7.31.2011

Hwy 169 / Hwy 81 Overpass completed


Devil of a traffic problem is fixed

Excerpt:

A $50 million exorcism of the notorious "devil's triangle'' of traffic delays and crashes in the northwest metro is down to the finishing touches on a new up-and-over bridge on Hwy. 169.

A quarter mile of Hwy. 169 through Brooklyn Park and Osseo has been rebuilt on piers that now take the highway over traffic signals at Hwy. 81 and N. 85th Avenue that once intersected Hwy. 169 in a nightmarish triangle.

The triangle was known for trying delays, rear-end collisions and even fatalities. Driver tempers flared in the 20, sometimes 30, minutes it took at rush hour to inch along Hwy. 169 through the two signals at Hwy. 81 and 85th Avenue. Compounding the delays, an occasional freight train would roll across 169, bringing traffic to a halt.

The project -- four years in the making -- unclogs another of the Twin Cities' biggest traffic bottlenecks, one that 56,000 vehicles travel through daily.

Comment: Earlier posts on project:


Comment: A vast improvement.

7.30.2011

King of Calypso: Barak "and his mission has failed"

What Harry Belafonte would ask Congress about the debt crisis

Excerpt:

“Barack Obama and his mission has failed because it lacked a certain kind of moral courage, a kind of moral vision . . . a kind of courage we are in need of,” said the King of Calypso.

“When he said ‘Yes, we can,’ it was politically clever, but he never defined what it is we can do. So we filled in those spaces — what we thought he meant — only to find we were disappointed, because none of those points was satisfied.”

Comment: "Day–O". More on Harry Belafonte here

7.29.2011

How bad is it?

Focus Turns to Weekend Negotiations

Comment: Graphic from above WSJ article.

Running out of Cash: The world's largest tech company has more cash than the world's largest sovereign government.


Apple Now Has More Cash Than The U.S. Government

Daily statement from the U.S. Treasury

Comment: Cash Bundle Image Source

Screen grab from Estimates of When the U.S. Will Run Out of Money

"Gmail Man" - Microsoft Slams Google in Parody Video



Microsoft Slams Google in Parody Video

Excerpt:

"Gmail Man" follows a personified Google bot poking through private emails to find semi-relevant keywords for banner ads. As email users are horrified by his actions, he shrugs them off with a hearty laugh and complete indifference.

Comment: I'm not bothered by Gmail ads ... don't think I've every clicked on one!

7.28.2011

Milton Friedman on School choice (School vouchers)



Reason.tv: Happy 99th Birthday, Milton Friedman!

Excerpt:

This is the man, after all, who introduced the concept of school vouchers, documented the role of government monopolies on money in creating inflation ...

Comment: Worthwhile video

Speaking of Gmail (and YouTube)



New Google Project Goes for the Jugular

Excerpt:

Gmail continues to trail Hotmail and Yahoo Mail in user number -- at 190 million users to Hotmail's 360 million and Yahoo's 270 million.

Comment: www.emailintervention.com

Top 10 most-visited Internet sites

Top 10 most-visited Internet sites

The List:


  1. Facebook
  2. google.com
  3. youtube.com
  4. yahoo.com
  5. Yahoo Mail
  6. bing.com
  7. Microsoft Live Mail
  8. msn.com
  9. yahoo.com
  10. gmail.com
Comment: Of these: I used to use both Yahoo mail and Hotmail. Supplanted by Gmail and a jrpeet.com branded Gmail. My homepage is IGoogle. I use finance.yahoo.com to track investments. I probably visit youtube daily but not directly ... something sent to me generally

7.27.2011

Some Facts About the Debt Limit

Some Facts About the Debt Limit

Excerpt:

The Democrats like to point out that the ceiling was raised 18 times during the Reagan administration. That’s right, an average of about once every six months. In other words, those increases were small and highly temporary, as you can see from the chart. It is also noteworthy that the total increase in the debt ceiling during the Reagan years was almost exactly equal to the increase in the debt ceiling during the Clinton administration. Neither, however, is in the same universe with the spiraling debt the Democrats have racked up since they took control of Congress in 2007.

Comment: Unsustainable

Obama on Libya: "a matter of days not weeks" (March 18th)



Comment: That was in March! MONTHS! Billions!

Round 5 - Dificid

7 days after my 9 weeks of Vanco (last taken on 7/16), my C-Diff returned on Saturday 7/23. I called the infectious diseases on call Doctor at Methodist Hospital and again was prescribed Vanco. On Tuesday my primary Doctor called and ordered up a 10 day supply of Dificid, a new drug for Clostridium difficile. Kathee picked it up at the hospital last night and I started on it this morning. More on below

FDA approves treatment for Clostridium difficile infection

Excerpts:

The safety and efficacy of Dificid were demonstrated in two trials that included 564 patients with CDAD that compared Dificid with vancomycin, a common antibiotic used to treat CDAD. The clinical response was similar in the Dificid group compared with the vancomycin group in both studies. In some patients with CDAD, symptoms can return. In the Dificid trials, a greater number of patients treated with Dificid had a sustained cure three weeks after treatment ended versus those patients treated with vancomycin.

“In recent years, many in the infectious disease community have seen an increase in the number of cases of people with a C. difficile infection,” said Edward Cox, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Dificid is an effective new treatment option for patients who develop Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea.”

....


Dificid was developed by San Diego-based Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The following represents how I am feeling:

Obama's debt limit hypocrisy

Senator Barack Obama Explaining his 2006 Vote Against Raising the Debt Limit

Excerpt:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Comment: Who's not leading now!

Isn't that the point of make-up?

UK watchdog bans 2 makeup ads featuring Julia Roberts, Christy Turlington; says are misleading

Excerpt:

Britain's advertising standards council banned two makeup advertisements featuring actress Julia Roberts and model Christy Turlington on Wednesday, ruling the ads — which used digitally altered photographs — were misleading.

