Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chili Cook Off

Our annual winter chili cook off has produced a real winner this season,  great weekend dish for those cold, damp, dreary winter nights.
Two hours of simmering creates well-melded flavor in Rink Rats loaded chili. The beef is sprinkled with cumin, chili powder and oregano-making it arguably a star of the dish (but don't tell the beans).  The beer is the key, we suggest Labatts Blue.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
One 4-ounce can tomato paste
One 12-ounce bottle beer
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded Cheddar
Sour cream
Chopped green onions
Add the olive oil to a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and peppers and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until just fragrant. Stir in the beef and sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.

Drain the beef mixture through a colander. Add it back to the Dutch oven and stir in the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir the tomato paste into the beef mixture; this will "toast" it and give the chili more flavor. Add the beer and stir up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, and then add the diced tomatoes and beans. Simmer on medium-low for 2 hours, stirring on occasion to keep the bottom from sticking.

Top with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions before serving.
Take a couple of Tums or Pepto Bismol just in case.

Total Time:
2 hr 35 min
20 min
2 hr 15 min

JACK ASS OF THE MONTH – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer for saying “I’ve got plenty of time” to decide whether discriminating against gays should be legal?
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer deflected questions this week about whether she would sign or veto a controversial anti-gay law that passed her state’s legislature last week.
“You know, the bill is in transmittal and I don’t have to make a decision until next Friday so I’ve got plenty of time,” she said at the National Governor’s Association meeting when asked by reporters.

The bill would allow Arizona businesses to refuse service to gay customers if they believe doing so would violate their religious beliefs. It was approved in the State’s Republican controlled House and Senate this week.
Good luck Arizona in keeping next years’ Super Bowl if Gov. Brewer signs the bill.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Chelsea Clinton (34), Roger Daltrey (70), Ron Howard (60), Ralph Nader (80), Bob Schieffer (77), Maria Suffredini …famous niece.

POLITICS BLAST: HILLARY CLINTON'S TO-DO LIST - Don't turn into Mitt Romney ... Even many Democrats acknowledge that Romney might have been president if he could have narrowed the gap between himself and people who thought he was awkward, elitist, insular, and just a bit odd. This clearly isn't as big a challenge for Clinton ... But she still has a considerable task in front of her to avoid making the mistakes of someone who's been cloistered - her recent acknowledgment that she hasn't driven a car since 1996 exploded on the Internet. ...

Don't turn into Al Gore ... Gore, like Romney, fell short of the presidency by failing to navigate a hovering challenge. In Gore's case, he saw his main task as how to fashion a distinct personal and ideological identity from the president he served ... Clinton, by all appearances, is now on good personal terms with Barack Obama. Still, if there are ways she wants to separate herself from him - and a presidency now suffering its lowest approval ratings - 2014 would be the year to ever-so-subtly begin that process through speeches and interviews.

CIVIL RIGHTS SUMMIT - The L.B.J. Presidential Library and Museum will hold a Civil Rights Summit ... Austin, Texas in April to commemorate Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act, attended by three of the four living former presidents -- Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - and perhaps President Obama. A ceremony is being planned inside ... the L.B.J. Library, to be followed by celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Johnson initiatives: Medicare, the Clean Air Act, public broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Head Start, the requirements for seatbelts, and warnings on cigarette packs. The events are intended to offer a counterweight to the way Johnson has been portrayed over the past decades.

CHINA SLOWS TREASURY PURCHASES BY MOST IN TWO YEARS - China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Fed ... announced plans to slow asset purchases.

The Communist nation reduced its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011 ... At the same time, international investors increased holdings by 1.4 percent, or by $78 billion, in December, pushing foreign holdings to a record $5.79 trillion.

DEMOCRATS VERSION OF THE BASS BROTHERS - A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world's most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year's elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia ...
Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch. ... In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country's leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. ... to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

Targets include the governor's race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer's group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.

WINTER OLYMPICS - US officials defend team performance in Sochi. The speedskaters flopped, and the hockey team was blanked when it mattered most. If it wasn't for some brand new sports, the medal count would be paltry. ... The U.S. [finished with] 28 medals in Sochi, putting it behind just the host country in total medals. But Norway won more gold than the U.S. (11-9) and the 28 total medals were nine less than Americans won in a record-setting performance four years ago in Vancouver. That total -- five less than won by Russia -- would have been far less if U.S. athletes didn't win nine medals, including five gold, in sports that made their debut in these games. ... Canada won more gold medals than its much bigger neighbor for the second Olympics in a row.

