8.31.2009

CMBS pain lurking!

Commercial Real Estate Lurks as Next Potential Mortgage Crisis

Excerpt:

The CMBS [commercial-mortgage-backed securities] sector is suffering two kinds of pain, which, according to credit rater Realpoint LLC, sent its delinquency rate to 3.14% in July, more than six times the level a year earlier. One is simply the result of bad underwriting. In the era of looser credit, Wall Street's CMBS machine lent owners money on the assumption that occupancy and rents of their office buildings, hotels, stores or other commercial property would keep rising. In fact, the opposite has happened. The result is that a growing number of properties aren't generating enough cash to make principal and interest payments.

The other kind of hurt is coming from the inability of property owners to refinance loans bundled into CMBS when these loans mature. By the end of 2012, some $153 billion in loans that make up CMBS are coming due, and close to $100 billion of that will face difficulty getting refinanced, according to Deutsche Bank. Even though the cash flows of these properties are enough to pay interest and principal on the debt, their values have fallen so far that borrowers won't be able to extend existing mortgages or replace them with new debt. That means losses not only to the property owners but also to those who bought CMBS -- including hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds and other financial institutions -- thus exacerbating the economic downturn.

A typical CMBS is stuffed with mortgages on a diverse group of properties, often fewer than 100, with loans ranging from a couple of million dollars to more than $100 million. A CMBS servicer, usually a big financial institution like Wachovia and Wells Fargo, collects monthly payments from the borrowers and passes the money on to the institutional investors that buy the securities.

CMBS, of course, aren't the only kind of commercial-real-estate debt suffering higher defaults. Banks hold $1.7 trillion of commercial mortgages and construction loans, and delinquencies on this debt already have played a role in the increase in bank failures this year.


Comment: This has huge negative potential!

Is "the Zimbabwe option" in our future?

Why Default on U.S. Treasuries is Likely

Excerpts:

We all know that there is a limit to how much debt an individual or institution can pile on if future income is rigidly fixed. We have seen why federal tax revenues are probably capped between 20 and 25 percent of GDP; reliance on seigniorage is no longer a viable option; and public-choice dynamics tell us that politicians have almost no incentive to rein in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The prospects are, therefore, sobering. Although many governments around the world have experienced sovereign defaults, U.S. Treasury securities have long been considered risk-free. That may be changing already. Prominent economists have starting considering a possible Treasury default, while the business-news media and investment rating agencies have begun openly discussing a potential risk premium on the interest rate that the U.S. government pays. The CBO estimates that the total U.S. national debt will approach 100 percent of GDP within ten years, and when Japan's national debt exceeded that level, the ratings of its government securities were downgraded.

...

Still unconvinced that the Treasury will default? The Zimbabwe option illustrates that other potential outcomes, however unlikely, are equally unprecedented and dramatic. We cannot utterly rule out, for instance, the possibility that the U.S. Congress might repudiate a major portion of promised benefits rather than its debt. If it simply abolished Medicare outright, the unfunded liability of Social Security would become tractable. Indeed, one of the current arguments for the adoption of nationalized health care is that it can reduce Medicare costs. But this argument is based on looking at other welfare States such as Great Britain, where government-provided health care was rationed from the outset rather than subsidized with Medicare.


Comment: My sister and mother flew in Friday for a surprise visit. I showed my sister a 100 Trillion Zimbabwean bill and tried to explain hyper-inflation to my mother. When my Mother was 13 (1933) she and her friend found $ 81 beside the road. They turned it into the police. After a number of months no one claimed it and my mother received her half of the $ 81. I asked her what she did with it. She bought an Elgin watch, a new dress, and gave the rest to her parents. My son did a little Consumer Price Index lookup. $ 81 in 1993 is the equivalent of $ 1,342 today! Thats' inflation! Check out the BLS inflation calculator here: http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

More on! AND Here.

Stoner logic, the "stoner code", and politics

Mr. President, Please Don’t Bogart the Blunt

Excerpt:

The left in our country is high. Completely stoned out of their minds.

Living and working in L.A., one encounters more stoners on the average day than they do illegal immigrants. I’ve worked with stoners. I’ve dated stoners. I’ve lived with stoners. I know stoners inside and out and I can tell you, without a doubt, that the Democrat Party is completely crunked.

Stoners always think that they are smarter than they really are. Copious amounts of THC trick the brain into thinking that the most banal thought is somehow a stroke of genius. Just watch a bunch of stoners debate philosophy and metaphysics. The most ridiculous comments take on the gravitas of a Stephen Hawking thesis. Morons think that they are Michio Kaku after a towering bong hit.

Stoners live for the moment. They are all about feelings, not facts. They possess a detached sense of cause and effect. I recall one specific episode when I came home and tore into my stoner roommate for not having his share of the rent. His solution to his lack of rent was simple. See, the real problem wasn’t his lack of money, but my reaction to it. I was far too stressed about the situation. What we should do, to solve the rent problem, was grab a couple of drinks at the Cafe Formosa on Santa Monica and then head over to Crazy Girls, a local gentleman’s club. After that excursion, I would calm down and stop harshing his gig over the unpaid rent.

Six Coronas and two lap dances later, I wasn’t as furious. We both felt better. To the stoner, everything was fixed. Problem solved! Unfortunately, the rent was still unpaid. My loser roommate still didn’t have a job

Stoners never emerge from their stupor. Part of being a true “wake and bake” stoner is the ability to remain faded. True stoners never snap out of it. I’ve dealt with coke heads and alcoholics, but stoners are a different breed. The alkie and the base head will go on their binge, then apologize profusely for their conduct; until, of course, the next time they go on a bender. The pot head always exists in a dream like world of cannabis induced euphoria. They do not see their drug addiction as a problem, but instead, as a heightened sense of being and awareness.

Lastly, stoners never have their own money. Remember those Chili’s leftovers you were planning on eating? How about those delicious Red Baron frozen pizzas? Chances are good that your stoner roommate ate your food while you were at work. Sure, they promise to “hook you up” as soon as they get a chance to go to Ralph’s, but it never happens. Stoners have a bizarre, communal logic that dictates that everything exists for the collective. Your pizza, your stash, your girlfriend all exist for the greater stoner good. To demand private ownership of anything is an offense to the “stoner code.”

With this in mind, how can one not see the recent doings in Washington as anything but massive cannabis abuse? Cash for clunkers? Stoner logic. Stimulus package? Stoner logic. Government run health care? Stoner logic. Cap and trade? Stoner logic.

I can picture Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer lying on a bean bag, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and watching The Little Mermaid, dreaming up domestic and foreign policy. ”You know who those town hall protesters remind me of? Nazis, man. They’re freakin Nazis.” (Cough. Cough. Giggle. Giggle). “What if we give money to people to buy new cars and we smash their old cars?” ”Dude, that’s totally awesome, because we just watched Dude, Where’s My Car?”

You’d be hard pressed to find any other rational explanation for a large group of people who discard decades of historical evidence, common sense, and basic moral decency other than massive amounts of reefer.


Comment: The "weed" explains it!

8.27.2009

The OBAMACARD


the OBAMACARD

Comment: Created by a friend of mine!

Ted Kennedy's Catholicism

Ted Kennedy's Mixed Catholicism

Excerpt:

Like many American Catholics, Kennedy differed significantly from Catholic teachings in crucial areas: embryonic stem-cell research, contraception, same-sex marriage and abortion. Indeed, he had a 100 percent score from the abortion-rights group NARAL on abortions and 0 percent from the National Right to Life Committee.

Yet his supporters would argue that he lived out his faith by championing causes long embraced by Catholicism--compassion for the poor and vulnerable, support for arms control, suspicion of war, the right to health care, the rights of workers.

Kennedy worked with Catholic bishops and Catholic Charities officials on issues like immigration, the federal minimum wage and health coverage. But he earned plenty of criticism from Catholic leaders for his support for legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.

...

Abortion is clearly prohibited by the RCC, but Pelosi, Biden, kennedy and the other Dem politicos keep talking quickly and hoping that no one actually pins them to the wall. And lets remember how Kennedy was able to annul his first marriage of 24 years, throwing his wife and children under the bus so he could have a second church-based wedding. It was the purchase of an indulgence, just like the good old days of the 10th century.


Comment: When is a Catholic not a Catholic? When he denies the church's core teachings on life!

1969: First installment

1969: The year everything changed


Comment: Directs to my other blog

Conflicker sleeps .... for now!


Defying Experts, Rogue Computer Code Still Lurks

Excerpt:

The program, known as Conficker, uses flaws in Windows software to co-opt machines and link them into a virtual computer that can be commanded remotely by its authors. With more than five million of these zombies now under its control — government, business and home computers in more than 200 countries — this shadowy computer has power that dwarfs that of the world’s largest data centers.

Alarmed by the program’s quick spread after its debut in November, computer security experts from industry, academia and government joined forces in a highly unusual collaboration. They decoded the program and developed antivirus software that erased it from millions of the computers. But Conficker’s persistence and sophistication has squelched the belief of many experts that such global computer infections are a thing of the past.

“It’s using the best current practices and state of the art to communicate and to protect itself,” Rodney Joffe, director of the Conficker Working Group, said of the malicious program. “We have not found the trick to take control back from the malware in any way.”

Researchers speculate that the computer could be employed to generate vast amounts of spam; it could steal information like passwords and logins by capturing keystrokes on infected computers; it could deliver fake antivirus warnings to trick naïve users into believing their computers are infected and persuading them to pay by credit card to have the infection removed.

There is also a different possibility that concerns the researchers: That the program was not designed by a criminal gang, but instead by an intelligence agency or the military of some country to monitor or disable an enemy’s computers. Networks of infected computers, or botnets, were used widely as weapons in conflicts in Estonia in 2007 and in Georgia last year, and in more recent attacks against South Korean and United States government agencies. Recent attacks that temporarily crippled Twitter and Facebook were believed to have had political overtones.

Yet for the most part Conficker has done little more than to extend its reach to more and more computers. Though there had been speculation that the computer might be activated to do something malicious on April 1, the date passed without incident, and some security experts wonder if the program has been abandoned.


Comment: Full article is very good! My Macs and Linux netbook are not infected :) !

8.26.2009

Kennedy anecdotes

Obituary: Edward M. Kennedy


As James Sterling Young, the director of a Kennedy Oral History Project at the University of Virginia, said the catchphrase of that era was: “Most people grow up and go into politics. The Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”

...

Less than a month after turning 30 in 1962, Mr. Kennedy declared his candidacy for the remaining two years of his brother’s Senate term. He entered the race with a tailwind of family money and political prominence. Nevertheless, Edward J. McCormack Jr., the state’s attorney general and a nephew of John W. McCormack, then speaker of the United States House of Representatives, also decided to go after the seat.

It was a bitter fight, with a public rehash of the Harvard cheating episode and with Mr. McCormack charging in a televised “Teddy-Eddie” debate that Mr. Kennedy lacked maturity of judgment because he had “never worked for a living” and had never held elective office. “If your name was simply Edward Moore instead of Edward Moore Kennedy,” Mr. McCormack added, “your candidacy would be a joke.”


CLASSIC RUSH: "...do look to me like Senator Kennedy done changed his position on offshore drilling"

Senator Kennedy is vacationing off the coast of the south of France and he's got a young nubile, very limber and flexible young woman with him, scantily clad in a nice bikini. We know this because paparazzi were taking pictures from neighboring boats, and the New York Daily News published the pictures, and there were a series of four pictures. The first picture shows them cavorting out there on the boat. The second picture shows us the scantily clad, nubile, very flexible and limber young woman diving in the water off the edge of the boat. The next picture showed Senator Kennedy jumping in after her -- which was a first for Senator Kennedy to go in the water after a woman -- and then the last picture showed them back in the boat making... uh, "having intimacies," let's say. The pictures made the rounds, and they showed them to Howell Heflin, a Senator from Alabama. He was a huge guy, and he looked at the picture and said (rare Howell Heflin impression), "Well, I do declare! Ha! Why, it do look to me like Senator Kennedy done changed his position on offshore drilling."

VA: "Sorry ... you don't have ALS

VA to apologize for mistaken Lou Gehrig's disease notices

Excerpt:

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday it will apologize to veterans who were mistakenly told they'd been diagnosed with a fatal neurological condition.

Letters were sent last week to 1,864 veterans and survivors, the VA said in a written statement. They were supposed to be sent to veterans with ALS -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- to keep them apprised of expanding benefits eligibility.

"According to the records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you have a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)," said the letter, according to the National Gulf War Resource Center. "This letter tells you about VA disability compensation benefits that may be available to you."

But some who received the letters, like Brent Casey, do not have ALS. Casey, a disabled Army veteran from the first Gulf War, told CNN that when he received the letter, he was "just completely beside myself. Just floored. Went into a complete and total meltdown. I couldn't speak, couldn't -- I guess I was, truthfully, speechless."


Comment: Earlier post!

Kennedy finally faces justice!


Chappaquiddick incident

Excerpt:

Kennedy: If at any time, the citizens of Massachusetts should lack confidence in their Senator’s character or his ability, with or without justification, he could not in my opinion adequately perform his duties, and should not continue in office. The opportunity to work with you and serve Massachusetts has made my life worthwhile. So I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and opinion. In making it I seek your prayers. For this is a decision that I will have finally to make on my own.


Comment: I know this post is harsh, but I remember the events of 1969 and his culpability in the death (and subsequent coverup) of young Mary Jo Kopechne.

8.25.2009

Wells Fargo Card Design Studio



Comment: Here's the pic ... I am making a debit card with this.

Clues on colony collapse disorder

New Clues in the Mass Death of Bees

Excerpt:

The bees may be dying not from a single toxin or disease but rather from an assault directed by a collection of pathogens. A research team led by entomologist May Berenbaum at the University of Illinois compared the whole genome of honeybees that came from hives that had suffered from CCD [colony collapse disorder] with hives that were healthy. The sick bees exhibited genetic damage that could account for the die-off, and that damage indicated that they might be afflicted with multiple viruses simultaneously. This could weaken them enough to trigger CCD. "It's like a perfect storm," says Berenbaum.


Comment: Earlier post: Vanishing bees

Some dealers found $-4-Clunkers "a Nightmare"

Dealer poll calls Cash for Clunkers a 'Nightmare,' four out of 10 didn't want program extended

Excerpt:

A recent (admittedly unscientific) survey conducted by Automotive News shows that 44% of the 800 dealers polled wouldn't want C4C to be extended again, even if the program was modified. Only 3% felt that the program should have been extended without being modified. The biggest issue dealers have with C4C is, unsurprisingly, its lack of timely payment. Some multi-store dealers have millions invested in the program, while little or no money has come in yet. An alarming 23% of dealers say they have had to borrow money to cover the cash crunch left in the wake of the Clunkers program, while an additional 10% say the program has actually sucked enough cash from the coffers that it has put the dealership at risk.

The Transportation Department and the Obama Administration have stated that every eligible C4C transaction will result in payment, but the federal guarantee isn't boosting many dealers' confidence. AN says that 43% of dealers surveyed aren't very confident that they'll receive all of their C4C dollars, while an additional 18% are not at all confident that they'll be paid in full.

Some dealers say that C4C has also hurt their repair, finance, used car and parts businesses, but that's okay if they collect from the feds. Even with the considerable downside of C4C, 74% of dealers say that if they're paid in full by the federal government, the program will positively affect their bottom line, while 5% say they somehow managed to lose money.


Comment: One Twin Cities dealership (per WCCO news last night) was awaiting $ 4.5 Million from the government!

This cartoon explains it

If Jay and Katie could do it, I guess I could too!

Comment: The absolute worst part was drinking the fluid. It is a full gallon. I had to drink 32 oz on Sunday night (starting at 6 p.m.) and then another 32 oz on Monday morning (starting at 6 a.m.). Getting over the gag reflex was not easy. The drive to the hospital and the great fear I was going to soil myself was also a panic. (I kept telling my wife, "you are driving like an old lady ... let's get this car going!). The sedative didn't seem to knock me out very much but I did have a hard time walking (w crutches) to the car afterward. When I got home, I settled into my recliner and slept until 5 pm.

As an aside I had a friend die of colon cancer at the age of 46 (It was 18 years ago when I was 42). Watching him die (from the day he told me at church, "I have six months to live", to the day of his death 5 months later; reminds one that having a Colonoscopy is worth it!

I often do not express verbally my appreciation for my dear wife (the "old lady" comment above!), but Kathee really cared for me over the last several days! Thank you Honey!

"The politics of charisma is so Third World"

Obama's Summer of Discontent

Excerpt:

These "townhallers" who have come forth to challenge ObamaCare have been labeled "evil-mongers" (Harry Reid), "un-American" (Nancy Pelosi), agitators and rowdies and worse.

A political class, and a media elite, that glamorized the protest against the Iraq war, that branded the Bush presidency as a reign of usurpation, now wishes to be done with the tumult of political debate. President Barack Obama himself, the community organizer par excellence, is full of lament that the "loudest voices" are running away with the national debate. Liberalism in righteous opposition, liberalism in power: The rules have changed.

It was true to script, and to necessity, that Mr. Obama would try to push through his sweeping program—the change in the health-care system, a huge budget deficit, the stimulus package, the takeover of the automotive industry—in record time. He and his handlers must have feared that the spell would soon be broken, that the coalition that carried Mr. Obama to power was destined to come apart, that a country anxious and frightened in the fall of 2008 could recover its poise and self-confidence. Historically, this republic, unlike the Old World and the command economies of the Third World, had trusted the society rather than the state. In a perilous moment, that balance had shifted, and Mr. Obama was the beneficiary of that shift.

So our new president wanted a fundamental overhaul of the health-care system—17% of our GDP—without a serious debate, and without "loud voices." It is akin to government by emergency decrees. How dare those townhallers (the voters) heckle Arlen Specter! Americans eager to rein in this runaway populism were now guilty of lèse-majesté by talking back to the political class.


Comment: Love the quote (blog title)

Camaro owner? Free pizza on Wednesday


Papa John’s boss finds Camaro, gives free pizza

Excerpt:

It turns out he didn't have to leave Kentucky, where the pizza chain is based in Louisville. The car only changed hands twice from the original buyers, ending up with Jeffery Robinson in Flatwoods, about 165 miles to the east.

"When I first saw it I still wanted to look it over to make sure it was the car even though I knew it," Schnatter told The Associated Press. "That kind of hit me emotionally. I was kind of numb."

The original buyers of Schnatter's car heard about the search when he appeared in a TV interview before an NFL game this month. An online search led them to the car blog Jalopnik, which has followed the search and tipped off Papa John's.

Robinson, who bought the car about five years ago for $4,000, recently delivered the Camaro to Schnatter, earning the $250,000 reward. The original buyers will get $25,000 for their help tracking it down.

Schnatter says it looks very much the same as it did when he sold it in 1983, but with a larger motor and fatter tires for drag racing.

The car will be displayed at the company headquarters in Louisville, replacing a replica Schnatter commissioned while he searched for his original car.

In honor of the reunion, Papa John's planned to offer all Camaro owners a free pizza at stores on Wednesday.


Comment: We've having Papa John's tonight to honor my brother on his 56th birthday!

Update with nice picture of it: Happy Papa John to give Camaro owners free pizza after getting his ride back

Update: Image from PapaJohn's site

8.24.2009

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission political correctness directives

Quangos blackball ... oops, sorry ... veto ‘racist’ everyday phrases

Excerpt:

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has advised staff to replace the phrase “black day” with “miserable day”, according to documents released under freedom of information rules.

It points out that certain words carry with them a “hierarchical valuation of skin colour”. The commission even urges employees to be mindful of the term “ethnic minority” because it can imply “something smaller and less important”.

The National Gallery in London believes that the phrase “gentleman’s agreement” is potentially offensive to women and suggests that staff should replace it with “unwritten agreement” or “an agreement based on trust” instead. The term “right-hand man” is also considered taboo by the gallery, with “second in command” being deemed more suitable.

Many institutions have urged their workforce to be mindful of “gender bias” in language. The Learning and Skills Council wants staff to “perfect” their brief rather than “master” it, while the Newcastle University has singled out the phrase “master bedroom” as being problematic.

Advice issued by the South West Regional Development Agency states: “Terms such as ‘black sheep of the family’, ‘black looks’ and ‘black mark’ have no direct link to skin colour but potentially serve to reinforce a negative view of all things black. Equally, certain terms imply a negative image of ‘black’ by reinforcing the positive aspects of white.

“For example, in the context of being above suspicion, the phrase ‘whiter than white’ is often used. Purer than pure or cleaner than clean are alternatives which do not infer that anything other than white should be regarded with suspicion.”



Comment: I'll check with my "right hand man" (Brother) for his views

An example of government health care: "you have ALS"

1,200 veterans wrongly told they got fatal disease

Excerpt:

At least 1,200 veterans across the country have been mistakenly told by the Veterans Administration that they suffer from a fatal neurological disease.

One of the leaders of a Gulf War veterans group says panicked veterans from Alabama, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming have contacted the group about the error.

Denise Nichols, the vice president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, says the VA is blaming a coding error for the mistake.

Letters dated Aug. 12 were intended to notify veterans who have Lou Gehrig's disease of disability benefits available to them.


Comment: What 'til we have socialized medicine!

USPS economics

The justification for the Postal Service's monopoly is long past

Excerpts:

If the cost of a postage stamp had risen at merely the rate of inflation since 1950 when a stamp cost two cents, today you could send a first-class letter for 30 cents. Instead the cost rose in May to 44 cents from 42 cents.

...


Here's a secret Washington doesn't want to admit: That 14 cent per letter cost hike after inflation over the past 60 years imposes a $20 billion a year toll on the U.S. economy. The government mail system is essentially a $20 billion annual income transfer from businesses and households to the postal unions.

About 80 cents of every postal dollar pays for employee salaries and benefits (compared to less than 50 cents for Fed Ex and UPS). What that means is that if you want to cut costs at the post office, you have to slash labor expenses. Mr. Potter has reduced Postal Service employment to 650,000 from 800,000 the past four years, largely through attrition. But he still employs 650,000 workers who have among the best wages and benefits in all of American life.

Most employees have no-layoff clauses, the starting salaries are about 25% to 30% higher than for comparably skilled private workers, and the fringe benefits are so expensive that the Government Accountability Office says $500 million a year could be saved merely by bringing health benefits into line with those of other federal workers.


Comment: Article has chart comparing postal rates and inflation

8.23.2009

Double-dip recession?

The risk of a double-dip recession is rising

Excerpt:

here are also now two reasons why there is a rising risk of a double-dip W-shaped recession. For a start, there are risks associated with exit strategies from the massive monetary and fiscal easing: policymakers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they take large fiscal deficits seriously and raise taxes, cut spending and mop up excess liquidity soon, they would undermine recovery and tip the economy back into stag-deflation (recession and deflation).

But if they maintain large budget deficits, bond market vigilantes will punish policymakers. Then, inflationary expectations will increase, long-term government bond yields would rise and borrowing rates will go up sharply, leading to stagflation.

Another reason to fear a double-dip recession is that oil, energy and food prices are now rising faster than economic fundamentals warrant, and could be driven higher by excessive liquidity chasing assets and by speculative demand. Last year, oil at $145 a barrel was a tipping point for the global economy, as it created negative terms of trade and a disposable income shock for oil importing economies. The global economy could not withstand another contractionary shock if similar speculation drives oil rapidly towards $100 a barrel.

In summary, the recovery is likely to be anaemic and below trend in advanced economies and there is a big risk of a double-dip recession.


Comment: Good read (all of it!). Note his comments on budget deficits and inflation. Consider What does a double dip recession look like?

When the modern age began

Obama's State Capitalism

Excerpt:

Even more than the New Deal and the Great Society, Obama's agenda expresses the mentality of a class that was nascent in the 1930s but burgeoned in the 1960s and 1970s. The spirit of that class is described in Saul Bellow's 1975 novel "Humboldt's Gift." In it Bellow wrote that the modern age began when a particular class of people decided, excitedly, that life had "lost the ability to arrange itself": "It had to be arranged. Intellectuals took this as their job.


Comment: Another good George Will read. More below (out of sequence)

We are already testing whether President Obama and other statists who have given his administration and this Congress their ideological cast have a doctrine analogous to Brezhnev's. Having aggressively, even promiscuously, blurred the distinction between public and private sectors with improvised and largely unauthorized interventions in the economy, will they ever countenance a retreat of the state? Or do they have an aspiration that they dare not speak? Do they hope that state capitalism will be irreversible — that wherever government has asserted the primacy of politics, the primacy will be permanent?


They say not, but they say many things that they probably do not believe. (That a government-run "public option" health insurance would not extinguish or even harm private insurance; that cap-and-trade carbon regulations will raise energy costs without injuring the economy; that taxing Peter to subsidize Paul's purchase of a new car is a sound basis for economic growth; that an 85 percent unspent stimulus has routed the recession, etc.) Two legislative proposals are revealing the administration's real intentions regarding government ownership of companies.

Sunday Lego fun

"Whole"-some Health Care Reform

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

Excerpt:


  1. Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs).
  2. Equalize the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits.
  3. Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines.
  4. Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.
  5. Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.
  6. Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost.
  7. Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.
  8. Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.



Comment: Wall Street Journal editorial. There's a nice Thatcher quote too: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money."

More:

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America

Netflix, Saturday mail delivery, and technological change

Bob Greene: About that Saturday mail ...

Excerpts:

n a digital age, the U.S. mail is a throwback to a time when the only way to receive information was to have human beings -- paperboys, mail carriers -- bring it to you by hand. You're reading these words on a screen; chances are, whatever written communication you have with friends and family members in the next 24 hours will be via e-mail and text message, not by dropping an envelope into a mailbox.

The problems the Postal Service faces are real, and they're enormous. Postmaster General Potter says that getting rid of Saturday delivery would save more than $3 billion a year. My guess is that not only are they going to have to do away with Saturday mail -- the time is probably coming when delivery on other days of the week will disappear, too.

So the question is not whether the days of mail delivery will be curtailed. It's whether we will be happy about it.

....
[A Netflix impact]

If enough people don't receive their Netflix envelopes on that first Saturday the mail doesn't arrive, and there is thus a hole in their Saturday nights -- well, President Obama might have to step in to cool the outrage, the same way President Dwight D. Eisenhower did in April of 1957, the only other time a permanent cessation of Saturday mail delivery was attempted. It lasted just one weekend. Americans wouldn't put up with it.

...

[On Technology Change]

Things change. Telephone landlines are abandoned for cell phones; typewriters are tossed out in favor of computer keyboards. In doing the research for last Sunday's column about mail service, one of the sources I consulted was the February 12, 1951, issue of Time magazine. (Eisenhower, not yet president, was on the cover).

Sprinkled throughout the magazine were big, splashy advertisements extolling the glories of companies and products that no longer exist: Kaiser automobiles, Trans World Airlines, the Milwaukee Road passenger railroad, Moore-McCormack oceanliner cruises.


Comment: Oh the value of looking at old magazines! As far as I am concerned they could deliver the mail 3 days a week! I added hyperlinks. The Milwaukee Road Wiki article is good!

The “Bury Sammy” campaign

A Georgia County Shares a Tale of One Man’s Life and Death

Excerpt:

Sammy Green lay inside the coffin, wearing the overalls he requested, while the boys marched him to his mountainside grave. Two preachers played guitars and crooned the kind of bluegrass gospel Mr. Green loved. “I’m a weary traveler,” one song began, “traveling through this land.”


Comment: Read the whole article. Very good!

No Thermostats here!

Energy Dept. Fails to Use Thermostats to Cut Costs

Excerpt:

The Energy Department strives to be a leader in championing energy efficiency. Its Web site lists energy-saving tips, while Secretary Steven Chu calls conservation one of the department’s most important goals.

But at many of the agency’s buildings, even at national laboratories where talented scientists seek technological breakthroughs to save energy, the department has failed to use one of the most effective tools available to any ordinary household: thermostats that automatically dial back the temperature when nobody is around.

A recent audit found that the department could save more than $11.5 million annually in energy costs by properly employing these “setback” controls to adjust the heat and air conditioning at night or on weekends.

The Energy Department’s inspector general found that the department, which spends almost $300 million annually on utilities, could save enough energy to power more than 9,800 homes each year by doing what experts say every household in the country should also be doing.


Comment: Unbelievable!

8.22.2009

Rewards Cards: Looking for advice

Maybe It’s Time to Change Credit Cards

Excerpt:

Let’s start with my first principle of rewards cards. Whether you’re seeking cash back, travel points or frequent-flier miles, users of credit card programs typically earn one penny for every dollar they charge, assuming they always pay their bills off and never pay interest.

But you want to be above average. To double that 1 percent, sign up for the Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Card or Fidelity’s American Express Cards. The big catch here is that your rebate (which doesn’t count as taxable income) will need to go into a brokerage account at Schwab or one of several possible accounts at Fidelity. If you don’t already have an account at either place, you’ll need to get one.

The American Express Blue Cash card still helps big spenders easily break the 1 percent threshold, and the Amex Costco card gives you 3 percent back at restaurants. You have to be a Costco member to get that card.


Comment: I'm looking for advice on the best rewards card. I prefer to just have one card so Discover doesn't work (not accepted everywhere). I do not carry a balance. I am looking at the Chase Shapphire. Thoughts?

8.21.2009

ObamaCare would look like DirigoCare

No Maine Miracle Cure

Excerpt:

The Maine Heritage Policy Center, which has tracked the plan closely, points out that largely because of these insurance rules, a healthy male in Maine who is 30 and single pays a monthly premium of $762 in the individual market; next door in New Hampshire he pays $222 a month. The Granite State doesn't have community rating and guaranteed issue.

One proposal to get people into the DirigoChoice system is to reduce the premiums, presumably to give the uninsured a larger incentive to join. But that would explode the program's costs when it already can't pay its bills. A program that was supposed to save money by reducing health-care waste and inefficiencies has seen a 74% increase in premiums. But even those inflated payments can't keep the program out of the red.

Last year, DirigoCare was so desperate for cash that the legislature broke its original promise of no tax hikes and proposed an infusion of funds through a beer, wine and soda tax, similar to what has been floated to pay for the Obama plan. Maine voters rejected these taxes by two to one. Then this year the legislature passed a 2% tax on paid health insurance claims. Taxing paid insurance claims sounds a tad churlish, but the previous funding formula was so complicated that it was costing the state $1 million a year in lawsuits.

Unlike the federal government, Maine has a balanced budget requirement. So out of fiscal necessity, the state has now capped the enrollment in the program and allowed no new entrants. Now there is a waiting list. DirigoChoice has become yet another expensive, failed experiment in government-run health care, alongside similar fiascoes in Massachusetts and Tennessee.


Comment: Yet another example of how a government sponsored health care system is a poor choice!

8.20.2009

Dah .... WHAT!???

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Compares Public Health Care To Post Office

Excerpt:

A public (or "government-run") healthcare option for Americans would function similarly to the way the post office does, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) suggested Tuesday night.

Jackson, in an appearance on CNN, said that just as the government-run post office keeps private mail carriers honest in their prices, so would the public option keep insurers honest.

"Look at it this way: There's Federal Express, there's UPS, and there's DHL," Jackson told CNN host Larry King. "The public option is a stamp; it's email. And because of the email system, because of the post office, it keeps DHL from charging $100 for an overnight letter, or UPS from charging $100 for an overnight letter."


Comment: Guess we need the government to have grocery stores, build cars (OK ... they do own Government Motors), too!

Rehire the Best Buy heros!

Extreme punishment for trying to stop shoplifters

Excerpt:

A pair of Best Buy employees in Broomfield lost their jobs this week after they tried to stop armed shoplifters.

The firings raise an important question: Shouldn't heroism be rewarded?

Instead, Best Buy handed Jared Bergstreser, 20, and Colin Trapp, 23, their walking papers after they tried to stop a pair of shoplifters on Aug. 1.

The men worked in the store's "asset-protection" unit, and had some training in how to handle thieves, according to Boulder's Daily Camera. They weren't security guards.

When the employees saw two men leaving the store with stolen merchandise, they gave chase.

Bergstreser tackled one of the men and Trapp rushed to help. The thief pulled a knife. The shoplifters got away, but not before a manager was cut. (The manager has not been fired. Her involvement in the melee is unclear.)

Bergstreser suffered minor cuts and bruises. He does not dispute that Best Buy's asset-protection training made it clear that he was not to make physical contact with a customer and that he violated company policy.

Trapp says he wasn't told clearly about the no-contact policy, and he is considering filing a wrongful-termination claim.

We don't know what training occurred between employer and the employees. But if Best Buy follows standard practice, it's unlikely Trapp will prevail, Denver employment attorney David Stacy tell us.


Workers Are Fired, Celebrated

Excerpt:

The firing of two workers at a suburban Best Buy Co. store who tackled a fleeing shoplifter -- thus breaking company rules -- has struck a nerve here as locals celebrate the pair as folk heroes while the retailer defends its policies.

Jared Bergstreser and Colin Trapp failed to hold onto the suspect in the Aug. 1 incident; he pulled a knife and fled. But their efforts, they say, cost them their jobs. "I really wasn't thinking," said Mr. Bergstreser, adding that he was familiar with the policy. "I just sort of reacted."

A company spokeswoman, Kelly Groehler, said Best Buy doesn't comment on personnel decisions. But, she said, "These procedures are in place first and foremost for the safety of our employees."

That hasn't convinced many locals. Scores of comments, most expressing admiration, have been posted on Mr. Trapp's Facebook page and other Web sites. "Punished for not being cowards," one commentator wrote. Added another: "Welcome to Best Buy, where no good deed goes unpunished!" Several posters pledged to boycott the chain.

On Wednesday, the Denver Post published an editorial protesting Best Buy's decision to fire the young men. "Shouldn't heroism be rewarded?" the paper asked.


Comment: I am officially boycotting Best Buy until these guys are rehired! I will buy at Amazon or Wal-Mart or Target but not Best Buy until these heroes are hired back!

8.19.2009

Warren Buffett: a "gusher" of "greenback emissions"



Excerpt:

The U.S. must address the massive amounts of “monetary medicine” that have been pumped into the financial system and now pose threats to the world’s largest economy and its currency, billionaire Warren Buffett said.

The “gusher of federal money” has rescued the financial system and the U.S. economy is now on a slow path to recovery, Buffett wrote in a New York Times commentary yesterday. While he applauds measures adopted by the Federal Reserve and officials from the Bush and Obama administrations, Buffett says the U.S. is fiscally in “uncharted territory.”

The government is trying to spark business and consumer spending through a $787 billion stimulus plan spanning tax cuts and infrastructure projects, while the Treasury and the Fed have spent billions more on separate programs to rescue financial institutions and resuscitate the banking system. The U.S. budget deficit is forecast to reach a record $1.841 trillion in the year that ends Sept. 30.

“Enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects,” Buffett, 78, said. “For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself.”

The “greenback emissions” will swell the deficit to 13 percent of gross domestic product this fiscal year, while net debt will increase to 56 percent of GDP, Buffett said.


Comment: And he doesn't mean "gusher" or "emissions" in a good sense!

A "hurry-up-and-die message"

The Death Book for Veterans

Excerpt:

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family."

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran's health-care system that seems intent on his surrender.

I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update "Your Life, Your Choices" between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as "Compassion and Choices").


Comment: If you've ever wondered what government run health care looks like, look no further than the VA. As a Pastor I've visited probably hundreds of different hospitals. The VA facilities that I've been too, at least three, were bottom in rank (cleanliness, modernity, service). Perhaps Governor Palin was wrong about the "death panels" but as this article states, "When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?". With Democratic party is the party associated with death of the unborn, who is naive enough to trust them with end of life decisions!

8.18.2009

Photoshop Power!


Obama Joker artist unmasked: A fellow Chicagoan

Excerpt:

When cryptic posters portraying President Obama as the Joker from "Batman" began popping up around Los Angeles and other cities, the question many asked was, Who is behind the image?

Was it an ultra-conservative grassroots group or a disgruntled street artist going against the grain?

Nope, it turns out, just a 20-year-old college student from Chicago.

Bored during his winter school break, Firas Alkhateeb, a senior history major at the University of Illinois, crafted the picture of Obama with the recognizable clown makeup using Adobe's Photoshop software.

Alkhateeb had been tinkering with the program to improve the looks of photos he had taken on his clunky Kodak camera. The Joker project was his grandest undertaking yet. Using a tutorial he'd found online about how to "Jokerize" portraits, he downloaded the October 23 Time Magazine cover of Obama and began digitally painting over it.

Four or five hours later, he happily had his product.


Comment: Earlier post

Pet Diaries

Excerpt from a Dog's Diary........

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpt from a Cat's Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity....

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now.


Comment: From my daughter

8.13.2009

"Deathfest" for "Fastest Dying Cities"

'Fastest Dying Cities' Meet for a Lively Talk

Excerpts:

Here's an idea for saving Rust Belt cities: Tell bloggers and radio stations to stop calling your town a basket case.

That was one suggestion from representatives of eight of the 10 cities labeled last year as America's fastest dying. They met at the Dayton Convention Center last weekend to swap ideas about how to halt the long skid that's turned cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., into shorthand for dystopia.

...

Valarie McCall expressed frustration at marketing a city that still echoed the image of the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire. "That was 1969," said Ms. McCall, Cleveland's chief of governmental affairs. "Come on, I wasn't even born then."

Last year, Forbes.com used long-term trends of unemployment, population loss and economic output to devise a list of "America's Fastest Dying Cities." A few months later, Peter Benkendorf was eating chicken tacos when he hatched the idea for the symposium.

Mr. Benkendorf, a 47-year-old Dayton resident, said he was angry the article ignored efforts by the cities to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs. He thinks these cities are poised for reinvention.

"For a long time, people thought granddaddy was going to come back and make everything all right again," said Mr. Benkendorf, referring to the manufacturers that decades ago built the economies of cities like Dayton. "People have begun to realize that's not going to happen."

Mr. Benkendorf, who directs an arts program affiliated with the University of Dayton, named the symposium, "Ten Living Cities." Dayton skeptics called it "Deathfest."

One was college student Joe Sack, 22. "It's like a gambling addict [trying] to help an alcoholic," he said while at work in a coffee shop. "It's hard to see what they can learn from each other."

Dayton, which has a population of 155,000, has since 1970 has lost more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs a year and a third of its residents. NCR -- the cash-register and ATM maker -- once employed more than 20,000 here. This summer the company said it would move its headquarters and 1,000 jobs to Georgia.

The cities' meeting began Saturday with Forbes reporter Joshua Zumbrun telling the city representatives and about 100 visitors that his story was among his most popular. Then he apologized for any hurt feelings.

Representatives of Dayton, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo; Canton and Youngstown, Ohio; Flint, Mich.; and Charleston, W.Va., took turns talking about their plans. There was little discussion of how cities might pay for the initiatives.


Comment: I used to live in Buffalo. Some of these cities would be a good place to retire. Flint (the outlying areas) has some really nice properties. Forbes article.

Call: 1-866-666-6001




Excerpt:

There is in fact a phone number that you can call. When you call, you are given several choices to choose from. Like, reporting a non-human and also joining MNU. Call: 1-866-666-6001


Comment: I called and reported my wife as "non-human"!

8.12.2009

"Climate change is very real .... I feel it when I'm flying"

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Energy Leader

Excerpt:

... in an interview with the Detroit News Monday, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) - recently appointed to the Senate Energy Committee - made clear that fighting the climate crisis is her top priority.

"Climate change is very real," she confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry - at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."

And there are sea monsters in Lake Michigan. I can feel them when I'm boating.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Excerpt:

Climate change, as all previous speakers have already stated, is the fundamental threat to humankind.

It exacerbates all of the problems we face: poverty, disease, hunger and insecurity. It impedes progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. It deepens the food and energy crises.

That is the harsh reality.

But there is an upside: if we combat climate change with a sustainable, low-emissions approach, just like we see around us in Songdo, we can change the way countries develop.

We can foster a green economy and green growth.

We can fight hunger and poverty while protecting the environment.

The downside is equally dramatic.

If we fail to act, climate change will intensify droughts, floods and other natural disasters.

Water shortages will affect hundreds of millions of people. Malnutrition will engulf large parts of the developing world. Tensions will worsen. Social unrest – even violence – could follow.

The damage to national economies will be enormous. The human suffering will be incalculable.

We have the power to change course. But we must do it now.

As we move toward Copenhagen in December, we must “Seal a Deal” on climate change that secures our common future. I'm glad that the Chairman of the forum and many other speakers have used my campaign slogan “Seal the Deal” in Copenhagen. I won't charge them loyalty. Please use this “Seal the Deal” as widely as possible, as much as you can. We must seal the deal in Copenhagen for the future of humanity.

We have just four months. Four months to secure the future of our planet.



Comment: More "save the planet" globalization-speak

8.11.2009

The Obama Trillion Bill



A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned -
this is the sum of good government. (Thomas Jefferson)


Comment: We've come a long way since Jefferson!

8.10.2009

Bolsheviks' revenge


Lenin statue collapses, kills man in Belarus

Excerpt:

... the 21-year-old man was drunk when he climbed onto the five-meter (16-feet)-high plaster monument early Monday and hung from its arm. It then broke into pieces and he was crushed. The statue in the southeastern Belarus town of Uvarovichi was built in 1939.


Comment: Stupid is as stupid does!

8.09.2009

Yet another airline passenger nightmare scenario

47 trapped on 'nightmare' flight to the Twin Cities

Excerpt:

When Link Christin boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to the Twin Cities on Friday night, he expected to be on the ground in about three hours and ready for a comfy bed.

Instead, he was among 47 passengers who spent the night trapped inside a small airplane, parked at the Rochester airport, complete with crying babies and the aroma of over-used toilets.

The ExpressJet Airlines that operated the plane says the flight was diverted to Rochester because of Twin Cities thunderstorms, and that airline regulations prevented passengers from getting off the plane.

Christin is incredulous that the airline couldn't figure out an option besides trapping passengers on the plane for nine hours.

"It's not like you're on a [Boeing] 747 and you can walk around,'' said Christin, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law. "This was a sardine can, with a single row of seats on one side of the plane and two rows of seats on the other. And they've got about 50 people inside, including babies, for the whole night. It was a nightmare.''

Continental Airlines, which issued the tickets for Flight 2816, referred inquiries to ExpressJet Airlines. ExpressJet spokesperson Kristy Nicholas said the flight ran into several problems.

The airline crew on the plane reached their maximum work hours in the air, so another crew had to be flown in. The alternative of chartering a bus didn't work out. And letting the passengers into the Rochester airport was not possible because they would have to go through security screening again, and the screeners had gone home for the day.

What about just letting the passengers sleep in the airport terminal? "That was not provided as an option by ground services personnel at the airport,'' said Nicholas


Comment: Why people hate flying!

8.08.2009

Vodka: "a common choice of later-stage alcoholics because they think it is easier to hide"

A ‘Perfect Mother,’ a Vodka Bottle and 8 Lives Lost

Excerpt:

Consider a 2004 federal Department of Transportation manual on detecting drunken drivers: Citing a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., study, the manual suggests that for every person the police actually arrest for drunken driving, the intoxication of three other drivers who are stopped goes undetected because officers did not suspect they were drunk.


Comment: Scary statistic

First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit: Ins and Outs

First-Time Homebuyers: It's Time to Get on the Stick

Excerpt:

The credit allows first-time homebuyers to obtain a tax credit amounting to 10% of their home's purchase price, up to a maximum of $8,000. But you have to close on the home before Dec. 1, 2009. Given that it often takes two months to go from contract to closing, that leaves first-timers with less than two months to find a house.

Here's the skinny on how the credit works.


Comment: Worth a look!

The folly of rent control

Monkees singer’s wife guilty in $137,000 fraud

Excerpt:

The wife of Monkees vocalist Micky Dolenz pleaded guilty Friday to charges that she defrauded a public housing program in New York City.

Authorities in the city's Department of Investigation said Donna Quinter, 54, illegally received $136,866 in government rental subsidies for an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The subsidies were supposed to go to middle-income families who were in danger of being forced out of a rent-regulated apartment building that was being converted into luxury condominiums.


Comment: The market alone is more efficient and effective control of supply and demand. For more on rent control in NY click here.

8.07.2009

Palin: Obama's plan "Orwellian" and "Evil"

Palin calls Dems healthcare plan "evil,"

Excerpt:

Describing Democratic healthcare plans as "evil," Sarah Palin is warning that the proposals being debated in Washington could threaten the life of Trig, her Down Syndrome infant boy.

Palin, in her first policy statement since resigning as Alaska governor, wrote on her Facebook page Friday afternoon that the sick, elderly and disabled would suffer should healthcare be rationed, as conservatives claim it will with a public option.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care," Palin wrote. "Such a system is downright evil."

Palin also cited the recent floor speech of conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann, which the former governor said "highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff."


Comment: She's correct.

Obama advistor: "Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously"



In order to understand the President's approach to health care reform, it's important to understand the beliefs and policies of his advisers.


Comment: I hope my Dr takes the Hippocratic Oath seriously!

A Kenyan birth certificate?

Is this really smoking gun of Obama's Kenyan birth?

Comment: I've thought the allegations have been fringe but this is interesting. Select link for pics.

Clunker waste

Unusable engines beginning to pile up in junkyards

Excerpts:

Though it might seem as though the CARS program -- which requires trade-in vehicles to be crushed or shredded so they can't be resold -- would benefit junkyards, some owners are reporting just the opposite effect.

...

Ms. Leshow wouldn't be surprised if it takes weeks or months for Blazczak Salvage to begin getting trade-ins.

Her frustration was echoed by Dave Norris, owner of Millerstown Pic-A-Part in Tarentum, which processes and crushes cars.

His junkyard has gotten around 75 clunkers since the program began two weeks ago, but that's not a significant increase for a recycling plant that typically processes 150 to 200 cars per day, he said.

"It seems to be a really cumbersome process for dealers. They have to scan paperwork to get the government's acceptance of their deals," he said. "There's a real bottleneck to the whole program."

In addition to stimulating car sales, one of the goals of the government program is to get gas-guzzling vehicles off the roads in exchange for those that get better mileage.

"A substantial opportunity exists for fraudulent diversion of the trade-in vehicle, largely because its still-functioning engine makes it attractive to return the vehicle to the road rather than relegate it to the scrap yard," said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's final rule for the CARS Program.

However, it is those parts that account for 60 percent of recyclers' revenue, according to the Automotive Recyclers Association.

"The most valuable part is the engine," said Mr. Norris, adding that each could fetch between $500 to $1,000. "It takes the real profit out of the picture."

Without the engine, he estimates he will get around $75 for the scrap metal for each car.


Comment: I saw an example of a cash for clunker trade in. It was a 1990 Izuzu Trooper. The body was clean with no rust. Getting trashed for no good reason. A lot of nice used cars are being destroyed for no good reason.

Noonan and Rove on Obama's mess with Health Care "reform"

Voters send a message to Washington, and get an ugly response

Excerpt:

The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town hall meetings weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.

People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.

Then came the Democratic Party charge that the people at the meetings were suspiciously well-dressed, in jackets and ties from Brooks Brothers. They must be Republican rent-a-mobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that people are “storming these town hall meetings,” that they were “well dressed”, that “this is all organized,” “all planned,” to “hurt our president.” Here she was projecting. For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama.


Health Reform and the Tax Pledge

Excerpts:

Public support for his plans shrank when Americans saw the trillion-dollar-plus price tag, recoiled from the intrusive expansion of government into patient-doctor decisions, and came to understand the plan was financed in part by huge cuts in Medicare and large tax increases.

So, after running into heavy opposition among Congressional Democrats and growing public hostility to his plan, Mr. Obama has now recast the debate as an attack on insurance companies, with the president serving as savager-in-chief. This would be more credible if he hadn’t surrounded himself with insurance CEOs and lobbyists when he kicked off his effort in March.

....

The campaign team is intent upon protecting a pledge driven by its 2008 campaign polls: Mr. Obama promised never to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year to avoid being labeled a tax-and-spend liberal.

Even so, Mr. Obama has already broken his no-new-taxes pledge. On Feb. 4, Mr. Obama signed a $33 billion cigarette tax increase, which fell disproportionately on lower- and middle-income individuals. And the “cap and trade” energy bill, approved by the House on June 26, is a tax on anyone who owns a light switch, uses a car key, or has bought anything manufactured, shipped or sold in the U.S.

The House version of Mr. Obama’s health-care—excuse me, “health-insurance”—reform already has four taxes that will largely be paid by people making less than $250,000 a year. There’s $8.2 billion in taxes for using health savings accounts and other tax-free medical savings vehicles to purchase over-the-counter drugs. There’s an 8% tax on employers who don’t offer insurance: The Congressional Budget Office says workers in those businesses would pay the $163 billion cost via lost wages.

There’s a 2.5% “Tax on Individuals Without Acceptable Health Care Coverage” in the House bill that applies to people who either don’t have insurance or whose policies the government deems inadequate. Finally, there’s a $2 billion “Comparative Effectiveness Research Tax” on all private and “public option” insurance policies.

If some version of ObamaCare is passed, the president will break his tax pledge several more times while adding trillions to the deficit, dismantling the best elements of our health-care system and slashing Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.


Comment: Crash and burn time for Nancy Pelosi and crowd!

8.06.2009

Borrowing: an alternative to dealing with the banks

Peer to Peer Lending Provides Nice Alternative to Banks

Excerpt:

If your looking to borrow money, these clubs provide an alternative to dealing with the banks. Its a neccessary alternative to have out there, as in these hard times even people with good credit are being denied loans by the banks.

All in all, I think its a pretty good system. As long as both sides realize what their getting into. If both sides are straightforward and honest, then both sides win. There really is no way for the borrower to lose out, as they know the terms they are getting into beforehand and all the money is secure. For lenders, its an investment that carries inherent risk. The payout comes with the risk. I think the tip to be diversified is key when it comes to the lending aspect.

I say thumbs up to peer to peer lending.


Comment: Worthwhile read

That pesky Google (vs AT&T and Apple)

Is Google Voice a Threat to AT&T?

Excerpt:

In short, what Apple and AT&T have accomplished with their heavy-handed, Soviet information-control style is not to bury these useful apps. Instead, Apple/AT&T have elevated them to martyr status—and, in effect, thrown down a worldwide challenge to programmers everywhere.

"Get around THIS," they're saying.

But guess what? It won't take long. They've put a rock in the river, but the water will just find a way around it.

Already, Google says it is readying a replacement for the Google Voice app that will offer exactly the same features as the rejected app—except that it will take the form of a specialized, iPhone-shaped Web page. For all intents and purposes, it will behave exactly the same as the app would have; you can even install it as an icon on your Home screen.

What's Apple going to do now? Start blocking access to individual Web sites?


Comment: Liked this "They've put a rock in the river, but the water will just find a way around it."

Who let the ducks in?

Whirled Views on Government

Excerpt:

I feed a little flock of ducks that gather on my porch and peck at my glass door until I give them bread. They were so cute when they were little. Last week, I opened the door to feed them and they all ran into my house and pooped on the floor and pecked my toes. Kind of reminds me what the government does once you invite them into your back yard. Next thing you know, they are sitting in your living room telling you to quit eating potato chips, vaccinate your daughters, buy a smaller car and that you make too much money. Then they poop on your floor.


Another:

Mark my word, if Obamacare passes, we will be having the same conversations regarding euthanasia within a generation as we’ve been having regarding abortion. That’s not a prophecy; that’s a promise. When the government has to choose who gets the kidney transplant, a 60-year-old grandma or a 16-year-old kid, whom do you think “loses?”


Comment: Cute quote and accurate.

Deutsche Bank: "dire assessment" on housing

About half of U.S. mortgages seen underwater by 2011

Excerpt:

The percentage of U.S. homeowners who owe more than their house is worth will nearly double to 48 percent in 2011 from 26 percent at the end of March, portending another blow to the housing market, Deutsche Bank said on Wednesday.

Home price declines will have their biggest impact on prime "conforming" loans that meet underwriting and size guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said in a report. Prime conforming loans make up two-thirds of mortgages, and are typically less risky because of stringent requirements.

"We project the next phase of the housing decline will have a far greater impact on prime borrowers," Deutsche analysts Karen Weaver and Ying Shen said in the report.

Of prime conforming loans, 41 percent will be "underwater" by the first quarter of 2011, up from 16 percent at the end of the first quarter 2009, it said. Forty-six percent of prime jumbo loans will be larger than their properties' value, up from 29 percent, it said.

"The impact of this is significant given that these markets have the largest share of the total mortgage market outstanding," the analysts said. Prime jumbo loans make up 13 percent of the total market.

Deutsche's dire assessment comes amid a bolt of evidence in recent months that point to stabilization in the U.S. housing market after three years of price drops. This week, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales rose for a fifth straight month in June. A widely watched index released in July showed home prices in May rose for the first time since 2006.

Covering 100 U.S. metropolitan areas, Deutsche Bank in June forecast home prices would fall 14 percent through the first quarter of 2011, for a total drop of 41.7 percent.

The drop in home prices is fueling a vicious cycle of foreclosures as it eliminates homeowner equity and gives borrowers an incentive to walk away from their mortgages. The more severe the negative equity, the more likely are defaults, since many borrowers believe prices will not recover enough.


Comment: Deutsche Bank is a credible source. If this is so ... housing will go down before it recovers.

www.ie6nomore.com

Web citizens trying to kill Internet Explorer 6

Excerpt:

The designers say Internet Explorer 6, which was released in 2001 and since has been updated twice by Microsoft Corp., is crippling the Internet's potential and slowing down the online experience. They also blame IE 6 for giving webmasters a collective headache, because they have to write special "hacks" into Web code to accommodate an outmoded browser.

An estimated 15 to 25 percent of people still use IE 6 as their portal to the Internet, according to two Web monitors.

In recent months, several Web companies have launched sites devoted to the idea of undermining or killing Internet Explorer 6. The most recent site, called "IE 6 No More," has gained momentum this week on social-media sites like Twitter and Digg in part because a number of respected Internet start-up companies have signed onto the campaign.

The "IE 6 No More" site provides Web developers with a piece of code -- an online hurdle, essentially -- they can install to encourage Internet users to download a new browser before coming back to the site.

"As any Web developer will tell you, working with IE 6 is one of the most difficult and frustrating things they have to deal with on a daily basis, taking up a disproportionate amount of their time," an introduction on the site says. "Beyond that, IE 6's support for modern Web standards is very lacking, restricting what developers can create and holding the Web back."


Comment: www.ie6nomore.com.

At a certain company I know, we many many workstation still have IE6. IE7 has not been broadly accepted. Hopefully all will be on IE8 soon.

On the home front: We are Windows free. Macbooks with Firefox and Linux Ubuntu with Firefox.

8.05.2009

An alternative to ObamaCare


How to Fix the Health-Care ‘Wedge’

Excerpt:

The president’s camp is quick to claim that his critics have not offered a viable alternative and would prefer to do nothing. But that argument couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rather than expanding the role of government in the health-care market, Congress should implement a patient-centered approach to health-care reform. A patient-centered approach focuses on the patient-doctor relationship and empowers the patient and the doctor to make effective and economical choices.

A patient-centered health-care reform begins with individual ownership of insurance policies and leverages Health Savings Accounts, a low-premium, high-deductible alternative to traditional insurance that includes a tax-advantaged savings account. It allows people to purchase insurance policies across state lines and reduces the number of mandated benefits insurers are required to cover. It reallocates the majority of Medicaid spending into a simple voucher for low-income individuals to purchase their own insurance. And it reduces the cost of medical procedures by reforming tort liability laws.

By empowering patients and doctors to manage health-care decisions, a patient-centered health-care reform will control costs, improve health outcomes, and improve the overall efficiency of the health-care system.

Congress needs to focus on reform that promotes what Americans want most: immediate, measurable ways to make health care more accessible and affordable without jeopardizing quality, individual choice, or personalized care.

Because Mr. Obama has incorrectly diagnosed the problems with our health-care system, any reform based on his priorities would worsen the current inefficiencies. Americans would pay even more for lower quality and less access to care. This doesn’t sound like reform we can believe in.


Comment: First diagnose the problem. Why are health care costs rising at a rate higher than inflation. The Hippocratic Oath oath: "Above all, do no harm". Congress should follow this standard!

House Health Bill Exposed

House Health Bill Exposed - By A Southern Baptist Religious Liberties Commission (PDF)


Comment: 9 page PDF file ... an eye opener!

Let them fly coach

House Orders Up Three Elite Jets

Excerpt:

Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.

An Appropriations Committee staffer said the military was already planning to replace its passenger fleet, and the committee “looked at the request and decided they should speed up the replacement.”

The Gulfstream G550 is a luxury business jet, which the company advertises as featuring long-range flight capacity that “easily links Washington, D.C., with Dubai, London with Singapore and Tokyo with Paris.” The company’s promotional materials say, “The cabin aboard the G550 combines productivity with exceptional comfort. It features up to four distinct living areas, three temperature zones, a choice of 12 floor plan configurations with seating for up to 18 passengers.”


Congress Members Criticize Auto Executives’ Corporate Jet Travel (November 2008)

Excerpt:

One member of the House Financial Services Committee asked the chief executives of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC on Wednesday to raise their hands if they were willing to give up their company planes as they pleaded with the committee for a $25 billion bailout. None did.

The symbolism of the perk was potent to several congressmen, who said their constituents would be aghast at the privilege in such troubled economic times.

“It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo,” Rep. Gary Ackerman (D., N.Y.) told the gathered executives. “Couldn’t you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled or something to get here?”

Others questioned whether GM’s Rick Wagoner, Ford’s Alan Mulally and Chrysler’s Robert Nardelli were fully committed to the transformation of their struggling businesses if they were unwilling or unable to see how disturbed taxpayers would be by what they called a powerful sign of corporate extravagance. ABC News also picked up on the subject with an investigative news report.


Comment: Let them fly coach ... like the rest of us!