Gaza, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and "the culture of victimhood"

Gaza’s Miseries Have Palestinian Authors


In 2014 Israel discovered that Hamas had built 32 tunnels under the Gaza border to kidnap or kill Israelis. “The average tunnel requires 350 truckloads of construction supplies,” The Wall Street Journal reported, “enough to build 86 homes, seven mosques, six schools or 19 medical clinics.” Estimated cost of tunnels: $90 million.

Want to understand why Gaza is so poor? See above. xxx Which brings us to the grotesque spectacle along Gaza’s border over the past several weeks, in which thousands of Palestinians have tried to breach the fence and force their way into Israel, often at the cost of their lives. What is the ostensible purpose of what Palestinians call “the Great Return March”?

That’s no mystery. This week, The Times published an op-ed by Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the organizers of the march. “We are intent on continuing our struggle until Israel recognizes our right to return to our homes and land from which we were expelled,” he writes, referring to homes and land within Israel’s original borders.

His objection isn’t to the “occupation” as usually defined by Western liberals, namely Israel’s acquisition of territories following the 1967 Six Day War. It’s to the existence of Israel itself. Sympathize with him all you like, but at least notice that his politics demand the elimination of the Jewish state.

Notice, also, the old pattern at work: Avow and pursue Israel’s destruction, then plead for pity and aid when your plans lead to ruin.

The world now demands that Jerusalem account for every bullet fired at the demonstrators, without offering a single practical alternative for dealing with the crisis.

But where is the outrage that Hamas kept urging Palestinians to move toward the fence, having been amply forewarned by Israel of the mortal risk? Or that protest organizers encouraged women to lead the charges on the fence because, as The Times’s Declan Walsh reported, “Israeli soldiers might be less likely to fire on women”? Or that Palestinian children as young as 7 were dispatched to try to breach the fence? Or that the protests ended after Israel warned Hamas’s leaders, whose preferred hide-outs include Gaza’s hospital, that their own lives were at risk?

Elsewhere in the world, this sort of behavior would be called reckless endangerment. It would be condemned as self-destructive, cowardly and almost bottomlessly cynical.

The mystery of Middle East politics is why Palestinians have so long been exempted from these ordinary moral judgments. How do so many so-called progressives now find themselves in objective sympathy with the murderers, misogynists and homophobes of Hamas? Why don’t they note that, by Hamas’s own admission, some 50 of the 62 protesters killed on Monday were members of Hamas? Why do they begrudge Israel the right to defend itself behind the very borders they’ve been clamoring for years for Israelis to get behind?

Why is nothing expected of Palestinians, and everything forgiven, while everything is expected of Israelis, and nothing forgiven?

That’s a question to which one can easily guess the answer. In the meantime, it’s worth considering the harm Western indulgence has done to Palestinian aspirations.

No decent Palestinian society can emerge from the culture of victimhood, violence and fatalism symbolized by these protests. No worthy Palestinian government can emerge if the international community continues to indulge the corrupt, anti-Semitic autocrats of the Palestinian Authority or fails to condemn and sanction the despotic killers of Hamas. And no Palestinian economy will ever flourish through repeated acts of self-harm and destructive provocation.

If Palestinians want to build a worthy, proud and prosperous nation, they could do worse than try to learn from the one next door. That begins by forswearing forever their attempts to destroy it.

Comment: This opinion piece is from the NYTimes - hardly in the pocket of Israel! Image source: Israeli Military Kills 15 Palestinians in Confrontations on Gaza Border


My T-Bills "sweep" strategy

The old (very old) paper TBill - now all digital! But The above image is cooler than the following!

The entry page for TreasuryDirect

Treasury bill

What is a Treasury Bill:

Treasury bills (or T-bills) mature in one year or less. Like zero-coupon bonds, they do not pay interest prior to maturity; instead they are sold at a discount of the par value to create a positive yield to maturity.