TOUGH STUFF: Bob Costas' sharp, if jarring, commentary last Friday changed the narrative for those who thought NBC ignored or displayed a naive attitude about the world outside of the Olympic Village. ... Costas said the Sochi Olympics had gone off better than many people feared going in, 'all of which is truly wonderful, but should not serve to obscure a harsher or more lasting truth. This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria -- and that's just a partial list.' While the games' may burnish Putin's reputation in some eyes, 'no amount of Olympic glory can mask these realities.'

Great views but not the full picture: Controversies have dogged Olympics' host nation, but NBC's coverage has largely pushed them to the margins, before [Costas' comments], the most hard-nosed analysis that NBC has offered may have come the night before the Opening Ceremonies. In a conversation with Costas, New Yorker ... editor David Remnick, hired as an analyst by NBC, opined that the Games represented an opportunity for Putin to 'reassert Russia on the world's stage. ... Remember, he's an autocrat; he's no democrat. He has no interest in LGBT issues or human rights, all the things that are being discussed. And he doesn't care that you care that much.' ... The absence of further discussion about the anti-gay law has disappointed gay rights advocates. ...

In an interview, Remnick , the author of 'Lenin's Tomb,' a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the fall of the Soviet Union, declined to assess NBC's Olympic coverage. But he noted that American TV in general has shown waning interest in international news. 'Whether it's Russia or China, they need to spend more resources to tell those stories,' he said. 'That's a much bigger point than whether it made it into [prime time during] the Olympics.' When it has focused on Russia during the Games, NBC has tended to put a happy face on the host nation. The primary vehicle has been a series of 'travelogue' pieces highlighting regional and historical aspects of Russia, each hosted by correspondent Mary Carillo.

WARREN BUFFETT annual letter, previewed by FORTUNE, "What you can learn from my real estate investments": "My money ... is where my mouth is: What I advise here is essentially identical to certain instructions I've laid out in my will. One bequest provides that cash will be delivered to a trustee for my wife's benefit. (I have to use cash for individual bequests, because all of my Berkshire Hathaway shares will be fully distributed to certain philanthropic organizations over the 10 years following the closing of my estate.) My advice to the trustee could not be more simple: Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard's.) I believe the trust's long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors -- whether pension funds, institutions, or individuals -- who employ high-fee managers.

SAY IT AIN’T SO - Maria Bartiromo, after 20 years as the face of CNBC, makes her debut on the Fox Business Network at 9 a.m. this week with "Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo." Per Fox, "The program will feature the latest news on world market openings and stock moves, as well as the key business headlines of the day. Bartiromo will interview major financial leaders as she breaks down what viewers need to know both before and after the opening bell rings.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 3/1 4:00 PM ET, NESN - #14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-12-2) visit #1 Boston College Eagles (25-4-4). Fresh off their Beanpot victory the Eagles are ready for another national title run. BC wins 5 – 2.  Season to date (5-2).

(NCAA Men’s Hockey, Mar 1) #7 U Mass-Lowell Riverhawks (20-8-4) at #17 Vermont Catamounts (17-11-3). Cats 4 – 3.

(NHL, Mar 1) Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-3) at Chicago Blackhawks (35-11-14), Hawks 3-2.

(D-III Game of the Week, Mar 1) baseball; Chapman Panthers (6-4) at Cal Lutheran Kingsmen (4-1). Early battle for 2nd place, Cal Lu  7 -5.
2014 Season to date (15-14)

DRIVING THE WEEK - Senate Banking hearing on TRIA reauthorization Tuesday ... Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo speaks at NABE conference Tuesday ... CFPB Director Richard Cordray speaks at National Association of Attorneys General's annual meeting Wednesday ... Two House Financial Services subcommittee hearings Wednesday on HUD IG report and the Volcker rule ... Janet Yellen testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday ... Sen. Elizabeth Warren discusses retirement savings at Center for American Progress event Thursday ...

The House is set to consider on Wednesday two Financial Services bill. The first is Rep. Michael Grimm's flood insurance affordability act (we have not yet seen the new text); the second is Rep. Sean Duffy's "Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act of 2013.

Next week: How do you hire?

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 26, 2014

#IV-45, 202

Monday, February 17, 2014

Professors, We Need You!

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant. One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama as “a snob” for wanting more kids to go to college, or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social science research. Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.

“All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public,” notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics, history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business, and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.

A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away. “Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research,” said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution. “This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.”

The latest attempt by academia to wall itself off from the world came when the executive council of the prestigious International Studies Association proposed that its publication editors be barred from having personal blogs. The association might as well scream: We want our scholars to be less influential! A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.

Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian who writes for The New Yorker and is an exception to everything said here, noted the result: “a great, heaping mountain of exquisite knowledge surrounded by a vast moat of dreadful prose.” As experiments, scholars have periodically submitted meaningless gibberish to scholarly journals — only to have the nonsense respectfully published. My onetime love, political science, is a particular offender and seems to be trying, in terms of practical impact, to commit suicide.

