1.31.2009

Mount Obama, Barack Obama Day, & Obamamania


Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

Excerpt:

... though Bush hatred may weaken as the 43rd president minds his business back home in Texas, and while Obama euphoria may fade as the 44th president is compelled to immerse himself in the daunting ambiguities of power, our universities will continue to educate students to believe that hatred and euphoria reflect political wisdom. Urgent though the problem is, not even the efficient and responsible spending of a $1 trillion stimulus package would begin to address it.


Examples of irrational Obamamania exuberance



New York School Renames Itself For Obama

Excerpt:

A school on Long Island has been renamed Barack Obama Elementary School in honor of his historic rise to the presidency.

The move at the largely black and Hispanic school in Hempstead is among the first in what will likely be a wave of name changes around the world now that Mr. Obama has been elected president, from schools and streets to parks and mountaintops.

The prime minister of the Caribbean nation of Antigua has said he's taking measures to have the island's highest mountain peak renamed Mount Obama. In Portland, Ore., students want to rename Clark K-8 At Binnsmead school. Elsewhere on Long Island, the Clear Stream Avenue School in Valley Stream will consider a renaming resolution in December. And parents already have been naming newborns Barack.

"When I'm older I'm going to look back and say I went to Barack Obama Elementary School," said fifth-grader Teonte Jackson, who played Mr. Obama in a mock presidential debate before the election. "He had the guts to run for president and believe in himself."


Renamed schools, streets mark early tributes to Obama

Excerpts:


  • Opa-Locka, Fla., renamed one of its main city streets in December. Hollywood, Fla., is considering doing the same.
  • St. Louis made an honorary name change to a busy road that used to divide white and black neighborhoods. The postal address is still Delmar Boulevard, but the city will post signs that also designate the street Barack Obama Boulevard.
  • The Associated Press reports that Antigua is renaming 1,300-foot Boggy Peak, its highest spot, Mount Obama (Click for official announcement).
  • In Perry County, Ala., where the 1965 killing of a black man by a white state trooper in Marion led to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, commissioners paid tribute to the president by designating the second Monday in November a legal holiday: Barack Obama Day.


Obama signs temporarily replace Bush signs

Excerpt:

When Barack Obama was sworn in Tuesday morning as the nation’s first black president, his vision of change for the country was culminated in dramatic fashion.

That message rang particularly clear in San Francisco in more ways than one, starting with a literal change on The City’s streets made by a vandal.

Signs marking Bush Street, which happens to be the surname of the country’s former president, was temporarily marked over with the last name of the president that would soon succeed him, Obama.

The freshly minted Obama signs, which covered both sides of the structures featured the same font and print as the pre-existing Bush Street signs.

Cars passing through the intersection didn’t seem to have any problem navigating through the altered signage, and a few curious passers-by elected to snap up photos of the new moniker.

“I think it’s great,” said Oakland resident Laura Page. “I just think it’s in the spirit of the day. There is a lot of excitement and I think people are looking forward to a new era.”

Despite Page’s enthusiasm for the impromptu changes, city officials were called on to rectify the new street signs.


Comment: A wrong emphasis on man!

A Titantic moment (airline style)



Comment: From an airline executive to me: "an airline joke, but pretty true to fact"

Goto try this!




Comment: http://www.faceinhole.com


Create your own FACEinHOLE

My childrens' tax problems

Use of Free Car Lands Tom Daschle in Tax Trouble

Excerpt:

On Friday, members of the Finance Committee received a report on the vetting of Mr. Daschle, done by members of the committee staff from both parties. The report says that he paid back taxes and interest totaling $32,090 for 2005, $38,507 for 2006 and $69,570 for 2007.

The Finance Committee document said Mr. Daschle had amended his tax returns to show “unreported income from the use of a car service in the amounts of $73,031, $89,129 and $93,096 in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively.”

An administration official said Mr. Daschle’s failure to pay the taxes was “a stupid mistake.” But, the official said, Mr. Daschle should not be penalized because he had discovered the tax liability himself, paid up and brought it to the committee’s attention.

...

“Under Section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code, the value of transportation services provided for personal use must be included in income,” the report said. “Senator Daschle estimated that he used the car and driver 80 percent for personal use and 20 percent for business.”

The car and driver were not Mr. Daschle’s only problems. The Finance Committee said he failed to report consulting income of $83,333 on his 2007 tax return and overstated the deductions to which he was entitled for charitable contributions from 2005 to 2007. In his amended tax returns, he reduced the deductions by $14,963.

Under his consulting arrangement with InterMedia, the report said, Mr. Daschle received $1 million a year, or $83,333 a month. The payment to Mr. Daschle for May 2007 was omitted from the annual statement of income sent to him by InterMedia. Ms. Backus said the omission resulted from “a clerical error by InterMedia.”


Comment: If I put "my children" in the title, they will read it! My children DID NOT PAY TAXES on the free use of cars that I provided for them. I am officially and publicly posting this - that they violated Section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code! About Tom Daschle .... I only say "not like us"!

"Life: Imagine the Potential"



Comment: Rejected as a Super Bowl ad (no surprise). I wonder what "the Goracle" would say:

Question: "What does your modeling tell you about how long we're going to be around as a species?"

The Goracle: "I don't claim the expertise to answer a question like that, Senator"

---
For the aborted .... already gone!

1.30.2009

A tax break for Tinseltown

Raiders of the Lost Taxpayer

Excerpt:

National Journal reported this week that the Senate's economic stimulus bill includes a provision that would make Hollywood studios eligible for a special 50% write-off of equipment purchases. According to the report, "the provision is backed by firms like the Walt Disney Co., and the industry trade group the Motion Picture Association of America."

The House version of the stimulus already includes a bonus depreciation that lets businesses immediately write off 50% of their 2009 capital expenditures. But the Senate bill expands the definition of "qualifying property" -- specifically to include "certain motion picture film or videotape." Hollywood moguls like Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and George Lucas were among the biggest backers of President Obama's candidacy, and it looks as though Democrats have found a way to return the favor.


Comment: Change we can believe in?

How NOT to do Sunday School




HT: Jamie Steele

1.29.2009

Antarctic cold




HT: Between Two Worlds

God, Man, and Philosophy



God, Man, Philosophy

Comment: Lesson # 2 from Romans (1:18-32)

Eleven Courageous Democrats





NYTimes Interactive Graphic: House Vote on H.R.1: Making supplemental appropriations for fiscal year ending 2009


Comment: Kathee and I were discussing this morning the eleven who voted "no" on the 825 Billion Dollar Boondoggle. My guess was that they were all Blue Dog Democrats from the South. I was nearly right.

The Goracle speaks!



With Al Due Respect, We're Doomed

Excerpts:


Question: "Share with us, if you would, sort of the immediate vision that you see in this transformative process as we move to this new economy,"

The Goracle: "Geothermal energy" ... "This has great potential; it is not very far off."

The Goracle on subject of nuclear power: "I have grown skeptical about the degree to which it will expand"

Question: "What does your modeling tell you about how long we're going to be around as a species?"

