Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Predicitions: Entertainment and Sports

Here are my predictions from the lighter side of life:


1. This will be the year for multiple couples to split. My prediction is for Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux will break up by summer. Will Smith and Jada Pinket will separate as tales of their open marriage start to come out. Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott will divorce. All of the Kartrashians will be single by the end of the year.

2. New Shows of 2014:

Renewed: Rake, Klondike. Helix, Black Sails, Those Who Kill, Turn
Cancelled: Enlisted, Chicago PD, Chozen, Resurrection, Mind Games, Friends with Better Lives, All NBC new comedies, All Fox new comedies

Top 10 Movies of 2014 in Order:

1. Amazing Spider-man 2
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2

3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
4. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
5. Captain America: Winter Soldier
6. X-Men: Days of Futures Past
7. The Expendables 3

8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Transformers: Age of Extinction
10. 300: Rise of an Empire

Top 5 Bombs/Disappointments of 2014:

1. Godzilla
2. Divergent
3. 22 Jump Street
4. Sabotage
5. I, Frankenstein


College Football National Title: Auburn Tigers
College Basketball National Title: Connecticut Huskies
NFL: Seattle Seahawks
NBA: Portland Trailblazers
MLB: Texas Rangers
NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson
NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins

Premier League Title: Manchester City
Bundesliga Title: Bayern Munich
World Cup: Germany
Most Golds in the Winter Olympics: USA


2014 Predictions: Politics and the Economy

Well here are my predictions for 2014.


1. The Syrian war will grind on without the world taking much notice. Eventually there will be a cease-fire brokered by the Russians and the Saudis and the country will be virtually partitioned. In will take years before the UN actually gets around to an actual partitioning of the country.

2. The Sochi Olympics will overshadowed by fear and uncertainty. The Russian military presence coupled with the threat of terrorism will be a big story in the games and will cut into the enjoyment. There will be several terrorist attacks in Russia during the games but none at the actual Olympic village although it is feared.

3. Russia will slowly start to destabilize as cheap oil from the US brings oil prices down. More and more pressure will be put on Putin from reformers and terrorists and his government will waver. He holds on to power but has to put some reforms into place to solidify himself.

4. The US will quietly leave Afghanistan and the Taliban will make peace with the Afghan government. This war will slowly leave the consciousness of the US government and a tentative peace will come over the area.

5. The World Cup in Brazil will be a huge success and will usher the country onto the world stage. Much of what people see are the large gulfs between the rich and the poor and see how bad poor Brazilians live. It will bring in much needed reforms that will help the average Brazilian for decades.

6. The Democrats will retain the Senate by a slim 2 vote margin. The GOP will again control the House. There is a new spirit of bipartisanship as various GOP White House hopefuls hope to get the centrist vote. The "Conservative Industrial Complex" of the Heritage Action, Freedom Works, Club for Growth, Rush Limbaugh etc. power will be diminished by a large margin as men like Paul Ryan and Chris Christie try to jockey for the center in time for the next election. The GOP makes fewer gaffs and does not shut down the government and welcomes more women and minorities into their ranks.


1. Tapering will be a non-event with the FED slowly withdrawing the bond buying and the market hardly reacting. Yellen will be confirmed without issue and kind of go about her business without creating much uproar. The economy will grow strongly at 3% or higher and prosperity will replace quite a bit of the dark clouds of past years. Housing prices will rise and the stock market will stay near record high levels for much of the year.

2. Energy Independence will finally be realized in many parts of the US. Gas prices will start to come down and the US will decouple from much of the world oil market. The Oil Majors will have record profits and the Energy Sector will lead the rest of the market.

3. There will be a true split between old tech (HP, Cisco, IBM, Dell) and new tech (Samsung, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter) and their stock prices will tell the tale. The personal computer will hang on and grow modestly as companies just can't shake the form factor. The consumer side will be a mess with double digit losses in growth from year to year. Microsoft will again flat-line as the Xbox One will pretty much carry the company for 2014.

4. The Phablet will be very popular in 2014 with more people carrying around an oversized phone instead of a tablet and a phone. Samsung will again lead the pack with Apple failing to bring about a similar Phablet form-factor in 2014.

5. Facebook will finally seem long in the tooth and will start to loose much of its cache to Twitter and other social media. They will go on a spate of acquisitions to stay relevant and swallow other social media sites like it did Instagram.

6. Here are the end of 2014 numbers:

Dow: 17100
NASDAQ: 4210
S&P 500: 1941
Eur/Dollar: 1.15
10 Year Bond: 3.10%
Gold: $1240 an ounce
Oil: $72 a barrel

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Predicitions: A Look Back at Entertainment and Sports


1. Reality TV starts to grate on the public as American Idol has its lowest rated season ever. People talk of cancellation but it is still renewed for 2013. Many other reality TV staples are cancelled to make way for more Mad Men style adult dramas.

American Idol had its lowest season ever but it was renewed for 2013. Adult Dramas dominated the news with Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones capturing headlines. You don't hear much about the Bachelor, Housewives of Whereever, Survivor and such. However Duck Dynasty seems to be huge and everywhere so reality TV is still a staple. At least the Kartrashians are hopefully going to be off of TV for 2014.

2. The Jersey Shore miscreants disappear from the national consensus as their 15 minutes of fame fades. This ignominious fate befalls Honey Boo boo, Dog the Bounty Hunter, the Storage Wars cast, and any American Idol not named Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

I assume all of the Jersey Shore people are still alive and have not fallen all the way off of the face of the earth. Honey Boo boo seems to be still lurking but Dog the Bounty Hunter is no more. I assume Storage Wars is still on the air and I cannot name an American Idol for the last several years.

3. New Shows of 2012:
  Renewed: The Following, How to Live with your Parents, the Carrie Diaries, Cult
  Cancelled: Goodwin Games, Do No Harm, Save Me, Deception, 1600 Penn, Hannibal, Zero Hour, Red Widow, The Family Tools, Mistresses

The Following and Carrie Diaries were renewed but all the rest were cancelled. I never called the two breakout hits the Blacklist and Sleepy Hollow though.

4. Top 10 Movies for 2013 in any order:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor the Dark World, Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness, The Hunger Games Catching Fire, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Kick-ass 2, Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger

Kick-ass 2 (85th ugh,) Thor the Dark World (just missed at 12,) and the Lone Ranger (36th) do not belong in this top 10 list at all. However, the Hobbit will probably get there (its 16th now) if you give it a few more weeks. All the rest were spot on.


College Football National Title: Alabama (Alabama won)
College Basketball National Title: Indiana (Kentucky won)
NFL: Denver Broncos (Baltimore Ravens won)
NBA: LA Clippers (Miami Heat won)
MLB: Los Angeles Angels (Boston Red Sox won)
NASCAR: Kasey Kahne (Jimmie Johnson won)
NHL: none season cancelled (season did go on and the Chicago Blackhawks won)
Premier League Title: Arsenal (Manchester United won)
Bundesliga Title: Bayern Munich (Bayern Munich won)

Ugh dismal 2 for 9 turned in on sports predictions.

2013 Predictions: A Look Back at the Economy


1. There will be 3% GDP growth by the end of the year as companies have more of an idea of what their taxes and hiring costs will be. Obamacare is not the debacle as many fear and its pull on the economy is not felt by many Americans. The $800 Obamacare Tax Penalty will quietly be repealed with changes to the bill tacked onto a different piece of legislation.

