Archive for February, 2012

The labor force participation rate … so what?

February 29, 2012

When the Feds release this week’s unemployment data, expect more chatter about the falling labor participation rate … which reflects the increasing number of discouraged people who have stopped looking for work and don’t get counted in the unemployment numbers.

For the 4 years prior to Obama’s inauguration, the labor force participation rate hung pretty steady … at around 66%.

Since Obama took office, that rate has plummeted to 63.7%.


Let’s try some math skills …

If unemployment is 8.3% with a 63.7% labor force participation rate, what would the unemployment rate be if the participation rate were at the pre-Obama 66%?

Answer: about 11.5%


Obama’s economic hope continues to be that more and more people get discouraged — or, just stay on unemployment for the full 99 weeks.

Bingo, down goes the unemployment rate.

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There will only be one Lady Gaga … on Facebook, that is.

February 29, 2012

Punch line: Tighter controls. More credibility? Facebook will now verify celebrity stage or pen names to create accounts for the likes of Lady Gaga.

* * * * *
Excerpted from “Facebook to launch verified accounts with pseudonyms

… In an effort to root out impostors, Facebook will reportedly soon allow celebrities and other public figures to verify their accounts in much the same way that Twitter does.

The social network will begin notifying public figures with many subscribers tomorrow that they can verify their accounts by submitting an image of a government-issued ID, allowing them to display a preferred pseudonym instead of their birth name, according to a TechCrunch report. Facebook will then manually approve the “alternative names” to confirm they are the real stage names or pen names.

Facebook users must be chosen to participate in the program; there is no way to volunteer for verification. However, unlike Twitter, verified accounts will not receive a special badge indicating verified status.

Verification will allow celebrities such as Stefani Germanotta to be more readily accessible to fans when her name is officially listed as Lady Gaga instead of what’s on a birth certificate.


However, as on Twitter, the influx of impostors has become an inconvenience for both Facebook and fans alike.

Edit by KJM

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What’s $65 among friends?

February 28, 2012

There was a piece recently in  the NY Times — titled How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.

The article stirred up some flak against Apple for producing the iPhone in China instead of the U.S.

The author argues that lower Chinese wages are, at best, only a partial explanation:

It is hard to estimate how much more it would cost to build iPhones in the United States.

However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense.

The article concludes: “However, labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing …and since Apple’s profits are often hundreds of dollars per phone, building domestically … would still give the company a healthy reward.”


Apple sells about 100 million iPhones annual … times $65 is $6.5 billion.

So, the answer is for Apple to suck it up, lower its profits, and dish the dough to high cost American workers.

Or, maybe Apple could just jack up the price of each iPhone by $65.

Certainly folks would be willing to pay that much of a premium to get an American made phone that works almost as well as the Chinese made one, right?

I’ll take the under on that bet.

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Why aren’t there Minute Clinics next to every ER?

February 28, 2012

That’s a question I often ask.

Everybody knows that some people use ERs in place of a primary care physician or an urgent care clinic.

That’s costly to the healthcare system since an average ER bill is around $1,000 while an average bill at a Minute Clinic or one of Walmart’s ProCare clinics is about around $50.

Currently, Federal law requires ER physicians to look at everyone who comes to the ER and treat those who have life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

So, the “system” has pay a $950 premium and seriously hurt or ill patients get to wait in long queues to get treated.

Bad deal all around..

A hospital in Odessa Texas is trying to attack the problem buy requiring patients to post a $250 deposit if they want to be treated in the ER minor ailments

According to

When someone comes into the Medical Center Hospital ER, they’re assessed to determine the severity of their ailments.

Based on the examination a doctor decides whether or not the person’s injury or illness requires a stay in the ER.

If the injury or illness is determined to be minor, they’ll be directed to a local clinic rather than be treated in the ER.

People with chest pains, abdominal pains or high risk conditions like tuberculosis are the types of patients who would not be redirected to a clinic.

In addition, children younger than 10 years-old and adults older than 65 years old will not be redirected either.

But if that person chooses to remain in the ER and have their minor ailment treated there, they will have to pay a $250 deposit,

The new measure is part of an effort to redirect those without serious issues to more appropriate places for treatment and streamline the ER.

Sounds like a step in the right direction, but I still gotta ask: Why aren’t there Minute Clinics next to every ER?

Have a stern triage nurse out front directing folks to turn right into the ER or turn left into the clinic.

Everybody gets appropriate treatment and we actually save some healthcare costs … rather than just shuffling around who pays for what.

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In advance of this week’s unemployment report … Gallup up to 9.2%

February 27, 2012

In case you missed it this weekend, Gallup’s daily tracking report put unemployment at 9.2%up from 8.3% in mid-January.


The BLS report this Friday will be vey interesting.  Even with more book-cooking via changed methodologies, sample changes, and seasonal adjustments — it’ll be hard to put lipstick on this pig

My prediction: the BLS rate will go from 8.3% to 8.5% …. with a lot smoke re: seasonal adjustments … but  nothing would surprise me now that the bean counters have been politicized.

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Target the targeter becomes the target … very predictable.

February 27, 2012

This is going to be hard for Target to shake.

The NYT revelations that Target has been mining its data bases to early-identify pregnant women and “change their buying behaviors when they’re vulnerable to marketing initiatives” has gone viral.

Now, Target has become a target …

Here’s a funny piece from the Colbert Report:

click to view

Thanks to RG for feeding the lead

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Tipping point ?

February 24, 2012

As far back as July, 2008 we warned that under Obama: “Tax Payers Will Become a  Dwindling Majority”

To be fair, as the original post outlines, much of the credit (blame?) goes to Bush and the unintended consequences of his tax cuts.   They started the momentum.  Obama just pushed down on the accelerator.

Well, as predicted, we’re approaching the tipping point.

According to the Heritage Foundation, only half of U.S. citizens pay federal income tax, according to the latest available figures.

In 2009, just 50.5 per cent of Americans paid any income tax to the federal government – the lowest proportion in at least half a century

We warned you …


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Remember when a Blackberry was cool?

February 24, 2012

Punch line: Remember when you’d secretly watching out-of-the-corner of your eye for that blinking red light? Yep, we all did it – and it even fed our egos of feeling somewhat important when we knew we had a message pending… Well, RIM,  the makers of the “crackberry,” first dominated the marketplace but seem to have lost sight of its strengths, and customer needs. Now, it struggles for survival in the marketplace …

* * * * *

Excerpted from “7 Marketing Lessons From RIM’s Failures


Long before the iPhone the took the world by storm, and before Google even dreamed about getting into the phone business, Research in Motion was on top of the consumer electronics mountain.

Today, sadly, it is buried under it, and industry insiders everywhere wonder whether RIM will survive …

Here are seven marketing lessons from RIM’s dark and difficult journey.

1. Make Great Products

Consumer electronics success begins with excellent products. The BlackBerry was once perceived as the very best smartphone — or, at least, “emailing phone” — available. It was exciting, emotional and it made people feel good. RIM sold BlackBerries on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. BlackBerries were aspirational, and people wanted to own one because friends and colleagues were so passionate about them.

Now, fast-forward to today.

Consider the excitement and energy around the iPhone and all those Android handsets. RIM enjoys none of that today. Not one percent of it. In part, it’s because it stopped making good smartphones in favor of a poorly received tablet called the PlayBook.

Successful marketing begins with having a tremendous product or service to market. Nothing happens without this.

