Boeing To Start Trump Era With New Wave Of Downsizing   
A 32-year career at Boeing comes to a close in April for engineer Dave Baine of suburban Seattle. Baine was already prepared to retire when Boeing sealed the deal by making him a buyout offer last week. "It's better than a gold watch," he says. The deal is six months' pay in a lump sum and extended health insurance. "It'll help the younger folks that want to stick around and help some of the older folks exit quickly and quietly," he says. Boeing, the country's single largest exporter and one of the corporate sponsors of Friday's inauguration, enters the Donald Trump era with plans for buyouts and layoffs. This comes on top of nearly 11,000 job cuts across the company last year, according to a union tally. The company's PR department declined to say whether there's a specific target number for job cuts this year. Most of the trims are coming from the commercial jetliner workforce in western Washington state. Boeing has a lot of planes on order, but new jet sales are slowing. Plus,
          LaLa Names Four Teams Carmelo Could Go to if He Gets a Buyout (Video)   
LaLa Names Four Teams Carmelo Could Go to if He Gets a Buyout (Video)

          Jindal Addresses Bayou Corne's Sinkhole Problem   
Gov. Bobby Jindal and other state and local officials met with Texas Brine representatives on March 13. The company responsible for a giant sinkhole in Assumption Parish is sending appraisers to some evacuated homes in Bayou Corne on Monday. The Governor said company officials will also meet with the State Attorney General’s office on Monday. He said Texas Brine owes state and local governments 4 million dollars, combined, for costs incurred dealing with the disaster. Jindal has been criticized for a seeming lack of attention to residents’ plight. At a press conference last week, he dodged questions regarding the seven-month-old sinkhole and has yet to visit the site, even though he says he will next week. He frowned on how long it’s taken Texas Brine to compensate homeowners. “There was a saying during a previous incident, a local leader said, ‘When they said help was coming tomorrow, it just meant that help wasn’t coming today,’ – we kept hearing settlements and buyouts were coming,
          End-of-season thoughts on the Capitals - The Beginning   
So that’s it.  It’s over.  For the first time since the spring of 2007, the Washington Capitals are not in the NHL playoffs.  It’s an odd feeling; one that I felt was inevitable at some point over the last three seasons, and now that it has, it’s quite empty.  But it’s here.  And now, it’s time to fix it.

Here are some (very early and preliminary) thoughts about this team and how to do just that.

I’m not going to go in to deep detail over what finally sunk this team to the level they are at right now.  I’ve written about their problems ad nauseam over the last three years but especially this year and by now, you know what did them in: bad possession, bad coaching, bad lineup decisions, and poor roster construction.  This is nothing new if you’ve read anything I have written over the last 24 months.
In reality, this team should have counted itself very lucky over the last two seasons, but particularly last year, to make the playoffs.  It was their failure to realize this that has ultimately led us to this moment.  Instead of being proactive and trying to fix a flawed team with deep issues, the cracks were papered over with rhetoric, public relations work, and t-shirts celebrating yet another Southeast Division Championship.

Now that the team has finally missed the playoffs for the first time since “the rebuild,” an opportunity has presented itself for real change.  This means several things, including but not limited to new people in charge, up and down the totem pole.  It means a new coach/coaching staff and a new general manager.  Names I would consider for each position, respectively: Guy Boucher, Peter Laviolette, Dan Bylsma/Barry Trotz (should they become available); Jason Botterill, Al Macisaac, Wayne Thomas, Joe Will.

Central to the next regime and whoever runs it will be a return to what made the Capitals successful between 2008 and 2011.  What made them successful was a team commitment to possession, constant attack, speed, and scoring.  The roster was flush with offensive talent and it had a coaching staff that believed in the elements of successful hockey in today’s NHL.  The results were wonderful.  Yes, I know – the team didn’t get it done in the playoffs.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t successful, or their strategy didn’t have merit.  They were, and it did.  It’s not a coincidence that the team has gotten progressively worse – and alarmingly so – since Bruce Boudreau was fired.  And how about those Anaheim Ducks?

On to personnel – the Brooks Laich situation is quite the pickle.  A beloved member of the franchise and among its most marketable and personable, Laich has been a mainstay on this team for the better part of a decade.  But now he’s hurt, has been for most of the last two seasons, and often struggles to produce even when he is healthy.  If he’s healthy, the Capitals would be well served to exercise their second compliance buyout on him.  If not, they would be well served to try and find a trade partner for a team trying to get to the cap floor (Laich has a no-trade clause, but it is only five teams long).  His cap hit, even when healthy, far outweighs his value at this point for a cap team.  That $4.5 million off the cap for the next three seasons would be great.

Get rid of the right wing logjam.  Tom Wilson shouldn’t have been on this team at all this season, but in limited action this season he has proven to be a very talented player with a lot of upside despite being historically buried to an almost comical level.  That means a right wing has got to go, likely in a trade.  Glancing at the depth chart, I could see a player like Troy Brouwer being flipped along with a prospect or a pick for defensive help.  Teams are likely to see Brouwer’s 20-plus goals and jump at it, willing to give up something sizable, like a young defenseman, in return.  The same could be said for Joel Ward.  Sell high, folks.

Re-sign Mikhail Grabovski.  This is basic.  Grabo has been injured for a lot of this season but when healthy has been as advertised by just about everyone outside of those in the Toronto mainstream media.  He could be a big piece going forward and plays an important position.  In conjunction with this, I’d also like to get Eric Fehr playing wing again and bring in another center.  If Toronto is still interested in dumping Nazem Kadri…

In order to keep Grabovski, Dustin Penner has probably got to go and Jaroslav Halak has definitelygot to go, simply because of numbers.  Penner is a fine player and deserved better here but I have a feeling that GMs will pay up for him.  Halak just isn’t needed.  He will require a multi-year contract at a dollar figure north of $4m a season.  No thank you.


In conclusion, this scratches only the surface.  There are a lot of things that need to be addressed here, and I didn’t even mention the biggest one in some new defensive players.  There is a lot of work to be done, and the next few weeks will be very interesting.

          NHL teams steer clear of long-term deals   
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, New Jersey Devils left wing Michael Cammalleri (13) races with the puck as Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Newark, N.J. NHL teams are taking advantage of their final chance to buy out players this offseason. Among the players placed on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes was Cammalleri. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

With NHL free agency set to open, all eyes on Ilya, too


          KKR exits Visma in one of Europe’s biggest software buyouts http://on.ft.com/2tlyvb0    
KKR exits Visma in one of Europe’s biggest software buyouts http://on.ft.com/2tlyvb0  KKR exits
          Family waste group buyout   
A LOCAL authority owned waste management firm has acquired a family-run rival in a deal set to create a £48 million group.
          Six University of Montana faculty members accept second round of buyouts   
none
          MySQL 5.4 New Features – Scaling up   
Has the Sun set on MySQL? Has the sun set on MySQL? I don’t think so. Even after the buyout from Oracle, Sun’s MySQL is still looking up. With a new release coming down the pipes, there is little reason to shy away from MySQL. After a controversial release of version 5.1 in December 2008, […]
          Weekly Commentary: The Road to Normalization   
The past week provided important support for the “peak monetary stimulus” thesis. There is mounting evidence that global central bankers are monitoring inflating asset prices with heightened concern. The intense focus on CPI is beginning to blur. They would prefer to be on a cautious path toward policy normalization.

June 25 – Financial Times (Claire Jones): “Global financial stability will be in jeopardy if low inflation lulls central banks into not raising interest rates when needed, the Bank for International Settlements has warned. The message about the dangers of sticking too closely to inflation targets comes as central banks in some of the world’s largest economies are considering how to end years of ultra-loose monetary policy after the global financial crisis… ‘Keeping interest rates too low for long could raise financial stability and macroeconomic risks further down the road, as debt continues to pile up and risk-taking in financial markets gathers steam,’ the bank said in its annual report. The BIS acknowledged that raising rates too quickly could cause a panic in markets that have grown used to cheap central bank cash. However, delaying action would mean rates would need to rise further and faster to prevent the next crisis. ‘The most fundamental question for central banks in the next few years is going to be what to do if the economy is chugging along well, but inflation is not going up,’ said Claudio Borio, the head of the BIS’s monetary and economics department… ‘Central banks may have to tolerate longer periods when inflation is below target, and tighten monetary policy if demand is strong — even if inflation is weak — so as not to fall behind the curve with respect to the financial cycle.’ …Mr Borio said many of the factors influencing wage growth were global and would be long-lasting. ‘If, as we think, the forces of globalisation and technology are relevant [in keeping wages low] and have not fully run their course, this will continue to put downward pressure on inflation,’ he said.”

While global markets easily ignored ramifications from the BIS’s (the central bank to central banks) annual report, the same could not be said for less than super dovish comments from Mario Draghi, my nominee for “the world’s most important central banker.”

June 27 – Financial Times (Katie Martin): “What’s that, you say? The ‘R-word’? Judging from the markets, Mario Draghi’s emphasis on reflation changes everything, and highlights the communications challenge lying ahead of the president of the European Central Bank. The ECB’s crisis-fighter-in-chief threw investors into a fit of the vapours on Tuesday when he said he was growing increasingly confident in the currency bloc’s economic recovery, and that ‘deflationary forces have been replaced by reflationary ones’.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Annie Massa and Elizabeth Dexheimer): “Mario Draghi hinted at how he may sell a gradual unwinding of European Central Bank stimulus. The ECB president repeated his mantra that the Governing Council needs to be patient in letting inflation pressures build in the euro area and prudent in withdrawing support. At the same time, there’s room to tweak existing measures. ‘As the economy continues to recover, a constant policy stance will become more accommodative, and the central bank can accompany the recovery by adjusting the parameters of its policy instruments -- not in order to tighten the policy stance, but to keep it broadly unchanged.’ The comments echo an argument first made by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann… With his nod to a frequent critic of quantitative easing who has been calling for an end of the 2.3 trillion-euro ($2.6 trillion) program, Draghi may have set the stage for a discussion in the coming months on phasing out asset purchases.”

When the ECB chose not to offer any policy clarification coming out of its June 8th meeting, wishful markets had Draghi holding out until September. The timeline was moved up, with the ECB president using the bank’s annual meeting, held this year in Sintra Portugal, to offer initial thoughts on how the ECB might remove accommodation. Market reaction was swift.

German 10-year bund yields surged 13 bps Tuesday and almost doubled this week to 47bps. French yield jumped 14 bps Tuesday – and 21 bps for the week - to 82 bps. European periphery bonds were under pressure. Italian 10-year yields rose 16 bps Tuesday and 24 bps for the week to 2.16%. Portuguese yields rose 14 bps Tuesday, ending the week at 3.03%. Draghi’s comments rattled bond markets around the globe. Ten-year Treasury yields rose seven bps to 2.21% (up 16 bps for the week), Canadian bonds 11 bps to 1.57% and Australian bonds 10 bps to 2.46%. Emerging market bonds also came under heavy selling pressure, with Eastern European bonds taking a pounding.

June 28 – Bloomberg (Robert Brand): “This is what it sounds like when doves screech. Less than 24 hours Mario Draghi jolted financial markets by saying ‘deflationary forces’ have been replaced by reflationary ones, European Central Bank officials reversed the script, saying markets had misinterpreted the central banker’s comments. What was perceived as hawkish was really meant to strike a balance between recognizing the currency bloc’s economic strength and warning that monetary support is still needed, three Eurosystem officials familiar with policymakers’ thinking said. Their dovish interpretation sparked a rapid unwinding of moves in assets from the euro to stocks and sovereign bonds.”

I don’t see it as the markets misinterpreting Draghi. Understandably, inflated Bubble markets have turned hyper-sensitive to the course of ECB policymaking. The ECB’s massive purchase program inflated a historic Bubble throughout European debt markets, a speculative Bubble that I believe unleashed a surge of global liquidity that has underpinned increasingly speculative securities markets.

If not for massive QE operations from the ECB and BOJ, I believe the 2016 global reversal in bond yields would have likely ushered in a major de-risking/deleveraging episode throughout global markets. Instead, powerful liquidity injections sustained speculative Bubbles throughout global fixed income, in the process spurring blow-off excess throughout global equities and risk assets more generally. Recalling the summer of 2007, everyone is determined to see the dance party rave indefinitely.

First-half QE has been estimated (by Bank of America) at (an incredible) $1.5 TN. Bubbling markets should come as no stunning surprise. At May highs, most European equities indices were sporting double-digit year-to-date gains. The S&P500 returned (price + dividends) almost 10% for the first half, with the more speculative areas of U.S. equities outperforming. The Nasdaq Composite gained 14.1% in the first-half, with the large company Nasdaq 100 (NDX) rising 16.1%. Despite this week’s declines, the Morgan Stanley High Tech index rose 20.3%, and the Semiconductors (SOX) jumped 14.2% y-t-d. The Biotechs (BTK) surged 9.7% during Q2, boosting y-t-d gains to 25.6%. The NYSE Healthcare Index gained 7.7% for the quarter and 15.3% y-t-d. The Nasdaq Transports jumped 9.7% during Q2, with the DJ Transports up 5.3%. The Nasdaq Other Financials rose 7.9% in the quarter.

Central banks have closely collaborated since the financial crisis. While always justifying policy stimulus on domestic grounds, it’s now been almost a decade of central bankers coordinating stimulus measures to address global system fragilities. I doubt the Fed would have further ballooned its balance sheet starting in late-2012 if not for the “European” financial crisis. In early-2016, the ECB and BOJ would not have so aggressively expanded QE programs – and the Fed not postponed “normalization” – if not for global ramifications of a faltering Chinese Bubble. All the talk of downside inflation risk was convenient cover for global crisis worries.

As Mario Draghi stated, the European economy is now on a reflationary footing. At least for now, Beijing has somewhat stabilized the Chinese Bubble. Powered by booming securities markets, global Credit continues to expand briskly. Even in Europe, the employment backdrop has improved markedly. It’s just become difficult for central bankers to fixate on tame consumer price indices with asset prices running wild.

Global market liquidity has become fully fungible, a product of multinational financial institutions, securities lending/finance and derivatives markets. The ECB and BOJ’s ultra-loose policy stances have worked to counteract the Fed’s cautious normalization strategy. Determined to delay the inevitable, Draghi now faces the scheduled year-end expiration of the ECB’s latest QE program, along with an impending shortage of German bunds available for purchase. Behind the scenes and otherwise, Germany is surely losing patience with open-ended “money” printing. This week’s annual ECB gathering provided an opportunity for Draghi to finally get the so-called normalization ball rolling. Despite his cautious approach, markets immediately feared being run over.

June 28 – Bloomberg (Alessandro Speciale): “Mario Draghi just got evidence that his call for ‘prudence’ in withdrawing European Central Bank stimulus applies to his words too. The euro and bond yields surged on Tuesday after the ECB president said the reflation of the euro-area economy creates room to pull back unconventional measures without tightening the stance. Policy makers noted the jolt that showed how hypersensitive investors are to statements that can be read as even mildly hawkish… Draghi’s speech at the ECB Forum in Sintra, Portugal, was intended to strike a balance between recognizing the currency bloc’s economic strength and warning that monetary support is still needed, said the officials…”

June 28 – Bloomberg (James Hertling, Alessandro Speciale, and Piotr Skolimowski): “Global central bankers are coalescing around the message that the cost of money is headed higher -- and markets had better get used to it. Just a week after signaling near-zero interest rates were appropriate, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney suggested on Wednesday that the time is nearing for an increase. His U.S. counterpart, Janet Yellen, said her policy tightening is on track and Canada’s Stephen Poloz reiterated he may be considering a rate hike. The challenge of following though after a decade of easy money was highlighted by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s attempt to thread the needle. Financial markets whipsawed as Eurosystem officials walked back comments Draghi made Tuesday that investors had interpreted as signaling an imminent change in monetary policy. ‘The market is very sensitive to the idea that a number of central banks are appropriately and belatedly reassessing the need for emergency policy accommodation,’ said Alan Ruskin, co-head of foreign exchange research at Deutsche Bank AG.”

Draghi and the ECB are hoping to duplicate the Fed blueprint – quite gingerly removing accommodation while exerting minimal impact on bond yields and risk markets more generally: Normalization without a meaningful tightening of financial conditions. This is unrealistic.

Current complacency notwithstanding, turning down the ECB QE spigot will dramatically effect global liquidity dynamics. Keep in mind that the removal of Fed accommodation has so far coincided with enormous counteracting market liquidity injections courtesy of the other major central banks. The ECB will not enjoy a similar luxury. Moreover, global asset prices have inflated significantly over the past 18 months, fueled at least in part by a major increase in speculative leverage.

There are three primary facets to QE dynamics worth pondering as central banks initiate normalization. The first is the size and scope of previous QE operations. The second is the primary target of liquidity-induced market flows. And third, to what extent have central bank measures and associated market flows spurred self-reinforcing speculative leveraging and market distortions. Inarguably, ECB and BOJ-induced flows over recent quarters have been massive. It is also reasonably clear that market flows gravitated primarily to equities and corporate Credit, asset classes demonstrating the most enticing inflationary biases. And there are as well ample anecdotes supporting the view that major speculative leveraging has been integral to myriad Bubbles throughout global risk markets. The now deeply ingrained view that the cadre of global central banks will not tolerate market declines is one of history’s most consequential market distortions.

And while the timing of the removal of ECB and BOJ liquidity stimulus remains uncertain, markets must now at least contemplate an approaching backdrop with less accommodation from the ECB and central banks more generally. With this in mind, Draghi’s comments this week could mark an important juncture for speculative leveraging. Increasingly unstable currency markets are consistent with this thesis. The days of shorting yen and euros and using proceeds for easy profits in higher-yielding currencies appear to have run their course. I suspect de-leveraging dynamics have commenced, though market impact has thus far been muted by ongoing ECB and BOJ liquidity operations.

June 27 – Reuters (William Schomberg, Marc Jones, Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir): “U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that she does not believe that there will be another financial crisis for at least as long as she lives, thanks largely to reforms of the banking system since the 2007-09 crash. ‘Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis?’ Yellen said… ‘You know probably that would be going too far but I do think we're much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don't believe it will be,’ she said.”

While headlines somewhat paraphrased Yellen’s actual comment, “We Will not see Another Crisis in Our Lifetime” is reminiscent of Irving Fisher’s “permanent plateau” just weeks before the great crash of 1929. While on the subject, I never bought into the popular comparison between 2008 and 1929 – and the related notion of 2008 as “the 100-year flood”. The 2008/09 crisis was for the most part a private debt crisis associated with the bursting of a Bubble in mortgage Credit – not dissimilar to previous serial global crises, only larger and somewhat more systemic. It was not, however, a deeply systemic debt crisis akin to the aftermath of 1929, which was characterized by a crisis of confidence in the banking system, the markets and finance more generally, along with a loss of faith in government policy and institutions. But after a decade of unprecedented expansion of government debt and central bank Credit, the stage has now been set for a more systemic 1929-like financial dislocation.

As such, it’s ironic that the Fed has branded the banking system cured and so well capitalized that bankers can now boost dividends, buybacks and, presumably, risk-taking. As conventional central bank thinking goes, a well-capitalized banking system provides a powerful buffer for thwarting the winds of financial crisis. Chair Yellen, apparently, surveys current bank capital levels and extrapolates to systemic stability. Yet the next crisis lurks not with the banks but within the securities and derivatives markets: too much leverage and too much “money” employed in trend-following trading strategies. Too much hedging, speculating and leveraging in derivatives. Market misperceptions and distortions on an epic scale.

Compared to 2008, the leveraged speculating community and the ETF complex are significantly larger and potentially perilous. The derivatives markets are these days acutely more vulnerable to liquidity issues and dislocation. Never have global markets been so dominated by trend-following strategies. It’s a serious issue that asset market performance – stocks, bond, corporate Credit, EM, real estate, etc. – have all become so tightly correlated. There are huge vulnerabilities associated with various markets having become so highly synchronized on a global basis. And in the grand scheme of grossly inflated global securities, asset and derivatives markets, the scope of available bank capital is trivial.

I realize that, at this late stage of the great bull market, such a question sounds hopelessly disconnected. Yet, when markets reverse sharply lower and The Crowd suddenly moves to de-risk, who is left to take the other side of what has become One Gargantuan “Trade”? We’re all familiar with the pat response: “Central banks. They’ll have no choice.” Okay, but I’m more interested in the timing and circumstances.

Central bankers are now signaling their desire to proceed with normalization, along with noting concerns for elevated asset prices. As such, I suspect they will be somewhat more circumspect going forward when it comes to backstopping the markets - than, say, back in 2013 with Bernanke’s “flash crash” or with the China scare of early-2016. Perhaps this might help to explain why the VIX spiked above 15 during Thursday afternoon trading. Even corporate debt markets showed a flash of vulnerability this week.


For the Week:

The S&P500 dipped 0.6% (up 8.2% y-t-d), and the Dow slipped 0.2% (up 8.0%). The Utilities fell 2.5% (up 6.2%). The Banks surged 4.4% (up 4.2%), and the Broker/Dealers jumped 2.6% (up 9.8%). The Transports rose 1.9% (up 5.7%). The S&P 400 Midcaps added 0.2% (up 5.2%), while the small cap Russell 2000 was unchanged (up 4.3%). The Nasdaq100 dropped 2.7% (up 16.1%), and the Morgan Stanley High Tech index sank 3.0% (up 20.3%). The Semiconductors were hit 4.9% (up 14.2%). The Biotechs dropped 3.9% (up 25.5%). With bullion dropping $15, the HUI gold index sank 4.5% (up 1.9%).

Three-month Treasury bill rates ended the week at 100 bps. Two-year government yields gained four bps to 1.38% (up 19bps y-t-d). Five-year T-note yields rose 13 bps to 1.89% (down 4bps). Ten-year Treasury yields jumped 16 bps to 2.30% (down 14bps). Long bond yields increased 12 bps to 2.84% (down 23bps).

