Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Fini

We complete another year of Rink Rats with our thirty second blog of 2017 on this last day of 2017. 

We are in Michigan bringing in the New Year with family, in I might add sub-zero temperatures.

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the moments that defined 2017.

ME TOO - Among the most important developments of 2017 was #MeToo: the renewed determination of women to stand up to sexual harassment, and the new willingness of (some) institutions and corporations to take action. Although the movement itself started several years ago, it has gained a new urgency since October, when the New York Times and The New Yorker reported on appalling allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein; since then, the wave of repercussions has grown, and it has yet to crest.

DIVERSITY FATIGUE - For many, the rise of Donald Trump was a manifestation of this long-brewing and ideologically varied skepticism toward diversity. On the right, it was a backlash against things changing too fast, and too much. And, for some on the left, the success of Trump-style populism suggested that liberals had focussed too much of their energy on multiculturalism and identity. Over the last couple of years, this skepticism has rippled outward in bizarre, troubling ways. For decades, diversity was generally accepted across the political spectrum as a common goal, something that at least merited lip service. In Trump’s wake, it’s become increasingly mainstream to question the concept’s very legitimacy. When the Iowa congressman Steve King tweeted that “diversity” was not a “strength,” a politician who once embodied a nativist fringe seemed to speak with renewed purpose. Diversity was recently included on a list of words that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were discouraged from using, perhaps, according to one sympathetic account, “so as not to raise red flags among Republicans in Congress.”

Diversity is increasingly the scapegoat when something old and reliable begins to falter. This year, the supposed overemphasis on diversity was invoked to explain everything from ESPN’s falling ratings to the middling quality of U.S. soccer, from flagging enthusiasm for the Star Wars universe to a dip in comic-book sales. (A recent MarketWatch piece wondered if the increasingly diverse world of Marvel superheroes—which included “Afro-Latino Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, a female Thor, a gay Iceman, a Korean Hulk, an African-American female lead in Iron Man, and a lesbian Latina America Chavez”—had alienated “traditional” fans.) Perhaps, some suggested, we simply need to disrupt our conventional views on diversity. This spring, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke of the need for “ideological diversity,” particularly among his closest advisers. He was defending the presence of the Trump adviser Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board, and sidestepping criticisms of the minuscule size of his company’s black workforce. But Zuckerberg was also trying to spin diversity in a way that could make a wider swath of Americans feel included—except, perhaps, those who were once central to the diversity debates. The Times invoked a similar principle—a “diversity of views”—when they were criticized for publishing the dubious claims of a recently hired conservative Op-Ed columnist.

Diversity has become a worn and misapplied term partly as a result of its messy origins. The term as we use it today first emerged in 1978, as part of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in University of California v. Bakke. The court struck down quotas but upheld affirmative action, allowing an applicant’s race to factor into college-admissions policies. It was a divisive case, which resulted in a total of six opinions. The judgment of the Court was written by Justice Lewis Powell, who argued that the state had an interest in maintaining a “diverse student body.” Powell’s rationale differed slightly from the rest of the majority, who predicated their support for affirmative action on an acknowledgment of America’s legacies of discrimination and inequality. From the very beginning, then, there was something vague and ahistorical about diversity, particularly in the context of higher education. Rather than a means of historical redress, it was meant to be useful.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that diversity’s most enthusiastic proselytizers are in the world of business. In 2008, Scott Page, a professor of complex systems, political science, and economics at the University of Michigan, published “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies.” Drawing on empirical research, and also the wisdom of Ben & Jerry’s, Douglas Adams, and “Seinfeld,” Page argues that “cognitively diverse societies, cities, and teams perform better than more homogenous ones.” This fall, Page amplified his pro-diversity argument with “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy.” His rationale isn’t moral—this would make it easily susceptible to cynicism, or bad faith. Instead, he points to the bottom line, offering a series of case studies where individuals with different backgrounds, skill sets, or forms of expertise came together to illuminate new solutions to old problems.

The true casualties of “diversity fatigue” are the ones who never feel entitled enough to complain about it. We’re living in a time when those drafted in the name of a more diverse society have new ways to speak for themselves, and, in many cases, a different perspective than the trailblazers of previous generations. As the past few months’ stories about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace suggest, just being present is not sufficient. There’s a familiar refrain to so many of these stories, as women entered into spaces previously closed to them and then underwent a kind of hazing. They’re stories of diversity told from the inside out, by people who were assured that this is the way it is because this is the way it has always been: a boys’ club, business as usual.

“We’re hearing a lot about diversity,” the filmmaker Ava DuVernay said last year, in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign. “I hate that word so, so much.” She explained that there was something “medical” and cold about diversity, and that speaking of belonging or inclusion seemed a more accurate way of describing what long-marginalized people actually wanted. Progress isn’t just a seat at the table anymore but the ability to command it, too. This week, Time magazine features Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling, the leads of DuVernay’s new film, an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” on its cover. Witherspoon said that she’s “never seen somebody demand inclusiveness” the way DuVernay did, casting a film with black, brown, and white leads. Belonging and inclusion will probably seem like old, useless buzzwords someday, too. But that’s the point. Images like these still matter, in small, mysterious ways that won’t be grasped for generations. It’s just a movie, ultimately. But it’s also a fantasy, a version of the world that was once unthinkable, which will produce new people and new languages.

MARKET YEAR - Stocks could ride a tailwind into 2018, bolstered by the best annual gains in four years and the promise of a generous earnings boost from corporate tax cuts.

With the holidays over, it's time to get back to work quickly in the four-day week. December's employment report looms Friday as the first major economic report of the year. There are also ISM manufacturing and monthly vehicle sales data on Wednesday.

The minutes from the Fed's December meeting will also be released Wednesday afternoon, and that could provide some important clues as to Fed thinking on inflation and interest rates. The Fed has forecast three rate hikes for 2018, and some economists are now expecting four. Inflation, which has been lagging the Fed's target, could be the deciding factor in how aggressive the Fed will be.

Strategists expect 2018 to be another up year for stocks, but with smaller gains than 2017 and most forecasts falling between 2,800 and 3,000. The S&P 500 finished Friday at 2,673, slightly lower on the week but up 19.4 percent for the year, its best performance since 2013. The Dow was down 0.1 percent for the week at 24,719, but saw a gain of 25.5 percent for the year. The Nasdaq was down 0.8 percent for the week, at 6,903, but scored a gain of 28.2 percent, also the best year since 2013.

"Barring any surprises, I'm hoping for new money for the new month and the new year," said Art Cashin (Rink Rats reader), director of floor operations at UBS. He said he's also watching the first two trading days of the year, to see if they are positive. If they are and the S&P 500 is higher when taken together with the past week's performance, that would be a positive "Santa rally" period. The Santa rally period is the last five trading days of the year and the first two days of the new year, and if the market is higher, the odds are better for a positive year.

Market milestones for 2017 include a return to higher oil prices, with West Texas Intermediate futures closing Friday above $60 per barrel, for the first time since June 2015. That has helped drive a more than 6 percent gain for energy stocks in the past month, even though the sector was down 3.8 percent for the year. The best performing sector was tech, up 37 percent for the year.

The dollar continued its yearlong slide in Friday trading, with the dollar index ending the year down 9.7 percent, its worst performance since 2003.

Meanwhile, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.409 Friday afternoon, just slightly under the 2.43 percent level where it started the year. The 2-year yield meanwhile rose from 1.19 percent at the start of year to 1.88. The two yields are getting closer together, or flattening, and are now at the "flattest" in a decade. Some investors worry that's a sign of economic weakness ahead.
Washington will also be a focus in January as it now gets down to business on spending issues, after the White House and Congress delivered a big tax cut package reducing corporate taxes to 21 percent from 35 percent, just before the holidays. But in 2018, the political scene promises to be more difficult, with potential fights over the debt ceiling and other issues ahead of key midterm elections.

Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas said there are other issues that could also emerge early in the new year. "Goodbye tax, hello trade. That's the start of it, right there," he said, with news on the administration's review of potential steel and aluminum tariffs expected in January.

"I'm just outlining that there's a little bit of risk now," he said. The administration could decide tariffs are warranted on aluminum for national security reasons. "This is a brush fire, not a forest fire."

Some strategists believe there are good odds that the negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement could fail, threatening the trade agreement. NAFTA is being renegotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Traders have been concerned about Trump's potential to be protectionist, and whether he would really take action.

NEW WORLD ORDER - China eagerly and systematically asserting itself as a global force with trade deals, investment and posturing. The nation, despite all its flaws, is rising.

Trump abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational trade deal, gave China huge political and economic openings in its neighborhood.