Well missed this one because GDP growth was 4% and Obamacare is a big fat debacle by any measure. The Obamacare tax is still in place but with diktats from the White House it might be delayed past the midterms at least.

2. Banks will have record profits during 2013. Having large cash hordes and an incentive to start loaning money out will bring billions of dollars in profit into the banks. Many banks will be enriched by the same things that made them money before the bailout. Private banking will flourish in 2013.

Hit this one right on the nose. Banks are doing very well and might be doing even better in 2014 as interest rates rise so they make more money on loans with the FED still keeping rates low. Private Banking seemed to be about the same as it has ever been.

3. Hedge Funds lose quite a bit of their luster as their outsized gains disappear. There are record redemptions as rich people pull their money out and chase after tax free yield. Municipal bonds and Master Limited Partnerships become very popular since they avoid higher capital gains tax rates that come out of Washington deal-making. Dividends become less popular and stock buybacks soar.

Hedge funds seem to be trailing the stock market by a large margin as the market soars. Other high flying funds though have been hurt badly by being in the wrong thing (gold) or messing up timing the market. Municipal Bond prices have dropped though due to uncertainty in Washington. Stock buybacks did soar in 2013 with a few from huge firms like Apple and IBM.

4. The Apple TV becomes the most talked about new tech product of 2013 as it challenges the idea of Internet connected TV. Saving TV shows to ICloud and viewing movies from the Apple Store challenges Netflix and Amazon. People cancelling their cable becomes even more widespread than before. Windows 8 is a dismal failure and hastens the demise of the desktop as we know it. A big screen attached to a tablet or a smartphone becomes the new PC form factor of 2013.

No Apple TV as they just pretty much just put out upgrades of their existing lines. A new iPhone and a new iPad is pretty much it for 2013. They also benefited from a deal with China Mobile but Samsung is pretty much the big winner for 2013. Cutting the cord is a real issue to the cable companies and they seem to be running scared. Windows 8 was a dismal failure by most measures and the desktop is slowly bleeding out.

5. There will be a Facebook and Twitter backlash as many people tire of having to update their lives and document it for people they barely know. Saying "I don't have Facebook" becomes a new way of being hip instead of being luddite. The social revolution hits a definite snag in 2013 as people cease to see the point.

This was unfortunately not true as Facebook and Twitter grows like weeds. The Twitter IPO is huge and Facebook stock is at an all-time high. Plus they seem to be making money as advertisers pour money into their mobile platforms. Younger people are kind of moving away from Facebook into other social networks though.

6. Here are the end of 2013 numbers (These numbers as of today:)

Dow: 13400 (16479, way off)
NASDAQ: 3210 (4167, really way off)
S&P 500: 1410 (1842 off again by 400 points)
Eur/Dollar: 0.84 (1.37 the exact opposite)
10 Year Bond: 2.58% (2.99% not too bad)
Gold: $1640 an ounce ($1210 this was a big miss)
Oil: $85 a barrel ($99.64)

2013 Predictions: A Look Back at Politics

Well the fun thing about doing a blog is that I can make predictions and see how they turn out a year later. Well here are the things I predicted back at the end of 2012. Lets see how right I was:

1. There will be another fight over the debt ceiling with the GOP getting blamed for stalling and "holding the country ransom."  They will eventually cave and we will be put back on debt downgrade watch again. This time we are not downgraded.

Yup this happend exactly how I predicted. There was a debt ceiling fight and the GOP was blamed for exactly that "holding the country ransom." They did cave and there was no debt downgrade.

2. Benghazi disappears into the woodwork as we slowly ease out of Afghanistan. Most of our foreign entanglements are finished by the end of the year. America's robust foreign policy on the early 2000s takes a backseat to new actors such as the Turks, the Russians and the Chinese. Europe moves further into the drivers seat of world affairs again.

This one was spot on with Afghanistan a distant footnote in the US. The French are pretty much in the drivers seat when it came to Libya and now in Africa as well. The Russians pretty much ran the show in Syria and stopped us from acting there. The Turns are in turmoil and the Chinese are still throwing their weight around.

3. Bashar Assad's government falls and he flees to Russia. The new Syria emerges out of the rubble and Lebanon returns to an active peace. General tensions ease in the Middle East and a relative calm falls over the region by year-end. Some of the Arab Spring governments become Islamist but it does not affect their relations with Israel. 

This one was wrong. Bashar Assad still stands and Syria is a sucking wound of destruction as the rebels are being ground down with no support from the West. Egypt did become Islamist for a bit but went back secular after a coup d'état.

4. The world will become a somewhat more peaceful place with much less warfare and death on the front page. People start looking inwardly and fixing some of their long running problems. The news becomes focused on solar panels in Africa and micro-transactions in Brazil and less about wars in the Middle East.

Well the world is a bit more peaceful but there are still wars in different parts of the world. Myanmar is opening up to the world at least. There was a bit of terrorism in the Boston Bombing but nothing close to 9/11. Lone gunmen shootings seemed to be a big part of the news but nothing was really done. No solar panels or micro-transactions though.

5. There is less partisan infighting as America tires of the whole "political divide" that has typified Washington for the last few years. No new gun laws are passed through the Congress and Sandy Hook unfortunately becomes just another footnote.

This one was unfortunately wrong with the fever swamp of partisanship being worse than ever throughout the year. Luckily by the end of the year they passed a bi-partisan budget which give me a little hope for the future.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why do Men Hate Obama? This Article Makes Sense of the Dilemma

This article provides quite a bit of food for thought on why Obama lost the white male vote by such a wide margin in both elections. It isn't that they are all racist either.

It may be the case that men see Barack Obama as a kind of romantic competitor — not the man himself, but the vision of government he stands for. The more the state steps into the role of provider, the less men have to offer in that capacity. This is especially true of men with modest earnings potential. I doubt that very many of those non-college-educated, working-class white men follow the careers of Hanna Rosin or Maureen Dowd, but the message — “men are obsolete” — infiltrates the culture at large. President Obama is the messenger, and an agent of the Rosin-Dowd worldview: His vision of the good life is universal kindergarten and universal graduate school, a coddling welfare state, etc., and a gimlet eye cast upon much of what used to be thought of as man’s work: drilling for gas, timbering, mining. President Obama is first and foremost the public face of his own agenda and his own economic record, which is a poor one. But he is also the face of something else, an unbrave new world with little use for men whose Christmas plans do not involve buttonholing family members for precious and grim-mouthed homilies about Obamacare.

Yeah a Welfare State envisioned by Obama and his ilk have no place for men in it. Men as the provider or the bread-winner is totally obsolete when it is the Government providing the check. So men without college degrees fear that Obama will become their wives' proverbial baby-daddy. The Welfare State is not made to make everyone rich but maintain everyone at the same level of near poverty with no real way to get ahead so they can be controlled.

Women are also becoming far more educated than men as well. We see men retreating into Call of Duty and bro-ism while women are getting multiple degrees and going after top jobs in research and the corporate world. Unemployment for men is much higher than ever. Obama the metrosexual is the standard bearer of the fear that there will be no place for men in the world he wants to create. Men are right to fear a driven woman that has a PHD is gunning for his job (or has already taken it) while he is getting drunk with his bros and playing video games.

