Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis The Season

What can say the holiday better than semester final examinations week. That time (in most colleges, December 8-12) when higher education is at its' very best. The all nighter fueled by “Red Bull”, coffee, and other substances we care not know about. The prior fifteen weeks of classes skipped, spent texting in, and generally blown off, now pay off with panic, twenty plus hours of cramming and stress. Those were the as an Exam giver I take heart as I see students stumble in to spend those two plus hours red eyed, ashen faced, and looking horribly perplexed. Nothing says the holidays like sheer panic on students' faces during examination week... Ho, ho, ho!

HOLIDAY FILMS FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE HOLIDAY FILMS – Holiday movies, you know what that means. The annual viewing of “It's a Wonderful Life”, perhaps a drive-by sighting of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. And, whether it be via school play, a high numbered cable station, or Blu-ray, the inevitable encounter with “A Christmas Carol” (1935, 1938, 1951-my favorite, 1970, 1992, 1997, 2001, and 2009 editions).

How about other movies set during the holidays but a lot more fun to watch:

“Lethal Weapon” - Most Holiday films do not have suicide as a recurring theme, if you can put aside Mel Gibson's later exploits, this remains an essential non-Christmas themed holiday adventure.

“Gremlins” - Lest we forget the pet mogwai who spawned an army of little monsters was given as a Christmas gift. This horror-comic classic, the holiday season serves as a colorful background to the mad little critters.

“Love Actually” - A staple of all that represents a “date flick”, love during the holidays with a top-notch cast – Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson (after he proposed to Brooke Shields), Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy, who steals the movie as the aging rock star.

“Die Hard” - My personal non-Christmas themed holiday action movie favorite. Bruce Willis becomes a movie star in this action adventure of contrasts between Santa and terrorists.

BITCHY RESTING FACE: Do you know of one? - One of the typical highlights of the holiday season or any season, especially in the workplace is Bitchy Resting Face.

Becoming an increasing common trait in society: Those individuals who are constantly looking angry or irritated. You know who they are: the Office Manager, the ex-boyfriend, the so called marketing professional who now is a so called video instructor, the political science Department Chair. They might be normal people (a stretch) but they constantly are looking upset and generally p _ _ _ ed off.

DEAR RINK RATS (Holiday version) -

In line this past weekend at Starbucks for my usual drip coffee, the woman in front of me ordered a Peppermint Mocha. The clerk said, “I'm sorry, we're out of Peppermint Mocha at the moment.” She ordered something else. The clerk added, “Here's a certificate for a complimentary drink the next time you come.” When it was my turn, I ordered a Peppermint Mocha. Was this ethical?


U.S.C. Law School Grad '94

Dear U.S.C. Law School Grad '94:

No it is not ethical. You're a liar, a low-rent con artist, and a Richard Nixon Republican. And you live in a community where Peppermint Mocha beverages are way to popular.


Rink Rats

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - As protesters across the University of California system continue their fight against a controversial tuition hike, advocates are accelerating their push to keep the other costs of college - books and living expenses - affordable for low-income students. The state's new College Access Tax Fund has only been open for a month, but the year-end deadline for 2014 contributions is fast-approaching. This year, individuals and companies that donate to the fund will get more than 60 percent of their money back through state tax credits and a federal charitable deduction. (The state tax credit will decline gradually in the next two years, before legislators decide in 2017 whether to continue the program.) California will use the donated cash to expand the Cal Grant B for low-income students, covering books, transportation and other living expenses.

Depending on how much money comes in, students could receive up to $5,000 annually, more than triple the current maximum of $1,648 per student. More than 200,000 students annually access the awards, California Student Aid Commission spokeswoman Patti Colston told Morning Education. Groups like the Campaign for College Opportunity hope to spread the word as much in possible in the coming weeks to maximize the award money. There's still nearly $500 million worth of tax credits available:

OBAMA DUMPS HAGEL - “When President Obama first summoned Chuck Hagel to the Oval Office in October [to get the Defense secretary's take on what the next two years would look like for the Pentagon and national security], he wanted to know how his Pentagon chief planned to cope with ... the Islamic State ... But after several lackluster, low-energy sessions, Obama was so unimpressed ... that he decided Hagel 'just wasn't the man for the job,' according to a senior administration official. That set in motion the decision that led to Hagel's decorous dumping on Monday by a president who almost never fires anybody ...”

"Hagel, a heavy-lidded former Republican senator from Nebraska, ... freely acknowledged his own shortcomings in at least three meetings with Obama. He had signed on to preside over the end of ... wars ... Now, Hagel reckoned, he wasn't the kind of gung-ho, wartime consigliore Obama needed as he recalibrates his national security strategy to deal with a new round of conflict in the Middle East. ... White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has groused about Hagel's inability to control the Pentagon brass ... believing the Pentagon had been the source of ... leaks over expanding the war in Iraq and Syria intended to narrow Obama's policy options. ...”

Appearing in a half-empty State Dining Room-with only pool reporters and cameras present-a grim Obama and Hagel delivered stilted statements under the scowling visage of Vice President Joe Biden, a close friend of Hagel's who was 'ticked off' at the way his former Senate colleague was treated by the White House, according to an administration official.