The Goracle: "I don't claim the expertise to answer a question like that, Senator"

More Goracle (Moracle?): "We must face up to this urgent and unprecedented threat to the existence of our civilization," ... "This is the most serious challenge the world has ever faced." And: It "could completely end human civilization, and it is rushing at us with such speed and force."

The Goracle on oil demand: "This roller coaster is headed for a crash, and we're in the front car."

The Goracle on polar ice: "Like a beating heart, and the permanent ice looks almost like blood spilling out of a body along the eastern coast of Greenland."

Sometimes The Goracle speaks cryptically: "The road to Copenhagen has three steps to it,"


Comment: Decrypt the prophet ... Google "The Road to Copenhagen". Answer

Comment: This is serious folks! If you want to understand the concept of true versus false prophets read the book of Jeremiah. If you want to learn about Man's origins read the book of Genesis. If you want to know Man's ultimate destiny read the book of Revelation. If you want to know about Man's only hope - The Savior, read the Gospels. If you want to know how to be right with God, read the book of Romans.

1.28.2009

They could skip Thursdays



Postmaster General: Mail days may need to be cut

Excerpt:

Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week.

If the change happens, that doesn't necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. Previous post office studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day when mail flow is light, such as Tuesday.

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. "If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year," Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, over 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history.


Comment: Thursdays seem to be junk mail day! Seriously, cutting back to 3 days a week would be fine by me!

Madoff bites Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Says Madoff Scheme Cost Bank $294 Million

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo & Co. wrote off $294 million because Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme wiped out some of its customers and left them unable to pay loans, said Chief Financial Officer Howard Atkins.

“This is not our exposure to Madoff, this is our exposure to customers of ours who had investments in Madoff,” Atkins said today in an interview after the company announced fourth-quarter results, which included the pretax charge tied to Madoff. “They’ve gone from being wealthy to not having any money,” Atkins said. He didn’t say how many were involved.


Comment: Yet Bernie is still under house arrest in his multimillion dollar apartment!

8 Sampsonia Way



What's going on in Pittsburgh?


View Larger Map


HT: Woot: The Battle Of Pittsburgh, In Google Street View

Stimulating "more government and more debt"

Obama presses his case on stimulus

Excerpt:

"The Democrat bill won't stimulate anything but more government and more debt," Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the Republican conference, said Tuesday. "The slow and wasteful spending in the House Democrat bill is a disservice to millions of Americans who want to see this Congress take immediate action to get this economy moving again."

...

Several Republicans said they would like the tax cuts to move more swiftly, according to people in the room, but the president replied that $275 billion was the most he would be willing to negotiate.


A 40-Year Wish List - You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill

Excerpt:

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.

We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.

In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.

Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus.

....

Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?

Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Congress also wants to spend $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities. The Smithsonian is targeted to receive $150 million; we love the Smithsonian, too, but this is a job creator?

Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all. There's $81 billion for Medicaid, $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits, $20 billion for food stamps, and $83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax. While some of that may be justified to help poorer Americans ride out the recession, they aren't job creators.


Bill May Not Stimulate Jobs Right Away

Excerpt:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected less than half of the $355 billion that House Democrats want to spend on highways, bridges and other job-creating investments is likely to be used before the end of fiscal 2010. The CBO said the balance would likely be spent over the next several years, after the recession is projected to end.

Republicans said the analysis shows that the package, which Democratic leaders drew up with top Obama aides to boost the ailing economy, wouldn't create the promised jobs. "Clearly, we're not talking about a stimulus bill," said Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican.


Comments:

  • I am praying for my friends (some of whom read this!) who are out of work. I actually fear for my own job based upon what is happening in my company and our industry. I have a son, a nephew, and a niece who have all recently lost jobs. I say this to emphasize that real economic stimulus is in my mind a high priority and that real economic stimulus should create real jobs right here at home (not in China, Mexico or the other places from which we import!)
  • This Nancy Pelosi authored package won't do it! ("Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.)
  • This bill is government waste piled high. Your children and grand children will pay for it in inflated dollars and this (along with the 10 Trillion dollars of debt (see the debt clock in the upper right!) will be the end of this nation as we know it. Perhaps and probably not in our lifetimes, but this waste will be the financial ruin of this country that I love!
  • What would real stimulus look like? A cut in taxes - sharp, deep and short! Put money back in the hands of the American populace. A tax holiday of even a month or two would stimulate this economy.
  • Republicans are wise to vote against it!

Bad Bank Credit Card


Stocks jump on reports of plan for bad bank assets

AND

FDIC May Run ‘Bad Bank’ in Plan to Purge Toxic Assets

Excerpt:

Financial stocks led Wall Street higher Wednesday on investor hopes the Obama administration will create banks to absorb the bad assets weighing down the financial system.


Comment: If you are going to have a "Bad Bank" you will need a credit card. The above is my idea. The malicious, spider-looking logo in the upper right is from the logo of "the Ministry of Information" from the film Brazil.

Obama folderol

Obama - Great Candidate for AntiChrist

AND

Is Barack Obama the Messiah?


Comment: There certainly is an unusual obsession by many about this man!

1.27.2009

21st Century John the Baptist



Comment: I appreciate John Piper!

Can do - Ubuntu?

I saw in one on my blogs comments something to the effect that you can't do everything on Ubuntu that you can do in Windows. I thought I would briefly comment on this topic.

It's not good to blog about work (so I've heard at the office) but I will keep this corporate neutral. I work for a Fortune 500 company in IT. Specifically in desktop (think PC's) IT. I am not a Windows expert but I can say that in my job I have a degree of oversight over nearly 100,000 PC's. I know PC's and I love Windows XP. Ubuntu will not replace what our company uses Windows XP PC's for. Won't happen .... case closed.

But at the personal level, a non-Windows PC can do everything and then some that Windows XP (or Vista) does:


  • Money management - YES (plus if you use online bill pay from a service like WellsFargo.com, you don't need Quicken)
  • Office Suite - YES ... Open Office does everything Word, Excel and Powerpoint can do!
  • Web development (something I have extensive experience with): Ubuntu has it all over Windows unless you need to do .asp programming. But there are are so many other options. Need an HTML editor - Linux has it; FTP - Linux has it; Want to host a website - Apache server on Linux has it
  • Graphics: I use PaintShop Pro on my work desktop. Love it. Linux has something called GIMP


Comment: Ubuntu. Want to have fun ... take an old PC ... say with 256 or 512 MB of memory. And put Ubuntu on it.

Romans study

Tomorrow night we commence our Romans study at the Fourth Baptist Young Adult ministry.

If you are interested in following along, please visit http://www.4bya.info. I am not going to do a "verse by verse" exposition of Romans - so you will need to fill in some blanks. I intend to tell the young adults tomorrow night: 1.) I don't have all the answers; 2.) I am not always right; 3.) Your opinions count. Romans is a difficult book ... can anyone say "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated!" (Romans 9:13).