“Political science Ph.D.’s often aren’t prepared to do real-world analysis,” says Ian Bremmer, a Stanford political science Ph.D. who runs the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, one-fifth of articles in The American Political Science Review focused on policy prescriptions; at last count, the share was down to 0.3 percent.

Universities have retreated from area studies, so we have specialists in international theory who know little that is practical about the world. After the Arab Spring, a study by the Stimson Center looked back at whether various sectors had foreseen the possibility of upheavals. It found that scholars were among the most oblivious — partly because they relied upon quantitative models or theoretical constructs that had been useless in predicting unrest.
Many academic disciplines also reduce their influence by neglecting political diversity. Sociology, for example, should be central to so many national issues, but it is so dominated by the left that it is instinctively dismissed by the right.

In contrast, economics is a rare academic field with a significant Republican presence, and that helps tether economic debates to real-world debates. That may be one reason, along with empiricism and rigor, why economists (including my colleague in columny, Paul Krugman) shape debates on issues from health care to education.

Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out to the Teaching Company’s lectures, which have enlivened our family’s car rides).

I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, February 15, 2014

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Jim Brown (78), Jeff Daniels (59), Roger Goodell (55), Kevin Laack …famous Campus Director, Rene Russo (60), Cybill Shepherd (64), John Travolta (60).

SET BACK FOR UNIONS - The United Auto Workers stunning defeat last Friday after workers at Volkswagen AG's assembly plant narrowly rejected a bid to create a German-style works council will prompt soul searching by the union and raises difficult questions about what the union needs to do to be successful.

By a narrow 712-626 vote, workers rejected the union after three days of voting this week — a major setback for the UAW that has said its survival depends on organizing foreign auto workers.

OUT THIS WEEK -- "LINCOLN'S BOYS: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image," by Joshua Zeitz (Viking): "a timely and intimate look into Abraham Lincoln's White House through the lives of his two closest White House aides, John Hay and John Nicolay. ... It tells the story of how Nicolay and Hay rescued Lincoln's historical reputation, laboring for 25 years to reverse a prevailing portrait of a kindly but failed president. Painstakingly, they worked the levers of power and publishing to choke off access to the Lincoln's papers and thereby provide the only authorized biography of their slain boss. ... Zeitz's book provides rich historical context around the politics of presidential legacy-making and memory.

MEGATRENDS - Is Big Food the next Big Tobacco? Lawyers are pitching state attorneys general in 16 states with a radical idea: make the food industry pay for soaring obesity-related health care costs. It's a move straight from the playbook of the Big Tobacco takedown of the 1990s ... There are plenty of naysayers, just as there were in 1994 when Mike Moore, Mississippi's attorney general, famously suggested suing the tobacco industry. But a number of nutrition and legal experts think a similar strategy could be applied on the food front - especially as obesity-related diseases have surpassed smoking as a major driver of health care costs.

THE GOP'S DEBT LIMIT SURRENDER - Hardly surprising the House GOP gave in on the debt limit. They held few cards and faced implacable opponents confident they held the political high ground. But the endgame came faster than we expected. And it did seem to offer a desultory coda of sorts to three years of bitter fiscal fights that led to a the first-ever U.S. credit downgrade in 2011, a scary flirtation with a potentially crippling "fiscal cliff" dive at the end of 2012 and a government shutdown in 2013.

There are some obvious reasons for the latest fizzle-out. The GOP already won some pretty significant spending cuts through sequestration. Couple them with the tax hikes enacted in the fiscal cliff deal and the last three years actually served to bring the near-term budget outlook into much better shape, though no one would want to repeat the path it took to get here.

House Speaker John Boehner has now successfully steered his party away from politically damaging fiscal crusades with little hope of success. The GOP can now focus on trying to expand its House majority and take back the Senate with a sharp focus on Obamacare and proposals to boost lackluster economic growth.

And while there is still plenty of juice left in railing against the nation's $17 trillion debt and arguing for long-term fixes to entitlement programs, none of those big things are likely to come (or were ever that likely to come) with such bitterly divided government. And improving economies and shrinking deficits always tend to tamp down populist uprisings like the tea party of 2010. Not that the tea partiers are going away.

HOTTEST REAL ESTATE MARKETS COOL - Many of the hottest U.S. real-estate markets started to cool in last year's fourth quarter as higher interest rates and sticker shock pushed some buyers to the sidelines. Overall, the median price of an existing home rose 10.1% in the fourth quarter to $196,900 from a year earlier ... In the third quarter the median price rose 12.5%. Slightly less than three out of four markets saw year-over-year price gains. .... The largest gains continue to be in markets that were hard hit by the real estate bust and have seen a frenzy of investor interest during the past year.

