Monday, February 27, 2017
Palm Springs midcentury modern architecture, which effortlessly blends desert and design, is all the rage. When Hollywood stars were contractually restricted to a residential radius that allowed for spontaneous meetings, Palm Springs, just over 100 miles east, offered both escape and access, drawing A-list residents like Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra.
Today Palm Springs and the surrounding communities offer a cool and classic vacation break. Though many travelers spend weeks reveling in Palm Springs modernism, surrounding communities from soak-centric Desert Hot Springs to Indio, site of the growing Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, expand the appeal of the valley, which, like the best midcentury modernist buildings here, effortlessly blends desert and design.
There are few better ways to get acquainted with the wealth of modernist architecture in Palm Springs than to ride around in the six-passenger minivan of Robert Imber, owner of Palm Springs Modern Tours. Leading three-hour tours ($85 per person), Mr. Imber covers about 35 miles of drive-by gaping at structures from the 1946 Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra to modernist banks and the 1952 Palm Springs City Hall. Tours start at the Palm Springs Visitors Center, in a dramatically cantilevered former gas station designed by Albert Frey, and offer acquaintance with the valley’s hero architects of the period like E. Stewart Williams and William F. Cody, as well as contemporary architects such as Lance O’Donnell and Sean Lockyer. Don’t leave without perusing the $2 vintage postcards of resorts and pools in the visitors’ center.
With a serious concentration of retailers selling curvy period couches, starburst-shaped lighting fixtures and other retro appointments, Palm Springs is a shopping mecca for fans of midcentury interiors. Hit the shop-filled Uptown Design District to indulge in fantasy home-feathering, beginning at Just Modern, dealing big-ticket furniture as well as more souvenir-friendly artwork, design books and dishware. Stop by the sprawling Trina Turk boutique featuring Ms. Turk’s sunny signature women’s wear collection as well as kicky shopping totes, notecards and swimwear. Across the street, Bon Vivant, Retrospect and A La Mod offer wonderfully curated collections of vintage housewares.
Given its legacy of Rat Pack steakhouses, country club surf-and-turf dinners and seniors’ early-bird specials, Palm Springs’ food scene has been conservative compared with its maverick taste in design. But earlier this year, the Italian chef Giacomo Pettinari, who previously earned a Michelin star at Valentino’s in Los Angeles, moved to the desert, attracted by the newly renovated luxury resort L’Horizon with the offer to lead its restaurant, Sopa. Mr. Pettinari’s menu surveys the Mediterranean from Turkish red pepper dip and roasted Spanish octopus starters to squid ink gnocchi and mushroom risotto. All seating is outdoors on a romantic terrace with lights dangling from the trees, ideal for sipping palomas. Dinner is about $100 for two, without drinks.
For after-dinner drinks and a retro spin on the dance floor, stop by Melvyn’s Restaurant. One has only to take in the wall of celebrity photos in the lounge to know Melvyn’s has a long history in Palm Springs. Known as a hangout of Frank Sinatra, the old-school restaurant has a new-school following, especially during the Coachella music festival, when parties frequently buy out the place. In its lounge, a pianist plays American standards and other pop numbers beside the dance floor.
Golf and tennis are perennial draws in the area, and the latter has been accented by the expansion of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in down-valley Indian Wells. Now owned by the Oracle Corporation founder Larry Ellison, who also owns the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament held this year on March 7 to 20, the tennis facility recently added a second stadium court and 16 more acres. The benefit to visitors is that they can play on many of the 29 courts on the club grounds. Keep your eye on the ball while taking in the mountain-ringed vistas (most clinics and drop-in classes start at $25). We especially like the Mountain Course at the La Quinta Resort for great vistas and a challenging round of golf.
Quench your thirst at the one of the best sports bars in the area, The Beer Hunter in La Quinta: good food, cheap drinks and plenty of televisions.
Those looking for an early-morning calorie burn might prefer the uphill battles of Gastin or Araby Trail, but a hike through Tahquitz Canyon (500 West Mesquite Avenue; 760-416-7044; www.tahquitzcanyon.com) offers a leisurely alternative. An entrance fee of $12.50 gets you access to a 1.8-mile loop and the sights and smells that come with it: desert plants, lizards aplenty and a stunning, 60-foot waterfall. Unless you have an intense interest in beavertail cactus and white sage, skip the two-hour ranger-led tours and explore the trail at your own pace.
The springs beneath Palm Springs and surrounding communities have formed the basis of a spa culture built on warm soaks. Immerse yourself in the palm-shaded hot pools of Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs, which recently switched entirely to solar power. The calming effect of the naturally occurring lithium is said to boost moods within 30 minutes (from $65). The spa’s restaurant Essence has been refashioned in organic materials, down to a bark-shorn tree trunk as a centerpiece. It serves tuna Niçoise salads ($15) and wagyu burgers ($15) to a damp, robe-clad clientele at lunch.
