Monday, July 11, 2016

Someone Tell a Joke

The last week or so I had that feeling in my stomach, I remember that feeling: September 11, 2001, the summer of 1968 (yes I am an old gangster), the feeling that something is wrong and it is out of my control.

First came the cellphone video of an African-American man being fatally shot by a Louisiana police officer, and the astonishing live feed of a Minnesota woman narrating the police killing of her African-American boyfriend during a traffic stop. Then came the horrific live television coverage of police officers being gunned down by a sniper at a march protesting the police shootings.

And suddenly that eerie feeling was in my stomach again. Gun violence, police accountability, and racial bias have been at the center of the civic debate since August 2014, when a black teenager was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.  Mass murders in Newtown, Conn.; Charleston, S.C.; Orlando, Fla., and too many other locales have resulted in national shame.

Both black anger at police killings and the boiling frustrations of some whites who feel they are ceding their long-held place in society have been a constant undercurrent in politics since January and the Iowa presidential caucuses.  In the midst of one of the most consequential presidential campaigns in memory, these events have raised the prospect of still deeper divides in a country already torn by racial and ideological divisions.

Where is our leadership? Where is common sense and respect for your fellow citizens?

Perhaps we just need to make our own personal worlds safe and respectful, that is a start. Instead of blaming someone, work together to make it better, instead of wanting only for you, want for all. Instead of listening to ignorance, teach respect and human dignity. Should all else fail, how about a simple joke to make all smile:

What happens to a frog's car when it breaks down?

It gets toad away.

Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a young engineer fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "And what starting salary are you looking for?" The engineer replies, "In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package." The interviewer inquires, "Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?" The engineer sits up straight and says, "Wow! Are you kidding?" The interviewer replies, "Yeah, but you started it."

In a Catholic school cafeteria, a nun places a note in front of a pile of apples, "Only take one. God is watching." Further down the line is a pile of cookies. A little boy makes his own note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples."

Why is it that your nose runs, but your feet smell?

Two lawyers walking through the woods spotted a vicious looking bear. The first lawyer immediately opened his briefcase, pulled out a pair of sneakers and started putting them on. The second lawyer looked at him and said, "You're crazy! You'll never be able to outrun that bear!" "I don't have to," the first lawyer replied. "I only have to outrun you."

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


"Nobel who?"

"No bell that's why I knocked."

A guy spots a sign outside a house that reads “Talking Dog for Sale.” Intrigued, he walks in. “So what have you done with your life?” he asks the dog. “I've led a very full life,” says the dog. “I lived in the Alps rescuing avalanche victims. Then I served my country in Iraq. And now I spend my days reading to the residents of a retirement home.” The guy is flabbergasted. He asks the dog’s owner, “Why on earth would you want to get rid of an incredible dog like that?” The owner says, “Because he’s a liar! He never did any of that!”

FAILING GRADE - California Gets an F When it Comes to Fostering Small Businesses. A new report from Thumbtack, a hiring marketplace for professionals, says the Golden State is one of the worst in the nation for small businesses. California ranked as the "third least friendly state" in America.

GOLDEN YEARS? - Almost 750,000 California seniors still working after age 65: "Much of that growth reflects a swell of baby boomers entering retirement age. But the proportion of California seniors between ages 65 and 74 still working or looking for work also has risen, going from 19 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2014.

GOLDEN YEARS? PART DEUX - Social Security’s more than 60 million beneficiaries are projected at this point to receive a tiny 0.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year, while some Medicare recipients could see steep premium increases. That’s according to the annual trustees reports released June 22 about the financial health of Social Security and Medicare.

The long-term outlook for Social Security old-age and disability benefits, taken together, remains the same as a year ago, with promised benefits payable until 2034 and then, without changes to the law, 79 percent of promised benefits payable through 2090. Meanwhile, the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital coverage is fully funded until 2028, two years less than projected a year ago.

During a press conference, U.S. Treasury Secretary and managing trustee Jacob J.  Lew urged Congress to “not wait until the eleventh hour to address the fiscal challenges given that they represent the cornerstone of economic security for seniors in our country.”

Social Security annually weighs whether to give beneficiaries a cost-of-living adjustment based on the inflation rate during the third quarter of the year compared to the last year a COLA was awarded. Beneficiaries didn’t receive a COLA for 2016 because the inflation rate had fallen, the third time since 2010 they didn’t get a bump in payments. The 0.2 percent COLA that the trustees project for 2017 could yet change with inflation. The final word will come in October.

Gasoline prices have been rising this year, and the higher employment rate means that employers will have to increase wages to attract workers — both signs of inflation, said James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University. Still, Angel said, Social Security beneficiaries should not expect much when it comes to a COLA next year.

