The little guy. The working man. The individual investor's only salient source of both sarcasm and succussful securities is gone for sure this time. After 32 years on public TV, the face of Friday night finance is no more. Not to be mistaken for the portrait on a $1 greenback, Louis Rukeyser, as I knew him, was the renowned host of "Wall $treet Week" and no less an iconic childhood favorite than Eric Davis, Montana to Rice, or watching Richard Dean Anderson play MacGyver. Growing up Birchfield meant looking forward to plopping my scrawny arse down at 8:30 Friday evenings on the ol' man's lap and listening to Lou recount the week on the street. Puns and wit flew everywhere, mostly over my head, but the PBS classic hit had a way with me and the ol' man, as well as millions of others. Whether bull or bear, you could count on a few solid tips, big name analysts to back them up, and one hell of a catchy theme song. Technical analyst Ralph Acampora, who put himself on the map with Prudential Securities in the early to mid 90's with a Dow 10,000 prediction back when the industrials were hovering around 3,000, was always a favorite guest on the show. Time would later prove Acampora's call controversial and dead on.
With Lou, the individual investor finally had a voice, as many of the stocks mentioned Friday night would move significantly the following trading day. Sure we knew corporate still dominated the market, but the attention gave us hope. His sardonic approach to the ups and downs of the marketplace urged us to avoid jargon. He brought the complexities of financial news to ordinary viewers, and was repaid with the largest audience in the history of financial journalism. Though, the half cocked smile and glistening white hair weren't all that we admired about Rukeyser. We later learned that what had been thought of to be the gold balls of the family favorite had infact been made of steel.
In March 2002, Maryland Public TV, the producer of the show, hinted at hard times and announced it wanted to shake things up a bit with Lou's contract coming to an end in June. They had a new show planned in which Rukeyser was invited to be a commentator. He refused the offer and that Friday opened the show by letting millions of loyal fans know he had been "ambushed" by public television and went on to reveal, on the air, that "Wall $treet Week" was a huge cash cow for public television costing $2 million to produce, while bringing in $6 million from national underwriting. "And that doesn't include massive local underwriting!" he sarcastically exclaimed.
"I want you to rise out of your chair," he said, "not to shout, 'I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!' but to...write or e-mail your local PBS station saying you heard Louis Rukeyser is still going to have a program and you'd like to see it. I promise that if enough of you do that, it will do the job."
Maryland Public TV fired him effective immediately. That April, Rukeyser landed financial programming on CNBC and got the last laugh by seeing to it that the reruns of the new show were shown on PBS stations. "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" is now carried by more than 160 PBS stations.
While answering a viewers letter about investing in a hairpiece manufacturer, Lou once said, "If all your money seems to be hair today and gone tomorrow, we'll try to make it grow by giving you the bald facts on how to get your investments toupee."
Here's to Lou: to good memories, the white Washington wig, lending a lift to the little guy, and always striving to have your way with the man.
With the win over the Astros tonight, and St. Louis losing to Washington, say hello to 1st place and the best record in MLB.
:: J 10:04 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, April 03, 2006 ::
Lil' sis n da rents just returned from Nassau for spring break. Rough life swimmin with tha fishes...
:: J 12:57 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 ::
I'm sad today to hear of Mark Palmer's passing. I remember one of the first times I went down to the Brownhouse, seeing him and his wife, Jennifer. I remember them both healthy and happy and excited about life and community. So much is happening so quickly.
:: J 3:14 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 ::
This night my thoughts and prayers are on Chad Canipe.
:: J 3:25 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 ::
The amount of after-tax income leftover once all household bills are paid is known as the personal savings rate. America's personal savings rate has now been negative for an entire year. The last time this occurred? The Great Depression. The country's PSR has been declining for quite some time now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal savings rate used to be 10% of disposable income between 1974-1984. It continued to decline and fell to 4.8% by 1994. It remained negative for all of 2005 and as of January was negative 0.7%.
Northwestern Mutual Financial Network recently conducted several surveys entitled "Money Maladies," which were intended to shed light on the causes of American's financial behaviors. The study was conducted with thousands of people between the ages of 21 and 69, who were the primary financial decision-makers in their households. The following are a few stats from the study:
"Many Americans say they can't afford to save after taking care of their immediate financial responsibilities. 50% do not pay off credit cards each month. 81% say high monthly expenses are obstacles and almost 90% say keeping money available is difficult. Over 33% have not begun to plan or save. 20% spend more than 75% of their monthly income each month, while 25% do not save anything at all for long-term goals, such as retirement or a child's education. 66% of Americans get all their financial advice from a parent or spouse. Another 10% go to friends and co-workers."
