More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Governor Quinn Offers Up The National Guard

I don't agree much with Illinois Governor, Patrick Quinn. However, his offering up of the use of the National Guard to help to police the very dangerous streets of Chicago is one I think may be a good idea. Whether or not Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel will take the Governor up on his offer is another question.

The fact is that I don't necessarily like the idea of any place in America becoming a police state of sorts, I do think that more needs to be done in very high crime areas such as Chicago, and even in my own city of Milwaukee in Wisconsin where gun crime is especially on the rise.

That being said, I also believe that more policing resources could be used, at least in the short term, to help put more boots on the ground, so to speak.

For example, perhaps the Sheriff's office could redirect some its efforts to the heaviest areas of the city where crimes are occurring. Perhaps as well, state troopers and other highway patrols could redirect their efforts to helping to fight crime rather than policing the nation's highways for speeders.

What really needs to occur, I think, is a discussion about what the root causes of higher crime happens to be, and looking for ways to combat it. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure. There is a reason these crimes are happening at alarming rates. More policing is a short term remedy. Hitting at the heart of the problem is the long term solution.

Which president would you compare Barack Obama best to?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

...And The Market Slide Continues

Uncertainty of the Fed. That's what they are saying is the cause for the now four day losing streak in the markets. To that I ask the logical question. What uncertainty exactly are we talking about? Is the who? Or the what?

It does not take a genius to fully grasp the fact that the economy is still in the dumps. No news flash there. It does not take a genius to fully grasp that the Obama administration has absolutely no clue about how to fix it. Nor does it take a genius to draw the logical conclusion that the Obama administration isn't going to do anything to fix it.

So here we are. I don't see anything uncertain about that. That seems pretty much set in stone as of this writing.

Of course we do not know who will succeed current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. But we've got a pretty good idea who it may most likely be. Think like Obama for just a second. Janet Yaller is likely to continue to prop up the economy through quantitative easing. Would this be right in line with what Obama would like to see happen? I think the obvious, glaring answer is yes. Prop it up. Because nothing he will do can prop anything, let alone get anything back onto a path of recovery.

"Keep printing me more money, Fed. I'll keep spending. I'll keep looking to raise the debt ceiling," says Obama.

"The cupboard is bare," said the brilliant mind of Pelosi. "There is nothing to cut."

The fact is that the Fed obviously seems to be in consensus that the economy is in a heap of crap still. And as a result it will continue to use QE as a way to help along this wheezing, dying thing. There is not one single economic indicator that would currently suggest otherwise.

So why in the hell is Wall Street selling off claiming uncertainties?

I think the simple answer is that they want it both ways. They want the economy propped up to artificially inflate the markets, and they want the economy to do well enough to support itself. They are not going to get the latter. So the former right now is the only alternative. And they want to be certain that the Fed is going to hold up what the Obama administration is certainly pulling down. In the interim.

To me it is all a load of crap. The new Fed Chairman nomination will shortly be announced. Wall Street will breathe a sigh of relief. The markets will reverse course and start rallying again. And who will make money? Those us of who saw the writing on the wall before the writing was put there.

Little guys like me buying into the uncertainty.

I am accumulating now just like I accumulated at the bottom of the market. I am certain that the uncertainty in the market is simply a panic maneuver. Not a wise one. And I will invest contrary to it, and while I cannot be 100% sure, I think it will mean gains ahead.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wall Street in Flip-Flops...Again

I have written before that I sometimes find the folks on Wall Street to be a comedy of sorts. Today I have this same sentiment based on the news on the Street that today ended a four-day rally because, of all things, the folks on Wall Street were frazzled that just maybe the economy is weaker than they thought.

Just yesterday the DOW rallied triple digits on the news that Larry Summers would not be in contention to be the replacement for current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Instead it looks more likely that Janet Yallen will replace him. If Larry Summers would have been the top successor he would likely have decided to taper the bond buying program currently in place by the Fed. Janet Yallen, however, is more likely to continue it.

To the folks on Wall Street this came as a relief yesterday. Thus the rally.

But, and I have said this before, tapering would in fact be a stronger economic development than not tapering. So what's the surprise on the street that the economy is not as strong as anyone thought?

One word. Duh. That is why quantitative easing is currently the position of the Fed. It is because the belief is by the Fed that the economy needs to be artificially propped up. It needs to be stimulated by low interest rates, and the bond buying program helps to accomplish that.

