Monday, December 31, 2012

Things To Ponder At Year End

Happy New Year readers, as we conclude 2012 and head into 2013 we are thankful for living in a great country but at the same time there are many issues confronting us in the year ahead. As pay checks get smaller, expenses are increasing – how we cope with a lagging economy will be a key topic of 2013.

2013 HOT TOPICS – Yearly College and Universities tuition increases will come under more pressure from consumer students and their families. The cliff will approach for the following: (1) student debt, (2) state budgets, (3) national gun control, (4) City of La Verne city council, (5) National Hockey League.

JACK ASS OF 2012 – Defending Champs: RR cannot think of more deserving Jack Asses for 2012 – The 112th United States Congress. They were also Jack Asses in 2011. There is no better example of the inefficiency of leadership in this country as this 112th Congress. From the debacle of fiscal cliff negotiations to total disregard for the Country as a whole, this Congress has proven beyond expectation the Jack Ass of 2012.

CORPORATE BOND BUST AHEAD? - "Investors have been flocking to buy bonds issued by top-rated companies, putting them on pace for a record year of debt raising in the U.S. But some of the biggest fund managers warn that dangers are lurking in what were once seen as the safest investments. Amid the rush of bond deals, which already have topped $1 trillion in value, these managers - from BlackRock ... to Federated Investment Management Co. - are pointing to unusual wrinkles suggesting that now could be one of the most dangerous times in decades to lend to investment-grade companies.

"Interest rates are so low and bond prices so high, they warn, that there is little room left for gains. Some worry that even a small increase in interest rates - a traditional enemy of bond returns - could eat away at bond prices. ... As a result, some of the largest investing houses - including BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and Federated - are looking for ways to reduce their exposure to U.S. corporate bonds."

2014 WATCH - "Mitch McConnell polls on Ashley Judd's politics," by Manu Raju : "The poll found voters like Judd much less when they learn that she lives in Tennessee and Scotland ... and ... has suggested it is wrong to breed given widespread poverty ... around the world. 'Considering the fact that Judd begins with such strong name ID, the informed voter swing is devastating for her, and the 16-point swing is one of the biggest I have seen in my career,' said Jan R. van Lohuizen, McConnell's longtime pollster [in a memo]. 'Given the ability to move the ballot so substantially by pointing out only a few of her positions, her candidacy does not appear viable.' ... Judd would begin in a favorable position - two polls now show her within striking distance of McConnell - and she could energize Democrats from coast to coast. ....

"Judd, an eighth-generation Kentuckian, ... has been a strident voice against the controversial practice of mountaintop removal mining, which is common in eastern Kentucky and which she's dubbed 'rape' of pristine parts of Appalachia. ... When they hear her remark that 'the era of the coal plant is over,' 49 percent of voters are more likely to vote against her, the survey found. ... After McConnell's team points out that Judd's grandmother called her a "Hollywood liberal," about 40 percent of voters were more inclined to oppose her."

CRISIS MANAGEMENT - Needs for collaboration increase as we get better at preparing for unlikely events: ... Natural and man-made disasters are likely to increase in the years ahead. Companies ... are updating their crisis management plans ... [and investing] in social collaboration tools that allow them to maintain business under any circumstances ...

"Your personal cloud will have a single access point: As businesses move to the cloud, ... you will start seeing one point of access to your data regardless of where it's stored. You will no longer have to login and check five, six or even seven different storage repositories ... One app will connect you with all your social channels - personal, professional. ...

CASUAL FRIDAYS - become Work-from-Home Fridays: The tablet generation has ... redefined the workplace. ... Small- and medium sized companies ... [will] consider virtual offices ... to incentivize ... employees."

GOP SEES RECORD BENCH FOR 2016 -- "Upwards of 15 prominent Republicans are privately contemplating 2016 campaigns for the presidency ... [Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio] both will unveil new policy plans at an awards dinner of the Jack Kemp Foundation [on Dec. 4]: Ryan will begin a new push on a more modern approach to alleviating poverty, focused on education; Rubio will lift the curtain on an economic empowerment message, heavy on college affordability and workforce training. That upcoming duet is one of the clearest signs that this presidential race is beginning as early as any in history. ... Rick Santorum is telling friends he wants to run again. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said publicly that he might, too, and has begun talking to donors ... like he means it. ...

