Friday, January 29, 2016

Out of Touch

Rink Rats is still having a difficult time staying consistent in our posting dates, our history is to post every Monday. This has not been the case now for many months, hopefully we will do better. I blame The Republicans and bad pizza, which is a story for another Blog.

This relates to our Blog title for this week: “Out of Touch”. Perhaps this writer is getting out of touch?

“Out of Touch” seems to be a frequent theme these days in the news:

DISCORD IN DETROIT: Teacher "sick-outs" closed nearly all of Detroit's schools on last week, displacing nearly 45,000 students as teachers called attention to run-down schools, large class sizes, teacher pay problems and more. "We realized that nobody is coming to save us, so we have to save ourselves," Lacetia Walker, an instructional specialist in special education for DPS, told the Detroit Free Press. District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said that while nine district schools were open Wednesday, "44,790 of the district's 46,325 students lost a critical day of instruction." The sick-outs prompted DPS to ask for a restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the teachers. The district wants the court to force them to follow Michigan law, which prohibits strikes by public employees.

- The district's emergency manager, Darnell Earley, says DPS is in danger of running out of money this spring. Total debt, including unfunded pension liabilities, is estimated to be as high as $3.5 billion.

BACK TO THE FED - When it raised short-term interest rates last month for the first time in nine years, the Federal Reserve was supposed to be beginning a process of normalization that would see rates rise steadily. But after a brutal start to 2016, a number of investors now hope the U.S. Fed is having second thoughts about hiking rates three or four more times this year. That raises the stakes around what the central bank will say in the statement it will release Wednesday afternoon. While several markets rebounded last week, oil prices are near multiyear lows and there are still concerns about slowing Chinese growth. This morning, the Shanghai Composite Index, China’s main benchmark, experienced its largest one-day percentage loss since the Chinese government got rid of a “circuit breaker” mechanism on Jan. 8. Meanwhile, other central banks, including in Japan and Europe, are still enacting stimulus measures, but traders worry about whether it will be enough.

NEGLIGENCE - Negligence by Southern California Gas Co. led to massive Porter Ranch-area gas leak: The government agency that regulates Southern California's air quality sued Southern California Gas Co. on Tuesday, accusing the company of negligence in a massive gas well leak that has forced thousands to leave their homes. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said the utility's negligence extended to the design, construction, operation and inspection of one of the wells at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility near Porter Ranch, according to the civil complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

OSCARSSOWHITE - Diversity in Hollywood: Failure of Inclusion Plagues The Entire Industry: This year, the nation's battle over identity and inclusion has found a new focus: Hollywood. The tipping point arrived with the Jan. 14 unveiling of Oscar nominees, a list as white as the Social Register, circa 1950. The announcement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences - revealing that every one of the 20 acting nominees was white, incredibly, for the second consecutive year - has filled the Twitterverse and cable talk shows with outrage, plunging the Academy into crisis. The lack of diversity has dominated the conversation, from the executive suites at Disney to the hallways of CAA.

JACK ASSES OF THE MONTH – Last but not certainly least in the Out of Touch category for this week, the crisis in Flint, Michigan over the city’s water supply. Of all towns in America, Flint, Michigan does not need this. This town has suffered for a generation now: crime, poverty, General Motors abandons, corruption, a bad hockey team, and now poison water.
From the Federal Government’s EPA, to the Governor’s Office, to County and City elected officials and water company bureaucrats – a hearty congratulation for pulling a Watergate and never, absolutely never, telling the truth. Welcome to our Jack Asses of the Month club.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - ENDOWMENT RETURNS DROP SHARPLY WHILE DONATIONS RISE: Colleges saw significantly lower returns on their endowments in the 2015 fiscal year - but that's not stopping them from spending the big bucks. The annual NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments found that 812 colleges returned an average of just 2.4 percent after fees, down from 15.5 percent in 2014 and the lowest return since the -0.3 percent reported for 2012. The long-term return was well below the median 7.5 percent most endowments report they need to earn to maintain purchasing power after spending, inflation and investment management costs, the report notes. Yet 78 percent of participating institutions spent more from their endowments this year, with a median increase of "a substantial 8.8 percent, well above inflation." The report:

- But it's not all bad: Colleges raised an all-time high of $40.3 billion in 2015, the Council for Aid to Education said today. That's a 7.6 percent increase over 2014, according to the group's annual Voluntary Support of Education survey. The wealth is not exactly widespread, however; less than 1 percent of the nation's colleges got more than a quarter of the money. Of the 20 colleges that collectively received $11.56 billion, Stanford gathered the most, a record $1.63 billion. Harvard came in second with $1.05 billion and the University of Southern California was a distant third with $653.03 million.

POLITICS 101 - NBC/WSJ/Marist polls: Iowa: Trump 32%, Cruz 25%, Rubio 18%, Carson/Bush 4% ... Clinton 48%, Sanders 45%, O'Malley 3%.

