Monday, April 29, 2013

Bush 43 History Rewritten

This past week the George W. Bush (POTUS 43) Presidential Library was dedicated. Though it is still early now is a good time to begin a review of the Bush Presidency and its place in American history. Let it be said this blogger is not a big fan of the Bush Presidency. We believe he is a good man but his presidency was influenced greatly by the events of 9/11 and the sad direction of “Darth Vader” Vice President Dick Cheney.

Four years after he left office, the history of George W. Bush's presidency is being rewritten - ever-so-slowly, and not yet in ways that fundamentally challenge popular understandings of the man and his tenure. ... [1] Cheney was estranged from Bush: ... Bush has disclosed that he considered dropping Cheney as his running mate for several weeks in mid-2003. 'He was seen as dark and heartless, the Darth Vader of the administration,' he wrote in 2010. 'Dick's offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge.' Cheney chastised Bush for repeatedly refusing to pardon Scooter Libby, an aide who got caught up in the Valerie Plame affair. ... 'You are leaving a good man wounded on the field of battle,' he told Bush. ... [2] The administration was a snake pit: ... Cheney laced into Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in his memoir ... Rice called Cheney's book 'utterly misleading' ...

[3] Bush and Obama are going down, or up , in history together: ... It is already clear that the continuities from Bush to Obama matter as much as the reversals, especially on national security. Obama applied the Bush surge strategy from Iraq to Afghanistan. Both men said they wanted to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay but proved unable to do so. More broadly, both men are governing in a post-9/11 environment, in chronically sluggish economies, amassing large budget deficits. Both came to the presidency promising to be unifiers and each won reelection with narrow majorities cobbled together from deliberately polarizing campaigns. ... [New York Times reporter Peter Baker, author of 'Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House,' out in Oct., said:] 'Obama has kept a lot of what Bush left him ... and that is helpful to Bush [in arguing] that his policies were not an aberration' ...

[4] Bush is a personally decent fellow ... avoided taking pot shots at his successor. ... [5] The 2003 Iraq invasion looks no better in retrospect ... [6] Other mysteries remain: Bush kept a diary as president. He told Bob Woodward, who quoted from some of it in 'Bush at War.' Woodward could not get a definitive answer for his three subsequent books about whether Bush continued to keep the diary through his presidency, as Ronald Reagan had."

THE ARCHITECTURE : The George W. Bush Presidential Center is located on 23 acres at the entrance of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus five miles north of downtown Dallas. ... The 226,000-square-foot facility houses two entities: the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute. It also includes a museum store and Café 43, catering to museum visitors and the local community. The Bush Center is enveloped within a 15-acre urban park recreating the historic native prairie landscape of the past. ... The Bush Library and Museum holds more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and 4 million digital photographs. It is the largest holding of digital records of any presidential library.

The architectural signature of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum is Freedom Hall, a 67-foot-high, 50-by-50 foot 'lantern' made of Texas Cordova Cream limestone ... Freedom Hall encases a one-of-a-kind 20-foot-tall, 360-degree, high-definition video wall that orients visitors to the museum's permanent and temporary exhibits. The 14,000-square-foot permanent exhibit of the museum highlights principles that guided President and Mrs. Bush in public life. The museum features exhibits on education reform, the global war on terror, and the spread of human freedom, as well as the financial crisis, efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other moments of the presidency. There is a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and a piece of steel from the World Trade Center in the museum."

TRUMAN - In his biography of Harry Truman, David McCullough wrote that CBS newscaster Eric Sevareid 'would say nearly forty years later of Truman, "I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea. But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like."

COMMENCEMENT 2013 – The 2013 college and university commencement season is now beginning, here are this weeks’ notable speakers – May 4; University of Michigan – Richard Costello, CEO Twitter: University of the Pacific – Walter Robb, CEO Whole Foods Market: May 5; THE Ohio State University – President Obama: New England Institute of Technology – Terry Bradshaw, Pro Football Hall of Famer.

JERRY BROWN, TERMINATOR - "The Real Terminator." The piece "examines how [Brown] has managed to rein in spending, raise taxes on the wealthy, and plug California's $27 billion deficit by making so many cuts that he 'scared the crap out of people.'" Brown "acknowledges that reviving California's economy has required him to embrace big business. 'People who do things tend to have a lot of money at the end of the day. It's not the granola crowd who are going to move mountains.' ...

"Brown's bachelor life included relationships with Linda Rondstadt, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Wood, Stevie Nicks, Liv Ulman and Arianna Huffington. He may not have the chummy charisma of a politician, but he may have something better: Mystery. Yes, he's an egghead, but he's one of the rare eggheads who could lead a cult. He's intimidating and unwilling to suffer anyone who isn't into suffering, but he's also excited to engage: He is not a man who is going to stop a good conversation because of his schedule."

MARKET WEEK – Wall Street's major averages are on track to chalk up another positive month, with two trading sessions left in April. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite haven't had a losing month since October, the Dow since November, and the Dow has yet to have a losing streak in 2013 longer than two days.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Adele (25), Chris Krich …famous football coach and leader, Willie Nelson (80), Michael Palin (70), Michelle Pfeiffer (55), Jerry Seinfeld (59). Also Rink Rats is celebrating the birthday week of Mr. Joe Zanetta, 60 years young, and still the best practice golf swing in the game.