Walter and Leonore Annenberg, owners of the 200-acre Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, created a destination for world leaders, where Richard Nixon wrote his State of the Union address in 1974 and President Obama recently held a summit meeting with Southeast Asian leaders. In 2012, the property opened to the public, offering tours of the 1966 home designed by A. Quincy Jones. Ninety-minute tours of the 23-bedroom home cost $40, but the 17,000-square-foot visitors’ center, built in midcentury style, and the gardens are free, worth the trip to walk the shaded labyrinth and spy an impressive array of cactus.
If you live in Southern California or in Sudbury, Ontario Canada, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley offers a great escape from October to April, May through September, a great escape but the ITS’ HOT!
FARM BUST - Soon there will be fewer than two million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
The problem: A multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide is ... raising concerns that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s. ...
Key stat: American farmers' incomes will drop 9% in 2017, ... extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression into a fourth year."
What it means: This is another sign of a weakening America: The U.S. share of the global grain market is less than half what it was in the 1970s. ... U.S. farmers sowed the fewest acres of winter wheat this season in more than a century.
BANK TELLERS THE NEXT BLACKSMITHS - The new robo-banks that have no people: Bank of America is working on voice recognition technology called Erica (as in Bank of Am-ERICA) that will allow people to do virtual banking by voice with a computer, much as people use Amazon Alexa ... or Apple's Siri. Scary.
FORTUNE'S LIST OF THE WORLD'S MOST ADMIRED COMPANIES - Among megabanks, we have the usual suspects with JMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley in the top three slots. For superregional banks, U.S. Bancorp, PNC Financial Services Group and Northern Trust lead the pack, with U.S. Bancorp holding the top slot for the seventh consecutive year. The full list.
WARREN BUFFETT's annual letter -- always worth a read: http://bit.ly/2lnOmyo
Buffett devoted nearly 5 pages to condemning hedge funds for charging high fees while delivering meager results.
Immigration is good: Buffett said that you don't need to be an economist to understand that immigration has been at the foundation of what makes America great. Buffett never mentions Trump by name.
Stocks will continue to go up: "The years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines — even panics — that will affect virtually all stocks." But don't panic: "Yes, the build-up of wealth will be interrupted for short periods from time to time. It will not, however, be stopped."
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Drew Barrymore (42) Bel Air, CA.; Tricia Nixon Cox (71) Alexandria, VA.; Kate Mara (34) Brooklyn, NY.; Roger Penske (80) Bloomfield Hills, MI.; Sidney Poitier (90) Beverly Hills, CA.; Bob Schieffer (80) Austin, TX.; Maria Suffredini …famous niece.
COLLEGE CHRONICLES - “One of the greatest moral and economic inequities of our time.”
So said JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, on the number of young people who graduate without the skills to compete.
That is why JPMorgan Chase invested $75 million in New Skills for Youth, a global initiative designed to create new pathways to opportunity, to “align with the needs of growing industries,” says Dimon, “and give young people a chance to succeed.”
POTUS STRATEGY - The basic mystifying element of this is Donald Trump has an aggressive agenda that includes repealing a health care law whose popularity is growing; he wants to rewrite the tax code, jumpstart infrastructure spending across the country and build a wall on the border with Mexico. He needs support from 218 members of the House, and between 50 and 60 members of the Senate. Several top-level Republican aides in D.C. wondered why they would voluntarily choose to ban outlets, and therefore talk to fewer Americans when they're trying to sell an agenda! Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi -- the three most recent speakers of the House -- have had their fair share of rough times. But they dutifully come out and talk to the press corps every week -- at least once. At times they don't like it -- Boehner called it "feeding the alligators" -- but they do it.
GOOD READS - "The Librarian of Congress and the Greatness of Humility," by Sarah Larson in The New Yorker: "The values of Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first person of color in the position, can be seen in every aspect of the institution she runs." http://bit.ly/2mvSY5W
COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 3/4, 4:00 PM ET, HGTV: ECAC Women’s Hockey Tournament - #7 Cornell University Big Red (19-7-5) vs. #5 St. Lawrence University Saints (26-4-4). Saints head coach Chris Wells have the Lady Saints playing at their best, they will need it against Cornell, Saints win 5 – 3. Season to date (8-8)
THE SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
(NHL, March 4) Montreal Canadiens (33-21-8) at New York Rangers (40-20-2), Rangers are one of the best now in the NHL, they beat Les Habitants 3 – 2.
(NBA, March 4) Los Angeles Clippers (36-23) at Chicago Bulls (30-29), Bulls are playing better than their record indicates, they win in the Windy City 101 – 90.
Season to Date (25 – 13)
MARKET WEEK - Citigroup (C) is being investigated over its hiring practices, according to a SEC filing by the bank. The probe is focusing on whether preferential treatment was given to foreign government officials.
AT&T (T) has struck a joint venture deal with General Electric (GE) unit Current, aimed at connecting cities to the industrial internet.