Many of those markets, however, have cooled a bit, which real-estate agents contend is a good thing because the price run-up had started to scare off buyers. In Atlanta - where 33.3% price growth in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago was the fastest in the nation, pushing the median cost of a home to $142,400 - growth slowed from 41.8% in the third quarter over a year ago. Several other cities that saw 20% or better growth in the fourth quarter, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Fla., and Sacramento, Calif., saw price growth slow from the prior quarter.

COMCAST BUYS TIME WARNER CABLE -- The pay TV industry is in flux ... as Americans drop their cable TV subscriptions ... but pay the same companies for internet service, and since Comcast and TWC control different regions, why not add to the industry's history of consolidation?

Comcast has reached an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable in all-stock transaction worth roughly $159 a share ... The new company, created by the $44 billion purchase, would be by far the largest cable provider in the nation with over 33 million subscribers, and is certain to face a tough review from the Federal Communications Commission. The agreement comes more than eight months after Charter Communications and Liberty Media made their first foray to try and negotiate a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable ... and follows months of conversations between Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

Charter's offer of roughly $133 a share in cash and stock has been rejected by Time Warner Cable as it held out for a price of $160, which it has said it reflective of where an asset of its size and scope should trade in a deal. While there are no caps on the ownership of cable subscribers, Comcast had been thought to be lukewarm to a deal to buy all of Time Warner Cable due to its concern about being subjected to an onerous consent decree from the FCC similar to the one it signed upon acquiring NBC Universal.

On the face of it, the merger of the country's two largest cable companies would seem like a nonstarter, given its steep regulatory hurdles and skepticism from consumer watchdogs. But Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable comes at a moment of seismic ... with consumers increasingly cutting their cable cords and instead streaming their favorite shows via the Internet through services like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Hulu.

This shifting landscape may aid Comcast as it seeks to persuade government officials - and deploy its prodigious army of lobbyists - to win approval for its $45 billion takeover. ... Still, the combination of the two companies, creating a cable and broadband behemoth serving 30 million customers across 42 states, is expected to come under intense scrutiny ... A merged Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have nearly twice as many high-speed Internet subscribers as the next largest company and would control roughly 38 percent of the high-speed Internet market.

KOBE’S BACK – Not the egocentric L.A. Laker but the 3 year old thoroughbred. Congrats to University of La Verne trustee’s C R K Stable for winning Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. The $120,000 first prize should insure a nice donation to the University…College of Business please.

Speaking of the University of La Verne, a wonderful evening Saturday at the Ontario Reign hockey game, Reign lost to the Alaska Aces 5 – 2. But the Ontario Reign’s Booster Club’s gift of $67.00 to the University’s Scholarship efforts was a bit cheesy to say the least. I smell a union’s influence.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/22, 7:00 PM, CT, BRAVO; #6 St. Cloud State Huskies (17-6-5) at Miami Redhawks (10-15-3) at Steve Cady (St. Lawrence ’75) Arena. Cady Arena will be rocking but not enough for the Redhawks, St. Cloud wins 6 – 2.  Season to date (4-2).

Winter Olympic Medal Count: (1) United States 35, (2) Canada 29, (3) Germany 28.

(NCAA Men’s Hockey, Feb. 22) St. Lawrence University Saints (11-15-4) @ #3 Union Dutchmen  (20-6-4). The Saints to upset the powerful Dutchmen in this one, 3 – 2.

(Olympic Hockey, Feb. 20) The Women’s Gold Medal Game – U.S.A. vs. Ole’ Canada. Sorry Don Cherry U.S.A. to win 5 – 3.

(D-III Game of the Week, Feb. 22) men hoops; Chapman Panthers (14-9) @ La Venre Leopards (10-13), the battle for fourth place, Leos win, 64 – 58.
2014 Season to date (14-11)

ARMCHAIR OLYMPICS  - Sagging ratings, Costas to rescue. After a quick start, NBC's ratings for the Sochi Olympics are fading. Saturday night's prime-time telecast was seen by 17.1 million viewers, the smallest audience so far and smaller than any night of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. The Saturday telecast opened with the compelling story of the U.S.-Russia men's hockey game, but things quickly went downhill, and there were few notable performances by Americans to keep home team fans interested. The comparable Saturday in Vancouver had 26.7 million viewers, and the Turin Games in 2006 had 19.7 million. The hockey game on the NBC Sports Network was seen by an average of 4.1 million people, swelling to 6.4 million during the shootout, strong numbers that indicated how word spread quickly about what was going on. ...

