Monday, July 30, 2012

Bad Teeth

If there is anyone who knows about bad teeth it is a hockey player, name me a hockey player who has never been hit in the mouth and I will tell you about ocean front property in Tucson. This writer played hockey for forty years, so I consider myself an expert on teeth.

One of the hazards of summer travel is to experience bad teeth. Be it traveling to certain parts of our glorious country, or visiting Europe, the far east, and the middle east – bad teeth are everywhere. Be it health related, climate related, diet related, economic related or plain stupidity, bad teeth and travel go hand in hand. 

What do you notice first about a person: their footwear, their eyebrows, their make-up, their lips, whatever – I notice their teeth. While you watch the Olympics the next two weeks, scout out the bad teeth. In your next meeting in the office, who has bad teeth? Think about getting serious with someone? Check out their dental records.

But especially as you travel these final weeks of summer, who has good teeth or bad? Does it tell you anything about that particular society or culture? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that you will never, ever see this globe trekker kissing any Siberian Russian women.

SANDY WEILL SHOCKS THE WORLD - Former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill's comments on CNBC that he would support breaking up the biggest banks shocked Wall Street and Washington. Some big-time bankers M.M. spoke to on Wednesday seemed genuinely shaken by the comments, which come at time when the bigger-is-better model is under assault from both left and right. Weill, 79, almost single-handedly created the giant bank model by smashing Glass-Steagall and turning buttoned down Citibank into sprawling one-stop-shop Citigroup, a colossus selling everything from checking accounts to credit default swaps.

THE SENTENCE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING - Weill on CNBC's Squawk Box in a remark that instantly blew up Twitter and dominated conversations all day up and down the Acela corridor: "I think what we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real-estate loans, have banks do something that's not going to risk the tax-payers dollars, that's not going to be too-big-to-fail." 

FOOD PRICES TO SOAR - "Food prices will race ahead faster than prices of other goods in the United States this year and next, due to the worst drought in more than a half a century ... Food prices rose 3.7 percent in 2011, and American consumers may pay 3.5 percent more at the grocery store this year, with higher prices for meat, poultry and fruit, as the drought gripping the U.S. farm belt drives up crop prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast that food prices would jump between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent in 2012 and then rise 3-4 percent in 2013 ... Food prices will rise far more rapidly than the overall U.S. inflation rate, according to USDA, a turnabout from the usual pattern".

APPLE POSTS RARE MISS - "Apple, the most valuable public company, missed Wall Street forecasts with its third-quarter revenues and earnings as fans held out for the next iPhone. The California-based company sold 26m iPhones in the three months to June 30, up 28 per cent on the same period a year ago and topping the company's own guidance. But the figures marked a slowdown in the rate of growth over recent quarters, sending its shares below $600 in after-hours trading ...

"Gossip about the next generation of iPhone, expected to be a more significant upgrade than the iPhone 4S was over its predecessor, has already begun to dissuade buyers ... Apple's revenues of $35bn compared with analysts' estimates of around $37.2bn, while earnings of $9.32 per share were also below forecasts of about $10.32. The company's cash pile grew by $7bn in March to $117.2bn by the end of June"

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Tony Bennett (86), Tom Brady (35), Roger Clemens (50), Issam Ghazzawi …outstanding teacher, Paul Laxalt (90), Ted Lindsay (87), President Barack Obama (51), Peter O’Toole (80), Arnold Schwarzenegger (65).

EVERY LEADER AND ASPIRING LEADER SHOULD READ THIS - Vanity Fair's August issue, "MICROSOFT'S LOST DECADE : Once upon a time, Microsoft dominated the tech industry: indeed, it was the wealthiest corporation in the world. But since 2000, as Apple, Google, and Facebook whizzed by, it has fallen flat in every arena it entered: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc. etc. Talking to former and current Microsoft executives, KURT EICHENWALD finds the fingers pointing at Steve Ballmer (Detroit Country Day ’73), Bill Gates's successor, as the man who led them astray": "[W]hat began as a lean competition machine led by young visionaries of unparalleled talent has mutated into something bloated and bureaucracy-laden, with an internal culture that unintentionally rewards managers who strangle innovative ideas that might threaten the established order of things. ... [The cash-cow] Windows and Office divisions [were allowed to dictate] the direction of product development [derailing e-books, mobile and tablets] ... Many of the longtime executives let new employees handle the work while they themselves lolled around, waiting for the next vesting period when they could exercise more options - a behavior known derisively by the younger hires as 'rest and vest.' ...

"Microsoft ... lost more than half its value ... The stock options - once the golden key to untold wealth -- were underwater. ... Where once creating innovations was both the thrill of the job and the path to riches through stock options, guaranteed financial success could be achieved only the way it was at stodgy old General Motors or IBM - through promotions. 'People realized they weren't going to get wealthy,' one former senior executive said. 'They turned into people trying to move up the ladder, rather than people trying to make a big contribution to the firm.'

"More employees seeking management slots led to more managers, more managers led to more meetings, more meetings led to more memos, and more red tape led to less innovation. ... [B]ecause reviews came every six months, employees and their supervisors ... focused on their short-term performance, rather than on longer efforts to innovate. ... [Because of Microsoft's perverse 'stack ranking' evaluation system,] every employee has to impress not only his or her boss but bosses from other teams as well. And that means schmoozing and brown-nosing as many supervisors as possible." 

For the first time in Olympics history, every participating country will have a female athlete. What three countries that have previously sent only male competitors will also be sending women this summer Olympics?

1.      Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Brunei
2.      Samoa, Sudan and Cuba
3.      Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan
4.      Iraq, Sudan and Albania
5.      Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei

Answer next week

MONDAY OLYMPIC UPDATE - In good news, Team USA crushed France in basketball. In less good news, France beat Team USA in swimming relay. In outrageous news, Jordyn Wieber got shut out of the women's all-around individual gymnastics finals due to ridiculous qualifying rules. Overall, Team USA now trails Team China by one medal, 12-11. If Team USA ultimately wins, China has agreed to forgive all our debt. 

DRIVING THE WEEK - Huge, massive, critical (and whatever other superlative you want to use) week for economic data and events. FOMC meets Tuesday and Wednesday with the announcement Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. Consensus is no new easing but perhaps an extension of low rate guidance well into 2015 ... Other critical numbers is the July jobs report out on Friday. Will it be another disappointment and blow to the Obama campaign? Few signals that it will be a blockbuster. But a dip in jobless claims suggests it could be slightly better than last month's 80K. Consensus is 100K and no change in the 8.2% unemployment rate. Philly Fed predicted a negative number but other data do not confirm that gloomy signal ...

President Obama campaigns in Ohio on Wednesday and Florida and Virginia on Thursday ... Obama is in NYC for a fundraiser this evening at the NoMad hotel ... Congress enters its final week before the August summer recess. Republicans in the House expected to pass their bill to extend all the Bush tax cuts to counter Democrats in the Senate who passed the Obama-favored extension only for those earnings under $250K ... Neither proposal is going anywhere ... Both chambers could approve a six-month CR to fund the government through next year and take the possibility of a government shut-down on Oct. 1, which neither party wants, off the table ...

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner meets with German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble today on the German island of Sylt ... Senate Agriculture Committee has a hearing Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. on the futures market looking at the failures of MF Global and Peregrine Financial. CFTC Chair Gary Gensler is the lead witness ... Senate Commerce has a hearing on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. on the question of online retailers' exemption from collecting state sales tax ... Both ECB and Bank of England on Thursday will issue interest rate decisions.

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

Until Next Monday, Hasta La Vista.

Claremont, CA
July 30, 2012

#III-14, 119

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