The Slightly Late (But Always Great) Frazer Rice “Year End Awards” – 2013 Edition

(Yes. I do hand deliver EVERY trophy)

You know you’ve been constantly speculating about this for months – Just admit it! So, with no further delay . . . The winners are:

Politician of the Year:  Vladimir Putin

Snowed the US with Snowden, defused Syria, freed a punk band called “Pussy Riot” and outfoxed just about everyone (most recently the entire nation of Ukraine in major fashion). Even despite recent terrorist strikes in Volgograd, when it comes to protecting his cherished 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, my money is on Vlad – not a bunch of radical Chechen extremists. Back when President Bush famously looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw his soul,” we should have all known his presidency was over right there.

Disappointment of the Year:  Obamacare

It will eventually be a big part of American life – and ultimately Republicans need to man up and accept reality – but the whole saga tells you all you need to know about the government’s (in)effectiveness when it comes to building and running big, complex things. (And yes – that goes for wars too – in particular, our failure to adequately provide for our veterans which should shame EVERY American regardless of political affiliation).  Obama was 100% correct in his first inaugural address when he declared: “What really matters is if government works.” I’m not remotely suggesting it’s an easy job, but the clock is ticking . . .

Political Dingbats of the Year:  Congress — Partisan goofiness to a fault; Shutting down the government for zero discernible gain; Even going right up to the brink on debt default . . . Can’t someone just turn CSPAN into a horror movie channel already?

From the Sauna to the Igloo . . . Bloomberg to Bill de Blasio — New Yorkers have no idea what’s coming. And is it pure coincidence we’re getting a blizzard the day after inauguration? Actually, it is. But still . . . As I said, New Yorkers have no idea what’s coming (other than snow, I suppose). Personally, I’ll be looking for SNOWPLOWS, Mr. Mayor . . . As the great Mayor LaGuardia once remarked: “There’s no Democratic or Republican way to fix a pothole.” So let’s see what happens. I love this City and therefore I wish nothing but the best for our new chief executive. I sincerely hope he disproves all my doubts. If he doesn’t, however, he can be sure of one other great thing about NYC – You better believe New Yorkers aren’t going to give him anything resembling a “honeymoon.” He’ll be hearing from us loud and clear.

Trade of the Year:  HLF Herbalife– Put personality back into trading — Ackman called his shot only to have Loeb and Ichan threw fastballs at his head with bold contrarian bets. Taught the investing public that there are two sides to every trade and that all numbers are open to interpretation. (That’s right people – activists aren’t always short-side…) BTW – Has anyone ever bought a product from HLF? If so (and you’re willing to reveal yourself publicly), I’ll personally ensure you make next year’s awards list – just have to figure out FOR WHAT . . .

Investment Theme of the Year:  Rising Interest Rates — It didn’t really happen this year thanks to Quantitative Easing, but it’s coming . . .

Golfer of the Year:  Adam Scott — An electric win at the Masters and solid play at the end of the year more than prepared this likable Australian hero for a full-frontal assault on #1.

Movie of the Year (that I saw): Rush — One of the best auto-racing movies ever – damn entertaining and confirms that Liam Helmsworth is indeed a star.

Most Challenging Industry of the Year:  Music — Innovation has been good for the consumer, but devastating for many musicians (importantly not all – as some have found ways to use online platforms as an intelligent path around record company BS).  Nevertheless, with high start-up costs, a shadowy cutthroat culture and a distribution system that frequently gives away the product, one has to question how many great artists might simply fade away before what could have otherwise be legendary careers. In the mean time, the rest of the industry is soaking in red ink. The upside? Whoever solves this conundrum won’t only make a lot of money – they’ll be well-positioned to capitalize on the seismic shifts that are fast approaching in TV and film (I mean, who would have thought Amazon and Netflix would be dominating in the area of creative content production? Or that digital direct-to-cinema distribution would nearly ready to launch years ahead of schedule – These are ALL industries on the brink).

PR Disaster of the Year:  Justine SaccoHer racist airborn tweet blew up by the time she landed in South Africa.  She managed to offend a continent, her employer and countless millions elsewhere while still constraining herself to just slightly less than 125 characters. I wonder if the Twitter guys ever envisioned “Weiner-eruptions” and “Sacco-destructions” back when they were still in the proverbial garage. It will be fascinating to see where (and if) she lands. My question: In retrospect, Is all publicity really good publicity, Ms. Sacco? One way or another, I guess now we’ll all find out. 

