Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 1962

50 years ago today two important events occurred that influenced the world from this point forward.

John Glenn became the fifth person in space, the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, circling the globe three times during a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. Up until this point in space flight history the Russians had dominated the exploration of outer space, first with Sputnik and then with man/woman flight. But with John Glenn and NASA’s first great adventure America would slowly regain the advantage in the “space race” and provide real heroes to America.

Second, 50 years ago this week perhaps the greatest movie of all time was released, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. A novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. The movie, like the novel, was instantly successful, the book won a Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The movie starring Gregory Peck won numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator's father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explains the novel's impact by writing, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism. Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice. To Kill a Mockingbird is a rare treasure, where the film is good as or even better than the novel; a novel that changed America’s thinking of race relations in the 1960’s.
ROMNEY op-ed in The Detroit News, "Taxpayers should get GM shares' proceeds": "Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses, Obama rewarded them. A labor union that had contributed millions to Democrats and his election campaign was granted an ownership share of Chrysler and a major stake in GM, two flagships of the industry. The U.S. Department of Treasury - American taxpayers - was asked to become a majority stockholder of GM. ... While a lot of workers and investors got the short end of the stick, Obama's union allies - and his major campaign contributors - reaped reward upon reward, all on the taxpayer's dime. ... American taxpayers have been left on the hook for billions to benefit unions and the union bosses who contributed millions to Barack Obama's election campaign. Such a state of affairs is intolerable, and as president I would not tolerate it. The Obama administration needs to act now to divest itself of its ownership position in GM. The shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation's taxpayers."
WILL 2012 LOOK LIKE 2011 ALL OVER AGAIN? - Remember, 2011 began with high hopes that got dashed after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the U.S. debt downgrade. Should something similar play out, the current narrative tilting the electoral playing field slightly back in President Obama's direction would be reversed. ... The consensus view: This time should be different, barring unforeseen disaster (and maybe $4 gas?). Immelt and others noted that while Congress may not wind up being any more productive, there is no longer any threat of another downgrade or debt ceiling showdown.

And this past week, one major Washington-created obstacle - a possible failure to extend the payroll tax cut - appeared to vanish as Republican leaders capitulated on their demand that a full-year extension be paid for through spending cuts. Europe remains a serious concern but slow bits of progress keep piling up, making a catastrophic meltdown that ripples across the globe less likely. The housing market remains the biggest drag and question mark. But on the panel M.M. moderated, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director and chief economic policy advisor to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said he was convinced prices had bottomed ...

"It's the fourth time I've predicted the bottom of the housing market, but I think I'm right this time," Holtz-Eakin joked. He also praised President Obama's budget request for $8 billion for a program to help community colleges prepare workers with technical skills that companies say they need but can't find among current applicants. Holtz-Eakin noted that McCain proposed a similar program in 2008.

NEW RISK: $4 GAS -  "Gasoline prices could hit $4 a gallon, a threshold they haven't flirted with since last spring. Already in Southern California the $4 barrier has been met. The average price paid by U.S. drivers for a gallon of regular now stands at $3.52 ... That price represents an increase of 0.04 percent from a week ago and 0.38 percent from a year ago. Experts expect prices to spike another 60 cents or more, with the $4 mark being touched-or exceeded-sometime this summer, probably by Memorial Day weekend ... The last time the U.S. saw $4 gasoline was back in the summer of 2008. ... Historically, $4 a gallon has been the upper limit of what consumers have been willing to pay."

RICHEST STATES - FORTUNE infographic on the richest states in the U.S., measured by "rainy day" reserve funds. North Dakota and Wyoming are among the richest states in terms of per capita reserves while Alaska and Texas have the biggest overall reserve funds.

U.S. OUT FOR 2020 SUMMER OLYMPICS - "With international and U.S. Olympic leaders so far unable to resolve a financial dispute that is blocking any U.S. bid for the games [including L.A. for 2020], it might not happen until 2024. ... Denver, Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nev., 2002 host Salt Lake City and Bozeman, Mont., have expressed early interest in bidding for the 2022 Winter Games."

THE BIG PICTURE - "Congress set to pack it in for the year, "Come January, ... taxes [may] rise substantially. Jobless benefits could expire. And defense programs will be on the chopping block ... So what are the chances Congress will deal with these issues ... between now and November? 'Zero,' Sen. Lindsey Graham said. ... It's only February, but it looks like Congress is ready to pretty much pack it in for the year. Or at least until the November elections, when a lame-duck Congress [will meet] ... '60 Minutes' is exploring a piece on the Senate's dysfunction. ... Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was asked what else Congress can do this year. He had two words: 'postal reform.'"

COLORADO NEWS ALERT - Denver Post, "Colorado avalanche danger worst in 30 years - inside and outside of ski areas, experts say," by Jason Blevins: "On Friday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a statewide 'special statement' urging caution as avalanche conditions remain dangerous and skier-triggered avalanches likely. ... Avalanche researchers have to go back about 30 years to find a sketchier snowpack in Colorado. The close calls are abundant ... The six deaths this season match the state's annual average for avalanche fatalities with more than two months left." Cool graphics

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: David Axelrod (57), Drew Barrymore (37), Chelsea Clinton (32), Tricia Nixon Cox (66), Kristin Davis (47), Phil Esposito (70), Steven Hill (90), Joseph Lieberman (70), Edward James Olmos (65), William Peterson (59), Sidney Poitier (85), Bob Schieffer (75), Justin Verlander (29).
MID WINTER RECIPE – Alton Brown’s Enchilada Lasagna, great for those cold winter nights and  of course you need a bottle of Oso Libre Cabernet Quixotic (2007).

For sauce:

  • 2 dried chipotle chiles, stems and seeds removed, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, freshly ground
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For filling:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded queso fresco or Monterey Jack
  • Nonstick cooking spray
Combine the chiles, garlic, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until cooked through, approximately 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a medium bowl. Add the onions to the same pan along with a generous pinch of salt, decrease the heat to medium-low and sweat for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook until the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the chicken back to the pan and remove from the heat.

Spray a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Place 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the dish. Dip 4 tortillas into the remaining sauce and lay them into the bottom of the dish. Cut 1 of the tortillas in half to evenly cover the bottom of the dish. Top this with half of the chicken mixture and 1 cup of the cheese. Starting with 4 more tortillas, repeat the layers, ending with the last 4 tortillas on top. Pour remaining sauce over the dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese on top is bubbly.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/25, 7:00 PM ET, Comcast. The #1 ranked Ferris State Bulldogs (22-8-4) entertain #18 ranked Western Michigan Broncos (16-13-5) in Big Rapids, Michigan. Yes hockey fans, #1 ranked in the nation Ferris State, quite an achievement for the men from Michigan. We pick Ferris State to win this one on the second to last week of the regular season. Season to date (3-5).
THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – St. Lawrence 4 Dartmouth 3 (women’s hockey), Ferris State 6 Western Michigan 3 (men’s hockey), La Verne 8 Occidental 3 (men’s baseball).  Season to date (10-9).

SPORTS BLINK - "ESPN's Monday Night Football will have a new two-person commentator team for the first time during the 2012 NFL season with Mike Tirico and analyst Jon Gruden" - Ron Jaworski out of the booth; will appear on other ESPN shows -- ESPN release: "Jaworski has signed a five-year extension with ESPN for a new, expanded multiplatform NFL analyst role that includes appearances on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, NFL Matchup, NFL-branded specials, Mike & Mike in the Morning, Pardon the Interruption, and other platforms."

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

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 20, 2012
#II-43, 96

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