Monday, May 28, 2012

Decoration Day

It is appropriate this Memorial Day to salute all those who have given their lives in defense of this nation. Without their sacrifices we would not be free to ask questions, to challenge our political leaders and to take an active role in our system of government. To them we owe an unrepayable debt.

The United States of America was born from the blood and ashes of war--the Revolutionary War of 1776. It was fought to defend the "self-evident" truth "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Those who fought and died were committed to the notion that government derives its "just powers from the consent of the governed" and that when a government does not protect the unalienable rights of the people, it is the "Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness."

Since the war of 1776, nearly two and a quarter centuries ago, thousands, thousands of men and women have died for the same cause. Tyranny does not reign in America--as it does so many places around the globe--because so many have love their country more than their own lives.

While this is the weekend that generally kicks off the summer season with family get-togethers, cookouts, and three-day get-aways, let’s not forget the true reason why the holiday exists.

Memorial Dayoriginally known as Decoration Day—was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It has been celebrated ever since then as a day to honor veterans of foreign wars and all the men and women currently serving in the armed forces. Take some time this weekend to recognize the true meaning of the holiday and share the history with your children.

A moving tribute to our veterans is the photograph below. Taken by the photographer Todd Heisler for The Rocky Mountain News, “Jim Comes Home” – which documents the return and burial of Second Lt. Jim Cathey of the United States Marines, who lost his life in Iraq – the photo shows his pregnant widow, Katherine, lying on an air mattress in front of his coffin. She’s staring at her laptop, listening to songs that remind her of Jim. Her expression is vacant, her grief almost palpable.

Not only the picture shows the bereaved young woman, but the Marine who stands behind her. In an earlier photo in the series, we see him building her nest of blankets on the air mattress. In this photo – he merely stands next to the coffin, watching over her. I believe this photo is so honest about one’s grief but also so modern. During a spouse’s deployment your laptop is your battle buddy. Your sense of connection and emotional well-being is sustained via e-mail, Facebook, Skype and Instagram. It appears, per Lieutenant Cathey’s widow, that the same is true even in a time of loss. This heartbreaking photo showcases the intersection of technology and agony.

We are in a time when thousands of wounded service members need care, jobs, and attention. Civilians need to be aware of the struggles of our returning veterans and also their widowed families. The civilian-military gap isn’t always born of indifference, but rather, at times, a sense of helplessness on the civilian side. What can I do? If you do nothing else, you can remember those who have given their lives for their country. Our country. Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff – a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after war-fatigued year. By hanging your flag, saying a prayer, shaking a hand, offering assistance in any shape or form, civilians will be bearing witness and remembering in their own way – that those who are gone and those who are returning are not forgotten.

CONGRATULATIONS – to Geoff B. on his commission this coming weekend in Washington D.C. to the United States Marine Corps. His example is no finer representation of this generation.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Greg Ball …wanna be Rockies announcer, Anderson Cooper (45), Clint Eastwood (82), Morgan Freeman (75), Anthony Geary (75),  Dennis Haysbert (58), Carol Ann Lewis …famous Arizona Wildcat, Ron Wood (65).

Next week, Dear Rink Rats and Major League Baseball at the quarter pole.
Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 28, 2012

#III-5, 110

Monday, May 21, 2012

Commencement 2012

Our annual commencement notes from around the country:

Barnard College, New York, NY – President Obama: “After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world.”

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA – Elon Musk

Clark College, Vancouver, Washington – J.R. Martinez

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY – Michael Bloomberg

George Washington University, Washington D.C. – Brian Williams

Louisana State University, Baton Rouge, LA – Bob Schieffer: “There is no penalty anymore for dirty campaigning.”

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR – Michelle Obama

Pomona College, Claremont, CA –Cameron Munter

St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY – Garry Trudeau

Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA – Steve Wozniak

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY – Aaron Sorkin

University of La Verne, La Verne, CA – Freeman Hrabowski

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA – Maria Shriver: “Who you work for is as important as what you do.”

CONGRATULATIONS – To Barb and Carl Colley on the birth of their 8 pound daughter Blair Charlotte. I wonder if Blair will be buying her first Ford online?

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Thomas Chong (74), Barb Colley …famous online educator, Genie Francis (50), Barbara Hasse …Mom, Jewel (38), Henry Kissinger (89), Brent Musburger (72), Stevie Nicks (64), Frank Oz (68).

RINK RATS TMZ.COM – Has learned that a famous life-long card caring Republican is thinking about switching to the Democratic Party. Say it ain’t so.

MOTHERS’ MILK -  President Obama and the DNC raised $43.6 million in April, down from the $53 million raised in March but well above the $31 million raised four years ago.

WALL STREET WEEK - To say that the month of May has been a Wall Street washout would not likely be considered hyperbole: the major U.S. averages are coming off their biggest weekly losses of 2012, and the Dow and S&P 500 are now on track for their biggest monthly losses since May of 2010.  The Nasdaq is even more bearish: it’s on pace for its biggest monthly percentage drop since November 2008.

WORTH $100 BILLION AT BIRTH - "Facebook Inc has become the first U.S. company to be worth more than $100 billion at its debut, as investors bet on a big pop in the stock when it begins trading on the Nasdaq [today]. Frenzied demand ... is expected to drive Facebook well above its initial public offering price of $38 a share, which was already at the top end of its target of $34 to $38. Analysts were divided on how high the price might go on the first day of trade, with some expecting a relatively modest gain of 10 percent to 20 percent while others said anything short of a 50 percent jump would be disappointing. ...
"Facebook is selling an up to 18 percent stake in the company at a valuation of $104 billion, comparable to the market worth of Inc, and exceeding that of Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc combined ... Enthusiasm for Facebook shares comes despite questions about the company's long-term money-making capabilities, particularly after it reported a quarter-to-quarter revenue slide in April. Others warn that the price tag, equivalent to over 100 times historical earnings versus Apple Inc's 14 times and Google Inc's 19 times, makes Facebook a risky bet.
TYPEWRITER OF THE DAY -  Royal 'Apollo 10' model from 1969. Electric that got us to the moon! It's noisy but types fine.

GAS PRICES KEEP EASING - "Gasoline prices fell for the fifth consecutive week, extending a sharp decline that has eased fears that prices would soon top $4 a gallon at the pump. The average price of regular gasoline dropped to $3.790 a gallon as of Monday ... down 3.8% from the 2012 peak of $3.941 reached April 2. Many of the forces that drove gasoline up are reversing, and that is helping bring prices back down, though they still remain near record highs. Tensions over Iran's nuclear program have eased, while softening economies in the U.S. and Europe have curbed demand. ... The changes have led analysts to temper their price predictions for the summer driving season.

"A few months ago, some were saying pump prices could shoot above $4 a gallon and even reach $5 by the summer, but now they say that is highly unlikely. That is good news not just for America's drivers, but also for the economy and potentially ... Obama, who has spent much of the year deflecting Republican criticism of rising fuel prices and his stewardship of the economy"

BIG BROTHER – The United States Post Office, the bastion of efficiency in business, has announced that they are closing the San Dimas, California post office. We believe this is the best performing post office in our region. I blame myself for taking too many deductions this year and not paying more taxes.
CHANGING AMERICA -- "Whites Account for Half of Births in U.S.": "After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States."
"Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities - including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race - reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country's history...."
"While over all, whites will remain a majority for some time, the fact that a younger generation is being born in which minorities are the majority has broad implications for the country's economy, its political life and its identity. "This is an important tipping point," said William H. Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution..."
Next week, Dear Rink Rats and the Jack Ass of the Month.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 21, 2012

#III-4, 109

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ah La Famiglia

This past week this writer was told by some avid readers of this blog that he tends to be a bit cynical in his weekly observations. Rightly so with bankers continuing to rip off the tax payers and citizens, with politicians spinning from one opinion to another, with administrators holding no accountability in their actions, you can become a tad cynical in your outlook of events.

But this week I pause, though briefly, from my cynicism to comment on the joy and love of being a member of a family. Yes, families can be a pain in the butt, the sometime dysfunction of family can drive you nuts. But when together, be it on birthdays, graduations, illness, sporting events, and even funerals, the feeling of being among those who care about you despite all the mistakes and history is truly something that cannot be expressed in words.

With all the commentary these days on La Famiglia (The Family) from families who are gay or straight, interracial or not, rich or poor, the most important part of all this is that you are together as one, if you live in the same town or across the country. The love, caring, personalities, generations all together sharing life, helping and supporting each other is what makes Family above all else. What a cool feeling to have in ones’ life.

CONGRATULATIONS – A double congratulations to niece Barbara B. on her graduation from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. degree in Political Science. Barbara now heads to Washington D.C. to begin her career in the political consulting field. Also to Tara P. on her graduation from Brownies to Girl Scouts this past week. Tara continues her march to dominate the world.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Madeline Albright (75), David Byrne (60), Bill Dillhoefer …the best practice swing in golf, Craig Ferguson (50), Shelly Lamotte …famous hotel consultant, Brooks Robinson (75), George Strait (60), Mark Zuckerberg (28).

THE BIG PICTURE - "Crisis claims another leader, is Obama next?" "The transatlantic economic crisis has scythed through Europe's leaders. ... President Obama lost a flamboyant, sometimes erratic but ultimately trusted partner in Nicolas Sarkozy after France picked Francois Hollande, its first Socialist president in a decade, to pull it out of the slump. Sarkozy Sunday joined Britain's Gordon Brown, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, Ireland's Brian Cowen, and leaders of Denmark, Spain and Portugal sent packing since Obama took office himself in 2009. Though each election featured unique national factors, those leaders paid for their failure to mitigate the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

FORTUNE 500 TOP 10 LIST: 1. Exxon Mobil 2. Wal-Mart Stores 3. Chevron 4. ConocoPhillips 5. General Motors 6. General Electric 7. Berkshire Hathaway 8. Fannie Mae 9. Ford Motor 10. Hewlett-Packard."

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS – We are halfway through sports greatest tournament, The Stanley Cup Playoffs. The only non-surprise thus far is the New York Rangers reaching the eastern final; New Jersey, Los Angeles and Phoenix all big surprises. Where are the Red Wings, the Bruins, Vancouver, even Pittsburgh? A very interesting tournament thus far; the Los Angeles Kings by far the best team at this point in the playoffs. This writer had them not making the playoffs, today their speed, size, goaltending, and team play have them as the favorites to win it all.

RINK RATS TMZ.COM – At a graduation this weekend; why was a Mother of a University of Colorado graduate strangely not in attendance? Rink Rats has learned there is more to the story than meets the eye.

WALL STREET WEEK - U.S. stock index futures are pointing lower this morning, as investors digest the political tumult in Greece, as well as the fallout from JPMorgan Chase’s $2 billion trading loss revealed last week. The Dow has posted losses in seven of the past eight sessions, and comes off its biggest weekly drop of 2012.

HEARD ON THE STREET: THE KING STUMBLES - "While J.P. Morgan's painful loss should prove manageable-the bank earned $5.4 billion in the first quarter-it presents a host of issues. For starters, the surprise announcement gives investors already fearful of big banks stocks yet another reason not to buy them: namely, the seeming impossibility of understanding the risks the banks entail. ... That banking king Mr. Dimon could stumble in this way also resurrects the question of whether banking behemoths are too big to manage. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan may have just shot itself in the foot. If the losses were of a greater magnitude, any distress could quickly ripple out through a host of markets-J.P. Morgan, for instance, is a vital part of the market for tri-party repos. That should stiffen the resolve of regulators such as the Federal Reserve that have proposed measures such as limiting the exposures of big banks to each other."

BASIS TRADE 101 - The basis trade is an arbitrage, basically. There are two different ways the market measures credit risk: by looking at credit spreads - the yield on a certain issuer's bonds, relative to the risk-free rate - or by looking at CDS spreads, which are basically the same thing but set in the derivatives market rather than the cash bond market. ... Bruno Iksil, the London Whale, had a massive long position on corporate CDS in general ... He was selling protection, betting that credit spreads would go down, rather than up. ... In any case, CDS spreads went up - and credit spreads, in the cash market, didn't. Cue a $2 billion loss."

FACEBOOK IPO OVERSUBSCRIBED? - " Facebook Inc's record initial public offering is already oversubscribed, a source familiar with the share listing said, days after the world's largest social network embarked on a cross-country roadshow ... Despite concerns about slowing growth, a lofty valuation and signs the company is having trouble ramping up revenue from mobile advertising, institutional investors have so far indicated demand for more shares than Facebook has available, the source told Reuters. Analysts say the company, which is seeking to raise about $10.6 billion by selling more than 337 million shares at $28 to $35 apiece, may raise that price range if demand turns out to be healthy enough."

SPORTS BLINK - USA Today "NFL 2012 Forecast" magazine ranks the post-draft teams : "The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants are the team to beat in 2012. ... 1. New York Giants: :pumped fresh blood into diminishing backfield with first-round choice David Wilson. 2. Green Bay Packers: Replaced Pro Bowl center Scott Wells with former Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday. 3. New England Patriots 4. San Francisco 49ers 5. Houston Texans 6. Philadelphia Eagles 7. Baltimore Ravens 8. New Orleans Saints 9. Detroit Lions. 10. Atlanta Falcons 11. Denver Broncos 12. Pittsburgh Steelers 13. Dallas Cowboys 14. New York Jets: Must balance brewing quarterback controversy with serious playbook expectations. 15. Chicago Bears 16. Kansas City Chiefs 17. Seattle Seahawks 18. Carolina Panthers 19. San Diego Chargers 20. Tennessee Titans 21. Cincinnati Bengals 22. Buffalo Bills 23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24. Arizona Cardinals 25. Washington Redskins: Added franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III who will require improved blocking and receiver play. 26. Oakland Raiders 27. Miami Dolphins 28. St. Louis Rams 29. Minnesota Vikings 30. Cleveland Browns 31. Jacksonville Jaguars 32. Indianapolis Colts: Razed the roster for complete rebuild, but can they protect top pick Andrew Luck?"

Next week, Dear Rink Rats and the Commencement Season.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 14, 2012

#III-3, 108

Monday, May 7, 2012

Economy Top Ten

“Top Ten Reasons Economy Is Still Weak”

10).     Mr. Thirty Hour Work Week is only working 25 hours.

9).        The hottest new business on Foothill Boulevard is a Big Five Sporting Goods.

8).        Labor force participation rate is now the lowest since 1981.

7).        10 Year U.S. Treasury note yield 1.88%

6).        Leo and Lea find it cheaper to not get married.

5).        40% of students drop out of four-year universities before graduation.

4).        Job growth slows for the second straight month.

3).        Workers with tattoos are being hired before workers without tattoos.

2).        College administrators are getting their haircuts at SuperCuts.

1).       People are still taking advice from Larry Summers.

MIDDLE CLASS KEEPS LOSING GROUND - "Barack Obama campaigned four years ago assailing President George W. Bush for wage losses suffered by the middle class. More than three years into Obama's own presidency, those declines have only deepened. ... Underlying the erosion of the middle class, defined by some economists as the middle 60 percent of income earners, are trends that stretch back decades, including competition from lower-wage workers overseas and technological advances that allow factories and offices to produce more with less labor. As a candidate in 2008, Obama blamed the reversals largely on the policies of Bush and other Republicans. ... Yet real median household income in March was down $4,300 since Obama took office in January 2009 and down $2,900 since the June 2009 start of the economic recovery"

WELCOME TO 2012: YEAR OF CONFUSION - "Don't like the economy we have? Just wait a day and you'll get a new one. One day, [GDP] is a growing at a dismal 2.2 percent rate. The next day manufacturing is at a 10-month high. Jobless claims are up again. That's not good. But maybe it's a just a quirk of the warm winter? Another bad sign: The S&P 500 just posted its first monthly drop since last year. But wait. The Dow is at a 4-year high. ... Welcome to the 2012 economy, a frustrating maze of conflicting - even confounding - data highly subject to partisan spin and defiant of all attempts to fit into a clean narrative.

COSTCO LUNCH – Since 1985 Costco has sold a hotdog and a soda for $1.50.

NETWORK NEWS ALERT - "Harvard, MIT plan free Web classes: Schools hope $60 million initiative will be research boon," by Mary Carmichael in Cambridge: "Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will team up on a $60 million initiative to offer free online, college-level courses under a joint superbrand known as edX ... The Harvard-MIT move -- an altruistic giveaway, a potential research bonanza, and an audacious bet on the future of higher education all in one -- instantly made the schools preeminent players in the burgeoning worldwide online education sector . ... The full edX program is expected to be up and running by fall."

MOOD MUSIC - "JPMorgan Chief Jamie Dimon Blasts Obama, Asks For Simpson-Bowles Now" - "Dimon was speaking .... at the University of Rochester, where he received the 'Executive Of The Year' award. ... 'The U.S. is the opposite of Europe, we know the way [to solve our crises], it's called Bowles-Simpson. ... Our problem is that we don't have the will ... Why the hell are we so depressed[?] ... We have the best military in the planet, the best universities and ... incredible innovation ... When things go wrong, finance gets blamed, just like this ridiculous stuff of blaming speculators for oil prices."

FACEBOOK EYES $96 BILLION VALUATION - "Facebook Inc. pulled back the curtain on how much it thinks it is worth, targeting a valuation as rich as $96 billion in what would be a record debut for an American company. ... Eight-year-old Facebook would become the most valuable U.S. technology company at the time of an IPO, exceeding Google Inc.'s $23 billion valuation in 2004. At nearly $100 billion, it would also rival the current market values of more established companies including Inc. and McDonald's Corp., and longtime tech giants like Hewlett Packard Co., despite having a fraction of the revenue-or profit. ...
"Facebook's IPO will be a watershed moment for Silicon Valley, spawning a new generation of millionaires, and a handful of billionaires, including founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, whose stake is worth as much as $18.7 billion. ... But while the social network is growing rapidly-more than 900 million people now use the site-there are questions whether its trajectory is slowing. Its revenue in the latest quarter rose 45% from a year ago, but fell 6% from the previous three months." 

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Bill Cowher (55), Tom Petersson (62), Mort Sahl (85), Rick Santorum (54), Toni Tennille (72), Steve Yzerman (47).

DINING – Looking for a great sports bar and food in central Michigan? The Beach Bar in Clark Lake, Michigan is the best beach bar in the Great Lake State. Michigan State and University of Michigan alumni are abundant in this central Michigan institution. Detroit Tiger, Red Wing, Lions, and Piston games are exclusively shown on the many HD televisions. The best of all: Ohio citizens in any shape or form are cordially asked to leave the building. There is still some sanity in this world.

3505 Ocean Beach Road in Clark Lake, Michigan (517-529-4211); specializing in pizza and burgers, the Beach Bar is a must when visiting Ann Arbor, Jackson, or surrounding areas.

WALL STREET WEEK - Look for a sharply lower opening for Wall Street this morning, as markets around the world react negatively to the election results in Greece and France. The S&P 500 is already coming off its biggest weekly drop since the week ending December 16, while the Nasdaq had its largest weekly fall since the week ending November 25. Investors perceive those results as a threat to recently negotiated pacts on European fiscal stability.

RINK RATS TMZ.COM – A Rink Rats insider reports that panty hose is making a comeback, yes panty hose. This staple of fashion of the 1970’s & 1980’s is returning to women’s purses again.  

DRIVING THE WEEK - Today is all about global market react to the anti-austerity votes across Europe. Conventional wisdom holds that after an early equity sell-off, things should calm down once it becomes clear that further ECB monetary easing is now more likely and that a modest tweaking of the dials away from austerity might not be the worst thing. And in any event, Germany is not likely to budge much from austerity and there is not much any other euro zone country can do (short of leaving the common currency) absent German support. The big wild card is once again Greece and the possibility that it will leave the euro ... 

Consumer credit out at 2:00 p.m. today expected to show an increase of $9.7 billion ...
Mitt Romney campaigns in Cleveland today ... House Financial Services subcommittee has a field hearing in Chicago this morning on FHFA's Real Estate Owned (REO) Pilot Program ... House Financial Services subcommittee led by Rep. Ron Paul has a hearing on Tuesday on reforming the Fed ... Senate Banking has mortgage refi hearing Tuesday morning ... Other top U.S. data include jobless claims on Thursday (expected to stay at 365K) and University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment on Friday expected to dip to 76.2 from 76.4

Next week, Dear Rink Rats and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 7, 2012

#III-2, 107