WHY PEOPLE WORRY: WEAK GDP GROWTH - "Real GDP rose at a 2.5 percent annual rate in Q1, up from 0.4 percent in Q4 but weaker than the 3.0 percent consensus. We forecast 3.3 percent. ... The weaker-than-expected rise was despite a 1.0 contribution from inventories. Real final sales rose at a 1.5 percent pace, with real domestic final sales up at a 1.9 percent pace. The main surprise, for us at least, was another sizable drop in government spending: -4.1 percent at an annual rate following -7.0 percent.

"In other details, real residential investment rose at a strong 12.6 percent pace, although that was also a bit less than expected. Real consumption was up at a solid 3.2 percent rate - despite the payroll tax hike. ... In short, a somewhat disappointing report after the 0.4 percent in Q4, although that followed 3.1 percent in Q3. ... We still forecast a 2 percent pace for real GDP in Q2 followed by some acceleration 3.0 percent in Q3 and Q4. By then, fiscal drag should be fading."

APPLE ANGERS INVESTORS - Apple Inc. reported its first profit drop in 10 years last week. But that's not what has some investors steamed. The company is still massively profitable. Instead, it's the manner in which CEO Tim Cook has communicated with Wall Street and managed expectations. Apple shares are 40 percent off their peak partly on fears yesterday's numbers would be worse.

Here is North Shore Asset Management's Michael Obuchowski, who owns Apple shares himself and manages them for clients, in an email to M.M.: "I don't remember ever being that cranky after a quarterly call from an awesome, incredibly profitable company. I think Tim Cook is a great operations guy and he fully deserves to be the COO. Can we please have somebody with [guts] to become the CEO so Tim Cook can apologize to him or her in private and the real CEO can tell the investors how awesome the company is and manipulate sell side analysts' expectations as one should? Yes, I did just say that. It was hardly an embarrassing quarter for Apple.

"What made the results embarrassing was the executives' apologetic attitude and complete failure to communicate with the analysts. Somebody please call Greg Maffei for help? His Microsoft quarterly calls should be studied by all public companies. I am sure that he has a big enough ego to run Apple. It seems that it should be a prerequisite in Apple CEO interviews. ... What happened to the amazing culture that Steve created? Was it really all Steve Jobs?"
"Apple said it plans to return more than twice as much cash to investors than previously planned. The moves, designed to return $100 billion in cash by the end of 2015, include stock buybacks and increasing quarterly dividends. ... A less-positive undercurrent in Apple's results is a squeeze on gross profit margins, an important measure in the efficiency of the company's operations. The figures came in slightly lower than analysts expected, as the company's product mix shifted to cheaper devices like the iPad Mini."

DRIVING THE WEEK –  Massive week ahead for economic data highlighted by the April jobs report on Friday. Expectations are for a jump from 88,000 jobs in March to around 150,000 last month with no change to the 7.6 percent jobless rate. Another big miss on jobs would make the spring swoon fears even more intense. A bump back to trend-line growth would be a big relief ... Personal income and spending today at 8:30 a.m. EDT expected to show gain of 0.4 percent and 0.0 percent respectively ... Pending home sales today at 8:30 expected to grow 0.9 percent ... S&P/Case-Shiller home price index Tuesday at 9 a.m. EDT expected to rise 0.8 percent ...

"Consumer confidence at 10 a.m. on Tuesday expected to rise to 63 from 59.7 ... ADP private employment report at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday expected to show a 155,000 gain ... ISM manufacturing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday expected to dip to 51.0 from 51.4 ... FOMC announcement on Wednesday at 2 p.m. expected to include no policy change but more dour language on the economy ... Initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday expected to rise to 346,000 from 339,000 ... ISM nonmanufacturing at 10 a.m. on Friday expected to slip to 54.0 from 54.5.”

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month and my double life.

Until Next Monday, Adios!

Carlsbad, CA
April 29, 2013

#IV-2, 159

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day: Call Me Maybe

Earth Day 2013 will be celebrated worldwide today. This year's theme is "The Face of Climate Change."

Earth Day was established in the spring of 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, inspiring a movement that had more than 20 million demonstrators in a number of cities across the U.S., and creating an "environmental conscience" not seen before in America.

The movement worked, forcing Congress to establish the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 1970. Since its inception, the goal of the EPA has been to create a healthier and cleaner environment for the American people.

The purpose and goal of Earth Day when begun in 1970 was to inform and amend practices that contributed to “dirtying our environment.” Today, the purpose is the same because the problem is the same, but with increased scientific certainty on climate change and its causes (primarily the burning of fossil fuels), global warming has become the new focus.

We now know an immediate change in human behavior is what is needed to stem the tide of global pollution of every kind. But there continues to be a hypocrisy associated with Earth Day and its’ goals. Business organizations, colleges, universities, federal, state and local governments continue to talk the talk but not walk the walk. The “Green Banner” is hung out mainly to generate revenues not results. My own local University claims it is a nationally recognized “Green Campus”. But I see no solar panels on buildings, compost gardens on campus, limiting the use of automobiles, encouraging recycling. I only see more parking lots, doors left open while air conditioning is on, lights turned on to all hours of the night, copier machines spitting out copy after copy.  This “Call Me Maybe” hypocrisy must end.

The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. This conclusion is shared by the national science academies of developed and developing countries, plus many other organizations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was established by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with “a clear scientific view” on climate change.

In conclusion, global warming is caused by human activities that produce heat-trapping CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions. The only real debate now is about how fast warming will occur and how much damage will be done. Do your part every day of the year to reduce energy use and encourage your leaders to stop the B.S. talk and deal with it!

Dear Rink Rats:

I would like to start a compost garden, what do I need to do?