Perhaps I am missing something, but my take is that tapering should actually have the effect on the markets, that quantitative easing continuing seems to have had originally. The markets, and their underlying businesses would have a much better shot at gains and growth if more Americans are working, more Americans are spending, and when consumer confidence shows signs of improving. All of these things are lacking, thus the Fed continues to see quantitative easing as a means to hold things up in the interim. That is inherently a sign that the economy is weaker.

Still, I don't think today's move really means much. I just felt an urge to state the comedy of it. Yesterday the Street jumped for joy that the economy was crappy enough to warrant continuing easing. Today they sold off because they felt the economy was the obvious same level of crappy enough it was yesterday to hurt their investments.

It just leaves me scratching my head is all.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

After the Navy yard shooting, more talk of gun control of course

Of course all of the usual suspects are turning up in droves touting more gun control laws in the aftermath of the latest Navy yard shooting in Washington, D.C. How many times can it be stressed that gun control laws cannot stop these types of events from happening? Whether or not there are laws controlling who gets guns and who does not, those who are seeking guns will find their way to them, and gun control laws only target responsible gun owners.

Take a quick look at Chicago. If ever there was an example of the Wild West that so often gets brought up when anyone talks about concealed carry, for example, there it is. Chicago is among one of the municipalities with very strict gun control laws. Incidentally, so is Washington, D.C. Gun control laws would not stop the black market for guns. In fact, it may even fuel it.

Had more people been armed at the Navy yard I think one thing is clear. There would be less dead, and the gunman likely would have been shot and killed much sooner. If more people had guns they would have a choice other than to run and be shot at. And what about some of those witnesses who said they could see the shooter shooting from a window? If any one of those witnesses had a gun, not only could they have made note that the shooter was there shooting at people. They could have fired a shot at the window and maybe taken the gunman down.

It is fine to wait for the police to arrive and assess the situation. But while this is happening precious time is wasting away, and people are left for dead. Perhaps if the situation were different, and one of these witnesses had a gun the question from the police would not have to be, "Where's the shooter?" but instead could ask, "Where's the shooter's body?"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Ridiculousness of Offense

When you think of a Mexican, what readily comes to mind is a little brown faced man with a colorful textile over his shoulder, wearing a sombrero and riding a burro. For the record, not all Mexicans have brown skin. Not all Mexicans wear a sombrero. And few Mexicans actually ride a burro. Yet amazingly, you don't hear stories of Mexicans calling for the abolishment of all such depictions.

Because it happens to be ridiculous, and most Mexicans who I have known actually find this to be a bit of a funny look back at their roots.

Just like our roots in the Old West. How many Americans would find it to be offensive to have us depicted as ten gallon hat wearing, gun toting, horse riding outlaws? I could cite many instances of certain stereotypes associated with myriad ethnicities. Slanty-eyed Asians drawn with simple slits for example.

And of course there are the Indians, and the latest target for the perpetually offended, the Washington Redskins.

Roger Goodell recently said in a radio interview that the league needs to be listening to their fans and if even one person is offended, they need to ensure that they are doing the right things to try and address that.

In some ways I can catch Goodell's drift. It's about the league, and the league is about the fans. But the league is also essentially a capitalist enterprise, and capitalism is about what works. Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins football team, has said he will never cave to pressure to change the name. And I think what he is really saying is that so long as the majority of Redskins fans continue to go to games, and so longs as the Redskins franchise continues to be an enterprise that makes money and has support of the majority of the team and fans to be called the Redskins, then the name will remain. I am certain that if the books began to show signs of stress, and that stress could be directly tied to the team's name, then he would likely do as any businessman would do and take into account that perhaps the name hurts rather than helps the franchise, and he would take any steps necessary to remedy that.

This does not appear to be the case right now, and all indicators seem to suggest that the majority of fans are not in any way affected by the Redskins name, and nor is the bottom line affected. So why change the name? Why cave to a few people who want it to be changed?

Where Goodell gets it wrong in my opinion is when he suggests that the minority should have the power to impose undue pressure against the majority. This is not to say that he should not be listening, nor that Dan Snyder should cave. But we happen to live in a world where nearly everyone is offended by something, and if you start to listen too much to any one of these individual and minority offenses, you really begin to become muddled in a constant, and ever more confusing process as to how to proceed.

The Redskins should listen. And the league should listen as well. But they should be listening to the loudest voice in the room more closely.

Personally I think the idea that the Redskins name is somehow pejorative toward Indians is way overblown, and out of whack with logical thinking. But that's just my opinion. Nor do I think that selling a taco using a stereotypical depiction of a Mexican is pejorative.