NEXT YEAR'S NEWS -- The coming wave of anti-abortion laws: New GOP state legislatures will make access to abortion harder than ever: GOP victories in the statehouses and governor's mansions ... are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion [including action in Ark., W.Va. and Tenn.]. Abortion rights advocates have had setbacks in the states for several years, with a surge of legislative activity since 2011. Women seeking abortions may face mandatory waiting periods or ultrasound requirements. Clinics may face stricter building codes or hospital admitting privilege rules they can't satisfy. Dozens of clinics have shut down in multiple states. Texas ... has fewer than 10 abortion clinics now. A year ago, it had 40.

Republicans [will] hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They [will] completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia ... And they gained two more governor's seats, so they will hold 31 next year. Republican leaders who will control the U.S. Senate come January say they want to take up abortion this year, perhaps on a House-passed bill that would limit the procedure after 20 weeks. But ... Senate Republicans will still fall a few votes shy of the 60 needed.

HOW THEY JERRY BROWN DID IT -- Democrats' 'Dr. Death' team can't lose - for now: It might have been the neatest political trick of this election season - Gov. Jerry Brown's 'non-campaign' for a historic fourth term that wasn't really a non-campaign at all, yet managed to hide all the trappings of a traditional political run. From Brown's TV spots for a pair of Mom-and-apple-pie ballot measures to his lone, low-key debate with Republican opponent Neel Kashkari, the plan by a team of veteran San Francisco strategists [Sean Clegg, Dan Newman, and Ace Smith] was to push the governor as 'the reasonable father figure' rising above the divisive politics that engulfed the rest of the nation.

CAPITOL HILL - U.S. lawmakers returning to Capitol Hill today will have less than two weeks to figure out how to keep the government funded amid a bitter fight between Republicans and the White House over immigration. The party leaders, vowing to avoid a repeat of last fall’s partial government shutdown, want to dispatch lingering 2014 business so that they can start the new year showing they can pass Republican-leaning legislation. However, it is unclear what they will do to satisfy conservatives who want to express their anger over President Barack Obama’s decision to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation through executive action.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Jeff Bridges (65), Little Richard (82), Aaron Rodgers (31), Britney Spears (33), Marisa Tomei (50), Lee Trevino (75), Katarina Witt (49).

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/6, 8:17 PM ET Fox; Big Fourteen Championship game, #14 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) vs. #6 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1). The last time we hear from the Big Fourteen this season, Wisconsin 32 Buckeyes 21. Season to date (8-6)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – D-III Playoffs, Quarterfinals: Saturday 12/6 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU; #9 Hobart Statesmen (12-0) at #4 Wesley Wolverines (11-1). The magical season for Hobart ends in Dover, Delaware; Wesley 28 Hobart 14. Season to date (6-6)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 12/7, 1:00 PM ET CBS; Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1). The last we hear from the Steelers for this season, Bengals 42 Steelers 21. Season to date (9-4)


(NCAA, Dec. 5) #11 Arizona Wildcats (10-2) 28 vs. #2 Oregon Ducks (11-1) 45

(NFL, Dec. 7) New England Patriots (9-3) 24 at San Diego Chargers (8-4) 21

(NCAA hockey, Dec. 6) Clarkson Golden Knights (5-7-4) 2 at St. Lawrence Saints (8-5-1) 5

(NHL, Dec. 6) Chicago Blackhawks (15-8-1) 4 at Nashville Predators (16-5-2) 2

Season to date (73 - 61)

MARKET WEEK – Commodities are firmly in control of global markets this morning, with a slump in metals and oil shaking up assets and currencies around the world. The price of Brent crude has continued its slide, and the Russian ruble slumped to a fresh all-time low. Gold and silver prices also tumbled in Asian trade and Moody’s downgraded Japan’s government debt rating, citing uncertainty over the country’s deficit reduction. Meanwhile, portfolio managers are bracing themselves for unruly trading ahead of an expected U.S. Federal Reserve rate increase in 2015. “Liquidity is like oxygen,” said one money manager. “You take it for granted when it’s there, and when it’s not, things quickly die.” Still, there is no certainty that the Fed will raise interest rates in 2015.

Retailers are hoping for a better Cyber Monday. Sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday fell 0.5 percent, while spending for the four-day weekend was seen dropping 11 percent.

DRIVING THE WEEK – Big week for economic data with the biggest news coming Friday with the November jobs report which is expected to show a gain of 225K with no change to the 5.8 percent unemployment rate and 0.2 percent increase in wages ... President Obama meets with his Cabinet this afternoon "to discuss federal programs and funding that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies" and will "sit down with young local and national civil rights leaders in the Oval Office ... Congress returns to DC with just 10 days until the CR funding the government runs out. Latest idea is to pass a long-term funding measure for all of the government except immigration enforcement agencies (including DHS), which would get only a short-term extension into early next year. But expect multiple changes to the plan between now and when the clock runs out. Likelihood is still no shutdown but no one really knows how it's going to shake out and taking bets on House GOP action is a fool's game ... There's also TRIA and tax extenders to deal with so it's going to be an interesting final two weeks of the lame duck ... ISM manufacturing today at 10:00 a.m. expected to dip to 57.8 from 59.0 ... Construction spending at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.6 percent ... ADP employment on Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. expected to show a gain of 222K ... ISM non-manufacturing at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise to 57.5 from 57.1 ... Int'l trade at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to show a deficit of $41B ... Factory orders at 10:00 a.m. Friday expected to dip 0.2 percent ... Consumer credit at 3:00 p.m. Friday expected to expand by $16.4B.

Next week: Holiday movies, holiday travel, holiday food.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Jackson, Michigan

December 1, 2014
#V-33, 242

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – New Yorker, M.S. Bevens

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