In Need of a Green Thumb

Dear In Need of a Green Thumb:

Healthy gardens start with healthy soil. And there's no better ingredient than compost, whether you till it into beds or use it as mulch.
Once it's in the soil, compost increases fertility; adds both micro- and macronutrients; buffers pH; and improves soil structure. Below is his foolproof method for making compost.

Do compost

Nearly any plant material, including the following:
Brown matter -
Dried leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, wood chips, and shrub and tree prunings. Ned Conwell collects his brown matter, but you can also use straw from a feed store. He puts branches and anything thorny in a separate slow-roast pile in the corner, where it breaks down over a much longer period of time. To hasten composting, chop or mow prunings into pieces 2 inches or smaller.
Green matter -
Green weeds, fruit and vegetable scraps, cover-crop remains, and fresh grass clippings. Also coffee grounds, tea bags, and uncomposted manure from cows, goats, horses, or poultry. Pine needles take longer to break down, while compounds in black walnut and eucalyptus leaves can inhibit growth in other plants; compost those greens only if you combine them with lots of other vegetative waste.

Don't compost

Animal products (bones, meat scraps, dairy products); plants with fungal diseases such as fire blight or verticillium; or seedy or rhizomatous weeds like purslane, Bermuda grass, or bindweed.

Do turn the pile often.

Let the pile heat up for 10 to 14 days. When the temperature inside reaches 140° or 150° f, pull off the straw cap and turn the pile by pushing it over and dividing it. Then reassemble it, but not in layers, and put the straw cap back on. When the temperature climbs back to 130° or 140° f, turn the pile again. In all, turn the pile three times in 4 to 6 months, adding water if it starts to dry out. After the first two temperature-based turns, the more often you turn your pile, the quicker it will break down into compost.

The smaller the pieces, the faster they'll compost. (Run the lawn mower over big, leathery leaves before adding them to the pile.) To check the pile's temperature use a 20-inch-long compost thermometer, available at most garden centers.

Enjoy your green thumb!


Rink Rats

MARKET WEEK – Wall Street's major averages are coming off their largest weekly drops of what's been a very positive year so far. The Dow's 317 point decline (2.1 percent) was its largest since the week ending June 1, 2012, while the S&P 500 saw its biggest weekly falloff since November.

GOLD DROP WIPES OUT $560B FROM CENTRAL BANKS - "Investors are dumping gold funds at the fastest pace in two years in favor of equities, compounding a slump that has wiped $560 billion from the value of central bank reserves. ... Gold funds suffered net outflows of $11.2 billion this year through April 10, the most since 2011, while global and U.S. equity funds had net inflows of $21.25 billion. ... Central banks are among the biggest losers because they own 31,694.8 metric tons, or 19 percent of all the gold mined, according to the World Gold Council in London. After rallying for 12 straight years, the metal has tumbled 28 percent from its September 2011 record of $1,923.70 an ounce. Growing economies and corporate profits, along with slowing inflation, boosted global equities by $2.28 trillion this year at the expense of the traditional store of value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ...

"Gold futures in New York slumped 17 percent this year through yesterday, the worst start since 1981, after a 9.3 percent drop on April 15 that capped the biggest two-day decline since January 1980. The metal tumbled into a bear market on April 12, losing more than 20 percent since the record close in August 2011, the common definition of bear market."

JOE SCARBOROUGH on 'Morning Joe,' re the Senate's defeat of expanded background checks for gun buyers (54-46 in favor, short of the 60 votes needed for passage): 'This fight has just begun. ... We are the 90 percent. ... 90 percent will not be ignored. ... The American people were insulted yesterday. ... This is going to be a turning point in the history of the Republican Party. ... This party is moving toward extinction.'

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Carol Burnett (90), Tim Duncan (37), Gene Hasse …The Man, Ann-Margaret (72), Jack Nicholson (76), Al Pacino (73), Joe Zanetta …famous friend who knows everyone.

TREASURY'S MARY MILLER SAYS TBTF IS OVER - Big bank executives rejoiced last week at Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Mary Miller's speech at the Minksy conference in New York on how Dodd-Frank does, in her view, definitively end "too big to fail." From the speech: "The 'too-big-to-fail' catchphrase appears to mean different things to different people. A common use of the 'too-big-to-fail' shorthand is the notion that the government will bail a company out if it is in danger of collapse because its failure would otherwise have too great a negative impact on the financial system or the broader economy. With respect to this understanding of 'too big to fail,' let me be very clear: It is wrong. ...

"As a result of the comprehensive reforms passed by Congress and signed into law by President [Barack] Obama, no financial institution, regardless of its size, will be bailed out by taxpayers again. Shareholders of failed companies will be wiped out; creditors will absorb losses; culpable management will not be retained and may have their compensation clawed back; and any remaining costs associated with liquidating the company must be recovered from disposition of the company's assets and, if necessary, from assessments on the financial sector, not taxpayers."

Yeah, and the Houston Astros are going to win the World Series this year. Call Me Maybe. AND then there is this…

WALL STREET RETURNS TO RISK PRODUCTS - "The alchemists of Wall Street are at it again. The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom ... are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street.

'The revival partly reflects the same investor optimism that has lifted the stock market to new heights. ... But the revival also underscores how these investments, known as structured financial products, have largely escaped new regulations that were supposed to prevent a repeat of the last financial crisis.

"Banks are turning out some types of structured products as fast or faster than they did before the bottom fell out. So far this year, for instance, banks have issued $33.5 billion in bonds backed by commercial mortgages, slightly more than they did in early 2005 ... according to data from Thomson Reuters. Banks have won over investors by taking steps to make this generation of structured products safer than the last one. But with demand for these products on the rise, credit ratings agencies and regulators are warning that the additional protections are already dwindling."