"Top Republican officials are encouraging the never-ending presidential campaign ... 'On every conference call, the message is the same,' one top official said. 'We're going to push out our new generation of leadership. We're not going to sit back and let the extreme voices define what it means to be a conservative.' Republicans are still haunted by the post-election chaos of 2008, when, with John McCain diminished by defeat and few clear future leaders with national juice on the scene, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin filled the void ... This time feels different: ... Many of the most influential voices are calling for substantial rethinking of the conservative approach to politics."

2016 WATCH - "The secretary of 1,000 things: What Hillary Clinton's choices say about her future," by Stephanie McCrummen : "Of all the things that Clinton's friends say about her, opinions bend toward two essential facets of her character. The first is that in the time they have known her - as a student leader in the 1960s, as a first lady, as a U.S. senator or now - Clinton has not really changed except to become more of the person she has always been: a deeply optimistic Methodist who believes that government can advance human progress and a hopeless wonk who knows her yurts from her gers. The second is that while Clinton is a famously shrewd political operator, she is never more energized or relentless as when she is pursuing a cause that she believes will improve people's lives, however incrementally. This has often been Clinton's most polarizing quality. It is what her detractors have at times interpreted as self-righteousness and a precursor to classic big-government liberalism. It is what her admirers have viewed as the doggedly pragmatic, in-the-trenches quality that makes Clinton an almost heroic, if also at times tragic, figure. ...

"At the State Department , Clinton has used her power to create an array of new offices and positions devoted to long-standing causes: for civil society and emerging democracies; for global youth issues; and for the one for which she is most often noted, global women's issues. She is widely credited with changing how the department thinks about women. ... While Clinton's initiatives have not led to major foreign policy shifts, they have resulted in project after project. ... Clinton has cast her choices as a response to a changing world where power and threats are more diffuse, requiring the United States to pay more attention to jobless youths in North Africa and grinding poverty across the globe. ... A more personal explanation for Clinton's choices relates to her own struggle to be understood, ... Another has to do with the faith she has embraced since she was a girl. ... 

The answer to the question of whether Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016 - whether she will seek the job with the most power to do the most good of all - is another question: whether she can keep herself from it."

REMEMBERING "STORMIN' NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF - "Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who presided over the swift and devastating 1991 military assault on Iraq that transformed the Middle East and reminded America what it was like to win a war, died Thursday of complications from pneumonia. He was 78. The former four-star general, whose burly image towering in camouflage fatigues above his troops came to define both Operation Desert Storm and the nation's renewed sense of military pride, had been living in relatively quiet retirement in Tampa ... Schwarzkopf ... was best known for commanding a 765,000-strong force of allied international troops that drove former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait six months after they'd overrun the tiny Gulf oil sheikdom ... and taken over its oil fields. ...

"Schwarzkopf ... had rehearsed a battle with Iraq only days before the country's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and began putting it into place, convincing the leadership in Washington that the war could be won with a combination of forceful American air power and an overwhelming array of troops on the ground. In the end, after weeks of pounding by American bombers and missiles, the ground war was over in just 100 hours, with U.S. battle casualties limited to 147 dead and 467 wounded. ... The 6-foot, 3-inch general came home to a hero's welcome, appearing at a ticker-tape parade up Broadway, the Pegasus Parade at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville and an unusual joint session of Congress, where he received a standing ovation. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II awarded him a knighthood."

MEDIAWATCH -- 'Tribune [Co.] leaves bankruptcy after 4 years' -- Possible prelude to sale of the newspapers -- AP/Chicago : 'Tribune Co. emerged from a Chapter 11 restructuring Monday, more than four years after the media company sought bankruptcy protection. The reorganized company is starting with a new board of directors and new ownership that includes senior creditors Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon and Co., and JPMorgan Chase and Co. ... The new board of directors includes Bruce Karsh, Ken Liang, Peter Murphy, Ross Levinsohn, Craig A. Jacobson, Peter Liguori, and Eddy Hartenstein. ... 

The Chicago Tribune reported late Sunday that Liguori, a former TV executive at Discovery and Fox, is expected to be named chief executive of the reorganized Tribune Co. Tribune, which was founded in 1847, publishes some of the best-known newspapers in the United States, including the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and the Chicago Tribune. It also owns WGN in Chicago and 22 other television stations, as well as the WGN radio station.'