Trump eagerly and systematically shaking up U.S. engagement overseas, and attacking the U.N. and other institutions that helped hold together a post-World War II world.

Germany, France and Britain, hammered by surging populism similar to the disruption that hit U.S. politics, are increasingly looking inward, and away from a unified European voice. Europe's influence is on a clear decline.

L.A. Times correspondents interviewed leaders, diplomats and scholars around the globe, and found other powers eager to fill the void as the U.S. retreats: "On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant."

"China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led."

"Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration."

"France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to."

While Trump sucks up a lot of attention and blame, a lot of this change was set in motion before he arrived. The combo of social media + identity politics + fake news has resulted in less legitimacy for most, if not all, Western governments.

BEST BOOK - In a year that too often seemed like fiction, my favorite novel was one that felt utterly true to life: “Conversations with Friends,” by the Irish writer Sally Rooney. It tells the story of Frances, a watchful, sharp-witted college student in Dublin and her best friend, Bobbi, who together fall into a risky intimacy with Melissa and Nick, a couple in their thirties with glamorous artistic credentials and a fraying marriage. Like the best coming-of-age novels, it captures the beautiful confusion of being an intelligent young person with lots of ideas about the world and no clue how to live in it. This is the first novel that Rooney has written; I was so engrossed in its world that when I finished it, I flipped back to the first page and read it straight through again. I hope her next book comes soon.

BEST TV SHOW – “Big Little Lies”
Gorgeous, sensual, and seductive, beautifully directed by Jean-Marc VallĂ©e, with perfect, slow-build pacing, this beachside murder mystery was the year’s best surprise. Among an A-list cast of movie stars, Nicole Kidman stood out, playing a woman struggling to admit the truth about her abusive marriage. By the final episodes, the plot became a wrenching exploration of the hidden bonds between women who have been hurt, a #MeToo thriller with the rare finale that satisfied on all levels.

1. “Get Out” (Jordan Peele)
In his horror comedy, Peele uses familiar devices to convey philosophically rich and politically potent ideas about the state of race relations in America.

2. “A Quiet Passion” (Terence Davies)
Davies’s Emily Dickinson bio-pic is an absolute, drop-dead masterwork.

3. “Good Time” (Josh and Benny Safdie)
“Good Time,” starring Robert Pattinson, streaks and smears and shreds the screen with a sense of furious subjectivity.

4. “A Ghost Story” (David Lowery)
The movie’s dramatic power is inseparable from its quiet, sensuous splendor.

BEST PODCAST - “Ways of Hearing”
The way we listen has been revolutionized by digital technology, which in turn has transformed our world, including podcasts. “Ways of Hearing,” hosted by Damon Krukowski and based on his excellent book “The New Analog,” is about listening. (It’s the first of a series of podcasts in the Radiotopia show “Showcase.”) Krukowski makes complex ideas delightfully accessible, and in audio form he’s able to include wonderful sounds: street noise, song bits, chitchat at a record shop. Krukowski, the drummer of the great band Galaxie 500, illustrates points in Episode 1 with gorgeous strains of “Tugboat.” Krukowski is a fantastic observer; I often think of the ideas he articulates in “Ways of Hearing,” and I feel like I perceive the world a little more acutely because of listening to it.


Hurricane Irma
Matt Lauer
Tom Petty
Super Bowl
Las Vegas Shooting
Mayweather vs McGregor Fight
Solar Eclipse
Hurricane Harvey
Aaron Hernandez
Fidget Spinner
How to buy Bitcoin
How to freeze your credit

INEQUALITY REPORT - New research from the Ford Foundation and Thomas Piketty with the World Inequality Lab is "is the first research study to comprehensively examine wealth and income inequality trends across developed and emerging countries over approximately 40 years."

Among the findings: "Globally, few are enjoying the benefits of economic growth. The richest captured most of the growth, as those who are enjoying the growth are the top 10 percent, with an exponential growth for the top 0.1 percent. The global top 1% earners captured twice as much income growth as the 50 percent poorest individuals.

"Global wealth and income inequality will steadily rise, if countries follow the trajectory they have been on since 1980, notably in the U.S. Though, if all countries follow the moderate inequality trajectory followed by Europe over the past decades, global inequality can be reduced.”

CALIFORNIA HERE WE GO - For many of the state’s residents, one question is omnipresent: Is this worth it?

The threat of earthquakes, annual wildfires and high taxes have contributed to a net outflow of residents for more than three decades.

