The Threat Landscape - Factoids

Comment: From Threat Landscape presentation today

  • 71% percent of malicious Web sites are actually legitimate sites that have been compromised by attackers
  • In the 2nd half of 2009, there was a 225% growth in malicious Web sites over 2008
  • By the end of 2009, research reveals that spam accounts for 96% of all business email–equating to only 1 in every 298 emails being legitimate
  • 81% of emails during the 2nd half of 2009 contained a malicious link
  • Symantec created 2,895,802 new malicious code signatures in 2009 (71% increase over 2008, 51% of all malicious code signatures ever created)
  • Symantec documented 4,501 vulnerabilities in 2009 –only 47% of which could be corrected through vendor patches
  • The estimated “survival” time of an internet-connected computer running Windows without security is under 6 minutes

Comment: How about that final point!


Remembering my trip to Russia last year

Comment: More fun from Spam box. Trapped by Gmail

Tesla .... an IPO case study

Tesla Shares Jump on Their First Day


Shares in Tesla Motors proved on Tuesday to be as coveted as the electric cars the company produces, as its stock rose about 8 percent above its initial public offering price.

Tesla, appearing on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker symbol “TSLA,” traded at about $18.40 in early afternoon trading. Shares opened around that level, then plunged before climbing back up.

Tesla’s underwriters on Monday, sensing bigger-than-expected investor appetite for the offering, raised the initial sale price to $17, above the $14 to $16 expected range. They also increased the number of shares to be sold in the offering by 20 percent, to more than 13 million shares.


Tesla Investors Should Be Wary of the Road Ahead


While the company has produced total revenues of $147.6 million, it lost $31 million in the first nine months of last year and to date has accumulated losses worth nearly $240 million. It will be another two years before its family car hits the market, so Tesla’s losses are sure to get a whole lot deeper. Every red cent of the $220 million or so in cash raised from this week’s IPO will more than likely get chewed up in the next year.

Is Tesla worth $2 billion? First, that depends on whether you believe in the market for electric cars. The outlook certainly looks promising, especially given that battery-driven cars will clean up the environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil. But confidence in Tesla’s valuation also depends on whether you think Tesla can succeed in what will likely be a very crowded marketplace. General Motors and Nissan are launching EVs before the end of this year. Ford (F) will have a battery-powered van out soon, too. Thanks to new stringent fuel-efficiency standards, every mass-market carmaker is working on electric cars.

For that reason, Tesla stock deserves much caution.


Benjamin Graham: The Intelligent Investor recommends against investing in IPOs

Sue Dad .... get out of school debt

That’s One Way to Get Out of Student Loan Debt


It’s not news that some children, especially as they hit their teenage and college years, don’t get along with their parents. But even experienced attorneys say it’s rare when the disagreements grow to a point where litigation is required.

So consider the odd case of Dana Soderberg, who went to court to force her father to live up to a deal to pay her tuition at Southern Connecticut State University.

After Ms. Soderberg’s parents divorced in 2004, she convinced her father to sign a contract committing to pay for the costs of her education until she reached age 25. He lived up to the deal for a while, but then stopped paying before her senior year of college began, the article says. Earlier this month the judge ruled that the father had indeed breached the contract.

Comment: My kids are wondering: Now where was that contract?


Dell's decline

In Faulty Computer Suit, Window to Dell’s Decline


Dell, however, had actually sent the university, in Austin, desktop PCs riddled with faulty electrical components that were leaking chemicals. Dell sold millions of these computers from 2003 to 2005 to major companies like Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo, institutions like the Mayo Clinic and small businesses.

“The funny thing was that every one of them went bad at the same time,” said Greg Barry, the president of PointSolve, a technology services company near Philadelphia that had bought dozens. “It’s unheard-of, but Dell didn’t seem to recognize this as a problem at the time.”

Documents recently unsealed in a three-year-old lawsuit against Dell show that the company’s employees were actually aware that the computers were likely to break. Still, the employees tried to play down the problem to customers and allowed customers to rely on trouble-prone machines, putting their businesses at risk. Even the firm defending Dell in the lawsuit was affected when Dell balked at fixing 1,000 suspect computers, according to e-mail messages revealed in the dispute.

The documents chronicling the failure of the PCs also help explain the decline of one of America’s most celebrated and admired companies. Perhaps more than any other company, Dell fought to lower the price of computers.

Its “Dell model” became synonymous with efficiency, outsourcing and tight inventories, and was taught at the Harvard Business School and other top-notch management schools as a paragon of business smarts and outthinking the competition.

“Dell, as a company, was the model everyone focused on 10 years ago,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor of international business administration at Harvard. “But when you combine missing a variety of shifts in the industry with management turmoil, it’s hard not to have the shine come off your reputation.”

For the last seven years, the company has been plagued by serious problems, including misreading the desires of its customers, poor customer service, suspect product quality and improper accounting.

Dell has tried to put those problems behind it. In 2005, it announced it was taking a $300 million charge related, in part, to fixing and replacing the troubled computers. Dell set aside $100 million this month to handle a potential settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a five-year-old investigation into its books, which will most likely result in federal accusations of fraud and misconduct against the company’s founder, Michael S. Dell.