N.H.: Trump 31%, Cruz 12%, Rubio/Kasich 11%, Bush 8%, Christie 7% ... Sanders' lead over Clinton grows to 19 points (Sanders 57%, Clinton 38%), up from 4 points (50%-46%) in the same poll less than three weeks ago; O'Malley 2%.

S.C.: Trump 36%, Cruz 20%, Rubio 14%, Bush 9%, Carson 8% ... Clinton 64%, Sanders 27%, O'Malley 2%. NBC's Carrie Dan: "Clinton receives the backing of 74 percent of African American likely voters, compared to just 17 percent for Sanders. For white voters, it's 52 percent for Clinton and 41 percent for Sanders.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Alan Alda (80) Fairfield, CT; Wayne Gretzky (55) Thousand Oaks, CA; Chief Justice John Roberts (61) Washington D.C.; Mimi Rodgers (60) Las Vegas, NV; Bob Uecker (81) Milwaukee, WI; Eddie Van Halen (61) La Quinta, CA.

TALK SHOW RADIO – Some of the best sports talk show radio has been on the satellite radio air waves this past week. Sirius Channel 82’s “Mad Dog Radio” Chris Russo has been hosting his annual Super Bowl trivia week contest. You answer four trivia questions you win Super Bowl tickets. The reaction to his contestants by the Mad Dog has been a classic.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – No game this week unless you count the Pro Bowl, I would rather watch Senator Cruz discuss his family tree. Season to date (11-9)

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/30, 3:00 PM ET, Lifetime: We turn to NCAA Women’s hockey this week – St. Lawrence University Saints (13-11-3) visit #5 Clarkson Golden Knights (21-3-3). Senior Sydney Bell leads St. Lawrence into Potsdam to take on the nationally ranked Golden Knights, Clarkson is too tough 5 – 2. Season to date (3-6).


(NBA, Jan. 30) San Antonio Spurs (39-7) at Cleveland Cavaliers (32-12), Cavs 92 – 88.

Season to date (12 -10)

Next week: Super Bowl week.

Until Next Sunday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 28, 2016

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Exercise for those who are out of touch.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rio Olympic Games: "Grande Problema"

The 2016 Summer Olympics kicks off on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro — but with less than seven months until the Opening Ceremony, a slew of problems still show no signs of improvement.

The list of concerns appears to be trending in the wrong direction as the Games draw closer.

-          Questions over Rio's mobility plan
Rio is racing to build a 16 kilometer subway extension from the city's center to the Olympic Park, which will carry some 300,000 fans each day to the game's events during the Olympics. This construction reportedly needs somewhere in the ballpark of $247 million U.S. dollars in federal funds to be completed, but Brasilia, the nation's capital, is currently distracted by corruption scandals and ongoing impeachment proceedings against president Dilma Rousseff.

What's more, the subway extension is set to open on July 1. The Games begin on August 5, leaving a small window of time for the city to smooth out inevitable kinks in the new infrastructure. Worst of all, as a spokeswoman said that if the extension isn't ready, there is "no plan B."

-          Outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases
Multiple diseases are spiraling out of control in Brazil, spreading faster than officials efforts to combat them.  As of early December, a record 1.58 million cases of dengue fever were reported in Brazil in 2015. Chikungunya is mushrooming too. Most worrisome is a relatively new, fast-spreading virus called Zika. Authorities estimate it may have infected as many as 1.5 million people in recent months and has been linked by some health officials to nearly 3,200 cases of infant brain damage. While Zika has hit hardest in the Brazil’s poor northeastern region, it’s spreading quickly in Rio de Janeiro state.

The concerns here are self-explanatory. If dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika all continue to spread to Rio, this will only deter more fans from making the pilgrimage to Rio to watch the Games.

-          A ballooning budget in the wake of a national economic crisis
In 2015 the total infrastructure cost for the Games — funded predominately by federal and local governments — rose by more than $5.9 billion U.S. dollars, 25% higher than planned. In a country still grappling with a recent economic crisis, spending public money on a two-week event is certainly not ideal. And, the economic crisis is forcing officials to cut corners.
The committee said in October it would slash expenses by 30% through steps including cutbacks in high-end cuisine for VIPs and a reduction in the number of volunteers trained to assist visitors. Temporary tents will be used at certain sites in lieu of more durable structures. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies are also expected to be less lavish than those of the London and Beijing Summer Olympics.

-          Sewage-infested bodies of water — and no signs of effective clean up
The most talked-about scandal leading up to the Olympics has been the two polluted bodies of water (Guanabara Bay and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon) in which athletes will compete, and they are showing no signs of improvement. Several athletes in Rio training on the waters in preparation for the Games have gotten sick, including a German sailor who contracted MRSA.

Kristina Mena, an expert in waterborne viruses, told the AP in December, "The levels of viruses are so high in these Brazilian waters that if we saw those levels here in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches."

Plans for sewage treatment never materialized. Instead the government is using stopgap measures like small “eco-boats” that move around the bay and collect larger pieces of debris.

