Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Darth Vader Wins the 2016 Presidential Race? I'll Vote for Lex Luthor Myself

At least Lex Luthor ran a successful business (Lexcorp.) Darth Vader is pretty much just a mouth-piece and thuggish muscle for the Emperor. Fear does not lower my taxes Mr. Emperor. However, Vader could always choke out Putin and solve the Ukrainian mess. I'm sure many people will prefer the non-denominational Stormtroopers over the ISIS Islamic thugs any day.

In any case it seems that Vader is beating the field going into the 2016 Presidential Horse Race.

The results of a comparison of the net favorability ratings of Star Wars characters and U.S. political figures, published in The Washington Post, suggest Americans would choose a fictional evil villain as president over Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Emperor Palpatine, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Cuomo, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Martin O’Malley, Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Rick Santorum, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and, of course, Congress — in that order.

Obama Embarks on his West-Coast Money Swing

It seems that no scandal or crisis can deter the President from his sworn duty to raise cash from rich people.

On Wednesday Obama was attending a Democratic National Committee event for about 450 donors at the Beverly Hills home of Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the Washington-set ABC drama "Scandal." Kerry Washington, who plays the lead role on the show, is among the hosts. Tickets start at $1,000.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama was attending events for the House Majority PAC, a committee that can raise unlimited funds for House candidates, and another for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The House Majority PAC event was closed to the press. Obama had once criticized those types of organizations for creating an end-run around political contribution limits, but Democrats have now embraced the system and Obama has agreed to appear before group events but not to solicit funds.

Donations to the DCCC event at the Los Altos, Calif., home of Real estate developer George Marcus range from $10,000 per person to $32,400 per couple.

I guess that is Obama's plan to tackle income inequality one $10,000 to $32,400 donation at a time.

Whats Up with the Ennui? Americans Seem Discontent in the Summer of 2014

I recently read this article about Dicks Sporting Goods firing 200 golf pros because golf is hitting that companies bottom line hard.

Yesterday Dicks Sporting Goods (DKS) announced it would be cutting more than 400 PGA professionals in its stores. Dicks has been candid about the downturn in its golf business before, in its last conference call CEO Ed Stack said the downturn in golf was responsible for the vast majority of the company's earnings shortfall and added that he saw no bottom in sight for the business. Still it's a significant concession to fire these pros. After all, Dicks first expanded heavily into golf in 2007. Golf survived the Great Recession but can't hack the sense of ennui of 2014.

I also saw on ESPN that golf and NASCAR are seriously hurting for viewers and are trying everything to get people to watch and to show up. It also seems that Americans are barely going to the movies.

It's not just weather-related things like golf. Americans aren't even going to the movies anymore either. July box office is off 30% compared to last year. It's the worst year for American cinema since 2011. Hell, it's almost August and we don't even have a song of the summer yet.

Well the movies in July have been fairly substandard so that might be part of it. Last year we had Wolverine, the Conjuring, Pacific Rim and Despicable Me 2. While this year we have Earth to Echo (bombed,) Tammy (Melissa Mccarthy looking gross and sloppy,) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (the first one didn't do much for me,) Sex Tape (which looks like a bomb,) and Hurcules (I'm going to see it but it is the Rock with fake looking hair fighting CGI monsters.) So the slate is very bare and a 30% drop off was not a huge shock.

But there does seem to be a palpable sense of ennui in the country. I think part of it is people are tired of Obama and the scandal/crisis parade. I need a spreadsheet to keep track of the scandals and there is a sense that he has just checked out on America. We have four crisis all going on at the same time. Israel is attacking Hamas in Gaza, ISIS has taken over western Iraq and part of Syria, Ukrainian rebels shoot down a Malaysian jetliner, and 50,000 unaccompanied kids entered the country illegally from Mexico. All of those things are going on and the President plays golf, tries to go on Jimmy Kimmel, and jets off to $30K a plate rubber chicken dinners. If he doesn't seem to care about what is happening why should anyone else?