CNN TAKES A HIT OFF RINK RATS WATCH LIST: "The news audience has been chopped up into ideological camps, and CNN's middle way has been clobbered in the ratings. ... But the biggest damage to CNN has been self-inflicted - never more so than in June, when in a rush to be first, it came running out of the Supreme Court saying that President [Barack] Obama's health care law had been overturned. ... On Wednesday at 1:45 p.m., the correspondent John King reported that a suspect had been arrested. It was a big scoop that turned out to be false. Mr. King, a good reporter in possession of a bad set of facts, was joined by The Associated Press, Fox News, The Boston Globe and others, but the stumble could not have come at a worse time for CNN.

"When viewers arrived in droves - the audience tripled to 1.05 million, from 365,000 the week before, according to Nielsen ratings supplied by Horizon Media - CNN failed in its core mission. It was not the worst mistake of the week - The New York Post all but fingered two innocent men in a front-page picture - but it was a signature error for a live news channel."

DRIVING THE WEEK –  CFPB Director Richard Cordray testifies before Senate Banking on Tuesday at 10 a.m. EDT ... House Financial Services has a hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday on reforming the housing finance system ... HFSC subcommittee has a hearing Wednesday at 2 p.m. on the U.S. contribution to the IMF ... Existing home sales this morning at 10 a.m. expected to rise to 5 million from 4.98 million ... New homes sales at 10 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise to 416,000 from 411,000 ... First-quarter GDP on Friday at 8:30 a.m. expected to come in at a strong 3.1 percent. That could well be the high-point for the year, however, as the payroll tax hike and sequester spending cuts take an increasingly large chunk out of growth ... University of Michigan consumer sentiment at 10 a.m. Friday expected to drop to 73.5 from 78.6.

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month and my double life.

Until Next Monday, Adios!

Claremont, CA
April 22, 2013

#IV-1, 158

Monday, April 15, 2013

On the Cheap

Lately I have been doing business with two types of management styles: 1). Upper management is overpaid and top heavy with personnel thus leaving under paid middle management and customer services stretched very thin, and 2). Management is so intent on making a profit that they run the company like a slave labor camp, with very little product and market development.

Both are great examples of firms operating on the cheap. Either way the companies are managed inefficiently and employee morale is poor. Many Business Schools and management gurus preach about how strategic thinking is the way to efficiency and success these days but what happens when the strategic thinkers have no clue what is going on.

I see these strategic thinkers as strategizing and planning to keep their jobs and departments first, without any thought of investors, staff, and customers. How do investors and staff deal with this management strategic thinking? An active, intelligent, communicative Board of Directors is the solution.

Companies and organizations with active Boards who demand accountability and communication from their management teams are the firms who can manage strategic thinking with reality. But many times Board members are bankers who have business with the firm, retired officers who have hired the current management team, community leaders who barely can run their lives let alone a corporation, and finally wealthy individuals who are a success because they have not mismanaged Daddy’s hand me down capital.

Board management and selection should represent all the stakeholders of a firm: investors, staff, customers, and community. Their responsibility is the last line of defense to a management style that is strategically inept and managed for their own interests only.

Happy Tax Day!  Congrats to Adam Scott on a great Masters victory. Scott won the first green jacket for Australia in a thrilling two-hole playoff over the ever-classy and impressive Angel Cabrera. Melbourne Herald Sun headline: "Oh What a Feeling!"

CHINA GROWTH SLOWS - "China's economy grew 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to a year earlier, a surprising slowdown that underlines the challenges facing its new leaders as they try to keep growth on track while also pursuing deeper economic reforms. ... Most analysts had expected the economy to have a stronger start to 2013. But a sluggish manufacturing sector and soft consumption presented headwinds in the first three months of the year.

"Industrial production grew 9.5 percent, half a percentage point lower than last year. ... A surge in Chinese credit issuance at the same time has primed the economy for more investment and, possibly, faster growth in the second quarter. But it has also stoked worries that inflation, which has been creeping up already, could accelerate."

TIME TO REBUILD THE ROADS? - "Roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the U.S. are steadily growing older and weaker. Given low interest rates and elevated unemployment, this is an ideal moment to invest in fixing them. ... From 2000 to 2010, the median human age in the U.S. rose by almost two years, from 35.3 to 37.2, and the average age of nonresidential corporate fixed assets increased by about the same amount. Fixed assets as a whole aged from an average of 20.7 years to 22.1. ...

"Consider the situation in New York State, where about 10 percent of the roughly 22,000 bridges were built before 1930. More than 10 percent of these old bridges have a superstructure rating of poor or worse, compared with less than 5 percent of the bridges built during the past four decades."

2016 WATCH - "Hillary Clinton left the State Department nearly two months ago, but she still needs a staff to keep up with the considerable business of being Hillary Clinton. A half-dozen people now work for the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate in a tiny corporate space on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, in what is called her 'transition office.' ... The Iowa caucuses are at least 33 months away. But that has not dissuaded a network of former campaign staff members and volunteers from starting a political action committee, 'Ready for Hillary' ... [A] new report emerges almost weekly from a Democratic dinner party in New York or Washington that Important So-and-So heard from Still-More-Important So-and-So that she is absolutely, positively running ... 'There's this kind of, "I'm telling you a secret that she told me secretly," but there's no secret to tell,' said Mrs. Clinton's longtime communications aide, Philippe Reines. 'Everyone's gotten way ahead of themselves, and most importantly, they have gotten way ahead of her.' ...