Ol' Red Eyes is coming back! NBC said that Bob Costas will return Monday night as host of the network's prime-time telecast. Matt Lauer filled in one last time on Sunday. That means Costas will have missed seven days because of a stubborn infection that reddened first one of his eyes, then the other, and left him sensitive to light.

HERE’S JIMMY - On Monday night, for the first time in almost 42 years, NBC’s “Tonight” show will be hosted from New York. The show, which invented the form of entertainment known as late-night television, is returning to the place of its birth: Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, in the building known as 30 Rock.

Much of the attention in the television industry over the past month has centered on the changeover at the historic late-night show from the longtime host Jay Leno to the new star, Jimmy Fallon, but the change in location — so long in Burbank, Calif. — also represents a milestone, both culturally and in a business sense.

DRIVING THE WEEK - Finance ministers from the 18 nations that use the euro currency meet Monday, and then again on Tuesday — this time with colleagues from all of the 28 European Union nations — to discuss plans for a banking union, including a single resolution mechanism to deal with failing banks.

The Federal Reserve will publish on Wednesday the minutes of its January policy-making meeting. The meeting produced no surprises — the Fed said it would continue to slowly dismantle its economic stimulus campaign — but the carefully edited summary may provide some hints about the next steps in that retreat.

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month, Words of the Month and another famous chili recipe (finally).

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 17, 2014

#IV-44, 201

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


It all began on May 3, 2010 and it has come to this, our 200th Rink Rats Blog.

I would like to thank Carrie L., Sula V., Linda M., and Karen B. our original followers and readers. Your support and commentary is appreciated.

Some viewpoints on these first 200 blogs: The discipline of writing is not easy, now I know why I never went to Law School. To write an e-mail, a note, a tweet, is nothing compared to an original piece in a blog. This writer has a long way to go.

Social Media is a nice platform to keep in touch with family and friends but a blog is a vehicle for facts, opinion, and commentary. My world these days is an endless flow of data; voice mails, e-mails, post it notes, tweets and links. To take a few hours a week to organize my thoughts and observations is welcome therapy and intellectual exercise.

So here is to 200 more Jack Ass of the Month, Education Chronicles, The Swami Picks, Driving the Week, and Sports Blinks. Your reading and participation is humbling and highly regarded.

How did you come up with the idea to start a blog, entitled Rink Rats?

Curious Reader

Dear Curious Reader:
When living in Ithaca, New York I played for a semi-professional hockey team called the Ithaca Stars. After the season ended every year we wanted to keep in touch so we formed a golf group, our name Rink Rats. This group was made up of Canadian and American former college hockey players. To this day we still keep in touch, our hockey days long over, but our friendship is never ending.

Go USA Hockey,
Rink Rats.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Jennifer Aniston (45), Geoff Ball …famous nephew, Carl Bernstein (70), Roberta Flack (75), Matt Groening (60), John McEnroe (55), Sarah Palin (50), Bill Russell (80).

FRIDAY (FEB 7) IS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the Beatles touching down in New York for the first time. See a PDF of a story from the next day's Times, "3,000 FANS GREET BRITISH BEATLES: 4 Rock 'n' Roll Performers Hailed by Teen-Agers ... 3,000 Screaming Teen-Agers Greet the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah).

I remember those Beatle Cards.

DEFICIT TO FALL TO 3% OF GDP - The US budget deficit will fall to 3 per cent of economic output this year, close to the pre-crisis norm, the [CBO, Congressional Budget Office] said ... The non-partisan agency's report showed how the world's largest economy's strained finances have mended - at least temporarily - in a sharp reversal compared to the concerns over record deficits and soaring debt that dogged much of ... Obama's presidency ... CBO said the US budget deficit would fall from $680bn in the 2013 fiscal year to $514bn this year and to $478bn, or 2.6 per cent of the economy, next year. ...

But the CBO also chronicled a bleaker budgetary picture for the US over the long term, with estimates of US deficits over 10 years increasing by $1.4tn compared with its earlier projection. ... [T]he big fiscal questions - mainly driven by the rising government costs as the baby-boom generation retires - remain unresolved, and are likely to be handed over to Mr Obama's successor in the Oval Office after 2016.

FARM BILL PASSES - The long-tortured farm bill cleared Congress on Tuesday, ending a two-year struggle that split the old farm-food coalition as never before and dramatized the growing isolation of agriculture and rural America in an ever more urban House. Written off as dead just months ago, the giant five-year measure won final approval from the Senate on a 68-32 roll call and goes next to ... Obama for his signature. Throughout the whole drama, Obama has remained remarkably detached, almost a bit player. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his deputy, Krysta Harden, will move to center stage now as they try to put the pieces in place before spring plantings, just weeks away in some regions of the South.

