Monday, March 1, 2010

Did You Hear About the Morgans? : Madoff's Daughter-in-Law to Change Last Name

Bernard Madoff is best known for his ponzi scheme. The scheme was in many ways quite impressive, but investors of all kinds have agreed that Madoff gives a new dimension to a Wall Street villain. His daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff, wants to change her last name as well as the last name of her infant daughter and son. Stephanie's husband, Mark Madoff, does not object to this name change. Additionally, Mark has not been charged with any crime.

Stephanie claims in court documents that she "wishes to avoid additional embarrassment, harassment, and endangerment associated with the name 'Madoff.'" Fair enough, but here is where is gets weird. She wants to change her last name and children's last name to Morgan, but the documents don't specify why "Morgan." Her children will also retain Madoff as a middle name...after all, it is a family name.

On March 12, 2009, investors can celebrate the one-year anniversary of Madoff's imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to 11 federal counts. Bernie was sentenced was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He is currently being held in Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina. Bernie's former accountant, David Friehling, may soon join him. Talk about a party.

November 14, 2139 is Madoff's release date. Maybe his grandchildren will pass on his name, and their future nosy neighbors will whisper to each other, "did you hear about the Morgans?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bankers in Toy Land: Mattel & Hasbro

There will always be children expecting Santa Claus to stuff their stockings with the latest and greatest toys. Christmas 2010 seems like a long way off, but investors in those toys that will make their way from Santa's sack or the nearest Target are already full of good cheer.

Mattel and Hasbro have continued to fair relatively well despite the current economic conditions. Mattell is up 5% this year, and its rival stock, Hasbro, is up 12% this year. It gets better for other toy companies. Take Leapfrog for instance; its up 20% this year. This week also happens to be when the American International Toy Fair will take place. It all goes down in New York, and Wall Street should expect to see the value of toy companies continue to rise.

Will the good news last? Hasbro CEO, Brian Goldner, expects Hasbro to continue to do well. Hasbro will be making toys to go along with some popular movies soon to hit theaters. When "Transformers 2" came out last summer, Hasbro earnings 77% because the transformers toys were so popular. Mattel has been increasing its Barbie line, and Hot Wheels continues to be a top seller. Interestingly, Hasbro, though, has been focusing on its male audience, while Mattel has been focusing on its female audience. However, if the recent strength of the dollar continues, then these two companies may see their stocks slip.

Hasbro increased its dividend. Both stocks are trading near their 52 week highs; it's a little hard to say if you should follow the advice of your 4-year-old and buy these toys. Then again, you never know, Barbie might just be the bullish girl your portfolio always needed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Fine Youngsters from Liverpool

46 years ago today the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. February 9, 1964, just months after President Kennedy's assassination, Liverpool's mop-tops became the new idols of America's youth. Hundreds of teenage girls swarmed around the entrance of Hammerstein Theater, while 70 police officers tried to hold them back. It was on this day, 46 years ago, that American girls learned just how loud they could scream.

The Beatles performed "She Loves You" and "All My Loving." Over 70 million viewers tuned in to watch the Beatles make their debut. Teenagers loved the Beatles, and their mothers and fathers told their kids, "you love the Beatles; yeah, yeah, yeah." If you were over 30, then you dismissed the Beatles as a novelty act. The musical director for the Ed Sullivan Show, Ray Block, even commented that he'd only "give [the Beatles] a year."

Years later, we're still talking about the Beatles. Paul and Ringo are still going strong. John and George are still thought of with respect. "Across the Universe" is a recent film that remembers the music of America's favorite boys from Liverpool. There is a rumor out that Paul, Ringo, and Bob Dylan will be collaborating on a project this year. Ringo turns 70 on July 7. He wants everyone at noon on July 7 to make the peace sign gesture and say "peace and love." All Ringo is saying is give peace a chance.

It's the beginning of 2010, and it's been a hard day's night or really just a hard 2009. Yet here we are still holding hands with the Beatles, and hoping we can work it out in 2010...with a little help from our friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shooting Hoops with the Dalai Lama: Obama Plans Visit with Tibetan Spiritual Leader

The Chinese sent Mr. Obama a fortune cookie with a warning. Actually, forget the fortune cookie, but our dear red friends did offer up this warning to President Obama: don't meet with the Dalai Lama; you will harm bilateral ties; your lucky numbers are 7 9 27 2. Obama met with Chinese leaders last year and said he'd meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader, and he's not backing down from his statement. The Dalai Lama, however, is pretty booked. He has arrangements and engagements to speak in the United States in late February and in May, though. Maybe they could have a Valentine's brunch.

A Communist party official who is in charge of talks of with representatives, Zhu Weiqun, said that they will take necessary actions to ensure that "relevant countries see their mistakes." Sounds definitively more ominous than any fortune cookie.

The U.S. has human rights concerns over the treatment of Tibetans, but Zhu indicated that even should such a meeting occur, there will be no compromise on China's control of Tibet. Obama hopes America's relationship with China is mature enough to address mutual concerns, while allowing him to speak to important leaders. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual and cultural leader who garners international respect. Obama plans to address as a leader of such stature.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled China after attempting an uprising against the Chinese rule. He lives in exile in Dharamsala. It won't be the best place for a quick game of basketball, especially if Obama's kicks are made in China.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ode to Holden Caulfield: It's Been a Nice Life, Mr. Salinger

In 1951, Harry Truman was President of the United States. In a way, he was a kind of rebel; no college education but leader of the USA. That same year, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was published. The book was one of the first examples of a work that clearly supported the idea of the following decade, "don't trust anyone over 30."

J.D. Salinger died January 27, 2010. His most famous work, Catcher in the Rye, continues to showcase the beginning divide between teenagers and adults in American culture. This kind of rebellious youth character became a standard character in Hollywood, especially with actors like James Dean. Interestingly, Salinger pretty much hated the film industry. Salinger was actually something of a recluse.

Salinger may have kept to himself, and his book may be something you only vaguely remember from a middle school or high school English class. Catcher in the Rye, however, is an important piece of American culture, especially for America's youth. The baby boomers can tip their hats (the ones they never thought they'd wear until years later they became the Establishment) to Mr. Salinger for spurring the wave of youth rebellion that would later populate much of the 1960s. His work, though, extends to every generation of American adolescents. With Holden Caulfield, Salinger captured a mindset of American youth that pervades regardless of the decade. More importantly, Caulfield is an example of youthful rebellion. Caulfield reminds us that it's okay to rebel and be young.

James Dean was the rebel without a cause. Holden Caulfield was the kid that let every other kid know he, too, could rebel. In case you didn't pick up on the title, it's the same as a Boy Meets World episode that focuses on the favorite teenage rebel of '90s TV, Shawn Hunter. Caulfield surely got around or at least his influence did. Thanks Mr. Salinger for capturing the rebellious nature of teenagers. It's helping us all grow up and learn to meet the world as boys and girls.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's in Your Wallet? : Today on Wall Street and Capitol Hill

The market was just barely up today with the Dow closing up 41.87 points. This gain was achieved in part due tothe introduction of Apple's latest and greatest product, the iPad tablet. As a result, tech stocks went up, but they weren't the biggest leaders. Sorry Geek Squad, better luck next time. Financials were the leaders. Here's looking at you Mr. Banker; wanna play some monopoly?The financials managed this feat because the Fed's statement left interest low and made a slightly better attempt at explaining economic recovery. And by the way, this day's gain was pretty much settled in the last hour of training. I looked at the market earlier in the day, and at that moment, I felt like I had found where Janis Joplin got her inspiration to ask the Lord for a Mercedes-Benz.

The market wasn't the only place hopping today, though. Capitol Hill was a true party with Secretary Geithner serving as the poor little donkey without a tail. The AIG bailout hearing left congressmen in the House trying very hard to pin the tail on Treasury Secretary. Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts) went so far as to scream at Geithner, "you had every opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the American people!" He was also accused of giving "lame excuses" by Rep. John Mica (R-Florida). Geithner simply responded to Rep. Mica, "you don't know me very well." Apparently, he didn't want to play pin the tail on the donkey any longer.

Here's looking to Obama's State of the Union address. What's in your wallet, Mr. President? And by the way, Mr. President, could you at least tell me what might be in my wallet?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Frosted Flakes are great, but how do you feel about Tiger?

When the news broke out about Tiger Woods and his many lovers, his wife threw a justified fit. Not only was he having an affair, he was having multiple affairs. Santa has his ho, ho, ho's, too, but at least he knows to stop at 3.

Tiger checked himself into rehab, claiming he is a sex addict. His wife, Elin Nordegren, went to visit him at the rehab facility Mississippi. She wants to stay married for the sake of their children. She's even okay with just living together as friends if they can't be lovers again. I understand she's doing this for the children, but it also sounds a little desperate. She may have been furious at Tiger, but she can't live without him.

With the marriage back together, Tiger would look more like a family man and could maybe finish those endorsements and get back to golfing. Even if Elin can't live without him, it looks like the advertisements can. Tiger has been removed from the various advertisements, and there seems to be little trouble.

It's a tough call. If I were Tiger, then I wouldn't immediately look at getting back together as a sure fire way to get my game back. Tiger needs to be careful how he plays his cards. If they get back together, then great, but before he jumps back onto the green, maybe he should consider running his own putt-putt for awhile. If all else fails with Elin, then he could hit on the mothers taking their kids around the course.