Sony (SNE) sales of its virtual reality headset came to just under a million in its first four months on the market. Analysts tell Reuters that pace may be too slow to spur developers to come up with new software for the PlayStation VR.
The bidding for Kate Spade (KATE) is into its second round, with Reuters reporting that Michael Kors (KORS) and Coach (COH) among the companies still in contention to buy the handbag and accessories maker.
Under Armour (UAA) was downgraded to "reduce" from "neutral" at Nomura Securities, with the price target for the athletic apparel maker cut to $16 per share from $27.
DRIVING THE WEEK – Congress is back in town this week with the thorny Obamacare dilemma staring them in the face ... President Trump this morning meets with Nat'l Governors Assoc. members and health industry executives at the White House ... Trump addresses Congress Tuesday night in a defacto State of the Union (which doesn't carry that name the first time a president does it) ... Second estimate of Q4 GDP Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. expected to be revised up to 2.1 percent from 1.9 percent ... Consumer Confidence at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to dip to 111.0 from 111.7 ... ISM Manufacturing Survey at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday expected to be flat at 56.0 ... ISM Non-manufacturing Survey at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to dip to 56.4 from 56.6.
Big moment for the Trump presidency Tuesday evening as the bombastic and unconventional commander in chief addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time to lay out his legislative vision for the coming year. For now, Wall Street retains basic confidence that the president can deliver on promises of tax and regulatory reform that have driven stock prices to new records and stretched valuations to their highest point in over a decade.
Next Blog: Jack Ass and Words of the Month.
Until Next Time, Adios
February 27, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK –“Town Hall Meeting”
Monday, February 20, 2017
It is President’s Day in America today February 20. On a day when the Presidency in America is being keenly observed as an institution in great change and on a day we celebrate the 55th anniversary of John Glenn’s first orbital flight in space.
All of my Rink Rats Blog readers are very astute at managing their financial affairs, but like yours truly, every now and then you either get careless or shortsighted.
Time for our annual RR brush up on personal finances:
BEST PRACTICES FOR RECORD-KEEPING –
- Organize files and cabinets logically, and keep the system current.
- Don’t let filing get backlogged, and don’t file duplicate copies with originals.
- Sensitive and confidential files should be kept secure in a separate locked file cabinet.
- Original documents should be kept in a safe deposit box.
- Create file retention and destruction policies; in todays’ age of digital records kept paper trails for three years.
WHICH IS BETTER A WILL OR LIVING TRUST? –
One of the major differences between wills and living trusts is whether the estate has to go through probate, which is the court process that typically follows death. Living trusts avoid probate while wills do not.
Probate isn’t a big problem in many states, but in some — including California — it can be protracted, expensive and often worth avoiding. Another advantage of living trusts is privacy. While wills are entered into the public record, living trusts aren’t.
Living trusts can help you avoid another court-supervised process called conservancy. If you’re incapacitated, the person you’ve named as your “successor trustee” can take over management of your finances without going to court. To avoid the court process without a living trust, you’d need separate documents called powers of attorney. If you have minor children, your living trust trustee can manage their money for them. If you have a will, you would need to include language setting up a trust and naming a trustee.
One big disadvantage of living trusts is the cost. Although price tags vary, a lawyer typically charges a few hundred dollars for a will, while a living trust may cost a few thousand. Also, there’s some hassle involved, since property has to be transferred into the trust to avoid probate.
There are do-it-yourself options, including Nolo software and LegalZoom, that can save you money if your situation isn’t complicated and you’re willing to invest some time in learning about estate planning. If your situation is at all complicated, though — if you’re wealthy or have contentious relatives who are likely to challenge your documents — an experienced attorney’s help can be invaluable.
Whichever you decide, make sure that you have one or the other before too much longer. Otherwise, when you die, state law will determine who gets your stuff and who gets your kids.
START 2017 WITH A FINANCIAL CLEANSE –
Track your spending for the next 30 days
This exercise is as painful and time-consuming as it sounds. I’m listing it first because it’s the most important step. If you execute just one item on the list, do this.
The practice of tracking will make you more focused and frugal when it comes to spending money. You can compare it to a person tracking all of their calories or recording the weight they lift at the gym.
Assess all recurring subscriptions
Many people use at least one subscription service, such as a gym membership, wine club, meal delivery service, credit monitoring service or video streaming app. There’s nothing wrong as long as you know how many you have and are receiving the value you expect. Ask yourself whether you’d join now if you weren’t already a member.
Save your annual raise (if you are lucky to get one)
Often, merit increases go into effect and bonuses are paid in the first quarter. Make a habit of increasing the amount of your paycheck that goes to savings every time you get a raise. You can do this by increasing your 401(k) contribution percentage or the amount you send to your taxable investment or savings account.
Renegotiate with vendors
This is a tactic from my experience in corporate finance. Every year, we’d list all of our vendors, assess the value of each and try to renegotiate better rates. Consider your cable, Internet and phone service as a starting point and get more creative from there.
