7.31.2008

Worry list respite

10 Things to Scratch From Your Worry List

Excerpt (# 10):

Unmarked wormholes. Could your vacation be interrupted by a sudden plunge into a wormhole? From my limited analysis of space-time theory and the movie “Jumper,” I would have to say that the possibility cannot be eliminated. I would also concede that if the wormhole led to an alternate universe, there’s a good chance your luggage would be lost in transit.


Comment: # 7 is deadly sharks. My own barracuda story: My Brother and I scuba dove among barracudas at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park back in the early '70s. My shark story: After seeing "Jaws", I was swimming in the Gulf S of Tampa. I was with another guy, out about a quarter mile from the shore. Suddenly something black broke the water. Oh I was shocked. I thought it was a shark. It was scuba diver who broke the surface.

More on the Antikythera Mechanism

Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C.

Excerpt:

After a closer examination of a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology known as the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.

The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes.

Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon’s orbital course.

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.

Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.



Comment: See all Antikythera Mechanism posts

The Jim Peet Phenomenon


The Jim Peet Phenomenon


Comment: My Sister sent this to me! Check it out! Pass it on! Send Money! Write my name in!

More pain for automakers on the way

Nobody Loves a Three-Year-Old SUV - Thousands of leased gas-guzzlers are back on the lot, and their resale value will batter bottom lines

Excerpt:

Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, estimates that this year alone the industry will lose $4.7 billion on sales of previously leased SUVs. "This caught everyone by surprise," he says. And it's a problem that will keep on giving because many automakers only recently started to write fewer leases. So there are plenty of newly leased gas-guzzlers out there, some with terms as long as 39 months. Spinella sees $10 billion more in lost value as thousands more SUVs come off lease in 2009 and 201

When automakers calculated lease terms three years ago, they assumed the cars and SUVs would be worth much more once the lease ended than they are. But resale values on large SUVs have fallen 13% from March through May, with some pickups dropping more than 20%, according to Manheim, the nation's largest used-vehicle wholesaler. Knowing the value has plunged, consumers aren't extending leases on many SUVS and aren't keen to buy the vehicles outright.

....

Carmakers aren't the only ones getting spooked. Wells Fargo Bank (WFC) said that, starting at the end of July, it will no longer buy auto leases from carmakers. And investors are sharing the pain, too. Last month, Standard & Poor's (MHP) put nine asset-backed securities packed with auto leases on credit watch for a possible downgrade. Investors holding that paper have already taken a hit.


Comment: Almost like a subprime crisis for the automakers. They (or their finance company or investors who own "the paper") own the asset (the leased SUV), they thought the asset was worth "X", but in reality is is worth "X minus drop in market value". Multiple that by thousands of SUV's coming off leases and you have a crisis.

7.30.2008

Obama - Celeb

What's your dreamtown?

‘Dreamtowns’ offer refuge from big cities - Many Americans would prefer to live in a smaller town, surveys show

Excerpt:

America may be a metropolitan nation, but most of us don't seem very happy about it.

A total of 252 million people — 83.5 percent of all Americans — live in metropolitan areas. That includes 164 million in the 51 biggest metros, the ones with populations above 1 million.

Yet a substantial number of these residents of big cities and inner-ring suburbs don't have their hearts in it. They would prefer to live on the suburban fringe or in small-town America, as repeatedly shown by surveys during the past decade


Comment: Note from the article that for the Midwest, Mankato, Minn. & Stevens Point, Wisc. are considered "dreamtowns". What's the definition of a "dreamtown"?: "well-rounded places with light traffic, healthy economies, moderate costs of living, impressive housing stocks, strong educational systems, and easy access to big-city attractions".

So my question (to my handful of readers) is this: Do you have a "dreamtown"?

Mine is Owatonna MN. Why:

  • It is close to the Twin Cities (where our family is). Just 75 miles South of where I now live
  • It has a nice-sized population of 20,000.
  • It has all the required shopping including a very nice Cabelas
  • It has easy access (an hour's drive) to the MSP airport
  • Housing is very reasonable. I could buy "my house" (a house comparable to what I have in Plymouth) for about $ 150,000 less. So I could trade down and cash out at retirement.
  • In Minnesota I am also very impressed with Hibbing.
  • I don't want to live in Wisconsin, Iowa, or Michigan


So what's (or where is) your "dreamtown" and why?



Have you every checked out Bestplaces.net. It enables you to compare cities. Here is the comparison between Plymouth and Owatonna.

7.29.2008

Climate Change Hurts Blacks More?

House Majority Whip: Climate Change Hurts Blacks More


Excerpt:

“Though far less responsible for climate change, African-Americans are significantly more vulnerable to its effects than non-Hispanic whites,” the report says. “Health, housing, economic well-being, culture, and social stability are harmed from such manifestations of climate change as storms, floods, and climate variability.


“African-Americans are also more vulnerable to higher energy bills, unemployment, recessions caused by global energy price shocks, and a greater economic burden from military operations designed to protect the flow of oil to the U.S,” it says.



Comment: Oh Please!

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship

Struggling to create just the right image to sell that old TV or sofa on Craig’s List? At a loss for words when it comes to selling yourself in a resume or a singles ad? Consider the successful sales techniques employed in the following ad supposedly run in an Atlanta newspaper:

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship. Ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me. Call and ask for Daisy. I'll be waiting.

More than 15,000 men were intrigued enough to call. And found themselves talking to the Atlanta Humane Society … about a Black Labrador Retriever with lovely puppy-dog eyes.


Comment: Sent to me by my wife!

The end of the land line?


Phones Without Homes - What's really killing the land-line phone business


Excerpt:

In the mid-to-late-1990s, even as the number of wireless subscribers exploded (Page 232), the number of access lines provided by incumbent local exchange carriers rose at a rate greater than that of the overall economy, with the number of lines rising nearly 24 percent from 142.4 million in 1992 to 186.6 million in 1999. Growth was driven in part by millions of people hooking up faxes and adding dedicated lines so that they could dial up to AOL. (Yes, kids, that's how we used to do it in the dark ages.)

Since 2000, however, it's been a different story. Wireless has continued to boom, up from 109.5 million subscribers in December 2000 to 233 million in December 2006, but the number of land lines has fallen somewhere between 4 and 6 percent in every year since 2000. The result: The number of incumbent local exchange carriers' access lines in 2006 was back down to 140 million, about the same level as in 1991 and off about one-quarter from the 2000 peak. The growth and convenience of wireless have played a role, and so, too, have the rise in broadband Internet access and the availability of phone service from cable companies and outfits such as Vonage and Skype.



Comment: We could do it! We are very close. We rarely use our land line. I think what is holding me back is that while Kathee and I both have cell phones, both are company cell phones. We can use them for limited personal use but I don't want to mix business with personal use.

Obamanomics

Obamanomics Is a Recipe for Recession

Excerpt:

... Sen. Obama reveals this startling economic illiteracy in his policy proposals and economic pronouncements. From the property rights and rule of (contract) law foundations of a successful market economy to the specifics of tax, spending, energy, regulatory and trade policy, if the proposals espoused by candidate Obama ever became law, the American economy would suffer a serious setback.

...
Mr. Obama would raise the top marginal rates on earnings, dividends and capital gains passed in 2001 and 2003, and phase out itemized deductions for high income taxpayers. He would uncap Social Security taxes, which currently are levied on the first $102,000 of earnings. The result is a remarkable reduction in work incentives for our most economically productive citizens.
...
On economic policy, the president proposes and Congress disposes, so presidents often wind up getting the favorite policy of powerful senators or congressmen. Thus, while Mr. Obama also proposes an alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch, he could instead wind up with the permanent abolition plan for the AMT proposed by the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) -- a 4.6% additional hike in the marginal rate with no deductibility of state income taxes. Marginal tax rates would then approach 70%, levels not seen since the 1970s and among the highest in the world. The after-tax return to work -- the take-home wage for more time or effort -- would be cut by more than 40%.




Comment: We need economists to run for President!

7.28.2008

Westwood Baptist Church





Comment:

I found this on Google mapping - Street view today. This is the church where I was baptized back in 1971.

I attended Sunday School in the white educational wing. I entered and exited through those steps on the front of the church. The Pastor used to stand in the foyer (just beyond the front door) and greet me after ever service. It was then known as Westwood Baptist Church. Now it is known as Central Church of Christ. I would love to know the history of what happened to Westwood Baptist Church.

7.27.2008

Amphicar Swim




Caption:

One of the largest exhibits of Amphicars in the world is held during the Celina Lake Festival at Grand Lake St. Marys in Celina Ohio. Amphicars were cars made to travel by land or in the water. Exhibitors come from all over the world to show off their unique vehicles.


Comment:
Wiki: Amphicar

7.26.2008

Anchorage: a cool summer

Gloomy summer headed toward infamy

Right now the so-called summer of '08 is on pace to produce the fewest days ever recorded in which the temperature in Anchorage managed to reach 65 degrees.

That unhappy record was set in 1970, when we only made it to the 65-degree mark, which many Alaskans consider a nice temperature, 16 days out of 365.

This year, however -- with the summer more than half over -- there have been only seven 65-degree days so far. And that's with just a month of potential "balmy" days remaining and the forecast looking gloomy.

National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Albanese, a storm warning coordinator for Alaska, says the outlook is for Anchorage to remain cool and cloudy through the rest of July.


Comment: I could live there ... I love cool weather. But Northern Minnesota would be more of a climate that would interest me (Eg Hibbing)

"Vacationaries"

Churches Retool Mission Trips: Work Abroad Criticized for High Cost and Lack of Value

Excerpt:

Not long ago, the families of Fairfax Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands.

Yet even as those trips have increased in popularity, they have come under increased scrutiny. A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith.

Critics scornfully call such trips "religious tourism" undertaken by "vacationaries." Some blunders include a wall built on the children's soccer field at an orphanage in Brazil that had to be torn down after the visitors left. In Mexico, a church was painted six times during one summer by six different groups. In Ecuador, a church was built but never used because the community said it was not needed.


Comment: At the risk of offending my readers, this is a very good article. The neediest mission field (for short term missions) is often within 10 miles of one's church: Look no further than the corner of Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue (check out the street view ... see the little Baptist church next to Wally's market!)

7.25.2008

Packing up!




I'm moving from 100 Washington (14th floor) to 255 2nd Avenue S (1st floor) on August 6th. Today I packed up 4 boxes. My office is a complete mess!

Dump on Bush day

'Impeachment light' hearing on Capitol Hill

Excerpt:

Republicans, clearly in the minority at the hearing, expressed suspicion at Democratic motives. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., called it "impeachment lite," where people were given free rein to impugn Bush but not to impeach him.

"It seems that we are hosting an anger management class," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's senior Republican. "This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress's credibility."

At one point, a couple of people in the hearing room were asked to leave amid voices of protest.

The committee reminded lawmakers and those testifying that House rules prohibit "personal abuse, innuendo or ridicule of the president." The House Rules and Manual points out that suggestions of mendacity, or accusations of hypocrisy, demagoguery or deception were out of order.

"The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms," Kucinich said. "But we can put two and two together in our minds."

Former Los Angeles County Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, known for his prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970, acknowledged that "I am forbidden from accusing him of a crime, or even any dishonorable conduct" under House rules. But he could still encourage people to read his book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., was less circumspect is asserting that Bush was "the worst president that our nation has ever suffered."



Comment: Don't think this post is a credit to the Democrats or a criticism of President Bush. This committee hearing, orchestrated by the Democrats, was a complete waste of time.

He ventured forth to bring light to the world


He ventured forth to bring light to the world

Excerpt:

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

...
And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

...


Comment: Read the whole thing. It's how the media is agog over Obama

Pencil portrait of nieces



By: Jason Kinney Art. Jessica and Carys. Read the author's testimony of faith in Christ from "About Artist".

'Last lecture' professor dies



Randy Pausch, famed for his life-affirming message, passes at 47

Excerpt:

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor whose "last lecture" about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, has died. He was 47.

Pausch died early Friday at his home in Virginia, said Anne Watzman, a spokeswoman for Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where he worked. Pausch and his family moved there last fall to be closer to his wife's relatives.

Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet.

In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.



Comment: Sad news.

7.24.2008

G Men


G Men


Comment: Watching briefly G Men (1935) on TCM. Dan Stahl is coming by so will soon turn off the TV. If you like old movies, here's a great one: Jimmy Cagney! In a scene of the FBI office there is a Hollerith card sorter. I haven't seen one of those since my first years as an IBM salesman!

D.C. defies Heller ruling

Excuse Me While I Get My Gun: Washington, D.C., defies the Supreme Court's Second Amendment ruling


Excerpt:

Under D.C. law, "machine guns" include not only guns that fire continuously but also guns that fire once per trigger pull if they can fire more than 12 rounds without reloading or "can be readily converted" to do so. According to the District's interpretation, even a pistol that fires 12 or fewer rounds counts as a "machine gun" if it could accept a bigger magazine.

That's why Dick Heller, the man who successfully challenged D.C.'s handgun ban, was not allowed to register his seven-shot .45-caliber pistol, which in the District's view might as well be an Uzi. Instead he applied to register a .22-caliber revolver.

Speaking of registration, the District has established a burdensome 12-step process that involves multiple trips to gun dealers and government offices, fingerprinting, a written exam, and ballistic testing. How long does all this take? "Up to 14 days," according to one police department publication. "Approximately eight weeks," according to another. "There are circumstances where it could take months," says Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Registration easily could turn out to be so onerous or capricious that it effectively denies D.C. residents the right to keep and bear arms. The District's revised firearm storage requirements are even more clearly unconstitutional, since they unreasonably interfere with the very function, self-defense in the home, that the Supreme Court said is protected by the Second Amendment. Likewise the arbitrary ban on semiautomatic handguns, the most commonly used self-defense weapons.

"I am pretty confident that the people of the District of Columbia want me to err in the direction of trying to restrict guns," D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty told Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher.


HT: BikeBubba

Brett Favre In A Vikings Uniform



HT: The Twin Cities, Minnesota Blog: Brett Favre In A Vikings Uniform


Comment: It won't happen, but wouldn't it be great!

Obama: Hard to "Imagine"!


Transcript: Obama’s Speech in Berlin

Excerpts:

People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.
...
As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

...
But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.
...
The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
...
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably.
...
This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.
...
This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.
...
With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.


Comment: To really appreciate this, one must quietly hum John Lennon's "Imagine"


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Who's to blame for Americans' debt?

Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper Into Debt

Excerpt:

Years of spending more than they earn have left a record number of Americans like Ms. McLeod standing at the financial precipice. They have amassed a mountain of debt that grows ever bigger because of high interest rates and fees.

While the circumstances surrounding these downfalls vary, one element is identical: the lucrative lending practices of America’s merchants of debt have led millions of Americans — young and old, native and immigrant, affluent and poor — to the brink. More and more, Americans can identify with miners of old: in debt to the company store with little chance of paying up.

It is not just individuals but the entire economy that is now suffering. Practices that produced record profits for many banks have shaken the nation’s financial system to its foundation. As a growing number of Americans default, banks are recording hundreds of billions in losses, devastating their shareholders.



The Culture of Debt

Excerpt:

Some people emphasize the predatory lenders who seduced her with too-good-to-be-true credit lines and incomprehensible mortgage offers. Here was a single mother made vulnerable by health problems and divorce. Working two jobs and stressed, she found herself barraged by credit card companies offering easy access to money. Mortgage lenders offered her credit on the basis of the supposedly rising value of her house. These lenders had little interest in whether she could pay off her loans. They made most of their money via initial lending fees and then sold off the loans to third parties.

In short, these predatory companies swooped down on a vulnerable woman, took what they could and left her careening toward bankruptcy.

Other people emphasize McLeod’s own responsibility. She is the one who took the credit card offers knowing that debt is a promise that has to be kept. After her divorce, she went on a shopping spree to make herself feel better. After surgery, she sat at home watching the home shopping channels, charging thousands more.

Free societies depend on individual choice and responsibility, those in this camp argue. People have to be held accountable for their indulgences or there is no justice. As McLeod herself admirably told Morgenson: “I regret not dealing with my emotions instead of just shopping.”



Comment: Good articles. The NYTimes has multimedia and a debt comparison calculator associated with the first article. By the way ... back in the time (mid-'70's) when Kathee and I were newly weds, banks and credit card companies used to send out plastic (credit cards) unsolicited. Many weeks we would receive 3-5 credit cards in the mail. We managed to say no!

Is marriage only for "white people"

Black and single: Is marriage really for white people?

Excerpt:

career she enjoyed, a nice home, two adorable children and a husband. She shared her tools for success with me at an early age. She went to college, got married and waited until she was 26 to have her first child.

The perfect life. The perfect plan. It was one I decided to model.

My aspirations for both a career and family were set at the age of 12. I knew I could accomplish what Mrs. Allen, my fifth- and seventh-grade teacher, had. But as I approach 30 and measure the goals I had at 12 against the reality of life, the only thing I can check off that list is a college education.

I am a statistic.

And there are millions more like me. Forty-five percent of black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2006. Articles like the one published in the Washington Post two years ago could lead me to believe that it's because "Marriage is for White People."


Comment: Sad commentary on life!

7.23.2008

The political monster of combining private profit with government power

Explaining the Mammoth Housing Bill

Excerpt:

Congress is expected to vote this week on legislation that would address the home-foreclosure crisis and shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. President Bush has reversed his earlier opposition to the bill, saying it is important to increase confidence and stability in the housing and financial markets.

A look at what the bill would do:

— Give the Treasury Department the power to extend Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac an unspecified line of credit and to buy their stock, if necessary, to prop up the mortgage companies. The two companies back or own $5 trillion in U.S. mortgages — nearly half the nation's total.

— Allow qualified homeowners facing foreclosure to apply for lower fixed-rate, 30-year mortgages backed by loan guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration. The original lenders would have to agree to take a loss on their loans.

— Create an independent regulator to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator could establish minimum capital requirements for the two companies and limits on their portfolios. It would also have approval power over the pay packages of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives.



The Fannie Mae Gang

Excerpt:

Fan and Fred also couldn't prosper for as long as they have without the support of the political left, both in Congress and the intellectual class. This includes Mr. Frank and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Capitol Hill, as well as Mr. Krugman and the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein in the press. Their claim is that the companies are essential for homeownership.

Yet as studies have shown, about half of the implicit taxpayer subsidy for Fan and Fred is pocketed by shareholders and management. According to the Federal Reserve, the half that goes to homeowners adds up to a mere seven basis points on mortgages. In return for this, Fannie was able to pay no fewer than 21 of its executives more than $1 million in 2002, and in 2003 Mr. Raines pocketed more than $20 million. Fannie's left-wing defenders are underwriters of crony capitalism, not affordable housing.

So here we are this week, with the House and Senate preparing to commit taxpayer money to save Fannie and Freddie. The implicit taxpayer guarantee that Messrs. Gray and Raines and so many others said didn't exist has become explicit. Taxpayers may end up having to inject capital into the companies, in addition to guaranteeing their debt.

The abiding lesson here is what happens when you combine private profit with government power. You create political monsters that are protected both by journalists on the left and pseudo-capitalists on Wall Street, by liberal Democrats and country-club Republicans. Even now, after all of their dishonesty and failure, Fannie and Freddie could emerge from this taxpayer rescue more powerful than ever. Campaigning to spare taxpayers from that result would represent genuine "change," not that either presidential candidate seems interested.



Comment: True capitalism allows for failure and loss. Propping up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac engenders waste and inefficiences. I'm disappointed the the President would not veto this bill! More below:

Housing Bill Hammers Taxpayers

Even conservative estimates by the Congressional Budget Office say the cost for this bailout will run to $41.7 billion, with $16.8 billion offset by higher taxes. No one has any idea of the real cost. The most expensive provision gives the Treasury temporary authority to pour money into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The CBO says this could cost $100 billion, or it could cost "nothing." So it threw a dart at the wall and assigned a $25 billion price tag to the Fan and Fred bailout.

Likewise, the bill's $300 billion to refinance and insure distressed loans through the Federal Housing Administration will supposedly cost just a few billion dollars. That assumes few homeowners and lenders will sign up for the program because lenders will have to take a 10% haircut to be eligible. If no one needs this program, why is it there? If lenders do take advantage, they're bound to dump their worst loans on the feds. So as with the Fan and Fred bailout, the FHA guarantee will be either superfluous or much more expensive than we're led to believe.

Dems skip gas taxes in Denver

DNC host's tax-free gas

Excerpt:

The committee hosting the Democratic National Convention has used the city's gas pumps to fill up and apparently avoided paying state and federal fuel taxes.

The practice, which began four months ago, may have ended hours after its disclosure. An aide to Mayor John Hickenlooper released a statement Tuesday evening saying that Denver 2008 Host Committee members would pay market prices for fuel and would also be liable for all applicable taxes.

However, Public Works spokeswoman Christine Downs told City Council members just hours before that host committee members were fueling up at the city pumps. The city does not pay taxes on the fuel for its fleet, and Downs said the host committee would not either.

The disclosure brought immediate scrutiny. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the practice "would seem" to be illegal and referred the matter to the state Department of Revenue.

Nonprofits, such as the host committee, are subject to state and federal gasoline taxes, according to the Department of Revenue.

The issue arose during the regular weekly meeting of Hickenlooper and City Council members. Downs requested authorization for a contract so the Public Works Department could be reimbursed by the host committee for use of "fueling facilities, fuel and car washes."

Downs said the contract with the host committee started in March and that $9,700 in fuel and services had been purchased from the city so far. But the committee has yet to be billed. The city anticipates $466,125 in total revenues from the contract, Downs said.



Comment: I understand that the practice has stopped! More: "There's something there that just doesn't seem right to me because, in a sense, you're saying then that the officials who pass the laws are not willing to live by them," said Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz.

7.22.2008

Barak's cultural charms

Why Jesse Jackson Hates Obama

Excerpts:


[Jesse Jackson and others] ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage. To argue differently -- that black development, for example, might be a more enduring road to black equality -- took whites "off the hook" and was therefore an unpardonable heresy. For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites. And now comes Mr. Obama, who became the first viable black presidential candidate precisely by giving up his moral leverage over whites.

...
Mr. Obama [went] to the NAACP with a message of black responsibility -- this after his speech on the need for black fathers to take responsibility for the children they sire. "Talking down to black people," Mr. Jackson mumbled.

Normally, "black responsibility" is a forbidden phrase for a black leader -- not because blacks reject responsibility, but because even the idea of black responsibility weakens moral leverage over whites. When Mr. Obama uses this language, whites of course are thankful. Black leaders seethe.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama's sacrifice of black leverage has given him a chance to actually become the president. He has captured the devotion of millions of whites in ways that black leveragers never could. And the great masses of blacks -- blacks outside today's sclerotic black leadership -- see this very clearly. Until Mr. Obama, any black with a message of black responsibility would be called a "black conservative" and thereby marginalized. After Obama's NAACP speech, blacks flooded into the hotel lobby thanking him for "reminding" them of their responsibility.

...
His campaign is more cultural than political. He sells himself more as a cultural breakthrough than as a candidate for office. To be a projection screen for the cultural aspirations of both blacks and whites one must be an invisible man politically. Real world politics, in their mundanity, interrupt cultural projections. And so Mr. Obama's political invisibility -- a charm that can only derive from a lack of deep political convictions -- may well serve his cultural appeal, but it also makes him something of a political mess.

Already he has flip-flopped on campaign financing, wire-tapping, gun control, faith-based initiatives, and the terms of withdrawal from Iraq. Those enamored of his cultural potential may say these reversals are an indication of thoughtfulness, or even open-mindedness. But could it be that this is a man who trusted so much in his cultural appeal that the struggles of principle and conscience never seemed quite real to him? His flip-flops belie an almost existential callowness toward principle, as if the very idea of permanent truth is passé, a form of bad taste.


Comment: Note edits in "[]".

Wachovia's misfortune

Wachovia has $8.9B loss, cuts 6,350 jobs, dividend

Excerpt:

Wachovia Corp. lost $8.86 billion in the second quarter, and said Tuesday it was slashing its dividend and cutting 6,350 jobs after losses tied to mortgages soared.

Even excluding one-time items, the results substantially missed Wall Street estimates, and shares sank to mid-1991 levels in premarket trading.

These bottom-line results are disappointing and unacceptable," Chairman Lanty Smith said in a statement. "While to some degree they reflect industry headwinds and weaker macroeconomic conditions, they also reflect performance for which we at Wachovia accept responsibility."

The nation's fourth-largest bank by assets says it lost the equivalent of $4.20 per share in the April-June period. In the same timeframe last year, the bank earned $2.34 billion, or $1.22 per share.

Excluding $6.1 billion in write-downs to the value of its intangible assets and merger-related and restructuring charges of $128 million, Wachovia lost $2.67 billion, or $1.27 per share. Second quarter results include the bank's October acquisition of A.G. Edwards Inc.



Comment: Wachovia is interesting to me because it is approximately the same size as Wells Fargo. I believe they are larger than Wells in Assets but smaller in Market Capitalization (and that will shrink with today's news)

WB vs WFC

7.21.2008

The myth of the rich NOT paying their fair share

Their Fair Share

Excerpt:

the top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income taxes in 2006, the highest share in at least 40 years. The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he's going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that's also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half.

Aha, we are told: The rich paid more taxes because they made a greater share of the money. That is true. The top 1% earned 22% of all reported income. But they also paid a share of taxes not far from double their share of income. In other words, the tax code is already steeply progressive.


Comment: It's dangerous, in my mind, when not all of the beneficiaries of our great democracy contribute fairly to the federal treasury.

Monday miscellanea


My Mother and my Sister left this morning to return to Dallas. We had a nice time with them and we are sorry to only see them every six months or so. Kathee and I had the day off and ran errands including:


  1. Having a valve stem replaced on the Impala (tire was losing air)
  2. Having some documents notarized (thank you Wells Fargo for this free service)
  3. Renewing my concealed carry permit with Hennepin County
  4. Signing the hail repair contract (roof, siding, gutters, windows). This was one of the largest contracts I've ever signed.


Back to work tomorrow (at least it is only a 4 day workweek)

7.19.2008

The coming "Carbon police"

The Lawnmower Men

The mess began in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Mass. v. EPA that greenhouse gases are "air pollutants" under current environmental laws, despite the fact that the laws were written decades before the climate-change panic. The EPA was ordered to regulate if it decides that carbon emissions are a danger to the public. The 588-page "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" lays out how the EPA would like it to work in practice.

Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent that under the Court's "pollutant" standard "everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies," which the EPA appears to have taken literally. It is alarmed by "enteric fermentation in domestic livestock" -- that is, er, their "emissions." A farm with over 25 cows would exceed the EPA's proposed carbon limits. So would 500 acres of crops, due to harvesting and processing machinery.

But never fear. The EPA would regulate "farm tractors" too, plus "lawn and garden equipment." For example, it "could require a different unit of measure [for carbon emissions] tied to the machine's mission or output -- such as grams per kilogram of cuttings from a 'standard' lawn for lawnmowers."

In fact, the EPA has new mandates for everything with an engine. There's a slew of auto regulations, especially jacking up fuel-efficiency standards well beyond their current levels, and even controlling the weight and performance of cars and trucks. Carbon rules are offered for "dirt bikes and snowmobiles." Next up: Nascar.

....

the global warmists have so much invested in the EPA's final ruling, which will come in the next Administration. Any climate tax involves arguments about costs and benefits; voting to raise energy prices is not conducive to re-election. But if liberals can outsource their policies to the EPA, they can take credit while avoiding any accountability for the huge economic costs they impose.


Noerenberg Gardens

Noerenberg Gardens



On the shores of Lake Minnetonka, this is one great place to visit.

Location:

7.18.2008

Friday miscellanea


  1. Once again I am awake at 3:00 a.m.
  2. K and I have a 4 day weekend.
  3. My dear 88 year old Mother arrives today from Dallas for a visit. So does my Sister
  4. Allstate finally settled up about the hail damage on my house (from 5/31). I'm ready to sign the contract with the roofer and sider
  5. I am going to renew my driver's license this morning.
  6. We are doing quite a bit of entertaining this weekend ... many meals for my wife to prepare. Tonight dinner for 11
  7. I'm shocked by Jesse Jackson's "off the record" comments about Obama. But not surprised!
  8. My left ear is completely plugged up. I thought my ear drum was going to burst last night.
  9. I need to again focus on losing weight
  10. I had a job interview recently. Not sure what will become of this or how motivated I am to change jobs.
  11. I am very thankful for my church and our Pastors
  12. A friend connected with me yesterday and will visit with us (from Tennessee) next Tuesday
  13. Only in San Francisco: Proposed George W. Bush Sewage Plant makes ballot
  14. The coolest post of last week ... the earth from 31 million miles. Be sure to view the movies!
  15. All of my team members feel pretty good about our company's stock this week.

7.17.2008

Earth from 31 million miles


Movie shows alien's-eye view of Earth and Moon

Excerpt:

The two brief sequences show the Moon passing in front of the Earth as it orbits.

"Making a video of Earth from so far away helps the search for other life-bearing planets in the Universe by giving insights into how a distant, Earth-like alien world would appear to us," said University of Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn, who leads the project using NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft.

"Our video shows some specific features that are important for observations of Earth-like planets orbiting other stars," added Drake Deming of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"A 'sun glint' can be seen in the movie, caused by light reflected from Earth's oceans, and similar glints to be observed from extrasolar planets could indicate alien oceans," Deming added.


Comment: Very very cool. More links below:

NASA's Deep Impact Films Earth as an Alien World

Movie 1

Movie 2

Jesse Jackson ... on the record



What Else Jesse Jackson Said on That FNC Tape


Comment: I decry and condemn the use of the "n" word. I posted this so all can know what a hypocrite Jesse Jackson is!

7.16.2008

Reminds me of a story

S.F. officials locked out of computer network

Excerpt:

A disgruntled city computer engineer has virtually commandeered San Francisco's new multimillion-dollar computer network, altering it to deny access to top administrators even as he sits in jail on $5 million bail, authorities said Monday.

Terry Childs, a 43-year-old computer network administrator who lives in Pittsburg, has been charged with four counts of computer tampering and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

Prosecutors say Childs, who works in the Department of Technology at a base salary of just over $126,000, tampered with the city's new FiberWAN (Wide Area Network), where records such as officials' e-mails, city payroll files, confidential law enforcement documents and jail inmates' bookings are stored.

Childs created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system, authorities said. He initially gave pass codes to police, but they didn't work. When pressed, Childs refused to divulge the real code even when threatened with arrest, they said.

He was taken into custody Sunday. City officials said late Monday that they had made some headway into cracking his pass codes and regaining access to the system.



Comments: Back when I was a Pastor, a young man was disgruntled with his employer and changed all the passwords and before abruptly quiting. He worked for a small insurance agent. The agent frantically called me and asked me to intercede. I got with the young man (who was not a member of my church!) and said that he needed to immediately fix this situation. He complained about how he had been wronged and cheated, etc. I was very firm and blunt and said he had to call the agent immediately. He did and that crisis passed. As an aside, this person was seriously disturbed. One of the reasons I have an unlisted phone number is to keep him far away from me!

WFC: Beats street and increases dividend

Wells Fargo (WFC) Tops Q2 EPS by 3c

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) reports Q2 EPS of $0.53, versus the consensus of $0.50. Revenues came in at $11.46 billion, versus the consensus of $10.65 billion.


Wells Fargo Increases Dividend 10 Percent - 21st Consecutive Year of Increased Dividend

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) today announced a quarterly common stock dividend of 34 cents per share, up 10 percent from the previous dividend of 31 cents per share – the 21st consecutive year Wells Fargo has increased its dividend. The dividend is payable September 1, 2008, to stockholders of record on August 8, 2008. The Company has approximately 3.3 billion shares outstanding.

“This increase, which reflects the Company’s performance and our confidence in its long-term growth, is possible because of our time-tested vision and values, diverse business model and our talented team that collaborates so well as One Wells Fargo to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs,” said Chief Financial Officer Howard Atkins. “Wells Fargo is one of only a few financial institutions that have continued to increase its annual dividend, which now exceeds $4.5 billion.”

Wells Fargo dividends have increased at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate since 1988. Among all U.S. companies in the last year, Wells Fargo paid the 14th largest total dividend. With dividends reinvested, Wells Fargo stock has increased 67 percent in value since June 1998 – a compound annual growth rate of 5.3 percent – compared to -0.76 percent for the Keefe Bruyette Woods bank index and 2.9 percent for the S&P 500® stock index.



Wells Fargo Profit Tops Estimates as Insurance Revenue Gains

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo, the second-biggest U.S. mortgage lender, has said it avoided subprime loans, which caused more than 100 companies to close, be sold or halt operations since the beginning of 2007. Bank of America Corp. became the biggest home lender this month when it completed a rescue of Countrywide by purchasing the Calabasas-based company.

Last month, analyst Vivek Juneja reduced his 2008 and 2009 profit estimates at Wells Fargo because of the likelihood of additional loan loss reserves.

While profit is declining amid the mortgage crisis, Wells Fargo is diversifying by bolstering its insurance and credit cards units. In May, Wells Fargo bought Flatiron Credit Co., which finances insurance premiums, and the bank has been building its credit-card business.

Those areas provide ``the basis for continued revenue growth as the mortgage banking segment faces a tough market in 2008,'' wrote Standard & Poor's credit analyst Victoria Wagner, in a report last month. ``Wells Fargo's franchise is well managed and well-positioned.''




Comment: Will WFC go up today?

7.15.2008

Rudy: Pizza shop hero



Comment: Great video. 17 old 'kid' flat knocks out robber!

7.14.2008

Fannie, Freddie and You

Fannie, Freddie and You

Excerpt:

The case against Fannie and Freddie begins with their peculiar status: although they’re private companies with stockholders and profits, they’re “government-sponsored enterprises” established by federal law, which means that they receive special privileges.

The most important of these privileges is implicit: it’s the belief of investors that if Fannie and Freddie are threatened with failure, the federal government will come to their rescue.

This implicit guarantee means that profits are privatized but losses are socialized. If Fannie and Freddie do well, their stockholders reap the benefits, but if things go badly, Washington picks up the tab. Heads they win, tails we lose.

...
Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S.& L. fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.

Partly that’s because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn’t do any subprime lending, because they can’t: the definition of a subprime loan is precisely a loan that doesn’t meet the requirement, imposed by law, that Fannie and Freddie buy only mortgages issued to borrowers who made substantial down payments and carefully documented their income.

So whatever bad incentives the implicit federal guarantee creates have been offset by the fact that Fannie and Freddie were and are tightly regulated with regard to the risks they can take. You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.


Comment: I confess that I don't understand the depth or breadth of this credit crisis. There's a lot that that I don't understand about these GSE's too. More below (be sure to view graphics!):

U.S. Weighs Takeover of Two Mortgage Giants

Under a 1992 law, Fannie or Freddie could be put into conservatorship if their top regulator found that either one is “critically undercapitalized.” A conservator would have sweeping powers to overhaul them, but would not have the authority to close them.

The markets showed fresh signs on Thursday of being nervous about the future of the companies. Their stock prices continued a weeklong slide, hitting their lowest level in 17 years. The debt markets, meanwhile, pushed up the two companies’ cost of borrowing — their lifeblood for buying mortgages.

The companies are by far the biggest providers of financing for domestic home loans. If they are unable to borrow, they will not be able to buy mortgages from commercial lenders. In turn, that would make it more expensive and difficult, if not impossible, for home buyers to obtain credit, freezing the United States housing market. Even healthy banks are reluctant to tie up scarce capital by offering mortgages to low-risk home buyers without Fannie and Freddie taking the loans off their books.

Together the two companies touch more than half of the nation’s $12 trillion in mortgages by either owning them or backing them. They hold more than $1.5 trillion of the mortgages as securities. Others are sold to investors in the form of mortgage-backed bonds.

Bank bloodbath


Nervous investors mull more potential bank failures

Excerpt:

Bank stocks were under intense selling pressure Monday as investors and analysts worried that worsening housing and credit problems could claim more banks after the failure of IndyMac Bancorp Inc.
Regional-banking shares led the decline in the financial-services sector on Monday. Among the biggest losers were National City Corp. (NCC:National City Corporation

National City shares were briefly halted Monday amid a panic-driven plunge before the company in a statement tried to quell what it labeled market rumors. "National City is experiencing no unusual depositor or creditor activity," the Cleveland-based bank said. Still, investors shrugged off the news and the shares were down more than 20% at last check.

Meanwhile, WaMu shares were off 30% in afternoon trading. Lehman Brothers analysts in a report Monday said WaMu could be forced to "substantially" boost its reserves to cover an estimated $28 billion of losses on the balance sheet, with $21 billion coming from mortgages. They said home prices and mortgage credit are showing no signs of stabilizing.


Comment: Wells Fargo announces 2nd QTR earnings tomorrow

I'm so blessed ... I live in Plymouth MN

Best places to live: Plymouth, MN

Excerpt:

Topnotch schools, good jobs, affordable housing, low crime, an active outdoor culture - yep, they're pretty much all here. Plymouth could have become just another Twin Cities suburb, but more than 50,000 jobs keep residents working there.


Home prices are within reason: The typical three-bedroom, two-bath house goes for $350,000. The city's main school district is ranked among the top three in the state, and for culture, Plymouth's open-air amphitheater, the Hilde Performance Center, hosts numerous summer concerts. Residents are a quick drive from the Mall of America, the nation's biggest mall.

And did we mention the outdoors? Plymouth boasts more than half a dozen sizable bodies of water. Of course, this being Minnesota, winter can be brutal: January's average low temperature is about 13°F. But when the mercury plummets, the locals get busy. In February the city hosts a Fire & Ice Festival that includes mini-golf, bowling and basketball - all right on the ice.



Comment: I'm actually surprised! To my Brother (who lives in Maple Grove): I'm glad I don't live in that slum (joking!)!

CFL's, Congress, the EPA and you!

Imagine No Global Warming…




Comment: Check out M4GW

HT: Darrell Dow

7.13.2008

Will Wells Fargo pick up IndyMac branches?

IndyMac seized as financial troubles spread

Excerpt:

Former FDIC official Ann Graham said it was not unprecedented for the FDIC to start running a bank after it fails. "It happens when they need to move more swiftly with the closing than they can move with a potential sale," said Graham, a law professor at Texas Tech University.

"They don't have to sell the institution over the weekend," she said. "They have the time to shop around."

Graham said the FDIC has the authority to operate an institution for two years but expected the agency would dispose of it much sooner than that.


Comment: This is complete speculation on my part, but I would think that Wells Fargo would be a good candidate to pick up the pieces and acquire the reconstituted IndyMac with their 33 branches.

That ballooning balance

Watching That Balance Grow . . . and Grow

Excerpt:

According to a new report from the Federal Reserve, revolving credit, which includes credit cards, increased at an annual rate of about 7 percent in May. In April, by contrast, it had shown a slight percentage decline.

The increase is notable because May was the first month when rebate checks from the federal government really started to kick in. So even with some extra financial padding, many consumers still turned to their credit cards.

Prudent credit-card carriers may well be vowing to pay off their balances in full. But with food and gas prices soaring, more people must lean on plastic for the necessities of life, and it becomes harder and harder to keep that balance from ballooning.


Comment: See article for NYTimes chart.

Missile-palooza



Missile-palooza


Official: Iran missile tests used 'old equipment'

Excerpt:

Iranian officials claimed the tests Wednesday and Thursday demonstrated a new variant of the Shahab missile that had a range of 1,250 miles. Such a missile would put much of the Middle East in striking distance, including Israel — as close as 650 miles from Iran — as well as Turkey, Pakistan and the Arabian peninsula.

The tests drew immediate criticism from U.S. officials. In Eastern Europe during the launches, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the missile tests underscored the need for a U.S. missile shield in the region.

But an independent national security blog, ArmsControlWonk.com, Thursday analyzed video footage of the launch posted by the Iranian government. It determined the missiles were identical to a version of the Shahab missile first demonstrated in Iran in 1998 that has a known range of 746 miles.

In a post called "Same old Boring Shahab 3," it compared the diameter of the missile to its length and found it to be identical to the 1998 version.

Unless the Iranians built a larger missile with the same length to width ratio, dramatically improved the thrust of the rocket or decreased its internal structural mass, the missile could not achieve the range Iran claimed it did. Otherwise, it is the same knockoff of North Korea's Nodong-1, according to the blog.


Comment: More extreme photoshop! "Missile-cat" is from The Economist

7.12.2008

Fooling police radar?



Comment: Not!

Senator Schumer starts bank run

Government shuts down mortgage lender IndyMac

Excerpt:

The banking regulator said it closed IndyMac after customers began a run on the lender following the June 26 release of a letter by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urging several bank regulatory agencies that they take steps to prevent IndyMac's collapse.

In the 11 days that followed the letter's release, depositors took out more than $1.3 billion, regulators said.

In a statement Friday, Schumer said IndyMac's failure was due to long-standing practices by the bank, not recent events.

"If OTS had done its job as regulator and not let IndyMac's poor and loose lending practices continue, we wouldn't be where we are today," Schumer said. "Instead of pointing false fingers of blame, OTS should start doing its job to prevent future IndyMacs."


Comment: Schumer's statement was irresponsible! It will be interesting to see what bank the Fed 'forces' to buy IndyMac. As a side note, IndyMac stock was approximately $ 50 per share 2 years ago, $ 30 a year ago. IndyMac's collapse will cost the Federal government between $ 4 and 8 Billion!

Tony Snow dead at 53

Tony Snow, Former White House Press Secretary and FOX News Anchor, Dies at 53

Excerpt:

Tony Snow, the former White House press secretary and conservative pundit who bedeviled the press corps and charmed millions as a FOX News television and radio host, died after a long bout with cancer. He was 53.

A syndicated columnist, editor, TV anchor, radio show host and musician, Snow worked in nearly every medium in a career that spanned more than 30 years.


Comment: I admired him.

President's statement:

America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character ... It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work.

7.11.2008

Charles Rangel's special deal!

For Rangel, Four Rent-Stabilized Apartments

Excerpt:

Mr. Rangel, who has a net worth of $566,000 to $1.2 million, according to Congressional disclosure records, paid a total rent of $3,894 monthly in 2007 for the four apartments at Lenox Terrace, a 1,700-unit luxury development of six towers, with doormen, that is described in real estate publications as Harlem’s most prestigious address.

The current market-rate rent for similar apartments in Mr. Rangel’s building would total $7,465 to $8,125 a month, according to the Web site of the owner, the Olnick Organization.




More:

Rangel Defends Use of Rent-Stabilized Apartments

Excerpt:

Mr. Rangel, who is the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said his living arrangements were fair and legal and that he was paying the maximum rent allowed on all four rent-stabilized units, in the Lenox Terrace complex at West 135th Street and Lenox Avenue. “I didn’t see anything unfair about it,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was a deal.”

He did say, however, that he was evaluating the use of one of the four apartments as a campaign office, saying, “I have to take another look” at that situation. If the use of the apartment as a campaign office is a problem, he said, he would “go to another place and get a different office. Period.”

“That is something that I have to look into, but as it relates to me and my family, I’m not looking into that at all



Comment: Another reason that congressional approval ratings have plummeted to tie a historical low

The "Candy Bomber" (60 years later)

'CANDY BOMBER' WON BERLINERS' HEARTS

Excerpt:

there were still hard feelings from the war between American occupation forces and the German people.

"Germany was a conquered nation, and they still had the wounds of war pretty deep in them, and of course our guys had the same feelings about them," Halvorsen said.

All of that changed with the airlift and a brainstorm Halvorsen had one day to drop candy in tiny parachutes to German children watching the planes land at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport.

"That's the smartest decision I made in my life," he said, "and it had a lifelong impact."

Hundreds of letters of gratitude came pouring in from Berliners, both young and old. One little girl insisted on giving Halvorsen her only surviving possession, a well-worn teddy bear.

"'I want you to have it to keep you and the other fliers safe on your trips to Berlin,'" she told him. "I tried to refuse it, but her mother said words to the effect that I must accept it."

Halvorsen still has the teddy bear.

The "Candy Bomber" captured the hearts of the Berliners, and the airlift saved them from the Soviets.



Resources:

Berlin Blockade

Colonel Gail Halvorsen

The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour

Like Son, Like Father

Father joins up after sniper killed son deploys to Iraq

Excerpt:

Joining the Air Force Reserve, after a 17-year break in his military service, was Martinez’s way of making sense of and coping with his son's death, a way to remember him by being around young men his age serving their nation. Nobody forced this on Martinez, except maybe the sniper who put one well-placed bullet in Spc. Francisco G. Martinez on March 20, 2005, in Ramadi.



Comment: I commend this man!

Who wrote the "Serenity Prayer"?

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.



Serenity Prayer Stirs Up Doubt: Who Wrote It?

Excerpt:

Generations of recovering alcoholics, soldiers, weary parents, exploited workers and just about anybody feeling beaten down by life have found solace in a short prayer that begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

...
For more than 70 years, the composer of the prayer was thought to be the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, one of modern Christianity’s towering figures. Niebuhr, who died in 1971, said he was quite sure he had written it, and his wife, Ursula, also a prominent theologian, dated its composition to the early 1940s.

Comment: Compare 'Footprints' Forensics .

Compare also: Wikipedia: Serenity Prayer.

I was at the Metro Womens' Center board meeting last night. Along the way I made the comment, "God will let us fall into His arms but never through them". I said "some famous preacher said that". No one knew who. I think it might have been Dr Clearwaters.

XP still lives

The Afterlife of Windows XP

Excerpt:

Microsoft officially stopped selling the Windows XP system software to major computer manufacturers on June 30. But the company plans to continue support for consumer versions of Windows XP until April 14, 2009, and extended support for business and developer Windows XP software until April 8, 2014


Comment: A major financial services company, with which I have some knowledge, is still imaging new workstations with XP. And will for some time!

7.10.2008

Afternoon Laugh


















Comment: Sent by my daughter

Finding Nemo



Comment: Don't show the kids!

HT: My Two Cents

Is "black car" a racially insensitive term?

Is "black hole" a racially insensitive term?

Excerpt:

A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre this afternoon.

County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term.


Comment: By the way, I have a "black car"

Missile shot Photoshopped?


In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many

Excerpt:

For its part, Agence France-Presse retracted its four-missile version this morning, saying that the image of four missiles was “apparently digitally altered” by Iranian state media. The fourth missile “has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test,” the agency said.

Comment: View full article for evidence.

Talking with a Fortwo owner

Smart’s tiny proportions defy expectations

Excerpt:

... the fortwo’s Lilliputian proportions defy expectations in many ways. For starters, the cabin is not cramped. And the view through the windshield is deceptively conventional, letting the occupants forget how small the smart really is (until they look behind their seats and realize there isn’t much of anything behind them.)

And while the fortwo would probably not be anyone’s first choice of vehicle in which to suffer a collision, the little car is actually much safer than its dimensions would suggest. That’s a result of exhaustive effort on the part of Mercedes-Benz, which developed the car alongside Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch, to maximize the safety of a minimalist car. As a company with deserved safety credentials, Mercedes’ claims that it has succeeded in designing a tiny car that can protect its occupants in the event of a crash merits some respect.

The fortwo’s engineers “did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a small package,” notes Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a not-for-profit organization funded by automobile insurers that measures vehicle safety. So tooling around town in your smart is certainly not a death-defying stunt.


Comment: We've seen the same yellow Fortwo three times. All on Plymouth Avenue near downtown. Today I was next to the driver at a stop light. I rolled my window down and chatted with her. She said she gets 45 mpg in the city. Kathee said I was flirting with her (trust me I wasn't!).

7.09.2008

the single largest transfer of wealth in human history

T. BOONE PICKENS: My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil

Excerpt:

How will we do it? We'll start with wind power. Wind is 100% domestic, it is 100% renewable and it is 100% clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the "Saudi Arabia of the Wind"? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world. In 2008, the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate 20% of its electricity supply from wind by 2030. I think we can do this or even more, but we must do it quicker.

My plan calls for taking the energy generated by wind and using it to replace a significant percentage of the natural gas that is now being used to fuel our power plants. Today, natural gas accounts for about 22% of our electricity generation in the U.S. We can use new wind capacity to free up the natural gas for use as a transportation fuel. That would displace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. Natural gas is the only domestic energy of size that can be used to replace oil used for transportation, and it is abundant in the U.S. It is cheap and it is clean. With eight million natural-gas-powered vehicles on the road world-wide, the technology already exists to rapidly build out fleets of trucks, buses and even cars using natural gas as a fuel. Of these eight million vehicles, the U.S. has a paltry 150,000 right now. We can and should do so much more to build our fleet of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

Comment: Straight talk from an oilman!

Caitlin Upton



Comment: Caitlin Upton. (My ordination went something like this (but I don't look this good!))

Obama: Time to learn Spanish



Comment: Three recent (in the last 2 weeks) interactions with non-English speakers:


  1. In a Petaluma California Denny's: I asked the waitress what "Petaluma" meant. She said "dis es Petaluma".
  2. In an Oakland California McDonalds: I asked the manager where a gas station was. She said "gaas station?". No help was forthcoming.
  3. At a car wash in Golden Valley: I asked the order taker to please vacuum up the small sticks out of my truck bed. She said "steeks?". I picked up a handful and tossed the in the air. She said "K".


Updated: Giuliani: Obama Capturing 'an Anti-American Feeling'

Giuliani said he was not as troubled by Obama's suggestion that children learn Spanish as the assumption that immigrant families are learning English.

"It makes sense to teach your children another language," Giuliani said. But, Giuliani added, "the reality is that this is a country that should speak English…and if we can learn an extra language or two that would be terrific."

The former New York City Mayor said Obama is "sliding over" the need for immigrant families to learn English by "making an assumption that isn't true, that all immigrants are learning English. They're not."

7.08.2008

Kevin Gilbertson, TinyURL developer

TinyURL developer basking in Web site's success

Excerpt:

Kevin Gilbertson could easily make $1 million a month. He chooses not to.

That's not to say the 28-year-old Blaine Web developer isn't doing well since his creation, TinyURL.com, took off in 2002. Recently named one of the 50 best websites by Time magazine, TinyURL does a simple task:

It allows you to turn a long, unwieldy Web address into something you can remember. Something, well, tiny.

The site makes URLs tiny at a rate of about 1 billion per month. Which is where the $1 million comes in. Gilbertson could make about that much if he chose to attach a pop-up advertisement on each URL. But he won't, on principle.

"It's kind of, 'Here's a pop-up, look at me,'" Gilbertson said. "That's not what I want to see. It's all about getting the person to the place."

Comment: http://tinyurl.com/. Read about him here