The Advertising Standards Authority found that the airbrushed images used by L'Oreal in magazine ad campaigns exaggerated the results women could expect from using the beauty products.

Comment: An airbrush or a face brush? Liz was famous for the Gaussian Blur!

7.23.2011

Amy Winehouse joins Club 27

Police: Singer Amy Winehouse found dead at her home in London

Excerpt:

Police say Amy Winehouse, the troubled diva who had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, has been found dead at her home in London.

Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London.

Comment: The 27 Club. Sad.

Tiger Wu and the Teenager

Wu at center of sex allegation

Excerpt:

Rep. David Wu has been accused of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the teenage daughter of a longtime friend, the latest scandal to engulf the troubled Oregon Democrat.

The Oregonian reported that the 56-year-old Wu “acknowledged a sexual encounter to his senior aides but insisted it was consensual,” according to sources aware of the incident.

Oregon Democrat David Wu's 'bizarre' tiger-suit photo

Excerpt:

In the run-up to November's election, staff members working for Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) expressed growing concern that their boss was mentally unstable, the Portland Oregonian reported last week. Wu's worrisome antics, which included "loud and angry behavior," saying "kooky things to staffers," and lambasting his opponent as being "stingy with tips," led Wu's staff to keep him away from the public for three days before the election, and to make inquiries at nearby psychiatric clinics. Wu also sent a series of strange middle-of-the-night e-mails, including a "bizarre" one in which the congressman posed in a tiger suit (see below). After Wu won a seventh term in the House, six staffers, including his chief of staff and campaign pollster, resigned.

Comment: Hey Nancy ... drain the swamp!

7.22.2011

Levitating Leaders or Photoshop follies



Source of Photos: President al-Assad Swears in Hama New Governor and zonaeuropa.com

North Korea, most of Asia terrible at Photoshop


Comment: Not the first time: Kim Jong Il: Doctored Photos? AND In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many

Little and BIG diesel engines


GM confirms diesel 2013 Cruze

Excerpt:

The diesel version is expected to be built at GM's plant in Lordstown, Ohio, alongside the gas engine models. GM has said it only plans to build Cruzes at the 4,150-worker plant, which already is operating with three shifts.

Comment: Umm ... but the pic of the diesel above: World's largest diesel engine makes 109,000 horsepower

The 109,000-horsepower Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C, which first set sail in the Emma Mærsk in 2006, weighs in at a rotund 2,300 tons, and it's 44-feet tall and 90-feet long. In other words, the TRA96 is the height of a four-story building, and longer than a Christmas Eve line at Sam's Club. Within that massive exterior rests 14 cylinders that each consume 6.5-ounces of diesel fuel every cycle. And, if you like torque, there's enough twist to rip an M1 tank to shreds, though the massive mill churns at only 102 rpm.

Who owns our debt?

$14 Trillion in Debt, But Who Owns All That Money?

Comment: Graphics with the article. Worthwhile read to understand the issue

Who knew? A battery can be hacked!

Apple Laptops Vulnerable To Hack That Kills Or Corrupts Batteries

Excerpt:

Modern laptop batteries contain a microcontroller that monitors the power level of the unit, allowing the operating system and the charger to check on the battery’s charge and respond accordingly. That embedded chip means the lithium ion batteries can know when to stop charging even when the computer is powered off, and can regulate their own heat for safety purposes.

When Miller examined those batteries in several Macbooks, Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs, however, he found a disturbing vulnerability. The batteries’ chips are shipped with default passwords, such that anyone who discovers that password and learns to control the chips’ firmware can potentially hijack them to do anything the hacker wants. That includes permanently ruining batteries at will, and may enable nastier tricks like implanting them with hidden malware that infects the computer no matter how many times software is reinstalled or even potentially causing the batteries to heat up, catch fire or explode. “These batteries just aren’t designed with the idea that people will mess with them,” Miller says. “What I’m showing is that it’s possible to use them to do something really bad.”
Miller discovered the two passwords used to access and alter Apple batteries by pulling apart and analyzing a 2009 software update that Apple instituted to fix a problem with Macbook batteries. Using those keys, he was soon able to reverse engineer the chip’s firmware and cause it to give whatever readings he wanted to the operating system and charger, or even rewrite the firmware completely to do his bidding.

From there, zapping the battery such that it’s no longer recognized by the computer becomes trivial: In fact, Miller permanently “bricked” seven batteries just in the course of his tinkering. (They cost about $130 to replace.) More interesting from a criminal perspective, he suggests, might be installing persistent malware on the chip that infects the rest of the computer to steal data, control its functions, or cause it to crash. Few IT administrators would think to check a battery’s firmware for the source of that infection, and if undiscovered the chip could re-infect the computer again and again.

Comment: Since I have 2 MacBooks, I trust a fix will be available shortly!

7.20.2011

Cisco vs Apple



Why Cisco is a Better Bet Than Apple

Excerpts:

Over the last year, Cisco's stock has fallen by more than 30%. Apple's, in contrast, has risen more than 50% — breaking the $400 barrier, in fact, in after-hours trading Tuesday following its earnings report.

Maybe the better headline would be "The Beauty and the Beast."

... glamour stocks that are as popular as Apple's is today more often than not underperform out-of-favor stocks that are as unpopular as Cisco's.

This does not mean that Cisco's earnings or sales will necessarily grow at a faster pace over the next couple of years than Apple's. On the contrary, the historical pattern is for glamour stocks' earnings and sales to continue growing faster than those of out-of-favor companies like Cisco.

The reason to nevertheless bet on Cisco is that it's unlikely to grow as slowly as its depressed stock price is discounting, while Apple is unlikely to grow as fast as the market is assuming.