Book your 2017 travel early
If you aren’t a planner, this can be tough. However, you might already know a few weddings or family events you’ll need to travel for this year. Bite the bullet, open your calendars and book a few months ahead of time. Look for no-fee, refundable options when possible. Some airlines have better policies than others, and most hotels let you cancel without a fee up to a few days in advance.
Record your charitable giving
Setting up a tracking system for charitable contributions is simple but beneficial. In the past, I’ve tracked the big-ticket charitable contributions, but failed to capture several small ones.
Clean out your closets and purge items you no longer need. Get a receipt for your donations. More charitable contributions tracked equals more money in your pocket when you file your tax returns.
Check your credit
It can take some time to remove inaccurate information from your credit report. Request a copy of your credit report now to ensure that everything looks correct. If you wait until a company is performing a credit check, it probably will be too late to report an error, which could lead you to receive higher interest rates or loan denials.
Keeping your finances under control takes time and effort. Now is the time to reflect and recalibrate for a healthy and prosperous 2017.
FIVE FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2017 –
Set a budget
Knowing where and how you’re spending your money is the first step to getting your finances in order. Start a simple spreadsheet that lists all your expenses along with your net income, or use a budgeting app such as Mint. Look for ways to pare your variable expenses — costs that aren’t fixed — so you fit in funds for savings and retirement.
Invest in your 401(k) or an IRA
If your employer offers a 401(k), you should certainly take advantage of it — even if you start with a small amount, such as 3% of your income. 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts are great, because the amount you contribute can be excluded from your taxable income. Many employers will match your 401(k) contribution, up to a certain percentage, which doubles your contribution each time.
Increase your 401(k) or IRA contribution
If you’re already contributing to your company’s 401(k), bravo! Now, increase the amount you contribute by a percentage point or two. Use the same approach for an IRA. If your employer offers a match, try to increase your contribution to at least meet that match maximum so you reap the full benefits the company is offering.
Pay off your debt
Getting out of debt will mean you’ll have more money to contribute to saving for your future and, ultimately, more financial freedom. One strategy is to focus first on the smaller debts you may have, such as credit card balances, which also may have relatively high interest rates.
Start an emergency fund
Having an emergency fund can offer financial relief and peace of mind in tough situations. Start by setting a goal of saving $1,000 in your emergency fund. Even if you put just $84 a month into an account, you’ll reach your goal within the year. If you need to dip into the account for an emergency, just make sure to replenish that amount.
It’s never too late to get started, so pick one or all the goals listed above and start setting yourself up for your best money year yet.
Finally, the average small investor to stick with low-cost index funds
An index fund is a mutual fund designed to mirror the performance of one of the major indices (e.g., the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, Wilshire 5000, Russell 2000, etc.) Unlike traditional, actively managed mutual funds where portfolio managers evaluate, analyze and acquire individual stocks, index funds are passively managed.
Basically, this means they consist of a pre-selected group of stocks that rarely, if ever, changes.
Index funds are ideal for those who have no idea how to evaluate competitive advantages of various corporations, differentiate an income statement from a balance sheet, or calculate discounted cash flows. Because company-specific risk is diversified away thanks to the dozens or hundreds of companies that make up each of the major indices, such analysis is not necessary. In addition, an index fund is a cost effective way to acquire hundreds of stocks while avoiding the thousands of dollars in brokerage commissions that would otherwise result.
Actively managed mutual funds must pay portfolio managers, analysts, research subscription fees and the like. The percentage of a fund's total expenses including its 12b-1 fees divided by its average net assets is known as the expense ratio. Because index funds are non-managed (and require none of the aforementioned expenses), the expense ratio is almost nill compared to the average mutual fund. This means that less of the investor's money goes to paying overhead, compensation and sales charges. Over the long-run, the lower costs associated with index funds can result in significantly improved performance.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week Jeff Daniels (62) Chelsea, MI.; Gretchen Pugliese …famous health care manager; Andrew Ross Sorkin (40) Scarsdale, NY.; Maria Suffredini …famous niece.
TAX 101 - Tax time is here and the health care expenses you've paid all year may actually help lower your tax bill, or even get you money back. Here are Rink Rats top 10 tips for making the most of health care deductions.
Tip No. 1: Open an HSA.
Health Savings Accounts are tax-free ways to save money for medical expenses. This can be a good way to save for your future while enjoying tax benefits today.
Tip No. 2: Plan your spending.
Remember you only get deductions above 10 percent of your income. This means that if you can group expenses into one year instead of spreading them out, you'll reap tax rewards.
Tip No. 3: See if you can deduct your premiums.
If you pay for your own insurance, you get tax benefits. Sometimes you get this benefit by paying with pretax money, but if you don't, you can deduct your premiums.
Tip No. 4: Check approved medical expenses.
The IRS' Publication 502 lists all the eligible medical deductions you can take, even unexpected items like air conditioners and weight loss programs - as long as it's doctor recommended.