-          A souring public sentiment
Very few Brazilians appear to have interest in the Olympics, at least according to ticket sales. As of December 31, less than 50% of the 4.5 million domestic-market tickets had been sold. This is especially worrisome because the organizing committee is relying on these domestic ticket sales to meet 17% of its budget needs.

And as a result of all the aforementioned problems, many the result of the economic crisis, Brazilians are growing increasingly fed up with the Games. Small protests have already been held and analysts predict larger demonstrations to be held closer to the Opening Ceremony.

The myriad problems surrounding Rio's preparations for the Olympics will likely bolster the argument that it's simply never worth hosting the Olympics.

RINK RATS MAIL BAG - It has been awhile since we opened up our Rink Rats mail bag, lets’ answer some mail:

Dear Rink Rats –

It is tax time, how can I get my refund as quickly as possible? Also, when is the tax filing deadline this year?

Bebe Rebozo, Key Biscayne, Florida

Dear Mr. Rebozo:

The I.R.S. says the fastest way to get a refund is to check your return carefully for accuracy, file it electronically and have your refund deposited directly into a checking or savings account.
Federal filers will get three extra days to file this year (2016), because of a local holiday in the District of Columbia. Tax filing day this year is April 18, rather than the traditional April 15. Some state deadlines may be even later.

All the best.

Rink Rats

Dear Rink Rats –

A friend at work has complained about her job for as long as I have known her. We have had many discussions about what bothers her, whether it can be fixed (probably not, in her view) and whether she should move on (probably so). But nothing changes. She doesn’t leave; she just keeps complaining. How would you deal with this?

Tired of being Dr. Laura, Redlands, California

Dear Tired of being Dr. Laura:

You were kind to lend your ear and talk through her issues – twice, maybe three times. (Some people have a longer runway to action than others. And this isn’t the easiest economy for switching jobs.)

But when she starts complaining in lieu of action, or to blow off steam, say: “Things don’t seem to be getting better. Any thoughts on how to move forward?” This way, you short-circuit the annoying rehash, while inviting productive conversation. Let her find another audience for the same old moan. Another tactic would be to tell her to “get a freaking life” and leave me alone.

Rink Rats

Dear Rink Rats –

What are your keys to Financial Wellness?

Concerned in Harbor Springs, Michigan

Dear Concerned:

1.       Strive to save ten to twenty percent of your income per year.
2.       Pay your credit card bill in full every month.
3.       Never take on any debt you cannot pay off by retirement.
4.       Max out your 401k and other tax-advantaged savings opportunities.
5.       Never buy or sell individual stocks.
6.       Buy inexpensive, well-diversified indexed mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
7.       Buy a home when you are financially ready.
8.       Insurance – make sure you are protected.
9.       Keep housing, cars, and other fixed living costs to less than 50% of income. That will mean less financial stress.
10.   Design a financial life where you spend your days engaged in fulfilling work – and your evenings with friends and family.

Rink Rats

THE 400 CLUB - Tax rates on the 400 wealthiest Americans rose in 2013 to their highest average since the 1990s, following policy changes that boosted levies on capital gains and dividends. The households had an average payment of $60.8 million in income taxes on earnings of $265 million, bringing their average tax rate up to 22.9%. Over the years, these taxpayers have devised strategies to collect more of their income as capital gains and dividends. But at the start of 2013, the top rate for capital gains rose to 23.8% as part of budget negotiations between Congress and the White House over how to close the nation’s deficit. That capital-gains rate has become a prominent feature of 2016 presidential candidates’ tax proposals, with Democrats proposing measures that would further raise the rate and some leading Republicans proposing reductions.

THE COMING RETIREMENT CRISIS - Starting in 2020, the numbers of very low-income elderly will rise sharply as the retired population soars to almost 56 million. More middle-class working Americans will be poor or near poor after they reach the age of 65. Most currently have inadequate 401(k)-type accounts or no retirement account at all. For good reason, voters tell pollsters that their top economic concern is retirement security.

We need a bolder plan, which we are calling the guaranteed retirement account (G.R.A.). Under our proposal, all workers and employers will have to make regular payments into a G.R.A., which builds until retirement age, then pays out a supplemental stream of income until that person and his or her beneficiary die.

DISNEYLAND FACELIFT - Disneyland getting a facelift and changes to accommodate new "Star Wars" land: What?!!? The Disneyland Railroad, which loops through that part of the park; Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Pirates' Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and the Fantasmic! show will all close for at least a year.

CLICKERS - Working the West Wing," by photographer Ben Baker: An inside look at America's most famous, if rarely photographed, office and the wonks who walk its halls." 12 pics

POLITICS 101 - The GOP has awakened with only a few days from the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to find itself in bed between a bombshell and a kamikaze. It's a sobering dawn for a political party that seemed ... just a tweak or two away from glory. Republicans dominate America's state legislatures and governors' mansions. They control both houses of Congress. ...The problem is that the [Republican] party is weak at the national level, deeply divided into hostile camps, while Trump has the strength of a technological epoch at his back. ... They won't stop Trump because they can't stop Trump.