I think the Redskins is a respected brand, certainly to the fans of the team, and so long as that remains true, so should remain the name.

Take products like Aunt Gemima pancake syrup, or Uncle Ben's rice. These could be considered offensive according to some. But again, so long as the consumers of these brands continue to buy and respect the quality of these products, the companies who produce them will continue to keep them on the shelves. If consumers suddenly stop buying the products, of course the companies would have to make an evaluation as to why. If it turned out that it was the name, or the face on the box, certainly they would have to decide to rebrand the product to remain in line with the demand and preferences of the consumer. You don't come to that decision when the vast majority of your customers like your product exactly the way it is. You only do it when the minority becomes the majority and it begins to hurt the brand, and not a minute sooner.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm Liking Roundy's

On any given day if you were to ask me what I thought about grocery store stocks, I'd respond with a yawn. Especially considering that the latest analysts projections, which only expect to see 1% growth in the domestic grocery market, leave much to be desired when you consider so many other companies, and so many other sectors that are expected to see much higher growth. Why would you mess with a grocery store?

But then there's Roundy's.

While Roundy's is a relative newcomer to the stock market, only having begun trading in February of 2012, it is not a newcomer to the domestic grocery market. Although the company has changed hands several times over the past few years, the company remains strong. They do have a few challenges in their bigger markets like Milwaukee where several years ago much of their competition left town. Stores like Jewel-Osco, Cub Foods, Sentry, and Kohl's Foods were no more, and the one that remained was Pick 'Save, a Roundy's store. They could operate with relative ease. These days other players have entered the Milwaukee market like Piggly Wiggly, Woodman's—a privately held family owned business that has been expanding rapidly—and of course Walmart has been moving in on Roundy's territory as well, opening more superstores, and adding neighborhood market stores.

But it's not the Pick 'N Save stores, nor Roundy's other brands like Copps or Rainbow that have my interest. It's their Mariano's stores which are the gorilla in the room.

Part of what separates Mariano's from the regular, and rather boring domestic grocery market, is its concept. Think Whole Foods, and the massive growth this sector, and of course Whole Food's stock has enjoyed over the past few years. As people trend toward healthier food choices, and organic foods, Whole Foods has capitalized big time on this trend.

Enter Mariano's.

Mariano's is still targeting consumers who want quality, and aren't as concerned about paying higher prices. But, they are managing to offer an alternative to the more expensive Whole Foods. So while Mariano's may not be the cheapest shopping trip compared to discount grocers, the bill will still be lower than Whole Foods, and the emphasis is again on value and quality.

For now Mariano's is only in the Chicago area, currently with 9 stores. But Roundy's thinks that the Chicago market can support up to 30 stores, and they plan to aggressively expand and open around 5 new stores per year.

Considering the massive growth in this sector of the domestic grocery market, and considering that there's a ton of room for growth, especially if Mariano's can expand into other markets and steal away some market share from other stores like Whole Foods and Outpost Natural Foods, Roundy's stock could be worth quite a lot more than what it is currently trading at.

Disclaimer: Jim Bauer currently holds shares in RNDY. He does not currently have any shares in Whole Foods, or any other domestic grocer.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Markets Ugly, But Enticing

So the markets continue to free fall. So what? That's my sentiment. Really. So freaking what? The fact remains, as I see it, that the markets are simply pulling triggers out of nervousness, but the fundamentals remain strong. So without sounding like I am beating a dead what???

I actually look for opportunities like this and I buy heavily into them. Wall Street likes to panic. They do this often. It's almost comical, actually, when you read the news of the day each and every day on the markets and watch how these guys react to things. One day its all good. Housing starts up 30%, the markets soar. The next day, consumer confidence drops 0.5%, market drops.

These guys look for reasons to pull the trigger in either direction. They are like birds eating, really. You know what I mean? Have you ever watched a bird eating? Their heads dart to and fro, back and forth, almost frantically. They take a couple of pecks of food. They repeat their frantic darts. The wind picks up speed, tivckles their wings, and their off.

But the wind is not a predator. It's just a wind!

So, that's what I do. I sell puts and calls, and buy stocks despite what the markets overall are doing. And I have to say it works. I don't panic. I am steady as she goes. Besides, the smart investor doesn't buy or sell a market. A smart investor buys or sells a company.

