Friday, February 17, 2017

House of Cards

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.


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 CHRONICLESCOLLEGES 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)


(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

Claremont, California
February 17, 2017


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