Greek 10-year yields were little changed at 5.36% (down 166bps y-t-d). Ten-year Portuguese yields rose 10 bps to 3.03% (down 72bps). Italian 10-year yields surged 24 bps to 2.16% (up 35bps). Spain's 10-year yields jumped 16 bps to 1.54% (up 16bps). German bund yields surged 21 bps to 0.47% (up 26bps). French yields rose 21 bps to 0.82% (up 14bps). The French to German 10-year bond spread was unchanged at 35 bps. U.K. 10-year gilt yields jumped 23 bps to 1.26% (up 2bps). U.K.'s FTSE equities index fell 1.5% (up 11.2%).

Japan's Nikkei 225 equities index declined 0.5% (up 4.8% y-t-d). Japanese 10-year "JGB" yields gained three bps to 0.09% (up 5bps). France's CAC40 sank 2.8% (up 5.3%). The German DAX equities index was hit 3.2% (up 7.4%). Spain's IBEX 35 equities index fell 1.8% (up 11.7%). Italy's FTSE MIB index declined 1.2% (up 7.0%). EM equities were mostly higher. Brazil's Bovespa index rallied 3.0% (up 4.4%), and Mexico's Bolsa gained 1.8% (up 9.2%). South Korea's Kospi increased 0.6% (up 18%). India’s Sensex equities index declined 0.7% (up 16.1%). China’s Shanghai Exchange rose 1.1% (up 2.9%). Turkey's Borsa Istanbul National 100 index added 0.8% (up 28.5%). Russia's MICEX equities index gained 0.6% (down 15.8%).

Junk bond mutual funds saw outflows of $1.735 billion (from Lipper).

Freddie Mac 30-year fixed mortgage rates dipped two bps to 3.88% (up 40bps y-o-y). Fifteen-year rates were unchanged at 3.17% (up 39bps). The five-year hybrid ARM rate gained three bps to 3.17% (up 47bps). Bankrate's survey of jumbo mortgage borrowing costs had 30-yr fixed rates up a basis point to 4.01% (up 34bps).

Federal Reserve Credit last week added $0.8bn to $4.431 TN. Over the past year, Fed Credit declined $5.0bn. Fed Credit inflated $1.620 TN, or 58%, over the past 242 weeks. Elsewhere, Fed holdings for foreign owners of Treasury, Agency Debt jumped another $17.9bn last week to $3.310 TN. "Custody holdings" were up $83bn y-o-y, 2.6%.

M2 (narrow) "money" supply last week slipped $4.3bn to $13.510 TN. "Narrow money" expanded $686bn, or 5.4%, over the past year. For the week, Currency increased $2.7bn. Total Checkable Deposits fell $12.7bn, while Savings Deposits gained $6.9bn. Small Time Deposits were little changed. Retail Money Funds fell $4.1bn.

Total money market fund assets added $4.2bn to $2.621 TN. Money Funds fell $96bn y-o-y (3.5%).

Total Commercial Paper declined $5.4bn to $973.6bn. CP declined $77bn y-o-y, or 7.4%.

Currency Watch:

The U.S. dollar index fell 1.7% to 95.628 (down 6.6% y-t-d). For the week on the upside, the Swedish krona increased 3.4%, the British pound 2.4%, the Canadian dollar 2.3%, the euro 2.1%, the Australian dollar 1.6%, the Norwegian krone 1.3%, the Swiss franc 1.2%, the Brazilian real 1.1%, the Singapore dollar 0.8% and the New Zealand dollar 0.7%. For the week on the downside, the South African rand declined 1.6%, the Japanese yen 1.0%, the Mexican peso 0.6% and the South Korean won 0.4%. The Chinese renminbi gained 0.82% versus the dollar this week (up 2.42% y-t-d).

Commodities Watch:

The Goldman Sachs Commodities Index surged 5.3% (down 6.5% y-t-d). Spot Gold declined 1.2% to $1,242 (up 7.7%). Silver slipped 0.5% to $16.627 (up 4.0%). Crude rallied $3.03 to $46.04 (down 15%). Gasoline jumped 5.6% (down 9%), and Natural Gas rose 3.6% (down 19%). Copper gained 2.9% (up 8%). Wheat surged 11.1% (up 29%). Corn jumped 4.2% (up 8%).

Trump Administration Watch:

June 27 – Bloomberg (Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan): “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to delay a vote on health-care legislation came as a relief to some Republican holdouts, but it sets off what will be a furious few weeks of talks to deliver on the GOP’s seven-year promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans went to the White House Tuesday afternoon to meet with President Donald Trump, who also promised his political supporters he would do away with Obamacare. ‘We’re going to solve the problem,’ the president told senators. But Trump also conceded the possibility that the health bill wouldn’t pass. ‘If we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like,’ he said… ‘And that’s OK, and I understand that very well.’”

June 29 – Reuters: “Congress will need to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid defaulting on loan payments by ‘early to mid-October,’ the Congressional Budget Office said in a report… Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has encouraged Congress to raise the limit before the legislative body leaves for their August recess. But it remains unclear if a bipartisan agreement has been struck to allow the limit to be raised, as both chambers continue to be weighed down by health care and tax reform and trying to find an agreement to fund the government after the September 30 deadline.”

June 30 – CNBC (Fred Imbert): “President Donald Trump's White House is ‘hell-bent’ on imposing tariffs on steel and other imports, Axios reported Friday. The plan — which was pushed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and was supported by National Trade Council Peter Navarro, and policy adviser Stephen Miller — would potentially impose tariffs in the 20% range… During a ‘tense’ meeting Monday, the president made it clear he favors tariffs, yet the plan was met with heavy opposition by most officials in the room, with one telling Axios about 22 were against it and only three in favor, including Trump.”

June 29 – Financial Times (Stefan Wagstyl): “Angela Merkel threw down the gauntlet to Donald Trump as Germany’s chancellor pledged to fight at next week’s G20 summit for free trade, international co-operation and the Paris climate change accord. In a combative speech on Thursday in the German parliament, Ms Merkel also promised to focus on reinforcing the EU, in close co-operation with France, despite the pressing issue of Brexit. But in a sign that it may be difficult to maintain European unity around a tough approach to Mr Trump, Ms Merkel later softened her tone, as she prepares to host G20 leaders in Hamburg next Friday.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Joe Light): “Two U.S. senators working on a bipartisan overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are seriously considering a plan that would break up the mortgage-finance giants, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The proposal by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner would attempt to foster competition in the secondary mortgage market… Corker and Warner’s push to develop a plan marks Congress’ latest attempt to figure out what to do with Fannie and Freddie, an issue that has vexed lawmakers ever since the government took control of the companies in 2008 as the housing market cratered. The lawmakers’ plan is still being developed, and a Senate aide who asked not to be named cautioned that no decisions had been made on any issues.”

China Bubble Watch:

June 25 – Financial Times (Minxin Pei): “The Chinese government has just launched an apparent crackdown on a small number of large conglomerates known in the west chiefly for their aggressive dealmaking. The list includes Dalian Wanda, Anbang, Fosun and HNA Group. The news that Chinese banking regulators have asked lenders to examine their exposure to these companies has sent the stocks of groups wholly or partly owned by these conglomerates tumbling in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Obviously, the market was caught by surprise. But it should not be… The immediate trigger is Beijing’s growing alarm over the risks in China’s financial sector and attempt to cut capital outflows. In late April, President Xi Jinping convened a politburo meeting specifically focused on stability in the financial system. Foreshadowing the crackdown, he ordered that those ‘financial crocodiles’ that destabilise China’s financial system must be punished.”

June 26 – Wall Street Journal (Anjani Trivedi): “As Beijing looks to rein in companies that have splurged on overseas deals, it is talking up the systemic risks to its financial system. But just how serious is the problem? After all, for years Beijing has urged leading companies to ‘go global,’ and encouraged banks to support them with lending. Its words were taken to heart: Companies like sprawling conglomerate HNA Group and insurer Anbang pushed the country’s outbound acquisitions to more than $200 billion last year… Now… regulators are investigating leverage and risks at banks associated with China Inc.’s bulging overseas deals. It’s clear that Chinese banks are already heavily exposed to China’s big deal makers through basic lending. Chinese lenders had extended more than 500 billion yuan ($73.14bn) of loans to HNA alone as of last year…”

June 26 – Bloomberg: “China may finally be ready to cut the cord when it comes to the country’s troubled local government financing vehicles. Beijing’s deleveraging drive has seen rules impacting LGFV debt refinancing tightened, spurring a slump in issuance by the vehicles, which owe about 5.6 trillion yuan ($818bn) to bondholders and are seen by some as the poster children for China’s post-financial crisis debt woes. Signs the authorities may be taking a less sympathetic view of the sector has ratings companies flagging the possibility that 2017 could see the first ever default by a local financing vehicle.”

June 29 – Reuters (Yawen Chen and Thomas Peter): “The struggles of China's small and medium-sized firms have grown so acute that many are expected to become unprofitable or even go belly-up this year, boding ill for an economy running short on strong growth drivers. The companies - which account for over 60% of China's $11 trillion gross domestic product - have entered the most challenging funding environment in years as Beijing cracks down on easy credit to contain a dangerous debt build-up. Many of the firms - mostly in the industrial, transport, wholesale, retail, catering and accommodation sectors - are already grappling with soaring costs, fierce competition and thinning profits. The strains faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to grow more visible as Beijing deflates a real estate bubble and eases infrastructure spending to dial back its fiscal stimulus.”

June 29 – Reuters (Leika Kihara and Stanley White): “One of Chinese banks’ favorite tools for increasing leverage has staged a remarkable but worrisome comeback just two months after a regulatory crackdown on leveraged investment… Chinese banks’ issuance of negotiable certificates of deposit in June nearly hit the high recorded in March… NCDs, a type of short-term loan, have become extremely popular in recent years with Chinese banks, especially smaller lenders due to their weaker ability to attract deposits. During a clampdown on runaway debt in April, Chinese regulators warned banks against abusing the tool for speculative, leveraged bets in capital markets. But after a deep but brief drop, NCD issuance has risen again as regulatory attention appeared to ease in recent weeks, hitting 1.96 trillion yuan ($287.73bn) this month, up sharply from 1.23 trillion yuan in May and just a touch below March’s record 2.02 trillion yuan."

June 28 – Financial Times (Gabriel Wildau): “Capital flight disguised as overseas tourism spending has artificially cut China’s reported trade surplus while masking the extent of investment outflows, according to research by the US Federal Reserve. A significant share of overseas spending classified in official data as travel-related shopping, entertainment and hospitality may over a 12-month period have instead been used for investment in financial assets and real estate, the Fed paper argued… Disguised capital outflows in the year to September may have amounted to $190bn, or 1.7% of gross domestic product… Chinese households have in recent years looked at ways to skirt government-imposed limitations on foreign investment as its economy slowed and the renminbi depreciated.”

June 28 – Bloomberg (Joe Ryan): “As Elon Musk races to finish building the world’s biggest battery factory in the Nevada desert, China is poised to leave him in the dust. Chinese companies have plans for additional factories with the capacity to pump out more than 120 gigawatt-hours a year by 2021, according to a report… by Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s enough to supply batteries for around 1.5 million Tesla Model S vehicles or 13.7 million Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids per year… By comparison, when completed in 2018, Tesla Inc.’s Gigafactory will crank out up to 35 gigawatt-hours of battery cells annually.”

June 28 – CNBC (Geoff Cutmore): “China's economic growth will accelerate because the country will finally get leaders who aren't scared, a former advisor to China's central bank said Wednesday. ‘The most important reason is that there is a new group of officials being appointed ... (who will emerge) around the 19th Party Congress which will be in mid to late October,’ said Li Daokui, who is now Dean of the Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. …Li said the Chinese economy will grow 6.9 to 7 percent by 2018 from 6.7 percent in 2017. China posted 6.7% GDP growth in 2016, the slowest in 26 years. ‘These (new) officials have been carefully, carefully scrutinized before they are appointed so they are clean. They are not worried about becoming targets of anti-corruption investigations,’ he added.”

Europe Watch:

June 26 – Bloomberg (Sonia Sirletti and Alexander Weber): Italy orchestrated its biggest bank rescue on record, committing as much as 17 billion euros ($19bn) to clean up two failed banks in one of its wealthiest regions, a deal that raises questions about the consistency of Europe’s bank regulations. The intervention at Banca Popolare di Vicenza SpA and Veneto Banca SpA includes state support for Intesa Sanpaolo SpA to acquire their good assets for a token amount… Milan-based Intesa can initially tap about 5.2 billion euros to take on some assets without hurting capital ratios, Padoan said. The European Commission approved the plan.”

June 28 – Reuters (Gernot Heller and Joseph Nasr): “Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble… underscored Germany's concerns about what he called a regulatory loophole after the EU cleared Italy to wind up two failed banks at a hefty cost to local taxpayers. Schaeuble told reporters that Europe should abide by rules enacted after the 2008 collapse of U.S. financial services firm Lehman Brothers that were meant to protect taxpayers. Existing European Union guidelines for restructuring banks aimed to ensure ‘what all political groups wanted: that taxpayers will never again carry the risks of banks,’ he said. Italy is transferring the good assets of the two Veneto lenders to the nation's biggest retail bank, Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), as part of a transaction that could cost the state up to 17 billion euros ($19 billion).”

June 25 – Reuters (Balazs Koranyi and Erik Kirschbaum): “The time may be nearing for the European Central Bank to start discussing the end of unprecedented stimulus as growth and inflation are both moving in the right direction, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. Weidmann, who sits on the ECB's rate-setting Governing Council, also said that the bank should not make any further changes to the key parameters of its bond purchase scheme, comments that signal opposition to an extension of asset buys since the ECB will soon hit its German bond purchase limits. Hoping to revive growth and inflation, the ECB is buying 2.3 trillion euros worth of bonds…, a scheme known as quantitative easing and long opposed by Germany… The purchases are set to run until December and the ECB will decide this fall whether to extend it… ‘As far as a possible extension of the bonds-buying program goes, this hasn't yet been discussed in the ECB Council,’ Weidmann told the newspaper…”

June 26 – Bloomberg (Carolynn Look): “It seems the sky is the limit for Germany’s economy. Business confidence -- logging its fifth consecutive increase -- jumped to the highest since 1991 this month, underpinning optimism by the Bundesbank that the upswing in Europe’s largest economy is set to continue. With domestic demand supported by a buoyant labor market, risks to growth stem almost exclusively from global forces. ‘Sentiment among German businesses is jubilant,’ Ifo President Clemens Fuest said… ‘Germany’s economy is performing very strongly.’”

June 29 – Reuters (Pete Schroeder and David Henry): “German inflation probably accelerated in June, regional data suggested on Thursday, suggesting a solid upswing in the economy is pushing up price pressures as euro zone inflation moves closer to the European Central Bank's target. The data comes only days after ECB head Mario Draghi hinted that the bank's asset-purchase program would become less accommodative going into 2018 as regional growth gains pace and inflation trends return following a period of falling prices. In another sign of rising price pressures in the 19-member single currency bloc, Spanish consumer prices rose more than expected in June… In the German state of Hesse, annual inflation rose to 1.9% in June from 1.7% in May…”

June 28 – Reuters (Gavin Jones and Steve Scherer): “He is an 80-year-old convicted criminal whose last government ended with Italy on the brink of bankruptcy - and he may well be kingmaker at the next election within a year. Mayoral elections on Sunday showed four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party remains a force to be reckoned with... ‘Berlusconi sees this as the last challenge of his career,’ said Renato Brunetta, a close ally for over 20 years and Forza Italia's lower house leader. ‘He feels he has suffered many injustices and deserves one last shot. Who can deny him that?’ Matteo Renzi, leader of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), and Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement have dominated the national scene in recent years, relegating Forza Italia to a distant third or fourth in the polls. Yet in the mayoral ballots, Forza Italia and its anti-immigrant Northern League allies trounced the PD and 5-Star in cities all over the country, suggesting they have momentum behind them just as the national vote comes into view.”

Central Bank Watch:

June 27 – Wall Street Journal (Tom Fairless): “The euro soared to its biggest one-day gain against the dollar in a year and eurozone bond prices slumped after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hinted the ECB might start winding down its stimulus in response to accelerating growth in Europe. Any move by the ECB toward reducing bond purchases would put it on a similar policy path as the Federal Reserve, which first signaled an intent to taper its own stimulus program in 2013. But the ECB is likely to remain far behind: The Fed has been raising interest rates gradually since December 2015, while the ECB’s key rate has been negative since June 2014. Mr. Draghi’s comments, made Tuesday at the ECB’s annual economic policy conference in Portugal, were laced with caution and caveats. But investors interpreted them as a cue to buy euros and sell eurozone bonds, a reversal of a long-term trade that has benefited from the central bank’s €60 billion ($67.15bn) of bond purchases each month. ‘All the signs now point to a strengthening and broadening recovery in the euro area,’ Mr. Draghi said.”

June 28 – Financial Times (Dan McCrum and Chris Giles in London and Claire Jones): “Bond and currency markets whipsawed on Wednesday as Europe’s two most influential central bankers struggled to communicate to investors how they would exit from years of crisis-era economic stimulus policies. The euro surged to a 52-week high against the dollar after investors characterised remarks by Mario Draghi as a signal he was preparing to taper the European Central Bank’s bond-buying scheme — only to drop almost a full cent after senior ECB figures made clear he had been misinterpreted. Similarly, the British pound jumped 1.2% to $1.2972 after Mark Carney, Bank of England governor, said he was prepared to raise interest rates if UK business activity increased — just a week after saying ‘now is not yet the time’ for an increase. The sharp moves and sudden reversals over two days of heavy trading highlight the acute sensitivity of financial markets to any suggestion of a withdrawal of stimulus measures after a prolonged period of monetary accommodation.”

June 25 – Reuters (Marc Jones): “Major central banks should press ahead with interest rate increases, the Bank for International Settlements said…, while recognizing that some turbulence in financial markets will have to be negotiated along the way. The BIS, an umbrella body for leading central banks, said in one of its most upbeat annual reports for years that global growth could soon be back at long-term average levels after a sharp improvement in sentiment over the past year. Though pockets of risk remain because of high debt levels, low productivity growth and dwindling policy firepower, the BIS said policymakers should take advantage of the improving economic outlook and its surprisingly negligible effect on inflation to accelerate the ‘great unwinding’ of quantitative easing programs and record low interest rates.”

Brexit Watch:

June 27 – Reuters (Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton): “Prime Minister Theresa May struck a deal on Monday to prop up her minority government by agreeing to at least 1 billion pounds ($1.3bn) in extra funding for Northern Ireland in return for the support of the province's biggest Protestant party. After over two weeks of talks and turmoil sparked by May's failure to win a majority in a June 8 snap election, she now has the parliamentary numbers to pass a budget and a better chance of passing laws to take Britain out of the European Union.”

Global Bubble Watch:

June 28 – Wall Street Journal (Richard Barley): “Sometimes financial markets are surprisingly bad at connecting the dots—until they can’t ignore the picture forming before their eyes. The screeching U-turn in bond markets is a good example. The world’s central banks are sending out a message that loose monetary policy can’t last forever. The shift is mainly rhetorical, and action may yet be some way off. But expectations matter, as they did when the Federal Reserve indicated in 2013 that its quantitative-easing program could be wound down. That caused global bond yields to surge, led by the U.S., and sparked extended turmoil in emerging markets. This time, the bond reversal has been centered on Europe. Ten-year German bund yields started Tuesday just below 0.25%, but by Wednesday afternoon stood at 0.37%. That helped lift bond yields elsewhere, since low German yields have been acting as an anchor. The selloff in the bund Tuesday was the worst in 22 months…”

June 28 – Reuters (Sujata Rao): “Global debt levels have climbed $500 billion in the past year to a record $217 trillion, a new study shows, just as major central banks prepare to end years of super-cheap credit policies. World markets were jarred this week by a chorus of central bankers warning about overpriced assets, excessive consumer borrowing and the need to begin the process of normalizing world interest rates from the extraordinarily low levels introduced to offset the fallout of the 2009 credit crash. This week, U.S. Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen has warned of expensive asset price valuations, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has tightened controls on bank credit and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi has opened the door to cutting back stimulus, possibly as soon as September. Years of cheap central bank cash has delivered a sugar rush to world equity markets, pushing them to successive record highs. But another side effect has been explosive credit growth as households, companies and governments rushed to take advantage of rock-bottom borrowing costs. Global debt, as a result, now amounts to 327% of the world's annual economic output, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in a report…”

June 26 – Bloomberg (Garfield Clinton Reynolds and Adam Haigh): “Greed seems to be running the show in global markets. Fear has fled, and that may be the biggest risk of all. Currency volatility just hit a 20-month low, Treasury yields are in their narrowest half-year trading range since the 1970s and the U.S. equities fear gauge, the VIX, is stuck near a two-decade nadir. While markets have signaled complacency in the face of Middle East tensions, the withdrawal of Federal Reserve stimulus and President Donald Trump’s tweetstorms, the Bank for International Settlements flagged on Sunday that low volatility can spur risk-taking with the potential to unwind quickly.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Annie Massa and Elizabeth Dexheimer): “The growing market for exchange-traded funds hasn’t been fully put to the test, according to one of the top U.S. speed trading firms. Ari Rubenstein, chief executive officer and co-founder of Global Trading Systems LLC, told lawmakers… that while investment dollars have flooded the U.S. ETF market, the new order has not endured an extreme period of stress. Volatility, a measure of market uncertainty, has remained low. ‘In some ways the markets are a bit untested,’ Rubenstein said… ‘It’s definitely something we should talk about to make sure industry participants are prepared in those instruments.’”