Comment: AAPL / CSCO

One problem I have with Apple is the absolute cost. 10 shares would be almost $ 4000!


Ron Paul on national debt

Ron Paul: "We Will Default Because The Debt Is Unsustainable"

Excerpt:

"When a country is indebted to the degree that we’re indebted, the country always defaults. We will default because the debt is unsustainable," Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said on the House floor today.

"If we don’t understand this, this default will not be because we don't send out the checks. We will send out the checks. It will be defaulted on because people will get their money back, or they will get their Social Security checks and it won't buy anything."

Comment: I hope he is wrong but I believe he is right

McD's SUPERSIZED!

World's biggest McDonald's to open... on the OLYMPICS site

Excerpt:

Sports-loving spectators at the London 2012 Olympics could have a battle of will power on their hands - as McDonald's has announced it will open its biggest ever branch close to the park.

The 3,000 square-metre restaurant stretches over two floors and is equivalent to half the length of an American football field. It has 1,500 seats and will be one of four stores opening including one in the athletes' village in Stratford, east London.

The restaurant will employ 470 staff to serve around 50,000 Big Macs, 100,000 portions of fries and 30,000 milkshakes during the Games.

Comment: Whatever one thinks about their food, it is a great stock


It is on our buy list. I like their food, by the way.

Wells Fargo "Little Jack Horner" of big banks

Wells, B of A: A Tale of Two Capital Ratios

Excerpt:

If the financial industry were made up of nursery rhymes, Wells Fargo & Co. would be Little Jack Horner and Bank of America Corp. would be regarded as Pinocchio.

As evidenced by the reaction to the two banks' second-quarter results on Tuesday, Bank of America is plagued by a lack of credibility among analysts and investors. That's a problem Wells Fargo, which continues to pull out plum earnings, has been able to avoid.

The divergence in the two banks' bottom line results was stark. Wells Fargo had record earnings, while Bank of America reported a big net loss. Both banks continued to feel the brunt of the sluggish economic rebound, reporting anemic revenue.

The primary concern for analysts and investors, though, seemed to revolve around capital levels, a subject of ongoing consternation and confusion. Though banks have until 2019 to meet Basel III requirements, there is still some uncertainty over how the requirements will be phased in for each bank, and the effect of future economic setbacks on those capital levels. Here is where the differences between B of A and Wells might be most profound.

...

[Bank of America] expects to have a tier 1 common ratio between 6.75% and 7% by January 2013, well above Basel III capital requirements of 3.5% for that time.



Wells, on the other hand, now estimates that its tier 1 capital under Basel III rules stands at 7.4%, growing quarter over quarter despite a return to paying out dividends and buying back shares.

Comment: Little Jack Horner source. Pinocchio source

He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said 'What a good bank am I!

Clorox and the Pirate



Icahn Fires Back At Clorox Board, Ups Bid To $80

Excerpt:

On Monday, the board of Clorox dismissed a takeover offer from the company’s largest shareholder Carl Icahn, and instituted a shareholder rights plan to dissuade him from increasing his 9.4% stake. The billionaire is not going quietly though, upping his bid Wednesday morning and shooting back at the board’s claims that his initial offer was “neither credible nor adequate.”

Comment: Daphne and the Pirate is a 1916 silent film. Today Clorox trading at $ 75. ALL CAPS is the corporate raider equivalent of pulling out the big guns!

7.18.2011

Bernanke: Debt ceiling breach 'calamitous'


Debt ceiling delay: Gun shot to the economy

Excerpt:

No one knows what will happen to the economy if lawmakers fail to reach a debt ceiling deal by Aug. 2.

Except this: It won't be good.

For starters, interest rates could shoot up and stock prices could plummet -- leaving Americans less well off and less willing to spend, to say nothing of having less economic confidence going forward. The same goes for business owners and investors.

On top of that, the federal government won't be able to pay 44% of its bills worth an estimated $134 billion, according to a Bipartisan Policy Center analysis.

On an annualized basis, that's like cutting spending by $1.6 trillion -- which is nearly all of discretionary spending, including defense. Looked at another way, it's like slashing $33.5 billion a week.

Technically, it wouldn't be a "cut" in spending so much as a postponement. That's because the bills the Treasury Department puts off will have to be paid once the debt ceiling is raised. It is, after all, money owed for goods and services already provided, government benefits already earned or agency funding already appropriated.

Comment: My own view ... not sure of the effect but I doubt it would be good

7.16.2011

Debt Ceiling votes: What goes around comes around



March 16, 2006 (Bush was President)

Law School economics

Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!

Excerpt:

The basic rules of a market economy — even golden oldies, like a link between supply and demand — just don’t apply.

Legal diplomas have such allure that law schools have been able to jack up tuition four times faster than the soaring cost of college. And many law schools have added students to their incoming classes — a step that, for them, means almost pure profits — even during the worst recession in the legal profession’s history.

It is one of the academy’s open secrets: law schools toss off so much cash they are sometimes required to hand over as much as 30 percent of their revenue to universities, to subsidize less profitable fields.

In short, law schools have the power to raise prices and expand in ways that would make any company drool. And when a business has that power, it is apparently difficult to resist.

How difficult? For a sense, take a look at the strange case of New York Law School and its dean, Richard A. Matasar. For more than a decade, Mr. Matasar has been one of the legal academy’s most dogged and scolding critics, and he has repeatedly urged professors and fellow deans to rethink the basics of the law school business model and put the interests of students first.

“What I’ve said to people in giving talks like this in the past is, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Mr. Matasar said at a 2009 meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. He ended with a challenge: If a law school can’t help its students achieve their goals, “we should shut the damn place down.”

Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School to conform with his reformist agenda. But he hasn’t. Instead, the school seems to be benefitting from many of legal education’s assorted perversities.

N.Y.L.S. is ranked in the bottom third of all law schools in the country, but with tuition and fees now set at $47,800 a year, it charges more than Harvard. It increased the size of the class that arrived in the fall of 2009 by an astounding 30 percent, even as hiring in the legal profession imploded. It reported in the most recent US News & World Report rankings that the median starting salary of its graduates was the same as for those of the best schools in the nation — even though most of its graduates, in fact, find work at less than half that amount.

Comment: Fundamentalist Seminaries is another place where there is no link between supply and demand

A minor example of Federal Government largesse (waste)


Three outstate airports to lose Delta service

Excerpt:

For the cities losing Delta service, there's a small chance they could lose all commercial air service, Hedrick said, if no one bids on them and U.S. legislators cut subsidies that help airlines serve less viable markets.

On Friday, House Transportation Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., added a provision to a must-pass bill to keep the Federal Aviation Administration in business that includes eliminating subsidized air service to 13 small cities and caps subsidies at $1,000 per passenger.

...

Thief River Falls isn't so lucky. The northwestern airport about five hours north of the Twin Cities has planes departing on average with only 12 percent of seats filled. Last year the airport served about 2,500 people,

Comment: Note the phrase .... a proposal to "cap[] subsidies at $1,000 per passengers". That means the current subsidy is North of that! Let them take buses! Image above


Meanwhile another view of the debt crisis with the view of turning it into a de facto Balanced Budget Amendment.

Instant Balanced Budget Amendment: Maintain the Present Borrowing Limit

Excerpt:

There is a very simple way to balance the budget without passing a Balanced Budget Amendment: refuse to raise the federal borrowing limit. Treasury would be forced to do what any business or family would do: live within its means and stop mortgaging the American dream to the Chinese. Instant Balanced Budget Amendment.

Comment: About the above. Not sure if it would work but indeed that is what everyday Americans do ... prioritize spending. And cutting the subsidy for small airports is a good way to start!

7.15.2011

Obama a Johnny-come-lately phony deficit hawk

Call Obama’s bluff

Excerpt:

President Obama is demanding a big long-term budget deal. He won’t sign anything less, he warns, asking, “If not now, when?”

How about last December, when he ignored his own debt commission’s recommendations? How about February, when he presented a budget that increases debt by $10 trillion over the next decade? How about April, when he sought a debt-ceiling increase with zero debt reduction attached?

All of a sudden he’s a born-again budget balancer prepared to bravely take on his own party by making deep cuts in entitlements. Really? Name one. He’s been saying forever that he’s prepared to discuss, engage, converse about entitlement cuts. But never once has he publicly proposed a single structural change to any entitlement.

Hasn’t the White House leaked that he’s prepared to raise the Medicare age or change the cost-of-living calculation?

Anonymous talk is cheap. Leaks are designed to manipulate. Offers are floated and disappear.

Comment: Where's the beef, Mr President?

Debit Card fees coming? Will change behavior?

Debit card fees might change behavior

Excerpt:

Chase, for example, is testing a $3 monthly fee for debit cards on new accounts in northern Wisconsin. In Atlanta, it's testing a $15 monthly fee on basic checking accounts.

Among the AP-GfK poll respondents who say they would leave their debit cards in their wallets in the face of such fees, more say they'd pay with cash, 53 percent, or check, 42 percent, rather than another form of plastic.

"Cash or checks -- they're not very expensive," said Aaron Alto, a 44-year-old resident of Grand Rapids, Minn. Alto says he'd be annoyed enough to look for an alternative to his debit card if the fees approached $10.

Debit card fees would cause 22 percent to switch to credit cards, and 12 percent say they would switch to a prepaid spending card.

Comment: Not a fan of the Debit card (except for use at an ATM)

Icahn bids on Clorox


Icahn Makes $10.2 Billion Clorox Bid to Flush Out Suitors

Excerpt:

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn offered to buy Clorox Co. (CLX), the maker of the namesake bleach, for about $10.2 billion in a move designed to flush out other potential bidders.

Icahn, the company’s largest investor with a 9.4 percent stake, offered to pay $76.50 a share, a 12 percent premium to yesterday’s closing price in New York, according to a filing released today. Including debt, the transaction values Clorox at about $12.6 billion, Icahn said in the filing.

Icahn also urged the Oakland, California-based company to seek offers from other bidders, that could generate savings from a merger. In a letter sent yesterday to Clorox Chief Executive Officer Donald Knauss, the investor said he’s confident that there would be “numerous superior bids” for the company. Possible “strategic buyers” include Procter and Gamble Co., Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive Co., according to the letter.

Comment: A stock in my portfolio. Clorox was at one time owned by P & G: "In 1957, Clorox was bought by Procter & Gamble, a purchase that was challenged by the Federal Trade Commission, which feared it would stifle competition in the household products market. The FTC won, and in 1969, Clorox again was made independent."

7.14.2011

"they are the system. If it's broken, they're broken, and if they're broken, who needs them? "

This Is No Time for Games - Ronald Reagan wouldn't be playing 'Targeted Catastrophe.'

Excerpt:

Looked at one way, it shouldn't be hard. Both parties in Washington have every reason to want to prove they possess the baseline political competence to meet the government's central and pending crisis, which is the spending crisis. Both parties should be eager to reach a debt ceiling agreement, if only to prove the system isn't broken. Because really, they are the system. If it's broken, they're broken, and if they're broken, who needs them?

So you'd think the hangman's noose would have concentrated their minds. Instead, of course, it's a battle. As this is written, the president seems to have the edge. But if he wins—whatever winning looks like—he'll likely pay a price for his political victory. He usually does. He won on health care, which ruined his first two years in office and sharply accelerated the decline in his popularity.

Comment: Image Shadow of hangman's noose displaying against brick exterior of Konigstor Tower.

Apparently Nancy hasn't read Job recently!


Pelosi: Obama Has More Patience Than Biblical Job

Excerpt:

“I want to commend the president – I have never seen – Job is no place compared to this president in terms of patience,” said Pelosi at a press briefing on Thursday. “He [Job] doesn’t even begin because this president has demonstrated a level of patience, not only during the meetings but as respect, respectful of the suggestions that are made by all parties at the meeting, in his preparation for the meeting, and his coming back to address concerns that are expressed by others.”

Comment: We (wifie and me) literally just finished Job in our through the Bible reading schedule

A Phishing example


Comments: In my GMail spam inbox. I carefully downloaded the attachment and viewed it in an HTML editor. Above images can be enlarged (click on). Note how official the second and third images look. This Phish "hook" is with Submit button (I put a red box around it). The fourth image is the actual code for that button.

The data collecting URL is:

zipprieidiiimoisprrnnmmnrkisiiaowiisrmrnmnrmnirnmn.zuprionaskoliliasnoxikcmrnmn.ru

Note the .ru ... that would a Russian domain suffix

Obama's snowjob (lie!) about his mother

Book Challenges Obama on Mother’s Deathbed Fight

Excerpt:

During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.

In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.

But in “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.

Ms. Scott took a leave from her job as a reporter for The New York Times to write the book and has not returned to the staff.

On Wednesday, in response to repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release, a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account ...

Comment: Obama's Mother was covered by health insurance!

Budget Blamefest and Presidental Snow Jobs

Budget Shell Games Are Contrary to Law

Excerpt:

By April 1, according to the Budget Act, the House and the Senate must either adopt the president's budget or put forward an alternative. They cannot just hide in the weeds. The House and Senate reports must detail any differences from the president's budget and explain the "economic assumptions" underlying them. By April 15, Congress must adopt a concurrent resolution embodying a congressional budget. Appropriations bills must stay within this budget or be subject to a point of order.

The House of Representatives complied with the law, passing a budget that would reduce spending by an estimated $5.8 trillion over 10 years (according to the CBO). The Senate has not passed a budget. In fact, the Senate has not passed a budget since 2009.

This defiance of the Budget Act is responsible for the current blamefest in Washington. The law was intended to bring transparency and timeliness to debates over taxing and spending. All proposals are public, and all are scored by the CBO according to the same metric. This makes it difficult for politicians to shift blame. This year, without a genuine presidential budget, or any Senate budget, the negotiations are shrouded in fog. The president may tell press conferences that he proposed $3 trillion in spending reductions, but there is no way to know what that means without a budget.

Comment: Another good read: Welcome to Jimmy Carter’s 2nd term

Excerpt:

It has taken three decades, but Americans are finally living through Jimmy Carter’s second term.

Now we’ve got Jimmy Jr. barking at us from the White House about eating our peas and ripping off our Band-Aid. He might not even let us have our Social Security checks.

These are just the latest in a long line of nagging lectures. Already, we have been taught how we should sneeze into the crook of our arm. We need to drive less. And we need to caulk up those drafty houses of ours.

What ever happened to the soaring rhetoric and big bold ideas President Obama promised us in that historic election of his?

Is this what he meant by a new kind of politics? If so, no thanks. Oh, and it is not new. Jimmy already dragged us through all this once and we just barely survived it.

One of the most unpleasant things about Mr. Carter was the condescending disdain he could barely disguise for struggling Americans and their irritating malaise.

Increasingly, Jimmy Jr. is having difficulty concealing that very same disdain for us as the political winds around him turn hostile and all of his bright ideas lie fallow as nothing more than socialist hocus-pocus.

But even Mr. Carter never laid bare so baldly and plainly as Mr. Obama did earlier this week his deep-seated contempt for this whole annoying process we call “democracy.”

The problem with reaching a deal to raise the debt ceiling, he explained in a long sermon, is that there is this huge wave of Republicans who won control of the House in the last election by promising not to raise any more taxes and to cut the absurd overspending that has driven this town for decades.

He bemoaned - in public - that these Republicans are more concerned about the “next election” rather than doing “what’s right for the country.” In other words, he is saying the honorable thing would be for these Republicans to ignore the expressed wishes of voters, break their campaign promises and raise taxes. Wow.

As if the whole problem of Washington spending us into oblivion is the fault of stingy taxpayers and stupid voters. And what we really need is Jimmy Jr., who knows what is best for us despite what we may think.

7.13.2011

Behind the "Diageo" name

Diageo Shifts Its Focus in Acquisitions to Fast-Growing Markets

Excerpt:

Diageo was created in 1997 through the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan, though many of its brands, including Johnnie Walker, are more than 100 years old. Diageo, a combination of the Latin word for day and the Greek word for world, went on to sell food businesses it inherited from Grand Metropolitan, like Burger King, to focus on spirits and beer.

Comment: Stock

Zestimate: (GIGO) Garbage in .... Garbage out

Zillow ‘Zestimate’ Shifts, Prompting Howls

Excerpt:

Bill Garber, a spokesman for the Appraisal Institute, the main trade group for U.S. property appraisers, said that Zestimates, like most automated valuation models, or AVMs, are not used by appraisers as a benchmark because they are based on public information and information from local multiple-listing services that is often inaccurate.

“Zestimates are a form of AVM … AVMs have limitations, the biggest being the lack of inspection and oversight of any improvements. Complex markets render them nearly useless. They’re basically an aggregation of public records data, and public records are riddled with errors,” Mr. Garber wrote in an email. “Some AVMs are now intermixing MLS information, which is also filled with incorrect information. Garbage in, garbage out.”


Comment: Still interesting. My take is that the Hennepin County home value (on the tax bill) is pretty accurate.

Pasta strainer: Headgear for followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Austrian driver's religious headgear strains credulity

Excerpt:

Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons.

Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.

The Austrian authorities required him to obtain a doctor's certificate that he was "psychologically fit" to drive.

The idea came into Mr Alm's noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.

A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.

Comment: Flying Spaghetti Monster. Article has D/L photo of said Pastafarian

How Cincinnati got suckered into two stadium deals

A Stadium's Costly Legacy Throws Taxpayers for a Loss

Excerpts:

Here in Hamilton County, where one in seven people lives beneath the poverty line and budget cuts have left gaps in the schools and sheriffs department, residents are bracing for more belt-tightening: rollback of a property-tax break promised as part of a 1996 plan to entice voters to pay for two new stadiums.

The tax hit is just the latest in a string of unforeseen consequences from what has turned into one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government—soaking up unprecedented tax dollars and county resources while returning little economic benefit.

With a combined estimated cost of $540 million, the stadiums—one for football's Bengals, the other for baseball's Reds—were touted by the teams and county officials as a way to generate cash and jobs. The Bengals, who had threatened to relocate if they didn't secure a new home, drove negotiations. And it is that deal—the more lucrative arrangement struck with the teams—that has fanned the county's current struggles.

...

At its completion in 2000, Paul Brown Stadium had soared over its $280 million budget—and the fiscal finger-pointing had already begun.

The county says the final cost was $454 million. The team's estimate, which doesn't include infrastructure work around the stadium, puts the tab at $350 million.

But according to research by Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor who studies stadium finance, the cost to the public was closer to $555 million once other expenditures, such as special elevated parking structures, are factored in. No other NFL stadium had ever received that much public financing.

...

On top of paying for the stadium, Hamilton County granted the Bengals generous lease terms. It agreed to pick up nearly all operating and capital improvement costs—and to foot the bill for high-tech bells and whistles that have yet to be invented, like a "holographic replay machine." No team had snared such concessions in addition to huge sums of public money, Journal research shows.

To help finance its stadiums, Hamilton County assumed more than $1 billion in debt by issuing its own bonds without any help from the surrounding counties or the state. As debt service ratchets up, officials expect debt payments to create a $30 million budget deficit by 2012.

"The Cincinnati deal combined taking on a gargantuan responsibility with setting new records for optimistic forecasting," says Roger Noll, a professor of economics at Stanford University who has written about the deal. "It takes both to put you in a deep hole, and that's a pretty deep hole."

The stadium's annual tab continues to escalate, according to the county's website. In 2008, the Bengals' stadium cost to taxpayers was $29.9 million, an amount equivalent to 11% of the county's general fund.

Last year, it rose to $34.6 million—a sum equal to 16.4% of the county budget.

Comment: A cautionary tale! And the teams suck too!

Hobson's choice, Brinkmanship, and Harakiri

Debt-Limit Harakiri - Mitch McConnell isn't selling out Republicans.

Excerpts:

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday he's concluded that no deal to raise the debt ceiling in return for serious spending restraint is possible with President Obama, and who can blame him? We've never thought the debt ceiling was the best leverage for a showdown over the entitlement state, and now it looks like Mr. Obama is trying to use it as a way to blame the GOP for the lousy economy.

This may have been the President's strategy all along: Take the debt-limit talks behind closed doors, make major spending cuts seem possible in the early days, but then hammer Republicans publicly as the deadline nears for refusing to raise taxes on business and "the rich."

This would explain the President's newly discovered fondness for press conferences, which he has rarely held but now rolls out before negotiating sessions. It would also explain why Mr. Obama's tax demands have escalated as the August 2 deadline nears. Yesterday he played the Grandma Card, telling CBS that seniors may not get their August retirement checks. Next he'll send home the food inspectors and stop paying the troops.

The reality is that Mr. Obama is trying to present Republicans with a Hobson's choice: Either repudiate their campaign pledge by raising taxes, or take the blame for any economic turmoil and government shutdown as the U.S. nears a debt default. In the former case Mr. Obama takes the tax issue off the table and demoralizes the tea party for 2012, and in the latter he makes Republicans share the blame for 9.2% unemployment.

This is the political context in which to understand Mr. McConnell's proposal yesterday to force Mr. Obama to take ownership of any debt-limit increase. If the President still insists on a tax increase, then Republicans will walk away from the talks.


Comment: Hobson's choice. Comment. I don't think the Republicans should cave on the tax increases. As long as more revenue is on the table, there will be no significant cuts.

7.12.2011

41 years ago I attended the MLB All-Star game


1970 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Comment: It was the Summer between my Junior and Senior year of college. I was working at the Monsanto Chemical Plant in Addyston OH (currently owned by Bayer Polymers).

More information on the game here and here. Riverfront Stadium (now gone!) was brand new. Our seats were way up in nosebleed area behind home plate ... the topmost seats.

What a thrilling game. As I recollect it went past midnight. More information of the game here. President Nixon threw out the first pitch


After the game, I had to go to work (I was working the midnight shift.) As I recollect I arrived to work past 2:00 a.m.

7.11.2011

7.07.2011

Roger's big catch


Roger's 4th of July catch - 8 lb Northern Pike

7.06.2011

Where Benjamin Franklin rules!


As Plastic Reigns, the Treasury Slows Its Printing Presses

Excerpt:

For two decades, since the fall of the Soviet Union, demand has exploded for the $100 bill, which is hoarded like gold in unstable places. Last year Treasury printed more $100 bills than dollar bills for the first time. There are now more than seven billion pictures of Benjamin Franklin in circulation — and the Federal Reserve’s best guess is that two-thirds are held by foreigners. American soldiers searching one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in 2003 found about $650 million in fresh $100 bills.