Regular weekly T-Bills are commonly issued with maturity dates of 28 days (or 4 weeks, about a month), 91 days (or 13 weeks, about 3 months), 182 days (or 26 weeks, about 6 months), and 364 days (or 52 weeks, about 1 year). Treasury bills are sold by single-price auctions held weekly. Offering amounts for 13-week and 26-week bills are announced each Thursday for auction, usually at 11:30 a.m., on the following Monday and settlement, or issuance, on Thursday. Offering amounts for 4-week bills are announced on Monday for auction the next day, Tuesday, usually at 11:30 a.m., and issuance on Thursday. Offering amounts for 52-week bills are announced every fourth Thursday for auction the next Tuesday, usually at 11:30 am, and issuance on Thursday. Purchase orders at TreasuryDirect must be entered before 11:00 on the Monday of the auction. The minimum purchase, effective April 7, 2008, is $100. (This amount formerly had been $1,000.) Mature T-bills are also redeemed on each Thursday. Banks and financial institutions, especially primary dealers, are the largest purchasers of T-bills.

  • My strategy is not technically a "sweep" account because it is not automatic!
  • The question I ask: "Am I likely to need the cash in my savings account in 30 days?" If no ... buy a TBill
  • TBill rates

  • I'll probably build a ladder that may take this form:
  • The key: Buy at a discount to coupon value ... redeemed at coupon value. The interest gained is the difference.

The logon look:

The ladder look:

My "toe in the water" initial investment(s) are all 4 weeks. I expect that going forward I will avail myself of the 13 weeks, 26 weeks, and 52 weeks TBills

The Purchase page:

My experience so far is A+. The website is fast and EZ to use. I called customer support once and they answered quickly and were helpful. I doubt I will need to call them again.


Clearing up the "who's going to hell" question

Pastor Who Said Jews Are Going to Hell Led Prayer at Jerusalem Embassy Opening


Here are some of the most incendiary remarks they’ve made in the past.: 

Mr. Jeffress, who leads one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, suggested in a 2010 interview with the Trinity Broadcasting Network that some churches might shy away from saying “anything that’s going to offend people” to try to grow their congregations. He made it clear he was going to preach what he believes the Bible says.

“Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell,” Mr. Jeffress said in the interview. “Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell.”

He added: “Judaism — you can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” Mr. Jeffress said. “Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”
Comment: Truth: What he said is Biblical Christianity!


Apple or IBM: 1 year later

AAPL IBM May 9th 2017
1 year ago I sold 100 shares of IBM and bought 100 shares of Apple. I chose wisely!


In the hunt for Dividend Yield - is Century Link Safe?

Is Centurylink Inc Stock a Treasure or Trap? 3 Pros, 3 Cons

Comments: Remember GE! Investors have priced the stock as if the dividend will be cut! I'm going to flip a coin on this and probably invest $ 1850. [as an aside ... Century Link was the acquirer of  Qwest / (formerly USWest). I rarely bitch about companies ... but of all the companies I have dealt with (been a customer of), Qwest is Jimmy Peet's "I really hated to deal with them!". (And I am a Comcast customer!)]. But Century Link is much more than the old Quest!

Below: Jimmy hunting for dividends


Steelcase - my small cap dividend stock of the day

Steelcase CIO Bets Big on the Connected Office


Steelcase Inc., a 106-year-old manufacturer of office furniture, has a vision of the office in which chairs, tables, and other objects are part of a digital network.

Steelcase has been working with Microsoft Corp. for about three years on these efforts.

One new service, expected to launch this summer, offers Steelcase clients a mobile app that employees can use to find available rooms and other colleagues in real-time. “Steelcase Find” connects to a wireless network of infrared sensors and uses room-booking data that shows which workspaces are being used.