We couple that with the fact that there is no real happy craze in the country to unite us. The World Cup was popular but most Americans kind of ignored it after we were eliminated. The iPhone and the iPad are long in the tooth and won't be refreshed until fall. There are "disruptive companies" like Uber and Wealthfront and such but most Americans who aren't millennials or really tech savvy don't know what those are. Plus some people see the companies as some 20-something kids getting rich off of venture capital money while eliminating cab drivers jobs. There is no beanie babies or Gangnam Style or anything to keep peoples minds off of things even for just a little while.

There is also a sense that the old world of video stores, book stores, computer stores, cab drivers, travel agents, etc is being replaced by a shiny new one on your tablet or smart phone. The ritual of going to the mall to rent a DVD or buy a new summertime best seller has been replaced by a few swipes on your tablet on the Amazon app and scrolling through Netflix. There are so many entertainment choices at your fingertips you are bored of them already. So people stay in their sweltering homes staring at their tiny screens all weekend. Or go to the seashore and stare at their tiny screens while sitting in the sun.

Then we have wages stagnant and the FED punishing savers with terrible interest rates. There was a recession and a housing blow-up and no one went to jail or were punished or anything. Those same banks and insurance companies that were bailed out are raking in the money again. We have just about everyone calling for a correction or a crash. Most Americans seemed to have been gun-shy and missed almost the entire massive stock market move since 2008. So they missed the huge run-up and now that they get a little breathing room and want to get back into the market we get calls for a crash just around the corner. I can see why the American people are just as checked out as the President.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interesting Article on Why You Should *Not* Go to an Ivy

This is a very thought provoking article on how the Ivy League is not all its cracked up to be when it comes to creating well-rounded adults.

The major reason for the trend is clear. Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools. The SAT is supposed to measure aptitude, but what it actually measures is parental income, which it tracks quite closely. Today, fewer than half of high-scoring students from low-income families even enroll at four-year schools.

This creates quite a few people that are really smart, with awesome work ethic, but you end up with this:

Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation. A large-scale survey of college freshmen recently found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.

You have scared kids that think they are a failure if they fail at becoming a partner at a prestigious law firm or a CEO. What is interesting is that these kids will keep the privilege going from one generation to the next regardless of race.

The truth is that the meritocracy was never more than partial. Visit any elite campus across our great nation, and you can thrill to the heart-warming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. Kids at schools like Stanford think that their environment is diverse if one comes from Missouri and another from Pakistan, or if one plays the cello and the other lacrosse. Never mind that all of their parents are doctors or bankers.

So there is no real economic or class diversity. You end up with clueless people that have no idea about the life of the regular working-class person or worse people that look down on them. Case in point is Congress and Wall Street. Many of them are Ivy Leaguers who have no idea what it was like to wait tables or live paycheck to paycheck. They lived in the bubble of privilege and move their kids onto the same treadmill of success that they went down. Also this article has concrete steps to change things.

The education system has to act to mitigate the class system, not reproduce it. Affirmative action should be based on class instead of race, a change that many have been advocating for years. Preferences for legacies and athletes ought to be discarded. SAT scores should be weighted to account for socioeconomic factors. Colleges should put an end to résumé-stuffing by imposing a limit on the number of extracurriculars that kids can list on their applications. They ought to place more value on the kind of service jobs that lower-income students often take in high school and that high achievers almost never do. They should refuse to be impressed by any opportunity that was enabled by parental wealth. Of course, they have to stop cooperating with U.S. News.

You might get more kids that work hard but who's parents are Latino immigrants that could barely speak English. That might improve the compassion that this potential "Ivy League leader" will have toward his fellow man going forward.

Obama Might be Buying a $4.25 million House in Rancho Mirage's Thunderbird Heights

It is all speculative at this point but who knows?

The main house has 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and a "master retreat with gym, tanning and spa rooms" in 6,100 square feet, according to the listing. There's also a 2,000-square-foot "casita" -- perfect for the Secret Service, perhaps? -- with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. Elevators ease travel at the compound. 

