5.31.2009

Wingnuts and the Abortion issue

Kan. abortion doc killed in church; suspect held

Excerpt:

WICHITA, Kan. – Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was detained some 170 miles away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

Although Stolz refused to release the man's name, Johnson County sheriff's spokesman Tom Erickson identified the detained man as Scott Roeder. He has not been charged in the slaying and was expected to be taken to Wichita for questioning.

There was no immediate word of the motive Tiller's assailant. But the doctor's violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics, doctors and staff.

Long a focus of national anti-abortion groups, including a summer-long protest in 1991, Tiller was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, Stolz said. Tiller's attorney, Dan Monnat, said Tiller's wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time.


Comment: I believe that life begins at conception, that life is sacred, and that abortion is wrong! But violence against abortion providers is absolutely the wrong solution!

Archway, phony sales & Wachovia

Oh, No! What Happened to Archway?

Excerpts:

SITTING in his office late one evening in April last year, Keith Roberts, the director of finance for the Archway & Mother’s Cookie Company, stared in shocked silence at the numbers on his desk.

He knew things had been bad — daily reports he had been monitoring for six months showed that cookie sales at the company had been dismal. But the financial data he was looking at showed much more robust sales.

“Where on earth had all of these sales come from?” Mr. Roberts recalls thinking to himself.

Tired, but intrigued, he began digging through orders and shipping and inventory records until, well after midnight, he reached the conclusion that Archway, based in Battle Creek, Mich., was booking nonexistent sales.

He reasoned that sham transactions allowed Archway, which was owned by a private-equity firm, Catterton Partners, to maintain access to badly needed money from its lender, Wachovia. Mr. Roberts’s investigation eventually caused Wachovia to pull its financing lines, helping to push Archway into bankruptcy last fall.

...

Wachovia, for instance, provided tens of millions of dollars in loans and lines of credit backed by assets to Archway despite the fact the company had not had a formal independent audit of its financial statements in three years.


Comment: What was missing? An independent audit!

5.29.2009

YogaToes


Tired tootsies? YogaToes ease foot pain

Excerpt:

As the first week progressed, I began to use the YogaToes up to an hour or so at a time while watching television because I found them so comfortable. Removing the YogaToes is simple, even if they aren’t pre-moistened. After each use, my toes felt nicely separated for at least an hour – a happy change from the achy bunched feet that come out of my shoes each evening when I come home from work. I’ve tried warming YogaToes with hot water, and chilling them in the refrigerator, as suggested by the manufacturer – both ways were tolerable. However, I prefer YogaToes at room temperature.


Comment: Official site: Yogapro.com. Possible gift for my Mother (who does not visit my blog!)

$ 8000 opportunity for 1st time homebuyers

Get your $8,000 HUD tax credit now

Excerpt:

First-time homebuyers will now have access to quick cash to help them with their down payments.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that first-time homebuyers using FHA-approved lenders can now get an advance on the $8,000 tax credit created by the stimulus package and apply it toward their down payments or closing costs.

"We believe this is a real win for everyone," said HUD secretary Shaun Donovan in a speech before the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). "Families will now be able to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase right away. What we're doing today will not only help these families to purchase their first home but will present an enormous benefit for communities struggling to deal with an oversupply of housing."

As part of the stimulus package, Congress created a refundable first-time homebuyers tax credit in hopes of helping on-the-fence buyers to take the home-purchase plunge. But buyers couldn't collect the $8,000 credit until tax time, rather than at closing time -- when it's needed.

The delay created an obstacle to reigniting the housing market because most first-time buyers -- the ones who would buy much of the available inventory -- have only saved enough to cover 4% of the purchase price, according to the National Association of Realtors.



Comment: I don't think this has ever been available before!

If the North were to strike South Korea today

North Korea could opt for devastating land assault

Excerpts:

At the outset of the Korean War, which began 59 years ago next month, North Korean armor rolled across the border, catching the South by surprise. An emergency U.S. defense effort initially crumbled, and the North's forces almost succeeded in pushing the Americans off the tip of the peninsula.

U.S. and South Korean forces have had nearly six decades to anticipate how a renewed attack might unfold and how they would respond. The expectation is that the North would slip commandos, commonly called special operating forces, across the Demilitarized Zone that divides the North and South or into southern waters aboard small submarines to carry out sabotage and assassination.

In congressional testimony in March, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, Gen. Walter L. Sharp, estimated that the North has more than 80,000 such commandos. He said it is the largest special operating force in the world, with "tough, well-trained and profoundly loyal troops" who are capable of clandestine missions such as sabotaging critical civilian infrastructure as well as attacking military targets.

The South has had glimpses of the commando capabilities. Until recent years the North would routinely infiltrate agents across the DMZ. One of its submarines ran aground in South Korea during a failed spying mission in 1996.

Sharp said North Korea's army is the world's fourth largest with 1.2 million troops on active duty, backed by as many as 7 million reserves, with an estimated 1,700 military aircraft, 800 naval vessels and more than 13,000 artillery pieces. The numbers do not tell the entire story, though. Much of the North's equipment is old and decrepit, and it lacks the high-tech reconnaissance capabilities of the South.

Sharp did not mention chemical weapons, but it is widely believed the North has a chemical capability that it could unleash in the early stages of a land war to demoralize defending forces and deny the use of mobilization centers, storage areas and military bases.

Complicating the defensive calculations of the South and its American allies is the immutable fact that Seoul, with a population of about 10 million, lies about 35 miles south of the DMZ—within easy range of much of the North's artillery.

"It's a very, very direct route. That's always been the problem, right from the early days," said Kerry Brown, an Asia analyst at London's Chatham House think tank. "It's very vulnerable to a sudden, savage all-out military attack."

...

Although the U.S. has a relatively small ground force of about 28,500 troops in South Korea, the key to American support in the event of a sudden invasion would air and naval power. The U.S. has fighters, bombers and an array of other Air Force and Navy warplanes not only stationed in South Korea but also at bases in Japan, Guam and elsewhere in the Pacific.