Trump and Cruz send shivers down GOP spines: The prospect of either man as the Republican nominee is setting off alarm bells among officials and operatives: Veteran GOP consultant Alex Castellanos has been meeting with top GOP operatives and donors to gauge interest in launching an anti-Trump vehicle that would pummel the real estate mogul on the television airwaves. ... Castellanos has said that an anti-Trump ad campaign, which would be designed to cast him as a flawed strongman, would cost well into the millions. It was unclear ... whether Castellanos, who did not respond to a request for comment, would ultimately go through with the effort.

One growing worry about Trump or Cruz, top party officials, donors, and operatives ... say, is that nominating either man would imperil lawmakers in down-ballot races ... 'At some point we have to deal with the fact that there are at least two candidates who could utterly destroy the Republican bench for a generation if they became the nominee,' said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 'We'd be hard pressed to elect a Republican dogcatcher north of the Mason-Dixon or west of the Mississippi.

Cruz will continue to consolidate evangelicals as Ben Carson fades, and someone (probably Marco Rubio) will eventually consolidate the moderate-conservative vote ... At which point ... we'll have a three-way race, one in which the Donald could still win some states ... but would not, could not, emerge as the nominee. ...

It now looks very likely that Cruz will beat Trump in Iowa, at which point Carson's campaign will be pretty much finished, and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum will disappear - and with Cruz suddenly ascendant, he's likely to pick up their supporters, pushing him up to Trump-like levels in the national polls.

Days until the Iowa caucuses: 12. Days until the 2016 election: 293.

LANDLORD - San Francisco office rents pass Manhattan as most expensive in the country: A combination of the booming technology sector and tight supply of commercial real estate propelled average office rents that San Francisco landlords are asking for to $72.26 a square foot in the fourth quarter of last year, edging out the $71.85 a square foot in Manhattan, according to a new report from CBRE Group, a commercial real estate services and investment firm.

HARD DRIVE - NETFLIX EXPANDS GLOBALLY: The online video streaming company announced last week at CES in Las Vegas it's now offering service in 130 countries. A few notable exceptions: China, North Korea and Syria.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - China's economic slump coupled with aggressive competition for international students bodes poorly for American colleges relying on foreign student tuition.

GOOD READS - "Trivers' Pursuit," by Matthew Hutson in Psychology Today: Renegade scientist Robert Trivers is lauded as one of our greatest thinkers-despite irking academia with blunt talk and bad manners.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Kevin Costner (61) Rancho Mirage, CA; Robert MacNeil (85) Boca Raton, FL; Bill Maher (60) Pasadena, CA; Mark Messier (55) Hilton Head, SC; Dolly Parton (70) Memphis, TN.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 1/24, 12:05 PM ET, CBS: New England Patriots (13-4) at Denver Broncos (13-4), Pats are favored by three, the Brady domination continues, Pats win 24 – 21. Season to date (11-8)

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/23, 7:00 PM ET, HGTV: #9 Harvard University Crimson (9-4-3) at #10 Cornell University Big Red (11-3-3); the annual battle at Lynah Rink, Cornell is on a roll 5 – 3. Season to date (3-5).


(NFL Jan. 24) Arizona Cardinals (13-3) at Carolina Panthers (16-1), it is Carolina’s year, on to Santa Clara, 30 – 17.

(NHL, Jan. 23) Tampa Bay Lightning (25-17-4) at Florida Panthers (26-15-5), Tampa Bay in OT 3 – 2.

(NBA, Jan. 23) Chicago Bulls (24-16) at Cleveland Cavaliers (28-11), Cavs 95 – 90.

Season to date (11 -6)

MARKET WEEK - As investors contend with the worst start to a year on record for stocks, Wall Street is trying to work out how rapidly China’s growth is weakening and what the ripples from that country’s troubles mean for the U.S. economy and central-bank policy. China released data showing economic growth slowed to 6.9% last year, its weakest pace in a quarter-century. Few analysts these days place much faith in these official numbers, which always turn out remarkably close to the “forecasts.” (Ever hear of a China GDP “miss”?) But there’s still general consensus that growth is continuing albeit at a relatively tepid pace. These concerns have combined with worries over plunging oil and commodity prices, and the IMF once again cut its global outlook for the world economy. Meanwhile, China shares turned higher earlier today as investors weighed the likelihood of further stimulus from Beijing and global stocks also rallied.

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month and Words of the Month.

Until Next Sunday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 20, 2016


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Worth Watching

The first couple of weeks of 2016 yielded a slew of interesting developments worth watching, particularly so with global central banks in such sharp focus:

1.      Bad banks: Financials in general but banks in particular have helped lead the S&P 500 (down 4.7 percent) to ugly early returns. The industry was down nearly 8 percent by midday Friday, with some big names accounting for the most damage as the group gets set to report fourth-quarter earnings next week. JPMorgan Chase has tumbled 9.3 percent, Citigroup was off close to 9 percent and Bank of America fell 8.6 percent. These stocks were supposed to outperform as the Fed raises rates — which it did in December for the first time in more than nine years — but are getting clobbered so far.

2.      Utilities: It could just be a basic safety trade, but utilities, among the worst-performing sectors last year, have proven to be the best of a bad bunch so far in 2016. The group is down just narrowly so far, with companies like Consolidated Edison (up 3.3 percent) and Dominion Resources (a 2.6 percent rise) providing rare gainers for an index where just more than 40 stocks are positive.

3.                            Gold looking good: A global deflationary environment doesn't make much of a case for                   gold, but worries over central bank currency manipulation does. China's bungling of its                 yuan depreciation coupled with fears of a policy mistake from the Fed and the massive                   equity market sell-offs around the world sent investors running to the yellow metal. Gold             is up about 4 percent year to date, and traders have poured $4.4 billion into the Market                 Vectors Gold Miners exchange-traded fund, the second-biggest fund flow of any ETF in                   2016.

4.      Contrarian tides: Despite the whipsaw moves in the market, there are plenty of folks out there looking for things to change. One of the more interesting bets has been on oil, which has tumbled 12 percent so far as it continues its free fall. Traders, however, have been piling into the United States Oil ETF, pushing more than $3 billion into the fund that is generally regarded as a trading vehicle more than a long-term investment. Also, the Wall Street turmoil hasn't deterred companies from looking to jump into the market. U.S. initial public offerings and other equity capital markets activity stands at $3.5 billion on 16 deals so far, the highest number of deals ever and the biggest dollar volume in 13 years, with all but one coming from health care, according to Dealogic.

5.      No one is panicking (yet): Despite the barrage of selling, outflows from equity funds for the week did not reflect a stampede for the exits. To be sure, equity funds saw $8.8 billion in outflows, which was the largest in 17 weeks, while bond funds took in $3.3 billion, which was the largest in 11 weeks, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. However, Michael Hartnett, BofAML's chief investment strategist, noted that while "redemption pressures continue and are broadening, too," the pace does "not indicate mass investor capitulation." In fact, BofAML said its "Global Breadth Rule" is showing a contrarian "buy" signal as more than 88 percent of all global equity markets are trading below both their 200-day and 50-day moving averages.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE - J.P. Morgan’s annual earnings were just shy of the biggest ever on Wall Street. But CEO James Dimon said some of the bank’s lending businesses are “obviously” going to get worse. The New York bank has built up its reserves for bad loans, a shift that spotlights Wall Street’s mounting concerns about the fate of oil and gas companies. Worries among investors and policy makers are also mounting over whether the U.S. economy and financial markets can remain upright while so much of the world teeters. Global stocks have been falling again today despite a relief rally on Wall Street, as steep declines in oil prices and Chinese stocks renewed anxieties.

SOMETHING STINKS - The nonprofit watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative first reported on Kathleen Brown's role at Sempra. She also holds $400,000 in stock and last year received a $188,380 salary, the Associated Press reported. Campaign finance records show that Brown has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Sempra and Sempra employees going back to at least 2006.

Gov. Jerry Brown now needs to "get in front of this" and divulge any possible conflicts of interest: For a governor who wants his legacy to be fighting greenhouse gases, it's really the gas at Porter Ranch -- and the problems with fracking -- which could really really be the sinkhole for his legacy.

The remedy is for the governor to come clean about any contacts his sister has with his administration....and to fully disclose any emails, correspondence or phone calls between his sister an any state agency over which he has control -- get in front of this.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Joan Baez (75) Monterey, CA; Nick Clooney (82) Memphis, TN; Julia Louis-Dreyfus (55) Woodland Hills, CA; Faye Dunaway (75) Santa Barbara, CA; Dick Enberg (81) Del Mar, CA; Stephen Hawking (74) Montclair, NJ; James Earl Jones (85) New York, NY; Bart Starr (82) Green Bay, WI; Howard Stern (62) New York, NY.

HOW BOWIE CHANGED WALL STREET - David Bowie was known for his ability to reinvent himself. But he also helped inspire a pocket of Wall Street that tries to create money out of weird things like billboard rental income, cellphone tower lease payments and literary or film libraries. ... In 1997, Mr. Bowie bundled up nearly 300 of his existing recordings and copyrights into a $55 million security that paid the buyer - Prudential Insurance Company of America - a 7.9 percent annual rate over 10 years, backed by the income from his royalties and record sales, and the licensing of his songs for films or other uses.

The so-called Bowie bonds were among the first in what would become a wave of esoteric asset-backed securities deals based on intellectual property, including a more recent one involving Miramax's film library (including titles like "Pulp Fiction" and "The English Patient"). Bankers have also come up with securities backed by franchise revenue for the restaurant chains Sonic and Church's Chicken, among others. The buyers in these deals, which are negotiated privately by the banks that put the transactions together, tend to be specialized hedge funds or big institutions that can negotiate terms with the bankers.