As of 2013 Things Are Looking Pretty Good

Well the stock market is up big this year and it seem global growth is accelerating as well. It seems there shouldn't be very much room for pessimism at all.

“The airwaves are crammed with doom. In my own adult lifetime, I have listened to implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth. The fashionable reason for pessimism changed, but the pessimism was constant.”

I have to agree with the 24 hour news cycle and with the immediacy of social media like Twitter it amplifies any tragedy that comes along. So if there is a school shooting or something it resonates quite a bit more then it did in the 90s or the 70s. When the news cycle gets running it turns a crazy person with a gun into a national issue about gun control with everyone choosing sides. I mean two guys with pressure cookers shut down the entire city of Boston.
You add to this fact that quite a few climate scientists make a pretty decent living out of gloom and doom you have even more "wall of worry" material. Even though climate change might be happening the polar ice sheets have not melted totally away like Al Gore claimed. Also there aren't more typhoons and twisters than ever before there seems to be much less.

Things are just so much better and people cannot put them into perspective. Our phones are more powerful than super computers in the 1970s. Our TVs are larger, thinner, and lighter then they have ever been in history. Even if you have a minimum wage job you can afford quite a few things that only a corporate CEOs had in the 1980s. I mean a cell phone cost $3500 and was 85 cents a minute in the 80s. Now a tablet that costs $225 is more powerful than a $2500 Apple Macintosh. Technology is so accessible and easy to use that it is mind-boggling. 

I think part of the problems with the GOP is that they are the fear party. Obamacare will destroy America. Atheists are killing Christmas. Run away spending will leave our children destitute etc. I remember Reagan was quite optimistic (the shining city on the hill) and didn't try to out-scare everyone else. The GOP needs to take back the the future is so very bright mantle.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target got Hacked for 40 million Payment Cards for 19 Days Strait? Glad I Shopped at Amazon

I guess it isn't a good idea to shop at some brick-and-mortar retailers this holiday season.

Target Corp said hackers have stolen data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who visited its stores during the first three weeks of the holiday season in the second-largest such breach reported by a U.S. retailer.

The hackers worked at unprecedented speed, carrying out their operation from the day before Thanksgiving to this past Sunday, 19 days that are the heart of the crucial Christmas holiday sales season.

I'm so glad I shopped almost exclusively at Amazon to buy my gifts this year so I don't have to deal with Target and their sieve-like security.

Woman Worked to Death at Young & Rubicam

I guess this is a cautionary tale on not letting work totally absorb your waking life.

Mita Duran, a 24-year-old woman who worked as a copywriter in Indonesia, slipped into a coma on Sunday after tweeting that she had worked for 30 hours straight. She died not long after.
Duran often kept herself awake by drinking Kratingdaeng, better known as Thai Red Bull, writes Lee Moran at the New York Daily News, while working late into the night at Young & Rubicam, an ad agency owned by multinational advertising and public relations company WPP.

I'm sure the work that caused her death contributed .0001 % revenue increase at WPP and will result in a bonus for someone sitting in a corner office. Where was this woman's supervisor and why didn't they hire someone else to help her do her job?  

McDonalds Must Get Rid of 10 Million Pounds of Might Wings: Might I Suggest Burying them in the Desert?

It seems McDonalds has a Mighty Wing problem.

McDonald's has 10 million pounds of Mighty Wings it needs to sell soon. 
The wings, which represent 20% of the chicken wings produced for a promotion, are in frozen storage, writes Julie Jargon at The Wall Street Journal

McDonald's was "unable to sell enough," according to Jargon. 
Earlier this year, CEO Don Thompson said that the chicken wings aren't the smash success it had hoped for. 

While Mighty Wings apparently met internal targets, the item "was not strong enough to offset" weak sales trends, Thompson said on a conference call.

I think they need to take them out into the deserts of New Mexico and bury them next to the E.T. Cartridges that Atari got rid of in the 80s.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Avoid KlearGear.com At All Costs: They Dinged a Couple's Credit for a Negative Review on a $20 Gift

Talk about a company sticking it to a consumer for writing a bad review.

The story goes back to December 2008 when KlearGear.com didn't deliver Jen Palmer's online Christmas order of a desk ornament and keychain that cost less than $20. Jen Palmer, now 40, wrote a negative review on private business review site RipoffReport.com, saying KlearGear.com had "horrible customer service practices." 

Last summer, her husband, a senior network engineer, received an email from KlearGear.com demanding $3,500 pursuant to a non-disparagement clause that it claimed was in its "Terms of Use" on its website. 

The Palmers say they asked RipOffReport to take down the negative review, but the site has an arbitration process that requires the involvement of the business. The couple say they shared this information with KlearGear.com, but the company didn't respond. 

The Palmers refused to pay the fine, prompting KlearGear.com to report their "debt" to one or more credit reporting agencies, the suit claims. When the Palmers disputed the debt with several credit reporting agencies, KlearGear.com continued to maintain that the debt be paid and then demanded a $50 "dispute fee" because they attempted to dispute the debt, the couple claims.
KlearGear.com did not respond to a request for comment. 

I'm still marveling that a company had a non-disparagement clause in their "Terms of Use." It takes all sorts of gall to actually send a letter asking for $3,500 to a customer for writing a bad review. Then they go the extra mile and reported it to their credit company as a debt that the customer didn't pay. I wonder if they actually expect someone to buy their products after this story became public? They should have just read the review and endeavored to do better. Now you have to worry about a company dinging your credit because you wrote a bad review on a $20 purchase.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Indian Diplomat Arrested and Strip Searched for Giving False Statements

Well isn't it SOP when you are arresting someone to have them strip searched?

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper. Indian officials said she was arrested and handcuffed Thursday as she dropped off her daughter at school, and was kept in a cell with drug addicts before posting $250,000 bail.

A senior Indian official confirmed reports that she also was strip-searched, which has been portrayed in India as the most offensive and troubling part of the arrest. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

I guess the Indian government thought she would get preferential treatment because she was a diplomat or a woman or something. If you are arrested for a crime in America you will be strip searched most of the time. I guess it is funny to have the Indian government freak out about a little nudity and cavity search when women are getting raped to death on city buses.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Senate Crawls Toward Passage of a Budget Much to the Tea Party's Chagrin

It seems that we might actually have some bipartisan agreement on Capital Hill for a change.

The accord, struck by Senate Democrat Patty Murray and House Republican Paul Ryan, lays out spending caps for the next two years and dramatically reduces the prospects of another government shutdown like the one that hog-tied Washington in October.

It creates $85 billion in savings and repeals some $63 billion in crippling automatic spending cuts -- known in Washington as sequestration -- that take effect January 1 unless Congress acts.

It seems that the Tea Party grip on the Congress is starting to slip because there seems to be only $20 billion worth of savings in this thing. As long as there is no negotiation by brinksmanship the markets and my portfolio will be safe from Congressional meddling for the next two years.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Unbundling the Cable Industry would Devastate the Crap out of It

Now this is what we call one change damaging an industry to its core.

In a report that attempts to quantify the costs of an à la carte pricing for cable television, Needham & Co.’s Laura Martin estimates that $45 billion of TV advertising would be at risk under such a change, along with 1.4 million jobs, $20 billion in taxes paid by such cable operators as Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC), and $117 billion in market capitalization. And maybe you wouldn’t miss the Christian-themed Smile of a Child channel or Jewelry Television, but if you love any of those niche networks you could almost certainly kiss them goodbye for lack of financial support.