2. Build on Strengths Instead of Improving on Weaknesses

For RIM, the BlackBerry was a great strength, and they all but abandoned its development and marketing for a year or longer to create the tablet. RIM did this to try to prevent the world from passing it by in the tablet space — which it did anyway. Tragically, as a result of diverting talent, attention, resources, investment and innovation from the BlackBerry to the Playbook, the consumer smartphone world has also passed RIM by.

If you focus on developing weaknesses, your strengths will atrophy due to neglect.

3. Gravity Pushes Backwards

If you’ve attained a measure of success, you must continue innovating your products, services and your marketing just to maintain your position. Because you can bet the competition is innovating aggressively, and they’ll pass you by in three seconds if you stop doing the things that brought you success. RIM not only stopped releasing new BlackBerries while focusing on its PlayBook, it basically stopped talking to its customers about them for an extended period.

Gravity pushes backwards in business. Consistent and aggressive innovation is required not only to attain success, but to maintain it.

4. Know Precisely Who Your Customer Is

RIM’s management famously disagreed on who their customer was. Then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis felt the customer was the corporation. Others, probably including his counterpart Jim Balsillie, wanted to aim BlackBerry products at consumers. If you don’t know exactly who your customer is, it is impossible to market. Language, messaging, platforms, branding and public relations change completely depending on the customers you target.

So identify your customers as precisely as possible, and aim all of your marketing efforts at them.

5. Executives Set the Marketing Tone

Consider the most successful companies in consumer electronics (and two of the most successful companies in all of business): Apple and Amazon. Their chief executives set their marketing tone, and everyone follows. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch this YouTube video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad, and listen to how everybody who followed him on stage used exactly the same words.

This is no accident. The next day, thousands of articles used the same words to describe the amazing, remarkable and awesome iPad. Amazon’s Bezos is the same way. The best marketers have high-level executives setting the tone. They not only teach the rest of the company how to talk about their products and services, but the customers, the media, and the market itself. Obviously, RIM’s co-CEOs did not set this tone. They couldn’t even agree on who the customer was.

6. Avoid Unforced Errors

Most marketing problems are self-made and entirely avoidable. Consider the major developments from RIM’s recent past:

  • It voluntarily stopped focusing on the BlackBerry to make a product it had no experience with.
  • It could not identify its customer.
  • It stopped marketing to consumers, allowing competition to roar past.

7. Keep Talking to Your Customers

If RIM had talked to its customers like this, it would have quickly learned that they probably weren’t particularly interested in a BlackBerry tablet without built-in email, messaging or contacts!

If you’re not talking to your customers, you’re just guessing from a conference room.

Edit by KJM

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The problem is that the market for unskilled labor is too efficient … say, what?

February 23, 2012

Punch line: Fmr. Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that the problem isn’t that there are too few manufacturing jobs in the U.S., it’s that unions don’t have the sway they used to have.

Excerpted from Salon; “The factory jobs aren’t coming back”

The U.S. has 5.5 million fewer factory jobs today than in July 2000 – and 12 million fewer than in 1990.

Blame that on lower-wage workers overseas … and  numerically-controlled machine tools and robotics. 

Not to worry, though, because bringing back American manufacturing isn’t the real challenge, anyway.

The real challenge is creating good jobs for the majority of Americans who lack four-year college degrees.

Manufacturing used to supply lots of these kind of jobs, but that was only because factory workers were represented by unions powerful enough to get high wages.

That’s no longer the case.

In the 1950s, more than a third of American workers were represented by a union.

Now, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers have a union behind them.

If there’s a single reason why the median wage has dropped dramatically for non-college workers over the past three and a half decades, it’s the decline of unions.

Let me make sure that I understand.

Folks who don’t finish college can’t compete with equally skilled (or unskilled) foreign workers who charge a lot less for their services.

And, they can’t compete with high tech machines that crank out consistent quality at low cost.

So, the answer is to introduce a market inefficiency — a labor cartel – that forces U.S. companies to pay unskilled laborers more than their true economic value.

And then, when the companies pass along the added costs to consumers …  we’re all some how better off.

Do I have it right?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for unskilled laborers to get paid their true economic value … and enhance their educational and skills’ bases if they want to be paid more?

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Forget Membership Points…..Your Reward is a Surprise!!

February 23, 2012

Punch line: Best Buy is differentiating its membership rewards with a “surprise and delight” approach.

Sure beats cold cash discounts, right?

* * * * *
Excerpted form AdAge: “Surprise! Here’s a Ticket to a Movie Premiere, on Best Buy”

Best Buy invited a handful of top shoppers and their family members to an exclusive preview of “Twilight Eclipse.”

The reward, which went to select members of Best Buy’s Reward Zone loyalty program, was part of a “surprise and delight” approach that’s becoming a mainstay in loyalty strategies.

“Surprise and delight” plays off the principle that a dollar bill is always worth more when you find it crinkled up in an old pair of pants.

At Best Buy, surprises have taken the form of movie premieres and exclusive shopping invites on Black Friday.

Edited by ARK

Target bellies up to moms-to-be … by mining their shopping patterns.

February 22, 2012

In a previous post, we excepted from a NY Times article How Companies Learn Your Secrets that

  1. Much of what people do is based on habits, not conscious reasoning.
  2. Consumers’ shopping habits and brand loyalties are often more habitual than thoughtful.
  3. But, there are certain “events” — e.g. new baby, new home, recent divorce — that seem to make consumers more open to switching stores and brands.
  4. Savvy marketers are learning to identify these critical events — before they happen — and try to get consumers to switch  their behavior.

Target is one of the retailers identifying customers who are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers” … and pouncing on them.

Who?  Moms-to-be.


According to the NY Times article, Target identified about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed them to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score.

For example, sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women tend to load up on body lotions and supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc.

With that information in their computer systems, Target can identify likely pregnant women and, more important,  estimate their due dates, so that  Target can send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

It’s a bit unbelievable … and a lot creepy.

And, oh yeah, it works.

But, gotta wonder why Target let this cat out of the bag …  if this story goes viral,  the privacy concerns are likely to offset the added sales to moms-to-be.

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Move over MJ … Nike’s ready with some Lin-kicks.

February 22, 2012

Punch line: Nike has jumped on the Lin band wagon and plans to release the Hyperfuse 2011 Linsanity PE.

Pretty catchy name, right?. 

* * * * *

Excerpted from, “With Jeremy Lin Shoe, Nike Seeks Linsane Asylum


In case you hadn’t noticed, the world has gone nuts for New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin …

Now Nike is planning to give the people what they want: to be #Linning too.

According to ESPN Radio’s blog, the shoe manufacturer is “set to release the Nike Hyperfuse 2011 Linsanity PE,” a shoe that features New York Knick’s iconic orange and blue with ‘Lin’ written in script, “sweeping across the side of the heel” …

Lin’s new shoe isn’t likely to supplant the Air Jordan in Nike history, of course, but it’s hard to imagine what will happen if Lin keeps leading the Knicks to consecutive victories — and after the inevitable end to the hot streak …

Meanwhile, Lin’s brand keeps getting larger, and not just in the U.S.

Lin — who is the first American-born player in the NBA of Chinese or Taiwanese descent — now has more than 350,000 Twitter followers and, on the Chinese version, 750,000, according to the New Yorker. The publication notes that “last week, Lin rocketed to the number-one most searched item on Baidu, the Chinese search engine.”

Edit by KJM

Re: the unemployment rate … Gallup still hanging at 9% — up from 8.3%.

February 21, 2012

You may remember that the BLS reported a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate for January — down from 8.5% to 8.3%.


At the time, we (and many other folks) pointed out that the apparent improvement was largely drive by people leaving the work force, by seasonal adjustments (which were more liberal than prior years), and by a revision in the way that the BLS compiles the numbers.