"Mrs. Clinton will turn 69 in 2016 , and she is described as being uncertain of whether she wants to face yet again the intense incoming fire ... Still, her closest political allies offer views about why she is more likely to run than not. ... Next month [she begins] a lucrative public speaking career ... Mrs. Clinton's 2011 financial disclosure form ... shows Mr. Clinton making a high of $750,000 for a single speech, although he more typically receives $150,000 to $300,000. The Clintons reported assets and income upward of $14 million ... Mrs. Clinton is devoting much of her time to her next book, about her years in the State Department. She is also debating how best to continue her work on women's issues, which she could do either through her husband's foundation or one she may start on her own."

SEINFELD GENERATES $3.1 BILLION -  "Seinfeld, the comedy television show 'about nothing,' is certainly good for something. Following its latest round of licensing deals, the sitcom has generated a total of $3.1bn in syndication income since it was last aired on NBC in 1998.
"The latest round of deals - the fifth time that the show has been syndicated - brings total earnings from the show for co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David to $400m each. ... The pair have lucrative profit participation deals with Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to the program."

WHAT HOLLYWOOD IS READING - "THE MOST HATED MAN IN HOLLYWOOD: Dish billionaire Charlie Ergen is accused of running America's worst place to work, is being sued by all four networks and owns the technology that could destroy TV's economic future," by Eriq Gardner: "Ergen's Englewood, Co.-based Dish Network, the nation's third-largest satellite/cable TV provider, a public company that's grown from a $60,000 startup to an empire with 14 million subscribers and $14 billion in annual revenue, is the entertainment industry's Enemy No. 1. With increasing frequency, Ergen has engaged in ugly, high-stakes games of chicken with Hollywood. In his brutal battle over ballooning carriage fees with AMC, he dropped 'The Walking Dead' and 'Mad Men' network from the Dish system for months. ... In January 2012, Dish introduced the proprietary DVR service that allows consumers to 'AutoHop,' or watch the entire primetime lineup of the broadcast networks commercial-free without even having to fast-forward through ads.

"Immediately after its introduction , CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox filed lawsuits arguing that Dish, if allowed to continue offering the Hopper, will put them out of business. ... Ergen, who is married with five kids and has seen his personal net worth swell to an estimated $10.6 billion, making him 100th on the most recent Forbes list of richest people, expresses confidence that he will win the legal fight and says it is time that the broadcasters get on board. 'Some people are averse to change, but the advertising model is going to change with or without the Hopper,' he recently told analysts. ... The year before Dish began offering the service for free to customers, the company lost 166,000 subscribers. Since then, Dish added back 89,000. ... Is Ergen about to get comeuppance for his nasty behavior? Or will broadcasters bow to what many believe is the inevitable evolution of the ad business? By year's end, the outcome of the Disney-Dish negotiations could signal where the industry is headed."

MARKET WEEK - "It's tough to make sense of the economy these days. The latest jobs numbers show hiring is down. Taxes are up, austerity reigns ... and consumers are skittish. Yet the stock market is defying gravity, marching ever higher in spite of it all. Behind this seeming riddle lies a confluence of economic forces that is likely to continue to produce good times for the biggest American companies - and the stock market - even if growth, as expected, slows in the coming months.

"By pumping hundreds of billions of dollars a month into the global economy, central banks like the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have encouraged investors to put their money into stocks and other riskier investments, increasing their prices. ... At the same time, American giants are benefiting from productivity gains and renewed growth in China and other overseas markets, allowing them to increase profits even if business at home remains lackluster. ... Investors are also looking farther ahead, discounting what economists are calling a spring swoon, and focusing on prospects for healthier growth late this year and into 2014.

DETROIT IS BACK ... FOR NOW – “The big three Detroit auto makers, Ford, GM and Chrysler, are setting sales records , and more than holding their own against European and Asian makers. This time, it's not just because of subsidies, bailouts, or fleet sales to car rental companies. Consumers are actually seeking out American cars because they like them and they are built better. Whether this revival can continue in less favorable conditions is an open question. And for a variety of reasons, this year is when it will start to be answered."

TECHWATCH - "As Web Search Goes Mobile, Apps Chip at Google's Lead, Google remains the undisputed king of search, with about two-thirds of the market. But the nature of search is changing ... as more people search ... on their mobile devices. This has put the $22 billion search industry, perhaps the most lucrative and influential of online businesses, at its most significant crossroad ... Topical sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon ... are chipping away at Google's hold. Google and its competitors are trying to develop the knowledge and comprehension to answer specific queries, not just point users in the right direction. ... Larry Page, [Google's] co-founder and chief executive, renamed the search division 'knowledge.' ... Google now shows answers instead of just links if you search something like 'March Madness,' 'weather' or even 'my flight,' in which case it can pull flight information from users' Gmail accounts."

FIRST LOOK: SHEILA BAIR SAYS TBTF MAY BE OVER - From former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair's latest FORTUNE column.: "Is 'too big to fail' over? Believe it or not, it just might be. ... Under its new Dodd-Frank mandate, the FDIC has unveiled an innovative strategy to handle a megabank failure. ... In its new plan, the agency will be able to take control of the holding company - and become the new owner. As the temporary owner, it will keep the healthy arms alive in one or more 'good banks,' while putting the megabank's former shareholder and creditor interests into a government-controlled receivership. Losses will be fully absorbed by the holding company's shareholders and unsecured creditors. Taxpayers will not be at risk of loss."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Ellen Barkin (58), Miguel Cabrera (30), Roy Clark (80), Ashley Judd (45), Andie MacDowell (55).