The grounds' 3 acres also include a putting green with a sand trap, a 20-foot waterfall, a "rock-formed lagoon," a pool and two spas, and more. 

Because the property is on a hilltop abutting a bighorn sheep preserve, it's exceptionally private and secure, the listing says.

Sounds like an ideal Presidential compound for when he is out of the Oval Office. Rancho Mirage has like 7 Golf Courses in a few minutes drive according to Google maps. Also that privacy allows him to host some nice dinner parties with the literati and powerful elite that Obama will eventually hold court with. I'm sure nearly every Los Angeles based movie star, writer, economist, artist and such will make that pilgrimage to kiss his ring. Kind of the pseudo-intellectual version of the Playboy Mansion where you replace sex with bloviating.

Apple Beats on Earnings but Falls Short of Revenue: Why I Think IBM will Be Awesome for Them

It seems Apple is making more money and selling iPhones like crazy but they fell short of what the analysts were forecasting.

Apple posted its second straight quarter of double-digit percentage growth in iPhone sales. The company also reported net income of $7.7 billion, slightly more than the $7.49 billion that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected, on revenue of $37.4 billion, just under the $37.98 billion the analysts had expected. Per-share profit came in at $1.28, compared with the expected  $1.23, a number adjusted for Apple’s recent 7-for-1 stock split.

What was really interesting is that they increased gross margin from 39.4% from 36.9% from a year ago. Even though there phones are ready for a refresh they were still able to keep prices the same and people paid them in record numbers. 

I really think the IBM deal will bring in an influx of business from the corporate end. If you want a tablet for your business then Android is just not ready for prime time. You have to buy these third party apps that connect with your corporate email. You have no idea if they are being made by the NSA or hackers or what. The iPad just works and now IBM could tightly integrate themselves with the iMac and that cubicle machine might go from a Dell to an Apple PC after the next refresh cycle. The consumer market is big and robust but the business market is massive as well. 

Ackman Lays an Egg in Herbalife "Deathblow"

I guess it was just too good to be true because if you were short Herbalife you got pounded.

Shares of Herbalife rose steadily in the morning after Ackman started giving his talk on Herbalife’s nutritional clubs, increasing by 8% to $58.40 in the first hour of the presentation. Two hours into the talk the stock had risen by 11% to $60. That’s a little higher than the shares were changing hands for on Monday before Ackman drove down the stock by 11%, saying he would be delivering “the most important presentation that I have made in my career.” Ackman had promised in a CNBC interview on Monday that “we won’t disappoint.” Ackman’s presentation was still going on at 1:07 p.m., with the stock up by 15% to $62.22. During the presentation, Ackman suggested that Herbalife had been repurchasing shares in a material way on Tuesday. Shares of Herbalife continued to rise after the three-hour presentation ended, closing at $67.77, up 25% for the day.

I guess it would be up to the FBI and the FDA to look into the claims and release their rulings. In any case the stock is about the same price it was before the "deathblow" was being attempted. I guess if you believe the company is a scam it would be a good place to go short. If not there is a triple bottom in the stock and it will probably go up for a while now. 

Looks like the Soviets err the Russians Weren't Directly Involved with Shooting Down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

It was all a mix-up it seems.

They say the passenger jet was likely felled by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia "created the conditions" for the downing by arming the separatists.

They said they did not know if any Russians were present at the missile launch, and they wouldn't say that the missile crew was trained in Russia.

A senior official said the most likely explanation was the plane was shot down by mistake.

I guess the Ukrainian separatists shot down the wrong plane thinking it was a troop transport instead of a passenger jet. So slapped-wrists all around, and some "condemn with the strongest possible terms" and play on.   

I'm sure Obama was afraid that his luncheon with Jay-Z or whomever was going to get pushed back. Now he can be on Jimmy Kimmel and crack some jokes next week after things go back to normal.

Netflix Goes into Content Overdrive

It seems like Netflix is slowly becoming a major studio in its own right.