Here are three links with resources:

Shingles: The malaise

Several have asked so here is an update.

I am at work. (This is what David Letterman and I don't have in common - I can't take 30 days off!). I am sleeping very well. The itchyness has subsided (helped with Cortisone cream). I feel like I could take a nap most the time. Yesterday I was on a conference call from 4 to about 4:30. I think I fell asleep about 5 minutes into it. Towards the end my boss said, "Jim will arrange a meeting" to discuss it further and I woke up. The good news, the rash has not spread and seems to have peaked!

Thanks for remembering me in prayer.

By the way, I heard there is a Shingles vaccine - info here. I'm not sure why you have to be over 60 to receive it. You may want to ask your Dr about it.

Black judge uses "N" word ... has "Negro-itis"

Judge Uses Vulgar Language As She Is Charged

Comment: No excerpts. I post this to demonstrate that racism is not a caucasian-specific issue!

1.26.2009

I have something in common with Dave Letterman

Letterman Returns To 'Late Show'

Excerpt:

Letterman joked about his illness: “You know how they got rid of this? Duct tape.”


Comment: Diagnosed with Shingles on 1/24. Shingles is basically your childhood Chicken Pox come back to haunt you. More here. I had the precursor headache Monday night. The itching and rash started Wednesday night. I am on a 7 day course of Valtrex. As I understand it, it will take 4-5 weeks before it clears up completely.

1.23.2009

More Windows worms & "lax security practices"

Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide

Excerpt:

A new digital plague has hit the Internet, infecting millions of personal and business computers in what seems to be the first step of a multistage attack. The world’s leading computer security experts do not yet know who programmed the infection, or what the next stage will be.

In recent weeks a worm, a malicious software program, has swept through corporate, educational and public computer networks around the world. Known as Conficker or Downadup, it is spread by a recently discovered Microsoft Windows vulnerability, by guessing network passwords and by hand-carried consumer gadgets like USB keys.

Experts say it is the worst infection since the Slammer worm exploded through the Internet in January 2003, and it may have infected as many as nine million personal computers around the world.

Worms like Conficker not only ricochet around the Internet at lightning speed, they harness infected computers into unified systems called botnets, which can then accept programming instructions from their clandestine masters. “If you’re looking for a digital Pearl Harbor, we now have the Japanese ships steaming toward us on the horizon,” said Rick Wesson, chief executive of Support Intelligence, a computer security consulting firm based in San Francisco.

Many computer users may not notice that their machines have been infected, and computer security researchers said they were waiting for the instructions to materialize, to determine what impact the botnet will have on PC users. It might operate in the background, using the infected computer to send spam or infect other computers, or it might steal the PC user’s personal information.

“I don’t know why people aren’t more afraid of these programs,” said Merrick L. Furst, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech. “This is like having a mole in your organization that can do things like send out any information it finds on machines it infects.”

Microsoft rushed an emergency patch to defend the Windows operating systems against this vulnerability in October, yet the worm has continued to spread even as the level of warnings has grown in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, security researchers at Qualys, a Silicon Valley security firm, estimated that about 30 percent of Windows-based computers attached to the Internet remain vulnerable to infection because they have not been updated with the patch, despite the fact that it was made available in October. The firm’s estimate is based on a survey of nine million Internet addresses.

Security researchers said the success of Conficker was due in part to lax security practices by both companies and individuals, who frequently do not immediately install updates.


Comment: Corporate Network security is probably completely on top of this. If you have a Windows PC ... make sure all patches are in place and that you have antivirus software (current) in place.

1.21.2009

As bad as 1982?

The Economy Is Bad, but 1982 Was Worse

Excerpt:

The first big blow to the economy was the 1979 revolution in Iran, which sent oil prices skyrocketing. The bigger blow was a series of sharp interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve, meant to snap inflation. Home sales plummeted. At their worst, they were 30 percent lower than they are even now (again, adjusted for population size). The industrial Midwest was hardest hit, and the term “Rust Belt” became ubiquitous. Many families fled south and west, helping to create the modern Sun Belt.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate rose above 10 percent in 1982, compared with 7.2 percent last month.


Comment: I was an Assistant Pastor back in 1982. What I remember was the inflation rate being high. I remember receiving a small raise that year and that it was significantly less than inflation. Consumer Price Index Data from 1913 to 2008

Will Obama's 'Responsibility' Era overrule Davis-Bacon?

One suggestion for transcending 'worn-out dogmas.'

Excerpt:

President Obama said in his Inaugural Address yesterday that government must spend to rebuild roads and bridges, but that those "who manage the public's dollars" must also "spend wisely" and "reform bad habits." With that ambition in mind, here's an idea to save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in the months ahead: Repeal Davis-Bacon superminimum wage requirements for construction projects.

We're referring to the 1931 law that requires contractors on all federal projects to pay a "prevailing wage." In practice, this means paying the highest union wage in every part of the country. Over the years nearly every analysis -- by the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and Office of Management and Budget -- has concluded that Davis-Bacon tangles projects in red tape and inflates federal construction costs.

A 2008 study by Suffolk University and the Beacon Hill Institute examined local wage data for construction workers and found that the Department of Labor estimates for the "prevailing wage" in cities are about 22% above the actual wages paid in these cities. It estimates that Davis-Bacon adds slightly less than 10% to federal building costs, or $8.4 billion a year.

Davis-Bacon was devised in part as a way to keep blacks and immigrants from federal construction projects during the Depression. Nowadays its impact is mainly to reward unions for political campaign support, though it still does have some racial implications. A 2001 study by labor economists Daniel Kessler and Lawrence Katz examined state Davis-Bacon-type laws for the National Bureau of Economic Research and concluded: "Repeal is associated with a sizeable reduction in the union wage premium and a significant narrowing of the black/nonblack wage differential for construction workers."


Comment: The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. Answer to the question posed in the post title - "No change"!

More: A 'Responsibility' Era - A pragmatic call to Americans to lift our national game

WSJ: "The prosperity of recent decades has produced a culture of entitlement and sometimes even of complacency."

1.20.2009

Wells Fargo divident cut ahead?

Wells Fargo will have to cut dividend

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo will have to cut its dividend soon to rebuild capital, Friedman, Billings, Ramsay analyst Paul Miller wrote in a note to investors Tuesday. Including recently acquired Wachovia, Wells Fargo's tangible common equity represents 3.6% of tangible assets, while other measures of capital strength likely lagged those of rivals at the end of 2008, Miller estimated. Meanwhile, the bank pays out $5.65 billion in dividends each year and it probably won't earn that much in 2009, the analyst added. "Wells Fargo will have to cut its dividend (if not this quarter, then sometime in 1H09)," he wrote. "The current dividend reduces tangible common equity $5.65 billion annually, and Wells Fargo needs to rebuild its capital ratios." Wells shares fell 13% to $16.27 during afternoon action.


Comment: Better to cut the dividend and be stable in long run!

In 5 minutes: A seismic shift of values


With Obama in power, WhiteHouse.gov now backs abortion rights, 'gay rights'

Excerpt:

White House policies changed dramatically Tuesday, not the least of which was the WhiteHouse.gov website, which in less than five minutes went from one promoting pro-life policies and traditional marriage to one opposing such policies.

President Obama campaigned as a social liberal, and -- if his website is any indication -- he intends to deliver on several controversial issues, from supporting same-sex civil unions and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to overturning the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to being a staunch supporter of abortion rights.

Five minutes before noon -- before Obama had taken the oath of office -- the website still had a link to then-President Bush's statement backing a ban on partial-birth abortion and supporting a "culture of life" and his proclamations underscoring the need for "speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us." As late as last weekend, Bush -- who some have called the most pro-life president since abortion was legalized nationwide -- had issued a proclamation naming Jan. 18 "National Sanctity of Human Life Day," which was the Sunday before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22).

But several minutes after noon, the switch was flipped, and Bush's policies were gone, replaced by those of Obama's. The new website has a statement affirming that Obama supports Roe.

"President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case," the statement, found under the category "Women" on the "Agenda" pulldown menu, states.

The new website also has a lengthy section dedicated to "Support for the LGBT Community" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), although it's somewhat hidden, listed under the "civil rights" section of the "Agenda" pulldown menu. Bush's WhiteHouse.gov website had no section for homosexual issues.

Among the changes for the homosexual community, Obama's White House website pledges that the new president will support repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law signed by President Clinton in 1996 that gives states the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriages." It also prevents the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage." Supporters of DOMA say its repeal would be the first step toward legalizing "gay marriage" nationwide. Bush supported DOMA and a federal marriage amendment, which Obama opposes.

The new website also includes a quote from Obama addressed to the homosexual community: "While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."


Comment: The first of many changes. Update: The New York Times sees it as Reclaiming Values

President Obama: "a leap into the unknown"


The Opacity of Hope

Excerpts:

... for all of [his] personal virtues, there remains an elusiveness, an opacity, to Mr. Obama's political character.

...

[For] 25 years Mr. Obama's political coalition has amassed a wish-list of regulatory and redistributionist ideas that would undercut [policies that promote growth]. The global warming crowd wants a huge new carbon tax that would hit the South and Midwest especially hard. Big Labor wants to make union organizing easier, which would slow job creation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is agitating to raise taxes immediately, even amid recession, to finance a spending spree we haven't seen since LBJ's Great Society. Part of Mr. Obama's success will depend on whether he says no to these liberal interests. If he does, he will make it easier for the economy's natural recuperative powers to work -- and he and his party will benefit.

...

We don't know if he is a genuine man of the left, or a more traditional pragmatist. The audacity of our hope is that as President he will use his considerable talents to return his party to the policies of growth, opportunity and the vigorous defense of U.S. interests that marked it the last time the country had such great expectations for a Democratic President -- under JFK.


Comment: It will be interesting to see what turns his administration takes.

The Presidency: A history of approval ratings


WSJ: How the Presidents Stack Up


Comment: Interactive graphic from the Wall Street Journal. Seems that for most of them they are widely disapproved by the end of their terms. Perhaps this tells us something about ourselves?!

Chrysler: "Fix me Tony"

Fiat Acquires 35% Stake in Chrysler

Excerpt:

The deal would allow Chrysler to use Fiat’s technology and vehicle platforms to build more fuel-efficient, small and midsize cars at its factories and sell them in North America. Fiat would give Chrysler access to distribution networks in other parts of the world, particularly Europe. The companies said they expect “substantial cost savings opportunities” but did not specify an amount.

“This initiative represents a key milestone in the rapidly changing landscape of the automotive sector and confirms Fiat and Chrysler commitment and determination to continue to play a significant role in this global process,” the chief executive of Fiat SpA, Sergio Marchionne, said in a statement.

“The agreement will offer both companies opportunities to gain access to most relevant automotive markets,” Mr. Marchionne said, “with innovative and environmentally friendly product offering, a field in which Fiat is a recognized world leader while benefiting from additional cost synergies.”


Comment: FIAT: "one widely circulated joke within the industry was that the company’s name stood for Fix It Again, Tony"

1.18.2009

"24" - 1994 version



Comment: How things have changed!

Cut corporate taxes to zero

Leave the New Deal in the History Books - Cut corporate taxes to zero and create real jobs.

Excerpt:

The quickest way to strengthen the credit system and begin the end of this crisis is to get money into the economy for true job creation, and not into government work programs. The way to do this is to slash taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the world, should be cut to 0% (corporate income would still be taxed, of course, when distributed to shareholders as dividends). The capital-gains tax should be cut further.

The positive impact on corporate-credit markets, the stock market, the attractiveness of the U.S. to foreign investors, and the willingness to take business risk and create new jobs would be immediate. Capital-gains tax collections would rise. Capital flows would be in the hands of those who are driven to build businesses and permanent jobs efficiently instead of pushing that capital through a government pipeline with endless amounts of friction. If the U.S. is to lead the international economic community out of this crisis, this is the place to start.


Comment: Won't happen because it would be very politically unpopular. The populace does not understand that Corporate taxes just get hidden in every product or service we buy! Corporate taxes just encourage tax havens!

1.17.2009

"Bad Bank" - more on

In Search of One Bold Stroke to Save the Banks


Excerpt:

When is it going to end? Because of declining asset values, the original bailout money has largely disappeared. “It’s like putting money in a pothole that keeps getting bigger,” said Daniel Alpert, the managing partner at Westwood Capital. And it’s not over yet. Goldman Sachs says the world banking system has absorbed about $1 trillion in losses — but there is likely to be another $1.1 trillion yet to go.

The response has got to stop being so haphazard. Think about it: Citigroup is slimming down. Bank of America is bulking up. The government is essentially backing both approaches. It makes no sense.

I started wondering if there is a better approach — something that doesn’t feel like plugging holes in a leaky dike. Perhaps this new idea being discussed in Washington of creating a government bank to buy up toxic assets might do the trick. It turns out I’m not the only one who’s been asking this question lately.

“I don’t want to have to do any more of these one-offs,” said Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in an interview on Friday. “Nobody does.” She was referring to the Bank of America deal, which had been completed just days before. But she could just as well have been talking about the Bush administration’s entire approach to the financial crisis.

....

Do you remember the original idea for the TARP money? The government was going to use funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to buy up bad assets from banks and other institutions, thus taking them off the balance sheets and keeping them from dragging down the institutions. But by the time TARP became law, two things had become clear. The first was that nobody in Washington — or on Wall Street, for that matter — had a clear idea of how to value the toxic assets the government was proposing to buy. And second, the banking system had deteriorated so badly that most of that first $350 billion had to be shoveled into the banking system as recapitalizations. In addition, Ms. Bair and others forced the sale of insolvent institutions like Washington Mutual and Wachovia to healthier banks.

That initial recapitalization was necessary. Without that government-financed capital, many more banks would have been insolvent, or would have been hoarding capital, fearing future asset write-downs. But the underlying problem has never gone away. The toxic assets are still on the books. Banks still don’t really know what they are worth, so they continue to be written down in piecemeal fashion. And now, with the recession getting worse by the day, other assets, like commercial real estate and credit card loans, are going south as well. “It’s a rolling problem that gets worse as conditions worsen,” the banking consultant Bert Ely said.

(A quick reminder for readers who wonder why the banks shouldn’t be allowed to go bankrupt, like any other company that made the kinds of mistakes banks made. The answer is that the banking system is the engine of the economy; if banks stop functioning, economic activity will grind to a halt. Indeed, at least some of the pain we are going through now is the result of the banking system’s not functioning properly.)

The key point here is that any systemic solution has to deal with the bad assets, once and for all. They need to be properly valued and they need to be isolated. “How do you know how big the hole is on the balance sheet of Citi until you have a decent valuation?” asks the Princeton economist Alan Blinder. That is the primary reason the banking system can’t attract private capital and has to rely on the government — no prospective investor has any idea how deep the hole is. That will only start to become clear when these assets are either written down to zero (unlikely) or start trading again.


Comment: Around the corner ... more ARM resets, credit card defaults, commercial loan defaults, etc.

More from Financial Times:

Governments eye new tools for credit crisis

But the real problem facing policymakers is that, despite spending or committing hundreds of billions of dollars, the banking system is still not distributing credit to the economy. Consumers and companies are being starved of credit, raising the prospect of a continuing downward economic spiral.

As a result, governments are reaching for several new tools to tackle the crisis. British officials were on Friday putting the finishing touches to measures that will attach government guarantees to instruments such as mortgage-backed securities and corporate debt.

This represents an effort to stimulate the financial markets to again accept loans that would otherwise have to sit on banks’ constrained balance sheets.

Yet these measures are limited to encouraging new lending. They do not deal with the continuing problem of legacy loans that are still on banks’ balance sheets.

These loans are rapidly turning bad as companies and consumers struggle to service debts they took on when credit was cheap and plentiful.

What is more, new banking regulations are making matters worse. The Basel II framework for measuring banks’ capital, adopted by much of the world at the beginning of last year, was supposed to provide a more sophisticated way for measuring the risks attached to different loans.

As losses mount, however, bankers are concerned they will be forced to hold ever-increasing amounts of capital to support existing assets. Until they have a clear idea of how much capital they need for old loans, banks are understandably reluctant to commit to new lending.

As a result, policymakers have changed tack. Bank capital ratios are essentially a fraction where the numerator is the total amount of capital a bank holds while the denominator is the sum of a bank’s assets, adjusted for their perceived riskiness.

Wholesale bank recapitalisations launched last autumn were an attempt to improve the ratio by increasing the numerator.

Now, governments and regulators are attempting to achieve the same result by shrinking the denominator. In other words, they want to reduce banks’ risk-weighted assets.

Since most banks cannot sell assets without incurring huge losses, this can be achieved in two ways. The first is for governments to buy bad assets from banks in return for cash. This was the US government’s original plan under the troubled asset relief programme.

The alternative is for bad assets to remain on banks’ balance sheets, but for the government to insure them against large future losses. The US took this approach with both Citigroup and BofA, and other governments are expected to follow suit.

Whatever the approach, removing bad assets from banks’ balance sheets should end the uncertainty about future capital requirements, allowing the banks to resume lending.

EU to Microsoft: Separate Browser from OS

Microsoft Ordered to Delete Browser

Excerpt:

The European Union said Friday that Microsoft’s practice of selling the Internet Explorer browser together with its Windows operating system violated the union’s antitrust rules.

It ordered the software giant to untie the browser from its operating system in the 27-nation union, enabling makers of rival browsers to compete fairly.

“Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between Web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice,” the E.U. said in a statement.


Comment: Makes SENSE! The browser is an application, not an essential OS component.

1.16.2009

Clean up the ^DJI

Throw Citi and BofA out of the Dow!

Excerpt:

If a company was one of the 30 considered to be an important barometer of the U.S. economy, you'd think that it would have to be a relatively stable firm.

''''

Now that Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) appears to be shrinking itself from a "financial supermarket" to a "financial convenience store," and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) is receiving another $20 billion from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to ensure that Merrill Lynch doesn't torpedo the firm's balance sheet, I'm not sure that either is worthy of being included in the Dow anymore.

...

With this in mind, who could replace Citi and BofA if they are both shown the door? (For now, I'll give up on the notion that GM will be booted anytime soon for a foreign automaker like Toyota.)

Getting rid of these two would mean that there are only two financials left in the Dow: JPMorgan Chase and American Express. So it's likely that at one replacement should be another financial firm.

I'd suggest Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500). Sure, its stock has also taken a huge beating in the past few weeks, plunging 37.5% just this year alone. Wells also is a recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, and it is taking a huge risk with its Wachovia acquisition.

...

And I also recently argued that General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), which had to get a $13.4 billion loan from the federal government last month to avoid bankruptcy, should be kicked out of the Dow.

"Bad Bank" for Toxic Debt?

An ‘Aggregator Bank’ for Toxic Debt?

Excerpt:

The heads of the U.S. Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. gave further momentum to the idea of a new government-backed bank to remove toxic assets from lenders’ balance sheets.

“A lot of work has been done on an aggregator bank” and other ways of using the $700 billion financial-rescue fund “to let it go further when it comes to dealing with illiquid assets,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told reporters today in Washington. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair praised the idea in an interview on CNBC, saying it might have “some merit.”

Today’s remarks come days before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, and signal a readiness among regulators to undertake what’s likely to be the most radical effort yet to unfreeze lending. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke earlier this week urged a “comprehensive plan” to address illiquid assets, floating the idea of a “bad bank.”


Comment: Can you get an ATM card there? Does "Bad Santa" bank there? :)

BAC: Where was the Due diligence?

Bank of America to receive additional $20 billion

Excerpt:

Two weeks after closing its purchase of Merrill Lynch at the urging of U.S. regulators, the government cemented a deal at midnight Thursday to supply Bank of America with a fresh $20 billion capital injection and absorb as much as $98.2 billion in losses on toxic assets, according to people involved in the transaction.

The bank had been pressing the government for help after it was surprised to learn that Merrill would be taking a fourth-quarter write-down of $15 billion to $20 billion, according to two people who have been briefed on the situation, in addition to Bank of America's rising consumer loan losses.

The second lifeline brings the government's total stake in Bank of America to $45 billion and makes it the bank's largest shareholder, with a stake of about 6 percent.


Comment: Due diligence. How well did Bank of America dig into Merrill's books? Seems like not deep enough!

1.15.2009

Odd men out

Wells Fargo not hiring 175 Wachovia employees

Excerpt:

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo recently acquired Wachovia and had been reviewing the employment eligibility of Wachovia's current employees who had previously worked at Wells Fargo.

The 175 employees not offered employment were among more than 2,000 Wachovia employees that had previously worked for Wells Fargo. Those decision to not offer those employees jobs was based on each person's employment history with Wells Fargo, according to a spokeswoman.


Comment: Interesting

Bush's legacy: He kept us safe!



President Bush’s Last Televised Address

Excerpt:

This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house – September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor. I remember standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center three days later, surrounded by rescuers who had been working around the clock. I remember talking to brave souls who charged through smoke-filled corridors at the Pentagon and to husbands and wives whose loved ones became heroes aboard Flight 93. I remember Arlene Howard, who gave me her fallen son's police shield as a reminder of all that was lost. And I still carry his badge.

As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before Nine-Eleven. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our Nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.


Comment: Widely loathed, President Bush will be well-remembered by history. But probably not in his (or my) lifetime.

Updated: Denny Burk: "A Few Thoughts on Bush’s Speech"

NYTimes: Calculate Your Financial Comeback

Calculate Your Financial Comeback

Excerpt:

Has your portfolio plummeted? So has ours. Use our Comeback CalculatorSM to calculate when your investments could return to their peak levels.


Comment: Quick calculator from the NYTimes

Cheat on Your Taxes? Run the IRS!

Cheat on Your Taxes? Run the IRS!

Excerpt:

So much for the short-lived theory that the Obama administration would be more ethical, competent, and capable than the Bush administration. Inauguration Day hasn't even come yet, and we already find ourselves with Obama's first major presidential scandal.

As it turns out, Timothy Geithner, the man Obama tapped as the next Treasury secretary, has reportedly cheated on his taxes. Repeatedly. In addition, even after being audited, he didn't make amends for all the years he failed to pay his self-employment taxes, until being tapped to run Treasury.

A history of poor tax compliance

Messing up once? Having to file an amended return because of a data entry error or a late-arriving and changed 1099 form? That's completely understandable. But I think that what Geithner has done, repeatedly and over the span of about a decade, makes him -- at minimum -- unfit to head the agency in charge of the Internal Revenue Service.

According to a document from the U.S. Senate, Geithner:

  • Didn't pay more than $34,000 in self-employment taxes between 2001 and 2004.
  • Didn't pay up on part of those back taxes until he was tapped to be Treasury Secretary.
  • Attempted to deduct overnight-camp expenses for his kids as dependent-care costs.
  • Failed to pay the 10% penalty on an early IRA withdrawal.
  • Waited until 1996 to file Social Security and Maryland FUTA taxes for his household help between 1993 and 1995.
  • Got a notice in 1998 for incorrectly calculating Medicare taxes for his household help.


...

If you or I or any other mere mortal were to try to pull such shenanigans, we would have been socked with penalties, on top of back taxes and interest. Instead, the IRS graciously waived the penalties on Geithner. Nice of them to treat their new boss so much better than they would treat ordinary taxpayers, eh?


Comment: I don't care if he is a financial "wunderkind" ... he shouldn't be at Treasury!

Updated: IMF Informed Geithner on Taxes


Current and former IMF officials said the fund provided numerous warnings to U.S. employees about payroll taxes. According to IMF documents released by the Senate Finance panel, Mr. Geithner regularly received information about his tax obligations.

Mr. Geithner didn't make any Social Security or Medicare tax payments on his income during the years he worked for the IMF, though he did pay income taxes. After the Internal Revenue Service audited him in 2006 and discovered the payroll-tax errors, Mr. Geithner corrected them for 2003 and 2004. Only after Mr. Obama picked him for Treasury secretary last fall did Mr. Geithner pay the Social Security and Medicare tax he owed for 2001 and 2002.

Stimulus: a "flawed notion"

Republicans Find Voice in Opposing Stimulus

Excerpt:

"I just can't tell you how shocked I am at what we're seeing. You know it's clear that they're moving on this path along the flawed notion that we can borrow and spend our way back to prosperity."


Comment: We probably can spend our way back to temporary prosperity. Emphasis on "temporary"!

Mac retrospective



Jan. 1984: How critics reviewed the Mac

Excerpt:

Byte, Gregg Williams, February 1984

The Macintosh brings us one step closer to the ideal of computer as appliance.

Creative Computing, John Anderson, July 1984

In its current form, the Macintosh is the distilled embodiment of a promise: the software can be intuitively easy to use, while remaining just as powerful as anything else around. It is now time to lay out the “bads”:

• The Macintosh does not have enough RAM.
• Single microfloppy is slow and inadequate.
• There are no internal expansion slots or external expansion buses.
• MacWrite has some severe limitations.
• The system is monochrome only.
• MS-DOS compatibility is ruled out.
• The Macintosh will not multitask.
• You can’t use a Mac away from a desk.
• MacPaint has an easel size limitation.
• Forget about external video.
• Macintosh software development is an involved process.

Bill Gates

Anybody who could write a good application on a 128K Mac deserves a medal.


Comment: With the Mac came the innovation of the mouse! Video: That 1984 Super Bowl commercial with the “Big Brother” theme. I think I've only seen this once before! Very cool. My Brother (Roger) had a Mac. Not much power by today's standards but back then I had a TRS-80 (that was even less!)

To skewer Bill Gates, "Anybody who could write a good operating system that runs in less than 512 MB deserves a medal" (Err Linux ... )

More on the 1984 themed commercial here!

Hamas' irrational view of the Jews

Why Israel Can’t Make Peace With Hamas

Excerpt:

We had been discussing a passage of the Koran that suggests that God turns a group of impious Jews into apes and pigs. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, among others, has deployed this passage in his speeches. Once, at a rally in Beirut, he said: “We shout in the face of the killers of prophets and the descendants of the apes and pigs: We hope we will not see you next year. The shout remains, ‘Death to Israel!’”

Mr. Rayyan said that, technically, Mr. Nasrallah was mistaken. “Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce,” Mr. Rayyan said. “So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people.”

I asked him the question I always ask of Hamas leaders: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Mr. Rayyan answered the question as I thought he would, saying that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.


Comment: That Middle East is complex! I've naively just kind of lumped Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah all together!

NFL History: The Steagles and the Carpets

Steelers Shared Resources With 2 Teams During World War II

Excerpt:

So when Layden saw that the Steelers had only six players under contract and that the Eagles were down to about a dozen, he suggested a temporary merger between teams whose history was already intertwined. (Both joined the league the same year and, through much wrangling, were once traded by their respective owners.) Layden figured the arrangement would keep both franchises alive and solve his problem of trying to create a schedule for nine teams.

“Had to do it,” the Steelers co-owner Bert Bell said in an interview with The New York Times that summer. “Pittsburgh had no backs left and Philadelphia had no linemen.”

With a roster full of 4-Fs — men ineligible for the draft — Phil-Pitt was born. Newspaper columnists dubbed the team the Steagles, even though the plan was for them to be called the Eagles without a city in the name.

The players were pooled, and few football fans complained. “Both teams had been so bad that there was no worry of their becoming a superteam,” Algeo said.

