8.12.2016

"Buddy Fox" calls into Ruby Tuesday earnings call





Ruby Tuesday's (RT) CEO JJ Buettgen on Q4 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Excerpt:

Operator [Operator Instruction] Our next question comes from Buddy Fox with Geneva Roth Holding Corporation.

Buddy Fox I just have one question. Do you think your revenues are negatively impacted by Harambe’s death and if yes, do you have any plans to mitigate it?

JJ Buettgen Excuse me, can you repeat your question please? Impacted by what?

Buddy Fox By Harambe’s death and if yes, do you have plans to mitigate it?

JJ Buettgen I am sorry, I don’t know we have a bad connection, I couldn’t quite hear the question.

Operator He has lost connection. We will turn to Bryan Hunt with Wells Fargo.
Comment: Image sources: Ruby Tuesday, Harambe. See also Twitter link and related article.

7.10.2016

The Christian Citizen - Consider Ourselves Exiles

With the quadrennial election cycle once again upon us, many Christians are in a lather about this side or the other and whether this year there even is a legitimate choice.

For the brief time you read this blog, pretend that you are disenfranchised and have no vote at all!

As an aside, one's vote seems of little consequence anyway. I have a sister in Texas who has voted Democratic in the last several Presidential elections - but the Texas vote is overwhelmingly Republican and her vote is virtually meaningless. In Minnesota my Republican Presidential ballot is likewise of little importance in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

Consider as well that in many places Christians have no vote and for many centuries Christians had no opportunity at all to vote!

[I am not advocating not voting! I have voted in every election since 1972 (the first year I was eligible!). I will vote this year as well!]

A common view is that the United State was birthed as a Christian nation and that many of the so-called founding Father's were Christian. Certainly there was a strong Christian influence by some of the founders: Consider the Mayflower endeavor (not bragging, but I am a descendant of both William White and Stephen Hopkins), the Winthrop Fleet (see John Peat on this manifest), and the Providence Plantations - all Christian endeavors! As to the founding Father's: this article suggests that while they were Deists, they probably not Christians. But suffice to say that our country is based on a Judeo-Christian heritage and specifically not a Muslim-Sharia law heritage!

If one takes "Christian" seriously, it's fairly obvious that real, God-fearing, Jesus Christ followers are a small minority among us! (Oh yes there are the Pew surveys such as this which state that 70% of us are Christian. But Christian is so loosely defined to make that statistic meaningless!).

How Christian were we - say in Colonial times? Well it appears that Christian lingo was common but Christian adherence was not.

Often Christians express that our faith is persecuted here in the United States. I would like to disabuse that idea with these facts:

  • If you donate to your church, you receive a tax deduction (one has to itemize to benefit from this).
  • Your church in all likelihood does not pay property tax. (The Little Flowers Montessori School near my home pays, $ 27,500 per year on their 4 acres. My church pays zero for our 22 acres.)
  • Your ordained pastor receives a parsonage allowance that enables him to eschew taxes on a large part of his income.
  • We have freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. 
Often I hear that things are changing for the worse for Christians. Is that so? Well maybe yes and maybe no:

  1. a return to a pre-Moral Majority separation of church and politics
  2. a Benedictine model
  3. the Jeremiah option
Here's my take on the three models:
  1. The moral majority model represents the church in bed with the Republican party. It's zenith was with Ronald Reagan. Christians would help elect him and with his election and his Supreme Court appointments, Roe v Wade would be overturned. My assessment is that it was a prostitution of the church that diluted the message of the Gospel. As an aside I voted for Reagan twice! Since Reagan, Evangelicals have been searching for one to take up the Reagan mantle and go forth. Every quadrennial Evangelicals wait for their candidate to announce his born-again-ness and rally behind him. The model seemed reasonable but has been a complete failure.
  2. The Benedictine model is in my view basically an isolation approach. 
  3. The Jeremiah option comes from Jeremiah's letter to the exiles in 29:1-9. See also Jeremiah 40:9.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
The article linked above suggests these five lessons:
  1. Be Faithful in the Ordinary Things of Life
  2. Engage Babylon, Do Not Withdraw
  3. Be Discerning
  4. Be People of Hope
  5. Things Are Not Out of Control
What follows are my comments on citizenship with appropriate Scriptures:

  1. If one is married, endeavor to have a strong Biblical marriage. Ephesians 5:22-33
  2. If unmarried, remain sexually chaste
  3. If a parent, raise one's children. Ephesians 6:1-4
  4. Earn a living. Don't be a slacker. Ephesians 4:28 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10
  5. Respect established authority and pay taxes. Romans 13:1-7
  6. Pray for authorities. 1 Timothy 2:1-3
  7. Be faithful in gathering with God's people in one's church
  8. Be a witness

Friendlier Policing? Eliminate the Revenue Incentive


Several obvious first points:
  • Mayberry is a fictional place!
  • Andy Taylor is a fictional Sheriff!
  • We must not be naive about the nature of man (we are all sinners!)
  • Nor should we be Pollyannaish about crime in the United States
  • Policing is a difficult and dangerous job.
  • Additionally we must have respect for authorities. Romans 13 is clear: "They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer"
This also needs to be said that the nature of this post is not anti-cop! I have had cop-friends, and I had a cousin who was a cop! I've been helped by cops and I appreciate them.

While admitting that feelings may be notoriously incorrect, I have a sense that policing today is quite a bit different than policing a generation ago! My sense is that policing has lost the concept of proportional punishment. An anecdote: Year's past, I've been stopped and reminded by a policeman that a tail light was out. Today that former friendly reminder (or worse a warning ticket) is now a full stop! While not all the facts are in, this was apparently the case with Philando Castile who was stopped for a broken tail light (this article disputes this). The Alton Sterling situation was about CDs being sold in a parking lot (again with the caveat that all the facts aren't in!). The Eric Garner case was about the sale of untaxed cigarettes.

In 2011, I was arrested (read about by clicking the link). I'm biased but frankly I think that the policing was out of proportion (read and judge for yourself!).

As someone with a degree in economics, I often think through that lens. And with regard to policing, some have written about this:
  1. Ferguson shows how a police force can turn into a plundering ‘collection agency’
  2. Policing and Profit
  3. Police Chief Magazine: Generating New Revenue Streams
  4. Police Departments are Over-funded: It’s All About Priorities
Several quotes:
Of all the harrowing stories buried inside the Justice Department’s report on the Ferguson Police Department, one of the most illustrative begins with an illegally parked car. The year was 2007. And a Ferguson officer who noticed the illegally parked vehicle issued its driver, an African American woman, two citations and a ticket for $151. To the driver, who had bounced in and out of homelessness, the fine was draconian. She couldn’t pay it in full. So over the next seven years, the woman missed several deadlines and court dates. That tacked on more fees, more payment deadlines, more charges. She ultimately spent six days in jail. All because she didn’t park her car correctly. As of December 2014, the woman had paid the city of Ferguson $550 resulting from a $151 ticket. And she still owes $541. [article 1]

In Ferguson, residents who fall behind on fines and don’t appear in court after a warrant is issued for their arrest (or arrive in court after the courtroom doors close, which often happens just five minutes after the session is set to start for the day) are charged an additional $120 to $130 fine, along with a $50 fee for a new arrest warrant and 56 cents for each mile that police drive to serve it. Once arrested, everyone who can’t pay their fines or post bail (which is usually set to equal the amount of their total debt) is imprisoned until the next court session (which happens three days a month). Anyone who is imprisoned is charged $30 to $60 a night by the jail. If an arrestee owes fines in more than one of St. Louis County’s eighty-one municipal courts, they are passed from one jail to another to await hearings in each town. The number of these arrests in Ferguson is staggering: in 2013, Ferguson’s population was around 21,000 and its municipal court issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses. Ferguson has a per capita income of $20,472, and nearly a quarter of residents and over a third of children live below the poverty line. Court fines and fees are Ferguson’s second-largest source of income, generating over $2.4 million in revenue in 2013. [article 2]

[Article 3: Expresses the budgetary pressures of one police department - West Covina, California. My point of including this article is not to ridicule the ideas presented (some which I would consider valid), but to highlight the incentive of "profit potential"] The common reaction to a budget crisis is reducing personnel and cutting services. The focus of this article is to provide police agencies with an alternative to personnel and service reductions. This alternative could help the survival of a city and maintain or expand police service through generating new revenue streams as a proactive approach to meet the fiscal crisis of today and the uncertain future of tomorrow.

My appeal is simple: Take the profit incentive out of policing and all communities will in time experience better community policing!

6.29.2016

Robocall options for the IPhone



How to Stop Robocalls … or at Least Fight Back (Pestering prerecorded calls are reaching record highs, and even hit our cellphones; here are ways you can try to stop them)

Excerpt:

We are in the midst of a robot apocalypse. Instead of wiping us out with liquid metal lasers guns, they’re crushing us with robocalls, those unwanted, pre-recorded intrusions into our private lives. You’re not safe anywhere, not even on your once-sacred smartphone.

Comment: Image source. Links to several of them:

6.25.2016

BREXIT: Causes and outlook



Links to articles I found valuable:
  1. Bonfire of the EU laws: From crooked cucumbers to powerful vacuum cleaners, the barmy Brussels regulations we can now get rid of
  2. Eight reasons Leave won the UK's referendum on the EU
  3. Fateful decision to hold vote was 'reached in Chicago O'Hare pizzeria' while David Cameron waited for flight
  4. 'Why should I do the hard s***?' Cameron 'told aides he'd rather quit now than spend six months working on Brexit only to hand over to rival'
  5. Liberal Cosmopolitans Lash Out at the Shattering of Their Worldview
  6. Nigel Farage backtracks on Leave campaign's '£350m for the NHS' pledge hours after result
  7. It will take years for the British, Europeans and the rest of the financial world to sort this out. This may not have any long-term impact on your 401(k) or other retirement savings.
My take:

  1. The exit vote was a reaction to unfettered immigration that voters perceive is changing the U.K. Hitherto the EU set the immigration standards. Ordinary Brits opposed that! This point is like the frustrations U.S. citizens have with immigration. (link 2 above)
  2. The exit vote was a reaction to bureaucratic regulations by nameless EU plutocrats / bureaucrats (see links 1 and 2 above)
  3. Cameron overplayed his hand. Why was a referendum even needed?! Obama's "back of the queue" intrusion backfired
  4. Ordinary Brits are tired of supporting the EU. 
  5. Greece and its debt impacted the vote. Greece is a nation of slackers / tax evaders and why be in bed with them?!
  6. It will hurt the U.K. domiciled banks.
  7. It's about state sovereignty
  8. Impact on stocks: I expect a rebound. Many buying opportunities! (Link 7 above)

Cancer: The Gift of Uncertainty


This has been and interesting week with tests:

  • Tuesday I had a bone scan - looking for metastasis to the bone (which is common with advanced prostate cancer). The bone scan was a half day at Methodist hospital. I had an early check in. After an injection of a small amount of radioactive material, I had to wait 2½ hours (we had breakfast at the cafeteria there). I checked back in at 10:45 and then the scan was about an hour long
  • Wednesday the doctor's nurse called to say they wanted me to have x-rays of my right femur and pelvic area because something was questionable. Thursday I had a series of these in Maple Grove
  • Friday I had a 3T prostate specific MRI in Saint Louis Park. We arrived at 6:45 and were out of there just before 9 am
Suffice it to say,  this week was for me like a week never before.

Thoughts:
  • I actually shopped for funeral plots and caskets
  • I informed Kathee that if the cancer had metastasized to my bones, I was going to pre-plan and pre-pay my funeral
It's been a week of uncertainty. And few cherish living with  apprehension.

Late afternoon on Thursday, we received positive news from the first two tests: No bone metastasis. That may come later but so far not. Cause for rejoicing - I took a deep breath and thanked the Lord!

As for the Friday test - I won't hear the news until next week.

The above leads to this point: all of this life is uncertain! As mortals, we all live with the certitude that we will die! Who has escaped?! (I only know of two: Enoch and Elijah). The questions are when? And how? As a young person, I rarely thought about death. I did have a near-death experience as a child when Dad yanked me out of what I perceived to be a near drowning in Lake Michigan (I was in rough surf near pilings and had lost my footing).

How? and When? The day my high school friend died at the age of 20 when the tractor he was driving rolled over and crushed him: did Jimmy C. "see" it coming? Did he wake up that morning and even for a moment wonder if that day would be his when? Or that a tractor would be his how?



When another high school classmate died in Viet Nam, did he know his how and when?






My hope about my when: I hope it is a long time! I love life and I love life with my wife. There is so much I would like to do! I would like to have more years of service for Him!

My hope about the how: After many additional years I quietly die while taking a nap in my recliner. Perhaps after a steak dinner followed by a cup of coffee with a bowl of ice cream.

Odds are that Jim at 66 year and 10 months will die before any 18 year old! But I don't know and few do! Yes death is certain!

Me in 1967


About cancer as a "gift": See John Piper's Don't Waste Your Cancer.

About uncertainty as a gift:

Yesterday Kathee and I completed reading the Scriptures through again. We typically read 3-4 chapters a day, starting with Genesis chapter 1 and ending with Revelation chapter 22. Yesterday was Revelation chapters 19, 20, 21, and 22.

I observe that the uncertainties of life make the certainties of God's promises more real and sweeter.

Here are some "certainties" from the passage we read yesterday:

  • "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years" Revelation 20:6
  • "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death  or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21:3-4)
  • "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (22:12-14)
These are the certainties of which I am absolutely confident:

6.23.2016

Conservative Smear



Wells Fargo: Proudly Plunging Toward Bankruptcy

Excerpt:

Market watch recently reported that Wells Fargo stock has plunged into its greatest losing streak in nearly nine years. This comes as little surprise given the fact that the company has experienced a takeover at the hands of radical leftists. Leftists may be experts in certain things like organic gardening, herbal healing, and folk music. But they are not known for their expertise in economics and personal finance.
Comment: First I've ever heard of Mike Adams. Smear is shameful from the Left, the Right, or anywhere in between. Stock chart of WFC, BAC, C, and USB over 5 years. WFC is top.

6.21.2016

Sportscaster Vin Scully commenting on air Friday, with the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hernan Perez up at bat

IMG 0044 Hernán Pérez



Vin Scully on Socialism

Excerpt:

Perez, 25 years old, originally drafted by the Tigers. Lives in Venezuela. Boy, can you imagine, you’re a young kid playing in the United States, you’re from Venezuela, and every time you look at the news it’s a nightmare. A bunt attempt is missed—runners are holding, 0-and-2. Socialism failing to work, as it always does, this time in Venezuela. You talk about giving everybody something free and all of a sudden, there’s no food to eat. And who do you think is the richest person in Venezuela? The daughter of Hugo Chavez. Hello! Anyway, 0-and-2.
Comment:Love it!


6.20.2016

Preferred stock an alternative to bonds



The ‘Preferred’ Path to Higher Returns

Excerpt:

Investors need to consider bond substitutes that can provide stability, safety and relatively attractive returns.

One such substitute is investment-quality preferred stocks. Preferred stock is a kind of hybrid security that sits between bonds and common stock in a company’s capitalization.

Preferreds are senior to common stock in terms of payment of dividends and claims on assets, but junior to bonds. Usually, preferreds have a fixed dividend (although some float with some fixed premium to short-term rates).

Preferreds are rated by the major credit-rating firms. Those offered by large companies carry investment-grade ratings but are rated lower than bonds because of their junior status. They do, however, have a substantial advantage over bonds for individual investors.

Bond interest is taxable at regular personal income-tax rates. Preferred stock dividends are generally taxable at long-term capital-gains rates, which under current laws are set at a maximum of 23.8% versus a maximum rate almost twice as high for interest income.
Comment: Image source Wiki