In other words, smelled like some book-cooking going on.

At the time, we encouraged loyal readers to start watching the Gallup daily tracking of the unemployment rate.  Historically, it has been a pretty good canary in the unemployment coal mine.

Typically, Gallup’s mid-month number is a good predictor of the BLS’s end-of-month number.

Well, the Gallup number has increased dramatically from mid-January to mid-February … from 8.3% (same as the BLS end of January number) … up to 9%, where it has bee hanging.

The number reported by the BLS for February will be very, very interesting …

Based on Gallup, the unemployment rate should surge back up.

Unless, of course, somebody cooks the books …


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Hitting consumers when they’re “vulnerable to intervention by marketers”…

February 21, 2012

Punch line: Many of consumers’  buying behaviors are habitual — deeply ingrained and difficult of to change.  Marketers have to identify times when consumers are open to change and get them. to break  their habits. 

The good news: the are times when consumers are, in fact, ripe for change …

In the 1980s, a team of researchers led by a U.C.L.A. professor named Alan Andreasen (now at MSB) undertook a study of peoples’ most mundane purchases, like soap, toothpaste, trash bags and toilet paper.

They learned that most shoppers paid almost no attention to how they bought these products, that the purchases occurred habitually, without any complex decision-making.

Which meant it was hard for marketers, despite their displays and coupons and product promotions, to persuade shoppers to change.

But when some customers were going through a major life event, like graduating from college or getting a new job or moving to a new town, their shopping habits became flexible in ways that were both predictable and potential gold mines for retailers.

The study found that:

  • When someone marries, he or she is more likely to start buying a new type of coffee.
  • When a couple move into a new house, they’re more apt to purchase a different kind of cereal.
  • When they divorce, there’s an increased chance they’ll start buying different brands of beer.

At those unique moments, Andreasen wrote, customers are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers.”

In other words, a precisely timed advertisement, sent to a recent divorcee or new homebuyer, can change someone’s shopping patterns for years.

Excerpted from NY Times, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, by Charles Duhigg

Note that Prof. Andreasen didn’t just pick off the obvious stuff — e.g. new parents buying baby stuff,  new home owners furnishing their new digs, or divorcees buying new duds.

No, the life-changers seem willing to change many of their buying patterns and brand loyalties.

Next: How Target identifies customers who are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers”  … and pounces on them.

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Hit the trademark button: Linsanity™

February 21, 2012

NY Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin is going on offense to protect “Linsanity”.

Last week, he applied for trademark rights to Linsanity.

One of Lin’s attorneys confirmed: “We’re prepared to protect his intellectual property rights,” said Pam Deese at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arent Fox. She declined to comment further

Lin paid a filing fee of $1,625 to cover use of the trademarked term on all manner of apparel, including underwear.

Here’s the rub: One of Lin’s high school basketball coaches reportedly bought the domain name in 2010 and has been selling Lin branded merchandise including T-shirts that have similar blue and orange coloring like that of the Knicks’ uniforms..

According to the Huffington Post:

“The NBA is pursuing enforcement — in the US, China and other countries — to address the sale of counterfeit ‘Lin’ jerseys and other unauthorized merchandise using NBA intellectual property. We also are coordinating with Jeremy Lin’s representatives regarding their efforts to enforce against the unauthorized use of his name and image.”

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Some highlights (and many lowlights) from last Friday’s trip to Capitol Hill …

February 20, 2012

On Friday, we took an out-of-town friend to see the Capitol complex.

Let me be more specific, last Friday around noon, we took an out-of-town friend to the Capitol Visitors’ Center.

Know where I’m going with this?

According to the Washington Post:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol,.

When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

Suffice it to say, our group would have been very disappointed if we had gotten our butts blown off by the wingnut.

Since we didn’t, we’ll call that a highlight.

We got gallery passes to watch both the Senate and the Congress … hoping to catch a break and see them — with our very own eyes — increase the deficit by $180 billion and edge Social Security closer to insolvency.

First stop: House of Representatives.

When we walked in there was a “Member” speaking — no idea who the dude was.

Who was he speaking to, you ask?

Answer: NOBODY !

There was not a single other Member present to listen to to the guy — just a the House clerk, a couple of pages and a couple of court recorders — you know, the jobs that became obsolete about 30 years ago.

When the first guy was done talking, the was replaced at the podium by a “gentleman from Maryland” who must have been at least 120 years old.

He was mumbling so badly that we walked out … heading for the Senate.

When we walked into the Senate, Mike Lee– one of my favorites — was talking.

He was giving a spirited stop-the-spending speech to … NOBODY!

Again, not a single other Senator was hanging around to hear his pitch.

When he finished, Orin Hatch — another of my favorites — strolled in.

He gave a passionate defense of religious rights to … NOBODY.

When he finished, Harry Reed marched in.  We’re still not sure what he was blabbing about … our guest thought it had something to do with stalled appointments.

The best part of the day came when votes were held … with Harry Reed being the only Senator in the room.

First, there were a couple of things passed “without objection”.

Translation: the parliamentarian polled the room “Are there any objections?”

Of course not, you jackass, Harry Reed is the only one in the room…

“Passed without objection.”

The sublime became ridiculous when an actual vote was taken.

Again, Reed’s the only Senator present.

The parliamentarian commanded: “All those agreeing say ‘aye’.”

Reed chirps “aye”.

“All opposed say ‘nay’”

Still nobody else present, you jackass.

“The ayes have it, motion is accepted.”

I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

I was still hoping that the other 99 Senators would storm in to vote on the payroll tax budget buster.

But, the parliamentarian just shouted: “Adjourned until next Tuesday at noon.”


I’d like to say I feel better about the process having watched it first hand.

I’d like to say that , but I can’t.

What a joke.

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Here’s what your food will look like … want it?

February 20, 2012

Takeaway: Some of my family members predictably respond to pictures on menus.

Heaven may have arrived on earth for them.

A London restaurant uses technology to give diners a virtual peek at how their food will look.  If  they like what they see, they can use the touchpad to enter their order.

* * * * *
Excerpted from “Giving Your Restaurant Order With The Click Of A Table


In the Future of Retail report there is a fascinating example of an electronic mirror found at the Inamo St. James restaurant on London’s Regent Street.

On our recent trip to the UK we visited the restaurant to try out the interactive tables that all diners use there.

When diners sit, a screen is projected on the table and through the use of a touchpad they can order drinks, food, games and even a taxi.

A fun aspect of the interaction is that a diner can see how the dishes will look once served — an image gets projected on a plate on the table before they order.

With a mouse click, each dish can be added to a list — and then when the diner is happy with their selection that list of orders is electronically sent to the kitchen.

And if the diner is wondering what is happening while they wait they have a range of options.

For a start, they can open a video window on the table with a live feed from the kitchen or they can entertain themselves by changing the projected table-cloth, choosing from various photographs and patterns …

Edit by KJM

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“Nobody knew the economy was in such bad shape” … oh, yeah?

February 17, 2012

Soon after taking office, President Barack Obama crowed that  he’d cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

He made the pledge not as a candidate but as president.

It came in the East Room of the White House at the opening of his Fiscal Responsibility Summit on Feb. 23, 2009.

I want to be very clear: We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end.

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation.

We are paying the price for these deficits right now.

In 2008 alone, we paid $250 billion in interest on our debt — one in every 10 taxpayer dollars. That is more than three times what we spent on education that year; more than seven times what we spent on VA health care.

So if we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes, and our children and our grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they’re saddled with our debts.

And that’s why today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.