Comment: I'm glad my niece (US Air Force) is out of Korea (she was stationed there for a year!). Also glad that a young gal from our church is to leave Korea in a week or two.

California in 'financial ruin'

Wells Fargo CEO says California in 'financial ruin'

Excerpts:

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said Thursday that California’s large budget deficit means state services will have to be cut.

“The state of California is in financial ruin,” Stumpf told those attending a statewide microfinance lenders’ conference at Stanford University. “The budget deficit in California is staggering.”

...

The state of California is struggling with a growing budget deficit after tax and financial measures failed at the ballot box this month. Earlier this year, the state delayed tax refunds and other payments due to what State Controller John Chiang called a “cash crisis not seen since the Great Depression.”

The state recently asked the federal government for assistance in guaranteeing California’s short-term borrowings, fearing that it could not raise the money standing on its own credit.


Comment: California in 'financial ruin' because of poor state government!

5.28.2009

Will we "Bing it" instead of "Google it"?

Microsoft’s Request: Use Bing, Don’t Google It

Excerpt:

Bing, the name Microsoft gave to the new search service it unveiled Thursday, is its answer to Google — a noun that once meant little but has become part of the language as a verb that is a synonym for executing a Web search. After months of, uh, searching, Microsoft settled on Bing to replace the all-too-forgettable Live Search, which itself replaced MSN Search.

Microsoft invested billions of dollars in those services and failed to slow Google’s rise, so a new name certainly can’t hurt.

Microsoft’s marketing gurus hope that Bing will evoke neither a type of cherry nor a strip club on “The Sopranos” but rather a sound — the ringing of a bell that signals the “aha” moment when a search leads to an answer.

The name is meant to conjure “the sound of found” as Bing helps people with complex tasks like shopping for a camera, said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft’s online audience business group.

And if Bing turns into a verb like, say, Xerox, TiVo or, well, Google, that would be nice too. Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said Thursday that he liked Bing’s potential to “verb up.” Plus, he said, “it works globally, and doesn’t have negative, unusual connotations.”

Some branding experts said choosing the name Bing was a good start, but also the easiest part of the challenge facing the company, since most people turn to Google without even thinking about it.



Other links:

Bing Find out more

www.bing.com

Comment: I have somewhat of an anti-Microsoft bias ... but will give it a try. Remember when Yahoo was the search engine? Or AltaVista?

My thoughts exactly!

The Itinerant Evangelist ?

Excerpt:

there is such a thing as an evangelist, but I think our modern American Christian culture has redefined what it is. We think of an evangelist as a preacher who drives around the country pulling a trailer with a big family preaching the same ten sermons he's had in his Bible since he last studied the Bible years ago. He goes from church to church and holds a week long "revival" so the local church can get on fire for God again and they can bring their unsaved friends in hope that they'll get saved at one of these meetings.


Comment: The Sharper Iron quote by Coach C


  1. Most evangelists that I have run into (and I have spent time with several from [redacted] equate reformed theology with calvinism. These men are concerned about the upsurge of calvinist soteriology. In my experience, there is very little upsurge in reformed hermeneutic. ...
  2. Many evangelists are really concerned about the YF calvinistic types because they fear for their livelihood. Let me explain: Most calvinistic types see very little Scriptural support for the office of the itinerant evangelist. Most calvinstic types see very little Scriptural support for the entities that we currently call "revival meetings". Calvinist types typically do not practice the Finney technique commonly called the "invitation" or the "altar call". Younger, calvinistic types are very committed to the idea of the local church. That idea does not leave room for the itinerant evangelist. As a result of these ideas, itinerant evangelists are seeing a huge drop in meetings and as the number of young, calvinistic pastors continues to increase, the number of evangelistic meetings will decrease.

I don't want to get into the arguments for and against the above, those battles can be handled elsewhere. The men who are quoted here are seeing "reformed theology" decrease their market share in a big way. Furthermore, they have no first-hand knowledge of the Calvinistic-type ministries that are growing and vibrant - because they are never invited to such assemblies.

U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level?

U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level, Faber Says

Excerpt:

The U.S. economy will enter “hyperinflation” approaching the levels in Zimbabwe because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates, investor Marc Faber said.

Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office.

“I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation,” Faber said. “The problem with government debt growing so much is that when the time will come and the Fed should increase interest rates, they will be very reluctant to do so and so inflation will start to accelerate.”


Comment: See the 10 Trillion Dollar note (I have one at the house)

Coming "Good GM" - after 3rd largest bankruptcy in U.S. history

Bloomberg says GM to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday

Excerpt:

Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors will join Chrysler in filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday. The move is widely expected, but the news agency is adding a bit of flesh to the story, suggesting that what promises to be the third-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history (after Lehman Bros. and Worldcom) will indeed result in the sale of most of the automaker's assets to a new company (likely the oft-discussed "Good GM"). GM's worldwide assets have been reported to be $91 billion against a total liability of $176.4 billion as of December 31.


Comment: Federal government to own some 70% of it!

Should Washington cosign for California?

California to U.S.: Back us up for new loans

Excerpt:

In a move with only one modern-day precedent, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration and members of Congress for federal loan guarantees to help the state out of a desperate, multibillion-dollar jam.

California is not asking for cash, like the tens of billions given to AIG, General Motors or Morgan Stanley. Instead, the state with the worst credit rating in the nation is asking that Washington act as a sort of co-signer on the state's borrowing, to be backed up with money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.


Comment: If the Fed does, California will never clean up its act!

Is buying a home a good investment?

Why Your Mortgage Won't Make You Rich

Excerpt:

Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology even suggests home owners may end up earning less over the course of their lives than renters do. The reason? Renters can more easily move for good jobs. It may sound fanciful, but it's not completely ridiculous. Just ask someone who owns a home in Detroit.

I'm not arguing that buying a home is a bad financial move. My wife and I own. But we bought after running the numbers and comparing the annual costs with renting. We didn't gamble on big capital appreciation to help us out.

Nor am I denying the other benfits of ownership. Owning your own place can be a great feeling.

But if you are trying to decide whether to rent or to buy, and you take a purely financial point of view, it's risky to rely on brisk home-price appreciation to swing the argument.

The real benefits of home ownership are any capital appreciation, plus the imputed rent, minus the effective cost of the mortgage and property taxes, other costs, and the return you could earn on your down payment elsewhere.

That's a complex figure, and it varies widely. But if your home's appreciation is lower than the annual cost of borrowing, as it has been for many over the last 20 years, leverage is not much of a friend.


Comment: Short term ownership doesn't work. Long term probably is a good value.

Idea: Atheist sympathy card



Kathee and I were talking about the hopelessness of the lost. What hope does an atheist have at death. She suggested an Atheist sympathy card: when you open it, a small puff of dust is emitted and a stanza of Dust in the Wind plays


Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind, ohh

Now, don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
The wind

San Diego: Home Bible study illegal?

Couple: County Trying To Stop Home Bible Studies

Excerpt:

A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Comment: Worth watching closely.

5.27.2009

GM's slide into oblivion



Comment: Will drop out of the Dow. (We've had GM cars for more than 20 years: Pontiac J-2000, Geo Metro, Chevy S-10, Saturn, another Saturn, yet another (sold to Rachel), Impala, Chevy S-10, Impala, Buick. Sad to see the decline.

The cake is a lie


Urban Dictionary: "the cake is a lie"

Excerpt:

Implies that a promised reward for one's work is false, with the one proffering the reward never intending to give it in the first place, possibly because the reward never even existed (see also: "there is no spoon"). This phrase can be used to express grief or frustration regarding any situation where there is an imbalance between effort and reward. This phrase was popularized by the game "Portal" by Valve Software Corporation.

During the game, GlaDOS, an artificially intelligent operating system and the game's passive-aggressive guide, uses the reward of cake as a motivating factor in an attempt to manipulate the player. It is first mentioned during the "impossible puzzle room", where she urges the player to "quit now and cake will be served immediately". In a later stage, the player can access a "hidden" area of the testing chamber to find a previous test participant had scrawled "The cake is a lie!" among other warning messages. Cake continues to remain the promised reward for completing the test and/or obeying GlaDOS, particularly in the final stages of the game. Finally, in the ending song, GlaDOS cheerfully sings about how "there's no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying 'till you run out of cake."


Comment: I heard this phrase for the first time today. Made me think about "the world" and the lie that if offers satisfaction and meaning in life.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

North Korea: already sanctioned to the hilt

Analysis: Has North Korea reached a 'tipping point'?

Excerpt:

When North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised tough consequences for North Korea's actions but said the door was still open for negotiations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said pretty much the same thing last month when North Korea lobbed a long-range rocket, prompting fears that it could hit Japan or even Hawaii.

The broken record was replayed this week when President Obama called for "stronger international pressure" after North Korea turned pyrotechnics into an extreme sport, with an apparent nuclear test followed by a series of missile launches.

Fifteen years after the Clinton administration signed the Agreed Framework, essentially bribing North Korea to give up its weapons program with a nuclear power plant, the U.S. has been riding a merry-go-round of deal-making, provocation and punishment with the North.

The Bush administration also tried unsuccessfully to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions -- first by trying to squeeze the regime and then by reaching a deal with Pyongyang to dismantle its main nuclear reactor.

Economic sanctions, U.N. Security Council resolutions and even the Obama administration's policy of engagement with rogue states all have failed so far. And military action to take out North Korea's nuclear arsenal is unthinkable, with Pyongyang's enormous conventional army sure to retaliate against neighbors South Korea and Japan.

With North Korea posing an early test to his administration, Obama can't let North Korea's nuclear antics go unanswered. But as it did in April after the missile launch, the U.S. wants to handle this in a way that will preserve the ability to restart the so-called six-party talks. Obama's aides are debating the pros and cons of what limited options the administration has.

For now, eyes are on the Security Council, where the U.S. and its allies are discussing elements of a resolution. Some of the ideas being proposed are tightening existing sanctions, intercepting nuclear cargo and cutting off North Korea's access to cash, possibly with a ban on the lucrative sale of conventional weapons it uses to fund its nuclear program.

The role of China and Russia, typically reluctant to impose sanctions against North Korea, will be crucial. Last month the U.S. could barely get Beijing and Moscow to sign onto to a watered-down statement criticizing North Korea. But administration officials involved in North Korea policy say the one silver lining in the latest antics is that they were so outrageous they crossed a line, which could galvanize Russia and China to act.

Officials acknowledge that with North Korea already sanctioned to the hilt, such measures may do little more than get the regime's attention. But maybe that is the point. North Korea is known for its attention-grabbing, and some officials predict (read: wish) that a strong international reaction could be what Pyongyang needs to nudge it back to the table.


Comment: No clues as to best approach.

GM Bondholders reject stock swap

Debt Exchange Falls Short; G.M. Moves to Sell Units

Excerpt:

Bondholders at General Motors on Wednesday rejected an offer to exchange $27 billion in debt for a small amount of stock, as G.M. prepared for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as this weekend.

...

In a statement about the bondholders, G.M. did not give vote totals for the tender offer, which began on April 27 and expired at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. G.M. had required 90 percent of bondholders to agree to exchange their debt, said said Wednesday morningthat the notes tendered were “substantially less than the amount required.”

Without approval, G.M. had said it would seek bankruptcy protection. But it made no announcement of its plans. The company said it had withdrawn its offer, and that its board would meet to decide further steps.


Comment: Some have the view that it is only the well-to-do impacted by this. My dear 89 year old Mother has either $ 4000 or $ 6000 in GM bonds. Her broker advised her several years ago to buy these because of the interest rate. The recent GM offer was to exchange bonds for stock at a stock price of $ 4 something per share. Well the stock is trading (right now) at $1.31. We obviously advised her against it. A stock swap would have been a 70% loss.

5.24.2009

More Iranian sabre-rattling

Iran general says could stop Israel in 'one strike'

Excerpt:

Iran's former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai warned on Sunday he could stop Israel with "one strike" and said it would not dare to threaten the Islamic republic if he is elected president.

