Monday, January 30, 2012

Digital Detox

This writer has become tethered to e-mail, BlackBerrys, iPads and other electronic devices. The constant use of digital media seems to be taking a toll on my hair color and my ability to focus. New research is showing that such immersion can cause multitaskers to have more fractured thinking and trouble shutting out irrelevant information, and that even when they are offline, those problems persist. A lot of Americans feel stress from juggling too much incoming information, but have to be online for work.

With strategic thinking being in play these days: What are some strategies for unplugging from the demand of digital devices? Is there such a thing as too much multitasking?

The only way to stop is to stop – to turn off the BlackBerry and the iPhone, to check e-mail two or three times a day rather than every three minutes, to spend a few hours reading a novel or immersed in a hobby or having a real conversation. If you regularly give your brain an opportunity to relax, by concentrating on one thing instead of a dozen, the cognitive and emotional costs of multitasking will decline. Cutting back sounds easy, but of course it’s not. It’s really hard. If your boss and your colleagues expect you to be connected all the time, your career may suffer if you go silent. And if your friends are texting, tweeting, and Facebooking around the clock, going offline can leave you feeling socially isolated.

Then again, the only way to change social norms is for individuals to change their behavior. If you lead, maybe others will follow. At the very least, you’ll probably feel calmer, sharper and more in control of your thoughts.

One additional suggestion, every hour or so turn off all your gadgets and go low-tech, whether it’s writing a letter, having a brief conversation at the water cooler, or taking a stroll in the park or the parking lot. It will help minimize stress, maintain mental focus, and improve the quality of your life.

Finally, my best suggestion, GET A LIFE!!!!!

BULLETIN: ROMNEY TAX RATE 13.9 PERCENT IN 2010 - "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released tax records on Tuesday indicating he will pay $6.2 million in taxes on a total of $45.2 million in income over the years 2010 and 2011. ... [T]he former private equity executive released tax returns indicating he and his wife, Ann, paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010. They expect to pay a 15.4 percent rate when they file their returns for 2011. Romney's tax rate is below that of most wage-earning Americans because most of his income, as outlined in more than 500 pages of tax documents, flows from capital gains on investments. ...

"Romney advisers stressed that the holdings in the Caymans -- along with those in a Swiss bank account that was closed in 2010 after an investment adviser decided it could be politically embarrassing to Romney -- were reported on tax returns and were not vehicles to avoid taxes. They also stressed that Romney, whose holdings are in three blind trusts, makes no decisions as to how his money is invested. Regardless, the emerging picture was of a man of great means who contributes mightily to charity. The documents showed he and his wife contributed $7 million in charity over the two years, much of it going to his Mormon church."

OTU: OBAMA RIPS BANKS; SAYS RICH SHOULD PAY MORE - President Obama surprised some in the banking industry by going even more sharply populist than expected in his re-election year State of the Union address. The president announced a new "Financial Crimes Unit" populated by "highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people's investments." (Sure sounds a lot like the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force he created in 2009, but never mind that). ...

Obama also said he was "asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans." ... The new unit will be headed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

FED RATES LOW UNTIL 2014 - "Federal Reserve officials said they expect to keep short-term interest rates near zero for almost three more years and signaled they could restart a controversial bond-buying program in yet another campaign to rev up the disappointing economic recovery. ... Officials hope that by signaling their intentions on short-term interest rates, long-term rates will fall, spurring investment, spending and growth. Since August, the Fed had been saying rates would stay near zero at least until mid-2013. A bond-buying program-also meant to push down long-term interest rates-could be the next step. Mr. Bernanke said there would be a 'very strong case' for even more action by the Fed 'if the recovery continues to be modest and progress on unemployment very slow and inflation appears to be likely to be below target for a number of years out.'"

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace since the first-half of 2010 during final three months of last year, but the improvement was tepid compared to past recoveries and points to only modest growth in 2012.

The nation's gross domestic product -- the value of all goods and services produced -- grew at an annual rate of 2.8% between October and December, the Commerce Department said Friday. The reading was up from 1.8% annualized growth in the third quarter, but below economists' forecast of 3.0% growth.

For the year, GDP grew 1.7% as economic growth improved slightly in each quarter after a very sluggish start to 2011.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Ernie Banks (81), Christie Brinkley (58), Sara Evans (41), Gene Hackman (82), Bill Murray (58), Graham Nash (70), Dan Quayle (65), Nolan Ryan (65), Roger Staubach (70).

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/4, 7:30 PM ET, CBS College Sports; #17 ranked Miami Redhawks (15-11-2) visit Yost Ice Arena and the University of Michigan Wolverines, #8 ranked (15-9-4). Red Berenson’s club has been playing excellent hockey of late, too much for the boys from Ohio. We go with Big Blue in this one. Season to date (2-3).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Rink Rats last pick of the NFL season, as you can see by our record a very mediocre season. February 5, 6:00 PM ET, NBC the New York Giants (12-7) vs. the New England Patriots (15-3). We think defense is going to decide this one, the defense that survives. Tom Brady’s last real shot at being the greatest QB of all-time. Rink Rats pick New England in a close one in Indy. Season to date (11-10).