Now, the President and his shills are hitting the talk shows asking for a pass on the pledge, saying that “nobody knew how deep the economic crisis was”.

Say, what?

Well, except for the Federal Reserve Board … as reported in their annual report … before Obama made the pledge.

click to see the whole report

Here’s the essence of the report:

The unemployment rate has risen to its highest level since the early 1990s, and other measures of labor market conditions—for example, the number of persons working part-time because full-time jobs are not available—have worsened noticeably.

The deteriorating job market, along with the sizable losses of equity and housing wealth and the tightening of credit conditions, has depressed consumer sentiment and spending; these factors have also contributed to the continued steep decline in housing activity.

In addition, businesses have instituted widespread cutbacks in capital spending in response to the weakening outlook for sales and production as well as the difficult credit environment.

In all, real gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States dropped at an annual rate of 3-3⁄4 percent in the fourth quarter; real GDP seems headed for another considerable decrease  2009.

Hmmm.  Sounds like the Fed knew.

If you don’t like the Fed, see the Kiplinger Report “They Called It Right (Predictions for 2009)”

Here’s a sampling:

ROBERT SHILLER, professor at Yale University: ” The present situation has many similarities to the Great Depression.”

PETER SCHIFF, president of Euro Pacific Capital: “”We’re going to be in a depressionary environment. Our economy will be a mess for years and years to come. ”

NOURIEL ROUBINI, chairman of RGE Monitor and professor at New York University: ” I expect that the recession will be very severe and that it won’t be over before the end of 2009.”

BOB RODRIGUEZ & TOM ATTEBERRY, chief executive officer and partner, respectively, First Pacific Advisors: “Projections of economic growth have been far too optimistic. This is a multiple-year problem.”

DAVID TICE, chief equity strategist for , Federated Investors: “This will be a longer-term decline — you’ll see fits and starts …   it’s likely going to take four to five to ten years (to recover). 

Maybe Obama’s crack economic team didn’t know, but it looks like way more than “nobody”  knew.

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Move over Angry Birds … I need my iPad to edit a Powerpoint pitch.

February 17, 2012

I got an iPad last summer, but have been having trouble finding really useful things to do on it.  Even emails seem to have major limitations.

Hall talk with colleagues indicated that they were running into the same situation: great for playing games and watching Netflix, but limited re: practical apps.

That may be ending.

More start-ups are writing productivity apps for the iPad … including Quickoffice — which has a cheap app for viewing and editing Word, Powerpoint and Excel.

Anybody out here try Quickoffice yet?

Excerpted from Business Week: Microsoft Office-like apps are a big hit on Apple’s tablet

Quickoffice, an iPad app for viewing and editing Microsoft Office documents was regularly among the top-three highest-grossing apps throughout 2011.

The app can open and edit documents from Microsoft’s most popular productivity software programs: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It also ties into cloud-based storage providers such as Dropbox and and social networks such as Facebook, so users can easily store and share those documents.

The app’s $20 price tag is high relative to the app store’s typical $0.99 offerings, but Quickoffice’s CEO says he’s not worried about appealing to everyone.

“I don’t care about units, I care about money.”

Quickoffice’s sales topped $30 million in 2011 and are expected to grow more than 50 percent in 2012.

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How about a referendum on the 10 Commandments ?

February 16, 2012

OK, the Catholic bishops are still pushing back on the ObamaCare mandate that church-affiliated organizations must “violate their consciences” and ante up for contraceptives.

Many pundits are counter-punching the bishops … arguing that they are woefully out-of-touch … that an overwhelming majority of Catholics support contraception.  So, the bishops should get off their soap boxes and ditch the rule.

Interesting angle: subject religious doctrine re: right and wrong  to a popular vote.  If it doesn’t get a majority, chuck it.


I think the idea has merit.

In fact, I say: why not hold a referendum on the 10 commandments?

Maybe #10 and #7 would fail to get enough votes and it would become legit for me to jack my neighbors big screen TV.

The idea has potential, right?

Think about it.

Which of the 10 would you like to see voted out?

            10 Commandments

  1. You shall not have other gods.
  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain
  3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day
  4. Honor your father and your mother
  5. You shall not kill
  6. You shall not commit adultery
  7. You shall not steal
  8. You shall not bear false witness
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

>> Latest Posts

Walmart marks healthy options with its own “Great for you” icon

February 16, 2012

Punchline: Walmart moms want to buy healthier foods for their families, but are over-whelmed by nutrition labels and options. To simplify the buying process and promote healthier eating, Walmart has made a “Great for you” icon for its healthy products.

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “Walmart’s “Great for You” Icon Promotes Healthier Food Choices


A year after pledging to develop a front-of-pack label that would give its customers an easier way to identify healthier food, and a month after a public commitment with First Lady Michelle Obama to putting nutrition front and center in its stores, Walmart, the nation’s largest food retailer this week unveiled a “Great For You” icon to create a visual system to educate customers ..

Walmart says it will adapt to whatever the FDA’s regulations are whenever that list actually is produced, but will for now add the icon to products with lower levels of fat, sugar, and artificial additives. Plus, the seal will appear on signage in the fruits and vegetable section of its grocery area.

“It helps customers see very, very quickly what healthier choices are for them,” stated Andrea Thomas, SVP of sustainability for Wal-Mart Stores …

“Walmart moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet” …

Edit by KJM.

>> Latest Posts

MoFoFree: Cell phones update …

February 15, 2012

Punch line: Wireless operators like Sprint Nextel are building a big business providing free cellular service to the poor. Taxpayers pick up the tab.


* * * * *

Last year, we blogged about the Feds free cellphone service to low income folks.

You see, chatting and texting is an entitlement that tax payers are morally required to subsidize.

Say, what?

The program started with good intentions: to provide every low income household with a landline for emergency use.  No long distance.  No special service.  Just local calls and 911.

No problem.

Well, then landlines became “so yesterday” and the program morphed to cell phones

And, guess what?

Demand is exploding.

According to Business Week:

Companies like Sprint Nextel aren’t driven by altruism.

Serving cash-pinched customers  can pay off due to federal government subsidies.

And finding new customers isn’t hard.

Now the poor or unemployed form a large pool of would-be customers.

With unemployment at 9.4 percent and one in six Americans living in poverty, Sprint and  TracFone have seen an explosion in sign-ups for the government-subsidized free wireless services. 

Applicants have to be eligible for Medicaid or several other low-income assistance programs, have a family income significantly below the local poverty level (poverty guidelines vary by state), or receive food stamps.

In October, 43.2 million received such food assistance, up 14.7 percent from a year earlier.

Despite the rules, it’s reported to be  pretty easy to get one of these phones – or to get several of them.  Think “no doc” mortgages with fewer controls.

One reported scam is for qualified people to sign up, sell their phones on eBay, and then go back to the government  trough for another phone.

But, not to worry.

Also according to Business Week: “A staffer at the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees carriers, says the agency may consider tightening oversight and cost management of the fast-growing program.”

That’s a relief, for sure.

And, oh yeah … under consideration is extending the program to broadband service.

Gimme a break already.

>> Latest Posts

Thanks for the good customer service … and, oh yeah, good-bye.

February 15, 2012

Ken’s Take: There’s a marketing classic titled “Why Satisfied Customers Defect”.  The authors say it’s because of something called the “top box effect”.  Keeping a customer merely “satisfied” isn’t enough.  To secure their loyalty, companies have to make them “completely satisfied” — which is often the top possible choice on a market survey.

* * * * *
Excerpt from AdAge:
“Why Brand Love, Satisfaction Aren’t Keeping Shoppers Faithful”

Accenture found that even though consumers are more satisfied with customer service than ever before, they are switching brands at a high rate.