GEORGE W. BUSH GRANDDAUGHTER - Statement from President Bush, in New York: "Laura and I are thrilled to announce the birth of our grandchild, Margaret Laura 'Mila' Hager. Mila, daughter of Jenna and Henry Hager, is named for her grandmothers. She was born [Saturday] ... at 8:43pm in New York City. We met our beautiful granddaughter [Sunday]. Jenna and Mila are healthy. And our family is elated."

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Our College season is over for another year. We congratulate the Yale University Bulldogs on their National Championship and a great postseason for the ECAC Conference (9-2).  We will return with the College Football season in late August, until then. Good night now. (Season to date 11-5)

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS:  Our Swami picks have concluded their season and a great season it was 66-38 in our predictions. The Swami continues to dominate. A new season will begin with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 29.


chuffed \chuhft\, adjective:
         Annoyed; displeased; disgruntled.
“He was really chuffed about the web site as well, because the Dean did not inform him about the changes.”

Perder, verb:
        To lose; to miss
‘Esta intentando perder peso.”
“He’s trying to lose weight.”

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Barack Obama welcomes NCAA football champion Alabama Crimson Tide to the White House today ... Gun and immigration bills in the Senate will dominate most of the D.C. headlines this week (more below) ... Empire State survey today at 8:30 a.m. EDT expected to drop to 7.0 from 9.2 ... NAHB Homebuilder Survey at 10 a.m. expected to rise to 45 from 44 ... Consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to be flat on the headline number with core prices up 0.2 percent ... Housing starts at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise to 930K from 917K ... Initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday expected to rise to 350K from 346K ... Philly Fed at 10 a.m. Thursday expected to rise to 3.0 from 2.0 ... Index of leading indicators at 10 a.m. expected to rise 0.1 percent ...

House Financial Services has a hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m. on whether there are still "too big to fail" banks ... House Small Business Committee has a hearing Wednesday at 1 p.m. on health care reform implementation ... Goldman Sachs reports earnings Tuesday; Bank of America on Wednesday; Blackstone and Morgan Stanley on Thursday.

Next week; Dear Rink Rats and spring gardening.

EDITORS’ NOTE – We conclude our third year of our weekly observations. I thank you for your support and comments, onward to year four.

Until Next Monday, Adios!

Claremont, CA
April 15, 2013

#III-52, 157

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Rink Rats has many followers who are outstanding citizens and professionals. What sets these individuals apart (in our opinion) is they do not blow their own horns. They do not use social media, email, brochures, meetings, parties to announce how great they are and how blessed we are to be in their presence. If I hear the phrase this person is “a dynamic” leader one more time, Betty Ford Clinic here I come.

In Rink Rats’ opinion an individual who just does their job and helps their fellow citizens quietly and without fanfare is the true “dynamic” person.

We would like to highlight one of these people this week, Sula Vanderplank. Sula is a botanist who specializes in native plants. But she is also a humanitarian, an environmentalist, a good pool player, and a wonderful human being.

Like many of our Rink Rat followers what sets Sula apart is she could care less about pats on the back and Facebook bragging. She cares about her profession, her friends, and the world she inhabits. Her work in research and cataloging native plants in Mexico and Southern California is outstanding. Her photographs and journals of her experiences are truly a wonder to view and read. Sula truly cares about her friends and their well-being.

This writer is truly blessed to have friends and colleagues like Sula to share experiences, a beer, and friendship with. I just wish there were more people like her.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Mel Blount (65), Andy Garcia (57), Ethel Kennedy (85), Julian Lennon (50).

BILL CLINTON WATCH - "Former President Bill Clinton endorsed Wendy Greuel to be Los Angeles' next mayor a few weeks back, saying that her track record, including a stint working in his administration [as a senior adviser at HUD, helping manage Northridge earthquake relief], makes her a proven leader ... The support comes at a critical time in Greuel's campaign, as she tries to move past a rocky stretch that included a staff shake-up and continued questions about her ties to labor with less than two months to go until the May 21 runoff with City Councilman Eric Garcetti. ... Clinton has frequently endorsed people who have been loyal to his family, either helpful during his time at the White House or supporters of his wife's unsuccessful 2008 presidential run. Greuel fits both categories."

ANTHONY LEWIS, 1927-2013: Reporter Brought Law to Life, Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times reporter and columnist whose work won two Pulitzer Prizes and transformed American legal journalism, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85. The cause was complications of renal and heart failure, said his wife, Margaret H. Marshall, a retired chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. ... His column, called 'At Home Abroad' or 'Abroad at Home' depending on where he was writing from, appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Times for more than 30 years, until 2001. His voice was liberal, learned, conversational ... Before Mr. Lewis started covering the Supreme Court, press reports on its decisions were apt to be pedestrian recitations by journalists without legal training, rarely examining the court's reasoning or grappling with the context and consequences of particular rulings. Mr. Lewis's ... articles were virtual tutorials about currents in legal thinking, written with ease and sweep ...

"Lewis's coverage of the Warren court helped expand as well as explain its impact ... Joseph Anthony Lewis ... joined The Times as an editor in what was then the paper's Sunday department, but he left after four years to work on Adlai Stevenson's 1952 presidential campaign. After that he was hired by The Washington Daily News, a lively afternoon tabloid, and won his first Pulitzer there, in 1955, when he was 28. The prize was for a series of articles on Abraham Chasanow, a Navy employee unjustly accused of being a security risk. The Navy eventually cleared and reinstated Mr. Chasanow, who credited Mr. Lewis's work for his vindication. Mr. Lewis returned to The Times that year, hired by James B. Reston, the Washington bureau chief, to cover the Justice Department and the Supreme Court. Mr. Reston soon sent him off to Harvard Law School on a Nieman Fellowship ... to study law ...

