What a year! If nothing major happens in the next week or so, it looks like the S&P 500 will finish the year down by about 3.6%. Try to be careful as you jump for joy.
It's hard to argue against the fact that there's a sideways bias to the market. So how do you make money? Savvy investors have embraced the beauty and power of dividends. And that's exactly where I plan to keep searching for investment ideas in 2012.
Next year, I'd stay away from utilities and integrated oil companies for the most part. Utilities look OK from an interest rate and regulatory standpoint, but many stocks such as Southern Company (NYSE: SO) and Consolidated . . . → Read More: These 4 Investments Look Like Great Deals in 2012
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Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteThis is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.Find the past "On This Day in History" here.December 22 is the 356th day of the year (357th in leap[...]
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Recycling isn't limited to paper, glass and metals ...
....in the words of Rick Perry, "oops". Well, help lighten-the-load by stopping in for a look at news items outside the headlines, in the arts and sciences; foreign news that generates little notice in the US media and ....well, just plain whimsy.....
ART NOTES - over forty artists in an exhibit entitled (and with works made from) Extreme Materials is at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York through January 15th.
I'LL ADMIT that I didn't pay much attention to this story when three young men were released from prison this past summer ... but after reading this account of the unfair treatment that the so-called West Memphis Three were given, I'm sorry it took me so long to do so.
YUK for today - the Canadian singer Michael Bublé has revealed how some people walk out of his concerts because of ... his bad language on stage.
AFTER LEARNING of the death of Kim Jong-il has died - here is how he was depicted on the cover of The Economist magazine several years ago, after he broke his long-held isolation to hold a meeting with South Korea's then president Kim Dae-jung ....
Now, if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao ....
MONDAY's CHILD is Itty the Cat - who is the hero cat in a film production entitled "When the Bough Breaks" - and a woman representing the American Humane Association was on-set (along with a trainer) to make sure Itty was treated appropriately.
SIGN of the TIMES - the Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom has apologized to the relatives of the victims of a 1982 massacre - in which Guatemalan soldiers killed more than 200 people in the village of Dos Erres - and it was not until earlier this year that four former soldiers were sentenced to life in prison for the crime.
AGRICULTURAL NOTES - a researcher who is examining the drought-survival mechanisms of tea plants grew up in South Africa's drought-prone northern province of Limpopo, where crop failures are frequent.
Reader-suggested OLDER-YOUNGER BROTHERS? - the retired star baseball pitcher Greg Maddux ................
....... and Chris Cillizza - the pundit and Washington Post columnist.
A CAMPAIGN in Britain against the pink/blue divide - especially pink toys for girls - has achieved a major success when a major toy store announced it would phase-out having separate boys and girls color-coded floors.
ART NOTES - the photography exhibit In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980 begins today at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California and runs through May 6th.
WITH THE RECENT overreaction by the Lowe's home improvement chain (of its sponsorship of the "American Muslim" program) after one complaint by the Florida Family Association - the BBC notes several reasons that Florida is particularly suited to be a hotbed of anti-Muslim politics.
AFTER a RECENT trip down memory lane writing about some noteworthy teachers in my life in an essay - I heard back from my 7th grade English teacher in 1968 ... which was his first year teaching, to my surprise.
TUESDAY's CHILD is Ginger the Cat - currently at a Colorado Springs shelter, inexplicably whose microchip indicates a hometown of Missoula, Montana.
IN THIS YEAR of history in Antarctic exploration: the remains of Frank Wild - the second-in-command to Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose ice-pack stranded voyage on the Endurance was nonetheless among the most remarkable sea voyages of the 20th Century - have now been laid-to-rest next to his old skipper on South Georgia Island, where six men sailed 800 rough miles (in a lifeboat) in order to rescue the entire crew from Elephant Island (off the coast of Antarctica).
ART NOTES - an exhibition of prints along with photographic enlargements depicting The New Deal is at the Blanden Art Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa through March 31st.