Tip No. 5: Consider vision and dental.
Expenses incurred by spouses and dependents are also tax deductible. Even expenses of a non-dependent - a parent, for example –may be tax deductible.
Tip No. 6: Include the expenses of everyone listed on your tax return.
Expenses incurred by spouses and dependents are also tax deductible. Even expenses of a non-dependent - a parent, for example - may be tax deductible.
Tip No. 7: Did you need to alter your house?
If you have certain medical conditions, altering your home, as long as a doctor recognized the benefit, are largely tax deductible.
Tip No. 8: Consider travel costs.
Gas money, hotel stays and other travel expenses associated with health care are tax deductible.
Tip No. 9: Always itemize.
Schedule A itemization can help you keep track of what you've deducted. Over the course of the year, keep track of your deductible expenses and save your receipts.
Tip No. 10: 10 is the magic number.
You can deduct medical expenses above 10 percent of your income. This means that if you make $50,000 a year, you can deduct expenses above $5,000.
A UNIQUE PRESIDENT ON PRESIDENT’S DAY –
The son of a Baptist preacher who had emigrated from northern Ireland, Chester A. Arthur was America's 21st President (1881-85), succeeding President James Garfield upon his assassination.
Arthur, a mutton-chopped emblem of the political-patronage culture of the day, was never even elected to the highest office. His ascent was made possible by Charles J. Guiteau, the man who gunned down President James Garfield in a railroad station, thus promoting Arthur from the vice presidency.
To contemporaries, the situation seemed dire. Arthur’s administration surely would be defined by unprecedented greed and corruption, full of woefully underqualified appointees lacking any experience in government. Even the most optimistic American could hardly have imagined that Arthur’s presidency would be a success.
But over time in his Presidency Chester Arthur redeemed himself: He championed civil-service reform, hobbling the “spoils system” with which he had been so closely associated. He restored faith in the presidency, and faith in what the presidency can restore in its occupants. “No man ever entered the presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur,” wrote the Gilded Age journalist Alexander K. McClure, “and no one ever retired ... more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”
Remind you of 2017? Let's hope so.
POTUS ONE MONTH - 24: Executive orders and memoranda signed. That includes orders to withdraw the United States from Trans-Pacific trade deal, impose a federal hiring freeze and reduce regulations related to the health care law enacted under former President Barack Obama. ... 25.1 million. Twitter followers for @realDonaldTrump. ... 4: Visits from foreign leaders. (Britain, Japan, Canada, Israel.) 1: Cancelled visit from foreign leader. (Mexico.) ... 39: Percent of respondents who approve of Trump's job performance in Pew Research Center poll conducted Feb. 7-12.... 3: Weekend trips to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/25, 7:00 PM CT, FSN+: #20 Wisconsin Badgers (17-10-1) at #5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-8-2). The longtime rivals meet yet again, Ten thousand lakes beat the cheese heads, 6 – 3. Season to date (7-8)
THE SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
(NHL, Feb. 25) Anaheim Ducks (31-19-10) at Los Angeles Kings (28-26-4), a must win for the Kings in their battle for a playoff spot, Kings win 3 – 2.
(NBA, Feb. 25) Chicago Bulls (28-29) at Cleveland Cavaliers (39-16), Cavs win in a breeze, 100 – 85.
(Oscars, Feb. 26) Best Picture – La La Land
Best Actor – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress – Emma Stone – La La Land
Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis, Fences
Season to Date (19 – 11)
DRIVING THE WEEK – Tuesday is the final voting day for The Oscars prior to next Sunday’s 89th Academy Awards. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee will release the minutes of its January meeting on Wednesday. They could give an indication of the likelihood of another interest rate increase at the next meeting in March. Tesla Motors will release its fourth quarter earnings report Wednesday. The company has yet to score an annual profit.
Next Blog: Head to the Springs.
Until Next Time, Adios
February 20, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK –Mike Lukovich
Friday, February 17, 2017
These are certainly interesting times, when fiction is becoming nonfiction.
President George Bush, 43 in 2009 said to incoming President Barack Obama, don’t mess with the intelligence community. They have their agenda, they leak, play ball with them.
President Trump take notice, I wonder if President Obama passed that information on to President Trump?
Notice all the leaks and information coming out these days, especially after in the run up to his inauguration President Trump criticized the intelligence community.
Longtime Washington watchers are talking a lot about the beast Trump is rousing, partly unwittingly -- the bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all the hidden powers of permanent Washington. A great piece in February 16th’s The New York Times "The Interpreter" column by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, "Echoes of a 'Deep State' as a Culture of Conflict Gains New Intensity."
Using the decapitation of Flynn as a case study, the authors point to "growing reliance on leaks and other tools of bureaucratic resistance":
"This risks entrenching a culture of bureaucratic warfare that is adversarial and dysfunctional by default — not quite a Turkish-style deep state, but not a healthy democracy either."