Whether the subject is cows, cotton or corn, the bill represents a landmark rewrite of commodity programs coupled with what proved in the end to be bipartisan reforms in the food stamp program. Factoring in cuts already begun during the two-year debate, the bill should generate about $23 billion in 10-year savings, but all such estimates are vulnerable to wide swings given the drop in corn prices since last summer.

TARP STILL HAUNTS THE TAXPAYER - More than five years after the financial crisis, some small banks are still sitting on taxpayer money. We find that roughly 80 lenders owe a total of about $2 billion disbursed under the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Under the rules of the program, banks that don't repay the money soon will face a steeper interest-rate bill. The deadline has many lenders running to pay down their debt, while others unable to make the payment run the risk of failing. We note that at the end of last year, 28 of the 707 banks that received money under TARP had failed. Our story details the program's overhang and examines the predicament that many small banks are facing.

2013 VOTE RATINGS by National Journal:

--SENATE ... Three-way tie for most liberal: Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ... Most moderate: Sen Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) ... Most conservative: James Risch (R-Idaho)

--HOUSE ... Seven-way tie for most liberal: Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) ... Most moderate: Rep. Chris Smith ... Most conservative: Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

JAY LENO'S last words on "The Tonight Show," after a 22-year run, as he embraced Gath Brooks, over applause: "Watch Jimmy. ... Honey, I'm coming home!"

APPLE BUYS BACK $14 BILLION OF ITS OWN STOCK - Apple ... has bought $14 billion of its own shares in the two weeks since reporting financial results that disappointed Wall Street, Chief Executive Tim Cook said in an interview. ... Mr. Cook said Apple was 'surprised' by the 8% decline in its shares on Jan. 28, the day after it reported lower iPhone sales than projected and warned that revenue in the current quarter might decline from the same period a year ago. Mr. Cook said he wanted to be 'aggressive' and 'opportunistic.' With the latest purchases, Mr. Cook said Apple had bought back more than $40 billion of its shares over the past 12 months.

Those purchases are part of Apple's previously disclosed plan to repurchase $60 billion of its own shares, Mr. Cook said. ... The revelation about the recent share purchases comes a few weeks before Apple's Feb. 28 shareholder meeting, where activist investor Carl Icahn is pressuring the company to be more aggressive with its $160 billion cash pile. Mr. Icahn, who owns roughly $4 billion in Apple shares, is asking shareholders to vote on his proposal that Apple buy an additional $50 billion of its own shares by the end of September, above its current plan.

INVESTORS IMPATIENT WITH CORPORATE EARNINGS - Investors this year are showing an impatience rarely seen during the record-setting 2013 stock-market rally, digging deep into corporate quarterly reports and often sending shares falling even if companies meet forecasts. Amid rising worries over soft economic data and the Fed ... some of the most recognizable names in American business have suffered large share-price declines following quarterly reports deemed disappointing by Wall Street ... The reversals have hit firms ranging from International Business Machines to Twitter ... and Yahoo ... underscoring the anxiety that has sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 4.7% this year.

Stock pickers said they were paying closer attention to the underpinnings of company profits, following a 30% rise in the S&P 500-stock index last year. Many seek so-called high-quality earnings they contend show companies have the capacity to adjust to future economic and market challenges. ... The shift comes as investors re-evaluate U.S. growth expectations after a string of disappointing economic data. On Friday, the government said the U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs in January, the second straight month the employment tally fell short of expectations.

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/15, 7:00 P CT, FSD: #10 Michigan Wolverines (14-7-3) at #2 Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-4-5). A HUGE Big Ten matchup in Gopher Land, Minnesota has too much at home, 5 – 4.  Season to date (3-2).


Winter Olympic Medal Count: (1) United States 35, (2) Canada 29, (3) Germany 28.

(NCAA Women’s Hockey, Feb. 15) #6 Harvard Crimson (18-3-3) @ #6 St. Lawrence  University Skating Saints  (10-16-3). Can Coach Wells pull the upset at Appleton Arena, no but it will be close, 5 – 4 Harvard.

(Olympic Hockey, Feb. 15) The first big game of the Winter Hockey tournament, USA vs. Russia, we like Ryan Miller in the net and the US to ruin Mr. Putin’s day, 4 – 2.

(D-III Game of the Week, Feb. 15) women hoops; University of La  Verne Lady Leopards (12-9) @ Claremont Mudd-Scripps Republicans (18-3), the first place Republicans will be too much for the Leos, 59 – 45.