And right now, there are a lot of great companies that went on sale, and continue to be discounted more. Continue doing what you are doing guys. I know the wind from a predator, and while you fly away at the slight tickle of a breeze, I'll stick around and eat the seeds you left behind.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Markets Are Not Rattling Me, Still

I said yesterday that I did not believe that the announcement by the Fed was a negative for the economy, and despite today's even sharper decline of over 350 points, and like effects happening in other markets across the globe over the Fed's comments, I stand by what I said.

The declines in the markets are an overreaction, and I think the trend that the Fed is indicating is a positive one, not a negative one.

Sure, interest rates did infact rise to a two-year high. But the dollar also rose, and based on the most basic things, I think these are signs of a strengthening of the economy. Not a weakening. Granted, the interest rate hike is not due to the Fed, but rather due to market reaction to the Fed, and certainly the Fed raising interest rates would signal growth in the economy needs to be slowed down (a positive sign), but this is again, just a reaction.

The fundamentals are strong. The markets are overreacting. There is nothing to see here.

I am still a buyer. As I said two days ago, I am cautiously optimistic. I remain so. I can't control the impulse of big players on Wall Street to sell off their stocks and send the markets into a freefall. But I can control my targeted response, which is to react contrary to their negative, and buy into their frantic frenzy to sell.

Shares of my favorite companies are on sale. Shares of companies I have been waiting to buy that were overpriced are coming into target buy territory. I don't see any fundamental reason for the selloff. If the economy improves then the Fed will change course. How is that a negative? If the Fed is suggesting that the efforts it has been employing to prop up a poor economy may soon not be needed, how is that a negative? If the training wheels are not necessary, how is this a negative?

I'm not buying into the idea of the selloff. But you can bet your ass I am buying into the unfounded frenzy that's causing stocks to go on sale. The sharp declines cannot continue contrary to the fundamentals, and that means gains for anyone who is going to buy into this much needed dip in the markets.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sharp Decline In Markets an Overreaction

If you are a fundamental investor, today's sharp decline following comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that the Fed will not change its current plan to buy bonds and continue to print money, should be taken with a grain of salt. This is largely because the Fed was also upbeat, for the most part on their overall projections of the economy, saying much the same thing they said in May about where they thought things were going.

I would take this as a signal that the Fed believes that the market is on track to meet or exceed projections, but it is still a wait and see game.

I do not like the idea that the Fed wants to continue to print money since this leads to dilution when it comes to how much a dollar happens to be worth, and I think there could have been many more, more effective policy issues that could have curtailed the perceived need by the Fed to prop up the economy through its efforts. But barring that, and of course the Obama administration has only engaged in policies that are frankly, in my opinion, negative toward the prospect of real growth, I don't really believe that the Fed was left with much else of a choice.

My reaction to Wall Street's reaction is that it was an overreaction. And this is something I see as an opportunity to buy more shares of great companies at a discount. The fundamentals of the markets continue to be strong, even if the economy is still lagging, almost staggering behind.

What I drew from Bernanke's remarks is that the Fed will continue on it's current path until such time that some of the projections get closer to becoming foreseeable as becoming true. But to pull the plug too early is perhaps not the best plan...

Especially considering the slow growth we've seen in this recovery, and the fact that, so far as I can tell, Obama has no good policy decisions forthcoming that will speed things up at all. In fact, there may still be some heavy weights put on the economy, especially as Obamacare begins to get closer to full implementation.

Despite today's sharp decline I am bullish on the markets, and I am bullish on the economy as well. I don't expect anything robust economically speaking. But that's the point. I am certain that the economy will continue slowly, very slowly upward. At some point the Fed will leave go of the reigns and allow more natural forces to work. Again, nothing robust. But whatever growth will come more naturally. I think that's a positive. It also, for me, gives a sense of certainty, the counter of which is negative to the markets. I am comfortable with slower growth, because I can see that's the direction. If the economy gets closer to projections, I am confident that Bernanke will leave go of the training wheels, and let the economy do its own thing on its own terms.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cautious Optimism for the US Markets

Today wound up being another fairly good day in the markets, and certainly the markets have been enjoying some fairly nice runups of late. And while there are definitely positive signs that the economy may slowly be in the beginning stages of coming out of the doldrums, I am still fairly cautious about the moves I make in the markets, but also optimistic going forward that certain stocks will see some nice gains.