Consumer satisfaction had increases ranging from 5% to 7% in one year, depending on the category.

Consumers are happier, for instance, with shorter wait times; the ability to solve issues without having to speak to someone; and the ability to resolve an issue by speaking to just one person.

About 44% of consumers said they expect more, or much more, than they did last year from the brands with which they do business.

Today’s savvy digital customers expect polite and knowledgeable employees or convenient customer-service hours.

And while they appreciate and are satisfied with those things, it’s not going to stop them from taking their business elsewhere.

Edited by ARK

>> Latest Posts

According to Gallup, U.S. unemployment rate is back to up 9% … oops.

February 14, 2012

A couple of weeks ago – when Team Obama was victory lapping over the unemployment rate dropping to 8.3% – we told readers to watch the Gallup daily unemployment surveys as a harbinger of things to come.

Gallup has been saying that the employment numbers in the end of January seemed to be weakening.

Guess what?

After reaching a low of 8.2% in mid-January – consistent with gov’t reporting —  the rate has crept back up to 9%.


A reverse victory lap in the offering?



Source: Gallup

>> Latest Posts

What does your bus stop smell like?

February 14, 2012

TakeAway: Promoting a new product, UK’s McCain Foods is pumping the smell of baked potatoes into local bus stops. That would drive Occupiers crazy in the U.S. … or, maybe, make them smell better.

Hmmm. Worth a try.

* * * * *
Excerpt from AdAge: “Smell-Vertising Hits U.K. With Potato-Scented Bus Shelters”

McCain Foods is tempting UK consumers with the wafting smell of “3-D baked potatoes” as they wait at city bus shelters.

When people press a button on a poster, a hidden heating element warms the fiberglass 3-D potato and releases the aroma of oven-baked jacket potato throughout the bus shelter.

The shelters will also dispense a discount for the product: baked potatoes that are ready to eat from frozen in five minutes.

Edited by ARK

>> Latest Posts

Obama’s favorite book … guaranteed.

February 13, 2012

Gotta admit, I like the tussle between Team O and the Catholic Church.  It’s like watching a Wrestlemania main event.

But, theological and and health issues aside, I’m shocked by Administration’s naiveté re: business and economics.

And, I think I broke the code. 

I’m betting that the only business book Obama and his advisers carry around is Chris Anderson’s 2009 best-seller: Free – The Future of a Radical Price.

Note that I said “carry around” … not “read” … because the book does a nice job of explaining the uses and mis-uses of “free”,

Why do I think so?

Easy, because the cover blurb was written by Google’s Eric Schmidt — the recently canned Google CEO and close buddy of Obama’s … and because of Obama’s penchant for declaring stuff to be “free” whether it is or isn’t.


Obviously, Team O doesn’t really get the concept.

Let’s start with the basics: nothing is free

When something (like pills) is produced, delivered and consumed, there are associated  costs.

Yes, pills may be given to the consumer without charge, but somebody has to pick-up the tab.

Since the government has no money of its own, if it nobly declares that it’ll pay for it, it’s really saying that all taxpayers will pay for it — whether they want to or not.

Note that, for obvious reasons,  I said taxpayer, and not citizens. 

Let’s take another variation: consumers don’t have to pay for pills — their insurance companies will be mandated to give them away for free.

Oh really.

One member of the administration said that the money will come straight from the insurance companies reserves — the money set aside to pay claims.

Well, then either other types of claims become unfunded (i.e. can’t be paid), or the insurance  company just rolls over and sacrifices some profits, or premiums go up.

There aren’t any other options, and I’m betting on the last one — raising premiums.

That’s ok — in the mind of the Feds — because employers, not employees have to eat the premium increase.

Well, economists would say that the higher premiums come indirectly out of employees pockets since they will just constrain other parts of workers’ compensation packages.

You can buy into that argument or not … your choice.

Let’s pretend that the insurance company just has to eat the added costs.


Team O walked into a logic trap.

Many large organizations self-insure.  That means that insurance companies are just processing agents — the companies pay claims out of their own coffers. 

It was like that at GE and Black & Decker.

And guess what, many large Catholic organizations are self-insured.

So, saying that the Catholic organizations won’t have to pay for pills, etc., — that their insurance companies will have to pay — is complete nonsense.

You see, self-insured organizations are their own insurance companies.

That’s what self-insured means!

So, even the Catholic bishops figured out that Team O’s grand accommodation is not really an accommodation at all.

It’s either the reflection of business ignorance or an intentional ruse.

Hmmm.  Hard to pick.

>> Latest Posts

Chickens and taxpayers … hmmm.

February 13, 2012

Gone viral … at least among taxpayers.


Thanks to JWC for feeding the lead

>> Latest Posts

Hit the “Good Gym” … then jog over to Granny’s place and make her eat an apple.

February 13, 2012

Punch line: Want to do more than simply getting in shape? How about literally running an errand for someone else – maybe picking up their groceries?

The Good Gym connects interested people who seek more “meaningful ways to exercise”?

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “Gym Concept Connects Jogging To Social Good

The Good Gym pairs runners with the elderly and less-mobile people in the neighborhood and have joggers run to their house to deliver something nice, such as a magazine or a piece of fruit.

Editorial note: Be sure to make it a large print mag or soft fruit.  Otherwise, Granny may swat you with a stick.

The runner is also encouraged to have a small casual chat with the immobile person before heading home.

The Good Gym project is currently looking for interested people who wish to establish a branch in their community.

This creative idea is just one of the many projects being looked into on Social Lab, an online lab for people to collaboratively investigate, experiment and play with new ideas

Edit by KJM

Where the stimulus money went … and why it didn’t “drop kick” the economic recovery.

February 13, 2012

Nice, balanced retrospective in the NY Post re: Team O’s stimulus and why it didn’t — in Joe Biden’s words — “drop kick” the economic recovery.

First, where did the money go?

Biggest chunk to tax cuts that were so diffused — averaging $10 per paycheck —  that they were either overlooked by folks or not enough to neutralize the impact of crushing debt loads or employment uncertainty.

Next biggest chunk to bail out states’ entitlement programs — mostly Medicaid and unemployment benefits.  Just kept things even, no economic boost.

Thirdly, to teacher retention.  Forestalled layoffs, but only temporarily since cash-strapped localities eventually had cut-back when the Fed funds stopped coming and locals couldn’t afford.

Lastly, to the so-called shovel ready infrastructure projects.  Many of those that could of mattered either weren’t really shovel ready or got caught up in government red tape — i.e. the approval & permitting process.  So, spending went to silly or half-baked initiatives — e.g. turtle crossings and bullet trains.

>> Latest Posts

Pro-life, pro choice … the nums explain the politics.

February 10, 2012

Since the “A”  issue has been front and center the past couple of days – given the flaps between Komen and Planned Parenthood, and Team O and the Catholic Church – I got curious about the numbers.

Results of the  the most recent Gallup survey …

  • 2011 results: 49% pro-choice, 45% pro-life
  • Prior year was reversed: 47% pro-life, 45% pro-choice
  • Call it a “push”, but recent trend favoring pro-choice

Last point probably explains why Team O dropped the gloves for a fight with the Catholic bishops …


>> Latest Posts

But, when do they ask you if you want the insurance and other price uppers?

February 10, 2012

TakeAway: Convenience is key – especially for busy consumers. Now, French consumers can rent or share a car by simply sending a text message.

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “Rent Or Share A Car Just By Texting


Leading mobile commerce company Netsize has launched a peer-to-peer car sharing social network in France that allows users to rent a car simply by sending a text message.

CityzenCar is the SMS-based service that simplifies the car rental process for consumers and enables 12,000 members in 2,000 French cities to conveniently book a vehicle with their handset.

Car owners receive rental notifications via SMS and if they approve it, the driver will receive a text message back with information on the car and location. The car owner can choose to deliver the keys to the driver in person, or authorize a CityzenCar personnel to unlock the doors.

The CEO of CityzenCar explains that, “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our customers to interact with each other and make the best use of our service. Netsize’s flexible and highly dependable SMS solution is crucial to ensure the quality of our service”.

Edit by KJM

Cookin’ the books? … About those pesky seasonal adjustments to the Fed’s employment numbers …

February 9, 2012

Earlier this week, we blogged about the “interesting” difference between Team O’s job gain claim:

The Labor Department reported that the economy gained 243,000 jobs.

But, the BLS  also reported that the economy lost 2,689,000 jobs in the month

The difference in the two numbers is in seasonal adjustment.

Here’s an interesting tidbit that I haven’t seen reported: the January seasonal adjustment factor mysteriously crept up from the factor that was used in January 2011 … with the effect of increasing the number of seasonally adjusted jobs reported.

As Gomer Pyle would say: Surprise, surprise, surprise …





Source: BLS

>> Latest Posts

Why isn’t toothpaste mandated on my health insurance?

February 9, 2012

That question and a few others that cut to the chase on the flap between ObamaCare and the Catholic Church are central to a WSJ op-ed by Univ. of Chicago prof John Cochrane.

Well worth reading in its entirety.

The answer:

Insurance is a bad idea for small, regular and predictable expenses.

There are good reasons that your car insurance company doesn’t add $100 per year to your premium and then cover oil changes, and that your health insurance doesn’t charge $50 more per year and cover toothpaste.

You’d have to fill out mountains of paperwork, the oil-change and toothpaste markets would become much less competitive, and you’d end up spending more.

Every increase in coverage means an increase in premiums.

Another question: What’s the difference between “access” and “cost.”

I have “access” to toothpaste because I have two bucks in my pocket and a competitive supplier.

Anyone who can afford a cell phone can afford toothpaste or pills or condoms.

Poor women who can’t afford birth control are a red herring in this debate.

The very poor typically don’t have employer-provided health insurance in the first place.

But, Americans, when paying even modest co-payments, choose to spend their money on other things.

They prefer a new iPod to a “wellness visit” to the doctor.

Cochrane’s overall conclusion:

It all leads back to the elephant in the room: the tax deductibility of employer-provided group insurance.

If your employer pays you $100 less in salary and buys $100 of group insurance for you, you don’t pay taxes on that amount.

Hence, the more insurance costs and covers, the less in taxes you seem to pay. (Even that savings is an illusion: The government still needs money and raises overall tax rates to make up the difference.)

To add insult to injury, this tax deduction does not apply to portable, guaranteed-renewable individual insurance.

You don’t get the tax break if your employer gives you the $100 and you buy a policy — a policy that will stay with you if you get sick, leave employment or get divorced.

The pre-existing conditions crisis is largely a creature of tax law.

You don’t lose your car insurance when you change jobs.

Again, well worth reading in its entirety ,,,

>> Latest Posts

Check the weather or stock quotes as you recycle … say, what?

February 9, 2012

Punch line: New smart recycling bins provide consumers with added benefits – LCD display, Wi-Fi connectivity, weather forecasts, and even stock prices. These smart bins are being rolled out in London, NY, Singapore, and Tokyo.

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “London’s New Smart Recycling Bins Come With LCD Displays & Wi-Fi


In preparation for the 2012 Olympics, London will introduce 25 high-tech ‘smart bins’ placed around the city.

These recycling bins will be embedded with an LCD display on each side and come integrated with Wi-Fi connectivity.

The screens will constantly change to display different information, ranging from weather forecasts to stock prices.

In addition, these high-tech bins are also bomb-proof.

At $1,880 each, they aren’t cheap compared to traditional outdoor recycling bins that are usually between $200-500.

The smart bins won’t only be seen in London, but are also expected to be implemented in other metropolitan cities including New York, Singapore and Tokyo.

Edit by KJM

>> Latest Posts

Unleashing private capital to stabilize the housing market … it’s happening !

February 8, 2012

For a couple of years (literally – back as far as Nov. 2008), I’ve been blogging that the key to stabilizing the housing market is incentivizing private capital (i.e. investors) to buy up distressed properties and rent them.

To refresh your memory, here’s the plan I advocated.

  1. Eliminate future capital gains taxes on any residential property bought in the next 2 years, and held for at least 3 years.
  2. Allow investors (i.e. landlords) who rent the properties to depreciate the properties on an aggressively accelerated basis (i.e. say, 5 years),
  3. Allow any excess tax losses from renting to be applied to ordinary income.

I argued that the likely outcome: a massive inflow of private capital to buy residential properties, housing prices would be bid up, folks would have access to affordable rentals, and the economy would be stimulated … REALLY stimulated.

Well, BusinessWeek reports that “the dealmakers running America’s private equity firms see opportunity in one of the most distressed precincts of the U.S. economy: residential housing”

Buyout funds are raising billions to convert foreclosed homes into rentals, which Washington hopes will improve the housing market

For example:

  • GTIS Partners will spend $1 billion by 2016 acquiring single-family homes to manage as rentals
  • GI Partners, a Menlo Park (Calif.) private equity fund, expects to invest $1 billion
  • Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management will spend $450 million on similar housing deals.
  • Cerberus Capital Management, (DB)Deutsche Bank, (FIG)Fortress Investment Group, and Starwood Capital Group sponded to an Administration request for proposals on how to dispose of the government’s inventory of foreclosed homes.

Some pundits say: “This will be a new institutional asset class in the next 24 months.”

Why the enthusiasm?

  • Obviously, low prices and high demand for rentals make the market intriguing.
  • About 7.5 million homes with a market value of $1 trillion will be liquidated through foreclosures or other distressed sales by 2016.
  • “The share of Americans who are willing and able to own their own home is still falling,”
  • 20 million single-family homes are already serving as rentals
  • Single-family home rentals — which have yielded annual returns averaging 8.1 percent since 1990 — can generate cash flows that are 3 percentage points higher than apartments.
  • The U.S. government is eager to clear out the foreclosed properties now on its books.


Imagine if there was a tax incentive … and imagine if the program had been in place for a couple of years …

Oh, well.

>> Latest Posts

Reprise: Move over Charlie Brown, (former) Congressman Stupak wants to kick the football …

February 8, 2012

OK, I can’t resist.

Remember gullible old Joe Stupak — former Congressman from Michigan?

President Obama got old Joe to sell out his convictions and cast one of the votes that carried ObamaCare. 


By giving Stupak $750k for airport construction in his district and by promising an executive order that would insure that Catholic facilities wouldn’t have to fund or provide abortions, contraceptives, etc.

Here’s our post on the subject from March 2010.

This was an easy one to predict.

Hope Stupak feels like a complete idiot.

* * * * *
Move over Charlie Brown, Congressman Stupak wants to kick the football …

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

What about the 3rd, 4th, 5th times ?

Doesn’t Bart Stupak learn ?

To refresh your memory:

  • Back in November, pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak scored what he thought was a victory and the House passed an amendment to its ObamaCare bill limiting the use of tax-payer funds for abortions.
  • But, immediately after the vote, pro-choice Dems expressed confidence that “controversial language on abortion would be stripped from a final healthcare bill” via legislative maneuvering.
  • Then , House Dem leadership told Stupak and his pro-life buddies to take a hike … because liberal Dems want the government to fund abortions.  Details

Sunday, to get Stupak to vote yes on ObamaCare, the President promised to issue an Executive Order that, in effect, restores the Stupak Amendment to the final bill — after the fact.