“Tired of hearing about it” Theme of the Year:  THREE WORDS: Performance Enhancing Drugs — They all do it.  Let’s move on.  Think of the pure uncut excitement if Wall Street were tested. No – seriously – THINK ABOUT IT.

“Tired of hearing about it” Runner-up Theme of the Year:  NCAA as an amateur organization.  It isn’t.  They make a ton of money on two sports and various TV networks . . . Yet they behave like the Russian Politburo circa 1974. Interested people should follow the O’Bannon copyright case.  It could be a big depth charge in the NCAA’s pool.

Most Dangerously Ignored Story of the Year:  The nuclear disaster in Japan.  The long-term effects continue to proliferate, Japan is struggling to revamp its entire energy industry, Germany has announced an elimination of nuclear power, China is literally choking on coal dust and the rest of the world seems to be burying its head in sand while the human, economic and environmental costs grow higher each day.

Most Dangerously Ignored Story of the Year (Runner-Up):  China’s new “Monroe Doctrine” (as Pat Buchanan would put it now – as a lot of us might put it next year).  China is making slow progress in establishing their might in the South China Sea (their sub fleet is formidable and they finally have an aircraft carrier from which you can at least take-off – the whole “landing thing” may take them a while longer, but they’ll get there.).  Recent bellicosity toward Japan, Southeast Asia and South Korea could have far-reaching effects including a serious elevation of tensions in an area already dangerously destabilized by “Nutjob of the Year” (and best friend of runner-up, Dennis Rodman), Kim Jong Eun. Moreover, would somebody please ask John Kerry what he was thinking when he randomly declared an end to the ACTUAL MONROE DOCTRINE, just when China is expanding a real military presence in Latin America???

Most Underreported Sports Story of the Year:  The Golden Age of Men’s Tennis:  4 Lions and plenty of talent underneath – every Major has become virtual Armageddon with great storylines and tennis that frequently feels almost inhumanly spectacular.  Sadly, not much of it from America, however.

Craze That May be Here to Stay:  Green juices.  Sure it is expensive.  However, so is buying a blender and 30lbs of vegetables to make 6 drinks.  As cheaper walk-in versions of Blueprint Cleanse spread (like Juice Generation and Organic Avenue), the shortcut to health will never seem so easy. I am not one to bet against American laziness. (Does it work – perhaps ask Ackman???)

Craze that is Out the Door faster than the Macarena:  Twerking — Most people just shouldn’t be seen doing it. Also I don’t want to see (most) people doing it. Especially at weddings. JUST STOP. NOW. I MEAN IT.

Mixed Bag of the Year:  Ted Cruz:  35-40% of the American people are going to root real hard for him as they get to know him . . . That still isn’t enough for the presidency. Almost driving the American economy off the cliff will not get him the Republican nomination either. But liberals are the true morons if they try to paint a former Harvard Law Review Editor, Supreme Court Clerk and true scholar of Senate procedure as a moron. That one won’t work either.  Cruz’s best weapon is being severely underestimated.

Comeback of the Year:  John Kerry — From washed-up to relevant again with some real foreign policy initiative. Then again, there was that whole Monroe Doctrine moment . . . Let’s hope that’s not indicative of things to come. To his credit, he shows no fear during tense Middle East negotiations, looking Putin and Xi Jin Ping directly in the eye and intelligently redirecting America’s foreign policy toward the Pacific.  His recent trip to Vietnam, for example, was executed flawlessly. Hence, I’m cautiously hopeful.

“Stay-Home” of the Year:  Spitzer and Wiener . . . Belying every stereotype that New Yorkers tend to leave their common sense outside the voting booth (actually, outside their voting location), this year we instead somehow kept these two jokers out of office for- ahem- LOTS of reasons.  And, I think it’s safe to say, OUT OF OFFICE FOR GOOD.

“People Going Crazy For No Good Reason (Yet)” of the Year:  Anyone excited about Bitcoin. Please – Here’s the deal: Call me when you can buy a house with Bitcoins. Until then, keep the hysteria to yourselves, folks. The rest of us remain extremely content receiving titanium briefcases filled with tightly wrapped Benjamins.

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