Monthly Archives: May 2012

Trumped Up Trump

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A made-up controversy over where the President was born trumped a real tragedy that unfolded in the President’s adopted hometown, which tells you a lot about the nature of this campaign.

Donald Trump somehow wormed his way into the campaign coverage by continuing to question where the President was born. Trump is a private citizen and he can have all of the doubts he wants about Mr. Obama. It’s not really relevant to a bigger national discussion about where we are going as a nation.

The Obama campaign is more than happy to keep the focus on the Donald and off what is actually happening in America, more specifically what is happening in the City of Big Shoulders. Continue reading


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The investing community is agog at the prospect of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Facebook on Friday.

If you’re under 103, you probably have a Facebook page. You and about 901 million others. I have a Facebook page. I started it about four years ago when the younger people in the office teased me about being 103 years old.

I opened my Facebook page and immediately started the “friend” chase. I decided that having more friends than people I knew was a good thing so I started trolling for friends. I now have the maximum number of friends an individual can have. 5,000. I actually know about 27 of them. The rest, as I have mentioned before are a combination of “Friends” trollers, people who have seen me on TV but wouldn’t know me at the Safeway, and Ukrainian hookers.

Although, according to, a final decision won’t be made until Thursday evening, analysts expect Facebook shares to cost between $34 and $38 a share which would value its “upcoming offering at as much as $18.5 billion” and the entire company of something in the area of $100 billion. Continue reading

Where’s Good News?

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Let’s start with Europe and work our way back.

The Greeks held elections last week and they have not been able to form a government since.

The leader of the “Leftist” party (read, Communist), Alexis Tsipras, has told the rest of the European Union that he believes Greece should ignore the promises it made to be bailed out and, in essence, go off on its own.

According to the New York Times, “European leaders have warned that if Greece does not keep its promises, Europe will stop financing it, which would quickly lead to Greece defaulting on its debts and leaving the euro zone, as the countries who share the common euro currency are known.”

I’m not exactly sure what the Greek version of “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” is, but Tsipras appears to be chanting it. If a coalition government cannot be formed, new elections will be called and polls indicate the anti-bailout candidates will gain strength. Continue reading

From Raging Waters

Reprinted from Loose Change (

I hadn’t taken a shower or put on clean clothes for several days, but I was alive. Fifteen inches of rain had fallen on the Black Hills of South Dakota in less than six hours. Four inches fell in 30 minutes. Imagine.

The first week of June 1972: I had just taken a job as a handyman, a laughable oxymoron for someone who not only didn’t know how to fix anything but had just turned 23. My first job out of college—on a dude ranch, the Ox Yoke outside of Nemo, operated by the former sheriff of Custer, his wife, their two sons, a ranch foreman with a cast, ankle-to-thigh, and his long-in-the-tooth pregnant wife. There were no guests at the “ranch.” There were, however, 10-plus WWII rehabilitated veterans, likely supported by a considerable government subsidy. Most sported lobotomy marks and outsized personalities. They worked cleaning out cesspools, digging drainage ditches, and running up to the garbage dump every day. I hung with them and the owner’s sons—let’s call them Spin and Marty, whose signature look consisted of toothpicks jammed into their cowboy hat bands. The youngest, usually shirtless, had a hankering for beer, tough talk, and mirrors. For all I know, he could have ended up in some western Dakota bar swinging from a pole in mesh stockings and falsies. Continue reading

A Marriage of Inconvenience

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When Joe Biden was selected by Barack Obama to be his Vice Presidential running mate I was thrilled. I thought “If Obama wins, Biden’s propensity to trip over his own tongue will provide enough material to write two columns a week.” I would only have to earn the third column.

For the most part, darn it, Biden has behaved himself and hasn’t been the loose-lipped fool he has been since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware when he was 29 years old.

Biden made up for all of that this past weekend when he proclaimed his support for gay marriage on “Meet the Press”.

That put so much pressure on the President, that he had to come out (so to speak) in favor of gay marriage his own self after attempting to finesse the issue until after the November election.

Here’s something you might not know: Biden had taped that interview on Friday. It would appear that no one on the VP’s staff thought it was newsworthy enough to drift into the West Wing and tell the President’s folks that Biden had said he was for gay marriage. After the fact the Obama folks tried to pretend this was all part of a long-ago developed strategy. Continue reading

Economic Shank Shot

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My Uncle Bob calls it the dreaded perpendicular shot.

In golf, when you mis-hit a golf ball so badly that it almost kills the person standing next to you, you have hit a shank. A shank can happen to anybody. And it is very, very scary when it does happen.

The golfer has no idea how it happened or why. One minute you are hitting the ball straight as an arrow. Then next minute, your ball is whizzing around the head of your playing partner.

There was a great scene in the movie “Tin Cup”, when Kevin Costner, the washed-up player who attempts a dramatic come-back after winning a qualifier to play in the U.S. Open, gets a bad case of the shanks on the practice tee before he starts his round. His caddie, played by Cheech Marin, goes through a crazy routine that seems completely non-sensical, all to achieve one goal: To get Costner’s character to forget about his shank and to start hitting the ball again.