Well, a couple of potential bumps in Bart’s road:

  1. The President has to do what he promised … hmmm.
  2. Some legal pundits are saying that the Executive Order has little or no force — the passed law will prevail in high courts
  3. A President can rescind an Executive Order at any time

This time when Lucy pulls the football away, Stupak will have no one but himself to blame.

He’ll deserve to feel more ‘stupid’ than ‘Stupak’.

>> Latest Posts

“Speed-roomating” … on your mark, get set, go !

February 8, 2012

TakeAway: Need a room? or Have a room to rent? Simply stop by a “Speedroomating” event at a bar. Throw on a nametag with your interest, price range, and preferred area … and speed your way through the crowd.

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “Speed Date Your Way To A New Roommate

A New York City service is using the traditional speed dating format to connect people who are looking for rooms or roommates.

It’s called “Speedroommating” and it got its start in London.

The idea is simple: Speedroommating organizes an event at a bar in the city where interested parties can go to meet potential roommates.

At the bar, participants are given a name tag that either says “I have a room,” or “I need a room.” In addition, users list their price range and preferred area.

After that, they are encouraged to grab a cocktail and schmooze.

If all goes well, the lucky ones will walk out with a new roommate.

Edit by KJM

>> Latest Posts

An ironic twist to Team O’s plan for refinancing underwater mortgages …

February 7, 2012

Last week, the Campaigner-in-Chief stumped for a program to allow folks with underwater mortgages to refinance at current market interest rates.

According to Obama:

There are more than 10 million homeowners across the country who, because of an unprecedented decline in home prices, owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.

For those responsible homeowners, there are actions we can take now to provide some relief.

That’s why I’m sending Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at today’s low rates.

No more red tape or runaround from the banks.

A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.

I’m basically ok with the idea, but there’s some irony: Remember when the payroll tax cut was extended (for 2 months)  last December?

Well, it was also pitched as deficit neutral.

How was it going to be paid for?

Well, the 2-month payroll tax holiday is being offset (over 10 years) by an increase in mortgage fees,

Every new or refinancing loan going through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac – that’s over 90% of all mortgages – get tagged with an added fee (20 basis points, .2 %)

According to NPR, the added fee works out to about $17 per month for an average mortgage of about $200,000.

So, let me get this straight: Team O is going to force lenders to cut the rate on underwater mortgages — most of which will go thru Fannie and Freddie — and then hit the folks who are refinancing with a an added fee for cover the cost of payroll tax cuts.

This stuff gets wackier by the minute  …

>> Latest Posts

Facebook’s 99 percent … they don’t interact.

February 7, 2012

Punch line: Ehrenberg-Bass Institute reports that only 1% of a brand’s Facebook fans actually engage with it – including likes, posts, comments, tags, and shares.

Is the FB effect over-rated or do consumers simply need more time to change their behavior?

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “Only 1% Of A Brand’s Facebook Fans Actually Engage With It Online


… If 1 percent engagement sounds way too small to make Facebook brand pages worthwhile, Karen Nelson-Feld, a senior research associate for Ehrenberg-Bass, reminds us that brand pages are still relatively young.

“People need to understand what it can do for a brand and what it can’t do,” she said. “Facebook doesn’t really differ from mass media. It’s great to get decent reach, but to change the way people interact with a brand overnight is just unrealistic.”

Edit by KJM

>> Latest Posts

It’s the Super Bowl … you gotta play hurt !

February 7, 2012

No, I’m not talking about the Pats’ Rob Gronkowski.

I’m talking about Madonna !

According to the Daily Mail:

The Material Girl was suffering from a hamstring injury that  could have jeopardized her big moment.

The singer had a mishap while rehearsing and as well as hurting her leg, she also suffered a knock to her nose.

In our family, a nose knock is a big deal.

I guess for Madonna, the hamstring could have hampered her dancing and jumping.

But, she sucked it up and played through the pain … at age 53!

After all, it was the Super Bowl.

P.S. Here’s the link to the new song she did …

>> Latest Posts

Unemployment rate down to 8.3% … hmmm.

February 6, 2012

The Feds reported 243,000 new jobs in January … driving the unemployment rate down to 8.3%

Clear evidence that we’re on a roll, right?

Not so fast.

First, numerous sources have pointed out that another 1.2 million people got discouraged and stopped looking for work. They’re no longer counted as unemployed.

Second, as it does every year, the government revised its statistical methodology for the  January report.  The BLS footnotes say “As a result, household survey data for January 2012 will not be directly comparable with that for December 2011 or earlier periods.”


Morw specifically, even the NY Times asks: Is the number real ?

How many jobs did the American economy add in January?

The Labor Department estimated on Friday that the economy gained 243,000 jobs.

The department also estimated that the economy lost 2,689,000 jobs in the month

The difference in the two numbers is in seasonal adjustment.

The actual survey showed the big loss in jobs.

The seasonal adjustments produced the reported gain of 243,000 jobs.

A reason to doubt the number is that there has been a tendency in this cycle for the seasonal factors to overstate moves, in both directions.

 If the seasonal adjustment was too large, then the gain should be smaller.

Double hmmm.

That’s why  I like to track Gallup’s unemployment estimates.  Over time, they’ve seemed reliable and — call me cynical — but, they’re less likely to be subject to political manipulation.

For openers, here’s what Gallup said prior to the government release:

The U.S. government’s January unemployment rate that it will report Friday morning will be based largely on mid-month conditions.

The mid-month reading normally provides a pretty good estimate of the government’s unadjusted unemployment rate for the month.

At mid-January, Gallup reported that its unemployment rate had declined to 8.3%, based on data collected through the 15th of the month.

OK, that squares with the Feds number.

But, importantly, Gallup also notes:

Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measures show deterioration since mid-January.

While the unemployment rate of 8.6% for January is up only modestly from December, this overall increase subsumes the more negative trend of the most recent weeks.

In turn, this also seems consistent with Wednesday’s ADP report showing less job growth in January than in the prior month.

English translation: Expect February’s unemployment rate (reported first week of March)  to bounce back up … unless there’s a flurry of new hiring in early February.

Here’s the data …


Ken’s Take:

Here’s what I said before, and I stand by it !

Pundits have been saying that Obama will be ok with a high unemployment rate in 2012 as long as the trajectory is in the right direction. That is, that unemployment is coming down.

Here’s my scenario: unemployment will creep back up and Obama will be facing a high unemployment rate that is rising.

That’s not good for the O-team.

Politically, Obama might have been better off if the rate had stayed closer to 9% for a while … he may be in the awkward position of having a high unemployment rate that’s going in the wrong direction.

It’ll be interesting …

>> Latest Posts

Practice your downward dog at SFO airport …

February 6, 2012

Takeaway: Decompress before your next flight through SFO airport by using the yoga room built in Terminal 2. Based on a passenger suggestion, this yoga studio is considered the first of its kind globally. Namaste.

* * * * *
Excerpted from, “San Francisco airport unveils yoga room for travellers

Just cleared airport security and in need of a little deep breathing and stretching relaxation?

San Francisco Airport has opened what it calls a first of its kind yoga room, and while it’s not quite a mountaintop in Tibet, airport officials say the low lights, and soothing blue walls aim to afford travellers, stressed out or sanguine, an oasis of calm in which to flex, twist and decompress.