The big question for Medicare beneficiaries is what happens to the Part B premium in 2017. With no COLA for 2016, about 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were “held harmless” from cost increases and are paying the same standard premium as they had in the previous three years ($104.90 a month). The rest are required by law to share the load of increased costs and pay a lot more. Congress, though, stepped in last year with a solution that limited the impact of the increases for 2016.

The small COLA now projected for 2017 would still have an impact on Part B premiums. The report estimates that standard premiums for most of those in the 30 percent not currently held harmless would jump by $27.20 to $149.00 a month next year. The other 70 percent would pay $107.60 a month in 2017 — $2.70 more than they pay now, according to the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Among the 30 percent affected in 2017 would be people who did not have their premiums deducted from Social Security checks in 2016 (including those new to Medicare in 2017) and those who already pay higher premiums because they have higher incomes. The report estimates that higher-income beneficiaries would see even higher jumps in premiums next year — from $166.30 to $204.40 a month for the lowest affected tax bracket, and from $380.20 to $467.20 for those in the highest.

A third group ­— low-income people whose states pay their Part B premiums — are not personally affected, but their states will bear the added costs.

This year’s report also projects an increase in the annual Part B deductible from $166 to $204 for all beneficiaries.

Under Medicare law, Part B (which covers doctor services, outpatient care and medical equipment) is funded differently from Part A hospital insurance.  Part B premiums are set to cover 25 percent of total costs, and the federal government contributes the remaining 75 percent out of general revenues.  The higher income-related premiums are set to cover 35, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the costs, depending on income level.

The rise in Medicare costs, which trigger increases in Part B premiums, is mainly due to the high prices of some recently developed prescription drugs, the report says. “High cost drugs are a major driver of Medicare spending growth,” said Medicare’s acting administrator, Andy Slavitt. “For the second year in a row, the spending growth for prescription drugs dramatically outpaced cost growth for other Medicare services.”

MOVING ON UP - California, the state that some prominent critics have claimed is a hellhole for business, is now the world's sixth-largest economy. The latest rankings from the World Bank -- previewed last month in an analysis from the state Dept. of Finance -- show that just five countries produced more last year than California: the U.S., China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. So California's economy is now bigger than those of France, India, and Italy.

We're wondering how the news will be met in Texas and Florida, whose governors have made high-profile forays into California, complete with ad campaigns to push for relocated people and businesses. They've relied on a sales pitch (and studies, see below) that suggest California's taxes and regulation make it excessively difficult to do business here.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported last month that California's GDP was $2.5 trillion in 2015, up 4.1 percent from a year earlier. California saw more economic growth than the United States as a whole, which was up 2.4 percent.

BYE, BLACKBERRY - BlackBerry's long-held dominance on Capitol Hill has officially come to a close, after a a Sergeant at Arms announcement last week that said Senate staffers would no longer be issued the phone after the current supply runs out, reports POLITICO's Heather Caygle. The device, which has played an integral role in Congressional culture, is renowned for its security, distinctive keyboard and usage by many officials including President Obama and, of course, Hillary Clinton, who's looking at one intently in her famous texting photograph.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: George W. Bush (70) Austin, TX.; Tom Hanks (60) Woodland Hills, CA.; Toby Keith (55) Dallas, TX.; Kevin O’Leary (62) Manhattan, NY.; Sylvester Stallone (70) Beverly Hills, CA.

JULY 10, 2008 – It was on this date that Apple Corporation introduced the digital marketplace entitled App Store. One Hundred Thirty billion downloads later this marketplace is a key link to many to the internet. Fifty billion dollars have been paid by Apple to developers as their share of this marketplace.

What app do you use the most?

THE WATER COOLER - “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough could soon go public as a couple. Rink Rats has exclusively learned that Brzezinski and her husband of 23 years have quietly divorced.

Popular MSNBC stars Scarborough and Brzezinski are widely rumored to be romantically involved — and there’s plenty of on-air chemistry for all to see. But while Scarborough quietly divorced in 2013, the TV duo have never confirmed they’re romantically involved.

An NBC insider told us, “Everybody at 30 Rock knows they are a couple . . . They are constantly together, they arrive and leave events together, even on weekends. They are each other’s publicists and finish each other’s sentences. It’s the worst kept secret in TV.”

Brzezinski, 49, and her ex-husband, WABC Eyewitness News investigative reporter James Hoffer, who married in 1993, have undergone an under-the-radar divorce, which was recently settled, we’re told. They have two teenage daughters.

Scarborough, 53, divorced Susan Waren, a former aide to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in 2013 after a 12-year marriage. The former couple, who have two children together, separated the previous year.