TV NOTES - she was cast as Dana Scully in The X-Files at age 24, but now Gillian Anderson will appear as the youngest-ever Miss Havisham on a BBC production of "Great Expectations".
BOOK NOTES - with the recent death of its founder George Whitman: an essayist looks at the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company - declaring it to be "a writer's haven on the River Seine" for books published in English.
WEDNESDAY's CHILD is the late Gretzky the Cat - who died in 2010, but for whom constituents of California congresswoman Loretta Sanchez wanted him to remain in her holiday card.
CHEERS to a reader who recommended this Web Economy Bull***t Generator - which randomly assigns a verb, adjective and noun to generate something that .... well, at least sounds good on your job application.
ADVERTISING NOTES - in what may be the long-awaited successor to the career advice of "Plastics!" in the film "The Graduate" - a Canadian advertising agency has a spoof ad extolling the business opportunities (at this link) in Cat-vertising .... of which a Time magazine analyst wishes was for real.
FATHER-SON? - TV/film star Alan Alda and essayist/author Michael Tomasky.
JEERS TO ..... ahh, nobody: it's Christmas!
TRANSPORTATION NOTES - with ever-growing numbers of commuters between Malmö (in southern Sweden) and Denmark's capital, Copenhagen: an undersea subway line is one idea to improve the already-stressed transportation choices.
ART NOTES - prints and drawings make up the exhibit Visions of Saints begin tomorrow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, through March 18th.
TV NOTES - if you enjoy watching a televised December 25th Yule Log burning (with Christmas music in the background) - at this link is a nationwide schedule.
CHEERS to more than 1,000 readers in a single week who cancelled their subscription to the Basler Zeitung newspaper after it was revealed that the paper is owned by the family of far-right Swiss People's Party deputy leader Christoph Blocher - and after several hundred people rallied on the streets of Basel to voice their discontent, three Swiss media unions issued a joint statement saying: "When one of the richest Swiss citizens (and vice-president of the strongest party) buys into the media, we are on the way to Berlusconisation".
THURSDAY's CHILD is Shari the Cat - one of this year's annual Twelve Cats of Christmas at a shelter in Albert Lea, Minnesota - and she is the only one of her litter yet to be adopted.
CHEERS to boarding Amtrak tomorrow for a nice Yuletide visit to the NY/NJ area with family and friends, including our annual bash for four old friends whose birthdays fall at this time of year: our 36th annual celebration doing so. Also tomorrow morning, I will post my weekly Odds & Ends wrap-up diary.
If you celebrate it: Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas. And to all: a wonderful 2012.
...... and finally, for a song of the week ......................................... with such a busy week, I'll simply reprise my annual holiday profile. One reviewer called him "the most listened-to jazz pianist of all time" and with the Christmas season upon us, it might well be true that Vince Guaraldi achieved that status - in a quiet way - due to a certain comic strip of note.
A San Francisco native, Guaraldi attended San Francisco State College and worked as an Army cook in the Korean War. His career began in 1956 (playing in Woody Herman's band) and went on to perform with such varied musicians as Nina Simone, Cal Tjader, Stan Getz, Jimmy Witherspoon, Paul Winter and Mongo Santamaria before forming his own piano trio. In the "File under Impossible Tasks" department, it was written that his first important gig was .... "filling-in for Art Tatum". Yikes!
His breakthrough hit (in more ways than one) was the 1963 Grammy-winning tune Cast Your Fate to the Wind - a gorgeous melody that eight years later the James Gang's guitarist Joe Walsh - later to join The Eagles - worked into a medley (most improbably) with a hard rock song entitled The Bomber in 1971.
Vince Guaraldi was successful in the jazz world, yet comparatively unknown to the American public. But that changed - dramatically - with a 1965 cab ride that TV producer Lee Mendelson took across the Golden Gate Bridge.
In much the same way that The Sopranos producer David Chase decided upon his show's theme song - by hearing the UK band "Alabama 3" perform it on the radio - Lee Mendelson heard "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the radio in that cab ride. He asked for help from the noted music writer Ralph Gleason (who helped co-found Rolling Stone magazine later that decade) - and was thus able to contact Guaraldi about composing for the upcoming Charlie Brown Christmas special.