A mainstream thing. It’s an example of how the Internet of Things is hitting a different level of maturity, Steelcase CIO Steven Miller tells CIO Journal’s Sara Castellanos. “You’ve had some people just dabbling in it and testing the waters, but now it’s becoming much more of a mainstream thing that companies need to pay attention to,” Mr. Miller said.
Comment: A steady dividend payer with a 4% yield


Legal Headwinds for Minneapolis Lightrail

Freight railroad files lawsuit over Southwest light-rail route


Planners of the Southwest light-rail project are facing another legal challenge, this time from a freight rail company that is slated to share a portion of the nearly 15-mile route between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

Glencoe-based Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, claiming agreements crafted by the Metropolitan Council outlining how freight and light-rail trains will operate alongside one another are in breach of previous contracts, federal interstate commerce laws and the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit names the Met Council, which is planning and building the $1.9 billion Southwest line, as well as the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority and Canadian Pacific Railway as defendants.

TC&W officials say the agreements “will substantially and unreasonably interfere” with their ability to serve their customers — farmers and manufacturers in western Minnesota and South Dakota that depend on rail to haul their goods to market.
Railroad not interested in negotiating with Met Council for Bottineau light-rail


An executive with BNSF Railway has told the Metropolitan Council — again — that the company is not interested in sharing its rail corridor with the proposed $1.5 billion Bottineau Blue Line light-rail project.

In an April 24 letter, Richard E. Weicher, BNSF's vice president and senior general counsel, said the Texas-based rail company is "not prepared to proceed with any discussion of passenger rail in this corridor at this time." The letter was addressed to Daniel Soler, the Bottineau Blue Line's project director.

"As we explained in discussions some time ago, and again as recently as February, we do not believe the Blue Line light rail project would be consistent with our passenger principles or protect the long-term viability of freight service" in the corridor north of Minneapolis. (Weicher wrote a similar letter to the council earlier this year.)

The 13-mile Blue Line extension would link downtown Minneapolis with Brooklyn Park, operating along 8 miles of right of way owned by the Texas-based rail giant. The council, which is planning and building the project, must negotiate with BNSF to share the alignment north of Minneapolis.

Without an agreement in place with BNSF, the council cannot apply for $753 million in federal funding.
Comment: Related U.S. House approves measure to undermine Met Council. Amendment linking transportation planning to elected membership would need to clear Senate before becoming law.
The Metropolitan Council would be stripped of its authority to distribute millions of federal transportation dollars if a provision approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday becomes law.

The measure, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., tackles long-simmering complaints about gubernatorial appointees, rather than elected officials, leading the powerful regional government.

The council’s status as the Twin Cities’ official transportation planning organization is grandfathered into federal law, which otherwise mandates that those boards must have local elected officials. 

“We now have in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the only board in the country that is entirely non-elected, the only [transportation planning organization] that has the authority to independently raise taxes and is non-elected,” Lewis said during debate on his amendment, tacked onto the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

The measure’s future is uncertain in the Senate, which has yet to vote on its own FAA reauthorization bill. In a letter to the state’s congressional delegation Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, warned that the change would “circumvent a long-standing and productive process at a time when transportation investment is critical to our region.”
Opinion: I'm with Lewis on this - the Met Council is too powerful and not accountable to the electorate

Treasury Bills - boring but safe


The best Internet bank rates are with Marcus (Goldman Sachs)

Our 1st TBill

The end of the Sedan?

Ford To Phase Out 'Traditional Ford Sedans' Such As Fusion And Taurus In The U.S.


Ford Motor Co. reported a $1.7 billion profit for the first quarter of 2018, but the company says it's planning big changes — such as phasing out all cars except for the Mustang and a crossover vehicle in the North American market, so it can focus on SUVs and trucks. 

"Given declining consumer demand and product profitability, the company will not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America," Ford said.

The cuts will take place over the next few years, Ford said. Over that time, it will phase out longstanding brands such as the Ford Fiesta and Taurus from the North American market.

Ford says that Lincoln sedans, including the Continental, will not be phased out.

With the planned cuts, Ford will say farewell to the Fusion sedan, of which 43,176 have been sold so far in 2018 — and the Focus, of which Ford has sold 35,046 cars this year. Over the same period, Ford has sold 19,164 Mustangs.