The problems affecting the Dell computers stemmed from an industrywide encounter with bad capacitors produced by Asian PC component suppliers. Capacitors are found on computer motherboards, playing a crucial role in the flow of current across the hardware. They are not meant to pop and leak fluid, but that is exactly what was happening earlier this decade, causing computers made by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and others to break.

According to company memorandums and other documents recently unsealed in a civil case against Dell in Federal District Court in North Carolina, Dell appears to have suffered from the bad capacitors, made by a company called Nichicon, far more than its rivals. Internal documents show that Dell shipped at least 11.8 million computers from May 2003 to July 2005 that were at risk of failing because of the faulty components. These were Dell’s OptiPlex desktop computers — the company’s mainstream products sold to business and government customers.

A study by Dell found that OptiPlex computers affected by the bad capacitors were expected to cause problems up to 97 percent of the time over a three-year period, according to the lawsuit.

As complaints mounted, Dell hired a contractor to investigate the situation. According to a Dell filing in the lawsuit, the contractor found that 10 times more computers were at risk of failing than Dell had estimated. Making problems worse, Dell replaced faulty motherboards with other faulty motherboards, according to the contractor’s findings.

But Dell employees went out of their way to conceal these problems. In one e-mail exchange between Dell customer support employees concerning computers at the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett law firm, a Dell worker states, “We need to avoid all language indicating the boards were bad or had ‘issues’ per our discussion this morning.”

In other documents about how to handle questions around the faulty OptiPlex systems, Dell salespeople were told, “Don’t bring this to customer’s attention proactively” and “Emphasize uncertainty.”

“They were fixing bad computers with bad computers and were misleading customers at the same time,” said Ira Winkler, a former computer analyst for the National Security Agency and a technology consultant. “They knew millions of computers would be out there causing inevitable damage and were not giving people an opportunity to fix that damage.”

Comment: Explains why we see so few Dells anymore at my company. Most new PC's are HP's and Lenovo's

Time to print money?

RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve


Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, is advising clients to read the Bernanke text very closely because the Fed is soon going to have to the pull the lever on "monster" quantitative easing (QE)".

"We cannot stress enough how strongly we believe that a cliff-edge may be around the corner, for the global banking system (particularly in Europe) and for the global economy. Think the unthinkable," he said in a note to investors.

Comment: The speech from November 21, 2002

Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke Before the National Economists Club, Washington, D.C.: Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here


Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.


Unicorn ... the other white meat

Geeknet Apologizes to National Pork Board for Unicorn Meat Confusion


‘New white meat’ from sparkly unicorns not meant to replace pork-based diets

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – June 21, 2010 – Geeknet, Inc. (NASDAQ: LNUX), the online network for the global geek community, announces its public apology to the National Pork Board for unintended confusion surrounding unicorn meat versus pork.

Recently, the National Pork Board issued a “cease and desist” warning to ThinkGeek, a Geeknet company and the premier retailer for the global geek community, regarding its April 1 product launch of canned unicorn meat, which can be seen at http://www.thinkgeek.com/stuff/looflirpa/.

“It was never our intention to create a national crisis and misguide American citizens regarding the differences between the pig and the unicorn,” said Scott Kauffman, President and CEO of Geeknet. “In fact, ThinkGeek’s canned unicorn meat is sparkly, a bit read, and not approved by any government entity.”

“Ironically, other than the Pork Board, we do more than anybody else to promote pig consumption among geeks,” Kauffman said. Constantly working to encourage a “passion for pork”, ThinkGeek offers more than 15 different pork-inspired products including: Bacon Soap, Bacon Lip Balm, Bacon Mints, MMMMVelopes (bacon-flavored envelopes) and BaconPop Flavored Popcorn.

To make good on its apology to the Pork Board, ThinkGeek is extending a special discount to everyone offended by its portrayal of Unicorn Meat as "the other white meat.” For a limited time, visitors to ThinkGeek.com can take $10 off any order of $40 or more by using the code PORKBOARD at checkout. The discount applies to merchandise totals and excludes shipping charges. The coupon is good until 6/30/2010 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Canned unicorn meat and products from other mythical, virtual and fictional characters, as well as tangible products, can be found at thinkgeek.com.

Comment: Guess the Pork Board can't take a joke! http://geek.net/


More Spam weirdness

Comment: Well no I don't!

Observations on Obama's Bank Tax

Obama calls for bank tax as next step in reform


Obama wants to slap a 0.15 percent tax on the liabilities of the biggest U.S. financial institutions to recoup the costs to taxpayers of the financial bailout.

"We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis -- so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Obama, who is in Canada to attend gatherings with leaders of the world's biggest economies, also used the address to welcome a deal by congressional negotiators on a historic rewriting of U.S. financial regulations.

Obama hopes to tout the changes as a model for other countries at the Group of 20 summit on Saturday and Sunday.

"I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year's G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again," he said.

The financial regulation package would set up a new financial consumer watchdog, create a protocol for dismantling troubled financial firms and mandate higher bank capital standards, with the aim of avoiding a repeat of the 2007-2009 financial meltdown.

The bill, marking the biggest changes to the financial regulatory structure since the 1930s, still needs final approval from both chambers of Congress.

Obama, who hopes to sign the legislation by July 4, urged Congress to push the bill "over the finish line."

With congressional elections looming in November, Obama hopes the financial reform and the bank tax idea will resonate with U.S. voters furious over Wall Street risk-taking that led to the financial meltdown and the worst recession in decades.

Some lawmakers have indicated they are receptive to the bank tax proposal but others have questioned whether it is fair to impose the tax on banks that have already repaid money from the Troubled Asset Relief Fund to make up for losses by American International Group Inc and General Motors.

Financial companies with more than $50 billion in assets and hedge funds with more than $10 billion in assets will be hit with the new levy upon enactment and lasting until 2020.


  1. Many banks (and most of the large ones - eg Wells Fargo) have already paid back the TARP funds with interest
  2. Some banks - Wells Fargo being one - resisted taking TARP funds in the first place but had them forced on them for the good of the economy
  3. All business taxes ultimately are born by the populace.
  4. What about GM ... (Government Motors)? They were on the receiving end of TARP and have not paid it back and probably never will! Speaking of GM ... my little retired mother lost all of her investment in GM. Talk about taking it from the little old lady!
  5. And what exactly wasteful way will Obama spend this increase in revenue?
  6. End in 2020? Like the telephone tax it will live on

Fun from Spam in-box: "My name is Yuliya"


Greetings my yet familiar friend. I was on a site of acquaintances ashleymadison and have seen yours profile. Also has decided to write to you. In hope that in the future we can be friends. It is a little about me. My name is Yuliya. To me of 27 years. I am a unique lady and never married.

Comment: Google Gmail trapped. I just thought it was funny .... a supposed 27 year old unmarried woman holding a bottle of booze and wanting to connect with me!


Nation-building in Afghanistan - a "Sisyphean agony"

George Will: McChrystal had to go


The military is charged with a staggeringly complex task, the completion of which -- if completion can even be envisioned -- must involve many years. But when given the task, the military was told to begin bringing it to a close in a matter of 18 months.

The not quite seven months that have passed since the president announced his policy have seen sobering military disappointments and daunting evidence of how intractable is the incompetence and how manifold is the corruption of the Kabul government. For as long as we persist in this Sisyphean agony, the president will depend on forthrightness from a military commander whose judgment he trusts. That could not be McChrystal; it is Petraeus. If McChrystal had been retained, he would have henceforth been chastened, abject, wary and reticent. It is unthinkable that he could still have been a valuable participant in future deliberations with the president and his principal national security advisers. The president demanded, and the Americans in harm's way in Afghanistan deserve, better.

It is difficult, and perhaps unwise, to suppress this thought: McChrystal's disrespectful flippancies, and the chorus of equally disdainful comments from the unpleasant subordinates he has chosen to have around him, emanate from the toxic conditions that result when the military's can-do culture collides with a cannot-be-done assignment. In this toxicity, Afghanistan is Vietnam redux.

In July 1945, with the war in the Pacific still to be won and Winston Churchill engaged in the Potsdam conference, the British electorate turned him out of office. When his wife, Clementine, suggested that this might be a blessing in disguise, he replied: If so, it is very well disguised indeed.

The shattering of McChrystal is a messy blessing if the president seizes upon it as a reason for revisiting basic questions about whether Afghanistan matters so much and what is possible there and at what cost. It may be said that with the Afghan mission entering -- or soon to enter; it is late and now may become more so -- a crucial military phase in Kandahar, the cradle of the Taliban, McChrystal is indispensable. Any who may say that should heed the words of another general, one of the 20th century's greatest leaders and realists. Charles de Gaulle said: The graveyards are full of indispensable men.

Comment: Sisyphus

The check's in the mail

N Korea seeks $75 trillion in compensation


Cash-strapped North Korea has demanded the United States pay almost $US65 trillion ($75 trillion) in compensation for six decades of hostility.

The official North Korean news agency, KCNA, says the cost of the damage done by the US since the peninsula was divided in 1945 is estimated at $US64.96 trillion.

The compensation call comes on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the start of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

KCNA said the figure includes $US26.1 trillion arising from US "atrocities" which left more than 5 million North Koreans dead, wounded, kidnapped or missing.

The agency also claims 60 years of US sanctions have caused a loss of $US13.7 trillion by 2005, while property losses were estimated at $US16.7 trillion.

The agency said North Koreans have "the justifiable right" to receive the compensation for their blood.

It said the committee's calculation did not include the damage North Korea had suffered from sanctions after its first nuclear test in 2006.

Comment: The check's in the mail: "This is a term often used to imply that something being expected by someone at the other end is indeed NOT on its way. It doesn't necessarily have to refer to a check at all but can mean anything in general. It's often said in a flippant way to someone who is inquiring about something they're waiting on. Say you are waiting to get the results of tests you undertook regarding a job application; when you call to inquire about it, you're rudely told, "Yeah, the check's in the mail" meaning they're just trying to brush you off."

Image: From Dr Strangelove: That's Slim Pickens riding "the bomb". He's got the check!


Double strike

The moment lightning struck twice in the same place at the same time: Stunning images as storm breaks over Chicago


Electricity rushed down the lightning rods atop the The Willis Tower and the Trump Tower at the exact same instant last night.

Comment: Really cool pics ... click through



For the first time in many many years we had to call a plumber. Kathee worked from home today to connect with the Squeegee Squad who was to clean our outside windows and power wash our deck. They needed the back outside faucet turned on. I think it has been turned off for 14 years. The valve is on the floor joist in the ceiling near our furnace. Kathee turned it on but when she tried to turn of off it did not shut and was lightly spraying and dripping water. Kathee called at 12:51 just as I was ready to host a fairly important teleconference. I was able to conference in (with Kathee) Weld and Sons and they will be coming out to the house.


On dividend paying stocks

High Dividend Stocks: An Alternative to Fixed-Income Investing


These stocks may not outperform gold in a runaway inflationary scenario. However, if central banks miraculously restore the economy without causing inflation, gold will dive, but these stocks should hold up well, inflation or not.

Comment: I personally could not invest in a tobacco company but there are some others that interest me: the pharmaceutical companies mentioned and CenturyLink


The long history of the military and cigarettes

Navy Bans Tobacco Use on Its Submarine Fleet


The Navy is cognizant that military service is stressful, especially in long and lonely deployments under the sea. Everybody is aware that smoking is a legal, if harmful, stress reliever.

So the Navy banned smoking aboard submarines not with the stated purpose of curing the smokers, but of protecting nonsmoking submarine crew members from the threat of heart and lung disease from secondhand smoke.

“Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine,” said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of submarine forces. “The only way to eliminate risk to our nonsmoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines.”

The Navy did not order its submariners to quit cold turkey. For the 5,000 sailors who admitted to being smokers among the submarine fleet’s 13,000 crew members — that is just shy of 40 percent — the ban goes into effect at the end of the year.

In the meantime, a senior petty officer aboard each hunter-killer submarine and each nuclear ballistic missile boat will serve as a “smoking cessation coordinator,” helping sailors wean themselves off the habit through discipline — and a ready supply of nicotine gum, nicotine patches and other replacement therapies.

There are no plans to impose a “smokeless Navy.” Aboard surface warships, smoking is allowed in specially designated — and open — areas. Across the Navy, those who wish to quit smoking can attend classroom programs. And in many Navy and Marine Corps locations, those wishing to quit can receive help from physicians, dentists and pharmacists during a health care visit.

About one-third of all military personnel say they are smokers. While smoking is banned in basic training, more than a third of the current smokers across the armed services say they started after they went on active duty.

The military and cigarettes have a long history, in both combat practice and combat lore. When America went to war in the past, tobacco went with them and cigarettes were part of military rations. But they are no longer contained in the Meals Ready to Eat field food packages, as the Defense Department does not want to officially encourage smoking.

Comment: Cigarettes used to be part of the military ration

Life as a cog

A Night at the Electronics Factory


His task is to help complete 1,600 hard drives — his workshop’s daily quota — and to make sure every one is perfect. Seated in the middle of the assembly line in his black Foxconn sports shirt, cotton slacks and company-mandated white plastic slippers, he waits for the conveyor belt to deliver a partly assembled rectangular hard drive to his station. He places two plastic chips inside the drive’s casing, inserts a device that redirects light in the drive and then fastens four screws with an electric screwdriver before sending the drive down the line. He has exactly one minute to complete the multistep task.


Professor Luo says that the pressure can be intense and that workers are treated like machines at some factories. This is the marvel of China’s low-cost manufacturing boom. Factories are known to replace workers with machines that automate a process, but here in China factories often reverse the trend and replace costly machines with workers like Mr. Yuan — slower but sometimes preferable because there is no large upfront capital investment.


Mr. Yuan earns about 75 cents an hour. With overtime premiums, he takes home $235 a month. His rent is about $44 a month, plus $7 for water and electricity, and there are quite a few other expenses, but he said he manages to save about 40 percent.

Comment: Next time you think complain about your job think of Mr Yuan!


Shaved my head

How To Shave Your Head

Not for everyone but I tried this look today:

  • Kathee buzzed it fairly short with a rake on the Wahl clippers
  • She did another pass without a rake. Just stubble left
  • I wet down my head twice with a warm wash cloth
  • Kathee lathered up my head and
  • With a fresh razor shaved it

How it feels ... weird! Comfortable .... cool ...

Already tonight I can feel that there is some growth

Not sure if I will do it again but will see

Why the Transocean Deep Horizon BP Oil Rig had to drill for oil at 5000 feet

Comment: Worthwhile

Bring your own mug .... save a tree

Winner of Starbucks' Coffee Cup Challenge Isn't a Coffee Cup


Every year, 58 billion paper cups are thrown away, 20 million trees are cut down to manufacture these cups and 12 billion gallons of water are used in the manufacturing process. We could also power 53,000 homes with the energy we consume with paper cups.

Comment: I'm going to Mtn Mudd today ... going to bring my own mug

Does email have a future?

Open Thread: The End of Email?


... only 11% of teens email daily, a statistic she sees as a sign of the coming transition to SMS and social networks. But in 2005, another study found that less than 5% of American teens aged 12-17 preferred email over instant messaging for digital communication. Now, five years later, many of those teens are entering the business world--but we haven't seen AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and G-Chat overtake good old-fashioned email.

At least not yet.

A study by the Nielsen Co. of email consumption in Australia, Brazil, several European countries, and the U.S., found that usage rose 21% between August 2008 to August 2009, reaching 276.9 million people. During that same period, users of social-network sites leaped 31% to 301.5 million people. Because of this sharp growth, Internet communities like Facebook are eating away at the amount of time users spend communicating through traditional messenging services: Between 2003 and 2009, time spent on email sites dropped 41%; social networks, on the other hand, now represent 22% of total user Internet time--up 24% since last year.

Comment: I have two views of email. At work .... I hate it. My inbox is full full full. I save send items to cover myself. I save deleted items for the same reason. For people closest to me ... I treasure the phone or face to face. Graphic captured from the article


Obama "never sounds weaker than when he suggests his predicament is all his predecessor's fault"

A Snakebit President


There is still a sense about Mr. Obama that he needs George W. Bush in order to give his presidency full shape and meaning. In this he is like Jimmy Carter, who needed Richard Nixon, or rather the Watergate scandal, which made him president. Mr. Carter needed Richard Nixon standing in the corner looking like he'd spent the night sleeping in his suit as it hangs in the closet. The image is from Joe McGinnis's "The Selling of the President, 1968." Mr. Carter needed to be able to point at Nixon and say, "I'm not him. He dirty, me clean. You hate him, like me." Carter's presidency was given coherence and meaning by Nixon, Watergate, and without it that presidency seemed formless. Mr. Obama, in the same way, needs Mr. Bush standing in the corner like Boo Radley, saying "Let's invade something!" But Mr. Bush is wisely back home in Texas finishing a book, and the president never sounds weaker than when he suggests his predicament is all his predecessor's fault.

Mr. Obama needs Mr. Bush in the corner and doesn't have him. That's part of why he looks so alone out there.

Comment: If you are old enough to remember (as an adult) the Carter administration, one sees echos of it in Obama


Odd lots

NYSE Turns Its Attention to Violations of Odd-Lot Transaction Rules


NYSE odd-lot rules were designed to, among other things, create parity between large and small investors. The rules require orders under 100 shares to be executed by the specialist firm that handles trading in each stock at the same price as the next round-lot trade, regardless of whether the next round-lot trade is 100 or 100,000 shares. In doing so, the rules attempt to offer small investors a “leg-up” by requiring small trades (i.e., trades under 100 shares) to receive the same price as larger transactions, thereby lessening the likelihood of small orders receiving an inferior price as compared to large block orders. In addition, under NYSE rules, members have an obligation to consolidate, buy or sell a customer's odd-lot orders if the share amount of such orders exceeds 100 shares.4

Comment: An even lot is 100 shares of stock. Odd lot trading would be less than 100 shares. As a small investor I sometimes buy just 10 shares of a stock .. an "odd lot"


The Bush derangement syndrome

CBS Decides Al and Tipper's Separation is the Fault of....George W. Bush


Is there anything a journalist cannot or will not twist to bring the topic back to how life would be so much better if only not for that awful George W. Bush? On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, with the help of the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, Sharyl Attkisson managed to blame news, that Al and Tipper Gore are separating, on how they never got over being denied the presidency despite winning the popular vote in 2000. If only Bush hadn't taken it from them.

Attkisson recalled "it's been ten years since that oddly public passionate kiss at the Democratic convention. That was followed by Gore winning the popular vote for President but losing the electoral vote. Family friend Sally Quinn says that may have done the marriage irreparable harm."

Viewers then heard from Quinn, who's married former Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee and is now titular overseer of the paper's "On Faith" blog: "He obviously suffered a lot and still is suffering. He'll never get over that and neither will she."

Attkisson cheekily began her story: "While Al Gore was out fighting global warming, his marriage to Tipper was apparently cooling."

On ABC's World News, Claire Shipman offered a simpler explanation, sans the political grudges: "The Gores have told friends they've simply grown apart. Tipper embracing the perks of a post-political life like grandchildren and travel. The former Vice President relishing his role as an award-winning environmental activist and not eager to slow down."

Comment: Or maybe not Exclusive: Al Gore Cheats with Larry David's Ex


Cableland's oddities

Denver Aims to Sell Home Too Odd to Be the Mayor’s


12-foot fire pole in the master bedroom, the 88 television sets and the retro tanning bed ...

... portraits of barely clad women in the bathroom, personal notes from Gerald R. Ford and John F. Kennedy adorning the walls and a pink baby grand piano ...

Comment: I agree with this assessment

“I used to joke that he was a man for whom money was no object and pleasure was the only object,” said Mr. Hickenlooper, whose wife vowed that she would sooner live in the county jail after staying a weekend at the Cableland mansion with their young son.

Official site: Cableland. Streeview

The interesting link between Prohibition and the Federal Income Tax

No Closing Time for Income Taxe


The nation’s dependence on the alcohol tax created a vexing problem for the leaders of the Prohibition movement. As early as 1883, the editors of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s official newspaper coyly asked their readers, “How, then, will [we] support the government” if the sale of liquor is prohibited?

The editors had a ready answer: an income tax, they wrote, was “the most just and equable arrangement ever made for the equalization of governmental burdens.” In 1895, the Prohibition Party recognized that an excise tax “is a pledge on the part of the state to defend and foster the thing taxed,” and it soon nailed an income tax plank to its platform. And leaders of the most powerful Dry organization, the Anti-Saloon League, grumpily aware of what one called the “alleged ‘loss of revenue’ argument,” chose to focus most of its attention on state-by-state, rather than federal, prohibitory laws.

But the league also encouraged the populist campaign to authorize an income tax. When this support finally bore fruit in 1913, the organization announced that “the adoption of the Income Tax Amendment to the federal Constitution furnishes an answer to the revenue problem.” As a result, it said, the time had come for all foes of alcohol to put aside the state-by-state strategy and focus on a new goal. “National prohibition,” its executive committee declared, “can be secured through the adoption of a constitutional amendment.” By 1920, it was law.

Comment: Interesting

BP's gusher of oil and Obama's sea of red ink

Where Is BP Headed: $70 or $0?


.... 536 engineers working on this problem are likely to achieve better results in solving the problem than 536 politicians only interested in being photographed picking up tar balls ...


You think BP’s spill is big? BP is a drop in the bucket compared to the gusher of borrowed money the US has squandered while looking for love (or campaign contributions which, to a politician, amounts to the same thing.) The trillions our nation has borrowed simply cannot be repaid merely from increased productivity any more. So our government will depreciate our currency via inflation.


Comment: Interesting read. I'm not likely to buy BP stock, but this analyst sees a future for it!

Speaking of Microsoft, what happened to those guys?

It’s Apple vs. Google in the battle over the future of computing


... the most advanced smart phone on the market is arguably not the new iPhone 4 but rather an Android device called the EVO 4G, made by HTC, a Taiwanese company. That phone has front and rear cameras, and shoots hi-def video, just like the new iPhone 4. But the EVO has a bigger display, its camera shoots in higher resolution, and it can turn itself into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, something the iPhone 4 can’t do.

Geeks can, and do, argue over the merits of these phones. But the fact that the two are close enough to be compared side by side is what should have Apple worried. And these are early days. My sense is that over the next 12 to 18 months, Android will surge past Apple the way Microsoft Windows surged past Apple in the 1990s.

Comment: I'm not fan of the way Apple locks the customer in to buying apps from them.


He did not panic

How Steve Jobs beats presentation panic


Steve Jobs had a serious and embarrassing Wi-Fi problem to deal with. It was plain to the thousands in attendance and the tons more people watching online: On Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Jobs was struggling with wireless connectivity while attempting to demonstrate the new features of Apple’s iPhone 4.

“Our networks in here are always unpredictable, so...I have no idea what we're going to find,” he said. “They are slow today.”

What Jobs did next, according to Carmine Gallo, author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, was vintage Jobs (and a model for how presenters should deal with stage crises): He did not panic.

Comment: If you ever stand in front of people, you will appreciate this article. Last year I took a presentation skills class (which was largely a waste of time). At the final presentation, I did not rely upon PowerPoint or other technology. I just stood up (leaning on my crutches) and spoke without notes. I saw others in my class fumble when they had issues with technology. Our new thing at work (I think for the last 6 months or so for me) is Microsoft Live Meeting. So far it has worked well.


End of the Northstar?

Report: GM's venerable Northstar going out of production in July


It's been a good run, Northstar, but every good thing must come to an end. Yours lasted for an impressive 17 straight years, and these days, that's something to be proud of. Rest in peace.

According to Inside Line, a spokesperson from General Motors has confirmed that it will halt production of the Northstar engine, which first appeared in the 1993 Cadillac Allante, sometime near the end of July. According to GM, there will be enough engines available for a complete 2011 model year.

Comment: Northstar engine series (My '07 Buick has a Northstar)


Put your money on the companies that you hate the most

Betting on the Bad Guys


I hate BP, but I admire them too, in the same way I respect the work ethic of serial killers. I remember the day I learned that BP was using a submarine…with a web cam…a mile under the sea…to feed live video of their disaster to the world. My mind screamed "STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME LOVE YOU! MUST…THINK…OF DEAD BIRDS TO MAINTAIN ANGER!" The geeky side of me has a bit of a crush on them, but I still hate them for turning Florida into a dip stick.

Apparently BP has its own navy, a small air force, and enough money to build floating cities on the sea, most of which are still upright. If there's oil on the moon, BP will be the first to send a hose into space and suck on the moon until it's the size of a grapefruit. As an investor, that's the side I want to be on, with BP, not the loser moon.

I'd like to see a movie in which James Bond tries to defeat BP, but in the end they run Bond through a machine that turns him into "junk shot" debris to seal a leaky well. I'm just saying you don't always have to root for Bond. Be flexible.

Comment: Click through to article for cartoon


Arthur Laffer: Likely stock market tumble next year

Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse


On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts.

Tax rates have been and will be raised on income earned from off-shore investments. Payroll taxes are already scheduled to rise in 2013 and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be digging deeper and deeper into middle-income taxpayers. And there's always the celebrated tax increase on Cadillac health care plans. State and local tax rates are also going up in 2011 as they did in 2010. Tax rate increases next year are everywhere.

Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be.

Also, the prospect of rising prices, higher interest rates and more regulations next year will further entice demand and supply to be shifted from 2011 into 2010. In my view, this shift of income and demand is a major reason that the economy in 2010 has appeared as strong as it has. When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession.

Comment: By Arthur Laffer of the Laffer curve


“Debt super cycle”

U.S.’s $13 Trillion Debt Poised to Overtake GDP


President Barack Obama is poised to increase the U.S. debt to a level that exceeds the value of the nation’s annual economic output, a step toward what Bill Gross called a “debt super cycle.”

The CHART OF THE DAY tracks U.S. gross domestic product and the government’s total debt, which rose past $13 trillion for the first time this month. The amount owed will surpass GDP in 2012, based on forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

Comment: www.usdebtclock.org

In the above image I boxed the 2 elements.


Viruses and Smartphones

Viruses planted in Windows phone games


Hackers have planted viruses in video games for smart phones running on Microsoft Corp's Windows operating system, according to a security firm specializing in mobile devices.

The games — 3D Anti-Terrorist and PDA Poker Art — are available on sites that provide legitimate software for mobile devices, according to John Hering, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based security firm Lookout.

The games are bundled with malicious software that automatically dials premium-rate telephone services in Somalia, Italy and other countries, sometimes ringing up hundreds of dollars in charges in a single month.

The services are run by the programmers who built the tainted software, Hering said on Friday.

Victims generally do not realize they have been infected until they get their phone bills and see hundreds of dollars of unexpected charges for those premium-rate services, he said.

Hackers are increasingly targeting smartphone users as sales of the sophisticated mobile devices have soared with the success of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system.

Microsoft said it was aware of the problem and investigating it.

"As always, Microsoft continues to encourage customers to follow all of the steps of the 'Protect Your Computer' guidance of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates and installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software," said a spokesman.

Comment: Also found this:

Malware found on HTC Android phone from Vodafone

Camaro clad Cobalt

Comment: Village Chevrolet.


Into the Atlantic?

Even More Bad News About the Oil Spill: Slick to Travel Up the Atlantic Coast


Using computer models of ocean currents, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, part of the Commerce Department, conclude that once the oil in the uppermost ocean has been picked up by the Gulf of Mexico's energetic Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast within weeks. It can then spread north with the Gulf Stream as far as Cape Hatteras, N.C., and then turn east into the open ocean.

Comment: "an envelope of possible scenarios," NCAR explains


Goodbye Mercury

Ford says it is scrapping the Mercury brand


Ford Motor Co. says it will end production of its Mercury brand by the end of this year.

Ford's board of directors approved ending the brand Wednesday morning. Ford plans to make up for the lost sales by expanding its luxury Lincoln brand. Mercury sold just over 92,000 vehicles last year.

Ford has 1,712 dealerships currently selling Mercurys. Some will continue selling Lincolns and Fords and some could be consolidated into existing Ford dealerships.

Comment: As a Ford investor, this is better for the company. Of recent there was no product differentiation between Ford and Mercury. Pic above: when I was in HS ('63-67) one of my buddies parents had a 65 or 64 Breezeway sedan (middle pic above)

Help FCC measure America's ISP speeds

FCC: Testmyisp.com


Together, the FCC and Samknows are setting out to provide US consumers with reliable and accurate statistics of their broadband connections. If you are interested in using one of our units to measure your home broadband connection, then please sign up below. You will get to play a part in changing the face of the American broadband industry and you also get a free high-speed wireless router!

It's worth taking the time to read through the requirements before applying. We like to think that we're a pretty welcoming bunch, but we currently have only 10,000 routers to give away, so please note that not everyone who registers here will necessarily receive a unit - we do however thank all of you for helping to make American broadband better - and if we can't send you a router this time, we'll make sure you're at the top of the list for the next round.

How fast is your broadband? FCC wants volunteers to test connection speeds


The Federal Communications Commission wants broadband users to know more about this premium service, specifically the speed that’s being delivered to their homes.

To do that, it must determine what’s currently happening in the marketplace. Today, the commission announced it would conduct a speed test in 10,000 homes across the country.

Would you like to take part in this scientific study? You can register as a volunteer for the Broadband Community Panel at http://www.testmyisp.com/. If your home is selected, you will be able to track the performance of your broadband service and provide important data to the FCC.

