Liberalism's most shopworn nostrums

The Devils in His Details


Recycling George McGovern's 1972 "Demogrant" notion, Obama promises a $1,000 check for every family, financed by a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. Obama is unintimidated by the rule against legislating about subjects one cannot define.


Obama's rhetorical extravagances are inversely proportional to his details, as when he promises "nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy" in order to "end the age of oil." The diminished enthusiasm of some voters hitherto receptive to his appeals might have something to do with the seepage of reality from his rhetoric. Voters understand that neither the "transformation" nor the "end" will or should occur. His dreamy certitude that "alternative" fuels will quickly become real alternatives is an energy policy akin to an old vaudeville joke: "If we had some eggs, we could have ham and eggs, if we had some ham."

Comment: I read somewhere today that the top 1% of earners pay 40% of taxes.

Gov. Weather Vane

The Mush in California's Middle


Today, politicians attempt to prove their gravitas and virtue by trying to fine-tune the planet's thermostat, so Schwarzenegger favors loading the state's sputtering economy (its 7.3 percent unemployment rate is 28 percent above the national rate) with taxes, fees and regulations. Nevada and Arizona thank him for the businesses he drives their way.

California Republicans have lost seven consecutive U.S. Senate races, hold only 19 of 53 congressional seats, have not controlled the state Senate since 1970, have controlled the assembly for just one year (1996) since 1970, and have bleaker prospects today than when they plighted their troth to the action hero who says: "Look, I cut to the chase. I know what the Democrats like, and I know what the Republicans like. So, I say let's meet somewhere in the middle." But Gov. Weather Vane, as the Orange County Register calls him, usually finds the middle in the middle of the Democrats' legislative caucus.

Comment: When Republicans fail to be reformers and fiscal conservatives (ie act like Democrats), they are worthless in politics. By the way, Ohio Republicans have the same problem!


That Palin spirit

Comment: This editorial appeared in the Journal on August, 25, 2006

Great Alaska Shoot Out


The candidate who defeated Mr. Murkowski this week is Sarah Palin, a former small town mayor who ran as, well, a real Republican. She hammered the Governor for misspending tax dollars, and for matching state funds to federal spending earmarks for low priority projects (i.e., the bridge to nowhere). Ms. Palin called the outcome a victory against "politics as usual," and will face a tough battle in November against Democrat and well-known former Governor Tony Knowles.

If Republicans are run out of Congress in November, one big reason will be that, like Mr. Murkowski, they have become far more comfortable running the government than reforming it.

Comment: Republicans have become more comfortable running the government than reforming it. For this reason they deserve to lose in 2008! I see some bright young Republican stars: Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin. I think that John McCain made a masterful choice. By the way, already Obama is bashing Palin for her lack of experience. Friends she has more experience than Obama himself!

"somewhere somehow, Hillary is snickering!"

Comment: What Hillary supporters are saying about McCain's pick of Sarah Palin. (Caveat ... the link is to a forum thread of Hillary supporters. Some of the comments are crude & rude!))


  • It couldn't be a better pick... and the world will see what a fool BHO is for not picking Hillary. 'nough said.
  • I'm actually very excited that women will get some serious respect in this race.
  • I'm really excited. Not only did he choose a woman, but he didn't pick the big guys.
    He picked the anchorage girl who is a family woman, just had a baby, and is a former beauty queen! She's smart and very nice
  • If it's Palin, I will put blood and sweat into campaigning for that team.
  • OMG! Republican candidate chooses a woman!!! Take that Democrats,party of sexism!!!
  • What does that tell you about the DNC.. Hypocrits.
  • I LOVE McCain!!!! He pulled through for us. The Maverick does it again!!
  • Obama snubbed the most viable and experienced woman who received 18 million votes, for another MALE. I have a feeling, somewhere somehow, Hillary is snickering!
  • If this is true, this moves me from staying at home to voting McCain.
  • From the Administrator of the forum: "This could be the GAME CHANGER" (which is is super large bold on the site!)
  • Do you all hear the sound of the running feet of all the women the Obama camp tossed aside? It is THUNDEROUS!!!!

If it's Sarah Palin ...

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Is McCain's VP Pick: Source


According to a Republican strategist, Palin is the nominee, though McCain's campaign has not comfirmed this.

With an announcement scheduled in Dayton, Ohio, an associate of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the governor had been informed he is not McCain's pick.


At 44, Palin is younger than Obama and, like McCain, she calls herself a maverick.

A Gulfstream IV from Anchorage, Alaska, flew into Middletown Regional Airport in Butler County near Cincinnati about 10:15 p.m. Thursday, said Rich Bevis, airport manager.

He said several people came off the plane, including a woman and two teens, but there was no confirmation of who was aboard.

"They were pretty much hustled off. They came right down the ramp, jumped in some vans here and off they went," Bevis said. "It was all hush, hush."

Comment: My prediction early this year was a McCain / Pawlenty ticket. If it's Sarah Palin, and in just about an hour we will know one way or another, I am somewhat disappointed. Would McCain be picking her just because she is a woman? To try to peel off some of the Hillary supporters? I didn't think Geraldine Ferraro really had the depth of qualification to be the Vice President (1984). Mondale picked her to energize the electorate. Oh well ... those are my thoughts.

Update: Source: Sarah Palin is John McCain's pick for vice president


Removing Bloatware

Industry Rethinks Moneymaking Software Practice


Software companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to PC makers like Hewlett-Packard to install their photo tools, financial programs and other products, usually with some tie-in to a paid service or upgrade. With margins growing thinner than most laptops, this critical revenue can make the difference between profit and loss for the computer makers, industry analysts say.

If the programs are removed, the software makers gain no value out of the $2 to $10 they typically pay H. P. and others to install them on each PC — and PC makers miss out on their cut from revenue-sharing deals. But Best Buy, the nation’s largest electronics retailer, tells computer buyers that the preinstalled software, also known as bloatware, can clutter their machines and slow them down.

“You’d be surprised how often consumers tell us to get rid of it,” said Robert Stephens, the head of Geek Squad, the technical support division of Best Buy that removes the software. He declined to say how many people were paying for the service, but said that “it’s going to increase in popularity.”

The demand for the service, along with similar offers from Circuit City and other chains, reflects an outpouring of consumer frustration with the way that a brand-new computer can feel as if it is full of digital infomercials — even if those come-ons knock a few dollars off the PC’s price tag. The Web has dozens of do-it-yourself guides to removing such software, which, as one tutorial puts it, “turns your computer into a messy battleground.” Mr. Stephens said the personal computer makers should be worried about the demand for less cluttered computers.
Comment: The worst Bloatware? AOL (in my view)

Nancy Pelosi tries (and fails) as a Theologian


Politics can be treacherous. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked on even riskier ground in a recent TV interview when she attempted a theological defense of her support for abortion rights.

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Cardinals and archbishops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Denver are among those who have criticized her remarks. Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco, will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said.

Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, Pelosi said "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins.

She also cited the role of individual conscience. "God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions," she said.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement defending her remarks that she "fully appreciates the sanctity of family" and based her views on conception on the "views of Saint Augustine, who said, 'The law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.'"

But whether or not parishioners choose to accept it, the theology on the procedure is clear. From its earliest days, Christianity has considered abortion evil.

"This teaching has remained unchanged and remains unchangeable," according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

The Rev. Douglas Milewski, a Seton Hall University theologian who specializes in Augustine, said Pelosi seems to be confusing church teaching on abortion with the theological debate over when a fetus receives a soul.

"Saint Augustine wondered about the stages of human development before birth, how this related to the question of ensoulment and what it meant for life in the Kingdom of God," Milewski said.

Questions about ensoulment related to determining penalties under church law for early and later abortions, not deciding whether the procedure is permissible, according to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Augustine was "quite clear on the immorality of abortion as evil violence, destructive of the very fabric of human bonds and society," Milewski said.

Advice for Nancy: "‘Get thee to a nunnery.’" (and we will throw way the key!)


Labor's undemocratic agenda

Big Labor's Comeback


.... rewriting federal law to promote union organizing is now near the top of the Democratic agenda. The main vehicle is "card check" legislation, which would eliminate the requirement for secret ballots in union elections. Unable to organize workers when employees can vote in privacy, unions want to expose those votes to peer pressure, and inevitably to public intimidation. This would arguably be the biggest change to federal labor law since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The Democratic House passed card check last year, and Mr. Obama has pledged his support. With a few more Senators, it might pass.

Card check is merely the start. Next on the agenda is a campaign to repeal "right to work" laws in the 22 U.S. states that have them. Right to work laws allow employees to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support a union. Former Michigan Congressman David Bonior told a union event in Denver on Monday that limiting right to work laws is essential both to lifting union membership and promoting more Democratic political victories. He pointed out that John Kerry didn't win a single right to work state in 2004, while Al Gore won only one -- Iowa -- and only by a few thousand votes in 2000.

This point is crucial to understanding labor's new Democratic clout. States with more union households tend to be more Democratic. And groups like the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO will pour hundreds of millions of dollars, and endless man hours, into getting Democrats elected this year. Those resources have simply overwhelmed the 1990s New Democrat movement that tried to tug the party toward freer trade and public-sector reform.

The question for Americans more broadly is whether a return to widespread unionization is really the way to raise middle-class incomes. The case for card check is that, amid global competition, the balance of organizing power has shifted to business. Giving unions more power will redress this imbalance and let workers grab a higher share of corporate profits.

But this claim is highly suspect, given the record in autos, steel and the rest of unionized American manufacturing. The only sector of the U.S. auto industry that is prospering is the part not organized by the United Auto Workers. Likewise, Europe, with its high jobless rates and slow growth, argues against unionization as a way to lift middle-class incomes. To the extent a country like Germany has modestly reversed some of this, it has been the result of recent labor-law reforms and labor concessions.

As for the U.S., the states with right to work laws have performed better economically for workers of all types. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has shown that right to work states over the past 30 years have lower unemployment, higher rates of job creation, and faster growth in GDP and per-capita personal income than states with compulsory union membership. Colorado is hoping to get in on this success, with a high-profile ballot initiative this fall that would make it a right to work state.

We have long believed that if workers want to form a union, they have every right to do so. And businesses that get a union often deserve what they get. What Americans need to know this November is that the Democratic Party wants to make it that much more difficult for them not to join a union.

Comment: I don't know what's so hard about these concepts: If I vote in a union election, my vote should be private. And if I don't want to be in a union, I shouldn't be forced to! By the way (and this is coming from a guy with 2 Chevy's! This same guy has only owned 1 foreign car ... a VW bug while I was in college!) - Unions have done much to sink the big three.

Trying out the Garmin nüvi 660

Garmin nüvi 660

This was my birthday present last week. We tried it on on Saturday with a trip to Rockford. Works slick - directed us across Hwy 55 from Plymouth. Coming back we launched out across Hwy 50 E and watched it (we have a bean bag mount) direct us one way or another. Sunday I preached at Rockford Baptist. After the Sunday evening service we had to drive to Maple Grove. I drove up the West side of the Crow River and let the Garmin direct us to my Brother's house.

Alvin's replacement

New Sphere in Exploring the Abyss


The darkness is matched by the intense pressure. Four miles down, it amounts to nearly five tons per square inch. That is too much even for Alvin, the most famous of the world’s tiny submersibles, which can take a pilot and two scientists down to a maximum depth of 2.8 miles.

But a new submersible is being built here, and even the process of construction seems a rebuke to the darkness. The work lighted up a cavernous factory with fireworks on a recent visit. Hot reds and oranges burst into showers of spark and flame as blistering metal began to yield to the demands of the submersible’s design.

“Amazing,” Tom Furman, a senior engineer at Ladish Forging, said after a big press bore down on an 11-foot disk of hot metal, making the delicate manipulation look as easy as rearranging a gargantuan pat of butter.

The new vehicle is to replace Alvin, which was the first submersible to illuminate the rusting hulk of the Titanic and the first to carry scientists down to discover the bizarre ecosystems of tube worms and other strange creatures that thrive in icy darkness.

The United States used to have several submersibles — tiny submarines that dive extraordinarily deep. Alvin is the only one left, and after more than four decades of probing the sea’s depths it is to be retired. Its replacement, costing some $50 million, is to go deeper, move faster, stay down longer, cut the dark better, carry more scientific gear and maybe — just maybe — open a new era of exploration.

Its architects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod describe it as “the most capable deep-sea research vehicle in the world.”

Alvin can transport a pilot and two scientists down 2.8 miles, providing access to 62 percent of the dark seabed. The new vehicle is expected to descend more than four miles, opening 99 percent of the ocean floor to inquiry. But the greater depth means that the vehicle’s personnel sphere and its many other systems will face added tons of crushing pressure.

“Technologically, it’s quite challenging,” Robert S. Detrick Jr., a senior scientist and vice president for marine facilities and operations at Woods Hole, said of forging the new personnel sphere. “It’s also something that hasn’t been done for a long time in the United States.”

To better resist the sea’s pressure, the wall of the new personnel sphere is to be nearly three inches thick, up from Alvin’s two inches. Deep explorers always use spheres to make crew compartments because that geometry best resists the crushing force.

Comment: More on Alvin. My own personal "deep" was scuba diving in Gun Lake Michigan. I think I went to down to 90'. There was a Haam's beer can in the mud! (Really).

Detroit: Kwame M. Kilpatrick - time to GO!

Michigan Governor to Hold Proceedings That Could Lead to Detroit Mayor’s Ouster


In a blow to Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick’s tenuous grip on his job here, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan said Tuesday that she would hold proceedings next week that could result in Mr. Kilpatrick’s removal.

The mayor, who stands accused of 10 felony counts in two separate criminal cases, will have to defend himself before Ms. Granholm, who under state law is authorized to convene the proceedings.

The Detroit City Council, which has no authority to remove Mr. Kilpatrick from office, had asked Ms. Granholm to take up the matter after having urged the mayor to resign.

Comment: You can't begin to fix Detroit until this crook goes!


Exoskeleton suit & Tongue drive

Human exoskeleton suit helps paralyzed people walk


paralyzed for the past 20 years, former Israeli paratrooper Radi Kaiof now walks down the street with a dim mechanical hum.

That is the sound of an electronic exoskeleton moving the 41-year-old's legs and propelling him forward -- with a proud expression on his face -- as passersby stare in surprise.

"I never dreamed I would walk again. After I was wounded, I forgot what it's like," said Kaiof, who was injured while serving in the Israeli military in 1988.

"Only when standing up can I feel how tall I really am and speak to people eye to eye, not from below."

The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company.

Comment: This is very cool. (I was paralyzed 21 years ago .... now I walk like Frankenstein)

Another great idea: Tongue Drive System to Operate Computers

Scientists developed a new revolutionary system to help individuals with disabilities to control wheelchairs, computers and other devices simply by using their tongue.

Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology say that a new technology called Tongue Drive system will be helpful to individuals with serious disabilities, such as those with severe spinal cord injuries and will allow them to lead more active and independent lives.

Individuals using a tongue-based system should only be able to move their tongue, which is especially important if a person has paralyzed limbs. A tiny magnet, only a size of a grain of rice, is attached to an individual's tongue using implantation, piercing or adhesive. This technology allows a disabled person to use tongue when moving a computer mouse or a powered wheelchair.

Scientists chose the tongue to control the system because unlike the feet and the hands, which are connected by brain through spinal cord, the tongue and the brain has a direct connection through cranial nerve. In case when a person has a severe spinal cord injure or other damage, the tongue will remain mobile to activate the system. "Tongue movements are also fast, accurate and do not require much thinking, concentration or effort." said Maysam Ghovanloo, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The motions of the magnet attached to the tongue are spotted by a number of magnetic field sensors installed on a headset worn outside or an orthodontic brace inside the mouth. The signals coming from the sensors are wirelessly sent to a portable computer that placed on a wheelchair or attached to an individual's clothing.

The Tongue system is developed to recognize a wide array of tongue movements and to apply specific movements to certain commands, taking into account user's oral anatomy, abilities and lifestyle."The ability to train our system with as many commands as an individual can comfortably remember is a significant advantage over the common sip-n-puff device that acts as a simple switch controlled by sucking or blowing through a straw," said Ghovanloo.

The Tongue Drive system is touch-free, wireless and non-invasive technology that needs no surgery for its operation.

During the trials of the system, six able-bodied participants were trained to use tongue commands to control the computer mouse. The individuals repeated several motions left, right, up and down, single- and double-click to perform computer mouse tasks.

The results of the trials showed 100 percent of commands were accurate with the response time less than one second, which equals to an information transfer rate of approximately 150 bits per minute.

Obama's radical friend

Nancy Pelosi: Another Catholic who doesn't know when life begins

Washington archbishop rips Pelosi on abortion


In a rare public rebuke of a top politician, the archbishop of Washington said Monday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was incorrect when she recently said the moment of conception has long been a matter of controversy within the Catholic Church.

In a release issued Monday night, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said Pelosi's comments on "Meet the Press" on Sunday "were incorrect."

Wuerl noted that Pelosi responded to a question on when life begins by mentioning she was Catholic.

The release quoted Pelosi as saying the church has not been able to come with a definition of when life begins.

“After Mr. Tom Brokaw, the interviewer, pointed out that the Catholic Church feels strongly that life begins at conception, she replied, 'I understand. And this is, like, maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy,' " the release said.

Wuerl strongly disagrees.

He said, "We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record."

Wuerl pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, and has been clear for 2,000 years. He cited Catechism language that reads, "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception … Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”

Biden, his Catholicism, abortion, and the Bishop

About Biden, let's ask the right questions well


Canon 916 directs Catholics who are conscious of being in grave sin, regardless of whether that grave sin is known publicly, to refrain from taking holy Communion. Biden, like any other Catholic, is expected to examine his conscience in light of Church teaching prior to approaching the Eucharist and, if he finds himself wanting, to reform his behavior accordingly

Biden's Catholic faith offers risks, rewards


One outspoken prelate, Denver Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput, said in statement to The Associated Press that Biden should refrain from taking Communion because of his stance.

Denver Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput

Quoting him:

Well, I have a responsibility as a bishop to clearly proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when people don’t want me to do that, and even when it’s difficult. So I wouldn’t claim to be particularly courageous, but I feel responsible. And if I don’t speak on the issues that I think the Lord calls me to speak, I feel guilty about that. So for me to be quiet on these issues would have been a harder burden for me to carry, perhaps, than speaking about it. Actually, I mentioned two reasons why I wrote the book. One is some Catholic political folks asked me to, people who ran for office, and were having struggles because of that. But more importantly, I’ve grown tired of so many people in our culture saying to believers that they ought to be quiet, that there’s no place in the public square for the voice of faith. I wanted to make a distinction between separation of Church and state, and separating our faith from our politics. You can embrace the concept of separation of Church and state, but that’s not at all the same thing as separating our faith from our actions, from our political actions.

MORE / Updated

Archbishop scolds pro-choice Biden

But the party's hopes of winning the critical Catholic vote took a hit Sunday when Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said Mr. Biden should avoid taking Communion as a result of his pro-choice stand on abortion.

Archbishop Chaput, who was scheduled to lead a pro-life candlelight vigil Monday night here in front of Planned Parenthood, called Mr. Biden's support for abortion rights "seriously wrong," said archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette De Melo.

"I certainly presume his good will and integrity," said the archbishop, "and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion if he supports a false 'right' to abortion."

The archbishop, who was not invited to speak at any convention events in what appeared to be a deliberate snub, told the Associated Press that he would like to speak privately with Mr. Biden.


Wells Fargo Not Buying Wachovia or WAMU

Wells Fargo (WFC) CEO: Not Buying Wachovia (WB) Or WaMu (WM)


But Stumpf explains that blockbuster deals aren't WFC's focus:

“We don’t need to do a deal. Organic growth is the core growth engine in this company."

...Mr Stumpf noted that since the 1998 merger between Norwest and Wells Fargo, the group had eschewed large acquisitions, preferring to focus on bolt-on purchases of companies in the western states.

“We come from a culture where bigger is not better. You get bigger by being better, you don’t get better by being bigger,” he said, adding that Wells was also unlikely to stray from its western focus by buying on the East Coast.

Comment: Good news for Wells Fargo stock holders


The Maldives: the world's least religiously free places

Muslim and Maldivian


... the constitution also states that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives," and "No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives." That strips 3,000 non-Muslims of their citizenship. They will be allowed to remain in the country and to work, but all rights afforded citizens -- speech, movement, even habeas corpus -- can be curtailed. Freedoms enjoyed by Shiite Muslims may also be at risk, given that the government enforces a strict version of Sunni Islam.


The Maldives may be not be a big country, but the example it sets for other Muslim-majority nations matters. Richard Boucher, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said recently that the Maldives has "a tradition of being a moderate country" that's "open to the world." Restricting religious freedom doesn't square with that.

Comment: Religious freedom and Islam are not compatible philosophies!

Biden: in his own words

‘Just Words’ That Joe Biden Would Like To Forget


Biden, on a post-debate appearance on MSNBC, October 30, 2007: “The only guy on the other side who’s qualified is John McCain.”

Biden appearing on The Daily Show, August 2, 2005: “John McCain is a personal friend, a great friend, and I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off, be well off no matter who...”

On Meet the Press, November 27, 2005: “I’ve been calling for more troops for over two years, along with John McCain and others subsequent to my saying that.”

Comment: Much more .... click the link!


Lottery luckless guy

Thousands Later, He Sees Lottery’s Cruelty Up Close


Last year, he spent $30,000 on the lottery. ... For the last three years, he has utterly failed to recoup a rather staggering investment: $500 to $700 on the lottery a week.


Such a habit goes well beyond “social gambling,” said Jim Maney, executive director for the New York Council on Problem Gambling. John Charlson, a spokesman for the New York State Lottery, declined to discuss the specifics of Mr. Otero’s situation, but said that independent studies showed that the average New York lottery player spent about $350 a year and that other surveys showed that 75 percent of all New Yorkers have, at one time or another, put down money on the games.

Mr. Otero, 52, came to New York City from Puerto Rico nearly 30 years ago and worked as a mechanic in the Bronx. He has held his current job for about 10 years and supports his wife and two children on a yearly take-home pay of $40,000, he says, which does not include the free apartment, odd jobs or the typical Christmas tips.

But working is for poor uneducated men — a sucker’s game, he said, where one must run increasingly fast to keep one’s place in line. “You’re making money on the one side and spending it on the other,” he said. “If all you’re doing is working, you’re never going to win.”

So, for the last three years, Mr. Otero has been searching for an entry to the easy life — to win the lottery and move back home to Puerto Rico; to put his feet up with his family by his side.

He plays the game in shifts: one bet in the morning at 11 o’clock, another in the middle afternoon. His bets will range from $10 to $20 on a scratch-off game or on the daily numbers. He picks his digits, he explained, from the license plates of parked or passing cars.


In three years, Mr. Otero has won only three times: He earned $1,000 on a scratch-and-win last year and pulled in more than $2,000 on the Pick Five twice.

Comment: How's that phrase go? "The lottery is a tax on the stupid"!

Noonan: Obama's views "strange and disturbing"

They're Paying Attention Now


As to the question when human life begins, the answer to which is above Mr. Obama's pay grade, oh, let's go on a little tear. You know why they call it birth control? Because it's meant to stop a birth from happening nine months later. We know when life begins. Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins.

To put it another way, with conception something begins. ....

If you want to argue whether legal abortion is morally defensible, have at it and go to it, but Mr. Obama's answers here seemed to me strange and disturbing.

Comment: She likes McCain (read the whole article).

Taking the Gospel to the ends of the universe?

Good to know that a Klingon version is now available here. That would be the KLV (Klingon Language Version)! That's John 3:16 above!

HT: A Little Leaven


Bailout Detroit? NO!

The Next Bailout: Detroit


Earlier this month, the Detroit Free Press reported that the top dogs at Ford, GM and Chrysler had a meeting of the minds and decided that the way out of their current losing streak would be to ask the feds for a lifeline. They figure they'll need $40 billion or so to ride out their current troubles until they reach the promised land of hybrids, the Chevy Volt, and, who knows, maybe even profits.

We've since heard that lobbyists for the car makers are taking their pitch for direct federal loans around Washington, with a goal of unveiling the plan after Labor Day -- conveniently in the frenzy of the fall election campaign.


The plan is for the government to lend some $25 billion to auto makers in the first year at an interest rate of 4.5%, or about one-third what they're currently paying to borrow. What's more, the government would have the option of deferring any payment at all for up to five years. Meanwhile, Barack Obama recently signaled that he's open to federal money to help the auto makers invest in "renewable" technology, and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Mr. Dingell are supporting the $25 billion in loans to the not-so-Big Three as part of a second-round economic "stimulus."

Comment: Capitalism means some companies will fail!

Is this like turning off one's "check engine" light?

Spain mourns as air disaster probe continues


The plane returned to the gate and the valve was fixed by technicians turning it off, said Mendoza, explaining that this was standard procedure.

Comment: More of a question really: "Is this like turning off one's "check engine" light?" I await an engineer's response (BikeBubba!)

Obama’s Record on ‘Born-Alive Infants’

HT: Denny Burk

Obama arguing against BAIPA

Comment: Reckless disregard for LIFE!


Obama: "Above my pay grade."

Democrats Move Left On Abortion


"Above my pay grade." Those words rang in the ears of Gene Taylor, a middle-age member of Saddleback Church I interviewed after the worship service on Sunday morning. He was referring to the answer offered by Barack Obama when Pastor Rick Warren asked him at what point in its development a baby gets "human rights."

"In this country," Mr. Taylor told me, "there is no higher pay grade than the president." Which is true at least metaphorically. Mr. Taylor added, "I thought I was going to be supporting John McCain. Now I'm sure of it."

Mr. Obama's flip-sounding response did not go over well with the evangelicals in the audience of Saturday night's presidential forum. After a week in which the Democrats have been renegotiating their abortion platform, Mr. Obama was supposed to provide a voice of clarity, and above all moderation, for the party. His middle-of-the-road views were supposed to appeal to independent-minded Catholics and evangelicals who agreed with Democrats on some issues, but couldn't pull the lever for him if he was too radical on abortion.

It didn't work out that way. Add Mr. Obama's recent admission that during his time in the Illinois legislature he voted against a law protecting babies who survive an abortion procedure, and it seems as if the Democrats have accomplished the impossible: They have moved to the left on abortion.

On the party's platform, the Democrats dropped the words "safe, legal and rare," the phrase used most famously by both Bill and Hillary Clinton to signal moderation on the issue. The Democrats also added the modifier "unequivocally" to strengthen their support for abortion rights. As if there were any doubt about the message that these changes send to the party's radical factions, here is feminist Linda Hirshman celebrating in a piece for Slate: "With the release of the new platform, the emancipation of women may once again become a legitimate political position."

Comment: I trust that no one who believes that life begins at conception would vote for Obama!


Reverse banking consolidation?

Breaking up big banks questioned as losses mount


Critics like Smith believe that Citigroup is worth more split up. Current CEO Vikram Pandit has rejected the idea, believing the company should come through the credit crisis in one piece.

But, John Reed, who as head of Citicorp forged the deal with Weill's Travelers Group, commented recently that the universal bank model didn't work. That's only been highlighted by Citigroup's stock price, down 71 percent from its 52-week high of $49.

Talk about how Citigroup and others should be structured will only intensify now that UBS appears to have turned its back on its "one bank" strategy. Switzerland's largest bank posted a hefty $5.1 billion write-down for the second quarter, and disclosed plans to separate its ailing investment bank from healthier businesses.

And, concerns about the execution of the business model are spreading, even among those who support the idea of financial conglomerates.

Ladenburg Thalmann's Richard X. Bove, one of the most outspoken banking analysts since the credit crisis began last year, wrote in a note that the "concept behind the creation of JPMorgan Chase has broken down."

Bove said JPMorgan's acquisition of Chicago's Bank One in 2004 was intended to beef up its consumer business, including banking and credit cards. That would help offset problems if the capital markets, like investment banking and related areas, were to falter. The problem is that both markets are currently weak.

He said JPMorgan's exposure was hurt further by the acquisition of crippled Bear Stearns in March. Still, despite all this, Bove feels the model is viable - and that JPMorgan can work through the troubles over a number of years by cutting costs and refining its businesses.

"No steel company can sell steel when auto manufacturers aren't selling cars, and no bank can make big profits when there's a weakness in the housing and credit markets," he said. "They have to ride out the cycle, minimize the losses, and maximize profits when the cycle returns. You can't restructure a company to avoid that cycle."

"In 1985, there were 14,500 banks in the U.S. - and now there's 7,200," he said. "For the past 23 years, six of them went away each week. The big universal banks might get hit, but they stay in business and come out with a bigger share of the market than they had before."

Comment: I do think Citibank is too big!


The Democrats, Abortion, and Catholics

Patrick J. Buchanan: A Catholic Case Against Barack


For not only is Barack the most pro-abortion member of the Senate, with his straight A+ report card from the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood. He supports the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion, where the baby's skull is stabbed with scissors in the birth canal and the brains are sucked out to end its life swiftly and ease passage of the corpse into the pan.

Partial-birth abortion, said the late Sen. Pat Moynihan, "comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary."

Yet, when Congress was voting to ban this terrible form of death for a mature fetus, Michelle Obama was signing fundraising letters pledging that, if elected, Barack would be "tireless" in keeping legal this "legitimate medical procedure."

And Barack did not let the militants down. When the Supreme Court upheld the congressional ban on this barbaric procedure, Barack denounced the court for denying "equal rights for women."

Obama Woos Abortion Foes With Platform Embracing Motherhood


To reassure abortion-rights groups, the first paragraph has stronger language than in past platforms, saying the Democrats ``strongly and unequivocally'' support Roe v. Wade and oppose efforts to ``weaken or undermine'' it.

The next paragraph, similar to past platforms, outlines the need for sex education and family-planning services that can reduce unintended pregnancies.

The final paragraph represents a departure: ``The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support and caring adoption programs.''

Comments: But do Catholics really care about this when they vote? My prediction is that the majority of Catholics will vote for Obama (I hope I am wrong!). The changes to the Democratic platform are simply a ruse for higher taxes and larger government.

Question: Who was the last pro-life Democrat on the national ticket? Don't mouse over this link yet ... think about it. It's not easy. Here's the answer!


Detroit foreclosure meltdown

Foreclosure fallout: Houses go for a $1


The home, at 8111 Traverse Street, a few blocks from Detroit City Airport, was the nicest house on the block when it sold for $65,000 in November 2006, said neighbor Carl Upshaw. But the home was foreclosed last summer, and it wasn't long until "the vultures closed in," Upshaw said. "The siding was the first to go. Then they took the fence. Then they broke in and took everything else."

The company hired to manage the home and sell it, the Bearing Group, boarded up the home only to find the boards stolen and used to board up another abandoned home nearby.

Scrappers tore out the copper plumbing, the furnace and the light fixtures, taking everything of value, including the kitchen sink.

"It about doesn't make sense to put the family out," Upshaw said. "Once people are gone, you're gonna lose the house in this neighborhood."

Tuesday, the home was wide open. Doors leading into the kitchen and the basement were missing, and the front windows had been smashed. Weeds grew chest-high, and charred remains marked a spot where the garage recently burned.

Put on the market in January for $1,100, the house had no lookers other than the squatters who sometimes stayed there at night. Facing $4,000 in back taxes and a large unpaid water bill, the bank that owned the property lowered the price to $1.
$1 sale to cost bank $10,000

While it's not unusual for $1 to be exchanged when property is transferred for legal reasons, listing a home in the Multiple Listing Service for $1 was surprising and unsettling to Kent Colpaert, the listing real estate agent for the property.

"I've never seen a home listed for $1," Colpaert said.

"But it's been hit hard: It's just a shell."

On Tuesday, Realtor.com listed one other single-family home, one duplex and one empty lot at $1 in Detroit.

Dollar property sales are the financial hangover from the foreclosure crisis, said Anthony Viola of Realty Corp. of America in Cleveland.

Comment: Find other deals here: www.realtor.com. I found others for $ 1. Many others for under $ 1000.

Cram U

A Taste of Failure Fuels an Appetite for Success at South Korea’s Cram Schools


Inside, a raucous crowd of 300 teenage boys and girls had returned from a two-night leave and were lining up to have their teachers search their bags.

The students here were forsaking all the pleasures of teenage life. No cellphones allowed, no fashion magazines, no television, no Internet. No dating, no concerts, no earrings, no manicures — no acting their age.

All these are mere distractions from an overriding goal. On this regimented campus, miles from the nearest public transportation, Min-ju and her classmates cram from 6:30 a.m. to past midnight, seven days a week, to clear the fearsome hurdle that can decide their future — the national college entrance examination.

“Min-ju, do your best! Fighting!” Mr. Chung shouted as his daughter disappeared into the building. Min-ju turned around and raised a clenched fist. “Fighting!” she shouted back.

South Koreans say their obsession to get their children into top-notch universities is nothing short of “a war.” Nowhere is that zeal better illustrated than in cram schools like Jongro Yongin Campus, located in a sparsely populated suburb of Yongin, 25 miles south of Seoul.

Most Jongro students are “jaesoo sang,” or “study-again students.” Having failed to get into the university of their choice, they are preparing relentlessly for next year’s entrance examination. Some try and try again, for three years running after graduating from high school.

The Jongro school pursues a strategy of isolation, cut off from competing temptations of any sort. Its curriculum is so tightly regulated and the distractions so few that students say they have no option but to study.

“Sending Min-ju here was not an ideal, but an inevitable choice,” said Mr. Chung, a 50-year-old accountant. “In our country, college entrance exams determine 70 to 80 percent of a person’s future. It’s a sad reality. But you have to acknowledge it; otherwise you hurt your children’s future.”

Admission to the right university can make or break an ambitious young South Korean. The university that students attend in their 20s can determine the jobs they get and the money they make in their 50s. The top-tier schools — Seoul National, Korea and Yonsei Universities, collectively known as SKY— may hardly register on global lists of the best in higher education. But here, their diplomas are a ticket of admission, an envied status symbol and a badge of pride for graduates and parents.

Comment: Interesting juxtaposition of this article with Is a B.A. a waste of time

Is a B.A. a waste of time?

For Most People, College Is a Waste of Time


Outside a handful of majors -- engineering and some of the sciences -- a bachelor's degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.

The model is the CPA exam that qualifies certified public accountants. The same test is used nationwide. It is thorough -- four sections, timed, totaling 14 hours. A passing score indicates authentic competence (the pass rate is below 50%). Actual scores are reported in addition to pass/fail, so that employers can assess where the applicant falls in the distribution of accounting competence. You may have learned accounting at an anonymous online university, but your CPA score gives you a way to show employers you're a stronger applicant than someone from an Ivy League school.

The merits of a CPA-like certification exam apply to any college major for which the BA is now used as a job qualification. To name just some of them: criminal justice, social work, public administration and the many separate majors under the headings of business, computer science and education. Such majors accounted for almost two-thirds of the bachelor's degrees conferred in 2005. For that matter, certification tests can be used for purely academic disciplines. Why not present graduate schools with certifications in microbiology or economics -- and who cares if the applicants passed the exam after studying in the local public library?

Certification tests need not undermine the incentives to get a traditional liberal-arts education. If professional and graduate schools want students who have acquired one, all they need do is require certification scores in the appropriate disciplines. Students facing such requirements are likely to get a much better liberal education than even our most elite schools require now.

Certification tests will not get rid of the problems associated with differences in intellectual ability: People with high intellectual ability will still have an edge. Graduates of prestigious colleges will still, on average, have higher certification scores than people who have taken online courses -- just because prestigious colleges attract intellectually talented applicants.

But that's irrelevant to the larger issue. Under a certification system, four years is not required, residence is not required, expensive tuitions are not required, and a degree is not required. Equal educational opportunity means, among other things, creating a society in which it's what you know that makes the difference. Substituting certifications for degrees would be a big step in that direction.

The incentives are right. Certification tests would provide all employers with valuable, trustworthy information about job applicants. They would benefit young people who cannot or do not want to attend a traditional four-year college. They would be welcomed by the growing post-secondary online educational industry, which cannot offer the halo effect of a BA from a traditional college, but can realistically promise their students good training for a certification test -- as good as they are likely to get at a traditional college, for a lot less money and in a lot less time.

Certification tests would disadvantage just one set of people: Students who have gotten into well-known traditional schools, but who are coasting through their years in college and would score poorly on a certification test. Disadvantaging them is an outcome devoutly to be wished.

Comment: Certification instead of a sheepskin! Young people forget that the purpose of an education is to get a job!

9/11 truck featured in Olympics' ad

Give this pickup truck the gold


They parked near the south tower in time to survive the first collapse and then the second. I watched Monahan immediately afterward crawl into the ruins to search for the 11 missing firefighters from his firehouse, Engine 24/Ladder 5.

When he finally returned to his Silverado, Monahan saw that the falling debris of the south tower had stopped inches short of his front bumper. The surrounding vehicles had been gutted by fire and the truck's front lights had melted into what looked like huge tears.

The steering wheel had also begun to melt and the interior of the cab was singed. Monahan reached in to turn the ignition key and was astonished to hear the engine start right up.

Somebody operating a wrecker helped clear a path for Monahan to pull away. He changed a front tire that had been bubbled by the heat and he headed for the firehouse.

"The first victory of World War III," Monahan announced.

Somebody salvaged the oversized nameplate from Ladder 5's destroyed rig and affixed it to the side of the pickup that ferried them to and from The Pit over the days that followed.

The sight of them going by in this burned and battered truck with "Ladder 5" bolted to the side always drew a rousing response from folks in the street.

"Every time we got in the truck, they were just cheering," Monahan said. "It was American spirit at its best. ... 'You can't keep us down!'"

Comment: Pics in linked article.


Jets: "bet their future on a Hail Mary pass"

Is Brett a Bad Bet for the Jets?


And here's CBS's Phil Simms, former New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl winner: "This is bigger than when Joe Montana left the Forty-Niners to go to Kansas City in 1993."

It would be if Brett Favre were as good as Joe Montana. Mr. Montana won four Super Bowls and was arguably the greatest quarterback in football history; Mr. Favre has won just one Super Bowl and is probably the most overrated, or at the very least overhyped, quarterback in the modern NFL.

Let's strip the Brett-to-the-Jets deal of the illusions the media has wrapped it in. What we have is a 4-12 team that has signed a 38-year-old quarterback who, though he made something of a comeback last season, hasn't otherwise finished in the top five of the league's passers since 2001. (In 2006 he was ranked 25th; in 2005, 31st.).

Comment: The Opinion Journal would not be a Brett Favre fan! I am. I can't wait to see what Brett can do in the AFC East.

Parade of unsold homes

Overbuilt market creating modern ghost towns


Scott MacDonald, a 40-year-old lawyer, and his family were among the first buyers of new homes in Kirkway Estates, a residential community in the Detroit suburbs. The MacDonalds paid more than $500,000 in 2006 for a home that would be ready in July 2007. The Colonial-style brick home had four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, and designer touches and offered everything they expected in a town known for great public schools and homes fit for Ford execs.

Everything, that is, except neighbors.

When the MacDonalds arrived, there were fewer than 15 homes in Kirkway Estates, where 179 were planned. Their home was the only one built thus far on a cul-de-sac with six lots. They expected more houses to appear soon after they purchased, but instead Kirkway’s builders ran into financing trouble and work on the community’s remaining lots halted, leaving the MacDonalds and their handful of neighbors in limbo.
Economists have said that for the housing market to correct itself, inventory levels and sales prices will need to decline during 2009 — which may mean half-built communities don’t get completed and remaining homes are sold at a discount. Tim Newport, U.S. Economist for Global Insights, said in a July 31 housing market report that although the number of newly built single-family homes continues to drop, the market still has an oversupply of about 100,000 homes, based on June’s inventory of 426,000.

Comment: I think that Albertville MN is like this too!

"he sent his marriage into remission when his wife was in remission"

Keeping It Rielle


The creepiest part of his creepy confession was when he stressed to Woodruff that he cheated on Elizabeth in 2006 when her cancer was in remission. His infidelity was oncologically correct.

So narcissist walks into a New York bar and meets a legendarily wacky former Gotham party girl — whose ’80s exploits were chronicled in a novel by her former boyfriend Jay McInerney because the behavior of her and her friends “intrigued and appalled me.” When you appall Jay McInerney, you know you’re in trouble.

The president manqué gives Rielle Hunter, formerly Lisa Druck, more than $114,000 to shoot vain little videos for his Web site (even though she’s a neophyte), one of which is scored with the song “True Reflections” about the Narcissus pool, which goes: “When you look into a mirror, do you like what’s looking at you? Now that you’ve seen your true reflections, what on earth are you gonna do?”

He has an affair with Hunter, while he’s honing his speech on the imperative to “live in a moral, honest, just America.” A married former aide says he’s the father when she gets pregnant, even though she’s telling people Edwards is the dad. And one of his campaign donors pays off Hunter to get her resettled with the baby out of North Carolina.

But the Breck Girl wants a gold star for the fact that he sent his marriage into remission when his wife was in remission. That’s special.

In his statement, he bleats: “You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare.” Isn’t stripping bare how he got into this mess?

It isn’t like we didn’t know that the son of a millworker was a little enraptured by himself, radiating self-love from his smile and his man-in-a-hurry airs and the notorious $800 bill for a pair of haircuts and his two-minute YouTube hair primping to the tune of “I Feel Pretty.”

Certain men assume that power confers sexual privilege. And in American politics, there is an eternal disjunction between character and achievement. Sinners do good things, saints do bad things.

Comment: Edwards: enraptured by himself. (I was never a John Edwards fan!)



Comment: Great link for testing to see if a site is down

HT: A Modern-Day Blackout: Gmail Goes Dark

BTW: I'm not having problems with GMAIL. I use it natively plus for 2 domains: jrpeet.com & metrowomenscenter.org


Disappointing experience at McDonald's

Because I walk with crutches I have a very hard time carrying things.

I actually can carry alot - in a backpack. I can carry a bag full of books for example. Or I can carry my company laptop with all kinds of techie paraphernalia. I can carry small things (like a small Bible) in my hand (and still grip my crutches). Today I carried a mail bag from our work area over to the mail drop (the mail was in a big company bag. I looped the bag handle over my crutch grip). I can carry a bottle or can of pop in my pocket.

What I cannot carry is anything that has to be perfectly level (like an open glass or a tray of food). The herky - jerky motion of my gate just doesn't work for carrying anything open. Also I cannot put even one hand on a tray.

After 21 years of being handicapped, this is just not too much of a problem. I do what I can do and what I can't do I request help. Handicapped people call this asking "AB" people for help. AB = "able bodied". My dear wife is my AB for most things (I feel sorry for her at times!).

Kathee has had a long day at work. There are system problems with an application (middleware actually) that interfaces with the application she manages. We commute to and from work together but tonight I left work without her. (She is actually still there and it may be an "all-nighter" for her!)

I left work at 5:30 and stopped by the McDonald's in New Hope for dinner. When I ordered dinner I asked the manager (who took my order) if he could bring my dinner (Big Mac, fries, and diet coke) to my table. I know I asked nicely. I've had AB people help me like this for 2 decades: buffet lines, fast food restaurants, cafeterias, etc.

Tonight's experience was very disappointing. The manager did bring my tray but no drink. I asked for my drink and he gave me "a look" and can back with an empty cup. I said "please bring me a diet coke" and again I got a negative look. I said, directly my glance to my crutches that were leaning against the table, that I can't carry a glass with my crutches.

I'm not complaining (perhaps I am!). Thankfully tonight's experience is not at all typical. As a matter of fact in 20 years I don't think I've had anything like this before.

Who wrote this? (about Obama)

Memos show -------------- camp lines of attack


"All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. ...
It also exposes a very strong weakness for him -- his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values,"

Your guess:
(1) Romney camp
(2) McCain camp
(3) Huckabee camp

Seniors: No tax for you!

Obama's 'no income taxes on seniors' draws critics


you're a senior citizen and earn less than $50,000 a year, Barack Obama has a deal for you: a life free of federal income tax.

Sounds appealing, right? Maybe to many seniors. But tax policy experts in Washington are giving it bad reviews. They see it as another subsidy for senior citizens, who already get federal help through Social Security and Medicare and often have economic advantages over other demographic groups.

Seniors typically have paid off their mortgages, many have investments and usually don't pay taxes on their Social Security benefits. The kids are usually grown, so they're not saddled with day care or college costs.

"The odds are the retired folks - they're getting pensions, they're getting Social Security, they have investment assets, they own a house - so ... they're better off than somebody who is 30 or 40 years younger who's trying to buy a house (and) trying to start saving,"


The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, gave the idea bad grades in a recent study of the two presidential candidates' tax plans.

Seniors already get preferential treatment in the tax code. They can claim an additional standard deduction and only a portion of their Social Security benefits are taxed. Many don't pay payroll taxes because their income is from investments rather than wages.

"The proposal would exempt comparatively well off, though not affluent, senior citizens from taxes and give them a benefit not generally available to working Americans," said the Tax Policy Center paper. It "helps only those low-income seniors who currently pay income taxes. Those too poor to owe any tax - arguably those most in need - would get no benefit."

Comment: More poor tax policy from Obama.

Worst Olympics' mascots

The best and worst Olympic mascots


Athena and Phevos were mumu-wearing no-necked flipper-armed deformities whose feet were so gout-ridden that they were forced to go barefoot. They were supposed to look like ancient dolls, but many Greeks found the figures stereotyping and degrading. A huge high-profile mascot failure.

With his lightning bolt eyebrows, big red shoes, Donny Osmond teeth and ringed multi-colored tail, Izzy appeared to have been designed by a team of kids with attention deficit disorder. ... Bob Costas called the mascot “a genetic experiment gone horribly, ghastly wrong.”

Comment: I found this humorous!


"indirect potable reuse" or "toilet to tap"?

A Tall, Cool Drink of ... Sewage?


When you flush in Santa Ana, the waste makes its way to the sewage-treatment plant nearby in Fountain Valley, then sluices not to the ocean but to a plant that superfilters the liquid until it is cleaner than rainwater. The “new” water is then pumped 13 miles north and discharged into a small lake, where it percolates into the earth. Local utilities pump water from this aquifer and deliver it to the sinks and showers of 2.3 million customers. It is now drinking water. If you like the idea, you call it indirect potable reuse. If the idea revolts you, you call it toilet to tap.

Opened in January, the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System is the largest of its type in the world. It cost $480 million to build, will cost $29 million a year to run and took more than a decade to get off the ground. The stumbling block was psychological, not architectural. An aversion to feces is nearly universal, and as critics of the process are keen to point out, getting sewage out of drinking water was one of the most important public health advances of the last 150 years.

inside each of 16 concrete bays hangs a rack of vertical tubes stuffed with 15,000 polypropylene fibers the thickness of dental floss. The fibers are stippled with holes 1/300th the size of a human hair. Pumps pull water into the fibers, leaving behind anything larger than 0.2 microns, stuff like bacteria, protozoa and the dread “suspended solids.”

The excitement and the bubbles were backwash: every 21 minutes, air is injected into the microfibers to blast them clean. The schmutz goes back to the sewage-treatment plant, and the cleaner water, now the color of chamomile tea, is pumped toward reverse-osmosis filters in another building. Before we saw that process, Wildermuth led me underground to inspect several enormous pumps and pipes large enough to crawl through. I noted that everything was clearly labeled and scrupulously clean. Then it dawned on me: reassurance was the reason we’d taken the detour.

Comment: Fascinating article.

‘Stretch your leg only as far as your blanket.’

Outside U.S., Credit Cards Tighten Grip


In Turkey, where borrowing money was until very recently a family affair, being in debt carried a fearful stigma. Some here even likened it to the disgrace that drives people to commit the honor killings that still occur in parts of this society.

“People who would kill their sisters or daughters for bringing shame on the family would do anything to avoid being labeled a debtor,” said Nazim Kaya, the president of Consumers Union, an advocacy group that helps those who fall into debt.

But in a cultural shift that has swept aside centuries of tradition, credit cards have become commonplace here. Only three decades ago, Turkey had fewer than 10,000 cards; today it has more than 38 million.

As the American blessing of credit cards became widespread, so did the American curse of debt. Outstanding card debt here ballooned to nearly $18 billion last year, six times the level five years earlier. Default rates spiked and consumer groups protested sky-high interest charges. Newspapers were filled with stories of desperate card holders killing themselves or others.

In 2006, a fierce outcry prompted Turkey to pass a law clamping down on credit card marketers.

“We did not listen to our ancestors’ proverb,” Mr. Kaya said. “ ‘Stretch your leg only as far as your blanket.’ ”

Comment: Exporting our "credit culture". Not unlike when the Japanese eat American fast food! (Bad for them!)


Saturday stuff

Good news and bad news - bad news first

Bad news: The hard drive on my MacBook failed
Good news: Apple replaced the hard drive (under warranty) today for free. I dropped my MacBook off at 10:45 and picked it up at 2:30 or so.

Lost data: Not really anything as most is "in the cloud". See The Big Switch to Cloud Computing. I did lose somethings: I need to add back in several applications: FETCH, CUTEFTP, TACO Editor. ITunes is a special case. Because ITunes is now empty on my MacBook, if I connect my IPOD all will be erased off the IPOD. I understand the work around is to connect the IPOD to a PC and use freeware to offline the ripped files. I will worry about this next week and do that deed at work.

I had to load back Office 2008, Firefox, and Acrobat Reader. I also have a Mahjong / Solitary game that I had to re-load from CD.

So it wasn't a bad day. Glad my data is "in the cloud"

Finding "the bottom" of housing prices

In Their Various Ways, Economists Try to Find Right Price for a Home


he New York Times asked economists across the country to share the data they use to figure out how much houses in regional markets are overvalued, a calculation that approximates where the bottom may be. Models built on these variables show that while some markets — such as California — are on a road to recovery, others — such as south Florida — have a way to go.

These signs cannot possibly tell the whole story, especially since they point more toward where prices should be valued than where they will be. But these measures are nonetheless helpful to anyone buying, selling or borrowing against their home sweet home.

“Anybody who says they know when it’s going to end with confidence is delusional,” said Karl E. Case, an economics professor at Wellesley College and co-creator of the Case-Shiller home price index. “But yes, you can get a sense of where things are going.”

One way to envision the bottom would be to look back at where prices were five or 10 years ago, before the current price run-up. There are some better ways, though.

Noting that home prices have outpaced inflation in the past, one can calculate how much houses appreciated annually in the decades before the bubble, and then figure out how far out of line prices are now. Edward E. Leamer, director of the U.C.L.A. Anderson Forecast, has crunched these numbers for various regional markets.

In Ocean City, N.J., for example, inflation-adjusted house prices rose about 1.6 percent a year from 1988 through 2002. Compared with what this rate would predict, the city’s houses in the first quarter of this year were overvalued by 51 percent. Over the previous year, they had fallen 0.6 percent; at this pace, Ocean City house prices will be at the right level in about 13 years. The model foretells eternal decline for some cities. It predicts that Kingston, N.Y., will not return to “normal” for almost four centuries.

Comment: Notice this: "Kingston, N.Y., will not return to “normal” for almost four centuries." !!!! Good article with helpful charts


Upside down nation

America's Most In-Debt Households


Falling home prices and resetting loans have been cruel to homeowner equity: nationwide. Americans' homeowner equity represents 46% of their properties' value; that's down from 60% at this time last year, and a far cry from the 67% high achieved in 2000.

But that was before unproven mortgage products became de rigueur. If you think an average of 19% equity is low, when you consider the loans made post-2004, the picture grows bleaker.

"Most mortgages made between the fall of 2004 and the fall of 2007, the majority of them are underwater," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, describing negative-equity situations in which more is owed on the home than it's worth.

"There are 9.6 million homeowners underwater, and most of them are those that bought from the end of 2004 through the end of 2007 in places like California and Florida and Nevada."

Price declines, one of the leading causes of equity drops, occur for a wide range of reasons, whether because of basic supply and demand, poor access to credit for potential borrowers, a sliding local economy where buyers have less to spend, or an appraised value inflated by overeager underwriters.

In Las Vegas or Phoenix, where prices exploded in the early 2000s, builders rushed to manufacture as much inventory as possible and lenders were less than judicious with credit. As prices started to fall in 2006, homeowners began walking away from resetting rates, homebuilders couldn't find buyers, and all the jobs that had been created by the construction frenzy melted away.

Price declines, resetting rates and job losses are the leading determinants of foreclosures, which totaled 739,714 in the second quarter of 2008, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based brokerage.

If a home is worth more than the value of the loan, for example, and there are buyers willing to acquire it, a property owner who falls behind on payments can simply sell the home at a slight loss. But when the loan exceeds the home's worth and buyers are scarce, homeowners, weighed down with higher than expected monthly payments, have little choice but to foreclose.

Comment: I have a sense that this housing crisis may take 2-3 years before resolved. MSP mentioned: "residents of ... Minneapolis-St. Paul own a dismal 27% of their home's value in equity"


The Male Unbifurcated Garment

Letter carrier Dean Peterson wants to wear a kilt on the job


A 6-foot-tall, 250-pound letter carrier is campaigning for the right to take off his pants. Dean Peterson wants the U.S. Postal Service to add kilts as a uniform option for men.

The idea was soundly defeated in July at a convention of his union, the 220,000-member National Letter Carriers' Association, so Peterson knows convincing management will be an uphill struggle, but at least he'll be comfortable in his kilt, or Male Unbifurcated Garment.

"In one word, it's comfort," he said.

With his build, Peterson said, his thighs fill slacks to capacity, causing chafing and scarring.

Peterson, 48, has Finnish and Norwegian ancestry but not Scottish. He began wearing kilts a couple years ago when his wife brought one back from a trip to Scotland. (A spokeswoman for Britain's Royal Mail said kilts are not allowed as part of its letter carrier uniforms.)

Now Peterson wears them everywhere -- to one son's football games, the other son's concerts, shopping and gardening.

"It's the difference between wearing jammies to bed and wearing your work clothes to bed," he said.

Comment: Sounds comfy. I would never learn to keep my legs together seated!


Bigger flops to come

The Tax Rebate Was a Flop. Obama's Stimulus Plan Won't Work Either.


Those of us who supported this fiscal package reasoned that the program would boost consumer confidence as well as available cash. We hoped the combination would cause households to spend a substantial fraction of the rebate dollars, leading to more production and employment. An optimistic and influential study by economists at the Brookings Institution projected that each dollar of revenue loss would increase real GDP by more than a dollar if households spent at least 50 cents of every rebate dollar.

The evidence is now in and that optimism was unwarranted. Recent government statistics show that only between 10% and 20% of the rebate dollars were spent. The rebates added nearly $80 billion to the permanent national debt but less than $20 billion to consumer spending. This experience confirms earlier studies showing that one-time tax rebates are not a cost-effective way to increase economic activity.

These conclusions are significant for evaluating the likely impact of Barack Obama's recent proposal to distribute $1,000 rebate checks to low- and middle-income workers at an estimated cost of approximately $65 billion. His plan, to finance those rebates with an extra tax on oil companies, would reduce investment in refining and exploration, keeping oil prices higher than they would otherwise be.

Here are the facts. Tax rebates of $78 billion arrived in the second quarter of the year. The government's recent GDP figures show that the level of consumer outlays only rose by an extra $12 billion, or 15% of the lost revenue. The rest went into savings, including the paydown of debt.

Comment: What is needed is real tax reform with 3 income tax brackets and sustained low capital gains taxes.

Big mess

Comment: From my brother. (Frankly I think the government is in a big mess. The only question for me is will it be a bigger mess or still the same mess)


Best ad ever ...

Comment: I had to clean up (red line) what the wife said to her husband. Basically she said (in a vulgar way), "I don't care". He took it literally!


HT: Eucatastrophe

Comment: Interesting.


Move day at work

Places I've worked since we've been in Minnesota (12 years)

  1. NOC (Norwest Operations Center). Lower Level 3. June '96 until approx. October
  2. NOC, moved to 1st floor. (Trust programmer)
  3. 100 Washington (forgot the floor but I think 15 or 16). Trust department moved
  4. NOC, LL3. Changed jobs
  5. NOC, LL3 .. moved location
  6. 111 Washington (forgot the floor, but I think it was 11th. I had a window!
  7. 111 Washington (2nd floor). Our company quit leasing my previous floor. This was a great location as it was on the skyway and just a short walk to coffee, haircut, etc
  8. Reorg: New boss. He wanted me to move but my back was bothering me and I was able to stay.
  9. New job: I moved to the NOC floor 1. (2 years)
  10. New job (2 years ago): I moved to 100 Washington again - 14th floor (this is where i am now)
  11. Tomorrow is my last day at 100 Washington. I need to do final pack out
  12. Wednesday, back to the NOC (now called the Northern Operations Center). Floor 1 again

That's (if I have this right) 12 different places in 12 years!

How many different computers have I had? Basically I get a new PC every 2 years. My first PC at work was a Windows 3.1.1 ... later Windows 95 (daily reboot!). The first decent Windows workstation was Windows NT (back in '99). I had Windows NT for many years until Windows XP 4 years ago.

My best location: 111 Washington on (I think) the 11th floor. I was there on 9/11 when the entire floor evacuated at noon. I stayed there alone until 2 because I could not get an earlier bus. It was weird. My worst locations: 1.) Several times in high traffic areas that were noisy. Once by a guy who cussed up a storm; 2.) 111 Washington 2nd floor: We had mice.

Tomorrow will not be a productive day as I will be packing. After hours tomorrow they will move me (should be about 8 boxes, 2 desktop PC's, 1 laptop, 1 printer). Wednesday I will be in my new location - the 3rd time on the 1st floor of the NOC.

Fun at church

In House Dirtbike Crash

HT: A Little Leaven

Comment: I sure wish we had this much fun at my church. NOT!

Crabby Dave's

Comment: Bar in Marshfield, WI. We took this pic for Kathee's brother "Dave".

An "extraordinary redefinition of free-market success"

What Is a 'Windfall' Profit?


The "windfall profits" tax is back, with Barack Obama stumping again to apply it to a handful of big oil companies. Which raises a few questions: What is a "windfall" profit anyway? How does it differ from your everyday, run of the mill profit? Is it some absolute number, a matter of return on equity or sales -- or does it merely depend on who earns it?

Enquiring entrepreneurs want to know. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama's "emergency" plan, announced on Friday, doesn't offer any clarity. To pay for "stimulus" checks of $1,000 for families and $500 for individuals, the Senator says government would take "a reasonable share" of oil company profits.

Mr. Obama didn't bother to define "reasonable," and neither did Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, when he recently declared that "The oil companies need to know that there is a limit on how much profit they can take in this economy." Really? This extraordinary redefinition of free-market success could use some parsing.

Take Exxon Mobil, which on Thursday reported the highest quarterly profit ever and is the main target of any "windfall" tax surcharge. Yet if its profits are at record highs, its tax bills are already at record highs too. Between 2003 and 2007, Exxon paid $64.7 billion in U.S. taxes, exceeding its after-tax U.S. earnings by more than $19 billion. That sounds like a government windfall to us, but perhaps we're missing some Obama-Durbin business subtlety.

Maybe they have in mind profit margins as a percentage of sales. Yet by that standard Exxon's profits don't seem so large. Exxon's profit margin stood at 10% for 2007, which is hardly out of line with the oil and gas industry average of 8.3%, or the 8.9% for U.S. manufacturing (excluding the sputtering auto makers).

Comment: I've long been a proponent of eliminating corporate taxes altogether. The reality is that individuals pay all of the taxes. Every corporate tax is passed onto consumers in one form or another.

Drilling in Barnett Shale (in Fort Worth!)

How Texas Struck It Rich Beneath Suburbia


What I've seen is that while Congress balks at drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska out of fear of disturbing a few caribou, we've moved ahead to safely tap into an energy reserve located underneath suburban homes. And there is no better example of how Texas gets the balance right between energy and the environment than the development of the Barnett Shale.

Geologists have known that this reserve contains a mother lode of energy for at least 30 years. Yet even today it's not clear where the boundaries are. Wildcat wells and some dry holes continue to define the perimeter of the Barnett. What we do know is that the formation stretches from the Dallas/Fort Worth area up into rural counties in north Texas, spanning some 5,000 square miles. We also know that there is an estimated 27 trillion cubic feet of natural gas locked up in it. Americans use about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year; four trillion cubic feet a year are imported. So being able to tap into the Barnett is a big step toward producing all of the country's natural gas needs domestically.

Comment: More from Wikipedia. My Sister's snd Mother's homes are in this region. Nancy sold the her mineral rights for a substantial sum. Mother's property did not have the rights (the developer retained them).


Obama's rhetorical cotton candy

Obama Eloquence Fatigue

Does Obama have the sort of adviser a candidate most needs — someone sufficiently unenthralled to tell him when he has worked one pedal on the organ too much? If so, Obama should be told: Enough, already, with the we-are-who-we-have-been-waiting-for rhetorical cotton candy that elevates narcissism to a political philosophy.

And no more locutions such as "citizen of the world" and "global citizenship." If they meant anything in Berlin, they meant that Obama wanted Berliners to know that he is proudly cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitanism is not, however, a political asset for American presidential candidates. Least of all is it an asset for Obama, one of whose urgent needs is to seem comfortable with America's vibrant and very un-European patriotism, which is grounded in a sense of virtuous exceptionalism.

Otherwise, "citizen of the world" and "global citizenship" are, strictly speaking, nonsense. Citizenship is defined by legal and loyalty attachments to a particular political entity with a distinctive regime and culture. Neither the world nor the globe is such an entity.

In Berlin, Obama neared self-parody with a rhetoric of Leave No Metaphor Behind. "Walls"? Down with them. "Bridges"? Build new ones between this and that. "A new dawn"? The Middle East deserves one. And Berlin was the wrong place to vow to "remake the world once again." Modern Berlin rose from rubble that was the result of the last attempt at remaking "the world."

Comment: from George Will