Part of the activity in the markets was due to the start of a two-day meeting by the Feds which, for all intents and purposes appears that they will not make any immediate changes, which is positive news overall. It willalso be interesting see what the Fed will have to say about some of the predictions they made in March when they last met in which they said they saw GDP growth around 2.6% through 2013, and a nearly 1 point increase in 2014 to 3.2%. In March the Fed also suggested that unemployment numbers would continue to improve, dropping to 7.4% by the end of 2013, and down to 6.9% by 2014. I think that if the Fed reaffirms these figures, or show better numbers for GDP growth projections and unemployment figures, obviously this will cause the markets to continue to rally. If the Fed adjust these numbers to the negative, it may throw a bit of uncertainty in the markets and cause stocks to go lower. My strong suspicion is that the Fed will not adjust their figures, but rather will state that they are on track to meet these projections they made back in March. That is still a positive, to my mind, and I think the markets will react positively to that news.

I also think that, for the time being, the Fed will maintain monthly purchases of $85 billion worth of bonds. They won't start scaling this back, I believe, until some of the projected figures begin to get closer to becoming fact. Bernanke, I think, tends to be a bit cautious about acting too soon. Although a scaling back of these bond purchases would certainly be a strong signal for the economy, and the markets could see gains as a result.

Stocks I like right now are Ford Motor Company (F), Dunkin Brands Group (DNKN), Target (TGT), and Masco Corp. (MAS).

I picked Ford due to what I perceive as better auto sales figures due to improving employment, an uptick in refinancing of mortgages which may open some money up to potential buyers, and aging fleets which will need to be replaced sometime in the near future which Ford could be a beneficiary of. Dunkin Brands Group was picked due to a good earnings cycle, and strong expansion of their business and upgrading of stores. Dunkin is making a strong push for market share, and I think they have a good chance of getting some of it. Target is my choice because consumer confidence is up slightly, and because I think Target is considered by many consumers as an upgrade to other discount players like Dollar Tree and Walmart. If economic conditions improve, and employment situations improve, consumers may well treat themselves to shopping up at Target over the other discounters. Plus, their stores look great. Masco Corp. is a play on the nearly 7% uptick in new housing starts recently reported, and improving home sales overall. When people buy new or existing homes, they tend to want to spruce things up a bit, and Masco Corp. is definitely a company who offers products new homeowners can turn to to help them to do this.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

HubPages Makes a Breakfastpop Pop Out

Don't get me wrong when I say that HubPages over the past couple of years has taken on far too much editorial control at their site, and it has irked more than just a few writers. I was one of them a while back as I wrote my farewell hub to my faithful readers, Goodbye HubPages sometime back in October of 2011.

HubPages is not a bad site to write for. It's just not as easy as it used to be to write content that you want without a lot of added scrutiny by the site moderators.

A couple of things that stood out for me were simple references that I made to the Boston Beer Company as I was simply saying that it was the last real American company left to brew beer. That hub it turned out was cited as promoting drinking. Another hub was simply an anecdote about the prospects of winning the lottery, and was primarily meant to be somewhat humurous in nature. This hub was cited as promoting gambling.

Neither of which were true in the context of my hubs. I eventually reposted the latter hub here on the Springboard, Winning the Lottery: The Dream of the Big Win.

If the moderators would have actually read the hubs, the fact that neither were really promoting anything would have been all too clear. Even after I wrote them citing my concerns, it was clear that they did not bother to read a word of what I'd posted. Worst of all I got a nasty bit of a response back from them which I talked about in a follow-up hub titled, On HubPages—October 21, 2011, wherein they said, "Like most websites, there are many topics which are protected under free speech that are not permitted on websites like HubPages. Please feel free to publish any content that violates HubPages Terms of Use elsewhere. Let us know if you have any questions."

That was the real stab, and those words hung on me like weighted chains hooked to my nipples. Please feel free to publish any content that violates HubPages Terms of Use elsewhere. Thanks for nothing, guys. Really?

To date my hubs have received over 72,000 views, and these figures do not count any hubs I deleted which became irrelevant due to time decay of the material. It doesn't make me the Stephen King of HubPages, but I am sure my 72,000 plus views certainly helped the site to make a few bucks over the years.

Which brings me to Breakfastpop who is, for all intents and purposes, a conservative blogger at HubPages. To date she has written around 913 hubs, and has earned the following of somewhere around 762 other hubbers, and who also gets read by many people outside the site who are not even members. Her blogs, as I would classify them, always get quite a few comments, and I would think her total views would blow mine clear out of the water.

And despite that, she recently announced she will be reducing her activity on the site citing mainly that HubPages has "institued changes that seem to be anti-writer." And she is spot on when she makes this comment. When I wrote Goodbye HubPages I said, "If we are to truly call ourselves writers then no writer I have ever spoken to has ever been for censorship in any form. This is censorship if you ask me." Breakfastpop went on to say, "This site is no longer a haven for writers who wish to express themselves freely and creatively."