THE 113th CONGRESS- "Fiscal stagnation, political stalemate: For Congress, a new year expected to bring familiar battles and blather," by Christopher Rowland: "Even if this weekend's legislative Hail Mary pass works and a small-scale deal is passed Monday in time to ward off more than $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts, any sense of relief will be replaced quickly by continued partisan warfare over financial problems, likely featuring the same dynamics of dysfunction that became so familiar in 2012 and 2011. The preview of coming attractions includes a debate over the government's borrowing limit - a repeat of the 2011 showdown that resulted in a national credit downgrade and the mandated budget cuts being debated today. ... In late March, Congress will face another test, when it must pass a resolution to keep government running or allow it to shut down. Republicans have used the threat of previous government shutdowns as bargaining chips. ...

"Congressional leaders and President Obama will face pressure to make good on their promises of a comprehensive tax overhaul and reductions in spending growth on Social Security and Medicare. Efforts to wrap these ... into a big fiscal deal failed in 2011. ... Former congressional staffers, scholars, and politicians pine for the atmosphere of the 1980s, when major political figures such as the late Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy and former Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker were able to set aside partisan animosity and negotiate deals. ... Many newer members of Congress - particularly those aligned with the Tea Party - won their seats by running against the status quo in Congress, against compromise, against rising deficits, and what they consider excessive spending."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK - Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Doris Kearns Goodwin (70), Bobby Hull (74), January Jones (35), Christine Lagarde (57), Tim Matheson ( 65), Walter Mondale (85), Charlie Rose (71), Malkolm Young (60).

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL PICK OF THE WEEK – Friday January 4, The Cotton Bowl; 8:00 PM ET, Fox - #9 Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. #11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2). The Sooners will dominant this overrated Aggie team. Oklahoma 45 Texas A&M 24.  Season to date (12-6)

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Friday January 4, 9:30 PM ET, Root; #12 Cornell University Big Red (7-4-2) at #11 Denver University Pioneers (10-6-3). East vs. West in this college battle, Denver 4 Cornell 3.  (Season to date (1-0)

NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND: Saturday, January 5 - AFC: 4:30 PM, Cincinnati at Houston (NBC) ... NFC: 8:00 PM, Minnesota at Green Bay (NBC) ... Sunday, January 6 -- AFC: 1:00 PM, Indianapolis at Baltimore (CBS) ... NFC: 4:30 PM, Seattle at Washington ... (FOX).

NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS: Saturday, January 12 -- AFC: 4:30 PM, Baltimore/Indianapolis/Cincinnati at Denver (CBS) ... NFC: 8:00 PM, Green Bay/Washington/Seattle at San Francisco (FOX) ... Sunday, January 13 -- NFC: 1:00 PM, Washington/Seattle/Minnesota at Atlanta (FOX) ... AFC: 4:30 PM, Houston/Baltimore/Indianapolis at New England (CBS). ...

The AFC (CBS, 6:30 p.m.) and NFC (FOX, 3:00 p.m.) Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 20. The 2013 Pro Bowl (NBC, 7 p.m.) will be played on Sunday, January 27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, ... one week before Super Bowl XLVII takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, February 3 (CBS, 6:30 p.m.)."

NFL FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday January 6, 4:30 PM ET, Fox; Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6). The Skins turn around season will come to an end, Seattle 28 Washington 21.   Season to date (10-7)

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS – Oklahoma 45 Texas A&M 24, Denver 4 Cornell 3, Seattle 28 Washington 21, Kim Caldwell 3 Euro boyfriends on her trip.   Season to date (45-23)

DRIVING THE WEEK - Wall Street is finishing up a positive year with a decidedly negative finish. Though the Dow (up 5.9%), the S&P 500 (up 11.5%), and the Nasdaq (up 13.6%) will chalk up a winning year, all three are riding five-session losing streaks and have fallen for six of the past seven sessions. With a fiscal cliff agreement still not in sight, futures are pointing to a lower open this morning. Unlike last Monday's pre-holiday session, today will see a full day of stock trading.

Though anumber of key economic reports will be out this week, none occur before the NewYear's holiday. Investors, as always, will focus on Friday morning's December employment report, currently expected to 150,000 new non-farm jobs andan unemployment rate of 7.8%.

Next week; Winter Wonderland.

Until Next Monday, Happy New Year!

Jackson, MI
December 31, 2012

#III-37, 142

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