SUPER BOWL HYPE - ESPN will have "more than 110 hours of television and radio programming originating live from Pan Am Plaza ... in downtown Indianapolis," per a release. (The game is on NBC.) Chris Berman is covering his 30th Super Bowl.

NBC Sports coverage on Sunday begins @ 3:00 PM ET, this will be the 17th time NBC broadcasts The Super Bowl, equaling CBS for most broadcasts by a network.

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – New England 35 New York 32, Michigan 4 Miami 3, CMS 60 Whittier 54 (men hoops). Season to date (7-5).

DRIVING THE WEEK - Welcome to jobs week! The slightly sluggish Q4 GDP figure and its reliance on inventory build tamped economic excitement a bit. ADP number out Thursday is expected to come in around 180K after December's big 325K (a clear overshoot). ... The government number out Friday is also likely to ease off from December's 200K. Consensus is a gain of 150K and the unemployment rate remaining at 8.5 percent. Won't be a surprise if it rises to 8.6 percent (and won't be bad if it's due to more people looking) ...

Next week, Academy Awards picks and a mid-winter recipe.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 30, 2012

#II-40, 93

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jackasses a Plenty

JACKASS OF THE MONTHJackass definition: n. 1. A male ass or donkey. 2. A foolish or stupid person; a blockhead: "You've acted like an irrational jackass and it's time you stopped" (Margaret Truman).

Frank McCourt, LA Dodger owner, has made our Jackass of the Month award again, and in all likelihood for the last time. But is he the real jackass? With 500 million dollars of debt Mr. McCourt will be selling the Los Angeles Dodgers for what some are estimating $1.5 billion. $1.5 billion for a middle of the road baseball team, where you take your life in your hands when you go to a ball game and their only true commodity of value is a year away from retiring (Vin Scully). Maybe we are the jackasses!

BULLETIN - Iowa GOP declares caucuses a tie - Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs: "Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes ... MISSING DATA: 8 precincts' numbers will never be certified ... PARTY VERDICT: GOP official says, 'It's a split decision' ... Rick Santorum - Final total: 29,839 Change: -168 ... Mitt Romney - Final total: 29,805 Change: -210 ... It's a tie for the ages."

S.C. PRIMARY, 100% of precincts reporting: Newt Gingrich, 243,153 - 40 percent ... Mitt Romney, 167,279 - 28 percent ... Rick Santorum, 102,055 - 17 percent ... Ron Paul, 77,993 - 13 percent ... Herman Cain, 6,324 - 1 percent ... Rick Perry, 2,494 - 0 percent ... Jon Huntsman, 1,161 - 0 percent ... Michele Bachmann, 494 - 0 percent.

BUSINESS BURST -- WSJ, "Kodak Files for Bankruptcy Protection,": "The storied former blue chip said it had secured $950 million in financing from Citigroup Inc. to help keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings. ... The filing is a setback for Chief Executive Antonio Perez, who joined the company after running the printer business at Hewlett-Packard Co. Kodak shed more than $7 billion in market value over his tenure, as the executive failed to replicate his former employer's success in printers. Uncertainty over the viability of Mr. Perez's printer strategy raises questions about the fate of Kodak's 19,000 employees. ... Kodak, which filed in bankruptcy court in Manhattan, said it will continue to operate its businesses and hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 next year."

TURN AROUND - General Motors has reclaimed again the top spot as the world's biggest-selling carmaker, dethroning Toyota for the first time since 2007.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Alan Alda (76), Ernest Borgnine (95), Eddie Van Halen (57), Mariska Hargitay (48), Dominik Hasek (47), Abe Helou …distinguished Dean, Patti Noreen …distinguished St. Lawrence Alumnus, Keith Olbermann (53), Tiffani Thiessen (38), Bob Uecker (76), Mayor Antonio Villar (59), Robin Zander (59).

GREEN LEADER - Boston Globe Sunday Magazine preview, "Bill McKibben, the man who crushed the Keystone XL pipeline: How a mild-mannered Vermont journalist derailed that $7 billion oil project, engineered history's largest green protest, and became the environmental movement's most unlikely celebrity," by Barbara Moran: " Tall and stooped, intensely wonky and hopelessly earnest, the 51-year-old McKibben is an unlikely candidate for celebrity. Yet over the past few years he has emerged as the new superstar of the environmental movement. And to many environmentalists - like Al Gore, who in an e-mail praises McKibben for 'his passion, his sincerity and his depth of knowledge' - McKibben offers the brightest hope for their future. ... McKibben and his Keystone protests put a finger in this one particular dike, at least temporarily, and got an environmental cause on the Colbert Report. And that was just the beginning. America, it seems, is about to have a McKibben Moment."