This becomes especially true when one takes into consideration that the site touts itself as a site for writers, and is essentially a means to self publish your work. I understand why any site of this nature would want to be careful about some of its content simply because any content that might be negative could impact their entire site overall. But there is a big difference between inappropriate content and simple creative and free thinking by writers who provide it. And again, if the site wants to run itself more like a magazine and filter some of the content, then they must take the time to actually read the content that is deemed to be objectionable, substandard, or the quality of the content simply be determined by "word requirements, graphs, charts and polls" as Breakfastpop also rightly pointed out.

It is also true that many quality writers have left the site for the very reasons that I stated, along with Breakfastpop's statements as to her reasoning for slowing down her activity. What will they have left if the good writer's go is the question I have posed more than once? When you drive away those who actually make a positive contribution to the site, what is left? What's more, many times HubPages has said that they are simply going along with the TOS of Google Adsense. Yet not once have I ever had any notices of violating Adsense's TOS, even when I have published exactly the same material which was deemed a violation of HubPages TOS on one of my blogs, all of which are directly owned by Google.

One thing I have long said in looking into the actions of the moderators and owners of what is supposed to be a site for writers, is that none of these moderators or owners have a clue about the importance of freedom of speech that is inherent in anyone who actually considers themselves to be a writer, and as being a former editor involved in the publishing of an online monthly fiction horror magazine, editor of a horror fiction anthology, and having associations with other editors and writers like Mort Castle, Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance, T.M. Wright, Peter Straub, Michael Laimo (who recently had one of his books turned into a movie on Chiller), and former Dorchester Publishing Leisure Horror books editor Don D'Auria, I know what it means to have editorial control over content. Nothing was published, nor rejected, without first reading the material. That's how you deal with writers. No programming algorithm can ever replace that, and non writers/editors should not have a thing to do with editorial control. Instead this task should be delegated to those who know what they are doing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Failure of an American President

I have no desire at all for a president to fail. But when a president does in fact fail, I think it is all too imperative that the American people recognize this, despite any party affliliations one may have, or any other biases for that matter. To do anything else is to the detriment of the institution of the presidency of the United States, and to the country itself.

I think in the case of president Barack Obama, his failure to the American people is all too obvious, and on many levels. But also obvious is that part of the reason that the president has managed to escape his own failures is that a large population of Americans are simply disengaged from the issues that rule the day. Even worse, I think the pool of these disengaged Americans, whom are otherwise often referred to as the uninformed voter, is a growing pool.

How else could president Barack Obama have been reelected but without the support of uninformed voters?

During his presidency gas prices doubled, and median household income was slashed by a whopping $4,000 a year. Not only that, but unemployment rates were sustained above 8% for a stubborn 40 months or so. And something I find interesting that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention is a statement made by Congressman Betty Sutton that in 2010, on average, 23 manufacturing facilities were permanently shuttered every single day.

The latter I find particularly interesting considering democrats have always been on the side of American labor and jobs. Moreover, manufacturing jobs are the bread and butter of the middle class, and provide good paying jobs to people who perhaps have less opportunity to go to college—in other words, the working class that democrats have always touted being on the side of obviously received no benefit whatsoever from the Obama administration during his first term in office when so many promises were made that he would fix a broken economy, and put hard working middle class America back to work.

Back to work where would be a good question since few businesses were hiring, and any new businesses in the green economy that Barack Obama claimed would provide new jobs with great pay for struggling American workers mostly have all gone bankrupt.

The green economy has produced no real new jobs for anyone, and while unemployment numbers may be showing some indication of improving, we are not even close to replacing the total of lost jobs since the beginning and end of the Great Recession.

And then of course, there was Benghazi, which I think would have been a terrible blow to any president on any side of the aisle seeking reelection. Four Americans died. And it is clear that the Obama administration lied to the American people about what happened. Moreover, the failure by the Administration to keep Americans safe in regions where there were obvious threats to safety, was all but ignored by the people who helped to keep president Obama in the White House.

My point in all of this is that it is okay to give a shot to the new kid in town. Barack Obama came onto the scene almost out of nowhere and was able to connect with the American people, and brought great messages of hope and change, and made a promise to the American people that he would be the great leader in restoring the faith of the American people in their government. He was going to fix things and make life better for everyone. But he did none of these things. And it is not okay to fail to recognize this. It is not okay to overlook failures.