NO STRESS - All but two of 33 big U.S. banks passed the final round of the Federal Reserve’s annual “stress tests” on June 29, winning permission to boost dividends and buybacks. Large firms such as Bank of America and Citigroup, which struggled on the tests in recent years, passed this time. Both banks, along with J.P. Morgan Chase, followed the report by announcing they would boost capital returns to shareholders. Morgan Stanley also passed but received a rebuke of its internal risk-management processes, while the U.S. banking units of Deutsche Bank and Banco Santander were held back again. This year’s results could prove a tonic for bank stocks, reflecting the Fed’s view that the banking sector is much stronger than it was leading up to the 2008 bailouts. Analysts have said that post crisis regulatory changes helped contain the damage from the Brexit market rout.

BROADWAY - Hamilton After Miranda ... Will 'Hamilton' suffer after the loss of key principals?: This weekend, the hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers ... goodbye to three principal members - Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original Alexander Hamilton; Leslie Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award as Aaron Burr; and Phillipa Soo, a Tony nominee who portrays Eliza Schuyler. For many 'Hamilton' fans, [today] will mark the chance to brag about whether they saw the original cast.


Major League Baseball Game of the Week: Tuesday July 12, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox; Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego, CA. American League is healthy and ready for a rout, AL wins 8 – 3.

Season to date (52 -39)

AT THE BREAK – Baseball’s Power Ten Teams:

1). San Francisco Giants   2). Chicago Cubs   3). Texas Rangers   4). Washington Nationals

5). Cleveland Indians   6). Baltimore Orioles   7). Los Angeles Dodgers

8). Boston Red Sox   9). Toronto Blue Jays   10). Houston Astros

MARKET WEEK – With the help of a strong jobs report on Friday and the Federal Reserve still undecided about a rate increase has fueled a strong rally in U.S. stocks and U.S. bonds last week. The world has no better place to stash their cash then the U.S. markets.

The coming week begins second quarter earnings reports starting off with Alcoa on Monday.

STOCK TO WATCH – Air Lease Corp. (AL) potential 40% growth rate the next twelve months.

Adobe Systems (ADBE) Another firm where the growth rate is higher than the Price/Earnings ratio, potential here is for a 20% growth the next twelve months.

Skyworks Solutions (SMKS) iCloud security firm with a 35% growth in the next twelve months.

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Obama returns from Europe and will travel to Dallas on Tuesday following the killing of five police officers there last week ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will travel to Paris, London, Brussels and Berlin Monday through Thursday for discussions with counterparts on Brexit impact and other issues ... House Financial Services has a hearing Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. on "Making a Financial Choice: More Capital or More Government Control?" ... House Financial Services subcommittee has a hearing Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. on fin tech ... House OGR has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday on the FDIC application process ... Senate Banking has a hearing Thursday at 10:00 a.m. on "Evaluating the Financial Risks of China." ... U.S. and EU leaders will continue work on TTIP in Brussels ... Bank of England will announce its latest rates decision on Thursday and could stage a post-Brexit cut ... JPMorganChase reports earnings Thursday. Wells Fargo and Citigroup report Friday. This is Congress's last week in session for the summer.

END OF AN ERA - The great Mike Allen, who created Playbook and helped launch Morning Money for Politico, signed off his 3,304th and final Playbook on Sunday: "I haven't used an alarm clock since college: I just bolt out of bed every morning, humbled and thrilled to have the chance to serve you one more time.” Thank you Mike Allen for being a source of information and insight.

REMEMBERING ELIE WIESEL - Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone else, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience, died on Saturday July 2 at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Mr. Wiesel, a charismatic lecturer and humanities professor, was the author of several dozen books. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But he was defined not so much by the work he did as by the gaping void he filled. In the aftermath of the Germans’ systematic massacre of Jews, no voice had emerged to drive home the enormity of what had happened and how it had changed mankind’s conception of itself and of God. For almost two decades, the traumatized survivors — and American Jews, guilt-ridden that they had not done more to rescue their brethren — seemed frozen in silence.

But by the sheer force of his personality and his gift for the haunting phrase, Mr. Wiesel, who had been liberated from Buchenwald as a 16-year-old with the indelible tattoo A-7713 on his arm, gradually exhumed the Holocaust from the burial ground of the history books.

It was this speaking out against forgetfulness and violence that the Nobel committee recognized when it awarded him the peace prize in 1986.

“Wiesel is a messenger to mankind,” the Nobel citation said. “His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.”

REMEMBERING SYDNEY SCHANBERG - NYT's Robert D. McFadden: "Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia's fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film 'The Killing Fields' with the story of his Cambodian colleague's survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82. ... a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants."

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

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

July 11, 2016


PRAYER THIS WEEK – We need it,  from Mother Teresa:

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