Sixteen TV shows (and one feature film) later, the music of Vince Guaraldi is an integral part of the Peanuts experience - with the theme song Linus and Lucy plus the irresistible song Skating among his best-loved Peanuts music.
Vince Guaraldi died in 1976 (at only age 47) in-between sets of a gig in Menlo Park California. The musician David Benoit cites Guaraldi as an inspiration, and it's difficult to imagine Peanuts with any other music backing it - for the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis "Peanuts" was the only chance to hear jazz on TV in his youth. Wynton was also excited that his pianist father Ellis - the patriarch of the talented Marsalis musical family - knew Vince Guaraldi. "Our father knew somebody who was connected to television!", he later wrote.
While most of Vince Guaraldi's work is instrumental: appropriately for the season, the song Christmas Time Is Here (fair-use extract below) had lyrics written by the show's producer Lee Mendelson for kids to sing. A nice grown-up version was recorded a few years ago by Diane Reeves - the featured nightclub singer in the film "Good Night and Good Luck". And below you can hear Vince Guaraldi's original version.
Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of year
Snowflakes in the air
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...
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New readers to my musings often find it interesting, when they meet me in person, to find me quite an optimistic person, given the nature of my current predictions about the economy. And regarding the short term, defined as less than five years, my writing is admittedly less than sanguine. We do have some problems that are not easily dealt with. And even longer-term, those of a bearish natural disposition can find reasons a-plenty to tone it down.
But five years (at least at my age) is not all that long. One way or another we will get through the current mess. My studies on the nature of progress in a number of fields give me a rather optimistic . . . → Read More: Catastrophic Success
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE?
Oh! More Things I Know:
>> A key difference between Barack Obama and the Republican candidates running against him: if one of the bulbs in the president's head goes out the others stay lit.
>> I support mining for minerals on the moon as long as an alien bursts out of a miner's chest every once in awhile to keep it interesting.
>> Now available in your local grocer's deli section: Good King Wences slaw
>> Still waiting for Joe Biden to fulfill his vice-presidential duties by blowing the cover of a CIA operative out of petty revenge and then shooting a lawyer in the face. Hop to it, man!
>> I know of a word that rhymes with orange. I'll take it to my grave.
>> Bing Crosby and David Bowie once sang a duet of Little Drummer Boy. Even 34 years later, that's trippy, man.
>> My Person of the Year was going to be "The Protester" until TIME stole my idea. So my new Person of the Year is Yan Lam, owner of The Oriental Table here in Portland. His sesame chicken is so good, the only thing you'll protest is your last bite. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!
>> If George W. Bush gets two terms, then Barack Obama sure as fucking hell gets two terms.
>> How could Tea Party Republicans in the House be so stupid?!! Hint: they're Tea Party Republicans in the House.
>> Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. Every time you hold in a fart an angel explodes.
>> If you're not 100% satisfied with Cheers and Jeers, I offer a 100% money-back guarantee. Minus the 100% restocking fee, of course.
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Angling for a behind-the-scenes staff job on Capitol Hill? If so, you?re probably curious about what salaries are like in the capital of the free world. Even if you?re not hoping to put that poli sci degree into play in DC, you might be interested in knowing what Congressional representatives and Senators pay the staffers [...]Related posts:
?This event marks an important milestone in the overall effort to transform how VA communicates with Veterans and provide them the health care and benefits they have earned,? said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. ?Veterans and their families told us from the beginning that they want to engage and they want relevant information delivered at the local level. By leveraging Facebook, the Department continues to expand access to VA, and embrace transparency and two-way conversation.?The process that began with a single Veterans Health Administration Facebook page in 2008 has now produced over 150 Facebook pages, 64 Twitter feeds, a YouTube channel, a Flickr page, and the VAntage Point blog. Additionally, in June 2011, VA produced a Department-wide social media policy that provides guidelines for communicating with Veterans online. The overarching strategy is designed to help break down long-perceived barriers between the Department and its stakeholders.
?Veterans of all eras are depending on us to get the right information to the right person at the right time,? said Brandon Friedman, VA?s director of online communications, and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. ?With more troops returning home, we also have a responsibility to connect with the thousands of Servicemembers who have been?and will be?entering our system. They?re using social media, so that?s where we need to be. Facebook helps us do that.?VA clinicians can?t discuss the specific health concerns of individual Veterans on Facebook, but that doesn?t prevent staff from monitoring VA?s sites closely each day?and providing helpful information to Veterans when they can. In the last year, for instance, VA?s Crisis Line counselors have successfully intervened on Facebook in cases where Veterans have suggested suicidal thoughts or presented with other emotional crises.
?We are very pleased to have pioneered social media in VA, and now our VA medical centers across the nation are all engaged,? said Dr. Robert Petzel, under secretary for health. ?We are committed to helping Veterans understand their benefits and receive the health care their service has earned them.?
?Facebook?s mission is to make the world more open and connected and we are excited to see government agencies using our service to better to connect with citizens, provide information, and deliver services,? said Don Faul, Facebook?s vice president of online operations, a former U.S. Marine and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. ?We want to do all we can to support Veterans, so we?re pleased to see the Department of Veterans Affairs using Facebook connect with Veterans in an authentic and engaging way.?VA currently has over 345,000 combined Facebook subscribers (or, ?fans?). The Department?s main Facebook page has over 154,000 fans and its medical centers have a combined subscribership of over 69,000. The Department plans to continue expanding its Facebook presence while also focusing on bringing Twitter to every VA medical center as well.
The word ‘Solstice’ does not mean ‘return of the light’…
Solstice refers to the two times of the year when the sun is closest to and farthest from the earth’s equator. The word itself is of Latin origin with “sol” meaning “sun” and “sistere” meaning “stand still.” The latter refers to the sun’s apparent stoppage in the sky as observed by someone on Earth.
It’s more in tune with nature’s mood to remember that today is the first day of winter.
January brings us into the coldest month of the year, which we are just beginning to feel with the weird, prolonged autumn warmth we’ve been enjoying.
For the Word on the Return of the Light, I look to what is written on the Providence Journal weather page. They publish a nice almanac. You’ll note that immediately after Solstice we do not get any day lengthening action at all, and for weeks following the days lengthen by a minute every couple of days, if you are lucky enough to see the sun through the iron grey clouds that strew freezing rain or snow. Harsh, I know, but let’s get real. This is why people move to Florida.
For a sense of lengthening days, I try to hold out until Candlemas, February 2. That’s the midpoint to spring, when we have six more weeks of winter no matter what the groundhog sees. And in Rhode Island, it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll have spring.
I might leave my lights up till then, Christmas lights are the best Pagan fusion party idea ever invented.
I’m really enjoying a blessed season with a combination of counting my blessings and strategic griping. This is a sample. You don’t beat seasonal affective depression by being chirpy.
I like to think of it as more than just $40 a paycheck - rather, nearly $1,000 a year. That's a lot of money. From the White House:
On Thursday at the White House, the President will continue to urge House Republicans to do what?s right for the American people by allowing a vote on the short term bipartisan compromise passed by almost the entire Senate, which is the only option to ensure that 160 million Americans don?t see a holiday tax hike in just 10 days and to give Congress the time needed to work out a full year extension. If Congress fails to extend the payroll tax cut, the typical family making $50,000 a year will have about $40 less to spend or save with each paycheck. As a part of the President?s push to get Congress to act, the White House has launched an effort to have average Americans make their voices heard in this debate by asking them to share what $40 a paycheck means to them on www.whitehouse.gov/40dollars and on Twitter at #40dollars. The response has been overwhelming, with more than 25,000 people sending responses from every state in the country so far. At Thursday?s event, the President will discuss what?s at stake for the American people, and will be joined by Americans who would see their taxes go up if the House Republicans fail to act, including some of those Americans who have responded to this call to illustrate what $40 means to them.
by Chris Mooney, cross-posted from DeSmogBlog
Just last week, I wrote about the core problem facing the new breed of political fact-checkers: The political right is more factually wrong, meaning that taking a strictly ?bipartisan? approach will inevitably leave the fact-checkers themselves guilty of phony ?balance.? And it will also lead to them occasionally having their lunches eaten by left-leaning sites like Media Matters, as well as by sensible liberal bloggers.