TOP DOGS - "China's remarkable economic momentum , ... coupled with the worldwide expectation that soon it will challenge America's premier global status, justify ranking China just below the United States in the current international hierarchy. ... A sequential ranking of other major powers beyond the top two would be imprecise at best. Any list, however, has to include Russia, Japan, and India, as well as the EU's informal leaders: Great Britain, Germany, and France. Russia ranks high geopolitically largely because of its rich stores of oil and gas and its continued status as a nuclear power second only to the United States .... Brazil and Indonesia have already laid claims to participation in global economic decision making within the G-20 ...

SPORTS BLINK - "The longest winning streak in college sports is over". "Trinity College lost a squash match to Yale 5-4 on Wednesday, snapping a 252-match winning streak that dated back to the 1997-98 season. The Bantams are the 13-time defending national champions and were 8-0 heading into the match. Trinity officials had called this year's team the school's most inexperienced in years. The Bantams lost six starters and five All-Americans from last year's championship squad."

POTUS THE WEEK AHEAD : “On Monday, the President will welcome the six-time Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to the White House to honor the team and their 2011 Stanley Cup victory. Continuing his tradition of recognizing sports teams for their work off the ice, President Obama will highlight the Boston Bruins Foundation which has raised and donated more than $7 million to various charitable organizations in the six New England states. On Tuesday evening, the President will deliver his State of the Union Address at 9:00 PM EST. The First Lady will attend. Following the President's State of the Union address, he will begin a five-state, three-day swing across the country. On Wednesday, the President will begin his trip with an event in the Cedar Rapids area, followed by an event in the Phoenix area. He will then travel to Las Vegas where he will spend the night. On Thursday, the President will hold events in the Las Vegas area and the Denver area before traveling to Detroit that evening where he will spend the night. On Friday, the President will hold an event in the Detroit area before returning to Washington."

WALL STREET WEEK - Wall Street’s positive momentum bumps squarely into earnings season this week, with nearly a quarter of the S&P 500 set to report over the next five sessions. The Dow and S&P are coming off their biggest weekly gains in four weeks, and both have registered their best three-week starts to any year since 1997. Also on the radar: the ongoing Greek debt restructuring talks, as the country and private creditors try to work towards a crucial deal.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/28, 7:00 PM ET, HGTV an ECAC central New York rivalry continues: #9 ranked Cornell University Big Red (11-4-4) visit #18 ranked Colgate Raiders (12-9-3) at Starr Rink in Hamilton, New York. Colgate is led by St. Lawrence Alumnus Don Vaughn ’84. Colgate will upset ECAC leader Cornell in this Saturday night tilt. Season to date (1-3).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – The 2012 Pro Bowl will be the NFL's all-star game for the 2011 season. It will take place at 7:00 p.m. EST (2:00 p.m. local time) on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii and will be televised nationally by NBC. It will be the final Pro Bowl on NBC under the current television contract until at least 2023 (ESPN will assume Pro Bowl broadcast rights in the new deal that begins in 2014). We like the NFC to win. Season to date (11-9).

SPORTS-BLINK - New England Patriots open as three point favorites over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Over/under: 55.5. Sorry TA.

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – NFC 38 AFC 32, Colgate 5 Cornell 3, Redlands 85 La Verne 75 (women hoops). Season to date (5-4).

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Obama delivers his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, his chance to regain the spotlight, if briefly, from Republicans. Expect an election year address doubling-down on the confrontational approach to Congress on jobs legislation as well as a handful of new initiatives including tax credits for returning jobs to the U.S. and possibly some new efforts to aid underwater home-owners (but probably no massive refinancing package). Obama is also expected to go harder on China on allowing the Yuan to rise and on intellectual property theft, seeking to ensure he is not outflanked on the issue by Romney, who has pledged to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office and impose new tariffs ... Romney releases his tax returns on Tuesday, which will give Obama a contrast when he suggests raising taxes on the wealthy in the SOTU ...

Republicans debate tonight in Tampa at 9:00 p.m. in a high-stakes, broadcast TV battle moderated by NBC's Brian Williams. It's the first prime-time, non-cable debate of the cycle ... They debate again on Thursday in Jacksonville from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on CNN hosted by Wolf Blitzer ... House Oversight subcommittee has a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday examining how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will exercise this authority under unconfirmed Director Richard Cordray ... FOMC meets this week and will unveil its beefed up communications campaign on Wednesday but probably not any additional easing ... Top data this week include fourth quarter GDP and Reuters/Univ. Michigan consumer sentiment on Friday. ... World Economic Forum begins Wednesday in Davos.

