Posted by: coastcontact | March 16, 2018

Toys “R” Us and the Leveraged Buyout

This is capitalism at its worst.

Corporate raiders were the final straw that ended Toys “R” Us.  Bain Capital was founded in 1984 by Bain & Company partners Mitt Romney, T. Coleman Andrews III, and Eric Kriss, after Bill Bain had offered Romney the chance to head a new venture that would invest in companies and apply Bain’s consulting techniques to improve operations.  Those techniques destroyed companies but made Bain a success for its owners.

The Toys “R” Us collapse is not a new phenomenon. It has made buyers of companies rich and destroyed the target company. Blame the private equity firms Bain and Company, KKR & Co. L.P. and Vornado Realty Trust for the bankruptcy. Toys “R” Us was taken private by KKR, Bain and Company, and Vornado in 2005, it took on a lot of debt, leaving the company with repayments that have crippled it in a period of declining sales.

A leveraged buyout, commonly referred to as an LBO, is a transaction that companies use to acquire other businesses. The buyout involves a combination of equity from the buyer, along with debt that is secured by the target company’s assets. The deal is structured so that the target company’s assets and cash flows are used to pay for most of the financing cost. The main disadvantage of this financing is that, once the deal is completed, the target business is very leveraged. This scenario allows for little margin of error. A problem with liquidity, such as the loss of a few key customers, could put the business in serious distress.

Rolling Stone magazine reports that of the 25 companies that private equity firms bought in the 1980s that borrowed more than $1million in junk bonds, half went bankrupt.

Do you remember Mervyn’s department stores?  It was an American middle-scale department store chain based in Hayward, California, and founded by Mervin G. Morris. It carried national brands of clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, and housewares.  Mervin G. Morris founded the first Mervyn’s store in San Lorenzo, California on July 29, 1949.  By 1978 the company had grown to a chain of more than 50 stores in three states,[7] and Mervyn’s was acquired by the Dayton Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation). Mervyn’s kept its separate identity as a Dayton Hudson subsidiary. In September 2008, Mervyn’s sued the private equity firms involved in the leveraged buyout of the chain, alleging that the deal had stripped the retailer of its real estate assets, forcing it into bankruptcy. Mervyn’s said in the suit that Cerberus Capital Management and its partners had used the increased rent to finance the buyout.

31,000 Toys ‘R’ Us employees: No job and no severance

Posted by: coastcontact | March 14, 2018

The United States is not the Happiest Country in the World

You probably already intuitively knew this data but here it is.  The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.  The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10.

Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighbouring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada at No. 7, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.

The least happy country in the world is Burundi.   I will leave it to inquiring minds to locate that country on the map.

As to the “happiest place in the world” just Google it and you will see that Disneyland and Disney World do appear as possibilities.   Was that a commercial insertion on my computer?  Well I never met anyone saying they had a bad time visiting a Disney amusement park.

Then again these people lounging at the beach in Malibu California seem just as happy as a picture of people lounging in Helsinki’s Esplanade Park.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 12, 2018

Japanese Gardens in Los Angeles

I have visited these garden three times.  The garden has creeks and large man-made lakes and ponds.  The 6½ acre (2.6 ha) park uses the reclaimed water from the adjoining Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.

The water from the reclamation facility can only be used for irrigation and is not cycled into the general water supply.  The facility purifies waste water, removing it from the sewer system. This reclaimed water from the West San Fernando Valley is also used to fill Lake Balboa in the adjoining park as well as providing year round water to the LA River.

The reclamation facility has also been used as a backdrop in films and TV, including Star Trek‘s Starfleet Academy and Soilent Green.

More photos of the garden at

or click here

Posted by: coastcontact | March 9, 2018

America’s Economy is Booming

Now that Donald Trump has been president for over a year he gets the credit for what happens to the United States economy. Good or bad he will be blamed or honored. 

As it stands today that makes his presidency a success.  Despite a recent decline the stock market has reached new highs, car sales are high, and job growth has gone from quite good to very good.  Tax cuts have put more money in everyone’s pocket.

313,000 jobs were created in the month of February 2018. This is not fake news.  This is a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released today.

Trump’s primary reason for giving him your vote was that he would bring back jobs.  He appears to be on track to fulfill that campaign promise.

Democrats may believe they have a chance of winning control of the House of Representatives in November but that has to be based on Trump’s personal behavior, his continued support of the NRA, and his support of White nationalist groups.  While those are upsetting issues, “It’s the economy, stupid” coined by Bill Clinton strategist James Carville still is the primary issue.  It still holds true today.

The Democratic Party has not been the friend of labor.   They talked a good game as the United States was overwhelmed with low cost imports that drove out car manufacturing to garment manufacturing to electronics manufacturing.  Your iPhone is made in China and Bangladesh and China probably made most of the clothes you wear.  

If the GOP holds both houses of Congress in this fall’s election be prepared for even more changes to American life.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 3, 2018

Donald Trump’s Dream – The First President for Life

Trump on China’s Xi consolidating power: ‘Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day’

Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping

(CNN)President Donald Trump bemoaned a decision not to investigate Hillary Clinton after the 2016 presidential election, decrying a “rigged system” that still doesn’t have the “right people” in place to fix it, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors in Florida on Saturday.

In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, delivered a rebuke of President Trump on the Senate floor Wednesday, in a speech that drew a comparison between Mr. Trump and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and called for greater protections of the truth and members of the press around the world.

New York Times commentator just warned us about Trump on February 18, 2018

August 19, 1934 was the date that Adolf Hitler, already chancellor, was also elected president of Germany.


Posted by: coastcontact | March 3, 2018

Arsenic, Lead Found in Popular Protein Supplements

This article is on the current Consumer Reports web site.  After an expose on Frontline a few years ago we stopped taking all food supplements except Vitamin C.

Whether for weight loss, muscle building, or simply as a convenient quick meal on the go, many Americans turn to protein powders and drinks.

But a new study shows that many of the top-selling powders and drinks may contain concerning levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, and toxins like bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastic containers and food can liners.

These substances have been linked to cancer, brain damage, and reproductive issues.

The new study from the Clean Label Project, (a nonprofit organization that examines labeling safety issues) found that virtually all of the 134 products tested contained detectable levels of at least one heavy metal and 55 percent tested positive for BPA.

“These toxins accumulate in your body and can stay there for years,” says Tunde Akinleye, a test program leader in Consumer Reports’ Food Safety Division. “Frequent consumption of foods that contain them can have adverse health effects over the long run.”

This is not the first research that has shown high contaminant levels in such products: A 2010 Consumer Reports’ study detected arsenic, cadmium, lead and/or mercury in samples of all the 15 powders tested.

What the Study Showed

The Clean Label Project measured the levels of heavy metals, BPA, pesticides, and other contaminants (more than 150 in all) in protein powders and drinks.

The contaminant levels were measured in a single serving of the products. Those amounts varied, so the lab used the serving size listed on each product’s label (e.g., “two rounded scoops”). However, Jaclyn Bowen, executive director of Clean Label Project, points out that many consumers use protein products multiple times per day.

Overall, the products made from sources of plant protein such as soy or hemp fared worse than those made from whey (milk) or egg, containing on average twice as much lead and measurably higher amounts of other contaminants.

Plant-based proteins may have higher contamination levels because the plants are especially prone to absorbing heavy metals from soil, says Sean Callan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and director of operations at Ellipse Analytics, the lab that tested the protein products.

Whey and egg proteins may have lower levels of heavy metals because the source of the contamination would likely be the feed given to the animals. Callan suspects the animals’ digestive systems diffuse some of the toxins.

Also important: Buying a product with an “organic” label did not reduce the chances of getting a less-contaminated product. In fact, organic protein supplements had higher levels of heavy metals, on average, than nonorganic.

“That probably has more to do with these products being plant-based than being organic,” says Callan. 

The Worst and the Best

In its analysis, the Clean Label Project assigned each product a score for four individual elements: heavy metals, pesticides, contaminants like BPA, and nutrition. Then it calculated an overall score. The heavy metal levels accounted for 60 percent of the overall score because their effects have been shown in studies to pose greater harm to health.

The five products that received the poorest overall scores in this test were:

·        Garden of Life Organic Shake & Meal Replacement Chocolate Cacao Raw Organic Meal

·        Nature’s Best Isopure Creamy Vanilla Zero Carb

·        Quest Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder

·        360Cut Performance Supplements 360PRO Whey Chocolate Silk Premium Whey Protein

·        Vega Sport Plant-Based Vanilla Performance Protein

Consumer Reports asked each of the five to comment on the study. Only Garden of Life responded and it declined to comment.

The five products that got the best overall scores were:

·        Pure Protein Vanilla Cream 100% Whey

·        Performix Pro Whey Sabor Vanilla Protein with Amino Beads

·        BodyFortress Super Advanced Vanilla 100% Whey Protein

·        BioChem Vanilla 100% Whey Protein

·        Puori PW1 Vanilla Pure Whey Protein

The fact that the higher-scoring products are made with whey makes sense, in keeping with Callan’s theories on plant-based vs. whey-based proteins and their differing absorption of toxins.

However, the vanilla aspect is more curious, and possibly coincidental. Bowen has one possible theory, though: The cacao plants used to make the chocolate in some flavored supplements are susceptible to absorbing heavy metals.

CR’s Akinleye says it would be very difficult to create a system where protein powders contained absolutely no trace of any heavy metals.  Given this goal, he says, you have to measure how each product stacks up against the others.

Posted by: coastcontact | February 25, 2018

Killing in America

I am tired of listening to the talk show guest congressman and senators who are calling for stronger protection for students in the wake of repeated mass shootings. None of these elected representatives that I have heard are willing to confront the fact that the killing is not just in schools. It is happening in malls, churches, and entertainment venues. Most of the killers were not 18, 19 or 20 years old. They were adults aged 25 to 64 years old and many with no prior criminal history.

The best example is the killing of 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. Stephen Craig Paddock was an American mass murderer responsible for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, during which he fired into a crowd of approximately 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. He was a graduate from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He was 64 years old when he conducted the attack. He had no criminal record.

Killer in San Bernardino was 28 years old and his wife was 29.

Killer in Orlando night club shooting was 29.

Sutherland Springs, Texas at the First Baptist Church killing was committed by a gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands. The killing was done on a Sunday morning. Of the 26 fatalities, 23 people were found dead inside the church, two were found outside, and one died later at a hospital. The killer was 26 years old. He did have a criminal past but was still able to obtain a weapon.

So while killings at schools is an utterly horrible thing there have been many other killings at many other places.

The answer is a prohibition placed on the ownership of assault weapons. I do not care whether they are identified as automatic or semi-automatic. These weapons are meant for killing people.

When do the words “never again” apply? Why are we tied to an amendment to the constitution that was written in 1789?

Posted by: coastcontact | February 21, 2018

Revered Reverend Billy Graham

Billy Graham, revered by the evangelicals and Christian conservatives, has died at 99.

He was the most dominant American pastor of the second half of the 20th century and lifted evangelism into the religious mainstream. He also was more than an anti-Semite. He appeared to despise those of us who are not Protestant and do not follow his beliefs.

Reported in Wikipedia: Graham was a registered member of the Democratic Party. In 1960 he was opposed to the candidacy of John F. Kennedy because as a Catholic he was bound to follow the Pope. Graham worked “behind the scenes” to encourage influential Protestant ministers to speak out against him.

Reported in Wikipedia: Graham held anti-gay views. He believed that AIDS was a “judgement from God” and he was opposed to same-sex marriage.

In a conversation with President Nixon, the evangelist complained about what he saw as Jewish domination of the news media. The conversation was among 500 hours of Nixon tapes released last week by the National Archives. Most were recorded from January to June 1972.

The networks will all broadcast the Billy Graham funeral. I will be reading or watching Vertigo starring staring James Stewart.

Posted by: coastcontact | February 20, 2018

This is Code Red!

When I post an opinion to this blog it receives modest response of usually 30 to 40 views.  My recent post on gun violence was viewed over 70 times on the first day it appeared.  New York Times’ Thomas Friedman most recent post has had 2,700 comments so far.  Now that the column received attention from CNN that number will probably explode to a really phenomenal number.  Here is the Friedman column.

Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now

Thomas L. Friedman FEB. 18, 2018


Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”

At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller — leveraging several years of intelligence gathering by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. — has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.

What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.

What we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions — and exploiting the terrible school shooting in Florida — and the failure of the F.B.I. to properly forward to its Miami field office a tip on the killer — to throw the entire F.B.I. under the bus and create a new excuse to shut down the Mueller investigation.

Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?

It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.

Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyber defense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.


Posted by: coastcontact | February 14, 2018

America Loves Guns

It’s our second amendment right!

So the governor of Florida orders flags at half-staff and calls the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “pure evil.” Soon there will be vigils and everyone will say it was a tragedy.  But congress will sit on its hands and AR15 rifle and similar weapons will still be the killer’s choice for the next mass shooting.

It all about America’s love of guns.

The AR15 was used at the high school in in Broward County, Florida. The AR15 was used to commit the carnage in Las Vegas, Nevada. The AR15 style Bushmaster XM15-E2S semi-automatic was used at Sandy Hook.

Americans love guns so much that they are prepared to see their loved ones die.  Until that view changes there will be no end to the carnage.

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