Little did I know that PolitiFact, arguably the leading fact-checker, would immediately come through with a stunning validation of this point.
PolitiFact just announced its ?lie of the year,? the Democratic claim that ?Republicans voted to end Medicare.? However, if you peruse analyses from Paul Krugman, Steven Benen, Jason Linkins, and others, you?ll find that the very notion that this is a lie at all is highly debatable. Frankly, the repeated fact-checks of this Democratic assertion seem to boil down to little more than a matter of definition.
It all depends on what the meaning of the word ?end? is.
Just briefly, the specifics: House Republicans voted for a bill that would turn Medicare, which is ?essentially a government run healthcare program? according to the Washington Post, into a program where seniors would receive vouchers or credits to support their purchase of private health programs. Politifact itself reports that the GOP plan, introduced by Paul Ryan, ?kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.?
Democrats then launched their ?end Medicare? charge?and drew myriad bipartisan fact-checker rebukes. But these were pretty weak tea, given that the desired GOP changes to Medicare were, inarguably, quite dramatic. Here?s how FactCheck.org put it: ?It’s accurate to say the GOP plan would alter Medicare profoundly, but it’s false to claim that Medicare would cease to exist.?
Whether Medicare would actually ?end? under the GOP plan is thus a matter of definition. If you think changing a program ?dramatically? and ?profoundly? but keeping the same name means the program continues, you certainly have an argument you can make. But if someone else thinks otherwise? Your disagreement will largely be about semantics. And you can then go and have a deep ?Ship of Theseus? debate about when it is that making changes to a thing means that the thing ceases to be the thing ? but I really don?t think this is what we rely on our political fact-checkers for.
Honestly, I can see giving Democrats a few wrist-slaps over this, of the minor One-to-Two Pinocchio variety. And if that is all that had happened, there may have been some scattered griping, but it would have ended there.
But lie of the year? You have got to be joking.
The economic stimulus created “zero jobs.” ? The National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans
Scientists are “questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. ? (It is) more and more being put into question.” ? Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry
President Obama “went around the world and apologized for America.” ? Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
The vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation. ? Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann
Notably, all of these big lies were uttered by Republicans. In fact, with the exception of the Bachmann example, they were uttered repeatedly by Republicans (albeit in varying forms).
But PolitiFact?s last two ?lie of the year? awards (?death panels? in 2009 and ?government takeover of health care? in 2010) also went to Republicans. So tagging the GOP yet again with this most devastating of charges wouldn?t appear very ?balanced.?
Here again, then, we see the Achilles heel of the bipartisan fact-checkers. Whenever they must take a step that would lend clear support to the idea that the left and right aren?t equal with respect to reality, they tend to falter.
I?ve already shown PolitiFact faltering when it came to admitting that Fox News is a misinformation machine, and its viewers are the ?most consistently misinformed.? Now we?re seeing it again when it comes to admitting that Republican systematic falsehoods?like the claim that the stimulus didn?t create jobs, or that global warming isn?t real?are far worse than anything Democrats say systematically and regularly (e.g., the GOP voted to ?end Medicare?).
Don’t get me wrong: I fully understand why the bipartisan fact-checkers do this. If they were to be brutally honest about where the balance of evidence lies, Republican doors would close to them. Maintaining the semblance of bipartisanship surely makes them more influential.
But if you really care about facts in the current environment, having Republicans denounce you as “biased” may be good thing. In fact, it is probably inevitable.
Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed magazine, senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and author of the bestselling book The Republican War on Science. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog.