4.30.2008

Get a job!

America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree

Excerpt:

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it's not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you're likely to meet workers who spent years and their family's life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.


Comment: The key ... do not borrow money to go to college. One of my kids suggested that I "cash out" my home equity to provide $$ for his college. I said "what does 'cash out' mean?". As you can probably guess, I did not take out a home equity loan to pay for his college. I'm actually pro-college. Kathee and I both have degrees: Kathee in Math from Florida State (1973), me Economics and Finance from the University of Cincinnati (1971).

Sad stories I've heard:


  1. A woman who got a degree in culinary arts (borrowed money) and basically makes little more than mininum wage at a restaurant.
  2. Ones (there's more than one) who have degrees in art, or sociology, or philosophy, or drama who cannot get a decent job.
  3. One I know who got her degree in History and wanted to work for the (_my company's_____) History Museum. Only to find out that the "historians" are basically clerks.


Lessons:

  1. Think about the job you will work after college before you go to college.
  2. Consider the military (like the Navy or the Air Force) where one get get some real life training (and a degree) paid for by the government while one is serving his country.
  3. Don't borrow!


HT: Bike Bubba

4.29.2008

Saving a reputation by destroying new cars



A Crushing Issue: How to Destroy Brand-New Cars

Excerpt:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- "Fire in the hole!" shouts Ron Hoodenpyle, covering his ears and stepping away from a brand-new Mazda 3 he just wired with special detonators. Suddenly, all six of the car's airbags explode at once.

Within hours the metallic blue sedan will be drained, gutted, squished and shredded -- one of thousands to meet the same fate here. The cars are so new, most don't even have 10 miles on the odometer.

Comment: See earlier post: Saving the Cougar Ace

A John Piper book I am awaiting

Update on John Piper's Writing Leave

Excerpt:

Here's a list of forthcoming books, some of which he is working on during this leave.


  1. History’s Most Spectacular Sin booklet (June, 2008)
  2. Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (September, 2008)
  3. Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of God (September, 2008)
  4. John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God (January, 2009)
  5. A book on Marriage (no title or publication date yet)
  6. A book on Regeneration (no title or publication date yet)


Please join us in praying that God would graciously anoint John Piper during this season of communing with God and writing for the joy of all peoples.



Comment: Today K had a Dr's appointment at 7:30 in Wayzata. I waited in the lobby and read yesterday's USA Today (would that be USA Yesterday!?) and a real estate magazine with Minnesota / Wisconsin lake homes for sale. Afterwards we drove downtown and had breakfast at the 100 Washington 4th floor cafeteria. We happened upon my first Wells Fargo (then Norwest) manager, Jeff Williams. Jeff hired me back in 1994 in Greenwood Colorado. We moved to Minneapolis in '96 and Jeff in '97. That first job was one of the most fun jobs I've ever had (too bad it was also one of the lowest paying secular (remember I used to be a pastor, so I understand low pay!) jobs. Jeff is 62 and I am almost 59. The subject of retirement came up (as often happens when folk our age get together). Truthfully I'm not sure if I will make it to retirement. My brother-in-law died back in December. I've had at least 4 co-workers die this year including one who died yesterday. I'm older than all of the co-workers and almost the same age as Tom (B-I-L) so one never knows. I could die (won't be the worst thing .. "absent from the body ... present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8); "to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21); "what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14)); or Christ could catch me up ("Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17)). But regardless of those possibilities, one has to prepare for (whatever one wants to call it): the time when one is too old, too weak, to feeble to earn a living. I don't like calling that "retirement" but for now I will. I view retirement as the time when one is freed from the corporate world to serve the Lord as one is able. So the Piper book I am looking forward to is Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of God.

The "hook-up" culture

Hook-Up or Shut Up

Excerpt:

But most students also believe that "everyone does it," even if the individual student, for some reason, cannot locate a partner. Thus an active minority sets the tone and makes hooking up a "culture." When there are no sexual boundaries, either official or informal, the standard becomes the extreme, and all students feel the pressure to appear more promiscuous than they are. The traditional double standard of sexual conduct – more restrictive for women than for men – has been replaced by the single standard of the predatory male.

Comment: Not "everyone does it"! God's standard: "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Hebrews 13:4

4.28.2008

"emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use"

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change

Excerpt:

We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president's target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.

The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use.

Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions – CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes – from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.

By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low – even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

Comment: Those impossible climate goals.

Will Gray be terminated?

Hurricane forecaster's dispute with school focuses on global warming debate

Excerpt:

By pioneering the science of seasonal hurricane forecasting and teaching 70 graduate students who now populate the National Hurricane Center and other research outposts, William Gray turned a city far from the stormy seas into a hurricane research mecca.

But now the institution in Fort Collins, Colo., where he has worked for nearly half a century, has told Gray it may end its support of his seasonal forecasting.

As he enters his 25th year of predicting hurricane season activity, Colorado State University officials say handling media inquiries related to Gray's forecasting requires too much time and detracts from efforts to promote other professors' work.

But Gray, a highly visible and sometimes acerbic skeptic of climate change, says that's a "flimsy excuse" for the real motivation — a desire to push him aside because of his global warming criticism.

Among other comments, Gray has said global warming scientists are "brainwashing our children."

Now an emeritus professor, Gray declined to comment on the university's possible termination of promotional support.

But a memo he wrote last year, after CSU officials informed him that media relations would no longer promote his forecasts after 2008, reveals his views:

"This is obviously a flimsy excuse and seems to me to be a cover for the Department's capitulation to the desires of some (in their own interest) who want to reign (sic) in my global warming and global warming-hurricane criticisms," Gray wrote to Dick Johnson, head of CSU's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and others.

Comment: So much for academic freedom!

Hillary's scorched earth campaign

Is Hillary Preparing to Run in 2012?

Excerpt:

Does Hillary Clinton really believe she can overtake Barack Obama among elected delegates? No way. The math is dead against her and she’s a realist. Even after Pennsylvania, Obama still leads by more than 140 in elected delegates. They’ll likely break even in Indiana and he’ll win North Carolina where one third of the vote is African-American. After that? If she wins Kentucky, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico by 15 points and they break about even in Guam, North Dakota, Montana, and Oregon, she’ll still trail him by at least 130 votes among elected delegates.

Does she believe she can persuade super delegates to vote for her? Again, probably not. Obama has steadily eroded her edge among super delegates and now they are almost tied among committed super delegates. And the prevailing sentiment among those that remain is not to overturn the will of the voters.

So why is Hillary still running so hard? Why is she especially focused on pushing up Obama’s negatives?

Until the last vote is counted on June 3rd, we can chalk up her persistence to determination, courage and sheer obstinacy. But if she persists in her candidacy after the last primary, we must begin to consider whether she has an ulterior motive.

Does Hillary want to beat up Obama so that he can’t win the general election in November, assuring McCain of the presidency so that she can have a clear field to run again in 2012? Obviously, if Obama beats McCain, Hillary is out of the picture until 2016, by which time, at 69 years old, she might be too old to run. But if McCain wins, she would have to be considered the presumptive front runner for the nomination, a status which she might parlay into a nomination more successfully than she has been able to do this year.

Every day that she stays in the race and punches Barack Obama, she must realize that she is decreasing his chances of getting elected in November. Each time that she waves the bloody shirt and says that only she is strong enough to fight the war on terror, she obviously raises doubts about Obama’s strength and leadership. Every time she criticizes him for not switching pastors or for saying downscale white voters are bitter, she raises issues that are very destructive to Obama should he win the nomination.


Comment: Why won't these Clintons just go away!

4.27.2008

Professional Panhandler



Comment: Interesting

4.26.2008

Saturday happenings

Quick hits:


  1. K read in the Star Tribune that Minnetonka iced out Thursday. The latest since 1996 (the year we moved here.
  2. Would you believe ... snow on the ground today! True!
  3. I am having coffee with Steve T from church today
  4. Pool with my Brother at 1
  5. Guests for dinner at 5:30
  6. I hope to read a little between 3 and 5
  7. Roger is running a 5K today

Nobody wants Vista

Microsoft’s Vista Problem

Excerpt:

It only makes sense that with the economy weakening, corporate technology managers are pulling back from plans to upgrade to Vista from the previous version of Windows, Windows XP.

An IDC survey of 300 chief information officers, published earlier this year, found personal computers at the top of the list of hardware spending that companies would cut back on in an economic slowdown. In software, spending on operating systems — like Vista — and Microsoft’s Office suite of productivity programs would be the first to be put off, they said.

Vista, given the more powerful processing power it requires, represents both a hardware and a software upgrade.

No surprise, then, that there has been a rising chorus among corporate technology customers who want Microsoft to keep licensing Windows XP, with its less-demanding hardware requirements, beyond the phase-out date for most new licenses on June 30.

Comment: Our company is preparing our next XP release on XP SP3 (Service Pack 3)

Text book rip off

That Book Costs How Much?

Excerpts:

College students and their families are rightly outraged about the bankrupting costs of textbooks that have nearly tripled since the 1980s, mainly because of marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements. A bill pending in Congress would require publishers to sell “unbundled” versions of the books — minus the pricey add-ons. Even more important, it would require publishers to reveal book prices in marketing material so that professors could choose less-expensive titles.

...
Right now, textbook publishers are calling the tune. They add as many bells and whistles as they can and pump out new editions as quickly as possible — as a way of making perfectly good textbooks obsolete. Not every book can be cheap. A specialized text that only a few people know how to write and that reaches a small audience will be costly by definition. But there is no reason for an introductory textbook to carry a price tag of, say, $140 in an area like economics where the information changes little from year to year.

4.25.2008

Mixed messages: Al Sharpton on abortion

Al Sharpton on Abortion

Q: How do you feel about abortion?
A: I think women should have the right to choose what happens to their own life, body and choices.

My religion says that abortion is wrong. And while I may believe that life begins when the sperm meets the egg, and that only God should decide whether to take a life, I will not stand in the way of a woman's right to choose. If women do not have a right to choose, then it's a civil rights violation.

On the verdict of the Sean Bell trial

What we saw in court today was not a miscarriage of justice. Justice didn’t miscarry. This was an abortion of justice. Abortions are intended. Miscarriage could be you couldn’t hold the baby justice, you couldn’t take care of the baby, or it was an accident.

It was no accident. When a judge sits on a bench and says he considered the criminal background of some of the victims, that is an abortion and it is illegal. Because even people with criminal backgrounds have civil rights. You do not lose your rights to go to a club and walk to your car just because you may have a background that the police didn’t know you had.



Comment: Whether one approves of the verdict of the Sean Bell case, the point on Al Sharpton is this: He considers the verdict "an abortion and illegal". But aborting the unborn should be legal.

4.24.2008

India calling: Pay up!

Debt Collection Done From India Appeals to U.S. Agencies

Excerpt:

“Are you sure that’s all you can afford?” one operator in a row of cubicles asks politely. “Well, how do you take care of your everyday expenses?” presses another.

Americans are used to receiving calls from India for insurance claims and credit card sales. But debt collection represents a growing business for outsourcing companies, especially as the American economy slows and its consumers struggle to pay for their purchases.

Armed with a sophisticated automated system that dials tens of thousands of Americans every hour, and puts confidential information like Social Security numbers, addresses and credit history at operators’ fingertips, this new breed of collectors is chasing down late car payments, overdue credit card debt and lapsed installment loans. Debt collectors in India often cost about one-quarter the price of their American counterparts, and are often better at the job, debt collection company executives say.


Comment: What could be worse than having a debt collection agency calling you? Having it sourced halfway around the world!

Those who "who cut Christ’s robes like bandits"

At Expense of All Others, Putin Picks a Church

Excerpt:

Here in Stary Oskol, 300 miles south of Moscow, the police evicted a Seventh-day Adventist congregation from its meeting hall, forcing it to hold services in a ramshackle home next to a construction site. Evangelical Baptists were barred from renting a theater for a Christian music festival, and were not even allowed to hand out toys at an orphanage. A Lutheran minister said he moved away for a few years because he feared for his life. He has returned, but keeps a low profile.

On local television last month, the city’s chief Russian Orthodox priest, who is a confidant of the region’s most powerful politicians, gave a sermon that was repeated every few hours. His theme: Protestant heretics.

“We deplore those who are led astray — those Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, evangelicals, Pentecostals and many others who cut Christ’s robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ’s holy coat,” declared the priest, the Rev. Aleksei D. Zorin.

Such language is familiar to Protestants in Stary Oskol, who number about 2,000 in a city of 225,000.

The Rev. Vladimir Pakhomov, the minister of the Methodist church, recalled a warning from an F.S.B. officer to one of his parishioners: “ ‘Protestantism is facing difficult times — or maybe its end.’ ”

Comment: Sad to see! Remember Georgy Vins?!

The new $ 5 bill



I remember (I'm dating myself) gas at less than .30 cents a gallon. We may soon need a $ 7 bill: Gasoline could hit $7 a gallon in four years

SPAM

Somehow this slipped through my email Spam filter. I pass this on for the sake of humor. So someone has $ 2.5 million they want to give me. I'll get right on this!

Dearest In Christ,

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ our Lord, I am Mrs Julian Amade from Kuwait. I am married to Mr Tony Amade who worked with Kuwait embassy in Ivory Coast for nine years before he died in the year 2005.We were married for many years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.Before his death we were both born again Christian.

Since his death I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of US$2.500million dollars in a Bank in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire west africa.Presently, this money is still in bank.Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next Eight months due to cancer problem.

The one that disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a charity organization that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein.

I want an organization that will use this fund for orphanages, school and church ,widows, propagating the word of God and to endeavor that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that "Blessed is the hand that giveth".I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and I don't want my husband's efforts to be used by unbelievers.

I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly way. This is why I am taking this decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord.Exodus 14 VS 14 says that "the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace". I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health hence the presence of my husband's relatives around me always. I don't want them to know about this development.With God all things are possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the Bank in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire west africa.

I will also issue you an authority letter from the federal ministry of justice that will prove you the new beneficiary of this fund. I want you and the church to always pray for me because the lord is my shephard. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. Whoever that Wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and Truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life.Contact me on the this email [REDACTED]. delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing another church for this same purpose. Please me that you will act accordingly as I Stated herein. Hoping to receive your reply.


