12.30.2009

We finally got our H1N1 shots

Lots of H1N1 vaccine in Minn., not much H1N1 flu

Excerpt:

There is plenty of H1N1 vaccine in the state and very little H1N1 flu, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Wednesday.

In its weekly update of flu statistics, the department reported one H1N1-related hospitalization, compared to two the previous week, and one death. Both are down dramatically from the October peak of the outbreak.

At the same time, vaccine supplies continued to climb. As of last week more than 2 million doses had been distributed in the state, enough for nearly half the state's population.


Comment: Probably did not need it, but we got the shots today at Park Nicollet.

A “systemic failure” of the nation’s security apparatus


Barack Obama gets an 'F' for protecting Americans

Excerpt:

Abdulmutallab’s father spoke several times to the US Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria and visited a CIA officer there to tell him, apparently, that he feared his son was a jihadist being trained in Yemen. According to CNN, the CIA officer wrote up a report, which then sat in the CIA headquarters at Langley for several weeks without being disseminated to the rest of the intelligence community. This was not just a casual encounter. Again according to CNN, there were at least two face-to-face meetings, telephone calls and written correspondence with the father. If it’s true that the CIA sat on this then it beggars belief.


Comment: U.S. Had Early Signals of a Terror Plot, Obama Says

Pickled: .708 percent

Woman's blood alcohol content topples state records

Excerpt:

A Sturgis woman had a blood-alcohol level of .708 percent, possibly a state record, when she was found earlier this month behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle parked on Interstate 90, according to Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal.

A South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper discovered Marguerite Engle, 45, on Dec. 1 passed out behind the wheel of a delivery truck reported stolen in Rapid City.

Her blood-alcohol level was almost nine times South Dakota’s legal limit of .08 percent.

Checks with local and state labs where blood-alcohol levels are tested suggest Engle’s reading may be the highest ever recorded in South Dakota, Sondreal said.

Sondreal said a state chemist recalled a sample that tested .53, but nothing higher, in his more than 30 years on the job.

Dr. Robert Looyenga, who recently retired from the Rapid City Police Department’s forensic laboratory, told Sondreal that the highest blood-alcohol sample he tested measured .56 percent.

Sondreal’s research indicates that a blood-alcohol level of .40 is considered a lethal dose for about 50 percent of the population.

“Engle’s was almost double that,” Sondreal said.


Comment: Minnesota connection: she "recently moving here from Minnesota"

"Trying to pretend" we are not at war

Dick Cheney: Barack Obama 'trying to pretend'

Excerpt:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war



Comment: I agree with Cheney!

12.29.2009

Plan to mop up excess cash

To Inhibit Inflation, Fed Offers to Set Up Interest-Bearing Deposits

Excerpt:

The Fed would create the equivalent of a certificate of deposit that pays interest to banks for keeping some of their reserves — which are currently estimated at more than $1 trillion — for up to one year. That would help offset some of the $2.2 trillion the central bank has fanned out into the economy during the financial crisis. It also would allow the Fed to quickly entice banks to take more money out of circulation in case inflation emerged as a serious threat in the near future.

The proposal was the latest sign the Fed is intensifying its efforts to scale back the vast amounts of money it pumped into the economy at the height of the crisis.

As the economy recovers, Fed officials worry that if banks keep too much cash tied up in reserves that might later lead to a boom in credit and result in inflation. Low interest rates and a weak dollar have raised concerns about rising prices, although the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, has said inflation is not a near-term danger.


Comment: Unsure how this would impact consumers.

Find the latitude and longitude of a point on a map

getlatlon.com


Lat and Lon of 4th Baptist Church is 44.98837860577035, -93.42700481414795

In Google maps


HT: Wired.com

12.28.2009

Will SCOTUS regard the "personal mandate" constitutional?

Why the Personal Mandate to Buy Health Insurance Is Unprecedented and Unconstitutional

Excerpt:

... all of the leading House and Senate health-care reform bills being debated in Congress require Americans to either secure or purchase health insurance with a particular threshold of coverage, estimated by CBO to cost up to $15,000 per year for a typical family. This personal mandate to enter into a contract with a private health insurance company is enforced through civil and criminal tax penalties in section 501 of the House bill and with a freestanding mandate and equally questionable civil tax penalties in sections 501 and 513 of the pending Senate bill.

The purpose of this compulsory contract, coupled with the arbitrary price ratios and controls, is to require many people to buy artificially high-priced policies to subsidize coverage for others as well as an industry saddled with other government costs and regulations. Congress lawfully could enact a general tax to pay for these subsidies or it could create a tax credit for those who buy health insurance, but that would require Congress to "pay for" or budget for the subsidies in a conventional manner. The sponsors of the current bills are attempting, through the personal mandate, to keep the transfers entirely off budget or--through the gimmick of unconstitutional taxes or penalties they dub "shared responsibility payments"--make these transfers appear to be revenue-enhancing.

This "personal responsibility" provision of the legislation, more accurately known as the "individual mandate" because it commands all individuals to enter into a contractual relationship with a private insurance company, takes congressional power and control to a striking new level. Its defenders have struggled to justify the mandate by analogizing it to existing federal laws and court decisions, but their efforts do not withstand serious scrutiny. An individual mandate to enter into a contract with or buy a particular product from a private party, with tax penalties to enforce it, is unprecedented-- not just in scope but in kind--and unconstitutional as a matter of first principles and under any reasonable reading of judicial precedents.



Comment: Will SCOTUS review it? (Of course first must be passed and signed into law. Then someone would have to refuse purchase of insurance, be fined and then challenge it. It could take years to come before SCOTUS.)

Top 10 Worst Technology Predictions

Technology Predictions Are Mostly Bunk

Excerpt:

  1. "Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments," said Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus in 10 A.D.
    Charles Duell, commissioner for the U.S. Patent Office, who in 1899 said, "Everything that can be invented has already been invented."
  2. "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys," Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office, 1878.
  3. "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" H.M. Warner, Warner Bros., 1927.
  4. "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
  5. "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night," Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
  6. "The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most," IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959.
  7. "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home," Ken Olsen, founder of mainframe-producer Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
  8. "No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer—640K ought to be enough for anybody," Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981.
  9. "Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput," Sir Alan Sugar, British entrepreneur, 2005.


Comment: Read the entire article for the "three laws of prediction"

12.27.2009

SPAM: Today's incredible offer

Comment: In my Gmail inbox today

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Work as my payment assistant in charge of collecting and processing the payments from the associates.
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2. Cash the Payments at your Bank
3. Deduct 10%, which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed.
4. You will then forward the balance via Western Union Money Transfer according to my instruction.

REQUIREMENT:
18 years or older.
Responsible, Reliable and Trustworthy
Available to work a minimum 3-4 hours per week.
Able to check and respond to emails often.
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All replies should be sent to: dr.steve.bruce@gmail.com

Regards,
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12.24.2009

50 new things and 10 that should die!