"Though the deep state is sometimes discussed as a shadowy conspiracy, it helps to think of it instead as a political conflict between a nation's leader and its governing institutions."
"That can be deeply destabilizing, leading both sides to wield state powers like the security services or courts against one another, corrupting those institutions in the process."
U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials. The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him and blamed them and the news media for the downfall of Mike Flynn, his national security adviser. Meanwhile, Andy Puzder, Mr. Trump’s pick for Labor secretary, withdrew himself from consideration in a significant personnel blow to the White House, after Republican support in the Senate disintegrated.
Wall Street Journal front-page tease, "Is This Trump's Watergate?," to column by Dan Henninger: "Unless Team Trump gets back to the basics of the 2016 election, 1974 could return ... A president's blood is in the water and another White House staff can only look out the windows as the sharks arrive."
"A good question is whether they'll drain the swamp before the swamp swallows them. ... Trump and Bannon should give an older member of the Washington establishment a temporary Oval Office visa to talk about what it was like during Watergate."
TWENTY EIGHT DAYS - Donald Trump will hit the four4-week-mark today (Friday) on a presidency that has begun like no other - full of big promises, constant controversy, the ever-present encroaching of major scandal, and zero regard for the previous norms of American politics. Beneath the noise, however, there has been a march, however halting and disorganized, toward Trump's promised radical remaking of American policy, foreign and domestic. The border wall his critics said he'd never build has been ordered, his promised rollback of regulations is in full swing, his Supreme Court pick that will likely sit on the bench for decades, and even the 'Muslim ban' he promised during the Republican primary was put in place, however briefly, in altered form. The dual track is familiar to those who watched his campaign, during which a series of controversies and scandals garnered mass attention while few foresaw Trump's success in building a winning coalition. But a presidency is a longer race than even the campaign, and it remains to be seen if Trump can outrun his missteps the way he did last fall. So far, Trump has signed at least 23 executive actions, signed five bills into law, seen 12 members of his cabinet confirmed, nominated one justice to the Supreme Court, sent 167 (undeleted) tweets, fired one acting attorney general and demanded at one resignation: that of his own national security adviser.
"To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country."
This is flatly false. The unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, compared to nearly 8 percent when President Obama took office and the economy has created jobs for 76 straight months, including nearly 12 million under Obama. Broader measures of joblessness are going down, wages are rising and the labor force is getting larger, albeit slowly. Could all this be better? Sure. But to call it a mess, as Cosmo Kramer would say, is kooky talk.
"It was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan."
Well no, it wasn't, as NBC's Peter Alexander later pointed out to the president. Both of Obama's were bigger. Both of Bill Clinton's were bigger. Then Trump said me meant biggest Republican electoral college win since Reagan. Only that's not true either. George H. Bush won 426 electoral votes in 1988, over 100 more than Trump.
Yes fiction is becoming nonfiction, stay tuned.
CHILL OUT AMERICA –
For the right - "The politics of globaloney: Pankaj Ghemawat and Steven A. Altman [both of the Center for the Globalization of Education and Management at NYU's Stern School of Business] say the world is far less globalized than protectionists think":
"The United States imported goods and services worth 15 percent of its gross domestic product in 2015. ... Just five nations imported less relative to the size of their economies: Sudan, Argentina, Nigeria, Brazil and Iran."
"First-generation immigrants make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population. The United States ranks 27th in the world."
"It's worth remembering what happened last time globalization went into reverse. After the United States passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, reprisals followed and global trade plunged by two-thirds. The collapse of the first wave of globalization was a major contributor to the Great Depression."
For the left - Not every Trump outrage is outrageous. Never-Trump Republican Tom Nichols [a professor at the Naval War College] says the president's critics should modulate their panic":
"Unmodulated shock and outrage ... not only burn precious credibility ... but eventually will exhaust the public and increase the already staggering amount of cynicism paralyzing our national political life."
"The media seems to despise Trump more than any president in modern history, even Richard Nixon. (Reuters recently issued guidance on covering the Trump administration the same way its reporters cover authoritarian regimes around the world)."
"This continual panic is short-circuiting any reasonable debate ... by indulging Trump's fiercest opponents in the belief that something could destroy his presidency before it has a chance to govern."
COLLEGE CHRONICLES – COLLEGES PUSH BACK ON TRUMP IMMIGRATION ORDER: Nearly 600 college presidents have written to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expressing concerns about the president's executive order that halted the admission of new refugees into the U.S., imposed an indefinite ban on the entry of refugees from Syria, and suspended the entry of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
TUITION IS A HOT TOPIC: Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, announced this week that he wants to cut tuition by 5 percent in the state's University of Wisconsin System campuses. The plan would require UW campuses to provide three-year degree options and allow students to opt out of segregated fees for campus student activities. Another 2016 GOP presidential contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, reiterated the need this week for his Jan. 31 proposal seeking a tuition freeze for all public colleges and universities, according to the Lantern student newspaper. At the Ohio Newspaper Association's annual conference, Kasich also questioned how much longer students would want to pay for a high-priced college education "when they can get the same college education provided online.