I was thinking about that scene and about shanks in general when thinking about what happened to our financial markets four years ago. Continue reading

Media Narcissism Dinner’s Entre


The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, a dazzling display of media narcissism, is slipping from memory now. But before it does, the Association ought to think seriously about not doing it next year. The spectacle is an embarrassment to journalism and the American Presidency. It reinforces an awful perception of Washington culture.

The dinner is an annual affair put on by the White House Correspondents Association under the guise of a fundraising event for journalism scholarships, but it isn’t that at all. The paltry amount of money the Association gives out in scholarships that night could be raised with a tin cup at the corner of Connecticut and K streets in DC.

The newspaper Politico said that the Association has only made $583,000 in scholarship awards in the last 20 years. That averages out to $29,150 a year. The Association website reported this year’s awards at $132,000. Politico said there were 2,800 guests at the dinner, which would mean the scholarship money amounted to no more than $47 per guest. Usually at dinners of this type, some guests are comped–let in free. But those who do pay or have their ticket paid for them, fork over $1,000 a plate.

We don’t know how much the dinner actually grossed or netted, but the numbers raise questions about why there is so little left over for the scholarships. Continue reading

Unease Showing Up at Ballot Box

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I have no idea whether that translates to “Throw the Rascals Out” but that’s what happened around Europe in elections held yesterday.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy got beaten in his re-election try by Socialist François Hollande.

According to the International Herald Tribune (the global edition of the New York Times) Hollande is “seen as a challenge to the German-dominated policy of economic austerity in the Euro Zone, which is suffering from recession and record unemployment.”

In Germany, President Angela Merkel’s party was spanked in a regional election in the northern part of the nation. I am not an expert on electoral politics in Schleswig-Holstein, but according to the IHT the “Pirate party appeared to emerge as the biggest winners with 8 percent of the vote.” Continue reading

Milbank Fails Free Speech/Press Test


Freedom of speech and press keep the blood flowing through public discourse. But sometimes they are not all they’re cracked up to be.    

A good example is Dana Milbank’s column in the Washington Post May 2, in which he excoriated House Republicans for not getting anything done. “It’s another recess week for our lazy leaders,” he wrote. “They are planning to be on vacation—er, doing “constituent work”—17 of the year’s remaining 34 weeks, and even when they are in town (Washington) the typical workweek is three days.”

Milbank is way off base on several counts and on balance, contributes more to the ignorance of his readers than their enlightenment, which you would think would be one of the key tests of whether a responsible news outlet prints or broadcasts anything broadly categorized as news or news commentary. In other words does what is printed or broadcast contribute to the public good; that is more the education than the entertainment of the people the media are trying to help govern themselves?  Continue reading

Women of Obamaland and Campaign Fakery

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Perhaps it was all part of a plan.

Still it seems oddly coincidental that just as revelations come out that the woman Barack Obama dated in one of his many autobiographies was actual not a woman but a composite of several women, the Obama campaign is unveiling Julia, another fake woman. Here is a tidbit from National Journal about Julia: “If the 2008 campaign had Joe the Plumber, 2012 might have “Julia,” a fictional woman created by the Obama campaign to show his strengths on women’s issues.

On Thursday, the campaign launched a webpage called “The Life of Julia,” tracking how the president’s policies have helped her throughout her lifetime and contrasting those to Mitt Romney’s policies. Starting at her childhood and ending at retirement, each slide shows an older Julia and a new policy. For example, at 31-years-old, a visibly pregnant Julia is at the doctor’s office. The caption reads, “Under President Obama: Julia decides to have a child. Throughout her pregnancy, she benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” As for Romney’s policies, the site says, “Health care reform would be repealed.” Continue reading

Federal Retirement Reform Right Way

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In the mid-1980’s, Social Security was going broke, as was the Federal government. And the retirement program for all Federal employees was in the cross-hairs of voters who thought it cost too much and was too generous to retirees.

I was thinking about the transition to the current Federal Employee Retirement System as I picked up a letter sent to my wife from the Thrift Savings Program.

The TSP was a part of the reform effort from that period in history when Ronald Reagan was President, Bob Dole was Majority Leader, and Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House.

I ran across a fascinating history of that period written by Jamie Cowen in a back issue of the Employee Benefit Research Institute magazine. Cowen was a staff member of former Senator Ted Stevens, a driving force behind the reform initiative at that time, and his insights into how a major reform of an entitlement program is informative. Continue reading

Apple, Corporate Taxes, and Common Sense

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According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple (neé Apple Computer) “is the most valuable company” in the world. On the heels of its quarterly report last week, stock in Apple reached nearly $620 per share before settling back to end the week at $602.

The WSJ reported that Apple “posted a 94% profit jump to $11.6 billion and a 58.9% revenue increase to $39.2 billion.”

This is not a stock picking column, and that is about everything I know about the stock market, but I wanted to tell you that so that what follows made more sense.

The New York Times published a long piece looking at how Apple cleverly, but legally, has built a tax strategy that saves it billions of dollars. The Times reported that “the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent.” Continue reading