Doin’ a Downward Dog

“As far as we know it’s the first (yoga room) at an airport anywhere in the world,” said Michael C. McCarron, director of community affairs for the airport.

He said the idea for the room, in the newly refurbished Terminal 2, came from a passenger suggestion at an open house. It joins the Berman reflection room, a space intended for silence and meditation located before Terminal 2 security.

Airport Director John L. Martin called the room, which opened last week, “another leap forward in providing our travellers the opportunity and space to relax and decompress on their own terms.” …

Edit by KJM

>> Latest Posts

Amazon lifts LivingSocial’s kimono … and, it ain’t pretty.

February 3, 2012

Punch line: Lost $558 million  last year on $245 million revenue. Ouch.

* * * * *
Excerpted from the Washington Business Journal

Amazon,  which invested in LivingSocial in late 2010, disclosed limited details of the daily deal company’s 2011 performance in its annual report filed with regulators.

Accounting Note

Accounting rules required that Amazon release Living Social’s essential financial data.

As explained in Amazon’s annual report, LivingSocial is recorded using the “equity method of accounting” – a method used when an investment “gives us the ability to exercise significant influence, but not control, over an investee.”

The threshold for that designation typically runs between 20 percent and 50 percent ownership. Amazon owns 31 percent of LivingSocial.

Under that accounting method, Amazon must include some condensed financial information about LivingSocial in its own financial reports

Even though the data was buried far down in Amazon’s annual report, the numbers quickly found their way into the press and produced a flurry of unwanted headlines

Amazon, which owns a little less than a third of the DC-based daily deal company, laid out LivingSocial’s numbers, showing a $558 million loss last year on $245 million revenue, with operating expenses of $686 million.

Daily deals is a manpower-intensive field crowded with competitors. LivingSocial has about 5,000 employees.

LivingSocial’s informally claims that much of that operating loss was incurred earlier in 2011, and narrowed later in the year as the company scaled back marketing expenses.

Also, part of the loss can be attributed to LivingSocial’s acquisition spree, which was paid for through a mix of cash and stock.

Still, the $558 million loss is much more red ink than LivingSocial observers had expected, and much less revenue.

In April, CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy said his company was on track to book $1 billion in revenue in 2011.


Now that’s a markdown for you

Thanks to SMH for feeding the lead

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Virtual pin boarding woos the ladies and attracts big brands

February 3, 2012

Punch line: With 4.5 million users – mostly under 45, socially and digitally savvy females – Pinterest is a unique virtual pin board for sharing and promoting consumer brands.

Even big brands are catching on and seeking to get on this website.

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Excerpted from “#Pinning: Brands Get Pinteractive and Engaging on Pinterest


Pinterest, the virtual pin board at the crossroads of social and style, has burgeoned into a marketplace for consumer brands, offering a visual and demonstrable platform for engagement.

From small brands to other big brands, including Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Bergdorf Goodman, Chobani and NBC’s The Today Show are also active on the site,

Pinterest is attracting brand marketers to allocate part of their interactive bandwidth to its 4.5 million users — primarily female, under the age of 45 and socially-, digitally-savvy.

Mashable breaks down the stats: “70% of pinners are female. Pinterest has a highly engaged audience — a reported 3.3 million users logging more than 421 million pageviews — so there’s plenty of opportunity for brands to flesh out pinboards and catch pinners’ eyes.”

Hitwise parsed the site’s popularity in a blog post that noted: “Pinterest content has something for everyone, but the site is dominated by images featuring home décor, crafts, fashion, and food…

‘Pin Etiquette’ is the term for the site’s golden rule: Pinterest is not a playground for self-promotion, challenging marketers to come up with content that engages, not just promotes (think “Pin unto others…”) It’s no surprise that one of Facebook’s new bevy of 60 Timeline-integrated apps is a Pinterest app.

Some pinned-and-true ways for brands to engage with users include:

  • Hold a Contest
  • Conduct Market Research
  • Feature Customers
  • Put a Face to Your Brand
  • Sell More Products
  • Present Concepts in a New Way
  • Promote Your Image Content

Edit by KJM

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KJM editorial comment: my best friend sent me this link – and I was immediately hooked! Forget Facebook, this is my new method of procrastination and idle entertainment)

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Education: a product for which people are willing to pay more to get less … go figure.

February 1, 2012

That’s something an older colleague once remarked to me.

So, true.

I often quip that if a student shows up at the Verizon Center and Lady Gaga’s concert is cancelled, they’re bummed.

If they show up for my class and see a sign that class is cancelled, they whoop and holler with glee.

And, on balance, most of them think my courses are better than the average academic offerings.

On a grander scale, many are predicting that high-priced colleges will be the next bubble to burst.  Folks have been paying an increasing amount of money to get a decreasing amount of relevant learning.  That’s not a good formula.

Government subsidies and “full fare” foreign students keep pushing tuitions up to levels required to support lavish facilities, expansive athletic programs, outdated delivery methods (think classrooms vs. online), and light teaching loads for faculty journalists.

For example, reported in the NY Post: The journal Academic Questions recently concluded that … many new graduates are finding that the degree they’ve earned is not worth the investment.

  • Now, most college grads leave school with large debts — more than $27,000 on average.
  • A college degree also no longer signifies that the recipient is either well-educated in the traditional sense or that he has acquired specific skills suited to the labor market.

That’s despite the fact that “most colleges have become trade schools —  far more expensive ones than their for-profit counterparts.”

  • By 2008, the number of bachelor’s degrees had risen to 1.5 million Americans, but few of these degrees were in the traditional liberal arts. Barely 2 percent of BAs were awarded in history and only 3.5 percent in English literature.
  • More than a third of undergraduate degrees are now earned in business, health professions and education.

The former president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe argues that it’s no wonder that students have fled the liberal arts:

  • For centuries, the liberal arts passed on what was best in Western civilization …  despite our practical bent, youth were encouraged “to pursue inquiry into serious and perennial questions.”
  • The humanities in particular were considered the “Keepers of the Culture” at a time when we believed we had a culture worth keeping and passing on.
  • Since the 1960s, however, our culture has been under attack, our history rewritten as one of unmitigated oppression and the values our Founders and subsequent generations held dear reviled.
  • Humanities courses in liberal arts colleges have replaced the canon of Western civilization with course offerings … aimed to show our benighted past and to condition us to a more tolerant future.
  • Students have fled such courses in droves to pursue technical or professional skills.

The Post concludes: Their parents — and increasingly the students themselves, through loans — are left footing the bill for degrees that neither pay off in the marketplace nor enrich the intellectual lives of those on whom they are conferred.

Good point !

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Target flexes muscle to thwart “showrooming” … good luck!

February 1, 2012

TakeAway: Target is flexing its buying power over suppliers to ward off increasing competition from online retailers such as Amazon.

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Excerpt from WSJ: “Showdown Over ‘Showrooming’”

Target is asking suppliers for help in thwarting “showrooming” — that is, when shoppers come into a store to see a product in person, only to buy it from a rival online, frequently at a lower price.

Target suggested that suppliers create special products that would set it apart from competitors and shield it from the price comparisons that have become so easy for shoppers to perform online. Target asked the suppliers to help it match rivals’ prices.

Vendors are likely to have little choice but to play ball with Target because of its clout as the second-largest discount chain.

Some analysts said Target’s new tactics are unlikely to reverse the showrooming trend.

Online-only retailers have significantly lower labor costs and, at least, for the time being don’t collect sales tax in most states.

Amazon can sell products so cheaply because it uses its other profitable units — such as cloud data storage and fees it charges others to sell on its website — to subsidize the rest of its business.

Edited by ARK

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