HARVARD COMES TO LOBBY: Drew Faust, Harvard's president, headed down the to D.C. last month to talk to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about the school's tax exemption, (Schumer's got a couple Harvard degrees.). Faust said she talked up the need to support research and protect endowments. Rep. Thomas Reed (R-N.Y.), a tax writer and member of Trump's transition team, has floated the idea of forcing schools with 10-figure endowments to spend at least a quarter of their yearly endowment income on financial aid if they want to keep their exemption.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Hank Aaron (83) Orlando, FL.; Michael Bloomberg (75) Manhattan, NY.; Garth Brooks (55) Dallas, TX.; Sheryl Crow (55) Nashville, TN.; Laura Dern (50) Hollywood, CA.; Carole King (75) Greenwich, CT.; Kevin Marshall …famous at the Law; John Williams (85) Beverly Hills, CA.; Chuck Yeager (94) Phoenix, AZ.
UNION LABEL - California unions grow as U.S. rolls shrink: Love unions or hate them, California continues to be a relative hotbed for organized labor. A new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows union influence in the entire California workplace grew slightly last year, a stark contrast to declining union rolls nationwide.
THE GOLDEN STATE? - California poverty: The high cost of just about everything: The US Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure puts California's poverty rate at 20.6 percent, just above Florida, which sits at 19 percent. By comparison, the state with the lowest poverty rate is New Hampshire at 8.7 percent. The supplemental poverty measure takes into account the cost of living, taxes, house and medical costs. The poverty threshold in California is an average of $30,000 for a two-adult, two-child family depending on the region of the state.
SNAPCHAT IPO – I have never used Snapchat, but I know the app from my students. Filing to go public, Snapchat's parent, Snap Inc., says it plans to raise $3 billion. The key numbers:
158 million daily average users and 2.5 billion snaps per day. More than 60% of users create snaps each day.
$514 million net loss on around $404 million in revenue last year, compared to a $373 million net loss on $59 million in revenue in 2015.
Co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy each hold just under 22% of the company's Class A shares, and 2% of its Class B stock.
Spiegel currently makes $500,000 in annual salary, but that will drop to just $1 at the time of IPO (plus, of course, a possible $1 million annual bonus).
THE DEAL - Snapchat's parent company has set its IPO terms to 200 million shares being offered at between $14 and $16 per share. It would have an initial market cap of around $17.4 billion were it to price in the middle of its range, or around $19,.5 billion on a fully-diluted basis (per Renaissance Capital). It plans to trade on the NYSE under ticker symbol SNAP, with Morgan Stanley listed as left-lead manager. It's also worth noting that Evan Spiegel is selling 16 million shares in the offering, while certain early investors (Benchmark, Lightspeed, General Catalyst, SV Angel) also are unloading some shares.
APPLE HARVEST - Apple snapped out of three straight quarters of falling revenue as strong demand for the iPhone 7 raised investors’ hopes that the technology giant is emerging from its roughest period since it reinvented the market for mobile devices. Sales of the new smartphone model, which Apple unveiled in September, propelled total iPhone shipments 5% higher to a record during the three months through December. iPhones, which account for two-thirds of Apple’s sales, helped boost total revenue 3% to a record $78.4 billion. Apple’s services business—which includes its App Store sales and its music and payments services—continued to boom. Revenue in that segment jumped 18% from a year ago to $7.2 billion. Still, we report that the results overall showed that Apple continues to struggle to regain the type of momentum that made it the world’s most valuable company.
APPLE HIGH - Apple shares closed at a record high on Monday as analysts predicted that the next iPhone would lift sales. The stock rose by under 1 percent, closing at $133.29. The surge boosted Apple's value to $699 billion, pushing it past Google parent Alphabet to reclaim the title of most valuable company in the world. Google's value at its latest share price is $573 billion.
THE WAY WE WERE - “Meet the Beatles” became Billboard #1 in United States today 1964:
POTUS NOT A HEALTH NUT - President Trump's personal habits (diet, sleep, exercise): Aides ... during the campaign marveled at the lax health habits of a 70 year-old obsessed with appearance. Here was a man fixated on his personal brand and look ... And yet he ate and worked out (or, rather, didn't) like a man who's slept through the last 50 years of public-health warnings." Among the nuggets:
He guzzled Diet Coke all day long. Fast food was a constant. The "three staples," in the words of one aide: Domino's, KFC, and McDonald's. Big Macs were served on silver trays in his private jet.
Trump loves big steaks, preferably the ones served at his clubs. ... Trump snacks on original-flavored Lay's potato chips and vanilla-flavored Keebler Vienna Fingers.
Says a former aide: "He used to love Oreos but he really did stop eating them once they moved [their plants] to Mexico."
SIGN OF THE TIMES - One of Washington's best-connected Republicans passes along this bit of gallows humor that's going around establishment D.C.:
"Trump is like Ollie North. He actually believes the stuff he's lying about."
TAX MAN - The slower pace for tax refunds this year could end up slowing consumer spending by as much as $21 billion in February, Bloomberg reports. The 2015 tax extender deal forced the IRS to postpone handing out refunds from the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, in an effort to battle fraud. Economist Spencer Hill estimated that this February's refunds could be half as much as the same month last year, leading to an almost 2 percent drop in personal consumption that is likely to even out later in the filing season.
WEEKEND READ - Sara Fischer, wrote a must-read on how 10 years of tech innovations ate the media -- and reengineered our mind. It's loaded with eye-popping data, and captures perfectly how we plan to analyze and write about media trends hitting our lives, business, tech and politics. The most fascinating tidbits from "Searching for information nirvana: How tech ate the media and our minds":
A Microsoft study found that since 2000, our attention spans have been cut by 25 percent -- to shorter than that of a goldfish.
Facebook and Google now own 8 of the 10 top-selling apps and control NINETY PERCENT of all growth in media ad spend. "The house always wins," Jim and Sara wrote.
Per Gallup, "68% of people don't trust the news they see or read. Think about that: most people don't trust REAL news."
UNDER ARMOUR”S TROUBLES – 2016-2017 University of La Verne athletic supplier Under Armour Inc. (UA) disappointed analysts with fourth-quarter results that came in below expectations. The company's shares have plunged 23% so far this year. Standard and Poor's piled on by downgrading Under Armour's debt to a junk rating .
SUPER BOWL AD WRAP - There were a few sort-of political ads from Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Audi (among others) but concludes that "escapism and sentimentality were the strategy for many advertisers as brands tried to provide an antidote to the weighty issues facing the country this year. Mr. Clean was unexpectedly portrayed as something of a sex symbol. No clear cut favorite ad for this year.
NFL GAME OF THE WEEK – Congrats to the New England Patriots on their fifth Super Bowl victory. Season to date (18-3)
COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 2/18, 8:00 PM ET, BTN: #5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-8-2) at #9 Penn State Nitany Lions (18-6-2). Big Ten hockey at its best, Penn State wins 6 – 4. Season to date (7-7)
THE SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
(NHL, Feb. 18) Ottawa Senators (30-19-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (26-19-11), Leafs are struggling, time for a good game, 4 – 2.
(SCIAC, Feb. 18) Men’s Hoops - California Lutheran Kingsmen (17-6) at La Verne Leopards (16-7), battle for second place, Leos win 66 – 60.
Season to Date (18 – 9)
REMEMBERING MIKE ILITCH – Mike Ilitch died this week in Detroit, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings since 1982, the Detroit Tigers since 1992, he has almost signal handily rebuilt the City of Detroit. Al Kaline, Mr. Tiger, remembered Mr. Ilitch this past week:
The venerable Al Kaline stepped outside of the club’s brand new executive offices at TigerTown Saturday morning. Somehow, the postcard blue sky and 70-degree sunshine didn’t jibe with prevailing feeling of loss.
“I’ve probably known Mr. I longer than most people alive,” Kaline said, reflecting on the death of Tigers owner Mike Ilitch on Friday night. “We go way back, before he bought the Tigers.”
Kaline told a poignant story of a meeting he had with Ilitch at the infamous Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township in 1975. It was a window into the character of both men and a precursor of Ilitch’s vision and tenacity.
“I think I made him really mad,” Kaline said of that first meeting. “It was back in 1975 after I had retired and he offered me a huge amount of money to play one game of softball.”
Ilitch was then the owner of a professional slow-pitch softball team, the Detroit Caesars, his first foray into sports ownership. That club would win two American Professional Slow Pitch League championships and feature of Kaline’s former teammates – Norm Cash, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup.
“I turned him down,” Kaline said. “He said, ‘You are turning down $10,000 to play one game?’ And that was a lot of money back in those days. I said, “Mr. Ilitch, I will never put on another uniform other than the Detroit Tigers.
“I think it made him mad but later I think he appreciated it and it’s why he hired me upstairs in the front office. Because money wasn’t a big issue, only my love for the Tigers. My loyalty to the Tigers is what it was all about.”
Kaline worked as the club’s color commentator on its television broadcasts from 1975 through 2002. Ilitch hired him as a special assistant in 2003 and the two had been together since.
“He was a great man,” Kaline said. “He was the start of getting downtown Detroit turned around. Everybody said, ‘What’s he moving his offices downtown for, my goodness?’ Detroit was terrible back then. But boy, as we see now, it’s really coming back…He was the start of it.
“I just wish we could have gotten the ultimate goal for him (world championship).”
Next Blog: Head to the Springs.
Until Next Time, Adios
February 17, 2017
CARTOON OF THE WEEK –New York Post