"Bringing independent intellectual scrutiny to news coverage was an innovation often associated with Mr. Reston, who was known as Scotty. ... 'Scotty ran interference' for Mr. Lewis's 'analytical reporting, moving away from sterile news agency "objectivity,"' said Max Frankel, a former executive editor ... In 1969, Mr. Reston, after a brief stint as The Times's executive editor, called Mr. Lewis [then London bureau chief] to offer him the No. 2 spot at the paper under Mr. Reston's eventual successor, A. M. Rosenthal. But the job was not Mr. Reston's to offer ... The paper's publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, apologized to Mr. Lewis and offered him a consolation prize. 'Out of the ashes of the Reston-Rosenthal wars arose a columnist who occupied a part of the Op-Ed page for more than three decades,' Mr. Reston's biographer, John F. Stacks, wrote ... Lewis's first marriage, to Linda J. Rannells, ended in divorce. The couple had three children, Eliza, David and Mia, who survive him, along with seven grandchildren. Chief Justice Marshall, whom Mr. Lewis married in 1984, wrote the Massachusetts court's landmark decision in 2003 recognizing a right to same-sex marriage. She retired in 2010 to care for her husband - 'so that Tony and I may enjoy our final seasons together."

POPE FRANCIS AFTER 3 WEEKS - "Pope's foot-wash a final straw for traditionalists, Pope Francis has won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world's poorest, but he has devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy. Francis' decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls -- a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic -- during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict's papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church. ... Virtually everything he has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another. The night he was chosen pope, March 13, Francis emerged from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica without the ermine-rimmed red velvet cape, or mozzetta, used by popes past for official duties, wearing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy. ...

"Francis ... received the cardinals' pledges of obedience ... not from a chair on a pedestal as popes normally do but rather standing, on their same level ... Traditionalists ... fondly recall the days when popes were carried on a sedan chair ... In the days since, he has called for 'intensified' dialogue with Islam ... The church's liturgical law holds that only men can participate in the [foot-washing] rite, given that Jesus' apostles were all male. Priests and bishops have routinely petitioned for exemptions to include women, but the law is clear. Francis, however, is the church's chief lawmaker, so in theory he can do whatever he wants. ... The inclusion of women in the rite is problematic for some because it could be seen as an opening of sorts to women's ordination. ... Francis is clearly opposed to women's ordination."

THE PRESIDENTS CLUB TO CONVENE - "Obama, Both Bushes, Clinton and Carter, the 'World's Most Exclusive Club,' to Reunite: On April 25, President Barack Obama will be united with his four living predecessors [and their five spouses] in Dallas for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University ... [B]oth Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be on hand when the 43rd President's library and museum are dedicated. The last time all five met was in January 2009 before Obama was sworn in, in a meeting and lunch hosted by Bush in the Oval Office ... The opening of a presidential library is traditionally attended by the living and former Presidents, with one memorable exception. Carter skipped the 1990 opening of the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, Calif., citing scheduling conflicts."

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Friday April 12, 4:30 PM ET, ESPN2: the national NCAA semifinal – Yale Bulldogs (20-2-3) vs. Mass-Lowell River Hawks (28-10-2). In what is a very surprising NCAA hockey playoffs, where the Eastern teams are winning, this should be a good one. Yale (ECAC) has been a true surprise, with senior Andrew Miller (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) leading the way. We like Yale to win over the River Hawks, 4-2, and go on to win the NCAA title. Go ECAC!! (Season to date (9-5)

SPORTS BLINK: Double jinx? Like Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine picks the Washington Nationals to win the World Series. ESPN The Mag says Nats beat Detroit Tigers; SI had Tampa Bay Rays in Series.

RINT RATS MLB 2013 PICKS – American League: (East) Tampa Bay Rays, (Central) Detroit Tigers, (West) Los Angeles Angels, (Wild Card) New York Yankees, Texas Rangers. National League: (East) Washington Nationals, (Central) St. Louis Cardinals, (West) Los Angeles Dodgers, (Wild Card) Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants. World Series: Detroit Tigers to win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS:  ice – (NCAA) Yale 4 Mass-Lowell 2, golf - (Masters) Tiger to win at 12 under par.  Season to date (65-37)

REMEMBERING MARGARET THATCHER - "Mrs. Thatcher, the sharp-tongued veteran political operator, and Mr. Reagan, the genial outsider from California, may have seemed too different in style to mesh personally. But they shared humble working-class backgrounds ... and they were ideological soul mates, on both economic policy and international affairs. They also were linked by their successful, parallel efforts to launch conservative revolutions that upended long periods of more liberal governance ... They rose to power 18 months apart on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and their ascension was seen as heralding a new conservative wave across the Western democratic world. Indeed, Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Reagan were followed to power by Helmut Kohl in Germany and, in France, by François Mitterrand, who, though a leftist by ideological background, sometimes proved nearly as hawkish when it came to relations with the Soviet Union. Together, Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Reagan began exerting pressures on the Soviet Union that helped speed its unwinding." Free in Google; paste in headline

RINK RATS BOOB TUBE REVIEW: Don Draper: Stuck in place as 'Mad Men' drifts. The two-hour opener [for the sixth season] was ... a disappointment - even annoying - for how much it demanded from the viewer and how little it offered in return. ... Ad man Don Draper (series star Jon Hamm), though still married to his adoring mate Megan (Jessica Pare), was still tormented, brooding -- and philandering. As his inaugural tryst of 1968, Don cheated with the wife of a physician neighbor who was called away from the Drapers' New Year's Eve party on a medical emergency. ... Meanwhile, Don's agency partner Roger Sterling (John Slattery) was still gin-soaked and sardonically bleak. ... Don and Roger and the other principals of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce took turns posing for company photos. Their individual portraits seemed to capture what's happened to many of these characters: They operate more than ever in isolated spheres, barely able to relate to one another, barely able, it seems, to even stand one another."