The Mustang and the upcoming Focus Active crossover are poised to become the only cars Ford sells in the North American market. The new U.S.-market version of the Focus will be made in China.
Ford And Chrysler Killing Sedans Is Great News For Their Japanese Competitors

Ford Motor announced Wednesday that it's cutting traditional sedans from its U.S. lineup, except for the venerable Mustang, saying goodbye to the Fusion, Focus, Fiesta and Taurus so it can double down on trucks and sport utilities. (The Focus nameplate will stick around but in the form of a future crossover utility.)

"Ford realized it can't be everything to everyone, and in today's market that could be okay," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds. "The key to success is focusing on where your customers are and where your strengths lie, and for Ford doubling down on trucks and SUVs could be just what the brand needs."

Ford is not alone. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles already killed the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 to focus on more profitable Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups. General Motors has been cutting back on sedan production, too, eliminating a shift at its factory in Lordstown, Ohio, that makes the Cruze compact. Reports say the Chevrolet Sonic and Impala could be axed, too, while Cadillac is retooling its luxury lineup to focus more on SUVs.

The Detroit Three say they're simply following consumer preferences, which have shifted squarely in favor of SUVs and crossovers. And they're playing to their strengths, too: None of the domestic carmakers had a leading position in the passenger car market, so they might as well concentrate where they have the strongest following -- and higher profit margins.

Detroit's withdrawal from the sedan market is great news for the foreign-based players who remain: Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai, the latter of which has particularly been struggling in the U.S. due to its slowness in responding to the market turn to SUVs. With less competition, they ought to be able to raise prices and squeeze a bit more profit out of their traditional cars.
General Motors Sticking With Sedans As Ford Kills Off Most Cars in North America


On a conference call with reporters to discuss first-quarter earnings, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra laid out why the automaker feels comfortable sticking with its stable of sedans and hatchbacks—for now—even as the market continues to shrink. The company poured a lot of money into refreshing most of the vehicles in question since 2015, and with those expenses in the rear view mirror, Barra believes it has a competitive lineup that won't require a lot of money to update over the next few years.

"The segments are still significant," Barra said, as highlighted by Ward's Auto. "Because we’ve made the investments, we need to deploy little to no capital going forward, so we view [cars] as an opportunity. What you’ll see us do is play very efficiently in a segment that, although it is declining, there is still an opportunity."

She has a point: Sedans and hatchbacks still account for a third of all car sales in this country, and the timing of Ford's exit has far more to do with the cost of redeveloping its aging lineup rather than overall consumer trends. And its decision to maintain the Ford Mustang roughly parallels the way Fiat-Chrysler killed off most of its small cars in 2016 and maintained the Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Chrysler 300, which are all built on the same decade-old platform.

That doesn't mean General Motors won't be making moves, though. The company will reportedly ditch the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car as soon as this year, and it recently cut production of the Cruze in response to slowing demand. Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens added that his team examines the cost of producing each car model on a "weekly" basis.

But despite rumors of their demise, the Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu, and Impala should survive in the near term, along with the newly-launched Buick Regal and LaCrosse. There's still the question of Cadillac, though, whose CTS and ATS sedans and coupes are among the oldest cars in the GM lineup. Don't forget, former CEO Johan de Nysschen was ousted last week in part because he didn't respond quick enough to the crossover craze.

Comment: I'm a sedan guy! Our Buick LaCrosse has about 12K miles ..... and has gotten 27 mpg over it's short life. I've never had an SUV or a mini-van. I rented a Taurus on a family vacation once - very nice. Sad to see it go!

Our most recent cars:

1988 Crown Victoria

1996 Saturn wagon

2000 Impala

2002 Impala SS 

2007 Buick Lucerne (V8)

2017 LaCrosse
Below: My brother-in-law is trading in his Caddy for an SUV. Me? I would by a Caddy sedan: