencrypted on a server, you may not be able to sleep at all if you start contemplating the potential havoc ahead.”

“The most important password factor is length and that Web sites store your passwords in encrypted form, always, always, always.” Though a hassle Rink Rats change our passwords every quarter and select gibberish characters adding up to at least 10 characters. Have you changed your password lately?
SUMMER READING: Here is Rink Rats summer reading recommendations, we hope you find time to enjoy many summer novels, the best time to relax and read.

The summer’s single most suspenseful plot belongs to Before I Go to Sleep, by another debut author, S. J. Watson. Its heroine, the middle-aged Christine, is the spookiest amnesiac in a season that’s full of them. As the book begins, she wakes up to meet Ben, the man to whom she has been married for decades, and Dr. Nash, who is treating her but for some reason doesn’t want Ben to know. Goosebumps rise as snippets of Christine’s memory come back (she was once a person called Chrissy who was much more fun), and as details Ben mentions about her past start sounding fishy. Mr. Watson has written this as pure page-turner — though stories as high-concept as this tend to begin more excitingly than they end.

The American Heiress is also far from fluff. Its author, Daisy Goodwin, has written a Gilded Age period piece (published in England as “My Last Duchess”) about an American girl from a Vanderbilt-like family who snags a British title, sort of the way Consuelo Vanderbilt did. According to Ms. Goodwin, about a quarter of the members of the House of Lords in 1910 had American wives. Ms. Goodwin is equally indebted to the great works of Edith Wharton and the high-end soap operas of Penny Vincenzi as she sends Cora Cash from Newport to England.

Good Stuff, Jennifer Grant’s memoir about her father, Cary, is more emotional. Abundantly illustrated, it invokes a man who adored his only child and loved creating memorabilia. Sample artifact: Mr. Grant’s hand-drawn alphabet book for Jennifer, with a picture of him on the F page (for “Father”).

Readers of the 763-page Those Guys Have All the Fun, an oral history of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, have their own battle cries. This treat for sports fans has a cast of characters that is huge and varied. How varied? Keith Olbermann, Rush Limbaugh and President Obama have common ground.

A word about heavy hitters: three big ones leap out of this summer’s book lineup. Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is a Steven Spielberg movie in the larval stage, an ingenious, instantly visual story of war between humans and robots. “Hopefully it’s not prophetic,” one Amazon.com reader has said.

The Cut is George Pelecanos’s chance expertly to introduce Spero Lucas, an irresistible 29-year-old Marine turned private investigator, at the start of a hot new series. It arrives in August.

And John Grisham’s 13-year-old star of a series supposedly aimed at young readers makes his second appearance in Theodore Boone: The Abduction. It’s another swift Grisham thrillerette about this “kid lawyer.” And you don’t have to be a kid anything to enjoy it. Not one person in “The Abduction” winds up (as does a little boy in “The Hypnotist”) punctured by hundreds of knife wounds. Zero mayhem: that’s another new idea this summer.

SUMMER GARDENING - Here is a list of some easy things to do to help keep your garden under control and looking good throughout the summer season.

1. Beware of insects such as aphids or white flies that become rampant as our plants grow larger and have less circulation between them. Remember to spray both upper and lower leaves with neem or pyola oil on a seven to 10 day cycle to keep these critters from destroying your plants. Also, order some beneficial insects such as ladybugs to help keep these insects under control. (Try Gardeners.com or GardensAlive.com.)
2. Prune back your rose bushes after the first bloom. You can either dead head the spent blooms or do a major cutting back to keep them tame and under control. I tend to do the latter. Cut back all weak and dead wood as well. Lastly, clean up all spent leaves—especially if they suffered from black spot. Plus, if black spot is a problem, use this homemade formula: Mix one tablespoon of baking soda and a 1/4 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent in one gallon of water.
3. Continue to pinch back all late summer and fall perennials to keep them bushy and healthy and to stagger blooming times.
4. Finish pruning all spring blooming bushes such as azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs by mid-summer so that they can begin their new growth for next spring.
5. It is still not too late to plant summer blooming bulbs like dahlias or cannas. It's also not too late to plant quick-blooming summer seeds such as sunflowers, nasturtiums and cosmos.

Enjoy and have patience during the ensuing hot summer months!

FATHERS DAY TREAT – Italian Chicken Sliders, add a couple of cold ones and watch the U.S. Open Golf Championship with Dad this coming weekend.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/italian-chicken-sliders-with-tomato-jam/video/index.html


DEAR RINK RATS:

I need to kick start my finances, can you recommend any stocks to purchase?