But by the season’s end, the Steagles had become a decent one.

...

After the team dissolved, the Eagles were able to stand alone for the 1944 season. But with the Rams returning to the league, and the newly formed Boston Yanks joining, Layden had 11 teams. So the Steelers once again agreed to a merger, this time with the Chicago Cardinals.

That season, Card-Pitt, as the team was known, became rooted to the bottom of standings and set a benchmark for futility. The Detroit Lions might have posted the worst record in league history in 2008 by going 0-16, but they were only one team. It took two teams in 1944 to go a perfectly useless 0-10. Card-Pitt became better known as the Carpets, because opponents ran over them.


Comment: Fascinating. First I've heard of this! Check out the NYTimes graphic (from the NFL Hall of Fame)

Fired for stopping shoplifter

Grocery worker fired for stopping shoplifter

Comment: An excerpt hardly does justice to this story! Please read the whole article! Grocery worker hearken to his manager's call and stops a shoplifter ... and is fired for touching him. Unbelievable. Whole Foods is a little too "socially conscious"!

Excerpt:

Schultz says he had just punched out for a break at 7 p.m. on Sunday when he heard a commotion at the front door of the store, 3135 Washtenaw Ave. He said he came to the aid of the manager who yelled for help in stopping a shoplifter. Schultz, the manager and another employee cornered the shoplifter between two cars in the parking lot.

Schultz said he told the shoplifter he was making a citizens arrest and to wait for the police to arrive, but the shoplifter broke away from the group and ran across Washtenaw Avenue and toward a gas station at the corner of Huron Parkway.

Before the man could cross Huron Parkway, Schultz caught up and grabbed the man's jacket and put his leg behind the man's legs. When the manager arrived at the intersection, Schultz said, the manager told him to release the shoplifter, and he complied, and the shoplifter got away.

Schultz said he was called to the store's office the next day, on Christmas Eve, and was fired because he violated a company policy prohibiting employees from having any physical contact with a customer.

Kate Klotz, a company spokesperson, said the policy is clear and listed in a booklet that all employees have to acknowledge that they received before they can start work.


HT: Freakonomics (NYTimes)

I suggest: Shop at Wal-Mart ... (boycott Whole Foods) ... and please someone hire John Schultz!

-23 Plymouth MN 1/15/2009





Comment: At 6:45 a.m.

Updated: We had low air in our right rear tire and stopped at Jerry's Service Center (Plymouth) to have it filled up. We were able to pull into their warm garage. Derrick (attendant) filled all tires. Thanks Derrick!

1.14.2009

Coldest we've seen





Comment: This is our 12th winter here and tomorrow (if the expected overnight low is reached) will be the coldest that we've experienced. Tonight on the way home from church it was minus 11.

Custom Ice House stolen

Custom-Made Ice House Stolen Off Medicine Lake

Excerpt:

Tyler Vandal and his father, Mike, were ready to go ice fishing this week. They had all their gear and they had a very special ice house to go to.

But they ran into one big problem -- someone else thought their ice house was cool and stole it right off the ice.

...

It wasn't just any ice house. Tyler and his dad bought the navy-colored shell and spent about $12,000 customizing the inside of it. They put in basswood and black walnut, along with bunks to sleep three people and a heater for the space.

"It was a good project for him and I to get into, and we put a lot of work into it," said Mike. "And it took a while. I probably had about a dozen hours in the wood-burning I did on this side."

Inside the house, there were drawings of fish and other things burned into the wood. All the work took three months.


Comment: Local news near my house

Another investor scam

Investors ignored their suspicions about troubled pilot

Excerpt:

"We had this site so we could all talk to each other for advice on retirement options, company news and mainly what to do with our money," said Joe Mazzone, 57. The Auburn, Alabama, pilot was looking for the right person to invest the nest egg he and his wife had spent decades growing.

"Go with Marcus, that's what I kept seeing. You could trust this guy. He was a pilot, and he understood us," said Mazzone, who gave Schrenker several hundred thousand dollars. "Talk about a regret."

Schrenker was found Tuesday night at a Florida campground with deep cuts to his wrists in an apparent suicide attempt. He had been on the run from federal authorities for three days.

The 38-year-old Indiana financial adviser is accused of trying to fake his death Sunday by making a bogus call to air traffic controllers that the window on his six-seater plane, which he scheduled to fly from Indiana to Destin, Florida, had imploded and he was bleeding, police say.

Schrenker had actually switched the plane to autopilot and parachuted out of the aircraft. The Piper PA-46 crashed in the swamps of Milton, Florida, not far from homes. No one on the ground was hurt.

Schrenker has been charged with unlawful acts by a compensated adviser and unlawful transaction by an investment adviser. He could face more federal charges. He is being guarded at a Tallahassee, Florida, hospital, and the court has issued an arrest warrant and set bail at $4 million cash. It's unclear if Schrenker has retained a lawyer.

In the months before the alleged stunt, the state of Indiana was investigating Schrenker on fraud allegations, and a Maryland court issued a $500,000 judgment against a company listed in his name. His wife had filed for divorce on December 30.


Comment: Like Tom Petters & Bernie Madoff

1.13.2009

New-look Citi

Citigroup moves toward break up

Excerpts:

Citigroup is to break itself up by separating higher risk US consumer finance and securities businesses from its global commercial banking operations in a dramatic attempt to ensure its survival.

People close to the situation said Citi would place unwanted assets and businesses worth more than $600bn - a third of its balance sheet - into a “non-core” unit to isolate them from healthier parts of the company.

...

The move to split the company into two would go a long way towards dismantling the 1998 merger between John Reed’s Citicorp and Sandy Weill’s Travelers that created Citigroup and could be a template for other troubled banks.

The new-look Citi would be more similar to the old-style Citicorp: a global commercial and retail bank but with the addition of the advisory and underwriting business of Travelers’ investment bank Salomon Brothers.

Citi would, however, seek to dispose of some of the risky securities and consumer finance businesses, including subprime mortgages and the Primerica door-to-door insurance sales force, that came with Travelers.

The investment bank would remain a core part of Citi but its operations and capital would be constrained, especially in proprietary trading and securitisation, in an effort to reduce risk and earnings volatility, insiders said.


Comment: I'm not close to the situation, but my observation is that somewhat like ITT of yesteryear, Citigroup was too disparate to manage.

Presidents have "feet of clay"

I'm not sure if anyone needs reminding, but all human leaders are flawed. The press seemed to be humored by President Bush's admittance of the same in his final press conference. Some may know this, but I was a Pastor for 16 years (1980-1996). Trust me I am flawed and I made plenty of mistakes. None of them rose to the level of disqualification from the Pastorate (1 Tim 3) but there were mistakes of omission and mistakes of commission! Shocking hugh! We vest too much confidence in who a man is and what a man can do!

Back to the political front: Obama will not pay your mortgage. He will not solve the energy crisis! Many Presidents have tried but he will not usher in peace in the Middle East. He will not stop the melt of glaciers or turn about global warming* (* Pseudo-science anyways!). And he will not turn the economy around! (I think economic cycles are a lot like the common cold. Want a cure for the cold: Eat, drink, sleep, and wait 7 days. Cure for our economy .... government step out of the way and in time the markets will correct themselves.

Back to Presidents. Peggy Noonan comments:

Mere Presidents: American leaders are mortal, not magical

Excerpt:

The Founders, who were awed by the presidency and who made it a point, the early ones, to speak in their inaugural addresses of how unworthy they felt, would be astonished and confounded by the over-awe with which we view presidents now. We treat them as if they are the Grand Imperial Czar of the Peacock Throne, and we their 'umble servants. It's no good, and vaguely un-American. Right now patriotism requires more than the usual candor. It requires speaking truthfully and constructively to a president who is a man, and just a man. We hire them, we fire them, they come back for photo-ops. They're not magic.


Comment: Phrase "Feet of Clay" is from Daniel 2:31-33

More excerpts from Peggy:

Mr. Obama promised "dramatic action" and said that while the cost of his proposals will be "considerable," so will "the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all." He again promised a public works program. Much of it seemed designed to answer the question, "What would the WPA have looked like if FDR had been an environmentalist?" In its lack of price tags and specific size and scope of proposals, the plan seemed more a conversation starter, as they say, than a thrown gauntlet.

Toward all this I suspect Americans will maintain a stance of hopeful ambivalence. We are a center-right nation and at least formally oppose gusher-like spending. But once you've got a deficit of more than a trillion dollars, two trillion hardly seems worse. You're in the area of numbers so astronomical as to be unimaginable. It's like hearing Pluto is 50,000 light years away but Saturn is 48,000 light years away. They're both pretty far.

...

Soon after the speech, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted with caution. He was low key. He didn't attack. He said the current projected deficit of $1.2 trillion is "an eye-popping number," and said he liked the part of Mr. Obama's program that includes reducing tax rates for the middle class. "We intend to work with the new president . . . to try and get this right," he said. The Republicans in the Senate are like swimmers ten feet offshore. They're going to let the Obama wave roll over them, wait for the water level to even out, and then make a move. Who would believe them claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility and smaller government now anyway? They need more time to pass between the high-spending Bush years and an eventual—and one hopes principled—opposition to Obamanomics.


....

... referring to the awe with which we view the presidency, the White House, and the famous office with no corners in which presidents so often feel cornered.

Here is an idea for everyone in Washington: Get over it. It's distorting the system. This week we saw the past four presidents standing in the Oval Office for a photo-op on the afternoon of their private lunch. As you looked at the pictures afterward you had to think: How flawed were they? How many were a success?

Did you notice how they all leaned away from Jimmy Carter, the official Cootieman of former presidents? It was like high-school students to the new girl: "You can't sit here, we're the Most Popular table."

1.12.2009

Leaving California

Go East, young man? Californians look for the exit

Excerpt:

Since the days of the Gold Rush, California has represented the Promised Land, an image celebrated in the songs of the Beach Boys and embodied by Silicon Valley's instant millionaires and the young men and women who achieve stardom in Hollywood.

But for many California families last year, tomorrow started somewhere else.

The number of people leaving California for another state outstripped the number moving in from another state during the year ending on July 1, 2008. California lost a net total of 144,000 people during that period — more than any other state, according to census estimates. That is about equal to the population of Syracuse, N.Y.

...

Why are so many looking for an exit?

Among other things: California's unemployment rate hit 8.4 percent in November, the third-highest in the nation, and it is expected to get worse. A record 236,000 foreclosures are projected for 2008, more than the prior nine years combined, according to research firm MDA DataQuick. Personal income was about flat last year.

With state government facing a $41.6 billion budget hole over 18 months, residents are bracing for higher taxes, cuts in education and postponed tax rebates. A multibillion-dollar plan to remake downtown Los Angeles has stalled, and office vacancy rates there and in San Diego and San Jose surpass the 10.2 percent national average.

Median housing prices have nose-dived one-third from a 2006 peak, but many homes are still out of reach for middle-class families. Some small towns are on the brink of bankruptcy. Normally recession-proof Hollywood has been hit by layoffs.

"You see wages go down and the cost of living go up," Reilly says. His property taxes will be $1,300 in Colorado, down from $4,300 on his three-bedroom house in Nipomo, about 80 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara.

California's obituary has been written before — "California: The Endangered Dream" was the title of a 1991 Time magazine cover story. The Golden State and its huge economy — by itself, the eighth-largest in the world — have shown resilience, weathering the aerospace bust, the dot-com crash and an energy crunch in recent years.


Comment: I've spent a lot of time in California. One full Summer after college graduation, many business trips and a handful of personal trips. My view: great place to visit (San Fran) ... but not to live

Cryptomnesia or plagiarism

Christmas Essay Was Not His, Author Admits

Excerpt:

During a dress rehearsal, he wrote, a group of children spelled out the title of a song, “Christmas Love,” with each child holding up a letter. One girl held the “m” upside down, so that it appeared as a “w,” and it looked as if the group was spelling “Christ Was Love.” It was a heartwarming Christmas story from a writer known for his spiritual teachings.

Except it never happened — to him.

Mr. Walsch’s story was nearly identical to an essay by a writer named Candy Chand, which was originally published 10 years ago in Clarity, a spiritual magazine, and has been circulating on the Web ever since. Mr. Walsch now says he made a mistake in believing the story was something that had actually come from his personal experience.


Religion Writer Who Copied Work Draws Support of Readers

Excerpt:

In a lengthy apology posted on Beliefnet last Tuesday, where Mr. Walsch has been blogging since July 2007, Mr. Walsch said he believed he had cut and pasted Ms. Chand’s essay into his own computer files years ago and then had told the anecdote in lectures so many times that he came to believe it was his own.

Many fans accepted his apology and expressed support. “Too many people rely on you, Neale, and it would be a shame to give it up over a silly mistake,” a person using the identification “TC” wrote. Another person who signed her comment “Tracy W.,” wrote: “Stuff like that happens to me, and all of us, all the time.”

But some questioned whether this was the first time Mr. Walsch had made such a mistake. “Please people, you are wading into this wanting desperately or already deciding you are going to accept anything he says, or just, frankly, not care,” wrote Greg Ouellette.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Walsch said he had “no reaction to the comments.” However, he did post his own comment, with a reference to academic research about “inadvertent plagiarism,” or cryptomnesia, a documented psychological phenomenon in which people believe they are remembering events that never happened to them. He also reiterated his apology to Ms. Chand.

In an interview, Ms. Chand said she did not believe Mr. Walsch had suffered from cryptomnesia. “It’s like if I take my hand and I think your Rolex watch is so charming that I take your watch and put it in my purse, and then when you catch me I give an apology and say ‘oh, my goodness, I have no other excuse, it is yours, but my hand, I’m mystified by what my hand did,’ ” she said.


Comment: I once had a manager who would take my work and claim it for his own.