SCOTUS COULD CRIPPLE UNIONS - The Supreme Court appeared ready last week to weaken public-sector unions by ending their power in more than 20 states to require workers to pay a fee for representation even if they decline to join a union. ... Challengers brought a case in California asking the court to overrule a 1977 precedent permitting unions to levy the charges in states that allow it, arguing the First Amendment prohibits government agencies from requiring employees to help fund a public union. The issue is of significant importance to government unions in about half of the states, mostly Democratic-leaning, that allow the fees.

The charges provide a stable source of support that has braced the labor movement against its losses in the private sector. The unions largely have supported Democratic candidates sympathetic to their goals. Earlier high-court decisions have distinguished between the unions' conventional political and lobbying activity, for which employees who object can obtain a refund, and collective bargaining over wages, hours and benefits.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Jan. 23, is the last day to take the old SAT. The College Board says the new version debuts March 5.

SERIOUSLY? -- Famed Ahwahnee hotel to change name in trademark dispute: The names of iconic hotels and other landmarks in the world-famous Yosemite National Park will soon change in an ongoing battle over who owns the intellectual property, park officials said Thursday. The luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village will become Half Dome Village, said park spokesman Scott Gediman.

HELLO - Jimmy Fallon, Adele & The Roots Sing "Hello" (w/Classroom Instruments)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 1/17, 1:00 PM ET, Fox: Seattle Seahawks (11-6) vs. Carolina Panthers (15-1). Carolina has too much, 24 – 17. Season to date (10-8)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship victory over the Clemson Tigers.  Season to date (12-7)

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Sunday 1/17, 5:00 PM ET, FSD: Ohio State Buckeyes (6-11-2) vs. #6 Michigan Wolverines (13-3-4), Michigan in OT 4 – 3. Season to date (2-5).


(NFL Jan. 17) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) vs. Denver Broncos (12-4), Pittsburgh is beat up, Denver wins 20 – 17.

(NHL, Jan. 17) Los Angeles Kings (17-13-3) vs. Anaheim Ducks (19-17-7), Kings win 4 – 3.

(NBA, Jan. 17) Dallas Mavericks (23-18) vs. San Antonio Spurs (35-6), Spurs 93 – 80.

Season to date (6 -6)

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month, Dear Rink Rats, and Brazil's Olympic troubles.

Until Next Wednesday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
January 17, 2016

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – “Doonesbury”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Buenos Dias and happy 2016! We know that it seems like it's been going on forever, but here's your official welcome to Election Year. In California, that's going to mean increased attention to the open U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Barbara Boxer, the #CD17 Dem-on-Dem contest between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna and lots of fundraising by the presidentials, starting with Hillary Clinton later this week in LA and SF.

Some see 2015 as a year full of bad omens. Oil prices capped a second year as one of the worst-performing commodities. U.S. stocks had their worst annual performance since 2008. As the disappointment extended to emerging markets and junk bonds, investors are approaching 2016 with low expectations. While large gains were common as markets recovered in the years after the 2008 financial crisis, many investors say such returns are growing harder to come by, and expect slim gains at best this year. And things are off to a bad start this morning. Asian markets tumbled on the first day of action in 2016, with declines so steep in mainland China that authorities halted trading for the rest of the day. European shares also fell sharply, led by the basic resources and auto sectors, both of which are sensitive to Chinese demand.

HOW WILL THE ECONOMY PLAY IN 2016? – Rink Rats offers a round-up from top economists. Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University: "I believe China is currently in the range of 3 to 5 percent growth, and headed rapidly to zero. ... The United States will chug along at 2 percent growth, and mostly ignore what could be the beginnings of a major global recession. We are about the most insulated from this of just about anybody.

Larry Summers for Premise: "I predict that interest rates in the US will remain lower than the Fed expects, and that the idea of a new era of low real interest rates, which may or may not be called secular stagnation, will come to be widely accepted."

Goldman Sachs : "While we are banking on a sharp cut in US shale production to help the market regain balance by late 2016 and push prices moderately higher, the risk that cutbacks prove too little, too late, to avoid breaching storage capacity suggests oil prices could be heading much lower - to cash costs of around $20/bbl - before they head higher ... [W]e expect the Fed to hike ¼ pp every quarter in 2016, about twice the pace that the market is currently discounting.

Wells Capital's Jim Paulsen : "While reaching full employment does not necessarily suggest an imminent end to the current bull market, it does suggest investors should anticipate significantly smaller future returns. Moreover, it has often led to much wider return dispersions favoring stock pickers over asset allocators, and finally, it has typically produced a major leadership change away from consumer toward industrial sectors."

BEIJING’S RECKONING - China’s economy seems headed for more turbulence in 2016 and beyond. The Chinese leadership is once again committing to a radical economic-reform program that aims to set the country on course for sustainable long-term growth at the potential cost of serious short-term weakness. The blueprint focuses on reducing industrial overcapacity, slashing costs for businesses, cutting unsold property inventory and fending off financial risks. The renewed pledges come after China’s yearlong effort to stoke demand through interest-rate reductions and government spending yielded little fruit. “The economy will follow an L-shaped path, and it won’t be a V-shaped path going forward,” an official said at the annual year-end meeting of China’s top economic mandarins, while ruling out any chances of China launching another round of aggressive stimulus measures such as the one initiated in late 2008. Meanwhile, worries about economic growth are fraying the social compact that makes limits on personal freedoms worthwhile for many Chinese.