The double-mind of having yet not really having begins when business stokes the want and need to consume. We can hardly escape being marketed to several hundred times a day, everyday. Convinced of the extreme need, purchases are made beyond the consumer's ability to pay. Business makes it incredibly easy to outspend and says, "that's ok, take your time to pay and in the meantime you can actually pay us a lot less per month than what your entire purchase cost." The consumer outspends and American business continues to lend, but big business won't tell of the enslavement. At some point in time, something has to give. It's no secret Americans are becoming increasingly dependent on borrowed money. In 1980, roughly 78% of spending came from American's wages and salaries. By 1990, drop that figure to 71%. Today, only 64% of spending is financed from wages and salaries. What does it mean when credit scores are low, spending is exceeding income, and consumer lending is high? It means everyone is suffering in varying degrees, including those who spend and save responsibly. An increase in American's financial negligence and the number of bankruptcy filings rebounds off those who should be held responsible and trickles down, infecting the rest of us in the form of higher prices across the Federal Reserve board.
Last Thursday, Vice President Cheney spoke at a conference on saving and retirement and urged Americans to do a better job saving. "The American dream begins with saving money and that should begin on the very first day of work," Cheney said.
Hidden in plain view, the double-minded American dream implosion. Thanks, Dick.
:: J 12:52 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, March 03, 2006 ::
I find myself bumping into all kinds of folks, new and old, at work lately. Yesterday, I met a Mr. Ennis, who's 80 years old and insisted on using my wet, tile floor that I was in the process of cleaning. After warning him that the floor was wet and slick and to be careful, he bit the dust (tile) hard and ended up cutting his hand from the fall. He's ok, but his bloody band-aid came off in the hot tub somewhere. Another guy, Mark, who I've seen around a lot lately, somehow got to talking to me about his freight forwarding business, which I found to be interesting. His company handles packages weighing over 100 lbs. but subcontracts out all the delivery people. I like Mark because he's always keeping a close eye on his little munchkins, and so they never mess much of the building up, which means less work for me. My most recent work contact I am really coming to value. David Davidson is a local realtor who works through Remax 100, Inc. in Hamilton. Again, I just kind of bumped into this guy a few weeks ago at work, and we started talking. We seem to have a few more things in common than I first expected. He started out in custodial work, did some cleaning on the side here in Oxford, and even thought seriously about starting a cleaning business. We met today for coffee and to talk more specifically about some plans he has to expand his real estate business. David comes across to me as an ambitious, Christian businessman. There was a time I didn't think they existed. I would recommend him to anyone local if they're looking for a quality agent. Andrea and I are glad to have a contact with integrity in the field, since we plan on purchasing a home in the area within the next few years. Speaking of that, we're currently trying to make a decision on where we're living next year. We have to let the landlord here know by March 15 if we intend to renew our current lease, which ends July 31, for another year. The overflowing closets, multiple drug & alcohol addicted late nite domestic disturbing neighbors, and many door dings covered over with piles of bird shat from the lovely bird feeders hanging over the parking lot all give me a gut feeling we're leaning toward NOT staying another year here...but of course, we must first run some numbers.
:: J 12:02 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, March 02, 2006 ::
On Subliminal Messaging and Consumer Motivation...
Consumer motivation is the drive to satisfy needs and wants, both physiological and psychological, through the purchase and use of products and services (Lindquist & Sirgy, 2003). Some needs can be simple such as food and water, while others become increasingly more sophisticated, such as the many psychological needs we each may have. With many different needs and desires within each of us, motivation as it relates to a group of consumers can quickly become complex. While each person has different motivations and desires for which different products and services can fulfill, the question of to what extent consumers are in control of the influences and reasons for their purchasing and consumption behavior is an important one for all. Subliminal perception refers to the consumer’s ability to perceive and respond to stimuli that are below the “limen” or level of consciousness, or simply that which is processed below threshold so that it is imperceptible (http://www.cbt.wiu.edu). In its definition of subliminal advertising, the American Marketing Association states: “There is no scientific evidence to indicate that this approach is effective communication and, if there were convincing evidence of effectiveness, the approach would likely be prohibited as a deceptive business practice” (Lindquist & Sirgy, 2003). In addition, a recent consumer research study pertaining to consumer psychology and marketing concluded: “Subliminal directives have not been shown to have the power ascribed to them…In general, the literature on subliminal perception shows that the most clearly documented effects are obtained only in highly contrived and artificial situations. These effects, when present, are brief and of small magnitude. The result is perhaps best construed as an epiphenomenon, a subtle and fleeting by-product of the complexities of human cognitive activity. These processes have no apparent relevance to the goals of advertising” (Lindquist & Sirgy, 2003). The write off in recent history of the effects of all things subliminal could possibly be due to its tainted and controversial history. In 1957, Vance Packard published a book entitled "The Hidden Persuaders," which proclaimed market researchers could successfully determine the public’s unconscious motives and that the consumer was powerless to resist these techniques. The evidence, he claimed, came in the form of powerful, unavoidable subliminal advertising effects viewed in movie theaters on the big screen. His book was also published in a time