“In the coming weeks, we will premiere the all new 4th and final season of The Killing and a new adult animated comedy BoJack Horseman. Also in August, we will release Mission Blue from the Oscar winning director of The Cove, Fisher Stevens.

“Reflecting the increasingly global nature of the Netflix service, we now have original series in production around the world, involving some of the best storytellers working in television and film today. Marco Polo, a historical adventure from Executive Producer Harvey Weinstein, is shooting in Kazakhstan and Malaysia. In New York there is Marvel’s Daredevil, the first of our original series from Marvel Television, as well as the already eagerly anticipated third season of Orange is the New Black; while in Baltimore, production is underway on the third season of House of Cards. In the Florida Keys, the creators of Damages (Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman, and Todd Kessler) are shooting a dark family thriller with an ensemble cast led by Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Linda Cardellini, Ben Mendelsohn, and Norbert Leo Butz.


“Sense8, a mind-bending series from the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), began production in San Francisco last month, is now in Chicago, and will shoot in many international locations this year. In August, production begins in Los Angeles on Grace and Frankie, a comedy led by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston; and in Colombia, Brazilian director José Padilha (Elite Squad, Robocop) will begin filming Narcos with an all-star international cast led by Wagner Moura.


I would be watching Marco Polo for sure because I love the time period. Daredevil if it is good and cleaves to the Frank Miller version of Daredevil and not the horrid Ben Affleck version. I will check out Sense8 as long as it isn't anything like Cloud Atlas which was awful in the extreme. Finally, Narcos might be good if it has lots of action and doesn't pull any punches.

Obamacare Dealt Blow by Appeals Court: I guess they should have read it before they passed it

It seems that someone flubbed the wording in part of the bill and now it is probably going to the Supreme Court again.

The plaintiffs in the case argue the way the law was written does not allow for subsidies to be provided by the federal government, pointing to a statute that says subsidies should be issued to plans purchased  "through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311"  of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1311 establishes the state-run exchanges. But plaintiffs say the law does not permit subsidies in federal exchanges, according to Section 1321 of the law.

All they needed was to cut the "by the State" part of that sentence and they would have been in the clear. Instead they might get a major part of the bill thrown out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Herbalife's Last Stand: Ackman to Present "Pyramid Scheme" Presentation

Depending on how the Federal Trade Commission takes his investigation you might not have Herbalife to kick around anymore.

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman said on CNBC today that he would give the "most important" presentation of his career on Tuesday when he unveils an investigation into Herbalife's nutrition clubs. 

It's Ackman's contention that the company operates as a "pyramid scheme" that targets lower-income individuals. He believes that regulators, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, will be persuaded to shut it down. Back in March the FTC launched an investigation in the company.

Too bad I didn't get short this thing when it was in the mid 60s. I have a feeling if this investigation is a "bomb-shell" as some people think we might get a trading halt tomorrow.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Pricing In Geopolitical Uncertainty

This article makes quite a bit of sense when it comes to things like the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet and the invasion of Gaza by the Israelis.

In a repricing of risk scenario, we start to see good news ignored and people less willing to pay a higher multiple for stocks – even when they’ve announced results or initiatives that would clearly deserve it. Our inability to become excited by great news or fresh developments becomes evident in this way only over time. The inner monologue goes something like this: “Wow, I’m really impressed that Chipotle just shocked The Street with double-digit same store comps this month…but, my god, 300 passengers on a civilian airline were just shot out of the sky over Eastern Europe!” That extra lot of shares simply doesn’t get bought. People become resigned to hold what exposure they already have until “all that uncertainty dies down.” Obviously, the media plays a major role in this phenomenon, feeding it around the clock on screens everywhere. Don’t be mad, it’s kind of their job.

I have seen this repricing risk scenario over and over when it comes to things that are not as shattering as 9/11. People freak out due to "uncertainty" and stop buying on good news but sell momentum stocks on bad news. The only think concrete that might hurt the American consumer would be higher gas prices due to sanctions. Most airlines will now avoid the Ukraine and may need to use more fuel but nothing that would hurt them long-term. You would figure that the vast majority of companies as well as American and European consumers will not be affected materially.