STRETCH RUN - STRETCH RUN - Obama's 2016 world tour: The president is planning to travel the globe to seal his foreign policy legacy. POTUS has asked aides to set a busy international travel schedule for him in his final year, with 'half a dozen' trips already in the works and more potentially coming together. The travel will be aimed at cementing a foreign policy legacy he hopes will include the Trans Pacific Partnership, increased attention to Asia, an opening of Latin America, progress on ISIL and significant global movement on climate change. ... The only continents the White House is ruling out ... are Australia and Antarctica. ...

Another multi-stop trip to Africa is ... off the table (after a visit to Kenya and Ethiopia in 2015), ... [but] a single stop there tacked onto another trip, perhaps one to Europe, is still possible. They're also looking at a stop in the Middle East ... How little time Obama has left is part of nearly every conversation. 'You'll see the president spending a lot of time driving to the finish line, obviously with the counter-ISIL campaign, but also with respect to affirmative elements of his presidency,' deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in an interview.

"Four trips already have their main stops set: Obama will be in Japan for a G7 meeting in June, in Poland for the NATO summit in July, in China for the G20 meeting in September, and likely in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, after the presidential election." Other possibilities: Vietnam, Brazil for the Olympics in August, Argentina, Colombia.

And then there's the possibility of a trip to Cuba, widely expected but so far still tentative. Obama has said openly that he wants to go, and the White House is working behind the scenes to make it happen. Aides say that Cuba wouldn't be a one-off destination, more likely combined a longer trip to several Central and South American countries.

HAPPY 400th - In 2016 the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death [1616]. ... Stratford-upon-Avon ... is restoring the house in which he wrote 26 [plays] ... Chicago promises ... a year-long festival of 850 events spanning dance, literature, music and even cuisine; and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington ... will take its First Folio (dated 1623) on tour to all 50 ... states," starting Wednesday in Notre Dame, Indiana.

EL NINO - California ends 2015 changed by drought, anxious for El Nino: Water news changed the relationship between Californians and water, inculcating permanent cultural shifts....So now what? The drought of 2011-2015 may be in the rear-view mirror if the largest El Niño since the last largest El Niño in 1997-1998 hits Southern California with the same ferocity. The next three months may be the most important time period in the history of Southern California droughts.

CLICKERS - "Behind the Lens: 2015 Year in Photographs," by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer, on Medium - 113 pics on 1 page:

"15 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2016" - NYT: "A year's worth of tips from the Styles archive."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Robert Duvall (85) Austin, TX. Mel Gibson (60) Melbourne, Australia. Doris Kearns Goodwin (73) Boston, Mass. Sir Anthony Hopkins (78) London, England. Diane Keaton (70) Woodland Hills, CA. Walter Mondale (88) St. Paul, MN. Victoria Principal (66) Dallas, TX. Don Shula (86) Boca Raton, FL.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said recently that it found "problematic" a new provision in the year-end tax-and-spending package that would force more information reporting out of schools. Karin Johns of NAICU said the provision would force colleges to report actual payments of tuition and expenses, not just the amounts billed. One of the problems with that, Johns said, is that the software colleges have been using is set up to process the amount billed. Johns added that the timing of when a family pays tuition would also make it more difficult for colleges to track. NAICU says it wants to work with lawmakers to address its concerns, and Johns said advocates have worked with Congress before to make reporting requirements easier on colleges. But the new provision is meant to help combat fraud connected to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the incentive for education championed by Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats that was made permanent in the agreement. Democrats and Republicans butted heads quite a bit over those so-called integrity provisions.

POLITICS 101 - TRUMP TAKES TO THE AIR - Donald Trump's provocative first TV ad raises the temperature of the GOP race: Donald Trump has vowed to spend $2 million a week on TV ads in the runup to the Iowa caucuses, and his first ad debuts Monday. It "begins with a shot of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then comes a U.S. battleship launching a cruise-missile strike. From there it moves swiftly through an explosive montage: The suspects in the recent California terrorist attack. Shadowy figures racing across the U.S.-Mexico border. Islamic State militants. The narrator, a deep-voiced man, speaks ominously: 'That's why he's calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, until we can figure out what's going on. He'll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for.

Days until the 2016 election: 307.

ALLIED VAN LINES - Another California company to expand bigtime in Texas: Oracle Corp. will build a huge, new corporate campus on 27 acres in Austin. With the new campus, Oracle plans to grow its Austin workforce by 50 percent over the next few years. The move expands the presence of another rapidly growing California-based technology giant in Central Texas, as companies including Apple Inc., Google and Facebook are aggressively ramping up their workforces there.