50 things that changed our lives in the aughts

10 obsolete technologies to kill in 2010


Comments:


  • I still occasionally use a FAX. Always at work and outbound. I use EFAX for all inbound Faxes
  • I still like the CD's. I bought 4 this holiday season
  • Still have the landline phone but could do without it. If (when) we buy our own cell phones instead of using company cells ... we will ditch the landline
  • We have satellite radio in the Buick. Probably wouldn't have it in another car


Other: I plowed snow for probably an hour. My house, Mrs Finke's and Paul the neighbor across the street. A very heavy 6-7" of snow. I got the tractor stuck on a ridge at the end of the driveway and Kathee had to shovel me out. I used half a tank of gas. We took the truck out and bought 7 more gallons in 2 containers. I expect to plow again at 5 (before dinner) and maybe again at 10 or so

12.23.2009

Snowpocalypse!

Snowpocalypse When? Snowpocalypse Now!

Excerpt:

It won't be a silent night this Christmas Eve and Christmas, atmospherically speaking, as the Twin Cities can expect up to a foot of snow and further north could get up to two.

A winter storm warning for all of the Twin Cities begins Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. and will last until Saturday morning.

The snow will start Wednesday evening coming in from the south, said WCCO meteorologist Chris Shaffer. If you're traveling to the north this afternoon, you should be fine. However, if you're traveling to the south, you'll be heading straight into the storm.

That line will move up into the Twin Cities as Wednesday turns into Thursday. South of the line of snow will be another line of rain-snow mix, with some sleet and freezing drizzle.

Drivers should be aware that traveling in the southern third of the state will be difficult late Wednesday, though conditions may only devolve from there.

The heaviest snow is expected to fall Thursday, providing an extremely white Christmas Eve. From there, it doesn't show signs of stopping until early Saturday.

The snow fall will remain pretty consistent throughout Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day. Shaffer said the snow should come in waves.


Comment: Cool word - "Snowpocalypse"! We are ready. I am downtown today. Kathee is working from home. We are both going to work from home tomorrow. The tractor (Deere with plow) is gassed up and ready! Heard that the Christmas Eve service at 4th has been canceled!

Misperceptions on Wells Fargo and the TARP

Misperceptions:


  • That Wells Fargo wanted it! They were asked to take it! Answer: here
  • Why did the government force this upon the banks: Because of fractional banking, the "gift-so-called" increased bank capitalization and enabled the banks to loan more money (to ease the credit crunch of a year ago)
  • That it was somehow a "gift". Answer. The Government bought $ 25 B of preferred stock. What is preferred stock? Answer: here. What it meant to the stockholders (the common stock ones .... as I once was!): We surrendered our dividends!
  • That it should have been "given out" to borrowers. Answer: One cannot both blame the banks for making poor loans AND encourage them to afford EZ credit for people who cannot pay!
  • That it "cost" the government. Bank TARP recipients paid 5% interest on the TARP funds!
  • Comment: TARP funds given to GM and Chrysler are not likely to be ever paid back.



Wells Fargo repays $25 billion TARP bailout

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo & Co, the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, on Wednesday said it repaid the $25 billion government bailout it received during the financial crisis, after last week selling $12.25 billion in stock.

Wells Fargo also paid dividends of $131.9 million to the government as part of the repayment, it said in a statement. The bank has paid $1.44 billion in dividends on the government's investment since it took the bailout, it said.


More details:

Companies receiving TARP funds

Companies that have paid back TARP funds (this is not current with today's news of WFC paying the TARP back)

An additional fact about TARP and the banks (at least Wells Fargo):

Eye on Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo was among the eight large U.S. banks to receive the Treasury Department's initial round of capital investments -- money described by Treasury officials not as a bailout, but rather as funds to help bolster "healthy" banks in tough times.


As part of the so-called "bailout", the government continues to hold warrants to purchase approximately 110 million shares of Wells Fargo common stock at an exercise price of $34.01 per share. This is tantamount to an option to buy stock at a set price. Wells is at $ 25 or $ 26 today. Were the stock to climb to $ 40 per share, the government could make $ 6 per share X 110 M = $ 660,000,000!

Sound familiar?

Two quotes .... guess the speaker of each:

Quote 1

Excerpt:

They'll see what's good. We'll show them what a real market is all about, not those speculative, money-grubbing markets, but a market for the people

We're going to defeat speculation. Private individuals in sales can still sell, but they'll have to compete with us and with a people who is now fully aware



Quote 2

Excerpt:

the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices and it helps keep the private sector honest, because there's some competition out there.

...

[it] will keep ... companies honest and increase competition

Wells Fargo completes repayment of TARP

Wells Fargo today redeemed the $25 billion of series D preferred stock issued to the U.S. Treasury under the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s Capital Purchase Program.
As part of the redemption of the preferred stock, Wells Fargo also paid accrued dividends of $131.9 million, bringing the total dividends paid to the U.S. Treasury and U.S. taxpayers to $1.441 billion since the preferred stock was issued in October 2008. As previously stated, by repaying the TARP investment, Wells Fargo will eliminate $1.25 billion in future annual preferred stock dividends. The U.S. Treasury continues to hold warrants to purchase approximately 110 million shares of Wells Fargo common stock at an exercise price of $34.01 per share.


Comment: The TARP they were forced into!

12.22.2009

Heavy snow for Christmas?

2 feet for Christmas? You better watch out

Excerpt:

A large winter storm with the potential to dump a foot or more of snow is grinding its way toward Minnesota, and its arrival is likely to mess up travel plans, complicate last-minute errands and ensure a very white Christmas.

"It's not definite yet, but it has an uncanny resemblance to the East Coast storm last Saturday," meteorologist Paul Douglas posted Monday on his Facebook page. "I want to see one to two more computer runs, but this could be the snowiest Christmas for Minnesota in 30 years."

According to a winter storm warning issued this afternoon for central and southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, the mess is expected to begin Wednesday afternoon -- and go on and on.

"This is major," said James McQuirter, meteorologist at the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service. "It might not get out of here until Saturday."

Douglas said in an interview that, depending on the temperature, freezing rain, sleet and/or ice could enter the picture, particularly to the east and south. Either way, "I think travel conditions Christmas Eve and Christmas Day may be pretty bad," he said, encouraging people to leave earlier on Wednesday if they have that option.


Comment: I think this would be super!

12.16.2009

H1N1 shot available at Atlanta airport

Seen today at the Atlanta airport. H1N1 shots available (I was in the C terminal) for $ 22.

I was in a rush so I did not get one

12.12.2009

This and that



I'm in the office today tidying up before our Georgia trip tomorrow.

I managed to get locked out of my work area. I came downtown and badged into the building and then into my work area. I snapped my badge on my wool shirt and hung the shirt over a chair. I had to go up to get Kathee's "crackberry" and then bought a pop in the vending area. Went back to my work area and realized that my badge that I needed entry access was inside the secure area! I walked around and found a guard (Jasmine) and she let me in!

I managed to - the first time in months and months! - completely clean out my inbox! Hallelujah

Now leaving ... more errands before we fly out tomorrow for Georgia

12.10.2009

Federal Revenue and Spending Book of Charts


2009 Federal Revenue and Spending Book of Charts

Comment: Fascinating .... flip through these charts!

Other news: My dear nephew Joel S died suddenly this morning of a brain aneurysm. He was 32 years of age and leaves a young wife. We last saw him at his wedding three years ago. Please pray for his wife, his parents, and his sister.

12.09.2009

Got the Chumby

Official site: www.chumby.com

The long awaited (I ordered it on 11/15) Chumby arrived yesterday. The set up was easy. The device is enabled and widgets installed via a web interface. I deleted some of the widgets that I didn't deem useful and added a couple of others (like Kare11 weather).


Comment: Wiki Chumby

Weather update: I estimate that we received 3-4" of snow out in Plymouth. When I opened the garage door it looked to be about 3" at the door opening. Because of the wind, it had drifted quite a bit. I estimate that we have a 7" drift across the driveway.

Our drive in was uneventful. I used the remote start to have the car warmed up a bit before we left. We left at 7:30 and arrived at work at about 8:15. Our drive home last night was about 45 minutes (15 min longer than normal).

When I get home tonight I need to plow my driveway and the neighbor's

12.08.2009

North Korea's "money grab"

North Koreans Protest Currency Issue

Excerpts:

New reports emerged Tuesday of protests and violence in North Korea as the country's authoritarian regime over the past week seized most of its citizens' money and savings via a new-currency issue.

...

One South Korea-based news report said police in a suburb of the capital city of Pyongyang on Friday shot and killed two market traders who tried to skirt the limits on the amount of old North Korean currency that could be exchanged for new currency. Another said women who work in goods and produce markets were protesting the action in defiance of authorities.

The reports suggest that North Korean officials may be experiencing more difficulty than expected in using the currency issuance to collar the expansion of private wealth in the country.

"They've tried to wind back the system, but they're potentially teaching the people that markets can't be controlled," says Shaun Cochran, head of Korea research at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, who published a report on North Korea's move.

Pyongyang announced Nov. 30 its decision to issue new currency and limit the amount of old currency that could be exchanged to about $40, based on unofficial exchange rates, a step that essentially scrapped all other private money.

Mr. Cochran said that the regime's money grab "could be the single most important event in defining North Korea over the next decade."


Earlier post: North Korea: "shock therapy" on currency

GMU will be to the Arabs what the &euro is to Europe

Kuwait Backs Talks on Creating Gulf Monetary Union

Excerpt:

The Kuwaiti Parliament unanimously approved Tuesday a measure to join efforts to create a Gulf monetary union, but a top government official said adoption of a single currency could take as much as a decade

Kuwait is the latest member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to approve the project. Issuing a Gulf currency would “take a long time and could reach up to 10 years,” Sheik Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti foreign minister, told Parliament.

Kuwaiti lawmakers delayed the vote last month, saying they needed more time to assess the economic implications of a union.

On Tuesday, lawmakers called for another vote to take place before any possible introduction of a single currency.

Among other members of the council, Saudi Arabia has approved the plan and Bahrain is on track to ratify the project before a meeting of Gulf rulers in Kuwait next week.

Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, the council’s secretary general, has said that a third council member, Qatar, had already ratified the union plan although Qatari officials have declined to comment. Two other members of the council, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, have chosen not to join the monetary union plan.

Discussions on creating a single Gulf currency have gained momentum as the value of the dollar has declined.


Comment: &euro = Euro

George Will: "planet Earth's last chance, until the next one"

George Will: The climate-change travesty

Excerpt:

Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate-change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.

...

Copenhagen is the culmination of the post-Kyoto maneuvering by people determined to fix the world's climate by breaking the world's — especially America's — population to the saddle of ever-more-minute supervision by governments. But Copenhagen also is prologue for the 2010 climate change summit in Mexico City, which will be planet Earth's last chance, until the next one.


Comment: Gotto love this (below)

Copenhagen climate conference opens to dire warnings

Excerpts:

Opening ceremonies began with a short film featuring children of the future facing an apocalypse of tempests and desert landscapes if world leaders failed to act today.

"There will be hundreds of millions of refugees," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's panel of climate scientists, said in the film.

"Please help save the world," said a little girl, plaintively.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen told opening ceremonies that the world is looking to the conference to safeguard humanity.

1975: The coming ice age!

The Fiction Of Climate Science

Excerpts:

Many of you are too young to remember, but in 1975 our government pushed "the coming ice age."

Random House dutifully printed "THE WEATHER CONSPIRACY … coming of the New Ice Age." This may be the only book ever written by 18 authors. All 18 lived just a short sled ride from Washington, D.C. Newsweek fell in line and did a cover issue warning us of global cooling on April 28, 1975. And The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1976, reported "many signs that Earth may be headed for another ice age."

...

In 1974, the National Science Board announced: "During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade. Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…leading into the next ice age."

...

In 2002 I stood in a room of the Smithsonian. One entire wall charted the cooling of our globe over the last 60 million years. This was no straight line. The curve had two steep dips followed by leveling. There were no significant warming periods. Smithsonian scientists inscribed it across some 20 feet of plaster, with timelines. Last year, I went back. That fresco is painted over.

Tree rings show a mini ice age in Europe about the time Stradivarius crafted his violins. Chilled Alpine Spruce gave him tighter wood so the instruments sang with a new purity. But England had to give up the wines that the Romans cultivated while our globe cooled, switching from grapes to colder weather grains and learning to take comfort with beer, whisky and ales.

Yet many centuries earlier, during a global warming, Greenland was green. And so it stayed and was settled by Vikings for generations until global cooling came along. Leif Ericsson even made it to Newfoundland. His shallow draft boats, perfect for sailing and rowing up rivers to conquer villages, wouldn't have stood a chance against a baby iceberg.

Those sustained temperature swings, all before the evil economic benefits of oil consumption, suggest there are factors at work besides humans.

Today, as I peck out these words, the weather channel is broadcasting views of a freakish and early snow falling on Dallas. The Iowa state extension service reports that the record corn crop expected this year will have unusually large kernels, thanks to "relatively cool August and September temperatures." And on Jan. 16, 2007, NPR went politically incorrect, briefly, by reporting that "An unusually harsh winter frost, the worst in 20 years, killed much of the California citrus, avocados and flower crops."

To be fair, those reports are short-term swings. But the longer term changes are no more compelling, unless you include the ice ages, and then, perhaps, the panic attempts of the 1970s were right. Is it possible that if we put more CO2 in the air, we'd forestall the next ice age?


Comment: From the Puritan Board

from the Cap and Trade lecture/debate at Texas Tech University last night.

  • If you pretend that the state of Texas is the whole atmosphere.
  • Then the greenhouse gases portion of that would barely cover Lubbock County.
  • The MAN MADE portion of greenhouse gases would be the size of the Texas Tech campus.

And by the way in this cap and trade plan,
the term "greenhouse gases" INCLUDES all water vapor.

How much snow today?

wcco

When all is said and done, Augustyniak thinks the Twin Cities will see between 7 and 10 inches of snow.


kstp

By tonight there may be 1 to 2 inches of new snow. The big show is tonight with snow and blowing snow with another 2 to 3 inches overnight and 1 to 2 inches tomorrow leaving us with 4 to 7 inches of total accumulation.



kare11

One-two inches of snow is expected in the Twin Cities by late Tuesday afternoon. The Twin Cities could see 5-8 inches of snow by dawn Wednesday.



StarTribune

The first course, snow flirting with eventual double digits in depth, will start falling just in time for the Twin Cities' Tuesday evening commute, said National Weather Service forecaster Tony Zaleski.

In fact, areas south of the metro, such as New Ulm, are already reporting snowfall, the Weather Service said.

The next plate of wintry conditions: high winds, creating blizzard-like conditions when daybreak comes Wednesday, Zaleski said. And metro residents should expect to see about a half-foot of snow Wednesday morning on top of the 1 to 2 inches that had fallen Tuesday evening.

Specifically, according to Zaleski, "the bulk of the heaviest snow" should be in northern Washington and Hennepin counties and bending down to Waconia in the extreme southwest metro.

And for dessert? Who can resist temperatures dipped in sub-zero readings.

A "big dam of cold air" will be moving in from northeast Montana in time to send temperatures late Wednesday and early Thursday into the 5- to 10-below range, Zaleski said. "All of that is coming our way."

Thursday's high will be no more than 5-above, he said, with windchills busting through 20-below and then some.


Comment: I think I am ready. We expect a long commute home tonight (if we leave at 5:15 should be home by 6:15). I have the snow plow on my tractor and it is all gassed up. I am a little worried about the tractor battery as it is 10 years old. I probably won't plow tonight if it is just 2" ... just wait until tomorrow.

12.06.2009

Crime and the Carpet Cleaner



Comment: Funny!

12.05.2009

Vaccine production: a billion chicken eggs

How the H1N1 vaccine is made

Excerpt:

The most striking feature of the H1N1 flu vaccine manufacturing process is the 1,200,000,000 chicken eggs required to make the 3 billion doses of vaccine that may be required worldwide. There are entire chicken farms in the US and around the world dedicated to producing eggs for the purpose of incubating influenza viruses for use in vaccines. No wonder it takes six months from start to finish. But we'll get to that in a minute.

The most commonly used process for manufacturing an influenza vaccine was developed in the 1940s -- one of its co-inventors was Jonas Salk, who would go on to develop the polio vaccine -- and has remained basically unchanged since then. The process is coordinated by the World Health Organization and begins with the detection of a new virus (or rather one that differs significantly from those already going around); in this instance, the Pandemic H1N1/09 virus. Once the pandemic strain has been identified and isolated, it is mixed with a standard laboratory virus through a technique called genetic reassortment, the purpose of which is to create a hybrid virus (also called the "reference virus strain") with the pandemic strain's surface antigens and the lab strain's core components (which allows the virus to grow really well in chicken eggs). Then the hybrid is tested to make sure that it grows well, is safe, and produces the proper antigen response. This takes about six to nine weeks.



Comment: Still awaiting the opportunity to have the shot!

In the "man cave"

I was watching the Cincy / Pitt game on TV in the LR and my wife banished me downstairs so she could vacuum.

I continued to follow the game on the Internet but fell asleep with Cincy behind 44-38

My cell phone rang and an HR rep interviewed me for a job I applied for this week.

Then my brother called to tell me Cincy won (Roger and I are Cincy grads)!

Cincinnati 45, Pitt 44

WSJ on Climategate

12.03.2009

Tiger and Elin Christmas card photo



Comment: This is the last one!

Did you hear Tiger changed his name?



To "Cheetah"


Comment: A little harsh!

12.02.2009

Tom Petters: 30 years to life?

Tom Petters Verdict, Count By Count

Excerpt:

A verdict has been reached in the trial of Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman accused of running a $3 billion Ponzi scheme. Here's a look at the jury's decision on each of the superseding indictment's 20 criminal counts.


Comment: My brother in law knows him.

Obama still blaming Bush ... and lying!

Rumsfeld Cries Foul on Obama Claim Troop Requests for Afghanistan Were Denied

Obama:

"Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive."


Rumsfeld:

"Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response," ... "I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006."

If socialized medicine is so great ....

Then explain this:

U.K. Cancer Death Rate Is 38% Higher Than In U.S.

Excerpt:

As the Congress prepared to vote to let us enter the world of waits for doctors, waits for specialists, waits for testing and waits for surgery, radiation and chemo, we should pause to consider the relative records of the private medical care system in the United States with the socialized system in the U.K.

In 2008, Britain had a cancer death rate 0.25% while the United States had a rate of only 0.18%. The UK cancer death rate was 38% higher than in the United States.

The Guardian, the UK’s left wing daily, estimated that “up to 10,000 people” are dying each year of cancer “because their condition is diagnosed too late, according to research by the government’s director of cancer services.” While many people die because of late detection due to their own negligence, there is no reason to believe this self-neglect is more common in the UK than in the US.

In Canada, the cancer death rate is 16% higher than in the United States.

France: the "Big Loan" and chronic deficit

The Trouble With Sarkonomics

Excerpts:

The first sign of trouble: the Big Loan, a multibillion-euro super-bond to finance long-term investment, to be adopted in December, that Sarkozy says will help prepare the economy for the future in a country where a chronic deficit (run since 1974) leaves little room for forward-thinking investment. Critics say the loan will just dig France a deeper hole with no clear payoff.

...

But in economics, such whimsical indifference to long-term consequences is dangerous. Sarkozy's first problem is a lack of follow-through. He has managed to launch reforms at a pace never before seen in France. The Brussels-based Thomas More Institute has charted progress on Sarkozy's 490 campaign promises and the 732 measures he has announced since his election. It has found that on an impressive 80 percent of these, action has at least been initiated. But it has also found that many of these initiatives were hastily prepared and haven't been vigorously pursued, "as if the surface given to reform frustrated its depth." Sarkozy's big pre-crisis effort to trim public-sector waste, for example, yielded a miserly €7 billion in savings. And most of his so-called Marshall Plan for France's notoriously troubled housing projects never got off the ground. "The president likes surprises," the institute reports, "generally when he finds himself in difficult situations." But those surprises have lasting costs for taxpayers.


Comment: France's Big Loan is like Obama's stimulus package!

The fatal arithmetic of imperial decline

An Empire at Risk

Excerpts:

... if the United States succumbs to a fiscal crisis, as an increasing number of economic experts fear it may, then the entire balance of global economic power could shift. Military experts talk as if the president's decision about whether to send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan is a make-or-break moment. In reality, his indecision about the deficit could matter much more for the country's long-term national security. Call the United States what you like—superpower, hegemon, or empire—but its ability to manage its finances is closely tied to its ability to remain the predominant global military power.

...

... there is no end in sight to the borrowing binge. Unless entitlements are cut or taxes are raised, there will never be another balanced budget. Let's assume I live another 30 years and follow my grandfathers to the grave at about 75. By 2039, when I shuffle off this mortal coil, the federal debt held by the public will have reached 91 percent of GDP, according to the CBO's extended baseline projections.

...

[Paul Krugman] "My prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the [fiscal] crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt. And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar."

...

... the federal government's interest payments are forecast by the CBO to rise from 8 percent of revenues in 2009 to 17 percent by 2019, even if rates stay low and growth resumes. If rates rise even slightly and the economy flatlines, we'll get to 20 percent much sooner. And history suggests that once you are spending as much as a fifth of your revenues on debt service, you have a problem. It's all too easy to find yourself in a vicious circle of diminishing credibility. The investors don't believe you can afford your debts, so they charge higher interest, which makes your position even worse.

This matters more for a superpower than for a small Atlantic island for one very simple reason. As interest payments eat into the budget, something has to give—and that something is nearly always defense expenditure. According to the CBO, a significant decline in the relative share of national security in the federal budget is already baked into the cake. On the Pentagon's present plan, defense spending is set to fall from above 4 percent now to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2015 and to 2.6 percent of GDP by 2028.

...

This is how empires decline. It begins with a debt explosion. It ends with an inexorable reduction in the resources available for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Which is why voters are right to worry about America's debt crisis. According to a recent Rasmussen report, 42 percent of Americans now say that cutting the deficit in half by the end of the president's first term should be the administration's most important task—significantly more than the 24 percent who see health-care reform as the No. 1 priority. But cutting the deficit in half is simply not enough. If the United States doesn't come up soon with a credible plan to restore the federal budget to balance over the next five to 10 years, the danger is very real that a debt crisis could lead to a major weakening of American power.


Comment: Newsweek cover article this week.

ObamaCare: If it "saves money" why does it cost more?

ObamaCare: A bill that raises prices but lowers costs

Excerpts:

We have now reached the stage of the health-care debate when all that matters is getting a bill passed, so all news is good news, more subsidies mean lower deficits, and more expensive insurance is really cheaper insurance. The nonpolitical mind reels.

Consider how Washington received the Congressional Budget Office's study Monday of how Harry Reid's Senate bill will affect insurance costs, which by any rational measure ought to have been a disaster for the bill. CBO found that premiums in the individual market will rise by 10% to 13% more than if Congress did nothing. Family policies under the status quo are projected to cost $13,100 on average, but under ObamaCare will jump to $15,200.

...

Finance Chairman Max Baucus chimed in from the Senate floor that "Health-care reform is fundamentally about lowering health-care costs. Lowering costs is what health-care reform is designed to do, lowering costs; and it will achieve this objective."

Except it won't. CBO says it expects employer-sponsored insurance costs to remain roughly in line with the status quo, yet even this is a failure by Mr. Baucus's and the White House's own standards. Meanwhile, fixing the individual market—which is expensive and unstable largely because it does not enjoy the favorable tax treatment given to job-based coverage—was supposed to be the whole purpose of "reform."

Instead, CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don't count because they will be offset by new government subsidies

...

The political tragedy is that there are plenty of reform alternatives that really would reduce the cost of insurance. According to CBO, the relatively modest House GOP bill would actually reduce premiums by 5% to 8% in the individual market in 2016, and by 7% to 10% for small businesses. The GOP reforms would also do so without imposing huge new taxes.

But Democrats don't care because their bill isn't really about "lowering costs." It's about putting Washington in charge of health insurance, at any cost.


Comment: The midterm elections (November 2010) are critical!

'Cap and Trade Is Dead'?

'Cap and Trade Is Dead'

Excerpts:

The more than 3,000 emails and documents from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have found their way to the Internet have blown the lid off the "science" of manmade global warming. CRU is a nerve center for many of those researchers who have authored the United Nations' global warming reports and fueled the political movement to regulate carbon.

Their correspondence show a claque of scientists massaging data to make it fit their theories, squelching scientists who disagreed, punishing academic journals that didn't toe the apocalyptic line, and hiding their work from public view. "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow," glumly wrote George Monbiot, a U.K. writer who has been among the fiercest warming alarmists. The documents "could scarcely be more damaging." And that's from a believer.

This scandal has real implications. Mr. Inhofe notes that international and U.S. efforts to regulate carbon were already on the ropes. The growing fear of Democrats and environmentalists is that the CRU uproar will prove a tipping point, and mark a permanent end to those ambitions.

Internationally, world leaders finally acknowledged that the recession has sapped them of their political power to impose devastating new carbon-restrictions. China and India are clear they won't join the West in an economic suicide pact. Next month's summit in Copenhagen is a bust. Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.

....

Polls show a public already losing belief in the theory of man-made global warming, and skeptics are now on the offense. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell argues this scandal gives added cover to Blue Dogs and other Democrats who were already reluctant to buck the public's will and vote for climate legislation.


Comment: RIP ... err ... not the "peace"!

12.01.2009

What is good for the goose is good for the gander





The elected officials should be required to have the same health care as the public! Too bad all the communication media does not spread this idea around. Know someone in the media, ask them to do it.


Comment: Sent to me by a friend. Click on image for larger. Phrase: What is good for the goose is good for the gander

No ice-water for you!



The Great and Powerful Climate Oz: Global warming fearmongers say restaurants must stop serving ice water

Excerpt:

Mr. Pachauri has good reason to want to gloss over inconvenient facts. The man who joined Al Gore in sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize is too busy calling for an end to the Western lifestyle. "Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion," he tells The Observer, a British newspaper.

In the near future, he explains, car use will have to be "curbed," hotels and restaurants will stop serving ice water, and guests will have their energy use monitored. Heavy taxes will also have to discourage people from flying and force them to take the train. Last year, he called for sharp cutbacks in meat consumption because of the greenhouse emissions livestock are responsible for.

Mr. Pachauri says the key to realizing his ascetic vision is mobilizing young people, who "will be far more sensitive than adults, who have been corrupted by the ways we have been following for years now." Hmm, hundreds of emails showing scientists working together to distort their findings obviously isn't the kind of "corruption" Mr. Pachauri worries about. The real scandal is that burger and iced tea you're about to consume.


Comment: Who made him G-d? (Er .... Oz). Ice water image source: PD Photo

Windows 7 Black Screen of Death?


Windows 7 Black Screen of Death?

Excerpt:

As you're probably aware, over the last week or so Windows user of all stripes (not just Windows 7 users, as it turns out) have been complaining of a plain black screen that appears upon login -- at which point the systems locks up, and... that's it. Aside from some users getting an additional My Computer window (lucky devils) the system grinds to a halt.


Comment : Cool graphic with the above article! Also: Apple welcomes Windows 7 the only way it knows how, with a new commercial

More: ‘Black screen of death’ for some Windows users: Recent Microsoft security patch affects those using Windows 7, Vista, XP

How to fix (this looks really simple! (: )


  1. Restart your PC
  2. Logon and wait for the black screen to appear
  3. Make sure your PC should be able to connect to the internet (black screen does not appear to affect this)
  4. Press the CTRL, ALT and DEL keys simultaneously (AKA the Three-finger salute)
  5. When prompted, Click Start Task Manager
  6. In Task Manager Click on the Application Tab
  7. Next Click New Task
  8. Now enter the command:

    "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" "http://info.prevx.com/download.asp?GRAB=BLACKSCREENFIX"

    Note this command assumes that you are using internet explorer as your browser, if not substitute your browser path and file details for those of iexplore.exe or use the Browser option of Task manager to locate it.

  9. Click OK and your browser should start up and begin the download process
  10. When prompted for the download Click run, the black screen fix program will download and run to automatically fix the issue.
  11. Now restart your PC and the black screen problem will hopefully be gone.


Update: I added the graphic - precious! If unfamiliar with the Blue Screen of Death click here!

North Korea: "shock therapy" on currency

N. Korea Revalues Currency to Curb Free Trade

Excerpts:

The currency reform, the North’s first in 17 years, was implemented on Monday without warning, South Korean news media reported on Tuesday, citing North Korean foreign trading officials based in China and anonymous sources inside the isolated country.

North Koreans were required to swap their old bills for new notes at an exchange rate of 100 to 1 by next Sunday, according to Good Neighbors, a Seoul-based civic group that monitors North Korea through informants inside the country. The authorities also put a cap on the swap, allowing individuals to turn in a maximum of 100,000 won in old notes.

“As people rushed to swap money, commercial activities have virtually come a standstill,” Good Neighbors said in a statement. “The purpose of the reform is to kill private market activities that stoked anti-socialism.”

...

“The primary aim is to control inflation,” said Choi Soo-young, an expert on the North Korean economy at the government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “But the North also wants to stop the market from prospering too fast.”

Since a famine killed many North Koreans and shook the country’s ration system in the mid-1990s, its centrally planned economy, symbolized by state-run stores that sell goods at government-set prices, has coexisted with an unofficial economy where people sold home-grown food or goods smuggled from China.

“With the government stores unable to provide enough supplies, unofficial markets have fueled inflation,” said Dong Yong-sueng, an economist at the private Samsung Economic Research Institute, who monitors the North Korean economy.

Food prices has risen so sharply in recent years that ordinary workers can buy only two kilograms of rice with their monthly wages, according to Open Radio For North Korea, a Seoul-based radio station and Web site which specializes in collecting news from informants within the North.

The North Korean regime also saw the increasingly vibrant markets as a conduit of capitalist ideas and outside influence on its tightly controlled populace.

The ruling elite reportedly cracked down on the North’s biggest wholesale market, located in Pyongsong on the outskirts of Pyongyang, the capital, earlier this year, dispersing many traders into smaller markets in nearby districts.

The currency reform will wipe out much of the wealth that traders have accumulated, thus dampening the market activities, Mr. Dong said. For the regime, it has an added political benefit of fighting a gap between the rich and the poor among ordinary citizens, Mr. Choi said.

By knocking off two zeros from its banknotes, the measure will have an immediate but short-lived impact in fighting inflation, Mr. Choi and Mr. Dong said. It also could aggravate the North’s already acute shortages by discouraging the markets, which have emerged as an important source of food for North Koreans.


Comment: Mix totalitarianism and fiat currency and this is what you have!

How "the justice system" failed (killed) 4 cops

Four days in May set stage for Sunday's tragedy

Excerpt:

May 10th:

After spending one night in jail, Clemmons caught a break.

May 10 was a Sunday, Mother's Day. Judges rarely work Sundays — but bail-bond agents do.

Pierce County has devised a system that allows people to post bond without ever facing a judge, if it happens to be a holiday or a weekend.

Called "booking bail," this system works according to a hard-and-fast formula. Clemmons was booked on four felony charges — two for assault, two for malicious mischief — and, by schedule, his booking bail was set at $10,000 per charge, for a total of $40,000.

"If you post booking bail, you can walk out without seeing a judge. And that appears to be exactly what he did," said Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist. "When it's booking bail, it doesn't take into account particular details like somebody's history. And that's problematic ... it's one of the dangers of booking bail."

If his history had been taken into account, Clemmons would have fared poorly. He had a criminal record dating to his teen years, with at least five prior felony convictions in Arkansas.

Aladdin Bail Bonds posted Clemmons' bond on Mother's Day, and Clemmons walked free. Defendants typically pay 10 percent of the bond, with the bonding company on the hook for the rest.

Stephen Kreimer, executive director of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, said he doesn't think "booking bail" is common nationwide. In most states, he said, defendants must wait until they've seen a magistrate or court representative before being released on bail.


Comment: I don't know what Huckabee was thinking but this guy should have never been released from an Arkansas prison! Read the whole article. Many missteps along the way that lead up to the police killings!

11.30.2009

Fix the USPS: 5 views

In Rain, in Snow, but Not on Saturdays?

Views:


  1. Eliminate Saturday delivery ... Better Than a Bailout: The Postal Service says it can save $3 billion by cutting Saturday delivery
  2. Other Alternatives: Instead of cutting service, Congress should fix the prefunding [of future retiree health benefits] problem. Then it should explore ways to free the Postal Service to provide a broader array of useful services to businesses and the public — including Oregon-style vote by mail, low-cost banking and remittance services in underserved areas, utility meter reading and computer recycling services — that will generate new revenue and preserve universal mail delivery.
  3. Privatize and Commercialize: Eliminating Saturdays may be a further blow to its competitiveness. So, the Postal Service needs fundamental reform and it needs to develop a business model that will help it address the competition it faces. Postal services in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Australia, for example, have had success moving in the direction of privatization and commercialization.
  4. Better Choices: A good first step would be examining the possibility of Congress changing the payment schedule it imposed several years ago for financing future retiree costs. Next, both the Postal Service and the employee unions should work together to seek agreement on modest changes to work rules and the wage and benefit structure. And finally, Congress should investigate the possibility of allowing the Postal Service to streamline its vast network of facilities, which could save billions if done correctly.
  5. A Thorough Review: The U.S. Postal Service is a national icon, part of the fabric of our society. By law, if the Postal Service proposes a change with nationwide service implications, it must request an advisory opinion from my organization, the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission then establishes a comprehensive, on-the-record review of the Postal Service’s plan. Through regional hearings, public forums, formal testimony and evidence, the commission would explore the merits and deficiencies of the proposal. What level of service does the public still expect? Which day of the week would be eliminated? What about long holiday weekends?


Comment: I would be fine with 3 day a week delivery. I would like to see a national secure clearing house for ebilling. I also would like to see some sort of way that one could easily opt out of junk mail (we throw away 80% of our mail!).

"He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money" and six more!

7 stories Barack Obama doesn't want told

The list:


  1. He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money
  2. Too much Leonard Nimoy
  3. That’s the Chicago Way
  4. He’s a pushover
  5. He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe
  6. President Pelosi
  7. He’s in love with the man in the mirror




Comment: Worthwhile read!

Eco-hypocrisy

Taking the private jet to Copenhagen

Excerpt:

Harrison Ford, who is vice-chairman on the board of Conservation International, voices public-service messages for an environmental federation called EarthShare, and once shaved his chest hair to illustrate the effects of deforestation, is another hobby pilot. He once owned a Gulfstream but now makes do with a smaller Cessna Citation Sovereign eight-seater jet, four propeller planes and a helicopter.

Oprah Winfrey, who preaches eco-virtue from her TV pulpit, travelled in a 13-seat Gulfstream IV private jet for years — the preferred model for celebrities and the super-rich. (She has replaced it with a faster Bombardier Global Express.) The public first became aware of her private-jet habit when her plane had to make a forced landing in California in 2005; it was reminded of it this year after one of her stewardesses was fired for allegedly having sex with the pilot while Oprah and other passengers were asleep.

Jennifer Aniston told reporters that to save the Earth’s precious water resources she brushes her teeth while in the shower. But she also flew a hairdresser to Europe to accompany her on a recent publicity tour for the film Marley & Me.


Comment: Good to know that Jennifer brushes her teeth in the shower!

11.28.2009

Online Banking: “Zero liability is now an industry standard"

Don’t Take This Bait (but You’re Safe if You Do)

Excerpt:

Law enforcement agencies that oversee computer security are well versed in the many permutations of “phishing,” the scam in which fraudsters try to lure people to a counterfeit replica of their bank’s Web site, for example, and have them part with their user names and passwords.

But even the professionally wary can be gulled — or close to it. Just ask Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Mueller recently received an e-mail message that seemed to be from his bank. He clicked on the link and began to follow the instructions to “verify” his account information. Before completing the procedure, however, he realized that he had been led to a counterfeit site — so he left.

It’s the aftermath that is of most interest. After Mr. Mueller told his wife about his close call, he said she drew this conclusion from the experience: simply having online access to bank accounts is unacceptably risky.

“No more Internet banking for you,” she told him.

The F.B.I. director related the story in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in October. “Too little attention has been paid to cyber threats — and their consequences,” Mr. Mueller said that day.

He offered his own experience as a cautionary tale from “someone who spends a good deal of his professional life warning others about the perils of cybercrime,” yet who still came close to falling for a scam and “barely caught himself in time.” (The story ends there, and an F.B.I. spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined my interview request.)

An audience of civilians would naturally wonder, “What chance do we have of keeping our pockets from being picked?”

I’m not convinced, however, that online banking carries the high risk that Mr. Mueller implies. I know that as ordinary computer users, we are offered unlimited bait from phishers. But I’m not particularly worried: I’m not on the hook for losses from fraud — my bank is.

I could not find any online financial service — and I checked brokerage firms as well as banks — that stops short of promising to make a victimized customer whole.

Mr. Mueller, encouraging his audience to invest in “cybersecurity,” raised a terrifying specter when he spoke of guarding “against losing everything.” But how could I suffer “losing everything” at the hands of online criminals when my bank has this policy posted on its Web site: “We guarantee that you will be covered for 100 percent of funds removed from your Wells Fargo accounts in the unlikely event that someone you haven’t authorized removes those funds through our Online Services.”

“Zero liability is now an industry standard,” said Doug Johnson, vice president for risk management at the American Bankers Association. Restitution is full, and customers do not even have the $50 of exposure that credit card holders risk from unauthorized use of their cards.

Banks, online brokerage firms and payment sites like PayPal, exposed as they all are, would like for us to use more sophisticated security than a password to protect our accounts. One way to combat the phishing threat is to require that online customers supply a second piece of information when they log in, a one-time-only numeric code that is either generated by a little gizmo built for this purpose or is sent to the customer’s cellphone.

Your password is “something you know,” as security experts describe it, and the temporary security code is “something you have” — and something that a phishing fraudster would not. Requiring two dissimilar things is the essence of “two-factor authentication.”

Such a system isn’t perfect, but one can see why financial institutions would like to have a better lock installed on their front door. These institutions must proceed cautiously, however, lest they scare customers into abandoning online banking. At the moment, banks seem to be offering the security key system principally to customers with business accounts.

Teddy De Rivera, executive vice president in the Internet services group at Wells Fargo, said his bank would roll out its security key system more broadly over the next two years. Wells Fargo plans to require a code not every time a customer logs in, but only when its software detects a suspicious “high-risk transaction.” His group had collected feedback from customers who made clear that they “don’t want to have to use it every time,” he said.


Comment: I'm a big fan (Wells Fargo, and ING Direct)

An "unsustainable fiscal future" for US

Damn the deficit: Full speed ahead on health care

Excerpt:

Apologists for the Obama administration argue that some 2009 spending, like that on financial bailouts, is nonrecurring. True, but as the Congressional Budget Office has reported, the trajectory of administration spending and revenue is pushing the annual deficit toward $1,000,000,000,000 -- that's $1 trillion -- for the next decade.

Congressional Democrats' health care bills threaten to add to that. The bill currently before the Senate is advertised as costing less than $1 trillion. But significant spending doesn't kick in till 2014 and over the ensuing 10 years adds up to $1.8 trillion, nearly double that.

Thanks to current low interest rates, servicing the debt costs the government only $200 billion this year. But the White House estimates that debt service will exceed $700 billion in 2019. "In a few years," the Economist editorializes, "the AAA rating of Treasury bonds, the world's most important security, could be in jeopardy."

It's not only Republicans who decry this prospect. Examining the Democrats' health care proposals, William Galston, domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, writes, "We're already facing an unsustainable fiscal future."

Looking further ahead, Scott Winship notes in the Progressive Policy Institute's progressivefix.com blog that federal spending is on course to exceed 40 percent of GDP because of scheduled spending on entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- within the lifetime of today's children.

Yet the congressional Democrats who are pressing to expand federal health care spending do not seem much fazed by the prospect that, as Winship writes, "the level of taxation it would require to meet projected spending needs is far higher than anything the country has ever seen-slash-tolerated."

That suggests that, at least for some Democrats, huge looming budget deficits are not a bug but a feature. Just as Ronald Reagan hoped that cutting taxes would force politicians to cut spending, these Democrats hope that increasing spending will force politicians to increase taxes to levels common in Western Europe. Never mind that those economies have proved more sluggish and less creative than ours over the long haul.


Comment: Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are destroying our country!

John Stumpf: no more acquistions for now

Big 3 won’t buy failed banks

Excerpt:

In an interview with Atlanta Business Chronicle, John Stumpf, president and CEO of Wells Fargo, said the San Francisco-based financial services conglomerate would likely not be an acquirer in a regulator-assisted deal in Georgia or anywhere else.


“To the extent we participate in the consolidation of [the banking industry], our No. 1 job, No. 2 job and No. 3 job is getting Wells Fargo and Wachovia merged and do it exceedingly well,” Stumpf said Nov. 19 following meetings in Atlanta with top clients and regional management. (See Stumpf interview, Page 4A.)

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) acquired Wachovia in October 2008 and is grappling with the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank’s challenged loan portfolio. Industry watchers said the $1.3 trillion-in-assets mega-bank has its hands full, integrating Wachovia’s 3,300 branches, extensive business lines and dealing with legacy Wachovia’s rocky loan portfolio.

“We’re not going to play in the consolidation of the market unless it is very late in [traditional] merger activity, or if we are invited in some way [by regulators],” Stumpf said. “Otherwise, we’re saying grace over all the things we can say grace over right now.”

Wells Fargo/Wachovia is the second-largest bank in metro Atlanta.


Comment: Several more years before Wachovia completely merged!

Reinhold Niebuhr and the Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer Skeptic Now Credits Niebuhr

Excerpt:

A Yale librarian who cast doubt last year on the origins of the Serenity Prayer, adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and reprinted on countless knickknacks, says new evidence has persuaded him to retain the famed Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr as the author in the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations.

The provenance of the prayer, which begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” became a subject of controversy last year with the publication of an article by the librarian, Fred R. Shapiro, who is also the editor of the book of quotations. Mr. Shapiro had found archival materials that led him to express doubt that Niebuhr was the author.

But now another researcher trawling the Internet has discovered evidence that attributes the prayer to Niebuhr. The researcher, Stephen Goranson, works in the circulation department at the Duke University library, has a doctorate from Duke in the history of religion and, as a sideline, searches for the origins of words and sayings and publishes his findings in etymology journals. This month he found a Christian student newsletter written in 1937 that cites Niebuhr as the prayer’s author.