Yeah I noticed the other day that I only watch a few cable channels total. I watch HBO on Demand for Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and soon Game of Thrones and True Detective (which looks great.) ESPN and its various offshoots for College Football, Monday Night Football, NBA and College Basketball and SportsCenter. AMC for Walking Dead. Comedy Central for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Cartoon Network for reruns of the Family Guy and American Dad. BBC America for reruns of Star Trek Next Generation. And CNBC for Squawk Box and Mad Money. So 7 channels is pretty much the sum total of my cable viewing. If they let me unbundle my cable I would probably end up with 25 channels or so and end up dumping the rest.

The Case Against a Minimum Wage Hike by Fast Food Retailers

This is a compelling counter argument against raising the minimum wage too highly.

The retail industry is just one in which workers are at risk. It’s hard to find many jobs that are not threatened by automation, by Internet expansion or by overseas competition. That includes people working in the fast food industry — where union organizers are currently pushing for a big jump in minimum pay. They should not assume that burger joints won’t eventually automate. Last year, Momentum Machines in San Francisco previewed an apparatus that created 360 burgers an hour. Noting that the fast food industry spends $9 billion a year on wages, the company predicted a lively reception for its space- and cost-saving machine.

I would be willing to bet that if the minimum wage is hiked to $15 suddenly installing these machines will become a very lucrative alternative to hiring a person to do it. With a machine you can do the following:

1. Regulate the amount that goes into each burger (you can put exactly 2 pickles, 2.5 ounces of lettuce, an exact dab of mayo and ketchup etc) so you can tell costs down to the penny.

2. Put something on the machine to track exactly how many burgers are created and when. It will allow McDonalds headquarters to do trend analysis and such and tinker with production. So if ketchup prices rise they can adjust the amount of ketchup that comes out with a few keystrokes.

3. Stop mistakes in creating the burgers. I once had the strings that tie burgers together still attached to an Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack-in-the-box one time. That shouldn't happen with an automated burger machine.

4. Fire half or more of your staff. You pretty much only need a person running the register and filling the orders and someone to load and service the automated burger machine. That would probably be a higher paying technical job but you could probably train some staff members to do. Especially if they are getting $15 an hour. Overall there will be far less jobs in the fast food industry then we have now if this burger machine becomes economically viable.

5. Limit the store footprint if you have to reduce the rent per square foot. A burger making machine will probably take up much less space than the aisles and such that humans need. More space can be used for seating and such or just go down to the bottom line as savings in rent.

I guess raising the minimum wage to $15 might invoke the laws of unintended consequences.

Quiznos Circles the Drain

It seems that the Subway-killer of 2008 is running of fumes now.

Quiznos, meanwhile, shrank to about 3,000 stores world-wide two years ago, and to around 2,100 today, including roughly 1,500 stores in the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. Hundreds of the U.S. stores are underperforming and could close in the next year, some of these people said.

I remember that there were tons of Quiznos opening in Hawaii all over the place but they slowly closed their doors one after another. There was one in Ala Moana I used to go to every now and then but I stopped going after I tried to redeem a coupon for a free cookie with a meal deal and they wouldn't honor it. I would have just gotten only the sandwich if I didn't have the coupon.

So this advertisement did what it was supposed to do by getting me in the door and altered my normal buying behavior. However, it lost me as a customer because they didn't honor something and had no sign saying "we do not accept coupons." Instead they waited until I was ready to pay before springing this on me. I seriously felt like walking out the door but I was hungry. That Ala Moana franchise went out of business a few months later.

It seems franchisees are up against long odds:

Current and former franchisees said high costs ate into stores' profitability, causing many to close. With fewer stores contributing to an advertising fund, the chain had fewer resources to promote new products, hurting sales, which resulted in more store closures, they said.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Brian Peticolas, who owns a Quiznos in Alton, Ill. "I almost closed my store five months ago, but I didn't have any other prospects so I kept the doors open."

Mr. Peticolas said his store averages $5,000 a week in sales, down from $7,000 a week three years ago. He estimates the restaurant is losing up to $300 a week.

"I've had two Quiznos close near me recently and I've been getting calls from people asking if I'm still open," Mr. Peticolas said. "We're not visible, so people wonder if all the Quiznos have closed."

This was the case in Mililani. My dad and I did not know if the local Quiznos was open or closed and decided to chance it. Luckily it was open but we had no way of telling that fact. There was only one employee who looked like the franchisee and she was running everything all by herself. Luckily we were the only customers in the store. After we got our food I was kind of regretting not going to Subway instead because they have toasted subs as well.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Guy that Wanted to Poop on Sarah Palin, Martin Bashir, Resigns

I guess advocating copraphage on a former Alaska governor can actually get you fired at MSNBC after all.

And the statement from MSNBC President Phil Griffin on his resignation:

“Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague — we wish him only the best.”

Bashir hasn't hosted his normal 4 p.m. show for the past two weeks. When asked about his absence, a network spokesperson only said that he was on vacation. The spokesperson didn't respond to follow-up requests asking if he had been suspended.

I guess he fell on his sword rather then being shown the door himself. In any case the less people that throw around this sort of rhetoric the better America will be.

Red Chinese Heap Pressure on Kids and Ace PISA Test: Check With Me When they Win a Bunch of Nobel Prizes

Well it seems that the Chinese can certainly teach to the test.

As a ninth-grader, Shanghai's Li Sixin spent more than three hours on homework a night and took tutorials in math, physics and chemistry on the weekends. When she was tapped to take an exam last year given to half a million students around the world, Li breezed through it.

Sounds impressive if you want to build a test-taking robot.

"They listen carefully in the class and do the homework," said Bai Bing, the headmaster of Li's school, where about 40 students were chosen to take the global test. "They respect the teachers, and do exactly the assignments that teachers ask them to do."

"And it is a tradition that the Asians pay more attention to mathematics," Bai said.

If Li Sixin wins the Fields Medal for Mathematics then I will be impressed. Until then "teaching to the test" does not guarantee that these kids will actually be able to turn this knowledge into something greater. Looking at the Chinese-born Nobel Laureates I see that the hard science guys did their thing at American universities and labs. It seems that the rich Chinese parents know this.

Ironically, many Chinese parents — especially those with means and bemoaning the pressure their children must endure in local schools — are increasingly sending their children overseas for what they consider a more well-rounded education.

Our PISA test taking might be 20th but I would put our universities head-to-head with anything that Red China has to offer.

Millennials turn on Obamacare and Obama Himself

Well I guess they are finally understanding that Obamacare is ripping them off in order so the old and the sick can get cheaper rates.

A new poll out today from Harvard University's Institute of Politics shows that the majority of young people, a core support group throughout President Obama's time in office, disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, with less than a third saying they would sign up, an essential element to the success of Obamacare.

The survey polled 18- to 29-year-olds, and twice as many respondents said they believe health care under the Affordable Care Act will get worse than get better - 44 percent to 17 percent. And half of the respondents said they believe costs will increase while about 10 percent said costs will decrease.

Hey Millennials you are supposed to buy insurance at higher prices in order for others to have savings. You are supposed to lower the "risk pool" so that the whole creaky edifice that is Obamacare can work. You are supposed to pay for insurance for years and never use it or pay a penalty levied by the IRS of all people. There is nothing like paying $300+ for student loan debts and then adding another $250 for insurance that you must buy or be fined.