--Warren Buffett Wannabe

Dear Warren Buffett Wannabe

Despite the recent negative market reaction to the ever-changing possibility of a QE3 (third round of Fed easing), we are still bullish on the market unless we break below the 1250 level in the S&P 500. Friday’s June 10 S&P 500 close was 1270.98. The markets are approaching 2011 bottom, stocks will be higher than these levels by the end of the year for the S&P 500. Only a foolish government strategy could derail this prediction.

Buy: Linn Energy (LINE, $37.80) – This oil and gas pipeline company has a decent dividend yield, management is excellent, they are growing 30% per year.

Buy: IberiaBank (IBKC, $5.45) – a well-run bank and they are cheap.

Good luck!


--Rink Rats

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Joan Ahrens ...39 and not counting, Tim Allen (58), James Belushi (57), President George H.W. “41” Bush (87), Sir Paul McCartney (69), Phil Mickelson (41), Prince Phillip (90), Donald Trump (65).

U.S. OPEN GOLF PICKS – we like Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood this year at Congressional.

UPDATE OCS – GB writes he is alive and strong. “Rocked my initial physical fitness test and spirits are high.” He is now in Phase II, a 3 week transition period that is considered the most difficult in terms of emotional and physical stress.

COMPANIES NOT SPENDING ON NEW HIRES -NYT's Catherine Rampell on pg. A1: "Companies that are looking for a good deal aren't seeing one in new workers. Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people. ... Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with seven million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses' spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, according to the Commerce Department. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before - after the 1982 recession. With equipment prices dropping, and tax incentives to subsidize capital investments, these trends seem likely to continue."

FREAKY FRIDAY: DOUBLE-DIP? - Reuters' Leah Schnurr: "Recent housing and employment data suggests the U.S. economy is at a tipping point where a double-dip recession is possible and home prices could have much further to fall ... veteran economist Robert Shiller said ... 'Whether we call it a double-dip or not, I think there is a risk,' Shiller told Reuters Insider television in an interview. Likewise, data showing U.S. home prices fell into a double dip in March could prove to be either a seasonal effect over the winter months or part of a downward trend. ... He added that a 10 percent to 25 percent slump in real home prices 'wouldn't surprise me at all,' though he cautioned that was not a forecast." Still want to buy that home?

CONAN O’BRIEN – “Hey, it’s been reported that the Chinese economy has showed signs of slowing down. Yeah. Experts say that is what happens when your work force starts to enter its teens.”
Next week, words of the month and our monthly politics update.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
June 13, 2011

#II-7

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ductus Exemplo

“Leadership by Example” is the title of our Rink Rats this week. This past week our family’s oldest grandchild (niece/nephew) began his summer Officer Candidate School at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.

All potential Marine Corps Officers must endure and successfully accomplish OCS; they must prove to the Marine Corps that they possess the necessary qualities to lead Marines. Candidates at OCS are put under conditions and in circumstances which many people would consider harsh and intolerable, and not only are they expected to carry on, but rather they are required to excel and demonstrate marked leadership abilities. The program is from June 2 – August 13.

Officer Candidate School is broken down into three principal categories: physical training worth 25%, academics also weighed 25%, and finally leadership which comprise the remaining 50%. Candidates from the moment they enter OCS until the moment they graduate are constantly “trained, screened and evaluated” in all of these areas. At a minimum candidates must receive a score of 80% to successfully complete OCS, however even if a candidate does maintain this percent he or she may still be dropped based on the recommendations of his or her evaluation staff. In essence the Marine Corps expect the best and will only accept the best.

I know GB is concerned about his ability to complete this program but he has nothing to worry about. This man represents the best of his generation and by his commitment to challenge himself in this endeavor he will succeed.

As every generation comes of age the older generations always question the new generation’s abilities and commitment to being good citizens. As far as this writer is concerned we have little to worry about. In fact every grandchild, niece, nephew I have is a credit to their generation. Be it volunteering for public service, playing sports, caring for others, loving their parents – this generation is the best. Look what our generation has given them; continued conflicts between countries, no realization of the need to be sustainable and environmentally sound, creators of the worst financial disaster in the history of man – we should be proud of this generation and support them in any way we can to deal with what we have left them.

Our prayers and love are with GB and all of his generation as they learn and begin to discover life.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Tonya Carmon ….famous advisor, Johnny Depp (48), Donald Duck (77), Michael J. Fox (50), Paul Giamatti (44), Dalai Lama (76), Mike Modano (41), Joe Montana (55), Jim Nabors (81), Jeffrey Rouss …what does he do???, Boz Scaggs (67), Nancy Sinatra (71).

TIGER FREE FALL – Tiger Woods is now ranked 15th in the latest golf rankings world wide. By far the lowest he has been since turning pro in 1997. Steve Stricker is the highest ranked American at number 7.

MORNING SHOWS - Internal e-mail from Steve Capus, president of NBC News: "For those of you watching 'Today' this morning, you've just heard Meredith Vieira announce that she will be leaving the program in June. You've also heard the news that Ann Curry will be the new co-anchor of 'Today' and Natalie Morales will be the news anchor. The team of Matt, Ann, Al and Natalie will make their debut this June. ... I am pleased to announce Savannah Guthrie as a co-host of the third hour of 'Today.' She will join Al and Natalie at 9 a.m. each morning, bringing her tremendous experience from DC up to Studio 1A in New York. 'Today' recently celebrated its 800th week in first place - an unprecedented 15-plus year run."

ECONOMIST COVER, "The new tech bubble": "The bubble is being pumped partly by wealthy 'angel' investors, some of whom made their fortunes in the late-1990s IPO boom. Their financial firepower has increased and they are battling one another for stakes in web start-ups ... It was arguably started by Russian investors. Skype was born in Estonia. ... The froth in China's web industry could also lead to unrealistic valuations elsewhere. And it may be China that causes the web bubble eventually to burst. Few of those rushing to buy Chinese shares have thought through the political risks these companies face because of the sensitivity of their content. A clampdown on a prominent web firm could startle investors and prompt a broader sell-off, as could a financial scandal."

GOP 2012: THE BIG PICTURE - First installment of POLITICO's "State of the Race" series: Elite sees Daniels as savior - Insiders watching Pawlenty-Huntsman sub-contest to see who will emerge as Romney alternative: Top Republicans are increasingly convinced that President Obama could be easily reelected if stronger GOP contenders do not emerge, and some are virtually begging Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to add some excitement to the slow-starting nomination race. "It's not that they're up in arms," said a central player in the GOP money machine. "It's just that they're depressed."

So instead of solidifying against the overwhelming force being amassed by Obama's reelection campaign, the GOP is indulging in an embarrassingly public - and probably futile - search for a more compelling standard-bearer. Charlie Black, a longtime consultant to GOP presidential races, has been talking up Daniels around Washington and said he sees a 50-50 chance the reluctant Hoosier will run. "Now is the time, and he knows that," Black said. "We have members of both the Bush and McCain teams who have been waiting to see who all's going to get in. The makings of a campaign are there if he decides to run."

RONALD REAGAN BIRTHDAY - "Four European Nations Honor President Reagan's 100th Birthday With Tributes from June 27-July 4, 2011 ... New Ronald Reagan Statues in London and Budapest ... Former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese to Attend and Speak in Budapest": "Today, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced that as part of the year-long, historic Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration, four European nations - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom - will honor the 100th birthday of President Reagan with a series of tributes ... Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will represent Former First Lady Nancy Reagan at certain events. 'Ronnie would have been so touched that his centennial birthday is being celebrated in London and Central Europe,' said Former First Lady of the United States Nancy Reagan. 'He felt a special bond with the people who struggled to be free, and was so very thankful that Great Britain shared our commitment to bringing down the Iron Curtain. I know he would want these events to remind us all of the power of freedom.'

"Program highlights will include: in Krakow, Poland, June 27, a Mass of Thanksgiving and symposia on the relationship between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II; in Budapest, Hungary, June 28 and 29, the unveiling of a statue of President Reagan in Freedom Square and a Commemorative Gala dinner in Hunter's Hall located in Parliament attended by the Prime Minister; in Prague, Czech Republic, June 30 and July 1, a gala dinner and a conference examining how President Reagan might approach current Central European issues hosted by the Foreign Ministry; and in London, England, July 4, the unveiling of a statue of President Reagan in Grosvenor Square and a black-tie gala at The Guildhall where Prime Minister Thatcher hosted President Reagan on his return from a summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1988."

FIRST LOOK: MOST THINK ECONOMY STILL IN RECESSION - Latest Hamilton Place Strategies consumer sentiment survey has a stunning finding: Two years after the official end of the recession, 66 percent of Americans still believe the U.S. is in a recession and another 29 percent say the recession ended but that it still feels like a recession. This should help explain why consumer spending/confidence are still so tenuous.

MEDIAWATCH - N.Y. Times A1, "Abramson to Succeed Keller as Executive Editor of The Times," by Jeremy W. Peters: "Jill Abramson, a former investigative reporter who rose to prominence as a Washington correspondent and editor, will become the next executive editor of The New York Times, succeeding Bill Keller, who is stepping down to become a full-time writer for the paper. Ms. Abramson has been one of Mr. Keller's two top deputies since 2003, serving at his side as he steered The Times through a period of journalistic distinction and economic distress. Mr. Keller said that with the paper's finances now on surer footing, he felt at ease handing the reins to Ms. Abramson. The move was accompanied by another shift in senior management. Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief and former editor of The Los Angeles Times, will become the managing editor for news. ...

"Ms. Abramson ... will become the first woman to be editor of the paper in its 160-year history ... The appointments are effective Sept. 6. ... Over the course of Mr. Keller's tenure, the paper won 18 Pulitzer Prizes ... Mr. Keller will continue to write for The Times Magazine and as a columnist for the new Sunday opinion section, which will make its debut this month. ... Mr. Keller, 62, is still a few years shy of the paper's mandatory retirement age for senior executives, but he held the top job for roughly the same period of time as Max Frankel and Joseph Lelyveld, two of the editors who preceded him. Mr. Frankel and Mr. Lelyveld returned to the newsroom for the announcement. ... Abramson, 57, said being named executive editor was 'the honor of my life' and like 'ascending to Valhalla' ... Mr. Baquet, 54, ... said he had a collaborative relationship with the new editor ... Keller ... did rule out one project. 'I won't be writing a book about The New York Times.”

SCOTT PELLEY debuts today as anchor and managing editor of the 'CBS Evening News.'

OLYMPICS BIDDING - "Stage set for high-stakes US TV rights bidding," by AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson, in Lausanne, Switzerland: "With Dick Ebersol out of the picture, NBC's multi-billion-dollar grip on the most valuable property in sports faces a serious challenge this week when U.S. networks bid on the next set of Olympic television rights. NBC, the Olympic network in the United States for much of the past two decades, goes up against ESPN/ABC and Fox in a high-stakes auction that could potentially command fees of more than $2 billion for two games and more than $4 billion for four. Network executives will make closed-door presentations and sealed bids to the International Olympic Committee on Monday and Tuesday, the first U.S. broadcast rights contest in eight years. ... Up for grabs are the exclusive rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In a new twist, the networks are also free to bid on a four-games package including the 2018 and 2020 Games, whose sites have not yet been selected."

COMING ATTRACTIONS, SUMMER MOVIES – The big blockbuster summer movies are upon us, here is a quick review of what is to come:

X-Men: First Class (June): Every good superhero story needs an origin myth, so here is one for the X-Men, a merry band of mutants who hang around a giant mansion in tight latex suits and, presumably, have mutant power-fueled orgies.
Rink Rats prediction: weak at best.

Bad Teacher (June): Cameron Diaz dirties it up as a foul-mouthed, drug using teacher who is… uh, bad at her job. Then she meets a substitute teacher played by Diaz’s real-life ex Justin Timberlake. He’s rich so she decides to snag him and figures the best way to do so is get a boob job.
Rink Rats prediction: are you kidding, don’t waste your time.

Larry Crowne (July): Tom Hanks stars in and directs this romantic comedy about a lovable schlub who goes back to school and finds a new lease on life. He also finds a lady love in Julia Robert’s grumpy and dissatisfied professor.
Rink Rats prediction: are the Orange County Housewives still on this summer?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July): The end. After all the books were done, we could at least still look forward to the movies, but now even that is over. Harry finally faces down Voldemort, there’s a giant battle at Hogwarts, and many beloved characters die.
Rink Rats prediction: for the cultists a must see, everyone else back to Orange County Housewives.

Cowboys & Aliens (July): Hm, is that title not self-explanatory enough for you? Daniel Craig plays a mysterious loner with no memory and a strange metallic something attached to his wrist, while Harrison Ford is the dictatorial ruler of a small Western town who has it out for Craig.
Rink Rats prediction: is there a Woody Allen film this summer, please?

Our Idiot Brother (August): A Sundance hit that seems to have been repackaged as a bigger, broader comedy, Paul Rudd who annoyingly interferes with the lives of his sisters.
Rink Rats prediction: sounds too close to home, back to The Golf Channel.

We better hope next week we find some good summer reading, because our summer movie choices are few and far between.

Next week, gardening, cooking, Dear Rink Rats and summer reading.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
June 6, 2011

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