June 29 – Financial Times (Javier Espinoza): “Private equity buyouts have enjoyed the strongest start to a year since before the financial crisis as fund managers have come under intense pressure from investors to deploy some of the record amount of capital they hold. The volume of deals involving private equity firms climbed 29% to $143.7bn in the first half of the year, the highest level since 2007, according to… Thomson Reuters.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Enda Curran and Stephen Engle): “Investors aren’t sufficiently pricing in a growing threat to economic and financial market stability from geopolitical risks, and the latest global cyberattack is an example of the damage that can be wreaked on trade, Cornell University Professor Eswar Prasad said. His remarks came as a virus similar to WannaCry reached Asia after spreading from Europe to the U.S. overnight, hitting businesses, port operators and government systems.”

Fixed Income Bubble Watch:

June 27 – CNBC (Ann Saphir): “Bond investors may soon pay a hefty price for being too pessimistic about the economy, according to portfolio manager Joe Zidle. Zidle, who is with Richard Bernstein Advisors, believes the vast amount of money flowing into long-duration bonds is signaling a costly mistake. ‘Last week alone, there is a 20-year plus treasury bond ETF that in one week got more inflows than all domestic equity mutual funds, and all domestic equity ETFs combined year-to-date,’ he said… He added: ‘I think investors are going to be in a real painful trade.’”

June 26 – Bloomberg (Mary Williams Walsh): “The United States Virgin Islands is best known for its powdery beaches and turquoise bays, a constant draw for the tourists who frequent this tiny American territory. Yet away from the beaches the mood is ominous, as government officials scramble to stave off the same kind of fiscal collapse that has already engulfed its neighbor Puerto Rico. The public debts of the Virgin Islands are much smaller than those of Puerto Rico, which effectively declared bankruptcy in May. But so is its population, and therefore its ability to pay. This tropical territory of roughly 100,000 people owes some $6.5 billion to pensioners and creditors.”

Federal Reserve Watch:

June 28 – Bloomberg (Jill Ward, Lucy Meakin, and Christopher Condon): “Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave no indication her plans for continued monetary policy tightening had shifted while acknowledging that some asset prices had become ‘somewhat rich.’ ‘We’ve made very clear that we think it will be appropriate to the attainment of our goals to raise interest rates very gradually,’ she said… In her first public remarks since the U.S. central bank hiked rates on June 14, Yellen said that asset valuations, by some measures ‘look high, but there’s no certainty about that.’ ‘Asset valuations are somewhat rich if you use some traditional metrics like price earnings ratios, but I wouldn’t try to comment on appropriate valuations, and those ratios ought to depend on long-term interest rates,” she said.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Christopher Condon): “Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer pointed to higher asset prices as well as increased vulnerabilities for both household and corporate borrowers in warning against complacency when gauging the safety of the global financial system. ‘There is no doubt the soundness and resilience of our financial system has improved since the 2007-09 crisis,’ Fischer said… ‘However, it would be foolish to think we have eliminated all risks.’”

June 28 – Bloomberg (Luke Kawa): “When a trio of Federal Reserve officials delivered remarks on Tuesday, the state of U.S. financial markets came in for a little bit of criticism. When all was said and done, U.S. equities sank the most in six weeks, yields on 10-year Treasuries rose and the dollar weakened to the lowest level versus the euro in 10 months. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that asset valuations, by some measures ‘look high, but there’s no certainty about that.’ Earlier, San Francisco Fed President John Williams said the stock market ‘seems to be running very much on fumes’ and that he was ‘somewhat concerned about the complacency in the market.’ Fed Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer suggested that there had been a ‘notable uptick’ in risk appetite that propelled valuation ratios to very elevated levels.”

June 27 – Reuters (Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton): “With the U.S. economy at full employment and inflation set to hit the Federal Reserve's 2% target next year, the U.S. central bank needs to keep raising rates gradually to keep the economy on an even keel, a Fed policymaker said… ‘If we delay too long, the economy will eventually overheat, causing inflation or some other problem,’ San Francisco Fed President John Williams said… ‘Gradually raising interest rates to bring monetary policy back to normal helps us keep the economy growing at a rate that can be sustained for a longer time.’”

June 29 – Financial Times (Alistair Gray and Barney Jopson): “Regulators have given US banks the go-ahead to pay out almost all their earnings to shareholders this year in a signal of their confidence in the health of the financial system. The Federal Reserve has given the green light to a record level of post-crisis distributions, including an estimated total of almost $100bn from the six largest banks. All 34 institutions passed the second part of its annual stress test, although the Fed did call out weaknesses in capital planning at Capital One… The big six US banks — Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — are set to return to shareholders between $95bn and $97bn over the next four quarters, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy. That is about 50% more than they were able to hand out after last year’s exam.”

U.S. Bubble Watch:

June 27 – Wall Street Journal (Shibani Mahtani and Douglas Belkin): “This is what happens when a major American state lets its bills stack up for two years. Hospitals, doctors and dentists don’t get paid for hundreds of millions of dollars of patient care. Social-service agencies help fewer people. Public universities and the towns that surround them suffer. The state’s bond rating falls to near junk status. People move out. A standoff in Illinois between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan over spending and term limits has left Illinois without a budget for two years. State workers and some others are still getting paid because of court orders and other stopgap measures, but bills for many others are piling up. The unpaid backlog is now $14.6 billion and growing.”

June 28 – Bloomberg Business Week (Elizabeth Campbell and John McCormick): “Two years ago, Illinois’s budget impasse meant that the state’s lottery winners had to wait for months to get their winnings. Now, with $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois is on the brink of being unable to even sell Powerball tickets. For the third year in a row, the state is poised to begin its fiscal year on July 1 with no state budget and billions of dollars in the red. If that happens, S&P Global Ratings says Illinois will probably lose its ­investment-grade status and become the first U.S. state on record to have its general obligation debt rated as junk. Illinois is already the worst-rated state at BBB-, S&P’s lowest investment-grade rating. The state owes at least $800 million in interest and late fees on its unpaid bills.”

June 26 – Wall Street Journal (Lev Borodovsky): “Commercial real estate prices are starting to roll over after reaching record highs, capping a long postcrisis rally. While there is no sign that a decline would mean imminent danger for the economy, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren recently warned that valuations represent a risk he ‘will continue to watch carefully.’ So far, prices have proven resilient, reflecting in part the unexpected 2017 decline of interest rates and the rising capital flows from diverse sources such as U.S. pensions and overseas investors.”

June 28 – Wall Street Journal (Chris Dieterich): “Booming demand for passive investments is making exchange-traded funds an increasingly crucial driver of share prices, helping to extend the long U.S. stock rally even as valuations become richer and other big buyers pare back. ETFs bought $98 billion in U.S. stocks during the first three months of this year, on pace to surpass their total purchases for 2015 and 2016 combined… These funds owned nearly 6% of the U.S. stock market in the first quarter—their highest level on record—according to an analysis of Fed data by Goldman Sachs… Surging demand for ETFs this year has to an unprecedented extent helped fuel the latest leg higher for the eight-year stock-market rally.”

June 27 – Reuters (Kimberly Chin): “U.S. single-family home prices rose in April due to tight inventory of houses on the market and low mortgage rates… and economists see no imminent change in the trend. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of 20metropolitan areas rose 5.7% in April on a year-over-year basis after a 5.9% gain in March, which matched the fastest pace in nearly three years.”

June 27 – Bloomberg (Andrew Mayeda): “The International Monetary Fund cut its outlook for the U.S. economy, removing assumptions of President Donald Trump’s plans to cut taxes and boost infrastructure spending to spur growth. The IMF reduced its forecast for U.S. growth this year to 2.1%, from 2.3% in the fund’s April update to its world economic outlook. The… fund also cut its projection for U.S. growth next year to 2.1%, from 2.5% in April.”

Japan Watch:

June 29 – Reuters (Leika Kihara and Stanley White): “Japan's industrial output fell faster in May than at any time since the devastating earthquake of March 2011 while inventories hit their highest in almost a year, suggesting a nascent economic recovery may stall before it gets properly started. Household spending also fell in May, leaving the Bank of Japan's 2% target seemingly out of reach.”

EM Watch:

June 28 – Reuters (Brad Brooks and Silvio Cascione): “President Michel Temer called a corruption charge filed against him by Brazil's top prosecutor a ‘fiction’ on Tuesday, as the nation's political crisis deepened under the second president faced with possible removal from office in just over a year. Temer, who was charged Monday night with arranging to receive millions of dollars in bribes, said the move would hurt Brazil's economic recovery and possibly paralyze efforts at reform. The conservative leader said executives of the world's biggest meatpacker, JBS SA , who accused him in plea-bargain testimony of arranging to take 38 million reais ($11.47 million) in bribes in the coming months, did so only to escape jail for their own crimes.”

Geopolitical Watch:

June 29 – New York Times (Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger): “Twice in the past month, National Security Agency cyberweapons stolen from its arsenal have been turned against two very different partners of the United States — Britain and Ukraine. The N.S.A. has kept quiet, not acknowledging its role in developing the weapons. White House officials have deflected many questions, and responded to others by arguing that the focus should be on the attackers themselves, not the manufacturer of their weapons. But the silence is wearing thin for victims of the assaults, as a series of escalating attacks using N.S.A. cyberweapons have hit hospitals, a nuclear site and American businesses. Now there is growing concern that United States intelligence agencies have rushed to create digital weapons that they cannot keep safe from adversaries or disable once they fall into the wrong hands.”

June 28 – New York Times (Sheera Frenkel, Mark Scott and Paul Mozur): “As governments and organizations around the world grappled… with the impact of a cyberattack that froze computers and demanded a ransom for their release, victims received a clear warning from security experts not to pay a dime in the hopes of getting back their data. The hackers’ email address was shut down and they had lost the ability to communicate with their victims, and by extension, to restore access to computers. If the hackers had wanted to collect ransom money, said cybersecurity experts, their attack was an utter failure. That is, if that was actually their goal. Increasingly sophisticated ransomware assaults now have cybersecurity experts questioning what the attackers are truly after. Is it money? Mayhem? Delivering a political message?”

June 25 – Reuters: “Qatar is reviewing a list of demands presented by four Arab states imposing a boycott on the wealthy Gulf country, but said on Saturday the list was not reasonable or actionable. ‘We are reviewing these demands out of respect for ... regional security and there will be an official response from our ministry of foreign affairs,’ Sheikh Saif al-Thani, the director of Qatar's government communications office, said… Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which imposed a boycott on Qatar, issued an ultimatum to Doha to close Al Jazeera, curb ties with Iran, shut a Turkish military base and pay reparations among other demands.”

June 27 – Reuters (Foo Yun Chee): “EU antitrust regulators hit Alphabet unit Google with a record 2.42-billion-euro ($2.7bn) fine on Tuesday, taking a tough line in the first of three investigations into the company's dominance in searches and smartphones. It is the biggest fine the EU has ever imposed on a single company in an antitrust case, exceeding a 1.06-billion-euro sanction handed down to U.S. chipmaker Intel in 2009. The European Commission said the world's most popular internet search engine has 90 days to stop favoring its own shopping service or face a further penalty per day of up to 5% of Alphabet's average daily global turnover.”
          7/1/2017: SPORTS: Devils plan to buy out forward Cammalleri   
NHL teams are taking advantage of their final chance to buy out players this off-season. Among the players placed on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes were New Jersey Devils forwards Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, Florida Panthers...
          Mid Year 2017 Portfolio Review   
My portfolio is up 15.75% for the first six months of 2017, pulling up my since inception IRR to 23.74%, and comfortably ahead of the S&P 500's 9.34% gain so far this year.  Significant winners have been Tropicana Entertainment, MMA Capital, Pinnacle Entertainment and Resource Capital, the only significant loser has been New York REIT.
Closed Positions:
  • ILG Inc (ILG): In hindsight, this was one of my favorite special situations of the past several years.  ILG (f/k/a Interval Leisure Group) had entered into a reverse morris trust transaction with Starwood prior to the announcement of Starwood's merger with Marriott, thus those that wanted to play the merger arb on the Starwood/Marriott transaction had to short out both Marriott and ILG against Starwood creating an uneconomic selling pressure on ILG's shares.  Since the deal has closed, ILG has run up well over 100%, I unfortunately sold a little too soon in the low $20s as ILG is now being bid up under speculation of a merger with Marriott Vacations Worldwide (VAC).  I'll be looking closely for ideas like this in the future, something similar was the Dell buyout of EMC/VMWare which created a coiled spring in VMWare stock that's caused the DVMT tracker to do very well too.
  • Actelion (ALIOY):  The Actelion/J&J deal closed and the development stage biotech company that was created out of the merger, Idorsia, has done very well too.  I bought the unsponsored ADR, there was a short week or two there when the shares dropped and people started speculating on why and if withholding taxes were going to be an issue, I got scared out of my position, ended up making a small amount of money but left some on the table.
  • CSRA (CSRA):  CSRA is the government services spinoff of CSC, with CSC I had the right idea at the time of the spinoff, CSC was setup to be sold and it was earlier this year when it merged with a division of HP Enterprises in a reverse morris trust to create DXC Technology (DXC).  I haven't spent much time on DXC, but CSC turned out to be the better side of the CSC/CSRA split.   I ended up selling CSRA earlier this spring in a slight fit as I didn't realize pension income was being included in their "adjusted" EBITDA figure they were presenting.  It caused the shares to look artificially cheap compared to peers and I just missed it, lesson learned.
  • WMIH Corp (WMIH):  The white whale of NOL shells, with over $6B in NOLs and apparently no dance partner in sight, it appears like the company's sponsor KKR is unable to find a deal that makes sense, they can walk in January, and will likely use that as leverage to strike an even more advantageous deal with WMIH.  If a deal does happen in the meantime, there still could be money to be made after but I don't see a reason to wait around any longer.
Previously Unmentioned New Positions:
  • Miramar Labs (MRLB):  Miramar Labs is another CVR opportunity, and even smaller than the others mentioned on the blog, but they make a medical device that's used to reduce underarm sweat and hair.  It's more of a elective beauty and/or lifestyle product that is sold to plastic surgeons, spas, etc, and its treatments are paid in cash and not processed through insurance companies.  Sientra (SIEN) is buying Miramar for $0.3149 per share upfront and $0.7058 per share in contingent payments for a total just over $1.02 per share.  The contingent payments are a little unique, where the milestone is a cumulative net sales number with no deadline.  Unlike the other CVRs that rely on an FDA approval, here Miramar already has an approved and commercialized product, so unless the sales flop going forward, the payout should occur, its just a matter of when.  The big payout is for $80MM in sales, Mirmar did $20MM in sales last year, but they're seeing some growth, I'm modeling out a 3-3.5 year timeframe to hit the milestone payment which at current prices of around $0.55 per share generates a pretty nice IRR.  Thanks to @yolocapital on Twitter for pointing it out to me.
  • Sound Banking Company (SNBN):  Sound Bank is a tiny North Carolina based community bank that is being acquired by another small bank but with high growth ambitions, West Town Bancorp (WTWB).  There are many small bank mergers happening, if I was less capital constrained, or had a lower risk mandate I'd probably be diving head first into more of these as the spreads are fairly wide for what should be low risk deals.  West Town Bancorp is offering $12.75 in cash or 0.6 shares of WTWB for each share of SNBN.  With SNBN currently trading at $13.40, you could create shares of WTWB for $22.33 when they currently trade for $24.45.  There is a cap on the cash/stock consideration, so proration is likely with the stock trading over the $12.75 cash payout, but it still seems/seemed like a good bet, the merger is expected to close in the third quarter.
  • Interoil Corp (IOC) Contingent Resource Payment:  I got bored and ended up trying this CRP/CVR the day or two before the merger with Exxon Mobil was completed, no view on how much natural gas is actually in PNG, so its a pure speculation that should be decided in the next quarter.
Current Holdings:
I added a little money earlier this year, the performance figures take that properly into account.

Disclosure: Table above is my blog/hobby portfolio, its a taxable account, and a relatively small slice of my overall asset allocation which follows a more diversified low-cost index approach.  The use of margin debt/options/concentration doesn't represent my true risk tolerance.

          Five good, five bad signings on NHL Free Agent Day 2017   

Fiscal sanity is boring. Favorable geography is boring. These are among the lessons learned on NHL Free Agent Day 2017, which saw more hometown discounts than home run contracts.

Part of this was a lackluster field of difference makers, with a few exceptions. Part of this is the harsh education some teams have gotten, learning that unrestricted free agency is the devil’s tool. (Heck, even the Devils didn’t dabble too deep into it, and they’re terrible.) Part of this is due to the fact that veteran players can now sign low-dollar contracts because they’re flush with buyout money.

Anyway, here are …

The five best contracts from July 1

(As of 6:30 p.m. ET.)

5 – Benoit Pouliot, Buffalo Sabres

One of the best under the radar signings of the day.

Look, he didn’t sign himself to a 5-year, $20 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. They inked him, it didn’t work out, they ate the last two years of his contract and life goes on.

So with that cash in pocket, he signs with the Sabres for $1.15 million for one season, which is an incredible bargain for a player who could slide in as a second line left wing and help on the power play. This is a guy that can get you around 0.60 points per game on average. As a replacement for someone like Marcus Foligno? That’s a stellar, short-term add.

4 – Scott Hartnell, Nashville Predators

Another example of a player with buyout money taking a low salary – though not the best example of it, as you’ll see – is Hartnell, who goes back to the Nashville Predators on a one-year, $1 million deal.

We discussed the particulars of this reunion earlier, but it boils down to having played for Peter Laviolette, having played with Ryan Johansen and played down the lineup in other roles, and giving the Predators a 100 PIMs guy if they need him to do the dirty work. He’s two years removed from 10 power-play goals as well.


3 – Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers

Just to clarify: Yes, this is still the “best signings” list.

I have no bloody idea why people are so down on this contract. OK, I do: There’s a bias against Shattenkirk for having the nerve not to be better than Alex Pietrangelo, and hence skating second-pairing minutes with the Blues; and he was noticeably bad in the playoffs for the Washington Capitals who, at last check, are a noticeably bad playoff team. Oh, and he’s an offensive defenseman not named Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, so he’s automatically loathed.

What Shattenkirk is: an elite puck-moving defenseman who is anything but a defensive liability. He doesn’t put up incredible 5-on-5 numbers, which is rightfully a criticism; but that’s conflated with not being good at 5-on-5, and he is: plus-368 in shot attempts over his last 208 games at 5-on-5.

But enough about the player. Let’s talk about the contract.

The Rangers essentially deleted Dan Girardi and added Kevin Shattenkirk to their blue line, and they did so by essentially trading Derek Stepan at $6.5 million against the cap through 2021 for Kevin Shattenkirk at $6.65 million through 2021.

And again: Four years! For the prize of free agency, because he wanted to play for his childhood team. Or because no one gave him seven. But regardless, four years!

Look, maybe in three years we’re calling him a bust. Who knows? You can only judge a deal based on its merits, based on the marketplace and on context. And this is a winner today.

2 – Mike Cammalleri, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings needed two things entering July 1: more offense and cheap labor. They’ll get both from Cammalleri, who still has something to offer as a scorer. Plus, he’s played with Anze Kopitar before, as well as with Dustin Brown. He fits.

But again: This is another “Brad Richards”-esque one-year, $1 million incentivized deal. GM Rob Blake said it himself: Cammalleri wasn’t even on their radar until the buyout from the New Jersey Devils. And then it was a slam dunk. Great move by the Kings.

But not the best move of the day…

1 – Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes

Two years and $9 million for a guy who went over 20 goals in each of the last two seasons.

Yes, he’s turning 36, but that’s why the ancillary benefits of having Williams on this team are so key: He’s played for Stanley Cup champions and has proven to be clutch in the playoffs, on a young team that needs that kind of sage in the room. Plus his name is on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Hurricanes.

He was coveted by a few teams, including the Lightning, and this was a significant win for Ron Francis. Guess it helps when you’ve played with the guy.

And now, sadly …

The five worst contracts of July 1

5 – Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

Not a UFA, but a contract signed on July 1 that kicks in for 2018-19.

The Anaheim Ducks literally just went through a situation where long-term contracts given to their defensemen caused a near cap crisis and then they hand out an eight-year contract to Fowler with a $6.5 million cap hit. There was no need to do a max deal here. None.

4 – Nate Thompson, Ottawa Senators

This isn’t an egregiously bad contract. It’s just a nonsensical one given how the rest of the day went.

No need for two years. No need to a give a 32-year-old depth forward $1.65 million a year on that term. Just silly is all.

3 – Karl Alzner, Montreal Canadiens

I hesitate to put there here, because I kind of like this move for the player and the team if Alzner needed a year to get over that sports hernia surgery and returns to basic competence as a defensive defenseman. But while you needed that fifth year to get to that $4.625 million hit in theory, this is still a player with some question marks getting a contract one year longer than Shattenkirk’s.

2 – Dan Girardi, Tampa Bay Lightning

It was bizarre how this two-year, $6 million deal was being praised by some, considering that nearly every other player who took a buyout signed a contract around $1 million in value.

Girardi is 33 and a liability whose competence is entirely defined by his partner’s prowess. But Steve Yzerman says the Lightning have “their own analytics” on Girardi that will no doubt explain how he drags on possession like the anchor of an aircraft carrier.

Finally…

1 – Dmitry Kulikov, Winnipeg Jets

That hearty laugh you heard during the afternoon of July 1 where Buffalo Sabres fans and media hearing about Kulikov getting a three-year deal worth $4.33 million annually from the Jets.