I also love the sop that the White House keeps using by saying that you can stay on your parents insurance until you are 26. I'm pretty sure some Millennials feel bad enough that they cannot find a decent job on the O-bomb-economy and cannot move out of their parents home. They then have to use their parents insurance (if it didn't get cancelled by Obamacare) like they were still in 3rd grade.

It seems that the bloom is off the rose for Obama in general in the eyes of the Millenials.

The president's approval ratings have also plummeted and are at the lowest point this survey has found since the beginning of his administration. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the survey found 41 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove, an 11-point decline in seven months.

Lying to people about your signature domestic policy does that to a guy.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

College Scorecard from Whitehouse.gov Has to Define the word "scholarship"

I was pointed to the College Scorecard website by this article and I had to laugh at what came up.

The average net price for undergraduate in-state students is $10,484 per year. Net price is what undergraduate students pay after grants and scholarships (financial aid you don’t have to pay back) are subtracted from the institution’s cost of attendance.

They actually had to give a definition of the word "scholarship" for some reason. I had to do a double take because is you don't know what that word means maybe college isn't the kind of place for you. It probably means your high school was so bad that you don't know certain very basic vocabulary words. In any case this College Scorecard is a pretty decent tool. You can compare a perfectly okay state school to some "expensive for nothing" private school that no one has ever heard of.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Black Friday Physical Sales Down: People Buy Online Instead

Well at least some people are smart enough to avoid death and dismemberment at the mall this black Friday.

Customers may have been fighting each other over store sales this past weekend. But, they weren't spending as much. According to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving weekend store traffic was up 27% from last year. However, total sales were $57.4 billion, a drop of nearly 3% from 2012. So, should retailers be worried?

Maybe not, says CNBC contributor Andrew Busch, editor and publisher of The Busch Update. The reason has to do with online sales. ComScore sees Black Friday's online shopping up 15% compared to last year. And, while stores may have opened earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year to compensate for the shorter 2013 shopping season, online Thanksgiving shopping was up 21% compared to last year. Shoppers may have avoided bedlam at the stores by pointing-and-clicking at home.

Yup even though those stores were open at 6PM or midnight those people just rolled over after a turkey fueled slumber and got up late on Friday and logged onto Amazon. That is how Black Friday should go. I did some Black Friday browsing but didn't actually buy anything because the deal on Nexus 7s at Staples.com was sold out. If it was in stock I would have bought it for sure.

Windows 7 Beats Windows 8 and Windows 8.x in Market Share

Well Windows 7 is just a nice solid operating system without a bunch of Balmer crap all over it.

The total gain of 0.05% is a weak figure. The main competitor to Windows 8.x, Windows 7, spanked its homegrown rival in November. As The Next Web's Emil Protalinski pointed out earlier today, “Windows 7 grabbed 0.22 percentage points (from 46.42 percent to 46.64 percent). In November, Windows 7 thus managed to gain more share than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined.” That 0.22% is more than four times the aggregate growth curve for Windows 8.x during the month.

I think this is actually indicative of the death of the PC. Let's say you bought a Windows 7 machine a few years ago. You were interested in maybe upgrading to Windows 8 before you heard it was totally crappy. You probably won't buy a Windows 8.1 machine because your Windows 7 machine is perfectly serviceable. Most people are browsing the Internet on a tablet or a phone so in some households that Windows 7 machine might not even get turned on.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ha ha Black Friday Shoppers: Those Deep Discounts and Door Busters Might Not Be As Good As You Think

It seems that retailers are full of dirty tricks when it comes to Black Friday.

Here's how it works, according to one industry consultant describing an actual sweater sold at a major retailer. A supplier sells the sweater to a retailer for roughly $14.50. The suggested retail price is $50, which gives the retailer a roughly 70% markup. A few sweaters sell at that price, but more sell at the first markdown of $44.99, and the bulk sell at the final discount price of $21.99. That produces an average unit retail price of $28 and gives the store about a 45% gross margin on the product. 

So with a 70% markup you can't help but make money on the sweater. It might be a "door buster" that would be advertised as "more than 50% off!" even though the company still makes a 45% margin on the thing. This trick is especially insidious:

Another tactic involves raising selling prices ahead of the holidays before the discounts kick in. In an analysis for The Wall Street Journal, price-tracking firm Market Track LLC looked at the online price fluctuations of 1,743 products in November 2012. Prices climbed an average of 8% in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving for 366, or about a fifth, of the products; the items were then discounted on Black Friday. Toys and tools had the biggest pre-Black Friday price increases—about 23%.  

So the 20% off sale is actually minus a 23% price hike in the months before the toy or tool was sold? You add to this all of the other tricks retailers use like:

1. Making roadblocks out of merchandise so you grab some when you dodge out of the way.

2. Putting one item for like $250 next to the similar item that costs $450. The person picks the $250 item because they think they are getting a "deal" when compared to the $450 item. Imagine if the $250 item was marked down even further. What a deal you are getting when compared to the $450 item.

3. Selling a super cheap TV and then marking up the price of HDMI cables that you need to watch the TV in HD. There always seem to be lots of Monster cables (the most expensive brand) around but not a lot of generic cables when I went I bought my TV.

4. Putting impulse buy items near the checkout stand so exhausted shoppers put "stocking stuffers" in their carts in place of better judgement. I noticed a DVD bin full of $5 DVDs right next to the express checkout line in Wal-mart the other day. I could see more than a few people just grabbing a title that they probably won't watch and adding it to the few items that they were buying.

5. Putting the higher margin stuff to the persons right as they enter the store. I notice this in the Wal-mart next to my workplace. You are generally moved to your right when you enter the store. In front of you as you enter is clothing but there are racks of discount T-shirts kind of forming a road block so you actively need to go to go to your right where the jewelry department and the coats and such are located.

In Costco you have to travel through the electronics section before you can get to the rest of the store. In fact you have to travel nearly the entire length of the store before you get the to the cheap vat of pretzels or the 4 pack of Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream.

The Conservative Case for a Minimum Wage Hike: Hmm It Is Compelling

Well this might be a great reason for hiking the minimum wage.

One aspect of the minimum wage rise, which I think is underappreciated, is [that] it would function as a massive stimulus package, a government stimulus package. If the minimum wage nationwide were raised to $12 an hour, probably between $150 billion and $175 billion a year would go into the pockets of the lower-wage families that spend every dollar they earn. It would cause a tremendous boost in economic demand. 

Another important factor: One of the strange things in our society right now is that we have all these low-wage workers who are getting $7.50, $8 or $9 an hour, and because they earn such small wages, the government subsidizes them with billions or tens of billions of dollars of social welfare spending that comes from the taxpayer. 

It's a classic example of businesses' privatizing the benefits of their workers while socializing the costs. Forcing the taxpayers to supplement the salary of their own employees. 

That $150 billion would come off of the balance sheets of minimum wage dominated businesses like Wal-Mart and McDonalds and go right into the economy at large. I love the idea of stimulus that costs the government nothing. Also this hike would only affect certain companies who pay their employee's less than $12 an hour. The vast majority of businesses would be unaffected by this change. 

Hell, a $4 an hour hike to the pay of all lower income workers is like $320 extra a month. That could be a car payment or allow someone to build up a reserve fund so they don't have to live paycheck to paycheck. You could even afford some night school classes so a person can get a degree and make far more than $12 an hour.

The second argument falls right into the conservative wheelhouse. If you pay people crap they end up making up the difference through government payouts. If you force the companies to pay them more in wages you hopefully get the government to shell out less in social welfare. If that $4 extra that McDonalds shells out in wages constitutes $4 less that the government has to pay in welfare or food stamps then it is mission accomplished. 

I would love to see the CBO look over these numbers and see how much economic growth (if any) and government savings (if any) a minimum wage hike to $12 would put into the economy.

China Sends Warplanes to Check out Planes Headed through their "Air Defence Zone" I Think We Should Step it Up

I think the US, Japan, and China needs to keep sending these planes through this stupid Chinese Air Defense Zone to show that they aren't afraid of the Red Chinese.

"Several combat aircraft were scrambled to verify the identities" of US and Japanese aircraft entering the air defence zone, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting air force spokesman Shen Jinke.

The Chinese aircraft, which included at least two fighter jets, identified two US surveillance aircraft and 10 Japanese aircraft including an F-15 warplane, Shen said.

The Pentagon said Friday that American forces would continue normal operations, despite China's latest move.

"We'll continue to partner with our allies in the region and operate as normal," Lieutenant-Colonel Erik Brine, a Pentagon spokesman, told AFP without elaborating.

I think we should send whole wings of aircraft through the zone and have the Red Chinese scramble their jets every few hours. Run their pilots ragged.

Big Banks Might Charge you to Hold You Money? Time to Head to the Credit Union

If my bank did this I would move every dollar to a credit union or an online bank or something.

After the release, The Financial Times said the Fed policy and its "cheap loans" and subsequent low profit margins, has led to banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America looking to "compensate" for those lower revenues. 

One idea reportedly brewing among big bank executive suites is to charge a premium to "hold money" for bank customers, a centuries-long practice by banks that rarely, if ever, resulted in charges for holding those deposits. 

The Times says decision-makers at two of Americas largest banks said they would start charging customers a fee for checking and savings account deposits unless the Fed backed off on its low rate policy and began hiking interest rates.

I hate the idea of them charging a fee to do their very basic job in holding onto your money. I would even back a Treasury rule that forbids them from charging a fee simply to hold your money in a savings or checking account.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is the Container Store (TCS) a Buy? Credit Suisse Says Yes

I have never heard of this company but it seems to be getting positive buzz.

The Container Store is poised for incredible growth. 

According to a recent report by Credit Suisse, the retailer, which went public earlier this year, could more than double in worth to $4 billion. 

The specialty home organization store currently has 63 locations, but will soon expand to 300. 

Credit Suisse analysts Gary Balter, Simeon Gutman, and Andrew Kinder cite a few reasons why The Container Store is killing it.

The reasons are:

1. Great customer service
2. Cannot replicate the "experience"
3. 50% of merchandise is exclusive
4. Associates love to work there and turnover is low
5. Celebrities like it.

The first 3 are there to differentiate it from Wal-mart and Amazon. You need great customer service, the "treasure hunt" effect (that Costco has) that keeps you returning, and stuff you can't buy for cheaper on Amazon to succeed in retail. If you have those things you can compete effectively with the Amazon and Wal-mart on something other than price.

The fourth thing is like Home Depot, lulumon and Costco. If you treat your employees right you get the great customer service from number one. If you treat your employees like trash you end up having to deep discount to get any business at all. Finally, number 5 is fickle so it shouldn't factor into the stock price too much. 

The stock looks pretty pricy at $40.06 which is 97x forward PE. It also has a large debt load at $392 million with only $12 million in the bank. I assume that cash got topped off by the IPO so hopefully that won't be an issue. I also question whether it can go from 63 locations to 300 quickly. I would need to look at some quarterly numbers and see those expansion plans before I would pull the trigger.

Upon looking at the website it gives me a pseudo-Ikea vibe. Most of the items look like they are a step up from Target and worlds ahead of Wal-mart or K-mart. Actually the assortment of different goods are similar to Ross's Depressed for Less. Lots of jars and wrapping paper and kitschy little items for the Kitchen or Dorm room. I have a feeling they aren't all piled on the floor like Ross's and are instead displayed nicely. 

They also have elfa which is a modular storage solution that looks very high margin. For instance a woman's heels closet (Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City just passed out in joy) costs $2621.94. It pretty much looks like a bunch of wooden shelves and metal backing pieces covered in white rubber. That cannot have cost too much to make so the margin must be very nice.

In any case I can see me going into one of these stores when the come to Hawaii. This kind of store would thrive over here judging by how many people are in Bed, Bath, and Beyond on any given day. This place seems very similar but you can get a larger mixture of things from a look around the website.

MSNBC Doesn't Even Slap the Wrist of Martin Bashir after He Advocates Pooping in Sarah Palins Mouth

Of all the things to get suspended for I think this one really needs to get some kind of punishment.

Bashir's comments about Palin came on the same day MSNBC suspended actor Alec Baldwin from his weekly show for two episodes for his part in an off-the-air episode. Baldwin used an anti-gay slur in a confrontation with a photographer on a New York City street. 

Bashir used his weekday afternoon program on Nov. 15 to criticize Palin for her remarks comparing U.S. indebtedness to China to slavery. Bashir cited the diaries of a former plantation overseer who punished slaves by having someone defecate in their mouth or urinate on their face. He suggested the former Alaska governor deserved the same treatment. 

Yup there is a double standard at MSNBC if you were living in a cave or something. Anti-gay slur said in heat of the moment 2 week suspension. Advocating copraphillia on a former governor of Alaska and an "I'm sorry" and business as usual. Bashir's apology was pretty heart-felt and wasn't of the "I'm sorry people were outraged" variety but he still needs to face some kind of punishment.

Pope Issues Marching Orders for the Catholic Church: Less Moral Doctrines More Helping Poor People

It seems the Pope is getting the Catholic Church to be the global force for good that it was once was.

In the 85-page document, Francis pulled together the priorities he has laid out in eight months of homilies, speeches and interviews and put them in the broader context of how to reinvigorate the church's evangelical zeal in a world marked by indifference, secularization and vast income inequalities.

He explained his most controversial remarks criticizing the church's "obsession" with transmitting a disjointed set of moral doctrines, saying that in the church's "hierarchy of truths," mercy is paramount, proportion is necessary, and that what counts is inviting the faithful in.

He went even further Tuesday, saying some of the church's historical customs can even be cast aside if they no longer serve to communicate the faith. Citing St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis stressed the need for moderation in norms "so as to not burden the lives of the faithful."

If the Catholic Church went out of its way to help the poor I think it would be a massive help to the world. I would love to see more soup kitchens and food pantries popping up for time being. Then maybe provide vocational training and such at the same time. Fill the gap in helping the needy between governments and the people.

The Catholic Church has the potential to out-Goodwill Goodwill and gather 10x more food than any food pantry could provide. It seems that Francis is going with the idea of less gays and abortion and more sandwiches and hot soup. The poor of the world will thank him. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Katy Perry Puts on the White-face for AMAs: Yeah I Admit it is Racist

At least she didn't put on the buck teeth and the thick glasses a la Micky Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Yeah that picture came from a movie that was critically acclaimed and an Oscar winner.