when prisoner of war brainwashing attempts and cold war paranoia were growing increasingly popular. The reports of effective subliminal ads in movie theaters soon became known as a hoax. Packard’s book turned out to be a sensation and quickly painted an unsavory public image of the scientific study of consumer motivations and subliminal messages. The very first serious reviews of the effectiveness of subliminal advertising reported at best weak effects, and the next phase of commercially available subliminal, self-help tapes were found to yield no better results than placebo tapes (Bargh, 2002). Though the history of subliminal advertising’s effectiveness may favor the skeptics, other more recent research is showing the subject as deserving of our attention at the very least. Despite the skeptics and the history, many people today, including myself, remain concerned about possibly being influenced by subliminal messages. Our concern has been validated by recent subliminal research which has taken the consumer’s current goals and needs into account. Lewin’s field theory of 1951 held that one could not create goals in people they do not already have themselves, but that one can influence them by activating or manipulating the goals they already possessed (Bargh, 2002). More recent work on subliminal influence builds upon Lewin’s principle by matching the subliminal stimulus with the subject’s current goal or need state. The most recent advancements have been documented in the areas of social behavior and goal pursuit. Particularly fascinating about the recent studies of nonconscious influences is that the effects are obtained by the passive activation of relevant mental concepts, such as intelligent, polite, power, cooperation, and achievement (Bargh, 2002). The activation is produced in most research studies through priming manipulations that involve exposure to the concept in a totally unrelated prior experiment. In one such research study conducted by Berridge and Winkielman (forthcoming), subjects were subliminally presented with a happy, a neutral, or an angry face (Bargh, 2002). The subjects who had been subliminally presented with the happy face not only gave more favorable evaluations of the fruit flavored drink being consumed, but they also drank substantially more than the subjects who were primed with the neutral face (Bargh, 2002). Drinking least of all, were those who had been subliminally shown the angry face. Perhaps most importantly, the results were consistent only for those who were thirsty because they had obeyed prior instruction not to drink anything for several hours before the test was conducted. The same subliminal primes proved to have no effect on the evaluations and drinking behavior of non-thirsty participants. Yet another study by Strahan, Spencer, and Zanna (forthcoming) primed thirstiness through subliminal means, which resulted in the already thirsty participants drinking more of a beverage believed to be thirst quenching “SuperQuencher” versus a beverage believed to be energy giving “PowerPro” (Bargh, 2002). The subjects who were tested and were not thirsty were not affected by the same subliminal primes. Another study by the same researchers influenced participants primed with sadness to prefer listening to a CD described as one which would put them in a good mood versus a CD described as powerful and strong (Bargh, 2002). Again, in this study participants who were non-goal-primed or in this case not primed with sadness did not show the effects. The results of these studies not only illustrate clearly that under certain conditions subliminal effects are indeed effective and influential, but also that those being influenced remain consciously unaware of any such influences. “With subliminal primes, the individual has no chance of controlling the influence; as they used to say of Bob Feller’s fastball, you can’t hit what you can’t see” (Bargh, 2002). The notion of “hidden persuaders” was certainly a bluff and a great discredit to the subliminal field, but those times have passed. Methods to bypass and overcome the purchaser’s defenses against influence are growing ever more powerful (Bargh, 2002). Uninformed textbook writers and naïve groups such as the American Marketing Association have done nothing but leave the consumer just as ignorant of subliminal influences and just as overconfident of false control over them as in the past. “It would be naïve to think that recent advances in knowledge of nonconscious processes will never be exploited to serve a company’s or a government’s purposes against the interests of consumers or citizens” (Bargh, 2002). Despite the fact some have come to question consumer motivations and the maintaining of conscious control in the marketplace, the corporate, governmental monster being served and reaping profits is not and will never be ready for the curtain to be lifted. Incognizant we remain.
:: J 12:15 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, February 25, 2006 ::
Tonight I enjoyed a very swell evening being entertained by lil' Kim & her scrubz (you had to be there to comprende). I enjoyed the company, the music, the setting, and the coffee. I've posted my two favorite songs below for all to enjoy. My sister is very talented and very beautiful, and her music has touched and been an inspiration to myself and my wife. She wrote us a song as a wedding gift, and I can recall driving away from our wedding on Hester Road, leaving for the honeymoon and tearfully listening to the beauty Kim had created for us. Andrea knows - it will always be "Our Song" that reminds us of "Our Day."
While I listened to "Ohio" tonight I found myself drifting through pleasant, childhood memories of an evening sun fading in a multi-colored summer sky, providing the backdrop for family travels down long and narrow, stony backroads to Papete and Grandma Alice's farm in Radnor, Ohio. I didn't recognize it at the time, but to head down that dead end road named for my grandparents and step out of the car on hundreds of acres of farmland that extend for just about as far as the eye can see in all directions, and breathe deep, fresh, clean, crisp, country air while feeling like I could stretch my arms for a billion miles was an experience of purity for me...things change...but I liked that song, and the drift of memory that came with it.
NFC North division title hath been clenched, along with a first round playoff bye. After watching the Bills take down the Bengals, I'm confident in some huge upcoming Chicago wins and the piping down to a mere pip squeak the yapper of Chad Johnson.
:: J 5:07 PM [+] ::