SPORTS BLINK -  Already a rough year for the Worldwide Leader (ESPN) -- Moving [college football] semifinals to New Year's Eve a total flop: The semifinal games should move back to New Year's Day. The other major bowls should serve as worthy prelims, not meaningless consolations. Of course, the powers-that-be are refusing to acknowledge the obvious. This is, after all, the sport that nonsensically resisted a playoff until last season. ... The Orange Bowl [on ESPN] got a 9.1 rating, a plunge of 38.5 percent from last year's Rose Bowl (14.8) held in the same afternoon time slot but on Jan. 1.

The number of viewers fell even more - dropping from 28,164,000 for the Rose to just 15,640,000 for the Orange, a staggering decline for such a high-profile event. The Cotton Bowl [also on ESPN] ... 9.6 rating was down a whopping 36.8 percent from last year's 15.2 for the Sugar Bowl in the same time slot, while the total viewership crashed 34.4 percent, going from 28,271,000 to 18,552,000. Of course, neither game was competitive, and that didn't help. But there's no way to sugarcoat this debacle.

LA RAIDERS?? – NFL Oakland Raiders are staying put? That's the take of former SF Chron's columnist former Mayor Willie Brown: "Raiders fans take heart. My sources in pro sports tell me the team is staying in Oakland. The reason is simple. Ultimately, it can't get a better deal elsewhere. With owner Mark Davis' limited finances, the team is destined to be on the losing end of any deal to share a stadium in Los Angeles with the much-wealthier San Diego Chargers.

NFL WILD CARD ROUND PLAYOFF SET - AFC: Kanas City vs. Houston on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. on ABC; Pittsburgh at Cincinnati at 8:15 p.m. Saturday on CBS; Seattle at Minnesota Sunday at 1:05 p.m. on NBC; Green Bay at Washington on 4:40 p.m. Sunday on FOX.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 1/10, 1:00 PM ET NBC; Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Minnesota Vikings (11-5), Seahawks at their best this time of year: Seattle wins 21 - 17. Season to date (9-8)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – National Championship Game will be posted in the next RR Monday January 11 Season to date (11-7)

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Saturday 1/9, 7:00 PM ET, OSN; #7 Boston College Eagles (13-4-1) at #3 Providence Friars (13-2-3). Friars having a great season, they take BC 3 – 2. Season to date (2-4).


(NFL Jan. 10) Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Washington Redskins (9-7), Washington ends a dismal run by The Pack 24 – 20.

(NHL, Jan. 10) St. Louis Blues (23-14-5) at Los Angeles Kings (25-12-2). Kings dominant 5 – 2.

(NBA, Jan. 10) Miami Heat (21-13) at Utah Jazz (15-18). Why the Jazz name in Utah has always bugged me…Heat win 94 – 84.

Final 2015 Season to date (114-72) Not Bad Swami!

MARKET WEEK - Wall Street was on track to start off the New Year sharply lower, after the Dow broke a six-year winning streak in 2015. The S&P 500 snapped a three-year winning streak. The Nasdaq, however, posted its fourth straight positive year.

Asian shares and currencies fell on Monday on the first day of trading in 2016 after China factory activity contracted and the yuan weakened, while oil prices jumped as much as 3 percent on rising tensions in the Middle East. ... U.S. stock futures dipped ... Adding to worries about China, its central bank fixed the yuan at a 4-1/2-year low, while manufacturing surveys showed any hopes for a recovery in that sector were premature.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average began 2016 with its biggest opening-day loss since 2008, as financial markets struggled with the same problems that disrupted them last year. Fast-trading individual investors dumped shares in China on further evidence that its economy was slowing and that Beijing was weakening the country’s currency. Global stocks stabilized this morning as China’s markets appeared to steady, with shares in Europe flat in early trade. But the drop in emerging-market currencies reflected renewed fears that an economic slowdown in the world’s most populous nation will further depress struggling developing economies. And what concerns U.S. investors isn’t just China. It is the spreading signs that weak global growth and a rising U.S. dollar are harming U.S. corporate earnings and economic output, and could continue to do so this year.

The annual tech trade show CES kicks off this week out in Las Vegas, the big-ticket items at CES this year include "drones, robotics, healthcare, 3-D printing [and] automobiles." The show will have more than 200,000 square feet devoted specifically to self-driving car technology.

DRIVING THE WEEK – President Obama on Monday meets with senior officials "to discuss what executive actions he can take to curb gun violence" ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is in California on Monday for economy events ... Obama hosts a gun control town hall on CNN on Thursday ... ISM Manufacturing Monday at expected to rise to 49 from 48.6 ... ISM Non-manufacturing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise to 56.0 rom 55.9 ... Fed releases minutes from its last meeting on Wednesday afternoon ... December jobs report at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to show a gain of 200K and no change to the 5.0 percent unemployment rate.

Next week: New Year Jack Ass of the Month and Dear Rink Rats.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

January 6, 2016

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – “Bird of Paradise”