The people did not overlook the failures of Richard Nixon. Nor did they overlook the failures of Jimmy Carter. The American people got it. Something was wrong, and the American people were paying focused attention to the details. The American people on both sides of the aisle did not allow for excuses to be made.

Richard Nixon resigned, in part, because he knew that to do otherwise would damage the country, and he knew that to continue to serve in the office of the president was not in the best interest of the American people. And Jimmy Carter was not reelected because clearly no one was better off than they were when he took office.

As a result of uninformed voters and disengaged Americans, a president was allowed to slide past the radar, and allowed to perpetuate the course of failure, and this may prove a very difficult course to reverse. The impact on the American people and the American way of life has been severely compromised in my opinion, and while I am not suggesting doomsday has arrived, I think it can only get worse.

Now we have the IRS scandal, the AP scandal, and we still don't know what happened in Benghazi. Of course there was Fast and Furious. And the economy is still in the slowest recovery mode in history. Worst of all, the president has only increased his belief in the policies that have yet to be proven to have helped in any way.

Failure is not something to hope for at all. But it is also not something to be ignored.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pirate Republic Seafood & Grill, Ft. Lauderdale

Recently the wife and I had an opportunity to visit the Pirate Republic Seafood & Grill, located in Ft. Lauderdale, on a recent trip to Florida, and I have to tell you that if you will be in the area anytime soon, this is definitely a place worth visiting. The service was exemplary, and the food was outstanding. Our bill was not outrageous either.

Being that the establishment resides in sunny Florida, the main eating area is of course set outside, and there are plenty of spaces available to dock your boat if making the trip via the water is your preference. They also have a dockside eating area, although we weren't able to take advantage of that on the day we went due to a bit of rain that had started.

The establishment has two bars. One downstairs in the main restaurant area, and one upstairs where they often have live entertainment. On the night we went they had a Blues Brothers act which was fantastic. If you hadn't have known it you'd have swore that John Belushi had risen from the dead to join with his old sidekick, Dan Ackroyd. The duo had a full backup band, and the show was very lively. Well worth it after our delicious meal.

And of course, the highlight was indeed the meal. I decided on the Anguilla dish and chose the catch of the day for my fish choice, which on this day was catfish. The filet was was sauteed with shrimp, and
included fresh tomatoes, onion, and garlic. It also was topped with fresh green peppercorns, spinach, and layered underneath was a helping of mashed potatoes. The combination of flavors really left me very happy. And the price for the dish was only $22. Very much worth it if you ask me.

My wife enjoyed the Kobe beef burger served up with sweet potato fries. This hamburger, which I did take a bite of, was one of the best burgers I've tasted in a long time. The beef was absolutely delicious, and the burger was served up arugula and a tangy Brazilian Catupiry cream cheese. The $18 price tag was not too much to ask at all considering how good this burger was.

For drinks I stuck with my favorite poison, a simple beer. I had a Yuengling Lager, and the wife had a Pirate Treasure. This drink is an amazing marriage of Bacardi Coconut Rum, Seven Tiki Spiced Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and grenadine. As much I am not one for sweeter drinks, this one really was a great drink, and my wife enjoyed it enough to actually order a second once we went up to the second bar upstairs for the Blues Brothers show.

This is a place we will certainly be revisiting on our next trip to Ft. Lauderdale, and I highly recommend it. The staff is friendly and attentive, and I was also very impressed that despite them having a very full house, we were immediately seated, and our food was served hot and fresh in a very short amount of time.

It is an eating experience to please the senses, and a delectable treat that will leave you full and very satisfied. I would rate this a very high 9 on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Unemployment Numbers May Drive Future Auto Sales

The unemployment numbers released today show some sign that just maybe we may be beginning to see a bit of a turnaround. Certainly the DOW Jones Industrial Average, and frankly all of the indices, have been on fire. The DOW has seen record highs.

This leads to one other thing we know. Auto sales have lagged both in the United States, and big time in Europe. All indicators point to a trend in the United States over the past 5-8 years that says that Americans in particular have been keeping their cars for longer periods of time.

When the economy stinks, who the heck can take the chance to buy a new car? Just drive what you have and run with it.

In fact, if you'd have invested in many of the auto parts companies like O'Reilly, for example, you'd have seen some pretty nice gains. People keeping their cars longer means they'll need parts to keep them running in tip top shape.