This is very profitable for the United States. Currency is printed by the Treasury and issued by the Federal Reserve. The central bank pays the Treasury for the cost of production — about 10 cents a note — then exchanges the notes at face value for securities that pay interest. The more money it issues, the more interest it earns. And each year the Fed returns to the Treasury a windfall called a seigniorage payment, which last year exceeded $20 billion.

To meet foreign demand, the Fed has licensed banks to operate currency distribution warehouses in London, Frankfurt, Singapore and other financial centers.

In March, largely because of the boom in $100 notes, the value of all American notes in circulation topped $1 trillion for the first time.

Comment: NYTimes graphic: Denominations in Decline

A couple of times a year I might have a $ 50 bill. My dear neighbor to the North (a widow woman) gives me a $ 50 twice a year (I mow her grass and plow her driveway). I can't think of the last time I've seen a $100 ... I think years. No ... I got a $ 100 this year from the bank and gave it to my niece as a wedding gift. My demonination of choice is the $ 20. Every couple of weeks we get $ 80 out of the ATM and divide it up for petty cash.

I would like to see the penny and the dollar bill eliminated.

7.05.2011

Rare Baptist candor on predestination

Pastor says God chooses who will be saved

Excerpts:

Lawson said mankind has a “moral inability to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” He quoted John 6:44, where Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.”

...

“The word predestined means the destination is determined before the journey begins,” Lawson said. “Predestination means that God has marked out on the horizon of time the destination by which he is bringing all of human history to an appointed end, and God has predetermined and pre-scripted everything that would come to pass.”

Lawson said there is “nothing harsh or offensive” about the doctrine of predestination, but it is rather “God exalting,” “joy producing” and “humbling.”

“If salvation begins with me, if it is initiated by me, if it is within myself to be able to believe unaided by God, then I should pat myself on the back and share some of the praise with God and take some for myself,” he said. “But if I understand that it is all of God -- that before time began God chose me and set his heart upon me and put into motion by his Son and by his Spirit all that would be necessary to bring me to himself and bring me to glory -- then all praise and all glory goes to God.”

Lawson said God offers not only “saving grace that washes away our sins” but also “believing grace that has enabled us to believe upon his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Why do some believe and others do not believe?” he asked. “Why is it that you have believed and others in your family have not believed? Why is it that you have believed and others who are friends or classmates have not believed? Is it because you are smarter? Is it because you have a higher IQ? Is it that you were more spiritual when you were lost? Is it that you are wiser? Do you have greater insight? The answer to all of these is no. The reason that you have belief is because of the grace of our God and the saving work of the Holy Spirit of God.”

Lawson also said that Jesus’ death atoned only for sins of the elect.

“He did not die for an anonymous, nameless group of people, but specifically he died for you and me who were chosen in him from the foundation of the world,” Lawson said. “It was a very particular death. It was a very specific death. Not one drop of his blood was shed in vain. Upon the cross, Jesus accomplished all that he came to do. Upon that cross Jesus did not merely make us save-able, Jesus actually saved us.”

Lawson said that “every molecule in this universe was pre-scripted by God in this eternal, sovereign will.” That includes details such as “the means by which we would come to hear the gospel and come to a saving faith in Christ” and “when we would be born in history and who our parents would be and where we would grow up, what our gender would be, who would live next door us, who we would go to school with.”

“There are no accidents in our life,” Lawson said. “There is no such thing as blind fate. There is no such thing as good luck or bad luck. Those are all pagan myths.”

Lawson says since humans cannot know which people are predestined, they have a responsibility to preach the gospel to all people. He closed the sermon with an invitation to anyone in the audience under conviction to accept Christ.

“You may say I don’t know if I was chosen, I don’t know if I was predestined,” he said. “You may know that you are chosen and you may know that you are predestined if you will believe upon his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


Comment: Messages like this are rare! Not heard in "Fundyland".

Rick Perry's bona fides

A Texan's ‘exceptionalism’

Excerpts:

Social issues, especially abortion, are gateways to the Republican nominating electorate: In today’s climate of economic fear, a candidate’s positions on social issues will not be decisive with his electorate — but they can be disqualifying. Perry — an evangelical Christian, like most Republican participants in Iowa’s caucuses and the South Carolina primary — emphatically qualifies

...

Between 2001 and last June, Texas — a right-to-work state that taxes neither personal income nor capital gains — added more jobs than the other 49 states combined. And since the recovery began two Junes ago, Texas has created 37 percent of America’s net new jobs.

Perry Breaks With a Fellow Texan: Bush

Excerpts:

... in recent years, Mr. Perry has broken politically with Mr. Bush, questioning his credentials as a fiscal conservative, accusing him of going on “a big government binge” and playing down some of Mr. Bush’s accomplishments in Texas in light of his own.

Mr. Perry’s public statements exposed a long-simmering rivalry that had been little known outside of the political fraternity here but underscores the rightward drift of the Republican Party since Mr. Bush was president. More acutely, Mr. Perry’s criticism holds potential peril and benefit for him should he decide to mount a presidential campaign, allowing him to establish an identity distinct from Mr. Bush but risking a guerrilla campaign against him by the former president’s inner circle.

...

The rivalry has become lore in the state capital, at times bordering on urban legend. “An eight-foot alligator in the sewer,” said Mr. Perry’s chief political strategist, David Carney. Stressing that the two men were friends with more similarities than differences, Mr. Carney said, “They are in the same church, different pews.”

Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Perry would be interviewed for this article, and people close to both said the rivalry existed far more between their aides than between them personally.

The relationship between the camps includes a rich mix of political differences, class distinctions, loyalty questions and perceived slights of campaigns past. And it is a uniquely Texan story, opening in the Western dust bowl where both emerged — Mr. Perry as a conservative Democratic state lawmaker from a modest farming family, Mr. Bush as a failed Republican Congressional candidate of famous New England stock.