"My government... understands missiles and tanks as well as foreign policy and knows exactly where Israel's sensitive spots are. It could stop them forever with one strike," Rezai told a news conference.

"If government falls into our hands Israel will not dare threaten Iran because the Israelis and the Americans know us and our friends," said Rezai, who is one of three candidates challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election.


Comment: One wonders how long this can simmer before it boils over!

Enemies Made Totally of Straw

Some Obama Enemies Are Made Totally of Straw

Excerpt:

“Here’s the trick: Take your opponent’s argument to a ridiculous extreme, and then attack the extremists,” said William Safire, the former presidential speechwriter who writes the “On Language” column for The New York Times Magazine. “That leaves the opponent to sputter defensively, ‘But I never said that.’ ”

The telltale indicators that a straw man trick is on the way are the introductory words “there are those who say” or “some say.”

“In strawmanese, you never specify who ‘those who’ are,” Mr. Safire said. “They are the hollow scarecrows you set up to knock down.”


Comment: It happens in politics, business, and religion. More Wiki: "A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position".

5.23.2009

Indianapolis Brickyard history

How the Indianapolis Brickyard Fell Into Place

Excerpt:

... during the third day’s run, Charlie Merz caromed into a wooden fence after a tire blew on his National. Two spectators died, along with Claude Kellum, Merz’s mechanic. Newspaper headlines called the races brutal and bloody and the American Automobile Association threatened a boycott unless improvements were made.

The speedway’s management authorized Andrews, who had supervised the track’s construction, to find a solution. His traction tests concluded that brick paving would provide a surface superior to concrete that was more durable. By December, 3.2 million 10-pound bricks had been installed, along with a 33-inch-high wall to safeguard spectators.

Upgrading Indy to the Brickyard made it a safer place for both racers and fans. During the next decade of practice, qualifying and races, there were a total of seven fatalities. Major portions of the improved track surface lasted more than 50 years.


Comment: My brother and I visited the speedway for time trials back in 1967 (the year of turbine engines)

Tough time at the blood center

I again did the Aphereis blood donation. If I understand it correctly they take 2 pints ... separate the red cells ... and put the remainder (clear) back.

The first poke in the left arm did not go well. A little blood came through the plastic tubing and then stopped. The attendant poked and poked and never got any more to come out. I was freaking out a little bit as the poking makes me feel uncomfortable. Finally they gave up on the left arm and poked the right and got a good stream.

I'm still committed to this, although I was a little uncomfortable today.

5.22.2009

Kid buys earthmover!


Toddler buys earthmover in online auction

Excerpt:

A New Zealand mom made some online bids on toys before napping. Then her 3-year-old daughter took over and bought a bigger plaything than expected — a huge earth-moving digger for a cool $12,300.

Pipi Quinlan made the winning 20,000 New Zealand dollar ($12,300) bid on the Kobelco digger with a few mouse clicks at the auction site TradeMe while her parents slept, the Rodney Times newspaper reported in northern New Zealand.


Comment: Don't nap while you have your online banking session open!

An “Alt-A” story - "I am still waiting for the ax to fall"

My Personal Credit Crisis

Excerpt:

The only problem was money. Having separated from my wife of 21 years, who had physical custody of our sons, I was handing over $4,000 a month in alimony and child-support payments. That left me with take-home pay of $2,777, barely enough to make ends meet in a one-bedroom rental apartment. Patty had yet to even look for a job. At any other time in history, the idea of someone like me borrowing more than $400,000 would have seemed insane.

But this was unlike any other time in history. My real estate agent gave me the number of Bob Andrews, a loan officer at American Home Mortgage Corporation. Bob wasn’t related to me, and I had never heard of his company. “Bob can be very helpful,” my agent explained. “He specializes in unusual situations.”

Bob returned my call right away. “How big a mortgage do you think you’ll need?” he asked.

“My situation is a little complicated,” I warned. I told him about my child support and alimony payments and said I was banking on Patty to earn enough money to keep us afloat. Bob cut me off. “I specialize in challenges,” he said confidently.

As I quickly found out, American Home Mortgage had become one of the fastest-growing mortgage lenders in the country. One of its specialties was serving people just like me: borrowers with good credit scores who wanted to stretch their finances far beyond what our incomes could justify. In industry jargon, we were “Alt-A” customers, and we usually paid slightly higher rates for the privilege of concealing our financial weaknesses.

I thought I knew a lot about go-go mortgages. I had already written several articles about the explosive growth of liar’s loans, no-money-down loans, interest-only loans and other even more exotic mortgages. I had interviewed people with very modest incomes who had taken out big loans. Yet for all that, I was stunned at how much money people were willing to throw at me.

Bob called back the next morning. “Your credit scores are almost perfect,” he said happily. “Based on your income, you can qualify for a mortgage of about $500,000.”


Comment: Good read!

Sign of the times: Dead Malls

Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns

Excerpt:

With their maze of walkways and fast-food courts, malls have long been an iconic, if sometimes unsightly, presence in the American retail landscape. A few were made famous by their sheer size, others for the range of shopping and social diversions they provided.

But the long recession is helping to empty out the promenades. Some analysts estimate that the number of so-called "dead malls" -- centers debilitated by anemic sales and high vacancy rates -- will swell to more than 100 by the end of this year.


Comment: Check out: www.deadmalls.com. The silver lining of a recession?

5.21.2009

The (recent) history of Yogurt

Daniel Carasso, a Pioneer of Yogurt, Dies at 103

Excerpt:

The Danone brand owes nearly everything to Mr. Carasso, including its name. When his father, Isaac, created the yogurt in Barcelona in 1919, he named it after his son, whose nickname in Catalan was Danon, or Danny.

From this small start-up operation Daniel Carasso developed a global business, beginning in France in 1929, expanding to the United States during World War II and eventually reaching markets as far-flung as Mexico, Brazil and Morocco. “My dream was to make Danone a worldwide brand,” he said at a news conference in April to celebrate Danone’s 90th anniversary.

Mr. Carasso was born in Thessalonika, Greece, where his Sephardic family had settled four centuries earlier after the Jews were driven out of Spain. In 1916 his father took the family back to Spain, where he became disturbed by the high incidence of intestinal disorders, especially among children.