Still, the wrath of God has failed to deter companies from thinking this is a great place to be, although it is expensive and crowded.

MICKEY FOX - Walt Disney Co. has signed a deal to acquire a large piece of 21st Century Fox Inc., ... in a pact that could help the entertainment giant accelerate its ambitions in streaming media, shore up its television business and grab hold of lucrative movie franchises.

Why it matters: Most of the assets Disney is buying would be put to use in Chief Executive Robert Iger's quest to transform his company into a streaming-video giant that can go head-to-head with rivals such as Netflix.

Mr. Iger wants Disney to have its own relationships with consumers and a broad array of content to offer them online.

P.S. Layoffs likely in Disney-Fox deal," per an L.A. Times A1 teaser: "Substantial job cuts in Southern California could result." “The companies have many overlapping departments and Disney would look to wring savings."

TRUMP’S ECONOMY - President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are about to own the U.S. economy in ways that could revive their party's brand or make the next three years a political nightmare. The president and GOP leaders were all smiles celebrating passage of a giant tax cut bill that will slash corporate rates and offer more limited relief to individuals. They are counting on the widely unpopular measure to produce a series of economic benefits including faster growth, fatter paychecks and a bigger, more productive labor force. ... Essentially, Republicans are betting they can take the fairly strong economy Trump inherited from President Barack Obama and fix the remaining broken parts, which include a shrunken labor force, limited wage gains and stalled worker productivity. If they succeed, the GOP could start to reverse their big polling disadvantages in the 2018 midterm elections and set Trump up to win reelection in 2020 if he can somehow navigate the Russia investigations and avoid major foreign policy disasters.

POTUS 101 - Peter Baker puts on his historian's cap for his installment in the N.Y. Times series, "Trump's Way" ... "A Year of Reinventing the Presidency ... Under Trump, a Once Unimaginable Presidency Becomes Reality":

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly: "I'm not put on earth to control him ... But I have been put on earth to make this staff work better and make sure this president, whether you voted for him or not, is fully informed before he makes a decision. And I think we achieved that."

Kelly on POTUS: "He remains fairly unconventional ... But as I point out, he now is fully briefed on the issues and the pluses and minuses, pros and cons."

Ron Klain, a White House official under Clinton and Obama: "It's a presidency of one person ... That's really kind of a stunning thing. There is no Trump doctrine. There is no Trump plan. There is no Trumpism. There's just Trump."

Peter notes that Trump has referred to his targets as "crazy," "psycho," "short and fat," "crooked," "totally inept," "a joke," "dumb as a rock," "disgusting," "puppet," "weak and out of control," "sleazy," "wacky," "totally unhinged," "incompetent," "lightweight" and "the dumbest man on television." (BTW, that was CNN's Don Lemon, and Trump often watches.)

Under Mr. Trump, it has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. He has revolutionized the way presidents deal with the world beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dispensing with the carefully modulated messaging of past chief executives in favor of no-holds-barred, crystal-breaking, us-against-them, damn-the-consequences blasts borne out of gut and grievance.

"He has kept a business on the side; attacked the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other institutions he oversees; threatened to use his power against rivals; and waged war against members of his own party and even his own Cabinet. He fired the man investigating his campaign and has not ruled out firing the one who took over. He has appealed to base instincts on race, religion and gender as no president has in generations. And he has rattled the nuclear saber more bombastically than it has been since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The presidency has served as a vehicle for Mr. Trump to construct and promote his own narrative, one with crackling verve but riddled with inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies, according to fact checkers. Rather than a force for unity or a calming voice in turbulent times, the presidency now is another weapon in a permanent campaign of divisiveness. Democrats and many establishment Republicans worry that Mr. Trump has squandered the moral authority of the office."

SCIENCE - The Moon shines brightly among our 2017 highlights. Whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating our human space exploration plans.

MORON OF THE YEAR – “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”
Guess who????

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Richard Chute…famous Claremont, CA resident; Sean Hannity (56) Alexandria, VA.; Donald Trump, Jr. (40) New York, NY.; Meredith Vieira (64) Scarsdale, NY.

ON THIS DAY – December 23, 1947: 70 years ago, at the end of a miracle month of breakthroughs, John Bardeen & Walter Brattain demonstrated the first transistor to colleagues at Bell Labs. It's been described as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century.

STATISTICS OF THE YEAR:  Americans killed annually by

All Islamic jihadist terrorists 9
Armed toddlers 21
Lightning 31
Lawnmowers 69
Being hit by a bus 264
Falling out of bed 737
Being shot by another American 11,737 

CASHLESS - As 2018 looms, the dawn of a cashless society feels at hand. Don't believe it? Try throwing a couple $20 bills on the table next time you're splitting the check. Or better yet, ask anyone not standing behind a cash register to break a $10 bill.

While the rise of Venmo, Uber, Seamless and Bitcoin et al have made it practically gauche in certain circles to flash a wallet thick with bills, there are many urban workers for whom the shift away from cash represents a serious financial problem. Doormen, elevator operators, manicurists - any employee who relies on small, spontaneous cash tips - are finding themselves left out in the cold by an increasingly cashless world.

SPOTTED – Avid Rink Rats reader and former Claremont, CA. resident, Tom Playford at Heroes (131 Yale Avenue) in Claremont. Tom is fighting the battles of Trump in Durham, North Carolina these days. 


NFL kneeling.

College basketball comes under the microscope after a federal investigation reveals recruiting corruption.

Houston Astros win their first World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 to lift the spirits of a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

In a season that included his four-game suspension for "Deflategate," Tom Brady engineers a record-breaking comeback as the Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons in first-ever Super Bowl overtime.

The president of USA Gymnastics resigns amid a sexual abuse scandal that includes some of the sport's biggest stars.

Russia is banned from the Winter Olympics for a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Clemson mounts a last-second comeback to beat Alabama for college football's national championship.

The U.S. fails to qualify for soccer's World Cup for the first time since 1986. Four-time champion Italy also fails to qualify.

New acquisition Kevin Durant leads the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Mixed Martial Arts star Conor McGregor steps into the boxing ring to face undefeated champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.

JOHNNY BOWER – Old Time Hockey, end of an era.

It was 1963 or '64, but Mark Howe is pretty sure it was 1964. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final, and in the handshake line at Maple Leaf Gardens, Maple Leafs goaltender Johnny Bower traded sticks with Red Wings forward Gordie Howe.

Before each series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gordie would ask his son Mark, "When the series is over, whose stick do you want?" That time, Mark had said, "I want Bower's."
"I still have the stick to this day," Mark said Wednesday.

Bower died Tuesday at age 93. He played on the Maple Leafs' last four championship teams, in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967; was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976 and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian on Jan. 1.


NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 12/31, 4:25 PM EDT, Fox: Carolina Panthers (11-4) vs. Atlanta Falcons (9-6). Plenty of playoff implications in this one, Falcons win 24 – 17. (Season to date 9-7).

College Football Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 5:45 PM EDT, ESPN: Bowl Season, Rose Bowl from Pasadena, CA: #4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) vs. #1 Clemson Tigers (12-1). Alabama seeks revenge from last year, they get it 38 – 35.   (Season to date 9-7)

College Hockey Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 6:00 PM EDT FoxDetroit: the 52nd edition of the Great Lakes Invitational tournament, Bowling Green University Falcons (8-6-6) vs. University of Michigan Wolverines (7-7-2), we like the Wolverines 5 – 3.  Season to date (6-4)

NHL Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1, 1:00 PM EDT, NBC: Another edition of the Winter Classic, this years’ game is at Citi Field in New York. New York Rangers (20-13-5) vs. Buffalo Sabres (10-20-8). Not an attractive game, Rangers win in a romp, 7 – 2.  Season to date (8-2).

NBA Pick of the Week – Monday 1/1 7:30 PM EDT, FSWI: Milwaukee Bucks (19-15) vs. Toronto Rapters (24-10). Raptors have a solid club this year, they win this one 101 – 92.r4 (season to date 1-0)

Season to Date (98 - 72)

Next Blog: 2018 What Next?

Until next time, Happy New Year

Jackson, Michigan
Temperature at edit: 0 Degrees

December 31, 2017


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Rink Rats Style)

On The First Day of Christmas The Christmas Party (sorry, Holiday Party) circuit has concluded for another year, here are some debriefing notes:

Best drink – Red Rooster Punch.

Best Party Snack – Lamb Meat Balls

Lamest Holiday Party Song – “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

Biggest Rip Off - $12.00 ($15.30 Canadian) for a half shot drink at the Pomona Fairplex, the Pomona Fairplex, really!

Comings and Goings Gossip – POTUS Trump is still a weirdo, but wait and see what happens in the 2018 mid-term elections. Then it will be interesting.  Susan Collins will be the next President of The St. Lawrence University, Mark Morris will not return for the 2018-19 St. Lawrence University Hockey Season. Ken Holland will retire at the end of the current National Hockey League season from the Detroit Red Wings. Two members of the management team at a local University will be gone on July 1, 2018. On the recommendation of her Doctor, Hilary Clinton will not be seeking the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination; she and Bill will be getting a divorce in 2018. Thank you Dr. Frankenstein.

Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR are all hypocrites and pathetic news organizations.

On the Second Day of Christmas – Mike Francesa (63), The Godfather of sports’ talk radio, had his final broadcast at WFAN in New York. He is stepping down after thirty years at WFAN. Christopher Russo (58), Sirius Channel 82, is now the undisputed ruler of daily sports’ talk radio.

On the Third Day of Christmas – I received a call from my CPA from the accounting firm Dewey, Cheatum and Howe. He explained the new Republican Tax bill as follows:

The child tax credit has been made more refundable than in the Senate bill. It's now $2,000 per child, with $1,400 of this refundable for families who have no income tax liability.

The corporate rate will be 21% beginning in 2018.

The top individual rate is 37%. There are seven brackets, and the lowest rate is 10%.

Most of us are getting a tax cut, but not all of us and not forever. And if you're rich, the tax bill benefits you much more.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, taxes overall would fall by 8 percent in 2019, with every bracket seeing a decline, on average. But while people earning between $20,000 and $30,000 would see their taxes fall by 13.5 percent, by 2021, people earning that same amount would see their tax bills go up by 8.6 percent.

Separately, a Tax Policy Center analysis finds that 80 percent of taxpayers would see a tax cut next year - averaging $2,100 a year. But 5 percent would face a tax increase averaging $2,800, while the rest would see essentially no change. 

On the Fourth Day of Christmas – Key issues involving Higher Education at this years’ end - 

ANIMAL HOUSE NO MORE: Amid worries about endemic binge drinking, sexual assault and a startling spate of deaths, schools are going beyond the old practice of shutting down individual [fraternity] houses to imposing broad restrictions on all Greek life.

Activities like fraternity parties and initiations have been suspended or curtailed at colleges including Ball State, Indiana University, Ohio State and the University of Michigan, as well as at least five where deaths have occurred this year: Florida State, Louisiana State, Penn State, Texas State and Iowa.

Why it matters ... There is definitely this moment in time where society is not willing to accept behavior that in the past has been acceptable. Sorry Sig Pi and Beta.

COLLEGE PRESIDENTS: POLITICAL BACKLASH 'A WAKE-UP CALL': Higher education leaders say they need to do more to combat charges of elitism that have fueled a public and
political backlash. There is an attempt to build a narrative of colleges and universities as out of touch and not politically diverse.

They fear higher education is becoming a political punching bag. The GOP's tax plan is the clearest and most recent example. The sweeping changes to the tax code will likely target universities in a way they've never been targeted before - including likely taxing the richest private schools' endowments. But charges of elitism have come from both sides of the political spectrum. Republicans, including the Trump administration, have complained that free speech is being stifled on campuses and have questioned the value of a four-year degree for some students. Republicans and Democrats alike have blasted rapidly rising tuition costs.

COLLEGE ENROLLMENT DIPS: Undergraduate college enrollment is down among U.S. adults, including traditional-age first-year students, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Enrollment in undergraduate programs has been falling since the end of the recession, following a boom during the economic downturn among older adults. The 1.4 percent decline over last year can largely be attributed to declines in enrollment among adults in this group - people 24 and older seeking to enroll in undergraduate programs - and among those not seeking bachelor's degrees.

This year's dip is notable because the decrease among adults 18-24 who are enrolling in college for the first time is accelerating. Last year's 0.7 percent decline is now 1 percent. This suggests further declines to come overall in the years ahead, which will continue to present planning challenges for institutions and policymakers seeking to adapt to new economic and demographic realities.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas - FINANCIAL CRISIS: on this day marks the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Great Recession. To mark the occasion, the Cleveland Fed and the FDIC on Monday each released first-hand accounts of the financial crisis.

From the Cleveland Fed: "Bank loans were going sour. Bank stock prices were in free fall. Big-name firms were outright failing or on the brink. As the housing bubble popped and the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression tightened its grip on the US economy, the situation swiftly became an all-hands-on-deck state of affairs for the Federal Reserve. ... 'Things were moving at lightning speed,' says Jenni Frazer, who at the time was leading a team to supervise one of the largest banks in the region."

From the FDIC: "The nationwide housing expansion of the early 2000s was rooted in a combination of factors, including an extended period of low interest rates. By mid-2003, both long-term mortgage rates and the federal funds rate ... had declined to levels not seen in at least a generation. ... Other factors were in play as well in the years leading up to and during the housing market expansion. Financial innovation and deregulation contributed to an environment in which the U.S. and global financial systems became far more concentrated, more interconnected, and, in retrospect, far less stable than they had been in previous decades.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas – We celebrate birthdays of this week; Ramsey Clark (90) Bethesda, Maryland; Kirk Douglas (101) St. Lawrence University ’39; Pope Francis (91) Rome, Italy; Peter Hewitt ….entrepreneur, great husband, great friend, and father of Joey Hewitt. Nancy Newman …our favorite photographer.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas – A review of the Markets:

In the first 11 Months:  Dow Jones Industrial Index -           Obama +29.9%
                                                                                                                     Trump +25.0%
                                             S&P 500 -                                               Obama +36.9%
                                                                                                                       Trump +20.4%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 140 points Monday to notch its 70th record close this year. That tops the 69 Dow records set in 1995 and crowns 2017 as the most record-setting year in the 121-year history of the blue-chip benchmark.

Stocks are one good day away from the Dow topping 25000 for the first time; the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index is knocking on the door of its first-ever finish above 7000.

Amid the breakthroughs, some analysts warn that the tax package lawmakers have passed could mark a short-term top in the rally. Few are willing to wager that the nearly nine-year bull market is on its last legs, however.

The likelihood for profit-boosting corporate tax cuts have been among the key drivers for U.S. stock gains this year, alongside improving economic conditions and ultra-low interest rates that leave investors little choice but to buy risky assets in hopes of meaningful returns.

The passage of the tax overhaul could mark a pivot in the stock market, the day President Donald Trump signs a tax bill into law will mark the market top, a sort of “sell the news” event as investors contemplate the new year.

Even if the stock market is up next year, it's highly unlikely do as well as it’s done this year.

That's because 2017 has been pretty flawless on multiple fronts. Strong returns and almost no volatility are tough to come by -- and tough to repeat -- but this year brought both.

The S&P 500 is up 20% with just seven sessions to go. Including dividends, it's returned 23%. Meanwhile, the Cboe Volatility Index, one measure of expected stock swings over the next 30 days, hasn't topped its long-term average of just over 19 once this year. On Tuesday, it finished at just over 10.

The S&P 500, already up 1.7% this month on a total return basis, is poised to have 12 straight months of positive returns in 2017, including dividends. It would be the first year since at least 1970 that's happened, according to The Wall Street Journal's Market Data Group.

That may not sound like much compared to the dramatic rise of bitcoin, which has multiplied in value many times over. One unit of the crypto-currency, worth less than $1,000 at the end of last year, was recently trading around $17,000.

But unlike bitcoin, it's been easy to own the stocks in the S&P 500 this year without your portfolio keeping you up at night. It’s the kind of smooth returns that typically come with hefty management fees. Instead, it's been available on any old index-tracking fund.

One way to see that is to look at the Sharpe ratio, which measures how much reward an investor gets for the amount of risk they take. A high ratio means investors are getting top-notch returns relative to risk. That ratio, at more than 5 this year for the S&P 500, is better than 99% of readings going back to 1926.

As it happens, many predict another year of stock market gains. Analysts tracked by Birinyi Associates forecast, on average, that the S&P 500 will rise 6.3% from Tuesday's closing level by the end of 2018.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas – OUT AND ABOUT were some boys from St. Lawrence University on both coasts sharing bottles of wine, and a pint or two.

Below L-R; Val Ireland, John Reinman, Jay Ireland, Bob Kirschner, Gene Golden, Hugh & Vickie Lappe, Teb Barnard (Franklin, Michigan) celebrate in NYC.

Below L-R; Reggie Dunlop and Peter Hewitt celebrate at Heroes in Claremont, CA the #1 nationally ranked D-III men’s basketball Whitman College Missionaries, sorry Blues, 96 to 67 victory over the University of La Verne Leopards. Joey Hewitt ’19 scored nineteen points for the Blues. Rink Rats also commends Windsor, California’s Cardinal Newman High School graduate Connor Head ’18 who scored twenty two points to lead the Leopards. Connor is a Business Administration Major.

Note: Plenty of lies were abundant on both coasts.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas – The National Hockey League celebrated the league’s One Hundredth Anniversary; Hockey looked very different when the N.H.L. played its first games 100 years ago. Arenas were smaller and darker. The players were also smaller, averaging about 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. Even so, the best of them played close to 60 minutes a game.

Small rosters and few substitutions meant the game was slower. Equipment was limited and rather primitive, providing only minimal protection. Players did not hit nearly as hard as they do today. The rules were different too. Forward passing was not yet permitted in the N.H.L.; it would begin to be phased in during the 1918-19 season. When play began with two games on Dec. 19, 1917, goalies were not even allowed to drop to the ice to make a save.

That night, the Montreal Wanderers beat Toronto, 10-9, while the Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators, 7-4. Joe Malone, who would score 44 goals in just 20 games played in 1917-18, had five goals for the Canadiens. Harry Hyland netted five for the Wanderers, while Reg Noble notched four for Toronto in a losing cause. Three nights later, the Canadiens scored an 11-2 victory over the Wanderers, while Toronto beat Ottawa, 11-4.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas – POTUS 2017; In fact, it's striking how little President Trump — and perceptions of President Trump — have changed as 2017 comes to a close:

He started 2017 with about 40% of the country with him, and ends 2017 with about 40% of the country with him.

He started 2017 haunted by Russian interference in the election, and ends 2017 haunted by Russian interference in the election.

He started 2017 with elected Republicans skeptical but compliant, and ends 2017 with elected Republicans skeptical but compliant.

He started 2017 with virtually every elected Democrat disliking him, and ends 2017 with virtually every elected Democrat disliking him.

He started 2017 at war with the mainstream media, and ends 2017 at odds with the mainstream media.

He started 2017 with accusations that he sexually harassed women, and ends 2017 with accusations that he sexually harassed women.

He started 2017 talking tough but doing little to China, and ends 2017 talking tough but doing little to China.

He started 2017 with a lot of top Republican talent not wanting to work for him, and ends 2017 with a lot of Republican top talent not wanting to work for him.

He started 2017 on Twitter, and most certainly will end 2017 on Twitter.

This is the rerun presidency: Every day feels like the last day. So it's safe to assume that 2018 will feel a lot like — wait for it — 2017.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas – We determined our HOLIDAY READING; “Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises” by Robert Z. Aliber and Charles P. Kindleberger. Thinking of buying some bitcoin? A reread of this classic on what was behind past financial crises is a good refresher before you do. It’s the top of my reading list this holiday season. And after finishing it, I’ll be brushing up on my bitcoin “mining” skills by reading about the Secure Hash Algorithm-256.

“The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. This book describes the most common cognitive biases, or thinking errors, people make, and is essential reading for improving investing decision making AND managing people.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas - THE SWAMI MADE HIS PICKS:

NFL Football Pick of the Week – Sunday 12/24, 4:25 EDT, Fox: Seattle Seahawks (8-6) vs. Dallas Cowboys (8-6). The winner of this NFC game is still in the playoff hunt, the loser is fini. Dallas wins: 24 – 17.  (Season to date 9-6).

College Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 12/23, 3:30 PM EDT, ESPN: Bowl Season, Armed Forces Bowl from Ft. Worth Texas: San Diego State Aztecs (10-2) vs. Army Black Knights (9-3). Most bowl games this season are yawners , this is a good one; Aztecs win 38 – 30.   (Season to date 9-6)

NHL Pick of the Week – Saturday 12/23, 8:00 PM PDT, CSHB: Two Division leaders; Washington Capitals (22-12-1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (22-9-2). Knights win 5 - 3.  Season to date (7-2).

NBA Pick of the Week – Monday 12/25 Noon PST, ABC: The annual Christmas Day NBA showcase, Cleveland Cavaliers (23-9) vs. Golden State Warriors (24-6), Huey says go with the Warriors, will do, 98 – 92. (season to date 0-0)

Season to Date (96 - 70)

Next Blog: 2017 Year in Review.

Until next time, Feliz Navidad

Claremont, California

December 21, 2017

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Merry Richness