Next week, Digital Detox.

Until Next Monday, Ciao.

Claremont, CA
January 23, 2012

#II-39, 92

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

Have you ever heard of this expression, “the elephant in the room”. What does this mean? Is there someone who is rather obese in the room? Is there an odor resembling an elephant or animal in the room? Is this a small, confining room? Well in some examples this might describe the meaning of the expression but I tend to think of the saying as meaning something people know about but are afraid to mention, discuss, and confront.

I find many examples of the “Elephant in the Room” on a daily basis –

- The boss who cannot manage but continues to run the department because their boss is just as ineffective and lacking leadership.

- The University who has an athletic program but many of their sports have no on campus facilities.

- The public servant who serves at the mercy of the citizens but cares only about making money.

- Higher education students piling on more and more student loans with no guarantee that they can ever pay off this debt.

- The family that spends more on cell phones than on books for their children to read.

- The wife or girlfriend who knows her husband or partner cheats but does nothing.

What should one do to challenge these elephants? One word: faith. Faith in yourself that you know what is right and wrong to set it straight.

The world would be a much better place without all these elephants.

THE BIG NUMBER: $378 MILLION FOR APPLE CHIEF - "Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is due to receive annual compensation worth $378 million, boosted by restricted stock awards that are payable over the coming decade. The total includes $376.2 million in shares that will vest starting in five years ... Cook's base salary was $900,000 in 2011. ... Apple's board ... now led by Chairman Art Levinson, offered the stock options to Cook to help ensure that he doesn't pursue other job prospects. 'No formula or peer group benchmark' was used to calculate the amount, the company said in the filing. Steve Jobs, who passed the reins to Cook before his death in October, had given input about the pay package."

HOT STAT: CONSUMER CREDIT SOARS - "US consumer borrowing rose by far more than analysts had expected in November as Americans opened their wallets for cars and other purchases amid signs of an improving economy. Consumer credit surged by $20.4bn - the biggest jump since November 2001 - to $2.48tn, the Federal Reserve said. That was well above economists' median estimate of $7bn and nearly twice the high end of estimates of $11.6bn. ... Consumers' willingness to spend has risen as recent data have drawn a brightening picture of the economic recovery. ... Sentiment surveys have recorded rising confidence, and retailers enjoyed record sales on Black Friday, the official start of the end-of-year shopping season."

TOP STORY: WHY DALEY HAD TO GO - "Daley ... was never a great fit inside the West Wing - and Obama and his closest aides realized that mere months into his tumultuous tenure. People close to the situation tell POLITICO that Daley decided to bolt nearly a year earlier than expected in part because he felt marginalized. He was still involved in most key meetings, but he had waning influence ... Daley, a charming if blunt former Commerce secretary, had an even rockier relationship with key Hill Democrats, especially Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). So the selection of low-key budget expert Jack Lew as his replacement was greeted with relief among Democratic lawmakers. Daley ... also so had a habit of freelancing, including his decision to sit down for a frank, expletive-laced interview with POLITICO's Roger Simon - without informing Obama's communications staff."

NEW HAMPSHIRE TAKEAWAYS - "1) Mitt Romney haters enter the final stages of grief ... Romney exceeded his own vote share from the 2008 primary, when he came in second. ... Having survived the evangelicals of Iowa and the famously ornery independents of New Hampshire, Romney now heads into South Carolina with momentum, making him the person undecided voters are likelier to tilt toward. ... 2) Jon Huntsman's surge ... may have fallen short of the second place he seemed headed for. But Huntsman went from cellar-dweller in the polls to third place in a matter of about two weeks ... 3) The GOP cannot ignore Ron Paul ... 4) There is no clear conservative anti-Romney ... 5) Super PACs are more important than ever: If there is anything that will allow Gingrich to keep going past South Carolina, ... it's the super PAC supporting him. The same is true for Santorum and for Huntsman."

ROMNEY ROLLS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE - AP with 95 percent of precincts reporting: Mitt Romney 39.4% (94,255); Ron Paul: 22.8% (54,513); Jon Huntsman: 16.9% (40,388); Newt Gingrich: 9.4% (22,518); Rick Santorum: 9.3% (22,293); Rick Perry: 0.7% (1,688)

ROMNEY 2008: 31.6% (75,546), second to John McCain: 37.1% (88,571)

MEET THE BILLIONAIRES DRAGGING OUT THE RACE - "Meet the three billionaires who could drag out the GOP presidential primary, bloody up front-runner .. Romney and weaken the odds of defeating ... Obama: Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess and Jon Huntsman, Sr. The three men are contributing millions of dollars to a trio of outside groups flooding the airwaves in early voting states with brutal ads attacking Romney and ads backing the candidates they would prefer to win the Republican nomination. Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul, wrote a $5 million check - and has considered giving much more - to a so-called super PAC backing Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign. Huntsman, Sr. ... reportedly invested millions in a super PAC supporting the presidential bid of his son, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. And Friess, a Wyoming mutual fund master, acknowledged to POLITICO that he is a major financial backer of a super PAC supporting Rick Santorum called the Red, White and Blue Fund and is preparing to give more, but declined to say how much he has given or plans to give."

"The prospect that these candidates could carry on is a testament to the new world of campaign money ushered in by a pair of federal court rulings in 2010: A single wealthy donor can now prop up a presidential campaign with unlimited cash, even if the candidate is getting little traction with voters. 'I guess if Newt's got $5 million, it makes sense that Rick [Santorum] should have a little bit,' said Friess, who has known Santorum since the 1990s and shares his conservative views on social and foreign policy issues. ... 'I believe that Rick Santorum is the most electable candidate. And I'm just thrilled to be able to have played a role so far.'

HUNTSMAN OUT - "Every vote he took in S.C. and Florida was one Romney wouldn't get. We figured between 8 and 14 [points] in S.C.: That's the difference between a Romney win in S.C. and someone else winning. It doesn't do the party any good to drag this on. Mitt is the one who can beat Obama and turn economy around. He felt good coming out of New Hampshire, where we gained 10 points in three days. We expected the same movement in S.C., but it still would have left him short. He discussed with family and senior staff Friday through the weekend. The family came to the final decision, which everyone agreed with [Sunday]. He ran a race we can all be proud of. He addressed key issues like too big to fail banks that nobody else was taking on. His message of restoring trust in Washington is an important one that he will continue to advocate for."

EUROPE SINGS THE DEBT ROLL-OVER BLUES - "Europe has a $1 trillion problem. As difficult as the last two years have been for Europe, 2012 could be even tougher. Each week, countries will need to sell billions of dollars of bonds - a staggering $1 trillion in total - to replace existing debt and cover their current budget deficits. At any point, should banks, pensions and other big investors balk, anxiety could course through the markets ... Even if governments attract investors at reasonable interest rates one month, they will have to repeat the process again the next month - and signs of skittish buyers could make each sale harder to manage than the previous one ... Given this vicious cycle, policy makers and investors are closely watching the debt auctions for potential weakness. On Thursday, Spain is set to sell as much as 5 billion euros ($6.3 billion) of government bonds. Italy follows on Friday with an auction of more than $9 billion."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Muhammad Ali (70), Mike Bossy (55), Jim Carrey (50), A.J. Foyt (77), Robert Kennedy Jr. (58), Renee Miller …famous Commencement hostess, Jack Nicklaus (72), Dr. Laura Schlessinger (65).

BCS COLLEGE BOWL PICK OF THE WEEK – Our season is over, congratulations to The University of Alabama Crimson Tide for winning the national D-1 football championship. We finished the season 12 – 8, it was fun, see you next fall.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/21, 7:00 PM ET, SHN, the rivalry continues in Potsdam; St. Lawrence University Saints (8-12-3) visit the Clarkson Golden Knights (10-10-5) in this ECAC classic matchup. St. Lawrence is led by Canton, New York native, Junior and Hobey Baker candidate, Kyle Flanagan. It will take a big game by Mr. Flanagan to upset the big green of Clarkson. We pick an upset, surprise, St. Lawrence to win. Season to date (1-2).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 1/22, 6:00 PM ET, Fox; the New York Giants visit the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. The Giants are on a roll and will continue on to Indianapolis and The Super Bowl. Season to date (10-9).

THE LINES: New England by 7½ over Baltimore (50 points) ... 49ers by 2½ over G-men (44 points).

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – New England 28 Baltimore 17, New York 24 San Francisco 14, St. Lawrence 4 Clarkson 3. Season to date (3-3).


Are birth control pills tax deductible?

Looking for write offs.

Dear Looking for write offs:

Only if they don’t work.



I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Any suggestions?

History buff.

Dear History buff:

Yes. Run for public office.



pusillanimous \pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-muhs\, adjective:

Lacking in courage and resolution; contemptibly fearful; cowardly.

Evil, unspeakable evil, rose in our midst, and we as a people were too weak, too indecisive, too pusillanimous to deal with it.
-- Kevin Myers, "An Irishman's Diary", Irish Times, October 20, 1999

postre, noun


De postre tomé un helado.

I had ice cream for dessert.

¿Qué hay de postre?

What’s for dessert?

DRIVING THE WEEK - $4/gallon gasoline is close at hand this spring in most of America. How will this influence summer travel plans? $2 billion a week is being spent in Afghanistan, President Obama continues this week to formulate a plan to end this U.S. commitment. The Euro debt downgrade last week sends another message to U.S. leaders to get our house in order.

Next week, Jack Ass of the Month.

Until Next Monday, Ciao.