DRIVING THE WEEK - Congress is back! The initial focus will be on guns and immigration but budget issues will also percolate ... President Obama's FY2014 budget, which Republicans have already dismissed as dead on arrival for including new revenue in addition to Social Security and Medicare cuts, is due on Wednesday ... US Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Capital Markets Summit on Wednesday. M.M. hosts a panel in the afternoon on the regulatory environment featuring heads of many of the big financial industry lobby groups (more info below) ... First quarter earnings start today when Alcoa reports. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo kick off bank earnings season on Friday ... Fed Chair Ben Bernanke today keynotes the Atlanta Fed's Financial Markets Conference ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew today begins a two-trip to meet with European economic officials to urge a renewed focus on growth over austerity ...

NFIB survey on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. EDT expected to dip to 90.5 from 90.8 ... Treasury budget at 2 p.m. Wednesday expected to show deficit of $109 billion in March down from $198 billion mostly due to calendar effects plus they payroll tax hike and spending cuts ... FOMC minutes at 2 p.m. Wednesday expected to show no change in policy ... Initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Thursday expected to reverse some of last week's big jump, dropping to 360,000 from 385,000 ... Retail sales at 8:30 a.m. on Friday expected to be flat ... Univ. of Michigan consumer sentiment expected to tick up to 78.8 from 78.6 ... Senate Banking subcommittee on Thursday holds a hearing on the use of independent consultants in home foreclosures ...

WALL STREET WEEK - "With U.S. companies set to begin reporting first-quarter results on Monday, big investors are shaking off lukewarm profit forecasts and gloomy economic data and betting that central-bank action will help keep stocks rolling. ... On Friday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release its retail-sales report for March. Those figures may show whether consumers' surprising resilience this year is likely to persist.

Next week; On the Cheap, words of the month.

Until Next Monday, Adios!

La Quinta, CA
April 8, 2013

#III-51, 156

Monday, April 1, 2013

Big News

Big important news for Rink Rats followers this week, Rats is moving. Yes we are moving from our Southern California headquarters to the great state of North Carolina. We have accepted a new career and will be moving within the week.

Rink Rats blog will continue, but we will be located in North Carolina. Why North Carolina?

The business opportunities in North Carolina necessitate the move. North Carolina has a wonderful climate, the state is the best for golf, you can smoke a cigar in public, and I love catfish. Also, after over twenty years in California it is time for a change.  The growth of unauthorized web sites, crowded freeways, no longer any decent Italian restaurants, lack of turn signal use, has all grown too much to take. We will miss our friends but hope to make new ones in the Tar Heel State. But, I assure you Rink Rats will live on.

WALL STREET WEEK - Investors return from a 3-day weekend with a number of milestones in hand, including record losses in the Dow and the S&P 500. The Dow now resembles 1932, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq saw their fifth straight month of losses.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Lon Chaney (130), Walter Chrysler (138), Bette Davis (105), Bud Fisher (128), Billie Holiday (98), Washington Irving (230), W.K. Kellogg (153), Henry Luce (115), Lowell Thomas (121), Booker T. Washington (157), Muddy Waters (98).

COMING OUT – I need to come out; this writer is not a member of the Democratic Party but a card caring member of American Crossroads and the Republican Party. There it is out there finally, what a relief! I adore Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Mike Welch, and above all else Rush Limbaugh.

SPORTS BLINK – Opening day for Major League Baseball. The Houston Astros have a powerhouse this season and are among the favorites. Vin Scully begins his 164th season at the microphone for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

THE SWAMI’S TOP PICKS:  ice – Charlestown Chiefs 5 Syracuse Bulldogs 1; golf – Roy McAvoy to win The Masters. ULV Burbank Campus will not make their April 2 web site opening deadline; sorry (someone should check those logos).  Season to date (65-37)

2013 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PICKS – American League: (East) Toronto Blue Jays, (Central) Kansas City Royals, (West) Houston Astros, (Wild Card) Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners. American League Champs – Kansas City Royals.

National League: (East) New York Mets, (Central) Chicago Cubs, (West) San Diego Padres, (Wild Card) Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers. National League Champs – San Diego Padres.

World Series Champs – Kansas City Royals.

THIS MONTH’S POLL – Vote for one; your favorite comedy film of all time – (1) Schlinder’s List, (2) The Pawnbroker, (3) Midnight Cowboy, (4) Day of Wine and Roses, (5). Other.

DRIVING THE WEEK – The schedule is light with both the House and the Senate still in rehab. Fed Chairman Paul Abbondante will deliver remarks Thursday at 10:30 a.m. on financial and personality education. President Obama will visit San Jose and ask Google to close down due to poor hiring policies. City of La Verne, CA. City Council will disband and in their last official duty will end, forever, the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market. California lawmakers will propose a law to authorize no longer the use of turn signals (except for law enforcement) and allow texting while driving in California.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH – “The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Groucho Marx

Next week; North Carolina we arrive.

Until Next Monday, April FOOLS!

Claremont, CA
April 1, 2013

#III-50, 155