Isaac Carasso began studying the work of √Člie Metchnikoff, the Russian microbiologist who believed that human life could be extended by introducing lactic-acid bacilli, found in yogurt and sour milk, into the digestive system. Using cultures developed at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Isaac began producing Danone.


Comment: The ancient history of yogurt

PogoPlug file server

Plugging In $40 Computers

Excerpt:

The first plausible use for the plub computer is to attach one of these gizmos to a USB hard drive. Voila, you’ve got a network server. CloudEngines, a startup, has in fact built a $99 plug computer called Pogoplug, that will let you share the files on your hard drive, not only in your home but also anywhere on the Internet.

“This creates a smart data center for the home,” Mr. Sutardja said.


pogoplug.com

Excerpt:

The Pogoplug connects your external hard drive to the Internet so you can easily share and access your files from anywhere.


Comment: I think I will try this out!

5.18.2009

On "reading aloud"

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud

Excerpt:

Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.

No one understood this better than Jane Austen. One of the late turning points in “Mansfield Park” comes when Henry Crawford picks up a volume of Shakespeare, “which had the air of being very recently closed,” and begins to read aloud to the young Bertrams and their cousin, Fanny Price. Fanny discovers in Crawford’s reading “a variety of excellence beyond what she had ever met with.” And yet his ability to do every part “with equal beauty” is a clear sign to us, if not entirely to Fanny, of his superficiality.

I read aloud to my writing students, and when students read aloud to me I notice something odd. They are smart and literate, and most of them had parents who read to them as children. But when students read aloud at first, I notice that they are trying to read the meaning of the words. If the work is their own, they are usually trying to read the intention of the writer.

It’s as though they’re reading what the words represent rather than the words themselves. What gets lost is the inner voice of the prose, the life of the language. This is reflected in their writing, too, at first.


Comment: K and I read aloud the Scriptures. I Timothy 4:13, "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine."

5.17.2009

Noted IT consulting firm "Forget About Vista"

Gartner Tells Businesses to Forget About Vista

Excerpt:

IT analyst firm Gartner has told businesses to skip Vista and prepare to roll out Windows 7. Companies have traditionally been advised to wait until the first Service Pack of an operating system arrives before considering migration. However, Gartner is urging organisations that aren't already midway through Vista deployments to give the much-maligned operating system a miss. 'Preparing for Vista will require the same amount of effort as preparing for Windows 7, so at this point, targeting Windows 7 would add less than six months to the schedule and would result in a plan that is more politically palatable, better for users, and results in greater longevity.' Even businesses that are midway through planning a Vista migration are urged to consider scrapping the deployment. 'Consider switching to Windows 7 if it would delay deployment by six months or less.


Comment: I know a major financial institution that has already made this decision.

"instant in season, out of season"


Moment teenage soldier went into battle against Taliban... wearing 'I love New York' pink boxer shorts


Comment: Illustrates "instant ... out of season"

5.14.2009

“pick-a-pay” legacy

A Bank Is Survived by Its Loans

Excerpt:

[World Savings's] old mortgage loans live on. Other banks, where escalating monthly payments are either here or on the immediate horizon, are facing the need to foreclose or renegotiate many loans. Within a year or so, most of those loans will have vanished, for better or worse for the homeowners and for the neighborhoods those homes are in.

Few of the World borrowers face such imminent disaster, however. And that is why it is fascinating to follow the progress of World’s mortgage portfolio.

Some of those homeowners may end up all right, being able to wait out the depressed housing market.

And if the local housing market fails to recover? Homeowners there may still be able to wait out the process, making monthly payments that could well be less than the cost of a comparable rental. If such an “owner” thinks prices are unlikely to ever come back, he or she could rationally decide to stay in the home while doing little to maintain it.

That would make the house even less valuable for the bank when it finally did foreclose, and it could also damage the value of nearby properties. No one expects renters to do major maintenance work, but in this case there is no landlord who sees the necessity of such spending. Would you like to buy the house next door?

None of that will matter to World Savings. Golden West Financial, the owner of World, was bought by Wachovia in 2006, at the height of the mortgage boom.

Not realizing it might be acquiring a time bomb, Wachovia made things worse. World had demanded minimum annual payments of 1.95 to 2.85 percent of the loan balance, but that fell to 1.5 percent soon after the merger was announced. After the deal closed, Wachovia cut the minimum payment to 1 percent, thus offering the most generous terms at the time housing prices were most inflated.

It was not until mid-2008, long after the housing market began to crumble, that Wachovia stopped making such loans.

Wachovia is also gone, sold to Wells Fargo at the end of last year.

The new Wells Fargo quarterly report paints a sad picture of the portfolio of “pick-a-pay” loans that World and Wachovia originated.

The amount owed on such loans at the end of March was $115 billion, which Wells estimates is 107 percent of the current value of the properties underlying the mortgages. Just over half the owners are paying the minimum allowed, causing their debt to rise each month.

A loan-to-value ratio of 107 percent is bad enough, but it is an average and many loans are in much worse shape. For loans in California, the average is now 120 percent, and the figure is no doubt much higher in such troubled areas as the Central Valley and the so-called Inland Empire, where nearly a third of the California loans were made. Wachovia estimated that last September the loan-to-value ratio in the Central Valley was 132 percent. Since then, the median sales price of homes in that area has fallen another 20 percent.


Comment: More dreadful details in the full article

'Nam vet killed serving country in Iraq

60-year-old is oldest Army soldier killed in Iraq

Excerpt:

A 60-year-old Vietnam War veteran killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has become the oldest Army soldier to die in that conflict, the military said Thursday.

Maj. Steven Hutchison, of Scottsdale, Ariz., served in Vietnam and wanted to re-enlist immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks, but that his wife was against it, his brother said.

Richard Hutchison told The Associated Press on Thursday that when she died, "a part of him died" so he signed up in July 2007.

"He was very devoted to the service and to his country," Richard Hutchison said.

He described him as a great big brother and friend. "I didn't want him to go," he said through tears, adding that he loved his brother "so much."

The Pentagon said Steven Hutchison was killed in Iraq on Sunday. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks said Thursday that Hutchison was the oldest Army soldier killed in Iraq.

An Associated Press database of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that Hutchison is the oldest member of any service branch killed since the wars broke out.

Hutchison served in Afghanistan for a year before deploying to Iraq in October, heading a 12-soldier team that trained the Iraqi military, his brother said. Later, he was assigned to help secure Iraq's southern border.

Hutchinson, who grew up in California, taught psychology at two state colleges then worked at a health care corporation in Arizona before retiring and re-entering the service, his brother said.

He was part of the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan.


Comment: Thank you Maj. Steven Hutchison for serving your country over three decades!

Does he really believe this?

U.S. Long-Term Debt Load ‘Unsustainable’

Excerpt:

President Barack Obama, calling current deficit spending “unsustainable,” warned of skyrocketing interest rates for consumers if the U.S. continues to finance government by borrowing from other countries.

“We can’t keep on just borrowing from China,” Obama said at a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, outside Albuquerque. “We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt.”

Holders of U.S. debt will eventually “get tired” of buying it, causing interest rates on everything from auto loans to home mortgages to increase, Obama said. “It will have a dampening effect on our economy.”

Earlier this week, the Obama administration revised its own budget estimates and raised the projected deficit for this year to a record $1.84 trillion, up 5 percent from the February estimate. The revision for the 2010 fiscal year estimated the deficit at $1.26 trillion, up 7.4 percent from the February figure. The White House Office of Management and Budget also projected next year’s budget will end up at $3.59 trillion, compared with the $3.55 trillion it estimated previously.


Comment: If he believed this would he be such a big spender?

5.07.2009

Swine Flu overhyped!?

Swine-Flu Hysteria

Excerpt:

In the matter of swine flu -- and the single dumbest response to it yet -- first prize was about to go to the government of Egypt, which last week ordered a cull of the country's estimated 400,000 pigs, never mind that the disease, name notwithstanding, is mainly transmitted human-to-human.

But then an Egyptian health official admitted "the authorities took advantage of the situation to resolve the question of disorderly pig rearing." More likely, as the country's Coptic minority was quick to suspect, was that health and sanitation were merely pretexts to extend anti-Christian bigotry into matters of livelihood and diet.

So that leaves the runners-up: protectionist Russia, which used the flu panic to ban pork imports from Spain and Canada; U.S. immigration restrictionists, who see in the "Mexican flu" a fresh reason to argue for a wall along the border; and panicky Joe Biden, who unwittingly made the case against Amtrak ("I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now") until his handlers interceded. Who knew Mr. Biden was talking about himself when he warned last year that Barack Obama would be tested by crisis early in his presidency?

Of course the winner of the contest is Mr. Biden, since he lacks even the excuse of a self-interested motive. But standing right behind the vice president is a legion of heavily credentialed panic proliferators.

These are the people whose terrifying forecasts you last heard during the avian flu panic of 2005 (deaths to date: 257, according to the World Health Organization) and the SARS panic of 2002-2003 (774 deaths). By contrast, garden-variety flus typically kill upwards of 30,000 Americans a year.


Comment: At (almost) 60 one really doesnt worry about this stuff!

Three auto industry commentaries worth reading

Obama's flawed auto logic

Excerpt:

President Barack Obama insists he doesn't want to run the domestic auto industry -- and we should all be thankful for that.

But his actions speak differently -- and we should all be worried.

"... I rejected the original restructuring plan" that Chrysler LLC submitted for government loans, he said April 30 in announcing his decision to force Chrysler into bankruptcy. "... And the standard I set was high -- I challenged them to design a plan ..."

That's a lot of self promotion and involvement from a guy who doesn't want to control the companies.

...

The president found a scapegoat in the hedge funds that balked at the government's "offer" to take pennies on the dollar for their secured investment

"... It was unacceptable to let a small group of speculators endanger Chrysler's future by refusing to sacrifice like everyone else," he said.

Pardon me while I puke.

Chrysler's secured lenders held about $6.9 billion in debt and a couple didn't want to take significantly less than what they were owed. The lenders that opposed hold less than 10 percent of that debt.

You mean to tell me that the president, who has authorized more than $19 billion in cash to the auto companies, with much of it likely never to be repaid, was willing to force Chrysler into bankruptcy over less than a billion bucks?

When you're doling out dump trucks full of cash, another Ram pickup full doesn't break the government's back.


The Truth About Cars and Trucks

Excerpt:

The two parties that turned the Big Three into a perennially limping freak of unwritten industrial policy now will take formal ownership of their handiwork. The United Auto Workers (UAW) would own 39% of GM. The federal government would own 50%. The creditors will be shafted with just 10%. (In the Chrysler plan being discussed, labor would own 55%, making it effectively a subsidiary of the UAW.)

The day after any such settlement is finalized, the clock will start ticking down to the next collective-bargaining session between a monopoly UAW and what remains of the Big Three -- though now the UAW would be sitting on both sides of the table.

Nearly 25 years ago, a Los Angeles Times reporter innocently and accurately invoked the "M" word in describing the domestic auto sector, noting that the arrival of Japanese auto plants was "threatening the UAW's traditional monopoly on labor in the domestic auto industry."

The erosion of the Big Three's market share since then has really been the erosion of the market for monopoly labor-produced cars. The UAW standard tactic, "pattern bargaining," which it pursues without embarrassment, would have gotten Bill Gates thrown in jail under the antitrust laws.

When the L.A. Times wrote, the labor cost differential versus a Japanese plant was about $2,000 per car. Twenty years later, the cost difference was about $2,000 per car. Today's lament is, "The bankers have benefited from a bailout, so why shouldn't auto workers?" But they have, they have -- for decades. For the business model described above could not possibly have survived otherwise.


Return of Le Car

Excerpt:

t's no exaggeration to say the rest of the story is told in Chrysler's bankruptcy filing. In search of a partner to underwrite development of fuel-sipping hybrids and electric cars that would be almost certain to lose money in the U.S. marketplace, Chrysler's Tom LaSorda spent two years seeking alliances with Nissan, GM, Volkswagen, Tata, Magna, GAZ, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Beijing Auto and others -- efforts that were "uniformly without success." Fiat, he said in an affidavit, was "Chrysler's last best hope."

Not since Renault teamed up with AMC to bring you Le Car has an odder pairing been seen -- or a less promising one.

Credulous media accounts insist the only challenge now is whether Chrysler can hang on for two years until Fiat begins churning out U.S. versions of its popular European models in U.S. factories. Goodness.

Unless gasoline prices go to $5 a gallon, Mr. Marchionne certainly is not so foolish to believe making and selling teensy eurocars in the U.S. is anybody's route to salvation.

Even in Europe, he has noted, a move to bigger, more powerful cars is underway. Motorists are getting fatter and older -- and unwilling to contort themselves to get in and out of a car.

He also understands that trying to beat Toyota at its own game is a nonstarter. Toyota sets a standard of quality and technology that all must meet -- that's the price of admission. But "what we have that Toyota does not have -- and I say this with all modesty -- is the great historical heritage of the brands."



Comment: Imagine an auto industry owned half by the UAW and half by the government. And the Dems and Labor collude! UAW feeds the Dems .... the Dems feed the UAW. I won't buy those cars!

5.06.2009

Good defense of Limited Atonement

Was Anyone Saved at the Cross?

Excerpt:

we are not talking about presenting some terrible limitation on the work of Christ when we speak of “limited atonement.” In fact, we are actually presenting a far greater view of the work of Christ on Calvary when we say that Christ’s death actually accomplishes something in reality rather than only in theory. The atonement, we believe, was a real, actual, substitutionary one, not a possible, theoretical one that is dependent for its efficacy upon the actions of man. And, as one who often shares the gospel with people involved in false religious systems, I will say that the biblical doctrine of the atonement of Christ is a powerful truth that is the only message that has real impact in dealing with the many heretical teachings about Christ that are present in our world today. Jesus Christ died in behalf of those that the Father had, from eternity, decreed to save. There is absolute unity between the Father and the Son in saving God’s people. The Father decrees their salvation, the Son dies in their place, and the Spirit sanctifies them and conforms them to the image of Christ. This is the consistent testimony of Scripture.


Comment: The term "limited atonement" is not perhaps the best term to define what I would call particular redemption.

Goodbye traditonal pensions

Wells Fargo freezes traditional pension plan

Excerpt:

Wells Fargo & Co. told employees on Monday it will no longer contribute to their traditional pension plan, effectively cutting the total compensation of its workers less than two weeks after announcing record first-quarter profit.

The San Francisco bank is combining its existing program with that of Wachovia Corp., the Charlotte, N.C., bank it acquired in December, and freezing both companies' cash balance plans, a type of defined benefit plan.

"We must manage expenses prudently to help Wells Fargo continue our long track record of profitable growth so have decided to have one team member retirement plan for the combined company," spokesman Chris Hammond said in a statement. "These decisions were difficult and we are confident that we're taking the right steps to ensure the long-term strength of our company."

He said the bank will maintain the dollar-for-dollar match for its 401(k) plan, up to 6 percent of pay.

Current participants in the cash balance plans will keep their accrued benefits and account balances, but no new employees can enter the program, according to an internal memo from Julie White, executive vice president of human resources at Wells, obtained by The Chronicle. Workers can take distributions from the plan after they leave the company.

One Wells Fargo employee, who requested anonymity because the individual wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said Wells Fargo's strong benefits plan has been crucial in keeping the company competitive in terms of recruitment.

"Now the benefits side is deteriorating," the worker said. "It's a big disappointment. There is a feeling of lack of loyalty."


Comment: To quote Chris Farley (or misquote him): "I'll be living in a van down by the river!". Realistically one needs to SAVE SAVE SAVE for retirement. Starting early is best.

5.05.2009

Latest madman alert

Iran's Ahmadinejad in new tirade against Israel

Excerpt:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed Zionism as "occupation" and "aggression" Tuesday as he delivered his latest diatribe against the Jewish state on a visit to key Middle East ally Syria.

"The Zionist occupiers are destructive microbes, because Zionism itself is occupation, aggression, the use of assassination and annihilation," he told a joint news conference with President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital.

"Zionism was created to threaten us. To support the Palestinian resistance is a humanitarian and popular obligation," Ahmadinejad said in remarks in Farsi that were translated into Arabic.

"Syria and Iran are united in supporting the Palestinian resistance."

The Iranian president's comments came barely two weeks after he sparked a European walkout from a UN anti-racism conference in Geneva by equating Zionism with racism.

He has gone further in the past, predicting that the Jewish state is doomed to be wiped from the map and describing the Holocaust as a myth.

Ahmadinejad asked why it was the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza that is blacklisted by the European Union and the United States, and not Israel after its devastating offensive against the territory at the turn of the year.

"They've attacked Gaza, killing people in their own land and massacring women and children... and yet it's the Palestinians they accuse of terrorism," he complained.

Ahmadinejad, whose visit to Damascus came as Defence Secretary Robert Gates toured US allies in the region to reassure them about overtures to the Tehran regime by President Barack Obama, hit out at the continuing US military presence on Iran's borders.

"They weren't invited in. They're unwelcome visitors who should leave Afghanistan and the borders of Pakistan," the Iranian president said.

"We don't want honey from bees that sting us. Efforts must be made to rid the region of the presence of foreigners... and to reform the unjust global political and economic system."

Ahmadinejad said Iran and Syria were standing together to "resist foreign intervention and the major powers trying to impose their hegemony over the region."

The United States "has put pressure on Syria and Iran, but it needs us and wants to develop relations," he said.

"Circumstances are changing rapidly in our favour. We are on the road to victory."


Comment: Madman alert!

The "Maunder Minimum" and Global cooling

Sun Oddly Quiet -- Hints at Next "Little Ice Age"?

Excerpt:

The sun is the least active it's been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages, and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695.


Comment: Minnesota had a little ice age just a couple of months ago! I still am recovering.