2014 Season to date (11-11)

DRIVING THE WEEK - French President François Hollande makes a state visit to the U.S. and will travel to Charlottesville, Va. today with President Obama. Both will speak this afternoon at Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, an early American ambassador to France ... Consumer Bankers Association holds a briefing at 10 a.m. on the state of retail banking ... NFIB survey at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday expected to tick down to 93.5 from 93.9 ... JOLTS report at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (a Janet Yellen favorite) showed a quit rate of 1.8 percent in November, a five-year high. Will that bullish signal continue? ...

Yellen makes her first big Hill appearance as Fed chair on Tuesday at 10 a.m. before House Financial Services. Markets will move on her outlook for the economy and the labor market. She's not likely to waver off the Fed's place to continue the taper unless the FOMC sees significant weakening ... Yellen continues her testimony on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. before Senate Banking ... Retail sales at 8:30 a.m. Thursday expected to be flat and up 0.1 percent excluding autos ... Industrial production at 9:15 a.m. Friday expected to rise 0.2 percent .. Univ. of Mich. consumer sentiment at 9:55 a.m. Friday expected to dip to 80.5 from 81.2

Next week: Words of the Month and another famous chili recipe.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 10, 2014

#IV-43, 200

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Year Economics

2013 AUTO SALES - Volkswagen said Thursday it topped rival General Motors Co. for second place in global sales among all automakers. VW said it sold 9.73 million cars and trucks in 2013, compared to GM’s 9.71 million.

The German automaker’s tally includes heavy-duty truck sales from its MAN SE and Scania AB units, so some still say GM is the second-best selling automaker among light-duty vehicles.

Toyota Motor Corp. sold 9.98 million vehicles in 2013, retaining the title as the world’s largest automaker for a second straight year. Its tally includes sales from its Hino Motors and Daihatsu units.

Toyota was also the top-selling automaker from 2008-10, but GM regained the title in 2011 after Toyota production sank because of natural disasters in Asia. GM was the world’s largest automaker from 1931 through 2007.

RETAIL TROUBLES - Best Buy tried an inventive strategy to attract customers this past year: inviting them to test out products in stores and buy them for less online. But the electronics retailer on Thursday became the latest chain to post weak holiday results. A deep malaise that seems to have struck malls and big-box retailers: the fast rise of e-commerce. We find that the Web not only depresses sales, but also hurts the means by which traditional retailers turn a profit. A definite change in consumer habits, noting a decrease in impulse buys and store visits. Some companies claim online operations can supplant sales at physical stores; others say the retailers are in for an uphill battle. "If people don't come to your stores, it reduces the possibility shoppers will buy anything," noted one analyst.

CHINESE ECONOMY - One of the most troubling outcomes of the largest migration in human history: abandoned children. We find that the flow of Chinese migrant workers into big cities from rural areas, along with strict government rules controlling the movement of people, has left millions of children in rural China living largely on their own. About 61 million, or one of every five Chinese children, haven't seen one or both parents for at least three months, by one count. While parents believe they are raising the standard of living back home, we note that the abandonment seems to come at a long-term cost: More than 70% of kids in rural China show signs of mental-health problems, says one researcher.

GOOGLE SNAPS UP NEST - Google has made a bold bet on the emerging 'internet of things' with the $3.2bn acquisition of Nest Labs, a four-year-old start-up founded by Apple veterans that makes 'smart' thermostats and smoke alarms for the home. The deal is the second largest in Google's history, behind its $12.5bn Motorola acquisition in 2011 ...
The move is [Larry] Page's latest foray beyond Google's core business of online advertising into hardware and connected devices, following experiments with self-driving cars, its wearable technology Glass, and acquisitions in robotics. ... With their sleek design and intuitive interfaces, Nest's products have made it a poster child for the so-called internet of things, the idea that a large variety of devices, from the domestic to the industrial, can be improved through online connectivity.

BEHIND EL-ERIAN DEPARTURE - Long hours and a frequently fractious relationship with Pimco's founder Bill Gross prompted Mohamed El-Erian's resignation as chief executive of the world's largest bond house, say people familiar ... Mr. El-Erian often sparred with the company's founder over strategy, in a workplace that insiders say rivals any investment bank for fierce arguments and a hard-charging culture. ... His resignation on Tuesday evening came as a shock to those both inside and outside of Pimco but his plan to leave had been known to a small group of senior executives for several months.

Mr. El-Erian, whose day in the office starts about 4.15am in Newport Beach, California, told colleagues he wanted to write a book and spend more time with his family. He said he was looking for a 'third career' after spending 15 years at the International Monetary Fund and 17 years in investment management, both at Pimco ... and a two-year stint managing Harvard University's endowment. The resignation was not related to Pimco's recently lackluster performance, the people said.