The results will part be of the “State of Broadband” report, which is scheduled to be released later this year. Will this work lead to new regulations? Gurin tells me it’s too early to tell. It’s also possible the industry will decide to create voluntary standards for broadband service and advertising.

Comment: MSNBC article has a nice plug for http://www.speedtest.net/

What I learned from Fraud on CC

Earlier Post

What I did right:

  • I check my CC balances every day and keep an eye out for anything suspicious
  • Because both my wife and I use common credit cards, we talk about our expenditures and know what each are spending (we have a weekly financial meeting every Tuesday night (about 15-20 min) to review all finances
  • We use Mint to aggregate all spending in one place. Mint is a great service and I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact, it was on Mint that I first saw the fraud
  • I called my CC provider immediately when I had suspicious activity. I also called the restaurant where I had last used the card (spoke to the manager there)
  • Later in the day when I checked the Chase CC site directly and saw additional fraudulent activity, I called Chase and canceled the card (its replacement is to arrive today)
  • I followed up yesterday with a call to the Chase fraud department

What I could have done better:

  • I immediately shredded the card Monday night. This turned out to be a minor mistake as when you call Chase they want the CC # or at least the last 4 digits. Additionally the hot line number for the card was on the back and I had a hard time finding the correct number at Chase to call
  • When I called Chase and had the phone menu system, I was unable to get to a real person without the card #. Ultimately I was able to get the last four digits of the card # from our WF bill pay system

IPad e-mail auto-fill: excrement happens

When Your iPad Says Something You Didn’t


A couple days ago, I was in a meeting with several folks. One of them mentioned that he’s absolutely ga-ga over his new iPad.

A few hours later, he sent out a group e-mail from that very machine:

We too really enjoyed the meeting and so appreciate your thoughts, insights and excrement for the project.

I guess he still has to get used to Apple’s e-mail auto-fill. He was mortified but I told him not to worry: hey, excrement happens.

Comment: A mistake I could easily make!


Dumping Windows

Google ditches Windows on security concerns


Google is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system because of security concerns, according to several Google employees.

The directive to move to other operating systems began in earnest in January, after Google’s Chinese operations were hacked, and could effectively end the use of Windows at Google, which employs more than 10,000 workers internationally.

“We’re not doing any more Windows. It is a security effort,” said one Google employee.

“Many people have been moved away from [Windows] PCs, mostly towards Mac OS, following the China hacking attacks,” said another.

New hires are now given the option of using Apple’s Mac computers or PCs running the Linux operating system. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” said one employee. “Microsoft we don’t feel so good about.”

Comment: Photo credit

There Goes the Neighborhood

Tropical Storm Agatha floods kill 150, cause giant sinkhole in Guatemala City

Comment: TGTN

Bond's Aston Martin on the block

Car for Sale: Low Mileage; Radar, Nail Gun, Smoke Screen Standard


For more than 40 years, Jerry Lee, a Philadelphia-area radio station owner, kept a used car in a downstairs room in his house. He never drove it.

The vehicle had only one previous owner. His name was Bond. James Bond.

Mr. Lee's car, now here in a Canadian auto-restoration shop, was one of the original Aston Martin Silver Birch DB5s used in the early 007 films, "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball." It included "some rather interesting modifications," as the character known as Q explained in Goldfinger: revolving license plates, tire slasher, twin machine guns, rear oil sprayer, smoke screen, nail disperser, radar, retractable bullet-proof screen and, most memorably, a passenger ejector seat.

Mr. Lee, who is 74, bought the car directly from Aston Martin's British factory in 1969 for $12,000. He's now hoping to sell it for millions at a classic-cars auction in London on Oct. 27 and use the proceeds to fund a foundation he runs that focuses on crime prevention.

The last 007 car to go on the market fetched $2.1 million in 2006 from a private buyer. But that Aston Martin never appeared in any Bond film; it was one of two replicas created for publicity purposes; the other is in a museum in Holland.

Mr. Lee's prized possession, which has original gadgets and appeared in the two movies, will be the first authentic Bond car from that time to go on sale in decades. The only other one used in those movies mysteriously vanished from an airport hangar in Boca Raton, Fla., in 1997.

Dave Worrall, British author of "The Most Famous Car in the World: The Complete History of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5," predicts the coming sale will be "a huge deal" because of the other car's disappearance. If "it's gone forever, then that one takes over as the last remaining original one in the film," he says.

Indeed, the history and mystery surrounding the other Aston Martin seems straight out of an Ian Fleming thriller.

Known as the "effects car," it was the first Bond car outfitted with an arsenal and the one Q demonstrated for Sean Connery in Goldfinger. Some experts consider it more original than Mr. Lee's because it was the first to have gadgets. In fact, the debate over which car is the most original has been raging among various Bond car owners for years. The dispute was chronicled in a 1981 article in this newspaper headlined, "Can Three Men All Be Owners of 007's Car?"

Comment: Interesting to anyone who has viewed "Goldfinger" or "Thunderball".