AF 1 flyover photos classified (???)

PHANTOM AIR FARCE PICTURES

Excerpt:

The $328,835 snapshots of an Air Force One backup plane buzzing lower Manhattan last week will not be shown to the public, the White House said yesterday.

"We have no plans to release them," an aide to President Obama told The Post, refusing to comment further.

The sole purpose of the secret photo-op, which sent thousands of New Yorkers running for cover, was to take new publicity shots of the presidential jet over the city.

"The photos . . . are classified -- that's ridiculous," Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., said.

New Yorkers said they could not understand how a president who shares intimate snapshots from the White House could justify classifying these.

"So we're not gonna see the fruits of this cruel joke?" said Frank Antonelli, 39, one of the Wall Street traders spooked by last week's flyover.

"I'm not surprised. Obama . . . wouldn't further all the bad publicity by putting out those pictures."


Comment: We paid for them ... we should have the rights to them!

5.04.2009

1918 flu survivors

1918 flu survivors share memories as research continues

Excerpt:

Margaret Duchez, 94, did not have the flu, but remembers that in 1918 her grandmother locked the door so that she couldn't go outside during the pandemic. In her community near Cleveland, Ohio, people were afraid to go to church, walk in the street or let children play outside, she said. An entire family died around the corner from her.

"People were dying so fast in our parish, which was old St. Patrick's, they could not bury them fast enough," Duchez said.

A study in Nature last year showed survivors of the 1918 pandemic still have some immunity to that virus in the form of B cells, which are immune cells that produce antibodies.

Now, researchers are taking the knowledge from that study to work toward an antibody treatment for swine flu, the 2009 H1N1 virus that has sickened hundreds of people worldwide.

When a person gets infected with a virus, the body typically mounts an immune response to it. B cells produce antibodies, leaving the person at least partially immune to the disease, said Dr. James Crowe, professor at Vanderbilt University and lead study author.


Comment: Not many folk from 1918 remain! Both my Mom (b 1920) and Dad (b 1918 - d 1999) were born during this pandemic

Debt clock is ticking faster than ever

Worries Rise on the Size of U.S. Debt

Excerpts:

The nation’s debt clock is ticking faster than ever — and Wall Street is getting worried.

...

Already, in the first six months of this fiscal year, the federal deficit is running at $956.8 billion, or nearly one seventh of gross domestic product — levels not seen since World War II, according to Wrightson ICAP, a research firm.

Debt held by the public is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to rise from 41 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009 and to a peak of around 54 percent in 2011 before declining again in the following years. For all of 2009, the administration probably needs to borrow about $2 trillion.

The rising tab has prompted warnings from the Treasury that the Congressionally mandated debt ceiling of $12.1 trillion will most likely be breached in the second half of this year.

Last week, the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, a group of industry officials that advises the Treasury on its financing needs, warned about the consequences of higher deficits at a time when tax revenues were “collapsing” by 14 percent in the first half of the fiscal year.

“Given the outlook for the economy, the cost of restoring a smoothly functioning financial system and the pending entitlement obligations to retiring baby boomers,” a report from the committee said, “the fiscal outlook is one of rapidly increasing debt in the years ahead.”

...

there is the concern that the interest the government must pay on its debt obligations may become unsustainable or weigh on future generations. The Congressional Budget Office expects interest payments to more than quadruple in the next decade as Washington borrows and spends, to $806 billion by 2019 from $172 billion next year.

“You’re just paying more and more interest and having to borrow more and more money to pay the interest,” said Charles S. Konigsberg, chief budget counsel for the Concord Coalition, which advocates lower deficits. “It diverts a tremendous amount of resources, of taxpayer dollars.”


Comment: Watch it spin (out of control) on the right navigation of this blog!

5.03.2009

The Kemp doctrine

Jack Kemp, Star on Field and in Politics, Dies at 73

Excerpt:

Mr. Kemp, having embraced a supply-side economic theory, told the House that year [1978] that the nation suffered under a “tax code that rewards consumption, leisure, debt and borrowing, and punishes savings, investment, work and production.”


Comment: Per Christianity Today he was a Christian. More here.

5.02.2009

Flu Farms?

Decreasing Factory Farming Could Help Avert the Next Epidemic

Excerpt:

As the number of confirmed cases of swine flu around the globe increases, we grow closer and closer to having a pandemic on our hands. In preparation against that possibility, governments are emphasizing prevention of further human-to-human transmission and treatment for those who are ill. Talk about greater distribution of filter masks, vaccine production, and limitations on international travel abounds. Surprisingly, however, there is very little discussion about how swine flu got started in the first place.

The primary reservoir for influenza viruses is aquatic birds, but humans are not readily directly infected by the strains from those animals. Pigs, however, are highly susceptible to both avian and human influenza A viruses. They are commonly referred to as “mixing vessels” in which avian and human viruses commingle. In pigs, viruses swap genes, and new influenza strains emerge with the potential to infect humans. Pigs may have been the intermediate hosts responsible for the birth of the last two flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968 and the current swine influenza A, called H1N1, is a triple hybrid avian/pig/human virus.

In order to better avert the threat of epidemics like the one currently spreading around the globe, public health efforts must address the conditions that allow pigs to become breeding grounds for infectious disease. More focus needs to be placed on preventing pathogens from getting into the human population in the first place, and that means starting at the farm. The source of the current epidemic has not yet been identified, but the first confirmed case of swine flu occurred in La Gloria, Mexico, a town surrounded by industrial pig farms, partly owned by Smithfields Foods. We should note of course that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made it clear that consumers cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. But even if these particular farms are not confirmed as the primary source, based on research into the previous outbreaks of swine flu, it makes sense to consider factory farms as very likely potential sites for the development of these pathogens.


Comment: Time to "make bacon"

Recasting "global warming"

Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus

Excerpt:

The term [global warming] turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public support for climate change legislation and other initiatives. A summary of the group’s latest findings and recommendations was accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government officials and environmental leaders.


Comment: Dem-speak

5.01.2009

Favre to Vikes?


Vikings will discuss signing Favre


Comment: Wouldn't that be cool!