The prayer in the newsletter is slightly different from the contemporary one often printed on mugs and wall plaques. It reads, “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”

The contemporary version puts the phrase about serenity before the one about courage, but Mr. Goranson said in an interview, “I think the 1937 document very much strengthens the probability that Niebuhr wrote it.”


Comment: Earlier post. Wiki. Final comment: The Christ-less prayer used by A.A.

11.27.2009

Dubai's lesson

Dubai Debt Woes Raise Fear of Wider Problem

Excerpt:

In a worst-case contagion, Bank of America analysts wrote Friday, “One cannot rule out — as a tail-risk — a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets in the same way that Argentina did in the early 2000s or Russia in the late 1990s.”

And not just emerging markets. “Dubai shows us that what we are now facing is a solvency issue, not a liquidity issue,” said Jonathan Tepper, a partner at Variant Perception, a research house in London that has been outspoken on the debt problems facing European economies.

On Wednesday, Dubai requested that Dubai World be allowed to skip six months of interest payments on its debt. Before then, Dubai World, the corporate face of the emirate, had commissioned the city state’s flashiest buildings, managed ports around the world and reached far overseas to invest in properties like Barneys in New York.

Now, just as Bear Stearns was a harbinger of a string of failures of overly leveraged investment banks, the concern is that Dubai could be the canary in the coal mine for heavily indebted countries. The debts of everyone, including Japan and the United States, not to mention emerging markets, have risen greatly as the countries have fought the ravages of the global recession.

Whether you are Dubai, Greece, Spain, Ireland or the U.K., you can print as much money as you want, but at the end of the day you have to pay the interest on your debt,” Mr. Tepper said.

Dubai is one of the few member states of the United Arab Emirates that has little oil wealth of its own. It acts as the trading, tourist and financial hub of the emirates. But it was assumed that the U.A.E.’s richest oil state, Abu Dhabi, would always bail out its free-spending neighbor.


Comment: If you've been following this blog, consider the errors of Iceland, Zimbabwe, and now Dubai. Also consider this blog post.

The Salahis: "were on the guest list"




Excerpt:

A White House spokesman said the couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi of Virginia, met the president and first lady in a receiving line at their first state dinner, honoring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. That disclosure coincided with a statement in which the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, said his agency was “deeply concerned and embarrassed” by the events at the dinner Tuesday night.

“The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely,” Mr. Sullivan said. “That failing is ours.”


Comment: Snap shot from the NY Times article

Trusting this administration for security

Would-be reality TV stars crash Obama party

Excerpt:

A couple of aspiring reality-TV stars from Northern Virginia appear to have crashed the White House’s state dinner Tuesday night, penetrating layers of security with no invitation to mingle with the likes of Vice President Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi — polo-playing socialites known for a bitter family feud over a Fauquier County winery and their possible roles in the forthcoming “The Real Housewives of Washington” — were seen arriving at the White House and later posted on Facebook photos of themselves with VIPs at the elite gathering.

“Honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honor of India with President Obama and our First Lady!” one of them wrote on their joint Facebook page at 9:08 p.m.


Comment: Good to know that US security is in the hands of this administration!

No white enough to be civil rights hero?!

From Footnote to Fame in Civil Rights History

Excerpt:

“Young people think Rosa Parks just sat down on a bus and ended segregation, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Ms. Colvin said in an animated interview at a diner near her apartment in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. “Maybe by telling my story — something I was afraid to do for a long time — kids will have a better understanding about what the civil rights movement was about.”

Ms. Colvin made her stand on March 2, 1955, and Mrs. Parks made hers on Dec. 1 that same year. Somehow, as Mrs. Parks became one of Time Magazine’s 100 most important people of the 20th century, and streets and schools were named after her, Ms. Colvin managed to let go of any bitterness. After Ms. Colvin was arrested, Mrs. Parks, a seasoned N.A.A.C.P. official, sometimes let her spend the night at her apartment. Ms. Colvin remembers her as a reserved but kindly woman who fixed her snacks of peanut butter on Ritz crackers.

“My mother told me to be quiet about what I did,” Ms. Colvin recalled. “She told me: ‘Let Rosa be the one. White people aren’t going to bother Rosa — her skin is lighter than yours and they like her.’ ”


Comment: Where's Jesse Jackson when you need him!

11.26.2009

Climategate

WSJ: The impression left by the Climategate emails is that the global warming game has been rigged from the start

Excerpt:

According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges that critics have lobbed at climatologists from outside this clique are routinely dismissed and disparaged.


Comment: Creation science is also suppressed: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Obama addicted to the “unprecedented”

The White House's unprecedented use of 'unprecedented'

Excerpt:

The White House’s announcement of its unprecedented — “a first by an American president visiting China” — town hall meeting with students in Beijing, for instance, drew a collective eye roll in certain circles back home, namely among former aides to President George W. Bush, who had already been grumbling about Obama’s carefree application of “unprecedented.”

“I think I attended a town hall with President Bush in China,” former Bush adviser Karen Hughes quipped with a laugh, recalling a 2002 Bush speech in Beijing at which he took questions from the audience. “I thought: Were they asleep? Or were they dreaming? I remember standing and watching President Bush engage in a town hall that I believe was televised.”

President Bill Clinton also took questions from Chinese students at an event during a trip to the country in 1998, then did a radio call-in show in Shanghai the next day.

The White House’s characterization of Obama’s Beijing town hall mirrored the description staff gave Obama’s address to students on the first day of school, which the Education Department called “historic.” Yet President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to students, as did President Ronald Reagan. Maybe it was the streaming online video of Obama’s speech to students that was unprecedented?


Comment: Less impressed with President golden tongue every day!

11.25.2009

The quiet eloquence of Calvin Coolidge

Not-So-Silent Cal Wrote With Eloquence

Excerpts:

The near reverential devotion to thrift: "There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means."

...

The abhorrence of waste: "Wealth comes from industry and from the hard experience of human toil. To dissipate it in waste and extravagance is disloyalty to humanity."

...

As to leading the nation, he asserts "all situations that arise are likely to be simplified, and many of them completely solved, by an application of the Constitution and the law."

...

And on presidential hubris, he warns: "It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions."


Comment: Interesting!

Modernizing flu vaccine production

Vaccine Makers Struggle to Speed Output

Excerpt:

... the U.S. is still struggling to modernize and speed up production of vaccinations against deadly pandemics like swine flu. The system is undermined by a lack of manufacturing plants and by decades-old technology that takes six to nine months to make flu vaccine.

The new Novartis plant, heavily financed by the U.S. government, represents one of the biggest steps in 60 years toward modernizing flu-vaccine manufacturing in the U.S. It uses new technology to grow flu viruses in vats of cells derived from dog kidneys, and uses these viruses to make vaccine. The decades-old process involves growing the virus in chicken eggs.

Novartis says the new approach could shave four to six weeks off the time needed to make each shot. The plant has other advantages: If a deadly avian-flu virus hit, it could kill scores of chickens and endanger the supply of eggs needed to make vaccine the old-fashioned way. Cell-culture technology removes that risk.


Comment: Interesting because explains cell-culture technology (select article for nice graphic). Democrats want to impose higher taxes on vaccine producers (below):

Reform tax would hit H1N1 vaccine manufacturers