Maybe this is a change-in-scenery type deal. Kulikov seems to believe so. The Jets better hope so, because he’s been abjectly terrible over the last few seasons. In what should have been a “show us” contract, the Jets went three years with him. So Happy Canada Day, or something.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS



          Comment on Notable events that happened since Jimmy Hayes last scored by Bruins place Jimmy Hayes on waivers for buyout purposes - Bruins Daily   
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          Comment on Craft Brewing on Easy Mode: Wicked Weed Brewing & AB-InBev by Good Ideas Executed Poorly: The Brewers Association Chases Independence • thefullpint.com   
[…] the two-million barrel cap. The timing of the logo release, less than two months after the much publicized Wicked Weed Brewing buyout by AB-Inbev, feels reactionary. The nature and timing of these changes have contributed to the erosion in […]
          Tech Mega-Buyouts Edge Toward Comeback as BMC, CA Plot Deal   

Kiel Porter and Alex Sherman (Bloomberg) — Four years after Blackstone Group LP and Silver Lake Management battled to take Dell Inc. private, buyout firms are back in the market for big leveraged technology deals. BMC Software Inc., owned by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital, and CA Inc. are considering a potential deal that would

Tech Mega-Buyouts Edge Toward Comeback as BMC, CA Plot Deal can be found on Infinite Group Inc..


          Five good, five bad signings on NHL Free Agent Day 2017   
Part of this is the harsh education some teams have gotten, learning that unrestricted free agency is the devil’s tool. Another example of a player with buyout money taking a low salary – though not the best example of it, as you’ll see – is Hartnell, who goes back to the Nashville Predators on a one-year, $1 million deal.
          Smartphone Wars: Has iPhone 5 Lost Its Shine?   
Shares of Apple dip below $500 after reports that the company is cutting back its component orders for the iPhone 5, with Paul Schatz, Heritage Capital; and CNBC's Mary Thompson has the latest on a potential Dell buyout.
          Oilers put Pouliot on waivers for buyout purposes   
Edmonton could use the cap space.
          7/1/2017: SPORTS: Devils plan to buy out forward Cammalleri   
NHL teams are taking advantage of their final chance to buy out players this off-season. Among the players placed on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes were New Jersey Devils forwards Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, Florida Panthers...
          Healthcare/Life Sciences, M&A Analyst And/Or Associate – Paris   
Location: Paris Salary: Competitive base bonus Description: Pan-European focus covering subsectors such as Biotech, Medtech, Pharma, etc. Working on a broad range of transaction types including equity raising (IPO and secondary), leveraged buyouts...
          Comment on Warriors Will Meet With Andre Iguodala, Offer Three-Year Contract by Conman   
Contracts can contain non guaranteed years or buyout clauses if exercised in certain time frames. So that's what he's saying. One of the hang ups for Iggy was that 3rd year. WO/ seeing the actual language, Luke is correctly hypothesizing.
          7/1/2017: SPORTS: Devils plan to buy out forward Cammalleri   
NHL teams are taking advantage of their final chance to buy out players this off-season. Among the players placed on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes were New Jersey Devils forwards Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, Florida Panthers...
          Fairfax buyout ditched, TPG and Hellman & Friedman retreat    
Fairfax Media will remain in shareholders' hands after private equity firm TPG informed the board on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its $2.76 billion offer to buy out the company.
          Fairfax buyout ditched, TPG and Hellman & Friedman retreat   
Fairfax Media will remain in shareholder's hands after private equity firm TPG informed the board on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its A$2.76 billion ($NZ3.1b) offer to buyout the company. 
          Controller - Policaro Automotive Family - Ontario   
Prepares cheques for dealer trades lease buyouts. The primary purpose of the role is to provide accounting oversight that includes commissioning, purchasing...
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          Let’s Review   
from Scott Burnside of DallasStars.com, Although the signings came fast and furious, the 2017 free agency class was marked by shorter terms and fewer dollars a nod to the recent expansion draft that redistributed some of hockey's wealth and the relative flat salary cap. That doesn't mean there weren't some head scratchers and there still may be some buyers' regret in the coming days, but here is a look at some of the more noteworthy signings as free agency began Saturday. Martin Hanzal, center, signs three years, $4.75 million per year, Dallas Stars You can never have too much depth at center and the acquisition of the big, two-way center creates lots of options for head coach Ken Hitchcock down the middle for a Stars team that has added key pieces behind the bench, in goal, along the blue line and now at center since the end of the season. Kevin Shattenkirk, defense, signs four years, $6.65 million per year, New York Rangers The Rangers shed themselves of aging veterans Dan Girardi (buyout) and Derek Stepan (trade) and then obtained the top free agent defenseman at a manageable cap hit and even more manageable term. Throw in a couple of young prospects and backup netminder Ondrej Pavelec and pretty good week's work for GM Jeff Gorton. Great landing spot for Shattenkirk after a disappointing turn in Washington after the trade deadline. Karl Alzner, defense, signs five years, $4.625 million per season Montreal Canadiens read on
          Whole Foods buyout provides warehouses   
Amazon.com can ship books, furniture and clothing across the Pacific Ocean in what seems like a blink of an eye. But when it comes to delivering fresh groceries to your doorstep, the e-commerce giant’s logistical prowess falters.That’s because the long journey of, say, an avocado from Mexico gets progressively harder the closer it gets to the final buyer. It’s more costly and time consuming to deliver individual pieces of fruit to many customers. The hurdle, which [...]
          7/1/2017: SPORTS: Devils plan to buy out forward Cammalleri   
NHL teams are taking advantage of their final chance to buy out players this off-season. Among the players placed on unconditional waivers for buyout purposes were New Jersey Devils forwards Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, Florida Panthers...
          Fairfax buyout ditched, TPG and Hellman & Friedman retreat    
Fairfax Media will remain in shareholders' hands after private equity firm TPG informed the board on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its $2.76 billion offer to buy out the company.
          REVISION: The Evolution of Capital Structure and Operating Performance after Leveraged Buyouts: Evidence from U.S. Corporate Tax Returns   
This study uses corporate tax return data to examine the evolution of firms' financial structure and performance after leveraged buyouts (LBOs) for a comprehensive sample of 317 LBOs taking place between 1995 and 2007. We find little evidence of operating improvements subsequent to an LBO, although consistent with prior studies, we do observe operating improvements in the set of LBO firms that have public financial statements. We also find that firms do not reduce leverage after LBOs, even if they generate excess cash flow. Our results suggest that effecting a sustained change in capital structure is a conscious objective of the LBO structure.
          Fairfax buyout ditched, TPG and Hellman & Friedman retreat   

Fairfax Media will remain in shareholder's hands after private equity firm TPG informed the board on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its $2.76 billion offer to buyout the company.
          US fund walks away from bid for Australia’s Fairfax Media   
Without any binding offers, Fairfax was expected to end the buyout process Monday and instead announce plans first flagged in February to spin-off Domain, the Financial Review added.
          Controller - Policaro Automotive Family - Ontario   
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          The Voice of Optimism   
Everyone knows the old saying: "If you Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em". So I submit myself to the New Normal. I embrace that Things Are Different This Time. I surrender my soul to the wisdom of the bulls. Let us gather hands around the truth together.


Corporate debt is a positive. First, because interest rates are so low, it represents virtually free money for private equity firms to maximize value to shareholders through buyout transactions. Those making access to this debt are trained professionals and are managing the debt load - and its risks - responsibly.


The booming Chinese economy is putting some strain on the environment, yes, but the Chinese have learned from the lessons learned in the British and American industrial revolutions and have taken the steps necessary to protect their environment for the sake of those that consume their products, for the sake of the economy in the long term, and for the sake of future generations.


The manic building in Dubai, Shanghai, and other emerging economies is exhilarating, and the race to see who can wind up with the world's tallest building just adds to the fun. The building boom is not overdone. On the contrary, Dubai - - until recently, a sweltering, barren desert - will become the top tourist attraction on the planet. The strength of the oil economy will allow this entire region to blossom for decades to come as the new epicenter of global capitalism and prosperity.


The housing "bust" is completely overblown. Yes, there are some isolated instances of damage from the sub-prime lending debacle, but it is completely contained. Although the red-hot pace of housing gains from years past will rest steady for a while, there is in fact no housing "bust", and thus no aftereffects to the economy at large.


The fact that the savings rate has dropped into negative territory is simply illustrative of strong consumer spending. We live in an age of rapid change, and adapting and embracing that change takes money. Here in the United States, we are simply helping lead the way by taking part in an exciting new time of electronic and communications wizardry.


The U.S. equity markets are not overpriced. Indeed, as the private equity buyouts of late illustrate, stocks in the U.S. are undervalued.


By the same token, the Chinese stock market offers a store of value that will only continue to rise. A value of 8,000 on the Shanghai index seems almost a foregone conclusion, particularly since the number "8" is widely considered to be lucky in China.


Some many say that the tremendous push of wealth to the highest echelons of society will create social unrest and turmoil. "Some" are wrong. There are about 1,000 billionaires in the world today (up from zero in 1915), controlling nearly $3 trillion in wealth. The couple of billion people in the world that live in poverty will view these billionaires as inspirational.


There's plenty more good news in the world. The Blackstone IPO was not an opportunistic event meant to exploit the naivete of investors buying at the top of a market. It was simply a means by which the principals in the organization could tap into some of the value they had built while at the same time providing a means for the common man to participate in this exciting new investment vehicle.

The entire "terrorism" issue is completely overblown. Once the war in Iraq withers away to a close, terrorism will be a smattering of unrelated incidents that no longer affect the Homeland.

We have outgrown inflation, and it has about as much chance of returning as the fads of the 1970s that accompanied it. Food and energy are notoriously volatile components, so if we strip away the ability to feed and transport ourselves, the core inflation numbers are comforting.

Next year, when a Democrat is virtually guaranteed to win the Presidency, the combination of a left-leaning Congress and President will be just the kind of "one-two punch" the economy needs to really kick into high gear. Taxes will be reduced or at least be kept low. And the entirely Democrat federal government will provide business all the assistance it requires to continue to thrive.

And, just to put a cherry on top of the whole thing, watch this:


I am now cleansed. And I no longer have to bother with this bearish claptrap. I've had enough.
          Intels Buys Fulcrum Microsystems To Boost Networking   
Intel is acquiring Fulcrum Microsystems (a networking chip company) for an unknown amount of money. The buyout is expected to be the result of Intel's efforts to boost current network offerings.

Fulcrum was founded in 1999 and they currently design Ethernet switches that are used in data centers. Fulcrum's 10GB Ethernet and 40GB Ethernet switch products are expected to work well with Intel processors and Ethernet controller offerings.
          Knicks Rumors: Latest Buzz on Carmelo Anthony Trade, Free Agency and More   

New York Knicks fans woke up to a surprise on Wednesday as Phil Jackson parted company with the Knicks—a twist in the offseason that didn't upset the faithful base. Of course, it's in bad taste to feel excitement after someone loses their job, but many felt Jackson hindered the team's progress and needed to go. Furthermore, the team will pay him $24 million for the remaining two years on his contract.

Jackson's sudden leave doesn't exactly solve the Knicks' issues. The former team president already damaged Carmelo Anthony's trade value, the club lacks direction days away from a critical free-agency period, which starts on July 1 and the Zen Master already drafted guard Frank Ntilikina with the triangle offense in mind. 

Kristaps Porzingis stands as the only light for an entire city desperately waiting for another playoff appearance. In Jackson's three years as an executive, the Knicks failed to win 33 games in each season. The 2016-17 campaign started with hope and ended in flames.

It's anyone's guess how the franchise will move forward. We'll go through the latest on a potential candidate to take on Jackson's role, a free-agent target and Anthony's future.

     

Knicks Target Masai Ujiri as Phil Jackson's Replacement

The primary target to replace Jackson holds the same role with the Toronto Raptors, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski:

Masai Ujiri's executive resume stands out among his peers. He earned the 2012-13 Executive of the Year Award with the Denver Nuggets. The Raptors have made the postseason in all four seasons under his direction.

The well-respected executive helped broker the deal that sent Anthony to the Knicks from the Nuggets. He also dealt Andrea Bargnani to New York in a regrettable exchange on former general manager Glen Grunwald's behalf. 

Ujiri elevated the Raptors and outsmarted the Knicks front office in the past. After inking a five-year deal with the Raptors in 2013, he signed an extension in 2016. Will he leave a playoff team for a club in chaos?

     

Carmelo Anthony Remains on Trade Block, Rockets Interested 

Jackson goes, which means Anthony stays, right? Wrong. According to Wojnarowski, the Knicks still intend on trading the 33-year-old forward, but general manager Steve Mills or the new president will have to revive his stock value for a decent return:

After the Houston Rockets pulled off a blockbuster trade for Chris Paul, general manager Daryl Morey has his sights set on Paul George and Anthony to assemble another Big 3 to contend in the Western Conference, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon:

The link between Anthony and Paul could entice the Knicks forward to waive his no-trade clause. However, what assets do the Rockets have to offer in a decent deal for a player who can score 22 points per game and close out an opponent in the fourth quarter? 

Unless Jackson has done irreparable damage to Anthony's value, the Knicks should look elsewhere for a trade partner. Though, the 10-time All-Star still holds all the leverage. Sources in his camp have expressed interest in a buyout, which enables him to choose a new destination as a free agent, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, via ESPN.com reporter Ian Begley

"Sources told ESPN's Marc Stein that Anthony's campwhile acknowledging Anthony's preference to stay close to his sonhas tried to engage the Knicks in recent buyout discussions as it establishes the player's options," Begley said.

According to the report, Anthony would likely attempt to join LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which allows the defending champions to keep their core together. One way or another, it seems like New York will move forward with Porzingis as its lone star in the Big Apple.

     

Mutual Interest Between Knicks and Jeff Teague 

Jackson's exit sparked Jeff Teague's interest in leading the Knicks in a new direction, per Begley.

Teague doesn't bring star status to New York, but he's been selected to an All-Star team and notched a career high in assists per game (7.8) during the previous campaign.

With the Indiana Pacers losing Paul George in the near future, it's a perfect time for the 29-year-old point guard to reboot his career elsewhere.

What's the alternative? Before Jackson and Dolan decided to part ways, the front office expressed interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, per Begley.

Whether it's Mills or a new president, the person making the decision should view this as an easy choice. Do you want Teague coming off his greatest season as a passer or Rose after his fourth knee surgery?

As an 18-year-old, rookie Frank Ntilikina will need time to develop. For the upcoming season, the Knicks could establish the point guard position with a durable and quality talent in Teague. Once Anthony's situation settles, the team can begin planning a rebuild around Porzingis.

Read more NBA Rumors news on BleacherReport.com


          At Sanofi Genzyme, a new beginning   
But his challenge won’t be the same as those faced by his predecessors, the legendary Henri Termeer, who built Genzyme into a biotech pillar during nearly three decades at the helm, and Termeer’s protege, David Meeker, who led the post-buyout transition.
          Fairfax buyout ditched, TPG and Hellman & Friedman retreat    
Fairfax Media will remain in shareholders' hands after private equity firm TPG informed the board on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its $2.76 billion offer to buy out the company.
          Verizon Rumored to Be Considering Disney Buyout   
A rumor put put forth by the New York Post on Saturday claims that Verizon may be exploring the possibility of purchasing The Walt Disney Company.
          Former Flames winger Lance Bouma signs in Chicago, vows to use contract buyout as motivation   
For the past two seasons, Lance Bouma wanted to prove the Calgary Flames right. Now, he’s shooting to prove them wrong. Just one day after receiving a contract buyout from the Flames, the gritty winger signed on Canada Day as an unrestricted free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s been a whirlwind,” Bouma said. “Obviously, […]
          Comment on McLaren confirms Dennis departure by Jon in California   
Darn, I'll probably be dead by then too. Joe, any estimate of Ron's net worth after the buyout? Getting close to $500M?
          Wal Mart Acquires Kosmix For Social Initiatives   
In a time of buyouts, Wal-Mart is buying Kosmix, a social media company that is based in the heart of silicon valley, Mountain View, California. Although Wal-Mart did not mention specifics of the agreement, they did say that the acquisition will be instrumental in rolling out new social and mobile initiatives.

Wal-Mart continued in saying that the @WalmartLabs team will work hard on building its social and mobile commerce strategy in efforts to keep its online and in-store avenues in tact. I believe this is a necessary move for Wal-Mart, a corporation that now has physical stores in 15 countries and e-commerce businesses in nine countries.
          Here's why another Whole Foods bidder is unlikely to emerge   

Whole FoodsYelp/Jane W

Whole Foods Market, Inc. stock is still trading at a premium to Amazon.com, Inc.'s buyout price more than a week after the deal was announced.

As of Tuesday's closing, Whole Foods was trading at $42.56, more than a 1% premium over the $42-per-share acquisition price, and at one point last week, the share price was as much as $43.84, more than a 4% premium above the buyout price.

Clearly, investors sense a possible bidding war on the horizon, but who wants a piece of the action? Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. bowed out of consideration last Friday when Reuters reported that Wal-Mart was not interested in the organic grocer. Whole Foods shares suddenly fell by 2%, but it was foolish to think that Wal-Mart would be interested in the first place.

The two retailers couldn't be more different. Wal-Mart has built its business on low prices, and has targeted lower-end consumers. Whole Foods, on the other hand, sells high-quality goods and offers a refined shopping experience, and it's been mocked as "Whole Paycheck" for its high prices.

Not only would Wal-Mart have little interest in such a high-priced chain, but making an offer would be the direct opposite of its strategy under CEO Doug McMillon. In recent years, Wal-Mart has focused much of its attention on the e-commerce channel in order to compete with Amazon. It's added hundreds of grocery-pickup kiosks, acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion along with smaller online retailers like ModCloth and Bonobos, and added two-day free shipping on items over $35.

Meanwhile, the company has scaled back sharply on new store construction. It already has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S., and one within ten miles of 90% of the U.S. population. It doesn't need more stores. Spending $13.7 billion on Whole Foods' fleet of 431 stores would be a waste.

There are only three other companies that could be reasonably considered potential suitors for Whole Foods. Let's take a look at each one and see why it's unlikely to make a bid.

1. Kroger

In many ways, Kroger Inc. seems like the most obvious bidder for Whole Foods. It's the nation's biggest traditional grocer, with more than 2,600 supermarkets nationwide, and it has a habit of swallowing up other supermarket chains, including Harris Teeter and Roundy's in recent years.

But there are two main reasons that an offer would not be in the best interest of Kroger's shareholders. First, Kroger's recent earnings report and news of the Amazon deal with Whole Foods slaughtered Kroger stock: It fell by more than a quarter in just two days, hitting a two-year low on the news. That means its stock is particularly weak for using in an acquisition, and it already has $14 billion in debt on its books. Borrowing another $14 billion for such a deal is unlikely to win shareholder support.

Second, 60% of Whole Foods' locations are within ten miles of a Kroger store, meaning a lot of those stores would compete directly with Kroger's current base, only serving to cannibalize sales. If Kroger is interested in making another acquisition, it would be better off buying a chain in a part of the country it doesn't operate in, like Florida, the Northeast, or the Upper Midwest.

2. Costco Wholesale

Costco's name was also being whispered by analysts as a potential bidder, as its market cap of around $70 billion makes it the most valuable food retailer after Wal-Mart. While Costco may have the size to take over Whole Foods, such a deal would not make sense. Costco has made no significant acquisitions in its history, aside from its 1993 merger with Price Club, as the company prefers to build its own warehouses and manage everything under its own brand.

Furthermore, Costco's membership model, which allows members to buy bulk goods cheaply, would be a poor fit for Whole Foods, which specializes in high-end organic and prepared foods. The two companies have little in common and very different cultures.

3. Cerberus Capital Management

You may not have heard of Cerberus, but the company has become a major player in the supermarket industry with recent acquisitions of Albertson's and Safeway. The private-equity firm is now the country's second-largest (after Kroger) operator of traditional supermarkets, with 18 banners including those two.

However, Cerberus, like most private-equity companies, tends to hunt for distressed businesses that it can buy cheaply. Safeway was trading at a single-digit price-to-earnings ratio not long before Cerberus acquired it, and it got Albertson's and other banners from SuperValu for just $3.3 billion. Combined with Safeway's acquisition price of $9.4 billion, that means Cerberus built its empire of 2,200-plus supermarkets for less than the cost of Whole Foods, which has fewer than 500 stores. At a current P/E of 34, Whole Foods is almost certainly too expensive for Cerberus.

As a publicly traded company, Whole Foods is obligated to sell to the highest bidder, but Amazon is the best fit for it, and CEO John Mackey knows it. Amazon has the technological know-how, pricing management, and customer obsession to help Whole Foods cut costs and improve sales, and Amazon won't demand sudden profit growth the way another acquirer might. Even if another bid emerged, Whole Foods would likely push Amazon to beat it.

Whole Foods said Friday that it hasn't received any other offers. Don't expect that to change.

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          What Jeff Bezos gets right and wrong with his unorthodox approach to philanthropy   

Jeff Bezosrew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, trails his peers when it comes to generosity. His family’s donations to hospitals, museums and universities rarely make headlines, and he hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by many of the world’s richest people to give away most of their wealth.

So when the Amazon founder recently turned to Twitter to signal that he might give most of his fortune away in an open call for advice, it stunned philanthropic circles. Probably not coincidentally, this unusual appeal for advice surfaced shortly before news broke about Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods. If that deal goes through, it will give Bezos’s fortune, pegged at US$75.6 billion by Bloomberg, a $2.8 billion boost.

As a scholar who studies the ethics of philanthropy, I think Bezos is bucking two big trends embraced by his super-rich peers: a commitment to long-term impact and a technocratic decision-making strategy.

A short-term focus

Bezos noted on Twitter that he was specifically looking for good charities that could make a difference as soon as possible. This preference for short-term impact has puzzled many experts on giving.

As Stanford University political scientist Rob Reich argues, the ability of big donors to make risky, long-term bets that benefit society is what justifies the tax breaks and the limited regulation foundations enjoy. Policymakers can then adopt philanthropy’s successful innovations and implement them on a larger scale – like the 911 system, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invented and piloted in the 1970s.

By investing in medical research and experiments in education policy, for instance, today’s biggest givers, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and their wives, Melinda Gates and Priscilla Chan, tend to help find solutions to challenges not met by the private sector or the government. By spurning long-term impact in favor of meeting urgent needs, Bezos is effectively rejecting the standard approach to large-scale giving.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla ChanAPRefreshingly, Bezos seemed to acknowledge that billionaires like him who are profiting from an ongoing global economic transformation have duties to those who have been left behind. He noted on Twitter that “helping people in the here and now – short term” could complement the long-term contributions that he sees his business ventures making to civilization.

But if Bezos believes that the most well-off players in an economic system are obliged to aid the least well-off, he may be undermining the case for philanthropy itself. As I explained in my dissertation on the role of private philanthropy in a liberal democracy, charitable donations are inherently worse than government spending at meeting basic needs.

Listening to the rest of us

Bezos’s appeal also made waves because of its apparent concession to populist criticism, which targets philanthropy’s elitist elements.

Many big donors take a technocratic approach to their giving. They regard themselves as experts in the areas they address and sometimes get caught circumventing public opposition to their ideas.

A group called the Communities for Teaching Excellence that was largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation closed after critics accused the foundation of “astroturfing” – creating artificial grassroots organizations – to generate support for its education initiatives. (The BMGF is a funder of The Conversation Media Group.) And the foundation led by Eli and Edythe Broad once secretly offered New Jersey’s government grant money to bolster charter schools, a policy the Los Angeles billionaire couple champions.

By contrast, Bezos opted to delegate decision-making – at least initially – to users of Twitter, arguably the world’s largest forum for public deliberation.

Objectively speaking, conducting a straw poll over social media is not a fair or serious way to hear out the masses. Only about one in five Americans is active on Twitter, and Bezos has not yet disclosed his methods for selecting winning responses.

Cynics may see Bezos’ public appeal as a strategy that creates the appearance of democratizing philanthropy without any of the constraints required when donors follow democratic procedures.

Reconciling philanthropy and democracy

But Bezos’ request for ideas, which within days had amassed more than 40,000 tweeted responses and considerable media coverage, might help reconcile the conflicts between philanthropy and democracy.

The term “philanthropopulism” first surfaced a decade ago, as big donors sought new ways to make their giving more effective. Now, emerging research on the wisdom of crowds shows that large numbers of minds often make better decisions than small numbers of experts. Perhaps, well-designed procedures for involving the public in giving decisions could help improve the quality of the gifts.

That might also help to respond to critics like Stan Katz, a historian who worries that today’s biggest donors are betraying the principles of American democracy. The ideal of democracy requires that everyone enjoy equal opportunities to influence matters of public concern. But as private wealth finances a widening array of public functions, and inequality proliferates, ordinary people are losing more and more control over their common affairs.

Katz observes that foundations – not voters – are behind the explosion of charter schools and high-stakes testing and the decline of teachers’ unions. His observations corroborate disturbing findings by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page that the middle class no longer exerts any noticeable influence over public policy.

In the absence of national political will to contain economic inequality, a request for public input on big philanthropic decisions could restore some democratic control over public life. If Bezos can help catalyze this movement, it may be good news for philanthropy and democracy alike.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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          Carey Price and a risky blockbuster contract for Canadiens   

The success or failure of Carey Price’s massive eight-year contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens depends greatly on whether they can build a championship team around a goalie eating up that much cap space, and whether giving a 31-year-old goalie an eight-year term isn’t completely bonkers.

The Canadiens announced that Price has agreed to an 8-year extension, ending any drama over his potential unrestricted free agency next summer. This is a massive show of faith from Price, who could have punched his ticket anywhere in the NHL he wanted next summer. He’s casting his lot with a franchise that has two conference finals appearances in the last 10 seasons. But he loves Montreal. A lot, apparently.

It’s a $10.5 million cap hit for Price beginning in 2018-19. Until Connor McDavid signs, that currently matches him with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the highest AAV in the NHL. That’s a full $2 million more than Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers against the cap. It’s a massive hit for any player. It’s unprecedented for a goalie.

As Arpon Basu notes, no team that’s won the Stanley Cup in the salary cap era has had a goaltender eating up more than 10 percent of the cap, which was Tim Thomas in 2011. Of course, one can argue that the Bruins aren’t getting within sniffing distance of that Cup without Timmy’s .940 save percentage and 1.98 GAA in the playoffs, which is obviously the thinking for the Habs in securing their best player for the next nine years.

That said, it’s hard to square this deal with conventional wisdom in the NHL, which is that winning teams don’t commit that much salary space to their goaltender. That much-maligned 10-year deal that Los Angeles Kings gave Jonathan Quick still amounts to a $5.8 million hit through 2023. Price will still make $10.5 against the cap in 2026.

The team’s counterargument is that Carey Price is a special exception.

“Nobody has a goaltender like Carey Price in the League. There’s a saying we use: Goalies are not important until you don’t have one. Seeing what’s going on around the League with teams who are looking for a goaltender, it’s really hard to do. So it’s a position that’s hard to find and we have, in our opinion, one of the best in the business, if not the best. So we’re going to keep him and make sure he’s here for the rest of his career,” said GM Marc Bergevin.

All of this is true. And if Carey Price were 27 instead of 31 when this contract starts, perhaps it’s easier to swallow. But he’s going to be the same age that Lundqvist was when he starter his seven-year extension with the Rangers.

Three years into it, Lundqvist posted his most ordinary season in the NHL with a .910 save percentage, failing to garner a single vote for the Vezina for the first time in his career. There was less talk about Lundqvist as a dominant goalie than there was about trying to convince him to accept a trade in the near future.

In fairness, Lundqvist has played 742 regular season games and 128 more in the playoffs. Price has played 509 and 60, respectively. But as goalies get older, goalies are more susceptible to injury. It’s just reality.

The cynical view of this contract is that it doesn’t matter what Price looks like at, say, 36 years old. It doesn’t matter to Bergevin, who probably will be out of his job by then. It may not matter to the Canadiens as a whole – there’s a lockout coming, one that could offer up another round of amnesty buyouts for any number of players signing long-term deals in their early 30s (hello, T.J. Oshie). While Geoff Molson doesn’t want to throw around this kind of money to make a problem go away, it’s not like the Canadiens don’t have it.

So there’s a lot not to like here, or at the very least there’s enough to raise suspicions about the logic to this deal and how Montreal could eventually get out of it.

But at the end of the day, this is Carey Price, and this was his asking price, and the Montreal Canadiens will have him for the foreseeable future. One just hopes that the pursuit of stability between the pipes doesn’t lead to instability for the Canadiens under the cap.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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          Here's why another Whole Foods bidder is unlikely to emerge   

Whole FoodsYelp/Jane W

Whole Foods Market, Inc. stock is still trading at a premium to Amazon.com, Inc.'s buyout price more than a week after the deal was announced.

As of Tuesday's closing, Whole Foods was trading at $42.56, more than a 1% premium over the $42-per-share acquisition price, and at one point last week, the share price was as much as $43.84, more than a 4% premium above the buyout price.

Clearly, investors sense a possible bidding war on the horizon, but who wants a piece of the action? Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. bowed out of consideration last Friday when Reuters reported that Wal-Mart was not interested in the organic grocer. Whole Foods shares suddenly fell by 2%, but it was foolish to think that Wal-Mart would be interested in the first place.

The two retailers couldn't be more different. Wal-Mart has built its business on low prices, and has targeted lower-end consumers. Whole Foods, on the other hand, sells high-quality goods and offers a refined shopping experience, and it's been mocked as "Whole Paycheck" for its high prices.

Not only would Wal-Mart have little interest in such a high-priced chain, but making an offer would be the direct opposite of its strategy under CEO Doug McMillon. In recent years, Wal-Mart has focused much of its attention on the e-commerce channel in order to compete with Amazon. It's added hundreds of grocery-pickup kiosks, acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion along with smaller online retailers like ModCloth and Bonobos, and added two-day free shipping on items over $35.

Meanwhile, the company has scaled back sharply on new store construction. It already has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S., and one within ten miles of 90% of the U.S. population. It doesn't need more stores. Spending $13.7 billion on Whole Foods' fleet of 431 stores would be a waste.

There are only three other companies that could be reasonably considered potential suitors for Whole Foods. Let's take a look at each one and see why it's unlikely to make a bid.

1. Kroger

In many ways, Kroger Inc. seems like the most obvious bidder for Whole Foods. It's the nation's biggest traditional grocer, with more than 2,600 supermarkets nationwide, and it has a habit of swallowing up other supermarket chains, including Harris Teeter and Roundy's in recent years.

But there are two main reasons that an offer would not be in the best interest of Kroger's shareholders. First, Kroger's recent earnings report and news of the Amazon deal with Whole Foods slaughtered Kroger stock: It fell by more than a quarter in just two days, hitting a two-year low on the news. That means its stock is particularly weak for using in an acquisition, and it already has $14 billion in debt on its books. Borrowing another $14 billion for such a deal is unlikely to win shareholder support.

Second, 60% of Whole Foods' locations are within ten miles of a Kroger store, meaning a lot of those stores would compete directly with Kroger's current base, only serving to cannibalize sales. If Kroger is interested in making another acquisition, it would be better off buying a chain in a part of the country it doesn't operate in, like Florida, the Northeast, or the Upper Midwest.

2. Costco Wholesale

Costco's name was also being whispered by analysts as a potential bidder, as its market cap of around $70 billion makes it the most valuable food retailer after Wal-Mart. While Costco may have the size to take over Whole Foods, such a deal would not make sense. Costco has made no significant acquisitions in its history, aside from its 1993 merger with Price Club, as the company prefers to build its own warehouses and manage everything under its own brand.

Furthermore, Costco's membership model, which allows members to buy bulk goods cheaply, would be a poor fit for Whole Foods, which specializes in high-end organic and prepared foods. The two companies have little in common and very different cultures.

3. Cerberus Capital Management

You may not have heard of Cerberus, but the company has become a major player in the supermarket industry with recent acquisitions of Albertson's and Safeway. The private-equity firm is now the country's second-largest (after Kroger) operator of traditional supermarkets, with 18 banners including those two.

However, Cerberus, like most private-equity companies, tends to hunt for distressed businesses that it can buy cheaply. Safeway was trading at a single-digit price-to-earnings ratio not long before Cerberus acquired it, and it got Albertson's and other banners from SuperValu for just $3.3 billion. Combined with Safeway's acquisition price of $9.4 billion, that means Cerberus built its empire of 2,200-plus supermarkets for less than the cost of Whole Foods, which has fewer than 500 stores. At a current P/E of 34, Whole Foods is almost certainly too expensive for Cerberus.

As a publicly traded company, Whole Foods is obligated to sell to the highest bidder, but Amazon is the best fit for it, and CEO John Mackey knows it. Amazon has the technological know-how, pricing management, and customer obsession to help Whole Foods cut costs and improve sales, and Amazon won't demand sudden profit growth the way another acquirer might. Even if another bid emerged, Whole Foods would likely push Amazon to beat it.

Whole Foods said Friday that it hasn't received any other offers. Don't expect that to change.

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          What Jeff Bezos gets right and wrong with his unorthodox approach to philanthropy   

Jeff Bezosrew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, trails his peers when it comes to generosity. His family’s donations to hospitals, museums and universities rarely make headlines, and he hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by many of the world’s richest people to give away most of their wealth.

So when the Amazon founder recently turned to Twitter to signal that he might give most of his fortune away in an open call for advice, it stunned philanthropic circles. Probably not coincidentally, this unusual appeal for advice surfaced shortly before news broke about Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods. If that deal goes through, it will give Bezos’s fortune, pegged at US$75.6 billion by Bloomberg, a $2.8 billion boost.

As a scholar who studies the ethics of philanthropy, I think Bezos is bucking two big trends embraced by his super-rich peers: a commitment to long-term impact and a technocratic decision-making strategy.

A short-term focus

Bezos noted on Twitter that he was specifically looking for good charities that could make a difference as soon as possible. This preference for short-term impact has puzzled many experts on giving.

As Stanford University political scientist Rob Reich argues, the ability of big donors to make risky, long-term bets that benefit society is what justifies the tax breaks and the limited regulation foundations enjoy. Policymakers can then adopt philanthropy’s successful innovations and implement them on a larger scale – like the 911 system, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invented and piloted in the 1970s.

By investing in medical research and experiments in education policy, for instance, today’s biggest givers, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and their wives, Melinda Gates and Priscilla Chan, tend to help find solutions to challenges not met by the private sector or the government. By spurning long-term impact in favor of meeting urgent needs, Bezos is effectively rejecting the standard approach to large-scale giving.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla ChanAPRefreshingly, Bezos seemed to acknowledge that billionaires like him who are profiting from an ongoing global economic transformation have duties to those who have been left behind. He noted on Twitter that “helping people in the here and now – short term” could complement the long-term contributions that he sees his business ventures making to civilization.

But if Bezos believes that the most well-off players in an economic system are obliged to aid the least well-off, he may be undermining the case for philanthropy itself. As I explained in my dissertation on the role of private philanthropy in a liberal democracy, charitable donations are inherently worse than government spending at meeting basic needs.

Listening to the rest of us

Bezos’s appeal also made waves because of its apparent concession to populist criticism, which targets philanthropy’s elitist elements.

Many big donors take a technocratic approach to their giving. They regard themselves as experts in the areas they address and sometimes get caught circumventing public opposition to their ideas.

A group called the Communities for Teaching Excellence that was largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation closed after critics accused the foundation of “astroturfing” – creating artificial grassroots organizations – to generate support for its education initiatives. (The BMGF is a funder of The Conversation Media Group.) And the foundation led by Eli and Edythe Broad once secretly offered New Jersey’s government grant money to bolster charter schools, a policy the Los Angeles billionaire couple champions.

By contrast, Bezos opted to delegate decision-making – at least initially – to users of Twitter, arguably the world’s largest forum for public deliberation.

Objectively speaking, conducting a straw poll over social media is not a fair or serious way to hear out the masses. Only about one in five Americans is active on Twitter, and Bezos has not yet disclosed his methods for selecting winning responses.

Cynics may see Bezos’ public appeal as a strategy that creates the appearance of democratizing philanthropy without any of the constraints required when donors follow democratic procedures.

Reconciling philanthropy and democracy

But Bezos’ request for ideas, which within days had amassed more than 40,000 tweeted responses and considerable media coverage, might help reconcile the conflicts between philanthropy and democracy.

The term “philanthropopulism” first surfaced a decade ago, as big donors sought new ways to make their giving more effective. Now, emerging research on the wisdom of crowds shows that large numbers of minds often make better decisions than small numbers of experts. Perhaps, well-designed procedures for involving the public in giving decisions could help improve the quality of the gifts.

That might also help to respond to critics like Stan Katz, a historian who worries that today’s biggest donors are betraying the principles of American democracy. The ideal of democracy requires that everyone enjoy equal opportunities to influence matters of public concern. But as private wealth finances a widening array of public functions, and inequality proliferates, ordinary people are losing more and more control over their common affairs.

Katz observes that foundations – not voters – are behind the explosion of charter schools and high-stakes testing and the decline of teachers’ unions. His observations corroborate disturbing findings by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page that the middle class no longer exerts any noticeable influence over public policy.

In the absence of national political will to contain economic inequality, a request for public input on big philanthropic decisions could restore some democratic control over public life. If Bezos can help catalyze this movement, it may be good news for philanthropy and democracy alike.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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          LigaPro Manager APK 2.16   

the definitive online fantasy manager!!!
show your football strategic knowledge. manage your team to the victory.
all depend of you. are you ready?

description
ligapro manager is an online fantasy manager game in which users have to manage their squads and initial budget in a virtual league with score based on real results of football matches.
ligapro manager requires skill in managing, buying and selling players and an extensive knowledge of the current football situation.

features
- fantasy superleague and ligapro stars.
- scores based on 4 different sources.
- market value based on the effiency of the players.
- new exclusive championship: ligapro cup.
- system of swaps: exchange groups of players with your rivals in only one transaction.
- system of loans: your players can be loan out for one matchday. take advantage of it and get an extra income!
- internal messaging: the best way to negotiate.
- buyout clauses.
- wide variety of statistics and rankings.
- challenges: you can challenge another users with the weekly challenge. take advantage of it and get an extra income!
- and a lot more... try it!

leagues available
- la liga
- premier league
- serie a (italy)


languajes available
- english
- spanish
- italian
- portuguese
          Comment on Knicks Morning News (2017.07.02) by danvt   
No thanks to George Hill or Rondo even though I like both of their games. Clearest message we can send to Melo is that we're making no win now moves. No buyout. Accept a trade (unlikely at his $) or opt out. Or just be a good teammate. You're Arod now. He was actually a good teammate post ban. In two years we could be really good with player development high draft picks and no stupid FA deals. No three year deals for Melo.
          MBTA puts commuter rail Wi-Fi plan on hold amid opposition   

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has put on hold a plan to improve wireless internet service on commuter rail trains in the Boston area amid opposition from nearby communities.

The MBTA said Friday it will step back and conduct a 30-day assessment of the project. The review will include comments and other feedback from customers, elected and appointed officials and residents.

The Wi-Fi plan would involve installing more than 300 75-foot towers along rail lines that would create better wireless and cellular connections.

Opponents of the plan have argued the towers would disrupt historic and residential areas.

The project was expected to get underway this summer and has been in the works since 2014, when then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed an agreement with InMotion Wireless, the company installing the system.

Author(s): 

Articles

Blog Posts

062515mbtaar08.jpg

Photo by: 
A Commuter Rail train is seen at South Station, Thursday, June 25, 2015. Staff photo by Angela Rowlings.
Source: 
AP
Freely Available: 
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          Comment on BREAKING: GEMTECH Sold To Smith & Wesson by Fartnose Zipperpants   
Seeing as how Ruger has created official silencers in the past few years, and this buyout, gives me hope on the HPA. There's obviously backroom political discussion going on that we have not yet heard. It's not like HPA was going to be passed overnight anyways.
          The Collusion Case Comes into Focus    

I should have known that when the evidence began to come to light, it would reveal a second-rate operation. The most prized witness here is dead but presumably he didn’t take his electronic records with him. The FBI is going to be very interested in talking to this John Szobocsan fellow. Very interested. It looks like he and the recently deceased Peter W. Smith were partners in DigaComm LLC, “a private equity and venture capital firm specializing in seed, start ups, emerging growth, mature, growth capital, industry consolidation, buyout, and early stage investments” that is no longer actively trading. And Mr. Szobocsan is up to his ears in Russian collusion. He made a big mistake when he decided to get on a call with Matt Tait, an “information security specialist for GCHQ” and talk about getting stolen documents from Russian hackers.

It is no overstatement to say that my conversations with Smith shocked me. Given the amount of media attention given at the time to the likely involvement of the Russian government in the DNC hack, it seemed mind-boggling for the Trump campaign—or for this offshoot of it—to be actively seeking those emails. To me this felt really wrong.

In my conversations with Smith and his colleague, I tried to stress this point: if this dark web contact is a front for the Russian government, you really don’t want to play this game. But they were not discouraged. They appeared to be convinced of the need to obtain Clinton’s private emails and make them public, and they had a reckless lack of interest in whether the emails came from a Russian cut-out. Indeed, they made it quite clear to me that it made no difference to them who hacked the emails or why they did so, only that the emails be found and made public before the election.

Trump obviously felt the same way. Of course, there’s a total absence of evidence that Clinton’s server was hacked at all. But we do pretty much know now that this “offshoot” of the Trump campaign was working with the Russians.

The story just didn’t make much sense—that is, until the Journal yesterday published the critical fact that U.S. intelligence has reported that Russian hackers were looking to get emails to Flynn through a cut-out during the Summer of 2016, and this was no idle speculation on my part.

Suddenly, my story seemed important—and ominous.

Matt Tait has now spilled the beans. He’s made it clear that Peter W. Smith convincingly made the case that he was working in concert with the Trump campaign and was dialed into their operation at a very high level. This was evident from the keen insights he had about the internal operations and conflicts within the campaign, and also from his representations that he was working in concert with Michael Flynn and his son, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Sam Clovis. And, yes, there is documentary evidence that Smith made those representations.

The defense here will be that Smith was a rogue operator, but that defense will only stand up if there is no electronic trail to debunk it. All communications Smith had with principals in the campaign will now be subject to review.

A lot depends on what the investigators find.

And now we know why Trump wanted Comey to stop looking at Flynn, and why he fired Comey when he refused to comply.

Discuss


          Carey Price and a risky blockbuster contract for Canadiens   

The success or failure of Carey Price’s massive eight-year contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens depends greatly on whether they can build a championship team around a goalie eating up that much cap space, and whether giving a 31-year-old goalie an eight-year term isn’t completely bonkers.

The Canadiens announced that Price has agreed to an 8-year extension, ending any drama over his potential unrestricted free agency next summer. This is a massive show of faith from Price, who could have punched his ticket anywhere in the NHL he wanted next summer. He’s casting his lot with a franchise that has two conference finals appearances in the last 10 seasons. But he loves Montreal. A lot, apparently.

It’s a $10.5 million cap hit for Price beginning in 2018-19. Until Connor McDavid signs, that currently matches him with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the highest AAV in the NHL. That’s a full $2 million more than Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers against the cap. It’s a massive hit for any player. It’s unprecedented for a goalie.

As Arpon Basu notes, no team that’s won the Stanley Cup in the salary cap era has had a goaltender eating up more than 10 percent of the cap, which was Tim Thomas in 2011. Of course, one can argue that the Bruins aren’t getting within sniffing distance of that Cup without Timmy’s .940 save percentage and 1.98 GAA in the playoffs, which is obviously the thinking for the Habs in securing their best player for the next nine years.

That said, it’s hard to square this deal with conventional wisdom in the NHL, which is that winning teams don’t commit that much salary space to their goaltender. That much-maligned 10-year deal that Los Angeles Kings gave Jonathan Quick still amounts to a $5.8 million hit through 2023. Price will still make $10.5 against the cap in 2026.

The team’s counterargument is that Carey Price is a special exception.

“Nobody has a goaltender like Carey Price in the League. There’s a saying we use: Goalies are not important until you don’t have one. Seeing what’s going on around the League with teams who are looking for a goaltender, it’s really hard to do. So it’s a position that’s hard to find and we have, in our opinion, one of the best in the business, if not the best. So we’re going to keep him and make sure he’s here for the rest of his career,” said GM Marc Bergevin.

All of this is true. And if Carey Price were 27 instead of 31 when this contract starts, perhaps it’s easier to swallow. But he’s going to be the same age that Lundqvist was when he starter his seven-year extension with the Rangers.

Three years into it, Lundqvist posted his most ordinary season in the NHL with a .910 save percentage, failing to garner a single vote for the Vezina for the first time in his career. There was less talk about Lundqvist as a dominant goalie than there was about trying to convince him to accept a trade in the near future.

In fairness, Lundqvist has played 742 regular season games and 128 more in the playoffs. Price has played 509 and 60, respectively. But as goalies get older, goalies are more susceptible to injury. It’s just reality.

The cynical view of this contract is that it doesn’t matter what Price looks like at, say, 36 years old. It doesn’t matter to Bergevin, who probably will be out of his job by then. It may not matter to the Canadiens as a whole – there’s a lockout coming, one that could offer up another round of amnesty buyouts for any number of players signing long-term deals in their early 30s (hello, T.J. Oshie). While Geoff Molson doesn’t want to throw around this kind of money to make a problem go away, it’s not like the Canadiens don’t have it.

So there’s a lot not to like here, or at the very least there’s enough to raise suspicions about the logic to this deal and how Montreal could eventually get out of it.

But at the end of the day, this is Carey Price, and this was his asking price, and the Montreal Canadiens will have him for the foreseeable future. One just hopes that the pursuit of stability between the pipes doesn’t lead to instability for the Canadiens under the cap.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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          Five good, five bad signings on NHL Free Agent Day 2017   

Fiscal sanity is boring. Favorable geography is boring. These are among the lessons learned on NHL Free Agent Day 2017, which saw more hometown discounts than home run contracts.

Part of this was a lackluster field of difference makers, with a few exceptions. Part of this is the harsh education some teams have gotten, learning that unrestricted free agency is the devil’s tool. (Heck, even the Devils didn’t dabble too deep into it, and they’re terrible.) Part of this is due to the fact that veteran players can now sign low-dollar contracts because they’re flush with buyout money.

Anyway, here are …

The five best contracts from July 1

(As of 6:30 p.m. ET.)

5 – Benoit Pouliot, Buffalo Sabres

One of the best under the radar signings of the day.

Look, he didn’t sign himself to a 5-year, $20 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. They inked him, it didn’t work out, they ate the last two years of his contract and life goes on.

So with that cash in pocket, he signs with the Sabres for $1.15 million for one season, which is an incredible bargain for a player who could slide in as a second line left wing and help on the power play. This is a guy that can get you around 0.60 points per game on average. As a replacement for someone like Marcus Foligno? That’s a stellar, short-term add.

4 – Scott Hartnell, Nashville Predators

Another example of a player with buyout money taking a low salary – though not the best example of it, as you’ll see – is Hartnell, who goes back to the Nashville Predators on a one-year, $1 million deal.

We discussed the particulars of this reunion earlier, but it boils down to having played for Peter Laviolette, having played with Ryan Johansen and played down the lineup in other roles, and giving the Predators a 100 PIMs guy if they need him to do the dirty work. He’s two years removed from 10 power-play goals as well.


3 – Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers

Just to clarify: Yes, this is still the “best signings” list.

I have no bloody idea why people are so down on this contract. OK, I do: There’s a bias against Shattenkirk for having the nerve not to be better than Alex Pietrangelo, and hence skating second-pairing minutes with the Blues; and he was noticeably bad in the playoffs for the Washington Capitals who, at last check, are a noticeably bad playoff team. Oh, and he’s an offensive defenseman not named Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, so he’s automatically loathed.

What Shattenkirk is: an elite puck-moving defenseman who is anything but a defensive liability. He doesn’t put up incredible 5-on-5 numbers, which is rightfully a criticism; but that’s conflated with not being good at 5-on-5, and he is: plus-368 in shot attempts over his last 208 games at 5-on-5.

But enough about the player. Let’s talk about the contract.

The Rangers essentially deleted Dan Girardi and added Kevin Shattenkirk to their blue line, and they did so by essentially trading Derek Stepan at $6.5 million against the cap through 2021 for Kevin Shattenkirk at $6.65 million through 2021.

And again: Four years! For the prize of free agency, because he wanted to play for his childhood team. Or because no one gave him seven. But regardless, four years!

Look, maybe in three years we’re calling him a bust. Who knows? You can only judge a deal based on its merits, based on the marketplace and on context. And this is a winner today.

2 – Mike Cammalleri, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings needed two things entering July 1: more offense and cheap labor. They’ll get both from Cammalleri, who still has something to offer as a scorer. Plus, he’s played with Anze Kopitar before, as well as with Dustin Brown. He fits.

But again: This is another “Brad Richards”-esque one-year, $1 million incentivized deal. GM Rob Blake said it himself: Cammalleri wasn’t even on their radar until the buyout from the New Jersey Devils. And then it was a slam dunk. Great move by the Kings.

But not the best move of the day…

1 – Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes

Two years and $9 million for a guy who went over 20 goals in each of the last two seasons.

Yes, he’s turning 36, but that’s why the ancillary benefits of having Williams on this team are so key: He’s played for Stanley Cup champions and has proven to be clutch in the playoffs, on a young team that needs that kind of sage in the room. Plus his name is on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Hurricanes.

He was coveted by a few teams, including the Lightning, and this was a significant win for Ron Francis. Guess it helps when you’ve played with the guy.

And now, sadly …

The five worst contracts of July 1

5 – Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

Not a UFA, but a contract signed on July 1 that kicks in for 2018-19.

The Anaheim Ducks literally just went through a situation where long-term contracts given to their defensemen caused a near cap crisis and then they hand out an eight-year contract to Fowler with a $6.5 million cap hit. There was no need to do a max deal here. None.

4 – Nate Thompson, Ottawa Senators

This isn’t an egregiously bad contract. It’s just a nonsensical one given how the rest of the day went.

No need for two years. No need to a give a 32-year-old depth forward $1.65 million a year on that term. Just silly is all.

3 – Karl Alzner, Montreal Canadiens

I hesitate to put there here, because I kind of like this move for the player and the team if Alzner needed a year to get over that sports hernia surgery and returns to basic competence as a defensive defenseman. But while you needed that fifth year to get to that $4.625 million hit in theory, this is still a player with some question marks getting a contract one year longer than Shattenkirk’s.

2 – Dan Girardi, Tampa Bay Lightning

It was bizarre how this two-year, $6 million deal was being praised by some, considering that nearly every other player who took a buyout signed a contract around $1 million in value.

Girardi is 33 and a liability whose competence is entirely defined by his partner’s prowess. But Steve Yzerman says the Lightning have “their own analytics” on Girardi that will no doubt explain how he drags on possession like the anchor of an aircraft carrier.

Finally…

1 – Dmitry Kulikov, Winnipeg Jets

That hearty laugh you heard during the afternoon of July 1 where Buffalo Sabres fans and media hearing about Kulikov getting a three-year deal worth $4.33 million annually from the Jets.

Maybe this is a change-in-scenery type deal. Kulikov seems to believe so. The Jets better hope so, because he’s been abjectly terrible over the last few seasons. In what should have been a “show us” contract, the Jets went three years with him. So Happy Canada Day, or something.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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          Racist, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Mass Hospital Shooting by “Dr.” Henry Bello Recalls the Kirkwood Massacre by Charles “Cookie” Thornton   
The Countenance Blogmeister recalled this racist atrocity, in connection with the racist mass shooting in the Bronx.


Mass Murderer was a “Hero,” Say Blacks
By Nicholas Stix
February 9, 2008 at 6:21 A.M.
Last updated at 5:04 p.m., Saturday, February 9, 2008.

Kirkwood, Missouri Police Sergeant William Biggs, 50. KPD Officer Tom Ballman, 37. Director of Public Works Kenneth Yost, 61. Councilman Michael H.T. Lynch, 63. Councilwoman Connie Karr, 51.

All dead, all white.

Mayor Mike Swoboda, age unknown. Suburban Journals reporter Todd Smith, 36.

Both wounded, both white.

[Postscript, Saturday, July 1, 2017, 4:12 p.m.: Mayor Swoboda died a few months later. Reports claimed that the cause of death was “a combination” of his wounds and the cancer he’d been suffering from, which is an easy way of “disappearing” a murder.]

Shooter Charles “Cookie” Thornton, 52, black.

Sergeant Biggs was a “cool, calm” man who had been a cattle rancher in Colorado, before returning home to the St. Louis County area to become a Kirkwood city policeman 20 years ago.

Officer Ballman had been a Marine, a corrections officer for two years, and a Kirkwood city policeman for eight. The old Marine’s ability to defuse prison conflicts was legendary.

DPW Kenneth Yost, known both for his strict adherence to rules, and for his helpfulness towards citizens navigating the city codes, had been married for 41 years to his high school sweetheart, the former Cathy Voss.

Councilman Michael Lynch was an architect and Special Business District booster.

Councilwoman Connie Karr, a former journalist, planned on running for mayor.

Charles Thornton was a local businessman who owned an asphalt company. He didn’t see why he should have to obey the local parking regulations, which he deemed “racist,” and had thereby amassed 150 parking tickets for illegally parking his asphalt mixing trucks. He had taken to disrupting City Council meetings, and when he got himself arrested twice for disorderly conduct in 2006—with Officer Ballman serving as the arresting officer both times—he filed suit in Federal Court, charging that his First Amendment rights had been violated. His suit had been thrown out of court last month.

The city had considered barring Thornton from all Council meetings but, considering him a harmless nuisance, dropped the idea.

Although Charles Thornton wasn’t interested in killing any non-whites, the shootings of Thursday night's Kirkwood Massacre weren’t racially motivated. Black-on-white mass murders and execution-style murders and torture-rape-murders (see also: here and here) never are. Just ask any expert.

And yet, at a community meeting in a local black community, Meacham Park, Ben Gordon said,
To me, Charles Thornton is a hero. He opened a business. He went to court, but the system failed him. … We are sorry, we grieve, but (Kirkwood officials) share in this responsibility.
Gordon was quoted in “Shooting reactions reveal racial divide,” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Adam Jadhav, Jake Wagman, and Tim O'Neil. At first reading, I thought that the reporter who quoted Ben Gordon had neglected to ask him for whom he was sorry, for whom he was grieving. But then I went back and re-read an earlier section of the story, and got my answer.
Many say they are sickened by Thornton's brand of vigilantism. But others say they're left outside the mainstream and oppressed by unfair rules. Those people mourned Thornton and directed their anger back at Kirkwood officials.
The killer’s (or is it “hero’s”?) brother, Gerald Thornton, said “This was an act of war by my brother. He had people that he was in battle with.”

Gerald Thornton has refused to “judge” his brother. English translation: He supports what he did.

And Gerald Thornton possesses expertise in such matters: He murdered a man in 1996, and did five years in prison for it, yet another victim of racially discriminatory sentencing.

If you’re a Thornton, you’ve got to “represent.” Family and racial traditions are at stake.

In case you were wondering, Charles Thornton is dead.

Carrying a gun from home, Thornton approached Sgt. Biggs, who was standing on the street outside of City Hall, where the City Council was meeting, shot him dead, and took his weapon. But before Thornton shot Sgt. Biggs, the policeman managed to hit the “alert tone on his radio,” to summon backup. In the City Council chambers, Thornton entered shouting something about “justice” and “Shoot the Mayor!” and firing away with both guns, killed Officer Ballman first.

Thornton chased white City Attorney John Hessel around the room. Hessel told St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Giegerich that he yelled, “Cookie, don't do this, don't kill me. I'm not going to let you do this.' I picked up a chair and threw it at him.”

Between Thornton having to duck, as Hessel threw one chair after another at him, and his stumbling over victim Kenneth Yost’s body, Hessel bought enough time, so that he was still alive when two officers responding to Sgt. Biggs’ distress signal arrived, and shot Thornton dead.

But the massacre wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. Just repeat that to yourself a million times. And if that doesn’t work, sign up for some more diversity training—I’m sure you’ve already had some; haven’t we all?—so you can learn that white racism drove Charles Thornton to do what he did, even though what he did wasn’t racially motivated. And if that doesn’t work, try and wash away the contradictions, with a fifth of scotch.

Every white in the world could commit suicide, and blacks would still blame the “legacy of (white) racism” for all of their problems.

Perhaps the oddest thing about the experts and police chiefs and reporters and editors and tenured professors who constantly tell us that these black-on-white atrocities aren’t racially motivated, is that blacks don’t believe that for a second. They know that they are racially motivated, they say so, and they celebrate them for it.

As Gerald Thornton said of his brother, he went to war. You may not be interested in race war, but race war is interested in you.

* * *
Greetings to readers from VDARE, Cassandra Redux, and Mangan’s Miscellany. Why no trackback appears from VDARE is a googlian mystery, but I know that VDARE’s James Fulford has blogged on and linked to this article.



25 comments:

chester said...

The city of Kirkwood did not have a racist motive with Cookie Thornton. This war goes back many years to when Kirkwood annexed Meachem Park. The citizens and businesses in meachem park were harrassed to no end by the city.

My business was forced out by the city in such ways that the term war , is the best way to describe it. Kirkwood took away many peoples rights and destroyed their lives, made promises they had no intention of keeping.

They used a technique I call selective code enforcement. in my case they even took my landlords land with the promise that the city would go easy on him if he did this. For a short period of time, the code officials would back off of their trumped up code violations. but let a few months pass, and they were right back there herrassing property owners and businesses in a gestapo like fashon.

I was forced out. The city forced my landloard to evict me using this tactic. I was doing research of all the documents related to the code violations the city filed, in the kirkwood building department office when I found a handwritten note written by the head building inspector saying that my landloard would " do whatever it takes to get me out of the building" The building inspector was sitting right across from me at the table. we were discussing the various code citations against me and my laandloard when I when I told him what was on the note. he said "no way". I had the note in my hand, I turned the note around and showed it to him. he grabbed the note out of my hand crumpled it up and got up from the table and said GET OUT OF HERE and demanded that I get on the other side of the counter, out in the hallway, then he said this conversation was over and that he was calling the police. About 4 weeks later I was evicted. I was the best tennant in the building, always paid my rent on time, did things to bring the whole building up to code and helped him in many ways.

I could go on and on for days, I've got 2 inches of documents that show all the abuses the city put on just me, let alone the promises the city made such as assistance to relocate and financial support.

I was very lucky because I inherited some money, not a lot, but enough to relocate my business.

Three times I've been caught up in the repurcussions of eminent domain and abuse of personal property rights and have gotten the short end of the stick.

Am I going to go out and kill 5 people hell no, do I understand Cookie Thornton's rage ? the answer is yes. Do I understand the anger of the people of Meacham Park? the answer is yes. Should there be an investigation of the effects of Kirkwood taking over Meacham Park? the answer is YES.

Do the citizens of Kirkwood have any idea what really went on with the annexation of Meacham Park and the many many human abuses at the hand of thecity of Kirkwood? the answer is NO. will they ever? the answer is NO. Is it sad that many prominent businessmen who knew Cookie and did business with him and supported him would just say "well thats Cookie" with a chuckle and hope his strife would go away? yes it is, 5 people are dead. Did anyone EVER show Cookie any support and understanding in any of these prrocedings? I think I did once,back in 1999, but it was strictly by accident because I was at the courthouse for "selective code violations" myself. I just said that the city was oversteping their bounds.

Other then me, i doubt too many other people did.

I could go on and on, but what I have to tell and say will fall on deaf and denying ears.

Will I ever live in Kirkwood? only when there are many changes made,

It is time the people of Kirkwood realize that instead of saving a few trees or saving the "historical integrety" of their neighborhood is not the most important thing. Perhaps saving the individual rights of people in all of Kirkwood would be a more noble thing to do.

My race? Does it matter?

My hopes? I hope some collage does some research on the effects of the annexation of Meacham Park and the impact it had on all of the people that were affected.

I don't know for sure, but my bet is the research would not bode well for society, or the Tax increment financing lobbyist's

May God Help Us All

rds
Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 3:03:00 PM EST


Nicholas Stix said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you for writing. I have no idea whether what you say is true, or whether, even if I accepted your report regarding your particular case, it is true to the degree you say it is. I do share your hope, however, that some honest researcher—whether an academic or a journalist, or a team of same—will study the charges you have made about the Kirkwood municipal government. I also share your pessimism that that will ever happen.

I am going to append your letter to later submissions of this column, but I cannot guarantee that anyone else will publish the column.

Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 4:05:00 PM EST


Nicholas Stix said...

P.S. For what it's worth, I'm sorry if the government terrorized you.

Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 4:07:00 PM EST


chester said...

I have no reason to lie. This horrible event has brought back many memories of what happened to my wife and I, as well as many others from the late 1990's which I've put in the back of my mind and never wanted to think of again.

My stomach is churning as I slowly type this reply. Thoughts that were suppressed, I will be reminded of almost every day for the rest of my life. I will remember this tragedy long after the news media is gone and the bloody carpet is removed,

"With Liberty and Justice for All" and "The Golden Rule" is how I was raised. It's only a pipe dream.

Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 5:06:00 PM EST


Anonymous said...

Nicholas Stix, well done. It was obviously a racially motivated crime. I am saddened by the decline of civil discourse and increase of violence by Blacks who can't seem to find alternatives for their frustrations other than picking up a gun and start shooting.

I don't care how "unfair" Kirkwood's practices are or were. It still doesn't justify mass murder or ethnic warfare. Shame on those who defend such an atrocity.

Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 5:02:00 AM EST


Anonymous said...

I've been monitoring racially motivated black-on-white murder for almost 20 years. The reaction is the same today as it was in the 1980s (and probably before).

1. The media will not report the race of the white victims or the black murderer.

2. Once some racial information leeks out, they will bring in a phalanx of "experts" who can assure us the motive was not racial.

3. Blacks interviewed will express unqualified support the murderer. Some will say he went about it the wrong way. But almost all will "understand" why he did it: to fight white "racism" which is the cause of 100% of their problems.

4. Whites will not organize, march or even complain very much. In fact, they will defensively assure everyone that they are not racist. The murder will not be linked to the thousands of similar cases of racially motivated black-on-white murder.

5. There will be no talk of hate crime charges or including the murder in "diversity" seminars or in multicultural school curriculum. That would be reserved for the James Byrd, Medgar Evers and Emmett Till murders.

6. A handful of whites will get an excellent education on the real meaning of racism in America. Children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends will grieve in silence, but they are white so nobody cares. Nothing will change. Blacks will go on killing whites (and other non-blacks) because of their skin color. Schools, the media, universities, politicians, churches, businesses and every other institution will go on endlessly about white racism and black victimization. Blacks will get more racist. Whites will get even more weak and timid.

7. Repeat cycle.

Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 9:50:00 AM EST


Roger Chaillet said...

Whites are not tribal, unlike the other groups in this country.

Nicholas should compare the Jena 6 "incident," to the mass murder at the My-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving, Texas from a few years agp. The assailant was black; the victims were white and Hispanic. I cannot even find mention of it even with the aid of Google. I had to use Dogpile, the meta search engine, to find it.

http://www.vpc.org/studies/wgun000320.htm

Now do the same for "Jena 6" with Google. There are well over one million entries.

Blacks are DVGs, as in "Designated Victim Group." John Derbyshire concocted this term. The whole of the Democratic Party consists of nothing but DVGs.

Make sense now?

Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 12:36:00 PM EST


Howard (Las Vegas,Nevada) said...

I like the part when you said," if every White committed suicide blacks would still blame them for their problems." That's true.

Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 4:31:00 PM EST


vegas crash watcher said...

All the murdered were government parasites, so it was a win-win situation.

More attacks like this are needed to get the much-needed civil war started.

Monday, February 11, 2008 at 12:25:00 PM EST


susanna said...

Just had to comment on the post from "chester" recounting how big, mean white people forcibly annexed poor innocent little Meacham Park.

I lived in St Louis for many years, and still have relatives who live near Kirkwood. "chester's" comments are a load of nonsense.

Meacham Park is a little bit of ghetto in the middle of the burbs. In reality, the residents of MP voted overwhelmingly for annexation because it meant lots of white taxpayer money flowing their way. Kirkwood and St Louis County have spent gazillions of dollars on MP over the years -- and in return have received what white liberals usually get. Just Google "community development meacham park" and you'll see what I mean. Here's a city of Kirkwood web site with a few of the details http://www.ci.kirkwood.mo.us/com-dev/meacham-intro.htm

Monday, February 11, 2008 at 3:30:00 PM EST


Nicholas Stix said...

Anonymous said...

"Nicholas Stix, well done. It was obviously a racially motivated crime. I am saddened by the decline of civil discourse and increase of violence by Blacks who can't seem to find alternatives for their frustrations other than picking up a gun and start shooting.

"I don't care how 'unfair' Kirkwood's practices are or were. It still doesn't justify mass murder or ethnic warfare. Shame on those who defend such an atrocity."

Sunday, February 10, 2008 2:02:00 AM PST

Thank you. Beyond blacks' response to their frustrations, the frustrations themselves tend to be insane. A phrase was coined during the 1960s to describe black nationalists' insatiable demands: "People who won't take 'yes' for an answer."

And those demands have since been adopted by the overwhelming majority of blacks.

The demands are put in a rhetoric that says, "This is what is due us, based on the requirements of justice, and to make America whole," just as Michelle Obama now says that whites are obliged to vote for her husband in the primaries and the general election for the same reasons. But the mentality behind the rhetoric (including the case of Michelle Obama), which readily becomes apparent to anyone with a lick of sense who is watching and listening is, "We hate you now, and we will hate you always, no matter what you give us (which is just given out of fear, anyway), and we will take everything you have, and then destroy you."

I believe that the truth is the opposite of what black racists and white leftists say, and the truth bears me out: It was not withholding things from blacks that led to their riots and reign of violence, it was giving them almost everything under the sun.

Historian Fred Siegel, a self-described social democrat, has written extensively on this history, both in his book, The Future Once Happened Here, and in many writings available for free on the 'Net.

Monday, February 11, 2008 at 6:23:00 PM EST


Nicholas Stix said...

Blogger susanna said...

"Just had to comment on the post from 'chester' recounting how big, mean white people forcibly annexed poor innocent little Meacham Park.

"I lived in St Louis for many years, and still have relatives who live near Kirkwood. 'chester's' comments are a load of nonsense.

"Meacham Park is a little bit of ghetto in the middle of the burbs. In reality, the residents of MP voted overwhelmingly for annexation because it meant lots of white taxpayer money flowing their way. Kirkwood and St Louis County have spent gazillions of dollars on MP over the years -- and in return have received what white liberals usually get. Just Google 'community development meacham park' and you'll see what I mean. Here's a city of Kirkwood web site with a few of the details

"http://www.ci.kirkwood.mo.us/com-dev/meacham-intro.htm"

Monday, February 11, 2008 12:30:00 PM PST

Thanks for the heads-up, susanna. I googled, and ended up at the link you had given me.

Those awful white people were giving blacks living in $20,000 homes new $90,000 homes, and not requiring they pay back one cent of the difference. And giving black homeowners who weren't eligible for the buyout free, $37,000 "loans."

Oh, the horror! Oh, the oppression! No wonder the blacks of Meacham Park are outraged, and support Charles Thornton.

I say, give me and mine some of that horror and oppression and "free" money.

As my mother always says, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Monday, February 11, 2008 at 6:38:00 PM EST


Lyn said...

I want to send my condolences to the innocent victims of this killing spree. They need to be foremost in everyone's thoughts on this.

You're absolutely right. It was a racist killing spree.

What makes me even sicker is the one-sided media coverage. An hour or 2 after the killings a mini press conference was held with just one of the shooter's brother. No victims' families, just the shooter's brother. He was lamenting how the system had pushed his brother to this. How disgusting. No lamenting the victims, just making excuses for his lowlife murdering brother. Then the next day the shooter's wife and 2 other family members were all dressed in black, scowling at the cameras, and made a half hearted "we're sorry" statement and then spent the next few minutes explaining they needed sympathy too, they suffered loss, etc.

This black disregard for others is rampant. It shows up a lot in those "Shocking Video" style TV shows. The way they get so violent so quickly against anybody you can tell that they don't fear the consequences. Because often there are no consequences.

I just wish more white people were upset about this. I wish whites had more of the self righteousness that blacks do, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 9:26:00 AM EST


Big Bill said...

No ghetto dweller I have known likes to think of themselves as a part of the ghetto problem. In their minds, they are all "surviving the ghetto".

When pushed, prodded and chivvied to clean up and fly right, they often fight back with remarkable tenacity as did Mr. Thornton.

They can warmly fantasize about living in a lovely house with well trimmed yards, but never imagine their neighbors telling them to keep the noise down, bathe regularly, pick up the dirty diapers strewn around the yard, stop taking short cuts across other people's yards, and remove disabled junkers from the streets.

As one black neighbor in a "changing neighborhood" told me, "if you don't like me honking my car horn at 6AM to wake my grandson up for school, just move to the suburbs."

So we did.

Mr. Thornton apparently liked parking his tar-encrusted vehicle wherever he desired and did not want to "waste" money renting an empty lot in a distant industial area where he could park his vehicles. He saw it as racial oppression. I fear many ghetto folks do.

The resentment is not unique to black folks, however. There are a tens of millions of us who do not like to get up early and drive far away to work, who don't like to mow our grass, who don't like to pick up trash in our yard, who don't like to paint our house, and who don't like to rent a parking space somewhere else for our extra vehicles.

We do it because we recognize that nice neighborhoods are not "found" but are created by everyone working together and sacrificing.

This lesson of mutual obligations and mutual restraints is something that black ghetto dwellers like Mr. Thornton cannot understand. I doubt he imagined he would ever have to "act white" when Meacham Park was annexed.

Like a primitive cargo cult, ghetto dwellers think that when the white folks take over, the houses will miraculously get painted, the yards picked up, the streets and sewers magically installed, and it will cost them nothing and not discomfit them, because the white folks of Kirkwood have some strange magical power to make a town, a city, a country beautiful, while still letting us park our asphalt trucks and paving machines wherever they like.

In many ways I think it is unfair to expect ghetto dwellers to adapt to a modern, "code-dominated" white culture. Personal freedom to live the way they like, much like the attitudes of white Ozark Hillbillies live (I grew up among them, so I know whereof I speak) is a guiding principle of their lives.

Before the annexation, someone really needed to take the folks of Meacham Park aside and explain to them the cost of living in a white town: you will have to get up to go to work, bathe regularly, pay your taxes, cut your grass, clean the trash out of your yards, paint your houses, keep your broken down cars off the streets, stop having loud parties until one AM in your backyards, ask permission before adding a lean-to to your house, etc. Someone should have madde it clear what the personal costs of living white would be.

If you do not, the frustration of having to live white -- to act white -- combined with the visceral white hatred taught by such preachers like Obama's minister can have bloody results.

My advice? Let them live in their ghetto. Don't try to reform them or improve them, and don't believe them when they say that is what they want. They don't, not really.

... that is, not unless the white folks can make it happen "magically" and at no cost to them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 9:36:00 AM EST


Il Ragno said...

Stix, I believe the wise course here is not to tether your wagon too tightly to this one.

I salute you for the yeoman work you've done thus far exposing not just black-on-white crime, but the unholy marriage of entitlement and remorselessness that animates a too-large swath of the black community. It's truly the unreported tap-dancing elephant in the living room, and must be confronted.

But this story, heinous as the Thornton clan undoubtedly are, is too thorny with secondary plot-threads (such as Chester catalogued, and rather eloquently) to make the Kirkwood Massacre the slam-dunk it first appears to be. I think violent black racism is simply too urgent a national emergency to risk losing the focus by getting tangled underfoot in a case which, were Thornton a white man, might be applauded in a burst of involuntary schadenfreude by more than a few law-abiding white folks who've themselves been driven to/past the point of despair by the tinpot martinets and outright fixers who all too often "govern" us - particularly in quiet, out-of-the-way zip codes where municipal corruption isn't going to draw the interest of outsiders.

Besides, it isn't as though the next horrific black-on-white atrocity isn't right around the corner. They always are. Can you imagine how many Knoxvilles and Wichitas there'll be, for instance, should anything untoward befall Golden Boy Obama this summer?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 12:05:00 PM EST


Nicholas said...

Thank you for your kind words and for your advice, Ragno. When first I read Chester’s response, I thought the same thing. But the more I delved into the matter, the less connection I saw between Chester’s complaints and Charles Thornton.

Another reader, Susanna, sent a link about the eminent domain issue.

http://www.ci.kirkwood.mo.us/com-dev/meacham-intro.htm

If the City of Kirkwood is to be believed, black homeowners in Meacham Park in the area that was turned into the shopping mall made off like bandits. The City replaced $20,000 homes there with new, $90,000 homes elsewhere in M.P. Cost to the black homeowners for the difference: $0. (Remember, this is pre-Kelo.) Black homeowners who were not in the area slated for the shopping mall, and thus ineligible for the 20K-for-90K deal received “loans” for up to $37,000 in home improvements that did not have to be paid back. The developer created a leafy buffer zone between the mall and the closest homes, so the residents wouldn’t have to look out on the mall. And the blacks of Meacham Park got racial set-asides and first call on jobs building the project, and in businesses that were housed there.

If that’s oppression, I want me some.

If anyone benefited from the annexation of Meacham Park, which the blacks there overwhelmingly voted in favor of, it was those blacks, the developer, and the Kirkwood swells, whose palms he greased or who owned a piece of the operation. As for those who were harmed, that would be the middle and working-class whites of St. Louis County, who paid for the project through additional “TIF” taxes, and in particular, the whites of Kirkwood, who now had to share their public services with the blacks of Meacham Park, and lose family members murdered by racist, Meacham Park blacks.

Let’s look at Thornton’s law suit. He did not charge that he was the victim of discrimination, in getting so many tickets and fines, or that the City of Kirkwood was waging a war to dispossess black residents of Meacham Park through eminent domain. (BTW, while Chester’s landlord may have been forced out, that does not mean that the City refused to recompense him. I’m not sure Chester would be in a position to know that, although he’s free to correct me on the matter.) Rather, Thornton claimed to have been the victim of discrimination for having not been permitted to disrupt City Council meetings at will. Note that Thornton represented himself in federal court. As the old saying goes, “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/analysis.aspx?id=19647

Let’s look at Thornton’s black defenders.

http://wikilou.com/wiki/index.php?title=Opinion:_Kirkwood_racism_boils_over_into_violence

http://www.pubdef.net/2008/02/obs-all-we-want-is-justice.html

All they have on their side are lies and the same attitude I have talked about before: A black man has the right to kill any whites who get in his way. (I’ve received some off-the-wall letters, too, from scholars schooled in the Black Supremacist Jailhouse Theory of Law.)

The anonymous wikilou guy can’t even get the smallest facts straight, such as that Thornton left home with one gun, not two.

Perhaps the most despicable of his many lies is his claim that the Kirkwood police were somehow responsible for the July 5, 2005 death of then-19-year-old street thug Kevin Johnson’s 12-year-old half-brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, of heart failure, and thus that Kevin Johnson was justified in murdering KPD Officer Bill McEntee (who wasn’t even present at Boom Boom’s death) two hours later.

(By the way, blacks have already vandalized the memorial to McEntee.)

If Thornton had any sort of legitimate beef, as opposed to simply black race mania, why can’t blacks come up with anything more than lies and their own black race mania in his defense?

And concerning “martinets” and such, not only did prosecutor Hessel say that he had told Thornton that he was willing to forgive all of the tickets (none of which Thornton had paid), but retired white principal McCallie, an ardent civil rights man and old friend of Thornton’s himself said that Thornton had told him of the offer, but refused to take it, claiming that some sort of “principle” was involved. His defenders say it was a matter of “justice.”

Whenever I hear blacks speak of “justice,” I go for my pistol with one hand, and my wallet with the other.

With all that said, what if Chester has the facts on his side, and the black racists somehow f----d up, and got it right, in spite of themselves?

Well, I’d like to know just what the truth is. If things should be proven to be murkier than they at first appeared, I can live with that. It still wouldn’t justify what Charles Thornton did, and it wouldn’t have any effect on the work I have thus far done exposing black race mania and its violent expression. Exception proves the rule. Besides, murder victims aren’t obliged to be saints, not even in St. Louis County.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 1:54:00 AM EST


Il Ragno said...

I hear you - particularly after encountering the same Hassell interview you did late this afternoon. That significantly alters the overall picture.

Not that I wasn't mildly ashamed - which of course I should've been - to have even counselled anyone to avert their eyes from such inhumane butchery as happened in Kirkwood for the sake of pragmatism and sharper talking points.

But like the wiseguys say, it is what it is. Advising you to take a pass on Cookie Thornton in the "hope" that another Colin Ferguson might appear...and it may yet prove the wiser course!....is pretty gruesome testimony, not just to the true state of our union these days, but to the moral compromises that become second nature in battlefield conditions.

We're at war, all right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 3:24:00 AM EST


Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

As a white male Republican voter that lives in Kirkwood, Missouri, I've probably got the greatest claim to "being a minority" around here.

I've resisted blogging on this topic because it is a little "too close to home" for me, mind the pun. The shootings took place roughly 10 blocks away from here.

As I said over on the Autonomist blog, there are plenty of examples of black-on-white murder sprees with a racist motivation. This isn't one of them.

But in the aftermath of the killings, it's damned shameful that Thornton's family have made their disgraceful comments and the Meacham Park neighborhood "community leaders" are making a race martyr of Cookie Thornton.

But, I knew Cookie Thornton. He was no racist, and if it were another black man that went in and killed the city council, the Cookie I knew would be arguing against these same "community leaders" and chiding them not to make a racial firestorm out of it. Cookie had many white friends, and actually was well liked in the community, at least outside City Hall.

But, it wasn't another black man that killed people, it was Cookie.

That's the most shocking thing to me.

Chester's post above about "selective code enforcement" is a bullseye. That's precisely what this is about.

For me, the math is simple.

White Democrats vs. a black man trying to make a living without resorting to drug dealing or pimping or falling into the welfare recipient lifestyle. The Democrat dominated city government of Kirkwood wasn't going to stand for that.

Had Cookie resorted to the "thug gangsta" stereotypical "black" lifestyle rather than attempt to be a self-employed legitimate businessman, he'd have never been harrassed. Especially if he ran a crack house or meth lab in Meacham Park.

What Cookie did was wrong, I can't make excuses for it.

I just know this town's politics and knew Cookie Thorton well enough to know the shootings were politically motivated, not racially motivated.

That doesn't take the sting out the wrongness of Cookie's actions, because ultimately whatever point he was trying to make before he went off the deep end is now lost.

Friday, February 22, 2008 at 2:18:00 AM EST


Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

I think it should be pointed out a not less than a few of St. Louis' TV news personalities also live in Kirkwood, and have a stake in selling controversy rather than news. That definitely has an effect on how the story is told, or rather not told.

St. Louis itself is divided into two political parties - white Democrats and black Democrats, and they fight each other quite fiercely. Mostly a spectacle for the media that thrives on heightened racial tensions.

To this Republican's eyes, the solution is simple. Look at how "red" Missouri is outside "blue" St. Louis county and city.

Where ever Democrats rule, chaos reigns.

But somehow, it's always "Republicans" that "scare blacks away from the polls" in these Democrat controlled districts.

You'd think Bull Connor was a Republican and Martin Luther King a Democrat, to accept this clear ignorance, brought to us by...

...Democrat dominated media, education / teachers unions, etc.

It's a sickness.

Friday, February 22, 2008 at 2:46:00 AM EST


Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

If the City of Kirkwood is to be believed, black homeowners in Meacham Park in the area that was turned into the shopping mall made off like bandits. The City replaced $20,000 homes there with new, $90,000 homes elsewhere in M.P. Cost to the black homeowners for the difference: $0. (Remember, this is pre-Kelo.) Black homeowners who were not in the area slated for the shopping mall, and thus ineligible for the 20K-for-90K deal received “loans” for up to $37,000 in home improvements that did not have to be paid back. The developer created a leafy buffer zone between the mall and the closest homes, so the residents wouldn’t have to look out on the mall. And the blacks of Meacham Park got racial set-asides and first call on jobs building the project, and in businesses that were housed there.

If that’s oppression, I want me some.


No you don't.

Not if the assessed annual property taxes on your home suddenly jumps up higher than your income level can afford to pay.

Friday, February 22, 2008 at 3:00:00 AM EST


Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

(By the way, blacks have already vandalized the memorial to McEntee.)

Uh, no.

The memorial, which stands roughly 30 or so feet outside the back door of the Kirkwood Police Department, has not been vandalized, nor (as of this writing) does it appear to have ever been vandalized.

(Unless there's another memorial here in my town no one knows about)

I think we can call this attempt at race war hype a foul ball.

Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 2:34:00 AM EST


Anonymous said...

For the record: I'm the one who wrote the WikiLou article. It was written the morning after the shooting, when the tiny details were not yet clear or reported (such as him having two guns, but only leaving home with one). Also, I'm white. And yes, I do sympathize with Cookie. Never knew him myself. I certainly don't sympathize with you racist bastards.

Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 8:03:00 AM EDT


Nicholas Stix said...

Anonymous [Coward] said...

"For the record: I'm the one who wrote the WikiLou article. It was written the morning after the shooting, when the tiny details were not yet clear or reported (such as him having two guns, but only leaving home with one). Also, I'm white. And yes, I do sympathize with Cookie. Never knew him myself. I certainly don't sympathize with you racist bastards."
Thursday, April 3, 2008 5:03:00 AM PDT

So, let me get this right. You openly sympathize with a racist mass murderer, simply because he was black and his victims were white, but I'm a "racist bastard"?

Wrong. You are the racist; indeed, you are the face of white racism today.

Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 10:13:00 AM EDT


Phillip Logan said...

It's been some years since I lived in the St. Louis area. Haven't kept fully aware of what's gone on there, but if Kirkwood annexed the Meacham Park cesspool those Kirkwood politicians must have lost their minds. If so, I hope the voters sent them back to their gated, guarded communities and got that abomination reversed.--PL

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          Who Is Wilbur Ross?   

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

The Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross as Trump’s new secretary of commerce by a vote of 72 to 27, with Democrats closely divided. Democrats are understandably conflicted over this appointment. A private-equity billionaire, Ross has also done deals with unions. He poses as a friend of labor, a savior of bankrupt companies, a creator of jobs, a turnaround wizard. He can sound like an economic nationalist. Now, as secretary of commerce, he is the architect of government policies to create jobs in this country. What will that mean?

Ross is worth an estimated $2.5 billion to $2.9 billion, according to various industry estimates. He has made his billions by buying up struggling or bankrupt companies on the cheap. He has used bankruptcy laws to dump health and pension benefits for workers when buying distressed companies. He has relied on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization to offshore manufacturing jobs to Mexico and Asia; and has taken advantage of tax laws that privilege debt-financing and allow private-equity returns to be taxed at the low capital gains rate. Now as the architect of Trump’s infrastructure investment strategy, his stated policy plan would use billions in federal tax dollars to subsidize Wall Street tycoons like himself.

As an early “innovator” in the art of distressed investing, Ross built his skills over 25 years at the New York office of the Rothschild investment bank, where he ran the bankruptcy restructuring unit until he left in the late 1990s. There, he witnessed the revolution in the debt markets, as “junk bonds” were increasingly used to finance highly leveraged buyouts of companies. And as over-leveraged companies collapsed, he saw that bondholders were forced to accept pennies on the dollar. Ross became the leading Wall Street bankruptcy adviser for the worst bankruptcies of the era—and learned that a lot of money could be made as a bottom-feeder. He represented the creditors in the 1990 bankruptcy case against Trump’s Taj Mahal casino, when it went bankrupt after borrowing $675 million in high-risk junk bonds. He brokered the deal that allowed Trump to keep a major stake in the property. According to Ross, “Bondholders are like workers in a factory. … On their own they have no leverage. But if someone pulls them together, they can negotiate with anyone.” Ross organized them, and learned how to turn Chapter 11 bankruptcies into profit-making machines.

AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler

Deal Artists: Ross (center) represented the creditors in the 1990 bankruptcy case against Trump's Taj Mahal casino.

With this expertise, he opened the private equity firm WL Ross & Co. in 2000—with $440 million from wealthy backers. In 2001, he launched his first hedge fund, and by 2002 his second private equity fund. His private equity and hedge funds focused entirely on distressed investing—buying up companies that were already bankrupt, or buying the debt of distressed companies headed toward bankruptcy in order to snap them up soon after. His funds were well positioned to pick up the pieces of companies following the 2001 stock market crash, the September 11 attack, and the global recession. By 2003, his private equity firm managed $1.6 billion in assets.

Ross’s strategy was to buy up at least one-third of the debt of a bankrupt company he intended to bid on. The debt could be purchased for pennies on the dollar, and Ross would become the largest creditor, giving him a lot of power in the bankruptcy proceedings. This positioned him as the strongest bidder to take the company out of bankruptcy—paying for the purchase by forgiving the loans he had made to it. At the end of the day, the debt he held would be wiped out, but he would now be the biggest or only shareholder in the company.

Buying companies out of bankruptcy is also profitable because Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code allows a company to reduce its debt to as little as pennies on the dollar and to dump millions or billions in health-care and pension liabilities. Creditors, shareholders, and workers suffer the losses, and the new owner gets valuable assets on the cheap. The logic behind Chapter 11 bankruptcies is to allow otherwise healthy companies to re-emerge and continue to be productive; but in recent decades it has become a path for private equity and hedge funds to get rich quick.

How Ross Does It

One of Ross’s private equity firm’s first targets was the failing steel industry, which he studied for more than two years before going after it in 2002. He negotiated with the United Steelworkers union in 2001 to get his desired concessions. He claimed credit for saving the U.S. steel industry by buying up bankrupt steel companies and rolling them into a platform called the International Steel Group, which he then sold to the Indian-owned multinational Mittal Steel Company in 2005. Union leaders called him a pragmatist—a straight-shooter whom they could deal with—no nonsense, no drama.

But the steel deal came at a heavy price: Ross made $4.5 billion—14 times his investment, and exactly equal to what retirees lost in pension and health-care benefits. In February 2002, he used his bankruptcy strategy to buy several LTV steel facilities that were in liquidation, so he didn’t have to assume health or pension costs. He paid $90 million in cash plus $235 million in assumed liabilities—that is, the deal was 75 percent debt. That payment equaled 3.6 percent of the $2.5 billion value of the assets on the books. After several more buyouts of bankrupt mills in 2003 and 2004, he controlled 20 percent of the industry. Ross bought the mills on condition that health coverage for retirees and those workers targeted for layoff would be eliminated, and that pension liabilities would be shifted to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), with workers receiving substantially lower benefits than they otherwise would have. His turnaround of the companies also depended on government trade protections: Ross was aware that then-President George W. Bush was about to impose tariffs on imported steel to offset illegal dumping by foreign steelmakers. A 30 percent tariff went into effect in March 2002—a month after his initial steel mill acquisitions—providing a critical window for Ross to restart steel production.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File

Through his private equity investments, Ross claimed credit for saving the U.S. steel industry. In doing so, Ross made $4.5 billion—14 times his investment, and exactly equal to what retirees lost in pension and health-care benefits. 

Ross repeated this strategy in the textile industry. In 2001, he identified Burlington Industries as a potential target. Through his hedge fund, he started selling the Burlington stock short. When the company filed for bankruptcy in 2003, he had positioned himself to buy up the remaining bonds (which had fallen to 11 cents on the dollar), allowing him to become the company’s largest bondholder and to take over the company. His next textile acquisition was the bankrupt Cone Mills, where he positioned himself as both a major bondholder and bidder on its assets. Board members and stockholders accused him of a conflict of interest, arguing that he pushed the company into an unnecessary bankruptcy in order to buy it up cheaply. But Ross prevailed. In both cases, debt was slashed, the mills resumed operations, and a portion of workers returned to their jobs—but only after Ross extracted major union concessions and shifted pension liabilities to the PBGC. These companies became the platform for the International Textile Group, which Ross later sold in 2016 to the private equity firm Platinum Equity for an undisclosed amount.

In 2003, he used the same tactics to move into coal. Ross formed Newcoal LLC and expressed interest in buying the non-union operations of Horizon Natural Resources—but not its six union properties. The United Mine Workers of America charged that Ross conspired with Horizon to orchestrate the bankruptcy. Horizon, which had about $1 billion in assets and $1 billion in debt, sought a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect itself from its creditors. It also asked the judge to void its union contracts on the grounds that they prevented the company from finding potential buyers. In an unprecedented decision, the judge agreed, ruling that Horizon did not have to honor the guaranteed health-care benefits for 800 active and 3,000 retired coal miners. This allowed Horizon to sell about two dozen mines to Ross for only $786 million. Ross bought additional coal properties and rolled them into the International Coal Group, forming the fifth-largest coal company in the United States. In 2011, Ross sold the corporation for $3.4 billion to Arch Coal, which went bankrupt four years later.

In sum, there is nothing in Wilbur Ross’s record to suggest that he really cares about U.S. workers. He has no ideological position vis-à-vis unions, labor, or U.S. economic development. A deal is a deal—as long as it pays him high returns.

Supporting Free Trade to Offshore Jobs

While Ross supported protectionism when it came to the steel industry, he flipped to a free-trade advocate for his auto and textile empires. His supporters refer to his approach to trade as “pragmatic” and “flexible.”

When he invested in distressed steel and textiles, he lobbied for and applauded Bush’s protectionist tariff against foreign dumping of cheap steel, and he argued against China’s entry into the WTO. He helped found a powerful protectionist lobbying group—the Free Trade for America Coalition—made up of an odd mix of corporations, labor unions, and agribusiness. But when he moved into the auto-parts industry in the mid-2000s, he favored free trade—the kind that exposes U.S. workers to unfettered global competition. He supported NAFTA and took advantage of the deal to offshore jobs to Mexico and other countries. He also became a key lobbyist and organizer of industrialists to support the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)—basically extending NAFTA to Caribbean and Central American countries.

Taking advantage of these free-trade agreements, Ross formed the International Automotive Components (IAC) Group in 2006, a platform that merged the auto interior businesses of Collins & Aikman and the Lear Corporation. Soon after, he began offshoring jobs to Mexico and China. In one case, when the union at a Pennsylvania auto-parts factory refused to accept concessions of more than 25 percent of workers’ pay and benefits, Ross shuttered the plant and sent the jobs offshore. But even when unions made concessions, Ross sent at least a portion of production abroad. A year after the formation of IAC, his plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, employed 1,700 workers. By 2015, Ross’s company had eight factories in Mexico and expected production there to continue to expand. At that time, Ross boasted in an interview that he had built IAC through 14 acquisitions—“all distressed”—and employed 27,000 employees in 17 countries. Ross made similar choices for his textile plants. After buying textile plants out of bankruptcy, extracting union concessions, and dumping health and pension benefits, he nonetheless built new factories in Mexico, China, and Vietnam—creating jobs there, not at home.

Now, as commerce secretary, Ross will oversee the International Trade Administration (ITA), responsible for trade deals such as NAFTA. Ross has seemingly flipped his position on trade again—now backing Trump’s campaign pledge to renegotiate trade deals that will protect and restore blue-collar jobs in communities decimated by the kind of offshoring that Ross himself grew rich on. In his confirmation hearings, Ross said that his first priority was to undo NAFTA, increase U.S. exports, and bring jobs back to the United States.

But the initial details of the Trump reforms suggest the opposite. A draft letter from acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn to Congress, leaked on March 30, provided details on the Trump administration’s approach to reformulating NAFTA. That approach would largely benefit investors and large corporations—not workers. According to the letter, the administration planned to tweak NAFTA to move it closer to the provisions included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that Trump trashed as a candidate and disavowed as president.

The changes, for example, would make NAFTA’s provisions on copyright and e-commerce mirror those in the TPP. The United States wants NAFTA to require stronger laws on the enforcement of intellectual property rights and to require NAFTA countries to eliminate national laws that impede cross-border data flows or digital trade in goods and services. The administration also intends to keep the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions of NAFTA, which allow foreign companies to challenge legislation and court decisions that go against their financial interests in special tribunals. These changes would increase, not decrease, protection of the interests of American multinational corporations and, if anything, would enhance the advantages realized by multinationals in offshoring jobs. These changes could also hurt consumers, for example, by bolstering the high price of drugs. Provisions that would protect the interests of blue-collar workers were striking in their absence. The administration backed away from the leaked draft letter as soon as public scrutiny emerged, but its contents are suggestive of the direction that Ross and his colleagues want to go in as they renegotiate NAFTA’s terms. On May 18, the Trump administration triggered the 90-day countdown to renegotiation talks, which ends on August 16.

Making Money Every Which Way

Wilbur Ross’s private equity firm had estimated assets under management of $8 billion in 2013, according to PitchBook, an industry research and data analytics firm. At the time, his firm had raised $8.6 billion in 12 investment funds over a 15-year period—54 percent of those investments from public pension funds. The firm had a total of 56 total investments and 39 active investments on its books. It had moved out of basic industries like steel, coal, auto parts, and textiles, and into more lucrative sectors like international shipping and financial services.

Ross represents a class of people who put their own individual interests first, above all else. Their gains come at the expense of others—not only workers, suppliers, or creditors, but their own investors as well. While Ross was profiteering from bankruptcy proceedings at the expense of creditors and taking health and pension benefits from workers, he was mistreating his own investors as well. Like many private equity general partners, Ross began using a scheme known as a “management fee waiver” to extract extra cash from his private equity fund. In these fee-waiver agreements with his limited partners, Ross agreed to waive a portion of the investors’ management fees in exchange for giving himself a priority claim on the fund’s profits. In addition, he promised the investors a share of the fees that Ross required his portfolio companies to pay. Through this sleight of hand, Ross could turn the taxes on management fees (taxed at the corporate income rate of up to 39 percent) into capital gains taxes (paid at 20 percent). The limited partners went along with this scheme only to find out that Ross cheated them out of their fair share of portfolio company fees. Between 2001 and 2011, Ross kept $10.4 million in fees that he should have returned to the limited partners, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. An SEC enforcement action required Ross to return the fees, but without admitting guilt; and the SEC charged him a modest $2.3 million penalty.

Ross’s behavior as the general partner of a private equity fund was not unusual. The private equity model relies on taking risks using other people’s money. Private equity general partners (GPs) typically put up less than 2 percent of the equity in an investment fund while the limited partners put up 98 percent. Yet the GPs pocket a disproportionate share of the returns—20 percent of the profits over a given hurdle. They also require limited partners to pay an annual 2 percent management fee over the ten-year life of the fund, and require portfolio companies to pay millions in monitoring, advisory, and transactions fees, often for services never rendered.

Roy Luck/Creative Commons

Ross's continued investment in Diamond S Shipping has raised concerns over conflicts of interest since he took over as commerce secretary. The company's 12 crude-oil tankers and 33 refined-product tankers are subject to environmental regulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Commerce Department agency. 

In assuming the job of secretary of commerce, Ross has divested himself of the vast majority of his investments as well as seats on corporate boards, to reduce conflicts of interest. But he will not divest his stake in his most valuable recent investments, most notably in real-estate financing and in the international shipping industry, an industry that he is now charged with overseeing. He is maintaining his investment in Diamond S Shipping, which he tried to take public in 2014, but failed to get the price he needed. The company’s fleet includes 12 crude-oil tankers and 33 refined-product tankers. During his confirmation hearings, Ross was questioned about conflicts of interest arising from his investments in oil tankers, which may pose environmental risks to the oceans, which Commerce also oversees through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. When pushed, he only agreed to recuse himself from conflicts if they directly involved his own fleet of ships—a response that did not satisfy environmentalists or some Democrats.

Moreover, his remaining investments completely lack transparency. His funds are registered in the Cayman Islands, with little or no information about which private companies or industries he continues to invest in. When private equity GPs buy companies, they take them private and are free to manage them without government oversight or even accountability to their investors, who are not privy to the details of how the portfolio company is managed or how fund returns are evaluated. Private equity firms themselves are required to submit only minimal annual reports to the SEC; under the Dodd-Frank Act, these are not available to the public. So it is still unclear what types of conflicts of interest remain for Ross as he oversees the monitoring and enforcement of industry standards and regulations.

Privatizing Infrastructure with Public Dollars

As commerce secretary, Ross will be the architect and administrator of Trump’s infrastructure investment plan. Already, before Trump was elected, he teamed up with Peter Navarro, now director of the White House National Trade Council, to devise an infrastructure development plan for the administration. The plan relies heavily on private-sector investment, which they believe will reach up to a trillion dollars over a ten-year period. In June, Trump announced that his “trillion dollar” infrastructure program would include $200 billion in public money and $800 billion in tax-subsidized private investment. But even that $200 billion, when we subtract Trump’s $139 billion in planned budget cuts for transportation infrastructure, boils down to just $61 billion.

Relying on the private sector poses other problems. Prudent lenders will not lend more than five times the equity in a project undertaken by private investors. That means it would take $167 billion in equity to finance a trillion dollars of infrastructure investment. That’s a lot of money for private investors to come up with, so the Ross-Navarro plan provides an incentive to the private sector—a federal tax credit equal to 82 percent of the equity amount to subsidize investors, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $131 billion. This subsidy interacts with another Trump incentive scheme, which would allow multinational corporations that have parked profits in low-tax countries to pay a much-reduced tax of just 10 percent when they repatriate these profits to the United States. A company that repatriated $1 billion would owe $100 million in taxes. But if it invested $121 million in an infrastructure project, the 82 percent tax credit would wipe out the repatriation tax. The company would have an equity investment of $121 million in an infrastructure project that would pay it dividends over a 20- or 30-year period, and no tax bill.

Private-sector financing also means that only projects that generate significant cash flow—toll roads, bridges, rail systems, airports—are likely to receive funding. Ross and Navarro estimated that infrastructure investment requires an annual return of 9 percent to 10 percent in order to cover “… operating costs, the interest and principal on the debt, and the dividends on the equity.” But infrastructure projects typically yield a return of only 5 percent, according to Tax Foundation Senior Fellow Stephen Entin. As a result, many needs will go unmet. Rebuilding aging public schools, replacing pipes and removing lead from drinking water, or maintaining roads and highways would not meet this criterion. 

Finally, the Trump plan, as proposed by Ross and Navarro, would provide “maximum flexibility” to the states—widely understood as code for rolling back labor and environmental protections. This would include the weakening of prevailing wage rules and environmental rules in order to accelerate these investments.

It did not take long for Ross’s fellow private-equity chiefs to recognize the money-making opportunities in this infrastructure investment plan. In late January, Joe Baratta, global head of private equity at Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world, talked about raising an infrastructure fund of as much as $40 billion in equity. This would be Blackstone’s largest fund ever. And Baratta and Blackstone President Tony James have raised the possibility of achieving returns in the 40 percent range. Plans for this fund have moved closer to implementation. On the heels of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund committed $20 billion to Blackstone. With the addition of debt-financing, the Blackstone fund is expected to make investments totaling $100 billion. Some private equity firms have already launched large infrastructure funds. Global Infrastructure Partners recently raised $15.8 billion for what is currently the largest infrastructure fund. Brookfield Asset Management Inc. raised $14 billion in 2016 for its third infrastructure fund. These firms are poised to take advantage of huge growth opportunities for infrastructure investing.

Nonetheless, the plan was soon met with skepticism, not only from the left, but also from free-market Republicans who believe there aren’t that many attractive opportunities that will yield the level of returns that private investors demand. But this is expected to change. Infrastructure investment may lead to high returns in the future because key players in the Trump administration are likely to position government agencies to partner with private equity firms to do major infrastructure projects. In addition to Wilbur Ross at Commerce, Trump has appointed Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen Schwarzman to lead the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum; Global Infrastructure Partners’ managing partner, Adebayo Ogunlesi, is also a member of the forum, which advises Trump on how to promote economic growth and jobs, and is expected to focus on infrastructure investment.

As Wilbur Ross takes over Commerce, the real question is how he will use the power of government and taxpayer dollars to subsidize the wealthy class that he is a part of. His decisions in conjunction with the other Trump billionaire agency heads are at risk of locking in longer-term privileges for the investor class that will contribute even more to the growing inequality of wealth and power in the country.


          Carmelo Anthony Rumors: SF Open to Waive No-Trade Clause for Rockets, Cavaliers   

The seemingly never-ending storyline of New York Knicks swingman Carmelo Anthony's future took another turn Sunday. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Syracuse product "is open to waiving his no-trade clause to join the Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavaliers should those teams create a pathway to a deal."

Wojnarowski noted LeBron James' presence has made a Cleveland a preferred destination for some time for Anthony, while Houston's ability to trade for Chris Paul this offseason has "catapulted" it into contention for the 10-time All-Star.

Anthony's reported willingness to waive the no-trade clause comes less than a week after the Knicks parted ways with team president Phil Jackson. According to Wojnarowski, Jackson was "pushing" for the wing scorer to waive the clause and head elsewhere.

"After Jackson's firing last week, the Knicks have maintained a stance of wanting significant assets back for Anthony in a trade, and have resisted the idea of a contract buyout," Wojnarowski wrote.

Wojnarowski noted New York is looking to avoid committing significant money to older pieces and is hesitant to take on the contract of 29-year-old Houston big man Ryan Anderson, who is owed $61 million over the next three years, in a potential trade involving Anthony.

In addition to the financial concerns, the Knicks already have a big man who can stretch the floor in 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis.

Still, Anthony's ability to dictate much of this process with his no-trade clause gives the Knicks little leverage in discussions. If Anthony is looking for his first ring in either Houston or Cleveland, he could reject a trade that would send too many assets back to New York and lessen his chances of winning at his next destination.

Even at 33 years old, he can still be a lethal scorer, especially if paired with facilitators such as Paul and James Harden in Houston or James in Cleveland. Anthony scored 22.4 points per game in 2016-17, led the league in scoring as recently as 2012-13 and would be a significant addition for either team in the pursuit of the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com


          Australia's Fairfax ends talks with PE suitors without formal bid   
Australian newspaper publisher Fairfax Media Ltd said two private equity firms withdrew from rival takeover bids worth up to A$2.9 billion ($2.2 billion), leaving it to proceed with demerger plans and sending its shares sharply lower. The country's oldest newspaper house, owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, was midway through spinning off its property listings unit when TPG Capital Management LP and Hellman & Friedman made buyout approaches in May.
           Vivendi to make full offer for Havas after buying out Bollore stake    
PARIS, July 3 (Reuters) - Vivendi has bought the Bollore group's majority stake in advertising company Havas and will follow up with a full buyout offer,...
          The San Francisco Giants' High Hopes Have Crashed Down into $180M Bust   

After one half of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, one end of the storyline spectrum contains the Houston Astros, Aaron Judge and other stories that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

At the other end, you'll find the ongoing cringefest that is the downfall of the San Francisco Giants.

A year ago on Monday, the Giants awoke with a 51-32 record that placed them among the best teams in the league. That fit like a glove. They had won titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Of course they would be on their way to another in 2016. That was the way of things.

But a fourth straight even-year title didn't happen. And the 2017 Giants, constructed for a franchise-record $180 million, awake on Independence Day Eve with a record of 33-51. 

It's as if the Giants are in their own version of The Upside Down from Stranger Things. Accordingly, there are only two questions to ask: How did they get here, and is there a way out?

Perhaps it's easiest to point fingers at Mark Melancon.

It's no secret that the 2016 Giants were blown up by a bullpen that was a ticking time bomb all along. Giants relievers committed more meltdowns—a FanGraphs specialty based off of win probability—after the All-Star break than all but one other team. Hence the Giants' stumble to a final record of 87-75 and a bullpen-induced early exit from the postseason.

Cue the Giants sparing no expense with Melancon, signing him for $62 million over four years.

"It gives the club peace of mind, with so many close games that we play, that we have a lockdown guy for the ninth inning," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said in December, per Chris Haft of MLB.com.

Although well intentioned, this plan has already fizzled. Melancon blew his first save opportunity on Opening Day and has since landed on the disabled list twice and pitched to a 4.35 ERA when healthy. 

Given that Melancon averaged 74 appearances and a 1.80 ERA between 2013 and 2016, though, it's hard to say the Giants should have seen this coming. These things happen.

Rather, the proper hindsight perspective is they shouldn't have figured that spending $62 million to fix one problem would also fix all their problems.

That was a dicey proposition on multiple fronts, particularly with two lineup spots: left field and third base. The Giants lost their everyday left fielder when they let Angel Pagan go and never got around to finding a solid replacement. At third base, they were trusting the notoriously unpredictable Eduardo Nunez. 

Sure enough, both positions have been major problem areas. According to FanGraphs, the Giants rank last in MLB in WAR out of left field and 27th in WAR out of third base.

You can't help but wonder how things would be better if, instead of bring in Melancon, the Giants had splurged for a hitter. Perhaps Justin Turner, who signed for the Los Angeles Dodgers for $64 million. Or Josh Reddick, who got $52 million from the Houston Astros.

But here lies another catch: A better version of this Giants team would still be pretty bad.

Just in the National League, the Giants rank 14th in OPS and 13th in runs. That's a bad offense. And its problems extend beyond just left field and third base, and not all can be traced to a lack of front office foresight.

Hunter Pence's rough 2017 was preceded by injury woes in 2015 and 2016 that should have given the Giants pause, sure. But they couldn't have expected Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt to regress like they have. Nor were they foolish if they expected a healthy Joe Panik to hit like he did back in 2015.

Beside, what are the Giants to do about a home ballpark that's incompatible with modern times?

Hitters have been hitting home runs in record bunches this season. Despite MLB's insistence to the contrary, the popular theory—notably fueled by studies from Ben Lindbergh at Mitchel Lichtman at The Ringer and Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight—is that a juiced ball is to blame.

But no matter the amount of juice in the ball, Baseball Savant reveals AT&T Park is sitting out the home run craze:

Because of the huge dimensions and the marine layer that come with territory, the Giants are used to being one of baseball's least powerful teams. But this is something else, as the slugging percentage gap between them and the norm is being pushed to an extreme

Never mind an improved bullpen or an improved lineup. The best hope San Francisco had of overcoming this was another excellent season out of a starting rotation that has consistently reveled in excellence.

Naturally, that idea has also fizzled.

Madison Bumgarner got into a dirt-bike mishap that did serious damage to his left shoulder back in April. His rotation mates have since struggled to pick up the slack. That includes two more for the unexpected regression bucket in $130 million man Johnny Cueto and the $90 million Jeff Samardzija.

In all, it's hard to trace the death of the 2017 Giants down to a single cause. It's been more of a perfect storm of maladies, each one as destructive as the last. 

In times when teams are either going for it now or going for it later, this is an excuse to utter the dreaded "r" word. However, don't expect the Giants to even entertain a rebuild.

"This is not going to be a thing where we go underground for three years to five years," president and CEO Larry Baer told Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area. "It's just not who we are."

After all, the sun isn't setting on the Giants' core. Buster Posey (who, mercifully, remains awesome) is controlled through 2021. As are Crawford and Belt. Samardzija and Panik are controlled through 2020. Bumgarner is controlled through 2019.

To boot, the Giants have big money set to come off their books. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that Cueto is going to opt out of the $84 million remaining on his deal. Matt Cain has a $7.5 million buyout this winter. Pence's $90 million deal will be up after 2018.

This will allow the Giants to seek much-needed hired guns. They will be especially well positioned to do so if they wait until 2018, when the open market is due to be teeming with talent. They're not dead yet.

Yet there's no shaking the notion we're hearing the Giants' death rattle.

The core they have is good but getting older every year. And as they're learning from experience, hired guns are always closer to the end of their primes than to the start. 

Building from within won't be any easier. B/R's Joel Reuter ranked San Francisco's farm system at No. 25 following the 2017 draft. There are some good pieces in there but no blue-chip talents.

Meanwhile, it doesn't help the Giants that their biggest rival couldn't be in better shape.

At 55-29, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the top juggernaut in the National League. They also have deeper pockets and even more upcoming payroll relief than the Giants. And a top-10 farm system to boot. 

There's a reason "all good things must come to an end" is on the first page of Cliches for Dummies. It's true.

And even if the 2017 season isn't the official conclusion of the Giants' run of good things, it sure looks like the beginning of the end.

       

Data courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphs and Baseball Savant. Contract and payroll info courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more Baseball news on BleacherReport.com


          Controller - Policaro Automotive Family - Ontario   
Prepares cheques for dealer trades lease buyouts. The primary purpose of the role is to provide accounting oversight that includes commissioning, purchasing...
From Policaro Automotive Family - Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:48:17 GMT - View all Ontario jobs