Which brings me back to the automakers. If and when, and I really think it is more a matter of when than if, the economy really starts to get some of its legs back, I think the very first thing the average American is going to do is replace their old car.

Sure, houses are nice, and the housing market has been having a pretty good run as well lately. But cars are still at the heart of every single American that drives. A new car is a treat. And if jobs numbers begin to improve, and people feel more secure in the jobs they have, and especially if the economy begins to provide less uncertainty as to where it's headed, Americans will park a shiny new car in their driveway.

It's a high ticket item, but it's not as high a ticket item as a house is. And the interest rates are still running relatively low, making any deal at the dealership even more enticing.

I am focusing on American automakers as well in this idea. I like Ford a lot. Mostly because Ford is the smaller of the Big Three US automakers, and because they have streamlined their business massively, and I think they have the most to gain with market share. Not to mention they are making some pretty nice cars.

Why American as well? I think there is a growing amount of interest in this country to buy American. We are beginning to see many more efforts by retailers to stock their shelves with American made goods. Walmart recently said it would add $50 billion over the next 10 years of American made goods. Big home improvement chains like Menards, which are all over the Midwest states, especially around Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, has been on a rampage stocking their stores with American made and regularly offering American made sale prices and incentives.

I just think that more Americans are becoming aware that in order to really seat this country back into a good economic situation, we are going to have to start putting factories back on line, and in turn Americans will have better employment choices in sectors of manufacturing, which historically paid good wages and benefits to the average American. The fact that you can have a good paying job without the need for a college degree is also a plus since more Americans working and making good money no matter their status means many more dollars will flow in the real economy, and ultimately into these American businesses.

Ford Motor Company is my top pick. But I think if you invest in any automaker right now, in 12-24 months, you'll see substantial gains. Maybe the dip in unemployment is just a short term fluke. Or it is something that signals a turnaround. Either way, I don't see this economic downturn as being a permanent thing, and like I said before, the very first treat when all is good will be a shiny new car.

And that's why I think the automakers are good buy right now.

Full disclosure: Jim Bauer currently has stock in the Ford Motor Company.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Buying American Made Is Easier Than You Think

Every time I bring up the idea of buying more American made goods in order to help supply more cash to the American economy, and encourage businesses to identify demand for goods made in America, and essentially increase efforts to manufacture their products here, and provide more jobs to Americans who still are hard pressed to find meaningful work that pays workers good wages, I get met with dissent.

"Things cost too much to make it here," people say. "American companies cannot compete with lower wages in other countries."

I tend to find these accusations to be false. It sounds good. It's certainly what we have been led to believe by not only the companies who make things, but the government has touted this often as well, and always like to bring up the idea that this is a global economy, and that commerce with other countries is vitally important to the American economy and her people.

Yet the largest employer in the United States is currently Walmart, unemployment remains at considerably high levels, median income is down by nearly $4,000 per year per American, and for the last 30 or so years wages in America for the average worker has either declined, or been stagnant. The middle class is on their death bed, and the gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening.

The fact is that there are still things made in America, and they don't necessarily cost more than goods made elsewhere. It just takes a little extra time to look for things made here. Among some things still made in America, aside certain makes and models of automobiles, are socks, outdoor grills, water heaters, dishwashers and other appliances, plastic containers, glassware, cutlery, shoes, and many other items that people generally have a use for.

Consider something here that I find interesting. That is that there are approximately 300 million people living in America. If each and every American bought just $365 worth of American made goods, this would pour approximately $109.5 billion dollars into U.S. manufacturing. Not only would this provide an incentive for American companies, and even foreign companies, to do business here and employ Americans, but this would also assume that more money would be able to be collected by the IRS. More people working, making higher wages, and essentially having more buying power in the real economy means less people on the dole, less requirement for the government to engage in social programs which cost taxpayers huge dollar amounts, and at the end of the day this means more people able to afford any premiums that may be associated with American made versus foreign made goods.

In America it was fine at one time to think about benefits of globalization. Unfortunately I think we are seeing the proof is in the pudding that what globalization has largely done has been to cost Americans much needed work, benefits, and higher wages, and has forced Americans more than ever to struggle through their own financial woes with less ability to provide for their families and pursue their dreams, desires, and goals.

It's just $365 a year in American made goods. This generates $109.5 billion of revenue for American manufacturing. I think getting to a point where we think more and more about the importance of making things here, the more opportunity Americans will have to have to find American made products, and the easier it will be to slowly inch our way back up to doubling, and even tripling these numbers pouring into the American manufacturing sector of our economy.