However the fear factor caused by the event which is compounded by the 24 hour news cycle (as this article points out) usually casts a pall over the markets until something wakes it up. So if and when we get a cease-fire between the Ukraine and Russia we will see the market go back to normal. For whatever reason the market rallied today so maybe even that bit of wisdom is off the mark.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

4 Star Marine General Blasts Obama on Iraq

I guess he can finally speak his mind now that he is about to retire later this year.

Speaking at the Brookings Institute Tuesday, Amos said the Obama administration paved the way for the emergence of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) by completely withdrawing American troops in 2011.

“I have a hard time believing that had we been there, and worked with the government, and worked with parliament, and worked with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, I don't think we'd be in the same shape we're in today,” Amos said.

That is pretty much an affirmative. If you cut and run you have no say in what happens going forward. Instead we get to go back in with the odds stacked against us. What is sad is that Iran will probably pull the strings and fill the gap we gave up. Maybe that is Obama's plan all along.

Fish Oil Might Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

It seems fish oil is like a wonder drug according to this.

Fish oil is touted as a magical potion that boosts fertility, heart health, and weight loss and promotes a clear complexion, while lessening the effects of depression, ulcers, diabetes and many more conditions. But there’s another benefit to these glossy little capsules: They may prevent Alzheimer’s disease. 

A new study of 819 people published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that taking fish oil supplements on a daily basis is associated with a significant decrease in cognitive decline (as measured by the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and the Mini Mental State Exam) and brain atrophy — important findings in light of statistics that show that one person per minute is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

I know certain biotechs are using concentrated fish oil for various purposes. Hmm might be time to invest in some and see what it does.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Is ISIS vs. the Iraqi Government going to the First Shots in a 30 Years War of Islam?

So this thing is degenerating into a Shiite vs. Sunni war that could easily turn into a massive region-wide conflagration. Recently ISIS said they were going to destroy Mecca.

"By Allah's leave our sheikh al-Baghdadi led Mecca stone for those who worship (pilgrims) will kill you and God ' I will tear down the Ka'ba, the place of worship,” the alleged ISIS militant said on the social media site, according to reports from Turkish media adding that those of the Islamic faith should not be worshipping 'stones.'"

I'm sure the Saudis will do everything they can to end the threat to the place that they are supposed to guard with everything they have. What I have been thinking is that this might be the first shots fired in what could be The 30 Years War of Islam. This book on the 30 Years War is what got me thinking.

The 30 Years War started in 1617 and was basically a number of Catholic powers fighting against a number of Protestant powers. It was the last major all-out war of the Reformation basically because it was terribly destructive and resulted in hideous tortures. Some states in what is now Germany and Czech Republic were nearly wiped out and others suffering 30-40% losses. Some sources say that 50% of all the men in the German states were killed. It strikes me that an all-out war between the Sunni ISIS and the Shiite Iranians, Saudis protecting their holy sites and the Iraqis might be a similar conflict.

In fact we have may of the the parts already in place. We have bloodthirsty zealots on one side and an army that can give no quarter on the other. All we need are foreign mercenaries (gulp, maybe that is the USA?) to come in and start fighting to have us back in 1617 again.

During the 30 years war we start with battles in Bohemia (Syria) then Spain intervened (that might be Sunni zealot part of the Middle East.) Then we have the Danish come in on the side of the Protestants (that might be the Saudis protecting their holy sites) Then the Swedes come in on the side of the Protestants (this would be Iran.) Finally France came in at the end (that would probably be Turkey since the French were mostly fighting the Hapsburgs and not the Catholics as a group.) We might even see the birth of the Dutch Republic (that would be Kurdistan.)

I'm sure if the Iranians enter the war in any numbers they might be able to sweep the field of ISIS but not before we might see some serious bad things happen. ISIS now has some uranium so a dirty bomb can be cooked up and used on Baghdad or perhaps Tehran. That would seriously push Iran and Iraq closer together. Also if I was Iran in "the Great Game" I would conclude a status of forces agreement to garrison troops in Iraq so an ISIS can never form up again. What would be really bad for Islam is an ISIS suicide bomber could blow up something in Mecca. So many pilgrims pack into places like the Ka'aba or Mina that a bomber could easily kill 10,000 people or more from an explosion followed by a stampede.

In any case history doesn't usually repeat itself but every now and then it sure rhymes.

What a Meteroric Rise and Fall: Axelle Despiegelaere Dropped From L'Oreal After Wanting to Hunt Americans

She went from pretty face cheering on Belgium at the World Cup to L'Oreal model to threatening to hunt Americans in about a week.

But fans were outraged after Axelle recently posted  a photo of herself to Facebook in which she is holding a rifle, proudly sitting behind what appears to be a dead gazelle she shot while hunting.

The caption, in reference to the World Cup match, read: "Hunting is not a matter of life or death. It's much more important than that..this was about 1 year ago...ready to hunt Americans today haha."
After feeling the heat from fans, Axelle apologized in the comments section of her post, saying "i didn't mean to offend anyone..it was a joke."

Haha, hunting people is a funny joke. She may have a job working for ISIS, the Taliban or some other "Death to America" Islamist group. In any case that is fame and infamy in the Facebook era.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

German Newspaperman Accuses Obama of Being European: Yeah I have to Agree

Truer words have never been spoken.



In an op-ed in The New York Times, Clemens Wergin, the foreign editor of the newspaper group Die Welt, suggested that Obama’s international policies more closely align with those of moralizing yet passive German politicians.


“At the height of the Syria conflict and just after yet another of Barack Obama’s speeches, I suddenly understood the problem with this American president and his foreign policy. He sounded just like a German politician: all moral outrage, but little else to help end one of the most devastating civil wars of our age,” Wergin wrote. “President Obama, I thought with a sigh, has become European.”

Yup lots of words signifying nothing is Obama's MO. First Syria and his red lines and now ISIS is killing people and forming a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and only Putin is delivering warplanes to the Iraqis. Sounds like quite a few European politicians of the past. Thunder about something and then do absolutely nothing as a follow-up.
op-ed in The New York Times, Clemens Wergin, the foreign editor of the newspaper group Die Welt, suggested that Obama’s international policies more closely align with those of moralizing yet passive German politicians.
“At the height of the Syria conflict and just after yet another of Barack Obama’s speeches, I suddenly understood the problem with this American president and his foreign policy. He sounded just like a German politician: all moral outrage, but little else to help end one of the most devastating civil wars of our age,” Wergin wrote. “President Obama, I thought with a sigh, has become European.”
- See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/07/10/Obama-s-America-Becoming-More-European#sthash.V5rXNw1F.dpuf

Retail Sales Up 5.5% but Are Pretty Lumpy; Home Despot Hurting

It seems that some retailers are doing great while others are getting hammered.

Most retailers reporting monthly fared well in June. Warehouse club and typical top retail performer Costco reported a solid 6% rise in June same-store sales, aided in part by higher fuel prices. It beat views for a 5% gain, says Perkins. Core U.S. same-store sales were also up 6%, topping forecasts for a 5.3% increase.

Giant drugstore operator Walgreen reported a 7.5% rise in June same-store sales on July 3, beating forecasts for a 6.8% increase. That same day rival Rite Aid posted a same-store sales increase of 3.9% in June, besting views for a 2.6% gain.

Action sports retailer Zumiez posted a 3.1% gain in June same-store sales late Wednesday, well ahead of views for a 2.3% gain.

So we have Costco and Walgreen doing great. Costco might be a better bellweather than Walmart when it comes to the US retail picture. I remember going to Costco the Thursday before 4th of July and it was a madhouse. Every parking space was full with people buying giant piles of soda, hotdogs, strawberries, etc. Some people were even buying big screen TVs as well. Maybe to watch the World Cup?
 