Claremont, CA
January 16, 2012

#II-38, 91

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Predictions: Part Deux

TECHNOLOGY – A device backlash will begin as workers add more electronic devices to their multitasking world. More devices harbor more distractions and inefficiency.

UNEMPLOYMENT – Will end the year at 8.0%, but hundreds of thousands have completely stopped looking for work.

THE MARKET – The Dow, S & P 500 and NASDAQ will all average 4.5% growth.

GOLD – Will close the year at $1,800.

POTUS – President Obama will win reelection with 51.5% of the vote.

GHOUL POOL – Billy Joel, Joe Paterno, George Shultz

LA VERNE FOOTBALL – Will win four out of eight in their 2012 football season.

GDP GROWTH RATE – 3.0% for 2011

ROMNEY WINS IOWA BY 8 VOTES - With 100 percent of Iowa precincts reporting: Mitt Romney: 30,015 (24.6 percent); Rick Santorum: 30,007 (24.5 percent); Ron Paul: 26,219 (21.4 percent); Newt Gingrich: 16,251 (13.3 percent); Rick Perry: 12,604 (10.3 percent); Michele Bachmann: 6,073 (5.0 percent).

ROMNEY 2008 RESULT: 29,949, 25.2 percent.

--Total: 122,255, breaking the previous record for GOP caucus participants -- 119,000, in 2008

RETURN OF THE KENNEDYS -- Boston Globe A1, "Kennedy III explores a run for Frank's seat: Ex-congressman's son could extend a legacy," by Frank Phillips: Joseph P. Kennedy III, a 31-year-old prosecutor and son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy, "will run for the Democratic nomination to represent the redrawn [Barney Frank] district ... Kennedy, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Peace Corps volunteer, would enter the race as the prohibitive favorite. ... [H]is credentials and experience [will] undoubtedly be called into question by opponents, much as they were decades ago for his great uncles: future President Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy when he first ran for the Senate. ... Kennedy is the first in the fourth generation of Kennedys to thrust himself into electoral politics."

ROMNEY IN CONTROL – Mitt Romney has even broken his former polling ceiling. He long registered around 25 percent but has soared following his narrow win in the Iowa caucuses, registering a surprising 37 percent in a CNN/TIME/ORC poll of likely primary voters in South Carolina, double digits ahead of second-place finisher Rick Santorum, who had 19 percent. It's hard to find anyone in the campaigns or the media who think Romney won't win the nomination - if not this month, soon. ... 'If you could win a game in a quarter, that would be great, and that could happen,' a Romney adviser said. 'But the campaign is prepared for four quarters and a couple overtimes.'

HAPPENING THIS MORNING: MERKEL/SARKOZY TALK GROWTH - Reuters/Berlin: "The German and French leaders meet on Monday to discuss ways to boost growth in euro zone states struggling to overcome the sovereign debt crisis and rising unemployment, and finalise a deal to increase fiscal coordination within the currency union. They may also discuss a financial transaction tax ... promoted by France but resisted by Britain unless adopted on a global scale, which could split the European Union at a summit at the end of the month. ... While Germany's labour market is thriving, employment is a pressing issue for Sarkozy, who faces an election in less than four months and is trailing in polls while French jobless claims are at their highest level in 12 years."

UNEMPLOYMENT  - "Unemployment rate falls to 8.5 pct., hiring surges," by AP Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber: "[E]mployers added a net 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009. The rate has dropped for four straight months. The hiring gains cap a six-month stretch in which the economy generated 100,000 jobs or more in each month. That hasn't happened since April 2006."

HISTORY – Five years ago this week Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone.

BEST WISHES – LP who announced this week her leaving the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. She will be missed a wonderful scientist and coworker. Chicago look out, here she comes.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Super Bowl (45), Princess Catherine (30), Ben Crenshaw (60), Maureen Dowd (60), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (51), Jimmy Page (68), J.K. Simmons (57), Bart Starr (78), Howard Stern (58), Rod Stewart (67).

SPORTS BLINK - "Patriots and 49ers lead Pro Bowl rosters”: "Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots and Patrick Willis one of eight 49ers to make the Pro Bowl, the most on each roster. Defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay (15-1), led by starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Baltimore (12-4), led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, have seven apiece for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu [NBC, 7 p.m. ET, one week before the Super Bowl], the NFL announced Tuesday. ... Green Bay's Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans (14-3)."

BCS COLLEGE BOWL PICK OF THE WEEK – Monday, 1/9 8:30 PM ET, ESPN has our final game of the season: #1 Louisiana State University Tigers (13-0) vs. #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1). The Tigers proved to be the dominant team in college football this season, using their versatile offense and overpowering defense to roll over opponents -- except for one. That would be the Tide, who hosted LSU on Nov. 5 in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of teams that have each captured a BCS title during the SEC's five-year reign. The Tigers won in overtime 9-6. A different story now, we like Alabama to win another national championship in a close, low scoring game.   Season to date (11-8).

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/14, 7:00 PM ET, FSD has the Northern Michigan Wildcats (10-7-4) visit #15 ranked Michigan State Spartans (11-9-2) in East Lansing. We are now in the prime of the CCHA season, The Spartans to win big over NMU.  Season to date (0-2).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/14, 8:00 PM ET, CBS has the Denver Broncos (9-8) at the New England Patriots (13-3). Can this fairy tale continue for the chosen one Tim Tebow, the answer is no the devil by the name of Tom Brady will put an end to this nonsense.  Season to date (9-9).

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – Alabama 17 LSU 14, New England 35 Denver 10, New Orleans 38 San Francisco 24. Season to date (1-2).

NHL HALFWAY POINT – The season is half over here are the top five teams thus far: (1). New York Rangers (56 points), (2). Vancouver Canucks (55), (3). Boston Bruins (53), (4). Detroit Red Wings (53), (5). Philadelphia Flyers (52). 

Top player at the half way point Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, top goalie Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings, biggest disappointment, Anaheim Ducks (terrible).

DRIVING THE WEEK - Two marquee events in their respective industries should generate quite a bit of news this week: the North American International Auto Show gets underway in Detroit with a media day today, while the Consumer Electronics Show is underway in Las Vegas.

Next week, Dear Rink Rats and words of the month.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 9, 2012

#II-37, 90

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: Predictions

POLITICS – Democratic Ticket: Obama & Biden; Republican Ticket: Romney & Rubio.

SPORTS – Super Bowl Champs: Green Bay Packers, NHL Champs – Detroit Red Wings, NBA Champs – Who Cares, World Series Champs – Anaheim Angels.

EDUCATION – Beginning of the end of for profit colleges, the gravy train will be closed by Congress.

MOVIES – Academy Award for Best Picture: The Descendants

NEW LAWS 2012 - "Abortion, immigration changes among new 2012 laws,": "Girls seeking abortions in New Hampshire must first tell their parents or a judge, some employers in Alabama must verify new workers' U.S. residency, and California students will be the first in the country to receive mandatory lessons about the contributions of gays and lesbians under state laws set to take effect at the start of 2012. Many laws reflect the nation's concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the best way to protect and benefit young people, including regulations on sports concussions. ...

"Among federal laws, a measure Congress passed last week to extend Social Security tax cuts and federal unemployment benefit programs raises insurance fees on new mortgages and refinancings backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by 0.1 percent beginning Jan. 1. ... Election law changes in Rhode Island and Tennessee will require voters to present photo ID, a measure that supporters say prevents fraud and that opponents say will make it harder for minorities and the elderly to cast ballots."

MEDIAWATCH - N.Y. Times, "To Our Readers" box on A1 (both New York and National editions): "On Jan. 2, the Monday-Saturday newsstand price of The Times will increase from $2.00 to $2.50. The Sunday newsstand price will be unchanged. Home delivery prices will go up by 20 cents to 60 cents per week, depending on location and the days of delivery."

FINANCE WORLD -- "Dow Ends Year of Tumult Up 6%: Top Investors Stumble, but Strong 4th Quarter Pushes Blue Chips Into the Black; S&P Is Flat": "The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the year up nearly 6%-a modest rise that belied the turmoil of the last half of the year, when the blue-chip index averaged a daily intraday swing of 270 points between August and November, more than twice as wide than the same period in 2010. And for all the white-knuckle rides, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index ended almost right back where it started, finishing down 0.003%. On Friday, the Dow fell 69.48 to 12217.56, leaving it up 5.53% for the year."

OBAMA 2012 - "In 2012, Obama to press ahead without Congress,": "Obama and his advisers are beginning 2012 with a renewed sense of confidence, buoyed by a series of polls that show the president's approval rating climbing as Congress becomes increasingly unpopular. They believe his victory over Republicans in the payroll tax debate has boosted his credentials as a fighter for the middle class, a theme he will look to seize on in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address. ...

"Campaign officials say Obama will fully engage in the re-election campaign once the Republicans pick their nominee. He will focus almost exclusively on campaigning after the late summer Democratic National Convention, barring unexpected developments at home or abroad. Among the issues that could disrupt Obama's re-election plans: further economic turmoil in Europe, instability in North Korea following its leadership transition and threats from Iran. ...

"Obama's foreign travel next year will be limited mainly to the summits and international gatherings every U.S. president traditionally attends. He's expected to travel to South Korea in March for a nuclear security summit and to Colombia in April for the Summit of the Americas. He's also likely to visit Mexico in June for the G-20 economic summit. Two other major international gatherings - the NATO summit and the G-8 economic meeting - will be held in Chicago, on home turf."

REAL WORLD - L.A. Times A1, "U.S. Afghan war deaths fall: Pentagon officials say the 2011 decline marks a turning point in the fight. But the Taliban sees it differently," by Laura King in Kabul: "For the first time in years, U.S. military deaths here declined in 2011. ... U.S. officials speak of having turned a corner in 2011. From the Taliban perspective, the Americans took fewer fatalities only because they lost the taste for aggressive combat. Until last year, U.S. fatalities in the decade-long conflict had usually climbed - sometimes sharply - from year to year, peaking in 2010 at 499. That number dropped last year to 417 ...

"U.S. officials say successful tactics and the impact of sheer numbers broke the momentum of the Taliban and other armed militant factions in 2011, when American troop strength topped out at more than 100,000. Since summer, 10,000 U.S. troops have left, and an additional 23,000 are scheduled to depart in 2012. ... Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid attributed the decrease last year in Western military fatalities to a decline in major offensives. 'They have not conducted any huge operations anywhere,' he said. 'This year NATO forces have maintained defensive positions. They are not coming out of their bases.'"

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Katie Couric (55), Robert Duvall (81), Bob Eubanks (74), Doris Kearns Goodwin (69), Bobby Hull (73), Diane Keaton (66), Robby Krieger (66), Howie Long (52), Nancy Lopez (55), Walter Mondale (84).

BCS COLLEGE BOWL PICK OF THE WEEK – Tuesday 1/3, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN: Michigan Wolverines (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2). The Sugar Bowl will pit No. 13 Michigan and No. 17 Virginia Tech in a match up of marquee programs that received invitations to Tuesday's contest ahead of higher-ranked teams. This match up includes two of the better defensive teams in the country. Virginia Tech ranked 13th nationally in the regular season by allowing 313.9 yards per game while Michigan was 18th at 317.6 after finishing 110th a season ago. Surprise, surprise we like Michigan to win. Season to date (10-8).

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/7, 8:05 PM ET, BTN: Number 3 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-6-3) visit number 5 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-6-1). This huge WCHA match up in St. Paul has two teams coming off a disappointing holiday season. Minnesota is too tough in the land of 10,000 lakes, we pick Minnesota. Season to date (0-1).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/7, 8:00 PM ET, NBC has the upset of the season, NFC playoff Detroit Lions (10-6) visit New Orleans Saints (13-3). The Detroit Lions will win at New Orleans in a shootout. Season to date (9-8).

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – Michigan 32 Virginia Tech 28, Minnesota 4 Notre Dame 2, Detroit Lions 42 New Orleans 35. 2011 Season final (32-18).

SPORTS BLINK - NFL -- ESPN release, "Monday Night Football: Cable's Most-Watched Series for Sixth Straight Year ... drawing 14 of the calendar year's 20 biggest cable household audiences ... ESPN's 17 Monday Night Football telecasts in 2011 averaged a 9.7 rating (8.4 US rating), representing an average of 9,589,000 households (13,252,000 viewers - P2+) ... In six seasons on ESPN, Monday Night Football has registered eight of the top 10 all-time biggest household audiences in cable history. (Only two 2011 Bowl Championship Series college football games - which also aired on ESPN - rank higher.) ... ESPN's highest-rated MNF game of 2011 was the Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (Sep. 26)."

--COLLEGE FOOTBALL --"Pac-12, Big Ten plan to team up: The leagues announce a massive collaboration that will increase athletic competition among all 24 schools": "Plans include a preseason game at the Rose Bowl, possibly as soon as 2013 or 2014, involving schools from each conference. ... The goal by 2017 is for each Pac-12 school to play a Big Ten school on its nonconference football schedule. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also said he would be interested in a neutral-site game in the Midwest. 'Who knows,' Delany said. 'You could have the Rose Bowl one year and Soldier Field the next.' Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field are other possibilities."

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Obama is back on the mainland and back on the stump on the economy on Wednesday when he will deliver remarks at around 1:15 p.m. in Shaker Heights (also known as the Greenwich, Conn. of Ohio).

What kind of story will he have to tell Wednesday and the rest of 2012? So far it looks decent, though threats from Europe (debt crisis), the Middle East (Iran, Egypt, Syria), Asia (North Korea) still loom large. ... Economic data over the break was mostly good-to-very good with consumer confidence shooting higher and pending home sales up 7.3 percent. Both these things are critical to 2012 outperforming expectations of slow growth.

Data this week is dominated by Friday's jobs report with payrolls expected to jump by 150K up from a gain of 120K in November. ... The unemployment rate may tick back up to 8.7 percent if people take up the job hunt again, which would be a good thing. ADP report on Thursday also likely to come in about 150K ... ISM manufacturing report, out today 10:00 a.m., expected to rise to 53.4 from 52.7.

Next week, 2012 finance predictions.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

January 3, 2012

#II-36, 89