Perry puts on the white-face then makes her eyes kind of slanted and for some reason wears a Chinese style high necked gown. I guess they got some white makeup on the kimono that she would have worn. In any case if you change your skin color for a costume chances are that you might be doing something racist.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Press Strikes Back: Dismisses "White House Propaganda" Photos

I guess Obama is finally losing the press in his drive to be just like Lenin.

Dozens of leading news organizations are protesting to the White House against restrictions that sometimes keep journalists from taking pictures and video of President Barack Obama performing official duties. At the same time, two press groups urged their members to stop using official photos and video handed out by the White House, dismissing them as little more than "government propaganda."

The news organizations' letter to White House press secretary Jay Carney detailed a number of recent examples in which photographers weren't allowed to cover presidential events that were deemed "private" by administration officials — even though the White House indicated their newsworthiness by releasing its own photos of the same events.

Its called myth-making by a very vain Obama. The last thing he wants is to look like a dolt or shown up by some photographer exercising his First Amendment rights at a "private event" like meeting human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. So he has the White House photographer snap a bunch of pics and his propaganda commissar okays which one the proletariat gets to see. I'm sure Brezhnev and Andropov nod solemnly from beyond the grave.

Siats meekerorum Names Greatest Land Predator Ever

This dinosaur makes even the T-Rex's of his era seem like a hyena to a lion.

Palaeontologists on Friday announced they had uncovered the remains of one of the greatest land predators ever -- a nine-metre (30-foot) four-tonne dinosaur that stalked the planet 100 million years ago.

The newly-discovered species has been called Siats meekerorum, whose first name honours a cannibalistic monster in the mythology of the Native American Ute people.

That is kind of a goofy name for such a massive predator that lived 30 million years before the largest T-rex's came onto the scene. The time periods that these animals lived were just mind boggling. It would be very interesting to see how humans would be doing in 100 million years.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A 5% to 7% Correction Leads to a Santa Claus Rally? Sounds Good to Me

I love the idea of the pause that refreshes.

In a note to clients this morning, Saut writes that his market timing models "continue to counsel for caution in the short-term." If he's right, as he explains in the attached video, it could be just the thing investors need to finish an otherwise awesome 2013 on a high note.

"I think (a 5-7% correction) sets up the fabled Santa Claus Rally," Saut says, adding that he thinks the ensuing rally will likely carry on past Christmas.

"I think we're going to do pretty well in the new year," he predicts, noting the seasonal statistics that have made December a very hard time of year to be short stocks.

I think tapering will torpedo the markets for the short term but will be a great time to get in there and buy. Some companies are doing really well without the need for the FED's funny money. Other companies seem to be hoarding cash and are not sure what to do with it.

Then we have energy independence with some wind at our back which could make for a new renaissance in manufacturing in the US. However, higher interest rates which will come out of tapering might be bad for housing but I think America as a net exporter of energy will be a game changer.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obama Healthcare Disapproval Hits New Low in the Eyes of the Public

I guess a broken webpage and 4 million insurance cancellations will do that to you.

Opposition to the new health-care law also hit a record high in the survey, with 57 percent saying they oppose the president’s most significant domestic initiative. Forty-six percent say they are strongly against it. Just a month ago, as the enrollment period was beginning, the public was almost evenly divided in its assessments of the law.

Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s rollout stands at 63 percent, with a majority saying they strongly disapprove. Last month, 53 percent disapproved.

I was watching Colbert Report the other day and they said "Obama is bad at technology that will keep you alive." then they show a 404 Error screen on the Healthcare.gov site "but he is very, very good at technology that will keep you dead." and they show a predator drone. Yeah, pretty much.

It Seems Stores Will be Open Thanksgiving Because they Need Every Penny of Sales

That doesn't mean that I would actually be caught dead anywhere near any of these stores during the whole black weekend of Thanksgiving.

Many of the chains opening on Thanksgiving Day, by contrast, have endured negative EPS growth during the past year. And three of those have gone from a negative EPS number last year (indicating a loss) to an even worse EPS number this year. (In the table, those companies have a † in the EPS column.) 

Traditionalists, predictably, have been venting about retailers “ruining” Thanksgiving, while praising stores that honor the holiday by staying closed. P.C. Richard has taken advantage of the humbuggery by running ads showing a gloomy family trying to eat a turkey dinner on a blanket, in the cold, while waiting in line for a store to open. “We believe Thanksgiving should be spent at home,” the narrator intones.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Cuban Connection in the Kennedy Assassination in the New Book "Castro's Secrets"

I always thought the Cubans could be one of the people behind the Kennedy Assassination conspiracy and there looks to be some grains of truth to that theory.

In November 1963, Cuban intelligence officer Florentino Aspillaga was posted in a little hut near a Cuban beach where he operated listening equipment trained on Miami and CIA headquarters in Virginia. On the morning of Nov. 22, Mr. Aspillaga—who would defect to the U.S. in 1987—said that he was ordered "to stop all your CIA work, all your CIA work." He was instructed to "put all of my equipment to listen to any small detail from Texas. They told me Texas."

Did Castro know that Lee Harvey Oswald was about to assassinate President Kennedy? Brian Latell, a veteran CIA Cuba analyst who spent 15 hours interviewing Mr. Aspillaga for his newly revised "Castro's Secrets," (Palgrave MacMillan), makes a strong case that he did. 

This book Castro's Secrets might be an interesting look at the history of the Cuban Intelligence apparatus. That cold war period with the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis has always been a very interesting time in history.

White House Prepares to Throw in the Proverbial Towel on Healthcare.gov

It seems that the broken website is going to be bypassed if the White House gets its way.

The Obama administration said Monday it is weighing whether to grant a key concession on the health-care law to big insurers under which they could directly sign up for coverage millions of Americans who qualify for tax credits.

If completed, the plan could help some people bypass troubled health-insurance websites including HealthCare.gov.

People can now go straight to an insurer to buy coverage that meets the same standards as policies sold on health-insurance exchanges such as HealthCare.gov. But if customers are eligible for subsidies toward the cost of their premiums, they can get those subsidies only by purchasing their coverage on the exchanges, where plans can be compared side by side.

I'm pretty sure that the insurers websites will be working pretty well. The problem is that you cannot shop around and compare prices between the various insurance companies. That pretty much kills the idea of "bending the cost curve" that Obama was pounding the table about.

It Seems that Consumers Couldn't Care Less About Calorie Counts

It certainly hasn't changed my mind when it comes to buying fast food.

The research team collected customer receipts at McDonald's and Burger King restaurants and surveyed customers about how often they ate at fast food restaurants and whether or not they glanced at calorie information. Researchers surveyed customers both before and after February 2010, when the Philadelphia calorie-count label mandate went into effect.

The researchers also conducted a telephone survey of the city's residents, to gauge how much people paid attention to calorie counts on restaurant menus.

Findings showed no difference in how often people ate at fast food restaurants or the amount of calories they consumed before and after the policy went into effect in Philadelphia, HealthDay reports. 

Yeah they just take up space and make the menu look cluttered. I usually eat the same thing from McDonalds anyway. I get a 10 piece chicken nuggets with red hot sauce value meal. Sometimes I get a Big Mac or a Quarterpounder meal if I'm especially hungry. Other than that I usually don't get anything else at McDonalds now that the Strawberry Lemonade has been discontinued.

Friday, November 15, 2013

House Offers Plan to Let Insurers Sell Individual Insurance Regardless of Obamacare Mandates

It seems like the GOP and some Democrats are trying to get Obama to keep his word.

Brushing aside a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted Friday to let insurance companies sell individual health coverage to all comers, even if it falls short of the required standards in "Obamacare."

In all, 39 Democrats broke ranks and supported the legislation, a total that underscored the political importance of a controversial issue likely to be front and center in next year's elections for control of Congress.

The overall vote was 261-157 on a measure that supporters said would ease the plight of millions of consumers reeling from cancellation notices. Those cancellations have been arriving from companies despite President Barack Obama's oft-made promise that anyone who liked his plan could keep it. The bill now goes to an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The real question is if insurance companies have to honor that coverage come 2015 or later. Also they better have good backups of those risk pools and pricing on their old plans because they might need them. Their actuarial people must be scrambling to have to honor their old plans and account for Obamacare plans at the same time. Depending on what oozing mess comes out of Congress it might be a good idea to go short health insurance companies because big losses might be popping up in 2014.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Seems Like Everyone Turned on Obamacare at the Same Time

I guess there is now bipartisan support behind the idea that Obamacare is a dismal failure.

If the latest poll numbers and enrollment figures are to be believed, we could be witnessing a political achievement unequaled in modern political history: the complete demolition of one party’s long-term dominance on an issue area – the Democrats’ ownership of the health care issue – in the space of a few months. Quinnipiac finds that young people trust Republicans in Congress more on health policy than the president; that a plurality of Hispanics, long the most pro-Obamacare faction, are now opposed to the law; and that overwhelming majorities (70+ percent) of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are in favor of delaying the law.

It is a pretty easy sell when the President repeats the line "If you like your doctor you can keep him period. If you like your insurance you can keep it period." 100s of times and 4 million Americans have their policies cancelled.

I can understand why they unilaterally postponed the employer mandate because that would have been a disaster of biblical proportions. Imagine if you add to that 4 million 10,000s of small businesses canceling their policies and putting people onto the broken exchanges all at the same time? The fear and loathing in America would have been unimaginable.

Obama's "You Can Keep Your Doctor" Big Lie Hurting Him Badly

It seems that Obama is finally going to way of GW Bush as a hated president.

Since September, Mr. Obama's approval on health care in the Pew Research Center poll declined four percentage points, to 37%. His overall job approval dropped to 41% from 44%. Worse are the hits to his credibility. In the Quinnipiac poll, 46% of registered voters and 51% of independents believe Mr. Obama "knowingly deceived" Americans when he promised they could keep their health plan if they liked it.

Until now, many people who disagreed with Mr. Obama's agenda still liked him. But a late October Fox poll found his personal favorability at 45% and his unfavorability at 50%. Duplicity will do that. And while the president may think everything about ObamaCare will be OK soon, fear is growing among Democrats who see little time and few ways to avoid a 2014 slaughter.

Even though most Americans haven't lost their health insurance yet the fear that they will seems to be gripping the US. Just from my anecdotal evidence there have been several conversations at work about Obamacare. This is the kind of problem that will eventually affect every American and not in a good way.

Cisco Gets Hammered; Is Software Defined Networking to Blame?

It seems that Cisco laid and egg and the market is punishing it.

Chastising tech giant Cisco for not pre-announcing its disappointing quarterly earnings and for its global losses, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Thursday that "open rebellion" was brewing among its investors. 

"This was the worst quarter for any Dow stock this year," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street,"
Cramer added: "Go to the conference call—open rebellion is beginning."

What was interesting is that Cisco recently lost a big contract with Amazon that was supposedly worth $1 billion.

The first was a deal with Amazon. Cisco thought it was going to sign $1 billion deal for network gear for Amazon, one of the largest network deals ever, the source said.

Instead, Amazon shocked Cisco by buying only about $11 million, using cheaper hardware and SDN for the rest of its needs, the source said.

The second was that Chambers asked his top executives to do an analysis on what would happen if Cisco plunged into the SDN market. They concluded it would turn Cisco's "$43 billion business into a $22 billion business," our source said.

So instead of shelling out $1 billion for hardware Amazon just bought some cheap switches and had the rest of the network upgraded with this SDN solution. Some of the sales woes for Cisco might have come out of different companies and countries saying "instead of paying Cisco $1 billion for hardware why don't we just buy $11 million in hardware and pay whomever for a SDN solution." I'm pretty sure that Amazon's SDN solution didn't cost like $900 million but a fraction of that amount. It also seems like every networking and software company like VMware, Brocade, Juniper, etc. are all racing into the SDN space. In fact VMware is putting millions into a so-called software defined datacenter which turns all of the networking hardware that you needed before into software that can be run on any box. They are seeing a new frontier that takes the networking away from some $100,000 metal box sold by Cisco and turning it into a bunch of virtual machines running on some generic off the rack server.

Cisco is trying to close the gap on SDN but as they say above it will cannibalize their own expensive router and switching business. They can sell you the cheap SDN but you will probably not buy any of their expensive metal boxes to run your network. Also there is nothing that keeps you from buying Ciscos SDN solution rather than Brocade's or VMware's. In fact you might want to go with VMware if you already have a virtual setup for your servers if you can install their SDN solution seamlessly.

From what I see Cisco is in for much more pain going forward. There is a newer, cheaper, technology that does exactly what they are doing and companies are catching on to that fact. Amazon seemed to be the first but if another big networking hardware buyer like the US Government or Twitter or someone decides to go with an SDN solution instead of a whole bunch of expensive metal boxes Cisco is cooked.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Here Comes the Santa Claus Rally?: Money Managers Scramble for Performance

This seems like a logical reason why the market will move upwards before December 31.

"If you're behind the market this time of year, you're staring down December 31, every single day of the week," That is, pros know they have a limited amount of time generate enough profit to make up lost ground."

Therefore, Cramer says, it's likely that these pros will choose to be 100% invested, and he believes they will put a disproportionate amount of money in just a few momentum stocks, hoping for outperformance.

What could rally into end of year?.

"There's a whole host of anointed names that fit this bill, including Google, Salesforce.com, Amazon, Netflix and Starbucks. On the trading desk, those would be my go-to names to buy on weakness, betting that they could give me the outperformance I need."

I guess if the stock is up big for the year the money manager will buy it to say I am in Google now that it is $1028 a share. They didn't buy it when it was $800 but that doesn't show up in the investment materials. If the Fed doesn't taper in November or December and Christmas sales aren't disappointing you might see a nice bit of change in your 401Ks.

Big Buisiness Turns on the Tea Party

I hope the Koch brothers have deeper pockets than normal in 2014 because it seems big business is backing away from the Tea Party.

"If the tea party wants to be part of winning in 2016, they're going to need to be inclusive, they're going to need to stop challenging Republican incumbents in primaries," said Bobbie Kilberg, a longtime Republican operative and donor who is also president and chief executive officer of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. 

"They can spend all the time they want in making their points based on principle, but if you cannot win an election and you cannot govern, what is the point?" 

Kilberg has supported many Republicans in the past but refused to back Cuccinelli, who was outspent $32 million to $19 million by McAluliffe, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Kilberg said she was turned off by Cuccinelli's focus on social issues like gay marriage and abortion and the tea party-fueled government shutdown.

Yup social issues don't matter very much if we are defaulting on our debt and slowing down trade deals so Obama "can't get a win." Economic growth and prosperity is much preferable to ideological purity in my book.