I'm not sure why Zumiez is doing so much better than other teen retailers though. Maybe it is just more foot traffic going into the store. I mean the dark and freaky look of Abercrombie with its shirt less dudes and booming music is finally wearing out its welcome. 
 
However it seems that Home Despot and Lumber Liquidators is dropping like a stone.

The report didn't bode well for the home goods sector: "Our reduced customer traffic has coincided with certain weak macroeconomic trends related to residential remodeling, including existing home sales, which have generally been lower in 2014 than the corresponding periods in 2013," said CEO Robert Lynch in a press release. "We now believe the prolonged purchase cycle associated with our customers' discretionary, large-ticket home improvement projects is likely to be delayed for some customers into the fall flooring season, and for others, into spring of 2015."

People just aren't fixing up their homes at such a high clip anymore. Maybe they are looking at it as less of an investment and more of a place they will stay in for a long time. So the need for hard-wood floors or granite counter-tops or whatever that look good to a home flipper aren't as important as other factors to someone that will live in that home for years. 
 
Or maybe people are saving more money and don't want to drop $1000s for something that merely looks good and is not very functional. That money could be better saved for a rainy day especially if it was years since that person was last employed. Even if a consumer just heard of someone that was unemployed for years it might put them in a mindset that it is better to bank that money. It is better to have a margin of safety instead of really nice wooden flooring.

6 More Dumb Republicans that Want Obama Impeached: Um, Wait Two Years and Term Limits Does it For You

I am so tired of impeachment talk from the far right idiots that are in the GOP.

Has President Obama’s use of the “pen and phone” to circumvent Congress gotten out of hand?
Some members of the GOP seem to think so.
Even as the embattled president fights criticism over the escalating humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, the release of Arm. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in return for five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, and the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a mounting chorus of Republicans are calling for impeachment. 

If the GOP wins the Senate it will be a de facto impeachment because Obama really cannot do anything very drastic that can't be backed out in 2016. Instead we have Sarah Palin talking impeachment and it is such a waste of time. Work to get the Senate instead of wasting time on this sort of thing.

Wal-Mart's Stagnant Sales: Maybe People Just Don't Want More Crap from Foreign Countries?

It seems that employment is doing better but Wal-Mart is not seeing the results.

Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon has remarked in interviews that the discount retailer isn’t seeing the gains in employment trickling down to the chain’s cash registers. Simon said to CNBC:

“I think the economic numbers – the unemployment numbers in particular – have been difficult to read with the number of people dropping out of the workforce. And I think it’s going to take a while – six months or more – for the numbers to balance out…. Hopefully after six years, we're starting to gain a little bit of traction and that traction is coming at the top end. I think the middle and down is still pretty challenged.”

I think it might be people are just tired of buying more and more crappy stuff for cheap from Wal-Mart. In fact I am hoping it is priorities changing among people in the US. Maybe they won't just go out and buy a ton of crap that sits in a room somewhere unused. Maybe the Great Recession is getting people to get more use out of the things they have.

I think one factor is if you walk around Wal-Mart you just see better options at other retailers. If you want clothes you can get something for a similar price at H&M, Old Navy, or American Apparel. If you want food you can get a better deal at Costco. If you need cold medicines and drugs Wal-Greens and CVS has deals all the time. Finally, if you need housewares or electronics then Amazon can give you all that for cheap.Wal-Mart is left in the middle where people just don't need 12 more wash cloths for $2.99 when they already have a brace of them.

At my local Wal-Mart there was a huge rack of 100s of bales of washcloths that almost no one is going to buy. All of them were probably made in Bangladesh or somewhere and are indicative of the quantity over everything maxim of Wal-Mart. I was like they can never sell all of these washcloths in a million years. I hoping the paradigm changes where Americans would rather have a few good washcloths or maybe just use some of them they bought a few years ago instead of simply buying that huge bale every few months.