Remain blessed in the Lord Take care,


In Christ's Holy Love
Yours Sister in christ
Mrs Julian Amade,

Arby's: It's waaaay delicious. It's Wendy's


Arby’s owner buying Wendy’s in all-stock deal

Excerpt:

After two past rejections, the owner of Arby’s shaved roast beef sandwich restaurants is buying Wendy’s, the fast-food chain famous for its made-to-order square hamburgers and chocolate Frosty dessert, for around $2 billion.

Triarc Companies Inc., which is owned by billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, said Thursday it will pay about $2.34 billion in an all-stock deal for the nation’s third-largest hamburger chain started in 1969 by Dave Thomas. Wendy’s had rejected at least two buyout offers from Triarc.

Thomas’ daughter Pam Thomas Farber said the family was devastated by the news.

Comment: Wendy's is the best of the fast food places! Image is of Clara Peller of the Where's the Beef fame!

"Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith"

Evolution: Science or Faith?

Excerpt:

Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.

Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it “scientific” in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can give us no knowledge whatsoever about where we came from or how we got here.

Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more “scientific” than any other kind of religious faith.


Comment: I really appreciate the clarity of John MacArthur's thought and presentation!

"a hatchet job on Jesus' reputation"

Director of "Basic Instinct" writes Jesus biography

Excerpt:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - "Basic Instinct" director Paul Verhoeven has written a book that contradicts biblical teaching by suggesting that Jesus might have been fathered by a Roman soldier who raped Mary.

An Amsterdam publishing house said Wednesday it will publish the Dutch filmmaker's biography of Jesus, "Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait," in September.

Verhoeven is best known as the director of blockbuster films including "Basic Instinct" and "RoboCop," but he is also a member of "Jesus Seminar," a group of scholars and authors that seeks to establish historical facts about Jesus.

Marianna Sterk of the publishing house J.M. Meulenhoff said the book includes several ideas that run contrary to Christian faith, including the suggestion that Jesus could be the son of a Roman soldier who raped Mary during a Jewish uprising against Roman rule in 4 B.C.


Comment: Same old time-worn anti-Christian theories!

4.23.2008

The veneration of Padre Pio

Faithful await display of Catholic mystic’s body

Excerpt:

A poll in 2006 by Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics prayed to Padre Pio than to any other icon, including the Virgin Mary or Jesus.

There are about 3,000 "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" around the world, with a total membership of 3 million.

Among the stories that surround the monk, who was born Francesco Forgione and died at the age of 81, is one that he wrestled with the devil one night in his monastery cell.

Comment: Sad to think that there would be such veneration (prayers to him!)

BAC: stricter lending guidelines

BofA marks end of mortgage era with plans for higher standards for Countrywide loans

Excerpt:

Bank of America said Tuesday that it will have tighter lending criteria for Countrywide mortgages when it acquires the troubled lender later this year.

The bank will also stop offering subprime mortgages and so-called option adjustable-rate mortgages. Option ARMs have been widely criticized because the loan balance can rise over time if borrowers opt to make the lowest mortgage payment allowed.

BofA will also curtail low-documentation and no-documentation loans, which require little if any proof of assets or income. Some have dubbed such mortgages liar loans.

"We recognize this tightening, by definition, restricts the availability of credit to some borrowers," said Bruce Hammonds, BofA's global consumer credit executive. "However, this will help ensure that those who get loans can afford to repay them."

California's largest bank disclosed its plans to implement stricter lending guidelines following its purchase of Countrywide as part of its testimony before the Federal Reserve in Chicago.




Comment: Article concludes with merger & acquistion comments

Despite the bank's full plate with the integration of LaSalle Bank in Chicago and Countrywide later this year, Lewis expressed interest in participating in a Federal Reserve-led rescue of a banking company "if it became available at a big discount."

Such a deal would require the Fed to make an exception to the 10 percent regulatory cap on the amount of U.S. deposits a bank can hold. BofA has been brushing up against that cap for years.

If the Fed does orchestrate a rescue of a major bank, BofA will have plenty of competition for participating in the deal. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) CEO John Stumpf also expressed his willingness to participate in a Fed-assisted acquisition in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times last month.

4.22.2008

Ice out?

Lake Minnetonka ice out?


Comment: Today we viewed Medicine Lake ... and it was "iced out". Yesterday not.

Link is the historical dates of the ice-out on Lake Minnetonka

Hard plastic water bottles

A Hard Plastic Is Raising Hard Questions

Excerpt:

It’s a question many families are asking after reports last week that a chemical used to make baby bottles, water bottles and food containers is facing increasing scrutiny by health officials in Canada and the United States.

The substance is bisphenol-a, or BPA, widely used in the making of the hard, clear and nearly unbreakable plastic called polycarbonate. Studies and tests show that trace amounts of BPA are leaching from polycarbonate containers into foods and liquids.

While most of the focus is on products for children, including clear plastic bottles and canned infant formula, the chemical is also used in food-storage containers, some clear plastic pitchers used for filtered water, refillable water bottles and the lining of soft-drink and food cans.

While there is debate about how much of a health worry BPA really is, retailers including Wal-Mart have said they are withdrawing baby products made with it. Nalgene, the maker of a popular sports bottle, and the baby-products maker Playtex have announced they will stop using it.


Comment: I carry a 40 oz (Thermos brand) & a 16 oz stainless container of ice water to work.

Credit: a collective loss of self-control

The Great Shopping Spree, R.I.P.

Excerpts:

Transfixed by turmoil in the financial markets, we may be missing the year's biggest economic story: the end of the Great American Shopping Spree. For the past quarter century, Americans have gone on an unprecedented consumption binge—for cars, TVs, longer vacations and just about anything. The consequences have been profound for both the United States and the rest of the world, and the passage to something different and unknown may not be an improvement.

It was the ever-expanding stream of consumer spending that pulled the U.S. economy forward and, to a lesser extent, did the same for the global economy (the reason: imports satisfied much of Americans' frenzied buying). How big was the consumption shove? Consider. In 1980, Americans spent 63 percent of national income (gross domestic product) on consumer goods and services. For the past five years, consumer spending equaled 70 percent of GDP. At today's income levels, the difference amounts to an extra $1 trillion annually of higher spending.

...
In a new book, "Going Broke," psychologist Stuart Vyse of Connecticut College argues that there has been a collective loss of self-control, abetted by new technologies and business practices that make it easier to indulge our impulses. Virtually ubiquitous credit cards (1.4 billion at last count) separate the pleasure of buying from the pain of paying. Toll-free catalog buying, cable shopping channels and Internet purchases don't even require a trip to the store. Pervasive "discounting" creates the impression of perpetual bargains.

There's something to this. In 1976, L.L. Bean began accepting credit cards over its toll-free lines; in a few years, sales soared. But the recent consumption binge probably has more immediate causes. One was the "wealth effect." Declining inflation in the early 1980s (in 1979, prices rose 13 percent) led to lower interest rates—and they led to higher stock prices and, later, higher home values. More Americans got into stocks; the number of customer accounts at brokers went from 9.7 million in 1980 to 97.6 million in 2000. People regarded their newfound wealth as a substitute for annual savings, so they spent more of their annual income or borrowed more, especially against higher home values.


Reminder: Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Thabiti Anyabwile: Many Ethnicities, One Race

Many Ethnicities, One Race


Comment: Excellent read!

Grace Church: Interracial Marriage

Grace Church: Interracial Marriage


Comment: Scriptural position. Bob Jones University should offer such a statement!

4.21.2008

Hamas through rose colored glasses


Carter: Hamas would accept Israel as neighbor

Excerpts:

Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday that Hamas is prepared to accept the right of Israel to “live as a neighbor next door in peace.”

Carter said the group promised it wouldn’t undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel, as long as the Palestinian people approved it in a referendum. In such a scenario, he said Hamas would not oppose a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas, a militant Islamic group that both the United States and Israel consider a terrorist organization, calls in its charter for Israel’s destruction. It has also traditionally opposed peace negotiations with the Jewish state.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, later said Carter’s comments “do not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of the referendum.”


Comments:

What Jimmy 'heard':

“There’s no doubt that both the Arab world and Hamas will accept Israel’s right to exist in peace within 1967 borders,”

Hamas statement:

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, later said Carter’s comments “do not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of the referendum.”

4.20.2008

“e-mail bankruptcy”

Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami

Excerpt:

.... start-up companies were mentioned favorably, like ClearContext (sorts Outlook inbox messages by imputed importance), Xobni (offers a full communications history within Outlook for every sender, as well as very fast searching), Boxbe (restricts incoming e-mail if the sender is not known), and RapidReader (displays e-mail messages, a single word at a time, for accelerated reading speeds that can reach up to 950 words a minute).

But none of these services really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies. And a recurring theme in many comments was that Mr. Arrington was blind to the simplest solution: a secretary.

This was the solution Thomas Edison used in pre-electronic times to handle a mismatch between 100,000-plus unsolicited letters and a single human addressee. Not all correspondents would receive a reply — a number were filed in what Edison called his “nut file.” But most did get a written letter from Edison’s office, prepared by men who were full-time secretaries. They became skilled in creating the impression that Edison had taken a personal interest in whatever topic had prompted the correspondent to write.


Comment: Re “e-mail bankruptcy”: We call it "email jail" at work.

4.19.2008

Kathee's birthday

Our exciting celebration of Kathee's birthday:

Kathee and I took her birthday off (yesterday) and basically ran errands and connected with people.


  1. We went downtown to the Wells Fargo tower and met with a financial adviser.
  2. I took Kathee out to Latuff's in Plymouth for lunch.
  3. We dropped by our church to connect up with Pastor Levy and some of the young adults
  4. We had the car washed (mistake .... it rained later)
  5. And then had dinner with Kathee's brother and sister in law at the Crossroads Deli in Minnetonka. We haven't seen them since January as they have been in Florida


Kathee is 39 in hex!

The Florida housing market: Kathee's brother just bought a condo in Naples for 68% of he original asking price.

I surprised Kathee with an amethyst (on a chain). She was pleased but reminded me that a diamond is her birthstone. I told her than when she is 50 in hex that she will get one!

Between Hitler And Darwin

Think About The Connection Between Hitler And Darwin

Excerpt:

Hitler understood something about Judaism that even many Jews today don’t grasp.

I mention this because you’re soon going to be hearing a lot about a new movie, Expelled, which understands something about Hitler that, in turn, many Jews and non-Jews don’t or don’t want to understand.

Starring comic actor Ben Stein, Expelled is a snarky theatrical documentary about the suppression of American scientists who dissent from Darwinist evolutionary orthodoxy. Controversial stuff. What’s really turning critics apoplectic, though, is the case made in the film that Darwinism inspired the Nazis.

Which, in fact, it did. In Mein Kampf, Hitler used Darwinian language to make hisIs it time to reconsider Darwin?Is it time to reconsider Darwin? case for racial war against the Jews. He rallied the millions of Germans who bought his bestselling book with an appeal to biology, which, as he argued, revealed certain iron laws of Nature – principally the struggle for supremacy pitting the superior races against the inferior.

Defy Nature, he wrote, and then “whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow.” The major Hitler biographers – Toland, Fest, Kershaw, Bullock -- all agree on Hitler’s debt to Darwinism.

A gentle soul, Darwin himself never advocated genocide. But in The Descent of Man, he predicted that the logic of natural selection made inevitable something like what Hitler attempted against the Jews:

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”

What you would not readily foresee from reading Darwin’s writings is that the race requiring extermination would turn out to be us Jews. But Hitler perceived an inner logic in Darwinism that even Charles Darwin didn’t.


Comment: Must see: Expelled (film). See also Ota Benga: The Pygmy put on display in a zoo and Ota Benga (Wiki)

4.17.2008

TurboTax online

Three Certain Things: Death, Taxes and the Shift to the Web

Excerpt:

For the first time this year, more people filled out their tax forms using TurboTax’s online product than the version that comes in a box.

You might think people would be queasy about doing their taxes online, but that is certainly a passé notion judging from the numbers from Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. The company said it sold 7 million TurboTax federal tax preparation packages, about the same as last year, but it sold 8.3 million units of the online version, a 37 percent increase.

Comment: This was our first year using the on-line version of TurboTax. I like it because I can work on my taxes from any PC.



Three day weekend ahead. Tomorrow is Kathee's birthday.

Global "warming" sacrilege


Iwo Jima Veterans Blast Time's 'Special Environmental Issue' Cover

For only the second time in 85 years, Time magazine abandoned the traditional red border it uses on its cover. The occasion – to push more global warming alarmism.

The cover of the April 21 issue of Time took the famous Iwo Jima photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Marines raising the American flag and replaced the flag with a tree. The cover story by Bryan Walsh calls green “the new red, white and blue.”

Donald Mates, an Iwo Jima veteran, told the Business & Media Institute April 17 that using that photograph for that cause was a “disgrace.”

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” Mates said. “Whoever did it is going to hell. That’s a mortal sin. God forbid he runs into a Marine that was an Iwo Jima survivor.”

Mates also said making the comparison of World War II to global warming was erroneous and disrespectful.

“The second world war we knew was there,” Mates said. “There’s a big discussion. Some say there is global warming, some say there isn’t. And to stick a tree in place of a flag on the Iwo Jima picture is just sacrilegious.”

According to the American Veterans Center (AVC), Mates served in the 3rd Marine Division and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, landing on Feb. 24, 1945.

“A few days later, Mates’ eight-man patrol came under heavy assault from Japanese forces,” Tim Holbert, a spokesman for the AVC, said. “During fierce-hand-to-hand combat, Mates watched as his friend and fellow Marine, Jimmy Trimble, was killed in front of his eyes. Mates was severely wounded, and underwent repeated operations for shrapnel removal for over 30 years.”



Time Tramples Iwo Jima Image to Push 'War on Global Warming'

First hand reporting ... what it was really like (from Time's archive):
On Iwo Jima


The 4th Marine Division hospital was built low into the bulldozed hillside to afford maximum protection from Jap mortar and artillery fire. It consisted of two long dark green tents plus two operating rooms about 10 by 20 ft. which the Japs had built as concrete rainwater cisterns. The air inside was stuffy with stale cigaret smoke mingled with the smells of dirt and blood and sweat. But the rawboned Division surgeon, Commander Richard Silvis, was very proud of his operating rooms.

Shortly after 8 o'clock on the evening of Dog Day-plus-15, Dr. Silvis and I crawled through the blacked-out entrance into one of these cistern operating rooms. Beneath the big non-shadow electric lamps lay a Marine captain who had been a Jap machine gunner's target about three hours earlier. Dr. John A. Harper held up the wounded man's slashed, liver-colored spleen: "We also took out a piece of kidney," he said, "and he has a bullet through his diaphragm and lung. He asked for a priest right away." Silvis pulled back the wounded man's eyelid and said: "He looks pretty good, though."

Some Would Die. We crossed to one of the long tents—the receiving ward where patients are brought first. At one end were eight operating tables where the wounded were examined immediately. The simpler operations were performed right there. The complex cases went to the cistern operating rooms.



Comment: The title says it all! Sacrilege

Credit crunch for student loans

Sallie boss warns of student loan ‘train wreck’

Excerpt:

Experts said that, unless the government intervenes or market conditions rapidly improve, Sallie Mae could have no choice but to stop writing new federally backed loans.

House lawmakers on Thursday approved a measure to boost the availability of credit for Sallie Mae and other student lenders, and analysts believe the Treasury department could act as soon as next week.

Sallie Mae lost $104 million in the first quarter as it grappled with higher borrowing costs, restructuring charges and other factors, though Lord said in a conference call with analysts that the company would not lower its full-year earnings target.

Shares of the Reston, Va.-based company climbed almost 6 percent Thursday, but remained 70 percent from last summer.

Even though the majority of student loans are highly rated and carry a federal guarantee, investor demand for securities backed by these assets has plummeted — a sign of just how nervous investors are about securities backed by mortgages, student loans and other debt.

Bank of America Corp. said Thursday it would stop private student loans, but continue offering government-backed loans. On Wednesday, Citigroup Inc. said its Student Loan Corp. subsidiary will temporarily stop issuing loans to students at schools where profits have not been satisfactory.


Comments: Could be good for students ... avoid those loans (I have 1 kid who graduated with no-student loans. Another nearing an Associates with no student loans!).

Saying one thing in Pennsylvania, voting another

The Democrats and Gun Control

Excerpt:

Mr. Obama's campaign Web site touts his belief in the Second Amendment rights to have guns "for the purposes of hunting and target shooting." Conspicuously absent is the right to have firearms to defend one's self, home and family. In 2001, as a state senator, Mr. Obama voted against allowing the beneficiaries of domestic violence protective orders to carry handguns for protection.

Yet, as Mr. Obama has mockingly pointed out, Mrs. Clinton is not exactly a modern-day Annie Oakley wiling away weekends in a duck blind. As first lady, she helped organize the Million Mom March for "sensible gun laws" in 2000. It was led by the shrill gun prohibitionist Rosie O'Donnell.

Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly voted for antigun proposals, and co-sponsored many of them. After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans and St. Tammany police confiscated guns from law-abiding citizens, violating an explicit Louisiana law. In some cases, the confiscation was carried out with the assistance of federal agents, and was perpetrated via warrantless break-ins into homes.

The next year, the U.S. Senate voted 84-16 for a homeland security appropriations rider stating: "None of the funds appropriated by this Act shall be used for the seizure of a firearm based on the existence of a declaration or state of emergency." Mrs. Clinton was one of the 16 who voted "no." Mr. Obama commendably voted with the majority.

Forty states currently allow most law-abiding adult citizens to carry concealed handguns for lawful protection, after a background check and (in almost all such states) a safety class. Of course those laws only apply to carrying within the relevant state. Mr. Obama told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that he favored a national ban on concealed carry, to "prevent other states' laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents." Mrs. Clinton campaigned against a licensed carry referendum in Missouri.

4.16.2008

Thabiti Anyabwile on Race (Challies)

Thabiti Anyabwile on Race

Comment: Not excerpted ... please read all. A helpful article on race is AIG: One Blood

Straight talk on trade: "lightning rods for myriad grievances"

The Wrong Trade Wars: NAFTA and globalization aren't totally to blame.

Excerpt:

The latest evidence of the gap between political rhetoric and economic reality is the Democratic-controlled House's decision to set aside, indefinitely, the free-trade agreement negotiated with Colombia by the Bush administration. On economic grounds there's no reason to reject the agreement. Colombia's exports already enter the U.S. market duty-free under the 1991 Andean Trade Preference Act. Meanwhile, many U.S. exports to Colombia face stiff tariffs—up to 35 percent on autos, 15 percent on tractors and 10 percent on computers—most of which would ultimately go to zero under the agreement.

The tariffs dampen demand for U.S. exports by raising their price and putting them at a competitive disadvantage. Whirlpool annually exports about $50 million worth of refrigerators, washer-dryers and dishwashers to Colombia from plants in Ohio, Arkansas and Iowa. On a $1,000 refrigerator, a 20 percent tariff raises the retail price $200 in a fiercely competitive market with appliances also supplied by local firms and imports from Korea and elsewhere. (Why does Colombia want the agreement? Answer: Congress has to renew Colombia's present duty-free status periodically. The agreement would make it permanent.)

Yet, it's politically convenient to oppose the trade agreement, because the popular imagery is that trade destroys U.S. jobs. The loss of almost 4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs since 1998 seems easy to explain by cheap imports or the flight of plants to Mexico, China and other poorer countries. The truth is murkier. Although this has occurred, job losses also stem from greater efficiency (fewer workers producing more goods) and slumping domestic demand (for communications equipment and computers after the dot-com bust and for housing materials and vehicles now). Nor has falling factory employment crippled overall U.S. job creation.

Look at the numbers. From 1998 to 2007, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 12 million, and unemployment averaged only 4.9 percent—despite the 4 million lost factory jobs. In that period, U.S. manufacturing output rose 22 percent.

No matter. Globalization and trade have become lightning rods for myriad grievances (job insecurity, wage inequality, eroding fringe benefits).



Comment: Robert J. Samuelson is a contributing editor of Newsweek and Washington Post where he has written about business and economic issues since 1977.

WFC: Better than expected

Wells Fargo's Q1 profit drops

Wells Fargo net tops views

Profits at Regional Banks Bolster Shares

Comment: Analysts expected 57 cents a share ... Wells reported 60! Banks that are doing OK: US Bank; Wells Fargo, JP Morgan. Sad earnings: WaMu, Wachovia, Citi Bank, NCC.

In a recession, prices should be falling

An Inflation Indicator Leaves the Fed in a Tough Spot

Excerpt:

A gauge of prices paid by American producers jumped 1.1 percent in March, the Labor Department said on Tuesday, sharply accelerating from a 0.3 percent increase in February.

The increase, led by a surge in gasoline and home heating oil prices, was twice what economists had expected.

The higher prices put pressure on businesses to pass on costs to consumers, though some economists said the housing slump and weakening job market could discourage businesses from raising their prices.

“Given the weak nature of domestic demand now and going forward, it is unlikely that businesses will have as much success raising prices at the consumer level as they did in the not too distant past,” Joshua Shapiro, an economist at the research firm MFR, wrote in a note to clients.

The increases did not spread to popular products like automobiles and clothing. The closely watched core measure of the Producer Price Index, which excludes volatile costs of food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in March, falling back from an unexpected 0.5 percent rise in February.

The low core rate could take some pressure off the Fed as it tries to balance rising inflation with the overall slowdown in growth. Fed officials have acknowledged that inflation remains a serious concern, but they have signaled they will continue to focus on staving off a prolonged recession.


Comment: Prices are going up because the dollar is going down! Thus all that we import goes up.

The Delta - Northwest merger ... what it means

Where Airline Mergers Would Hurt Travelers Most

Intro (view chart for details):

If several of the nation's big airlines merge, as industry executives have been advocating for months, airfares would probably rise, some cities might get a bit of additional service, and other cities would see flights scaled back significantly. With help from the trade publication Airline Weekly, we've examined the top 50 airports to determine the likely effects of two possible megamergers: a Delta-Northwest alliance and a United-Continental hookup. Here are the cities that would be most deeply affected:


Comment: You basically have 2 failed airlines that will become one failed airline. Flying will be less fun (is that even possible?) and more costly.

4.15.2008

Avid Modjtabai

Avid Modjtabai: Executive Vice President & CIO, Wells Fargo


Comment: Somewhere way way up there, I report to this woman.

Erik Paulsen (R) vs. Ashwin Madia (D)

Minn. district's voters could turn right or left

Excerpts:

In the race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), voters in the affluent Minneapolis suburbs will have a clear choice between two starkly different candidates.

On the one side, there is Republican state Rep. Erik Paulsen, a 13-year legislative veteran and former majority leader who has served in the Minnesota House since he was 30 years old.

On the other is Democrat Ashwin Madia, a political newcomer whose officeholding experience is limited to his service as student body president at the University of Minnesota.

A 30-year-old lawyer, Madia served in Iraq for six months as a Marine Corps attorney.
...
“I’m a moderate Democrat who’s got a military background, who wants to end the war in Iraq responsibly and balance the budget,” said Madia. “I think that’s going to appeal to a lot of the fiscally responsible and socially moderate people that form the bedrock of my district.”


Comment: My congressional district. Madia's statement (last sentence) accurately portrays this district.

White Gold

White Gold ad campaign

Excerpt:

If you've never heard of White Gold, that's probably because he doesn't really exist. But he does star in the new multiplatform advertising campaign from the California Milk Processor Board (the "Got Milk?" people). Think Tenacious D shilling for Big Dairy. It's an obvious bid to hit the ad-cynical teenage demographic where they're most vulnerable: the funny bone. And the campaign is genuinely hilarious. But will that be enough? U.S. consumption of milk slumped 14 percent between 1981 and 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture. In California, which is getting the brunt of the campaign, the price of whole milk has climbed 44 percent since 2003. A gallon of milk costs even more than a gallon of unleaded, with a nationwide average price of $3.87. Sen. Barack Obama reminded voters from the stump in Pennsylvania at the end of March that "you've never paid more for a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk."


Comment: Check out YouTube for White Gold videos. Below is sample:


4.14.2008

Obama's "snobgate"



Rasmussen Confirms Damage From Snobgate

Excerpt:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide disagree with Barack Obama’s statement that people in small towns “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 25% agree with the Democratic frontrunner while 19% are not sure.

Partisan and ideological differences suggest that the comments are more likely to be a factor in the General Election than in the Primaries. A plurality of politically liberal voters—46%–agree with Obama’s statement while 33% disagree. Moderate voters take the opposite view and disagree by a 51% to 27% margin. Seventy-four percent (74%) of conservatives disagree with Obama’s statement, only 12% agree.



Comment: Audio (YouTube) is a murkey. This will be used against him in the general election!

McCain responds:

A few days ago, at a San Francisco fundraiser, Barack Obama described Americans who live in small towns or other areas that have experienced a loss of jobs as "bitter" people, adding that it didn't surprise him that they, "..cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."


These words are revealing on a number of levels, and expose the out-of-touch beliefs to which John McCain offers stark contrast. Today, John McCain offered a different account of small town America:

"During the Great Depression, with many millions of Americans out of work and the country suffering the worst economic crisis in our history, there rose from small towns, rural communities, inner cities, a generation of Americans who fought to save the world from despotism and mass murder, and came home to build the wealthiest, strongest and most generous nation on earth.

"They suffered the worst during the Depression, but it did not shake their faith in, and fidelity to, America. They did not turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity. On the contrary, their faith had given generations of their families' purpose and meaning, as it does today."

These hard working men and women aren't "bitter". They love their country, their faith, their family and their traditions. They are the heart and soul of this country, the foundation of our strength and the primary authors of its essential goodness - Barack Obama should get to know them.

The sign of "coercion"


The picture shows that this soldier has been thru Survival School and learned his lessons well. He's giving the sign of "coercion" with his left hand. These hand signs are taught in survival school to be used by POW's as a method of posing messages back to our intelligence services who may view the photo or video. This guy was obviously being coerced into shaking hands with Hillary Clinton. It's ironic how little she knew that he would so inform us about the photo---perhaps because she's never understood our military to begin with.


Comment: Sent to me by Pastor Doug Wise of Airport Road Baptist, Aurora, CO

Pro-Life speaker banned from St Thomas

Did St. Thomas reject a group, a speaker - or range of ideas?

Excerpts:

Star Parker is a bestselling author who travels the country speaking to young audiences about the harmful impact of abortion, especially in minority communities. What better place than the University of St. Thomas -- an urban, Catholic campus -- for this dynamic African-American woman to bring her prolife message?

For almost two months, St. Thomas' Students for Human Life organization looked forward to sponsoring Parker's planned appearance on campus April 21. Her fee was to be split by the St. Thomas Standard, a conservative student newspaper, and the Young America's Foundation, a Herndon, Va., group that brings conservative speakers and ideas to college campuses.

Students for Human Life applied to the university's Student Life Committee for a campus site where Parker could speak. But the committee turned thumbs down. Star Parker, it seems, was not welcome at St. Thomas.

...
St. Thomas seems comfortable with speakers from the liberal side of the political spectrum. In 2007, for example, the school hosted DFL senatorial candidate and satirist Al Franken, who is known for harsh attacks and raised eyebrows in January at Carleton College for mocking the speech and gestures of a conservative student. Last year, the university also showcased transgender activist Debra Davis, a former male high school librarian who "transitioned," as she says on her website, to the female gender and now speaks nationally about the experience.

In 2006, James Fetzer, a University of Minnesota Duluth professor and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd under the auspices of the St. Thomas Justice and Peace Studies program. "The attacks of September 11 were orchestrated on the American people by their own government," he told the audience, according to the Aquin newspaper at the university.

St. Thomas opens its arms to folks like these but appears to have serious qualms about YAF speakers. YAF works with more than 100 prominent conservative figures, including William Bennett, Harvard Prof. Harvey Mansfield, and commentators John Stossel and Michael Medved. According to Kieffer, differential treatment of YAF and its speakers by St. Thomas would cripple students' ability to bring big-name conservatives such as these to campus.

"This 'clarification' by Doug Hennes is not sufficient," she said. "It suggests broad and vague restrictions that impose special rules for conservative students. We need written assurance of equal treatment."

In 2007, St. Thomas got egg on its face when it rejected an opportunity to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on grounds that his appearance would offend the Twin Cities Jewish community. Later, the university reversed itself, but Tutu spurned its offer. Instead, he spoke here last week under the auspices of Metropolitan State University.

Parker won't be so easily dissuaded. "I've got St. Thomas on my calendar, and I plan to come on April 21," she said. "If they won't let me on campus, I'm willing to talk out on the street."



Comment: So much for a Catholic-values education!

Goodbye South St. Paul stockyards

Silence Replaces Bids and Moos at Stockyards in Suburbs

Excerpt:

The stockyards of South St. Paul say goodbye.

The cattle adieu has been years in the planning, but now it is time. No longer can the end be forestalled by milk-and-meat memories of 122 years; by the boast that these trampled grounds once constituted the largest stockyards in the world; by the vital daily ritual of muck-flecked yardmen coaxing muck-flecked cows into the sales barn, where the auctioneer’s sweet serenade only hardens those bovine expressions of uh-oh.

Times have overtaken the stockyards, for reasons too obvious to dispute. Higher costs. Farms lost to suburban sprawl. The increasingly awkward presence of livestock in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, accustomed now to more sophisticated aromas than what wafts from the pens


Comment: For whatever reason, I have to read the NYTimes to get a local story like this (not found in the Star Tribune) (Upon further review ... it was in the East edition!) South St. Paul stockyards are going, going, gone

4.13.2008

Petition to save XP

Windows XP fans don’t want it to XPire

Excerpt:

A petition to “Save Windows XP” has drawn more than 111,000 supporters — and continued shots across the Microsoft XP vs. Vista bow, a battle that began with Vista’s release last year.

The operating system succeeded XP, which came on the market in October 2001. Despite Vista’s much-improved security measures, it has met with criticism and some reluctance by consumers and businesses that don’t want to make the switch. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Among the concerns about Vista are the amount of computer memory and space it requires, its seemingly slower speed and frustration over the fact that third-party drivers for some printers and other devices are still not available from the companies that make those devices.

Comment: Sign the petition here.

TIZA flies the flag

4.11.2008

Monitoring Internet Reachability in Real-Time

Messages throughout the world are constantly lost to cyber black holes

Excerpt:

Ethan Katz-Bassett, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Washington, and his advisor, Arvind Krishnamurthy, designed a program to continuously search for these strange Internet gaps, when a request to visit a Web site or an outgoing e-mail gets lost along a pathway that was known to be working before. To make sure the black holes they detect are not simply due to a problem with the end user or the host server, they look for computers that can be reached from some, but not all, of the Internet, meaning the issue must be occurring en route.

Official site: Hubble: Monitoring Internet Reachability in Real-Time

Comment: I really, really did send my report by email ...

Calling a "redneck" a "redneck"

Obama on small-town PA: Clinging religion, guns, xenophobia

Excerpt:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.


Comment: I feel like he is talking about me!

Paranoid about being "chewed out"!


Paranoia!




Chewed out at work!



"the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church"

Marriage and the Glory of God

Excerpt:

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony; which is an honorable state, instituted by God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church."


Comment: Good read!

Should BJU Apologize?

Ignore, Defend, Forget, or Apologize?

Answer: They should apologize!

Feeling undertaxed?

The Tax Me More Act

Excerpt:

We recently suggested that if Bill and Hillary Clinton are eager to pay more taxes, they should write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury to compensate for the lower tax rates they so frequently decry. And lo, here comes legislation to make it easier for the former first lady and other pseudo-populists to do just that.

California Republican John Campbell yesterday introduced in the House his "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act," which would amend the tax code to allow individuals to make voluntary donations to the federal government above their normal tax liability. The bill would place a new line on IRS tax forms to make this easy.

Mr. Campbell says he has heard the "cries" of those wealthy Americans – Mrs. Clinton, Warren Buffett, Barbra Streisand – who reject the lower tax rates passed in 2001 and 2003 and complain that they and their fellow rich don't pay enough. "It's a great injustice that citizens wishing to fulfill their dream of paying more taxes cannot simply check a box on their 1040 form to make a donation," he says. His bill would give liberals a chance to salve their consciences without having to raise taxes on millions of Americans who already feel overtaxed as it is.

Also:

Congress raises limit again as U.S. debt nears $10 trillion

Until the early 1960s, people couldn't donate money to the federal government with a specific use in mind. When a Texas woman wanted to contribute money specifically to lower the debt, she got Congress to pass a law creating a special fund for gifts. Since then, thousands of Americans have contributed, donating $1.6 million last year alone. In 2006, a 98-year-old Ohio woman donated her $1.1 million estate.

Pete Hollenbach, the bureau’s spokesman, said the names and addresses of donors are kept secret because of privacy concerns. Most of the donations are modest, with people sending checks of $25 to $50 as they express a desire to both reduce the debt and give a little something back to their country. Hollenbach said donations usually peak during tax season.

If you’d like to donate, make your check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt. In the memo section, note that it’s a gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. And mail your check to: Attn Dept G, Bureau of the Public Debt, P. O. Box 2188, Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188.



Comment: My soon to be 88 year old Mother had a bad day yesterday. First she lost Daddy's wedding ring that she has been wearing on her thumb for the 9 years since his death. And then her tax accountant called to tell her she owed $ 4,000 on her taxes. She was in a panic about both when I called her last night. Turns out Mom misunderstood the accountant - he said $ 400! Feeling undertaxed? Send your check to the address above!

4.10.2008

Flood victim?

Baby mammoth reveals ancient secrets

Excerpt:

"Her internal organs were well preserved — the heart was seen distinctly with all its ventricles and atria, as well as the liver and its veins," Tikhonov told Reuters.

"This is the best preserved specimen not only of the mammoth but of any prehistoric animal."

The mammoth species has been extinct since the Ice Age. Tests on Lyuba showed she was fed on milk and was three to four months old when she died 37,000 years ago in what is now the Yamalo-Nenetsk region in Russia's Arctic.

Scientists were excited by the find because, although her shaggy coat was gone, her skin was intact, protecting her internal organs from contamination by modern-day microbes.

Tikhonov said the computer tomography, which provided a sharp three-dimensional image of Lyuba's insides, revealed no injuries or fractures.

The scans showed her airways and digestive system were clogged with what scientists believe was silt, leading them to conclude that she must have drowned.



Comment: By flood victim, I mean "THE FLOOD"

Can't work the flagpole!

Metro charter school accused of teaching Islam

Excerpt:

State law requires the school to fly an American flag during school hours, however no flag flies outside of TIZA Academy.

Zaman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he didn’t know how to work the flagpole.

Comment: Followup to State sponsored Muslim school?. Sounds like the school director is a graduate of my alma mater!

Olympic Torch Emits 5,500 Tons of CO2

Olympic Torch Emits 5,500 Tons of CO2

Excerpt:

So when the torch isn't being marched through city streets and/or extinguished by protesters, how is it getting around? You guessed it, by plane -- an Air China A330 custom painted with the Olympic logo and color scheme. The A330 burns 5.4 gallons of fuel per mile. That translates into 462,400 gallons for the entire trip. With Earthlab estimating that every gallon of jet fuel burned produces 23.88 pounds of CO2, the Olympic Torch Relay is adding about 11 million pounds of carbon to the atmosphere. That's 5,500 tons.


Comment: Is John Travolta the pilot? My solution (it is both simple and economical) is an animated gif! We can all log on and view! If you object to it ... don't view the site!

4.09.2008

"High School Musical" rehearsal

'Musical' woes leave audience singing blues

Excerpt:

It's not the experience you expect when you're paying $50 or more for a ticket. Patrons of "High School Musical" got a rude surprise Sunday afternoon when the actor in the lead role of Troy Bolton had to read his lines from a script during the second act.
...
"He was on stage with a script," said Kristine Olson of Stillwater. "My husband said, 'That's a script!' I said no, it was a prop for the scene, but then he kept it, and the entire second act, he's flipping pages."

Olson and her husband paid $200 for five tickets. She was miffed, but said it wasn't a deal breaker for their three young children.

Denise Miller of St. Paul was less sanguine. "I couldn't believe how unprofessional this was," said Miller, who brought her daughter and granddaughter to the show. "I want something for this."


Comment: I tried to watch the "High School Musical" on TV ... and couldn't make it through it (ZZZZ)

Banks: 'still peeling back the onion'

Some Banks (Yes, Banks) May Be Back in Favor

Excerpt:

But how safe are big investment banks that stand knee-deep in the securitized mortgage crisis? Determined to avert a bank failure that could reverberate through the economy, the Fed has made available hundreds of billions of dollars — which may eventually come out of taxpayer pockets — in low-interest loans. Many big banks also benefited last week from a capital infusion as a result of the shares they were able to sell in the $18 billion initial public offering of Visa. Can investors now safely assume that the fever has broken?

Not quite, Mr. Ellison said. “The earnings prospects are still declining,” he said. “And loan growth won’t be there.”

He and other skeptics wonder whether more nasty surprises are to emerge from balance sheets. “Full disclosure only happens when things are good,” Mr. Ellison said. “Even now, we’re still peeling back the onion.”

But Richard Bove, a financial strategist at Punk, Ziegel & Company who was among the first to lower ratings on the banks last summer, now says he thinks the selling has gone too far. “ I personally believe that investors should dramatically overweight their portfolios with bank stocks,” he said.

Assets have been devalued and earnings reduced, but most banks — even those like Citigroup and Bank of America that have taken large write-offs — still have positive cash flow, he said.

Going strictly by the numbers, Derek Rollingson, manager of the quantitative ICON Financial fund, concludes that financial stocks are trading at 45 percent less than true value. “We’ve priced in all the bad news,” he said. “Has the market overreacted to the news? In the case of the financials, we would say yes.”

Comment: Wells Fargo announces earnings next Wednesday.

The illogic of ‘Tax Defiers’

U.S. Says It Will Increase Efforts Against ‘Tax Defiers’

Excerpt:

If you think paying taxes is unfair, illegal or unconstitutional, then watch out — the Justice Department is after you.

Just as the Internal Revenue Service is getting into its perennial tax-season tough talk, Justice Department officials weighed in Tuesday with a vow to ramp up efforts against “tax defiers.”

A tax defier is not a wealthy individual who buys a sophisticated tax shelter in a fraudulent effort to shield legitimate income from taxes. Nor is a defier a taxpayer who has a difference of opinion with the I.R.S. over deductions, or one who challenges specific tax policies enacted by Congress.

A tax defier, according to a Justice Department statement, is someone who “seeks to deny and defy the fundamental validity of the tax laws.”

“The tax defier is someone who rejects the legal foundation of the tax system, despite decades of legal precedent upholding the system’s constitutional and statutory validity, and who takes specific and concrete action to violate the law,” the department’s statement said.

Such people were once more commonly known as tax protesters. A spokesman for Justice said Tuesday that the department official who announced the new program, Nathan J. Hochman, the assistant attorney general for the tax division, “is calling them defiers because he feels ‘protesters’ implies constitutionally protected rights.”

Comment: Think Kent Hovind now blogging from a federal penitentiary!

Hovind was originally reported to the IRS by Pensacola Christian College senior vice president Rebekah Horton in the mid 1990s, after she learned of Hovind's anti-tax stand. "'We know the Scriptures do not promote (tax evasion),'" Horton said in testimony against Hovind during his 2006 trial, "'It's against Scripture teaching'.... Horton believed it was the college's duty to report the misleading doctrine. 'I didn't want to see innocent people get led astray,' she said. Pensacola Christian College then decided its students no longer were permitted to work with Creation Science Evangelism".

Avoiding shattered nest eggs

Don’t Paint Nest Eggs in Company Colors

Excerpt:

“I used to think Enron was the poster child of what not to do with company stock,” said Mike Scarborough, president of an investment advisory firm based in Annapolis, Md., referring to the energy trading company whose collapse shattered the nest eggs of employees who held so many of its shares.

“But it may ultimately turn out to be Bear Stearns, because money and investing is their business — and it still turned out badly.”

To be sure, the situations of Bear Stearns and Enron are different in many ways. For starters, just in terms of company stock, top executives at Enron encouraged workers to load up their 401(k)’s with company shares. That wasn’t the case with Bear.

Nevertheless, the rapid collapse of the investment bank’s shares — they fell to about $10 from $70 in around three weeks — offers yet another reminder of the risks associated with making concentrated bets on your employer’s stock, even if it appears to be a blue-chip investment.

Conventional wisdom says company stock isn’t that big a problem now. Thanks to the bear market and blow-ups at companies like Enron and WorldCom at the start of the decade, as well as the Pension Protection Act of 2006, retirement investors aren’t as concentrated in company stock as they once were.

In general, the numbers bear this out. In 2001, when Enron filed for bankruptcy, investors in 401(k) plans that offered company stock held 28 percent of their retirement account in employer shares, on average, according to Hewitt Associates, the employee benefit research firm. By the end of last year, that figure had dropped to 16 percent.

But many financial planners say 16 percent is still way too much to invest in a single stock, let alone that of your own employer. Think about it: $100,000 invested in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index would have shrunk to $90,760 since January. But had a Bear Stearns employee invested 16 percent of his money in company stock — with the remainder going into the S.& P. 500 — his account would have fallen to below $78,300. This at a time when his job may be in jeopardy.

Mr. Scarborough, whose firm advises workers on managing their 401(k)’s, recommends investing no more than 5 percent in employer stock. This is especially true for employees of a large company whose stock is widely held, because they may already own some of its stock indirectly. “A lot of diversified mutual funds in their 401(k)’s probably own those shares,” he said.


Comment: Many 401K programs match the employee contribution with company stock.

McCain’s faith

McCain’s faith: Pastor describes senator as devout, but low-key

Excerpt:

John McCain has a deep and personal Christian commitment despite his reluctance to speak publicly about it, according to the man the presumptive GOP presidential nominee claims as his pastor.

Dan Yeary, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, described the Arizona senator and his wife, Cindy, as “very unobtrusive” people who don’t seek special attention when they are able to come to worship. “They come in the side door. They’re very pleasant. They talk to people. They’re very approachable.”



Comment: North Phoenix Baptist Church

Mrs. Butterworth hawks Geico



THICK, BUTTERY … INSURANCE?

Excerpt:

Not surprisingly, the Geico ad comes as The Blackstone Group, which purchased Mrs. Butterworth’s and other brands last year, is working to revive the syrup brand.

Comment: I only use real maple syrup! But I like the ad!

A Minnesota state sponsored Muslim school?

Teacher breaks wall of silence at state's Muslim public school

Excerpt:

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food - permissible under Islamic law -- and "Islamic Studies" is offered at the end of the school day.

Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, "due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing." But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond -- even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.

Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomington is a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZA on Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.

Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.

Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."

Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."

"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty," Getz said. "The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one -- the board said the kids were studying the Qu'ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."


Comment: Eye-opening.