PIC DU JOUR: This is the BlackBerry (old school!) of Nels Olson, vice chairman of Korn Ferry, who was a birthday boy yesterday. This cracked, mangled device holds some of the biggest secrets in Washington - many futures get decided here.

THE TONIGHT SHOW - It's really goodbye this time End nears for 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno, host city Burbank," by Scott Collins: "The sign advertising his show still looms over the NBC parking lot, and for a few more days throngs of fans will crowd the studio gates in Burbank before tapings. But Jay Leno says he's ready to leave-and this time, he says he really means it. After more than 40 years, "The Tonight Show" is leaving Southern California and heading back to New York, with the 63-year-old Leno, who first became host in 1992, handing off the show to Jimmy Fallon, just 39.

Four years have passed since NBC botched a similar passing of the torch to Conan O'Brien. This time it's the passing of an era, and not just for Leno, one of the most polarizing figures in show business. It's also a sobering inflection point for the TV industry and Los Angeles generally, both of which are struggling to adapt to economic and technological forces that are threatening a cultural primacy that looked assured back in 1972, when Johnny Carson transplanted 'Tonight' to what he jokingly called 'beautiful downtown Burbank.'" Awesome new promo video

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Hank Aaron (80), Sara Evans (43), Laura Linney (50), Tiger Wiliams (60).

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/8, 7:00 PM ET, Bravo; #14 Yale Bulldogs (11-6-4) visit #4 Union Dutchmen (17-6-3). Big ECAC game, we like Union to win and win big 6 – 2.  Season to date (2-2).

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – We lost the Super Bowl pick but still had a good season. See you next fall.  Final Season to date (14-6).

SEATTLE MANHANDLES DENVER - The Seahawks' defense lived up to all the hype and destroyed Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in one of the least entertaining Super Bowls (for non-Seattle fans) in recent memory. Percy Harvin provided the offensive spark for Seattle which took a 2-0 lead on a safety on Denver's first offensive play and never looked back. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble, took home the MVP. But the award could easily have gone to the entire Seattle defensive unit which made the most productive offense in NFL history look feeble.


Winter Olympic Medal Count: (1) United States 35, (2) Canada 29, (3) Germany 28.

(NCAA Hockey, Feb. 8) #15 Denver Pioneers (13-8-5) @ #6 St. Cloud State Huskies  (14-6-4). Huskies win at Herb Brooks Arena 6 – 6.

(NHL, Feb. 8) Vancouver Canucks (27-20-9) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (30-21-6). Leafs head for the Olympic break on a roll, 4 – 2.

(D-III Game of the Week, Feb. 8) men hoops; Claremont Mudd-Scripps Republicans (14-4) @ Pomona-Pitzer Saghens. Sagehens earn a win to tighten the SCIA race, 70 - 61.

2014 Season to date (8-11)

Quote of the Month: “Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are. Be more concerned with your character.”  - Mike Krzyzewski

This Month’s Poll:

Who has better coffee?
Coffee Bean
Roady’s, San Dimas, CA
Bob’s Country Store, Jackson, MI
Circle K
Seven 11

MARKET WEEK - U.S. stock futures were weaker in early trading today, entering February much as they left last month, which saw the Dow drop 5.3 percent and the S&P 500 give back 3.6 percent. Another big test for the markets comes on Friday with the January jobs report.

DRIVING THE WEEK - Janet Yellen will be officially sworn in today as the first woman ever to lead the Federal Reserve. She must manage the wind-down of the central bank's massive and unprecedented economic stimulus program in a way that doesn't crush the global economy. She must appease Republican members of Congress who view the Fed as a dangerous rogue operator. And she must communicate highly nuanced and market-shaking policies to Wall Street traders who know very little about her while simultaneously making clear to the public what the Fed hopes to achieve. ... Few think that Yellen ... will fail. But none of it will be easy for a career academic who by most accounts views the political and media relations aspects of her new job as unhappy chores.

"It seems like every new Fed chair takes over right at the height of major concerns and major potential problems," said Jack Ablin, a close Fed watcher and chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. 'It was true of Alan Greenspan, it was true of Ben Bernanke and now it's true for Janet Yellen. The Fed is trying to move to the sidelines as quickly as possible, and there is plenty of risk as they do it.'

JACK ASS OF THE MONTH – This month we celebrate the Top Five Jack Asses of 2013. This distinguished group received the most Jack Ass compliments in the last year. Well done men:

Ted Cruz – really?
John Boehner – fake tan
Steve Slakey – the king of the misrepresentations
Pat Robertson – praise the Lord
Donald Trump – President Trump???

Next week: Our 200th Rink Rats, Dear Rink Rats and another famous chili recipe.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
February 3, 2014

#IV-42, 199