Mr. Bush had returned to his hometown of Midland in 1975, to break into the oil business, after his years at Phillips Academy, Yale and Harvard Business School — time away from the state that Mr. Perry’s close associates brought up frequently in interviews. Mr. Perry returned to his struggling family farm in Paint Creek roughly two years later, after graduating from Texas A&M and serving as a captain in the Air Force.

Successfully running for the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, he won early attention as a dogged campaigner who flew himself to his own events in a beat-up propeller plane.

In 1989, Mr. Rove, already a powerful Texas political consultant, helped persuade Mr. Perry to join the Republican Party and run as agriculture commissioner.
...

Mr. Perry is said to believe that there is a big opening for a Republican like him in the race, and aides are mapping out how a campaign could come together. “The Republican field of candidates looks like a drought-stricken cotton crop,” said a close friend, Cliff Johnson.

Comment: First article is George Will's; second NYTimes. I think Perry could fire up the Republican race! Tim Pawlenty's star is setting because of poor showings in debates. I see the # 1 being Romney and # 2 being Bachmann (who looked good in Iowa last week!).

7.04.2011

Anti-Stimulus

Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job

Excerpt:

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.

Furthermore, the council reports that, as of two quarters ago, the “stimulus” had added or saved just under 2.7 million jobs — or 288,000 more than it has now. In other words, over the past six months, the economy would have added or saved more jobs without the “stimulus” than it has with it. In comparison to how things would otherwise have been, the “stimulus” has been working in reverse over the past six months, causing the economy to shed jobs.

Comment: An Anti-Stimulus would be a retardant

Fun with Spam (X 3)

Comment: Three weird ones today:




Hello

My name is Mrs. Natte James Ray a dying widow , who wants to do some charity works
and i seek your help .contact my lawyer, Tell him that I have WILLED 14.258M to you for the
good work of the lord. quoting my personal reference number
JJ/MMS/953/5015/GwrI/316us/uk. I have paid for the state tax on this money
to be transferred to you.

My lawyer's Name: Barrister stacy miller

Email: stacey-grant@live.com

STACY GRANT MILLER
Attorney at-Law.
S.Miller & Associates LLP
11 Staple Inn Buildings,
London WC1V 7QH,
United Kingdom
+447031875842

Dear friend

FROM: DIPLOMATIC AGENT

I am a Diplomat named Mr. Dom May, mandated to deliver your inheritance to you in your country of residence.

The funds total US$7.5 Million and you were made the beneficiary of these funds by a benefactor whose details will be revealed to you after handing over the funds to you in accordance with the Agreement I signed with thebenefactor when he enlisted my assistance in delivering the funds to you.

I am presently at JFK Airport in the United States of America and before I can deliver the funds to you, you have to reconfirm the following Information so as to ensure that I am dealing with the right person

1. Full Name
2. Residential Address
3. Age
4. Occupation
5. Direct Telephone Numbers

After verification of the information with what I have on file, I shall contact you so that we can make arrangements on the exact time I will be Bringing your package to your residential address.

Send the requested information so that we can proceed.

Regard
Mr. Dom May

Elena Ezhkova
Central accounting unit
Yukos oil corporation
Russia.

Hello,

I am Elena Ezhkova I work with the central accounting unit of Yukos Oil Corporation in Russia. I have the documents of funds
for anesthesia group pty in our central accounting system a company secretly owned by The chairman of Yukos oil corporation,
Mr. Mikhail Boris Khodorkovsky who was jailed for financing political parties in Russia (the union of right forces,
led by Boris nemtsov,and Yabloko, a liberal / social democratic party led by Gregor Yavlinsky).

The total amount of funds in the central accounting system due for payment to anesthesia group pty is (65 Million) Due to the fact
that his finances And the Russian government has frozen assets, his wife (Mrs.inna khodorkovsky)has approached me to get an individual
or preferably a company to help re-profile the money in their name and Transferred out of Russia for investment on their behalf. Agreed to
compensate us with 20% of the total amount.


Regards
Elena Ezhkova

7.02.2011

The Last Shuttle


Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor

Excerpt:

Cost will always tarnish the shuttle’s reputation. Once sold to Congress with promises of weekly flights for just $7 million a pop, the shuttle program never managed to make spaceflight routine or inexpensive. The shuttle program, in its totality, has cost more than a billion dollars per flight.

Comment: Let's see .... $ 1,000,000,000 to $ 7,000,000 to ... that's 142 to 1

Governor Doofus Shuts Down Minnesota

Governor Doofus Shuts Down Minnesota

Excerpt:

Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, shut down state offices this week in Minnesota by not signing on to the largest budget in state history. It's the stuff of theater of the absurd, and ironic too: It puts more than 24,000 state workers out of work temporarily, dealt them by a wild-eyed governor they helped elect. Irony never had it so good.

At issue here in Minnesota (my summertime home) is a slightly goofy governor's proposal to foist an even higher tax on "the wealthy," tagging Gopher State sluggards with the second highest income tax rate in the nation. The rich. Who needs' em?

Besides the second highest tax brackets in the nation, Minnesota suffers from the third highest income tax on business income, too, at 9.5 percent at the top tier. High taxes are a legacy of the long-in-power Democrats' hostility to business in this bone-chilling state.

Well known in corporate circles, if not by local liberal news media, is the confluence of sky-high taxes (called the Land of 10,000 Taxes) is that highly respected home-bred, state-domiciled businesses, such as 3M, put down roots routinely in other states, as Boeing did in South Carolina, based on the high tide of taxes and regulations. Oh yes, and also on whether unions' swagger is less than in this dues-coercive, non-right-to-work state. Progressivism here, it's made terrific headway. Quietly, without a lot of suspicion of its real aims.

Comment: Good article

7.01.2011

Will Dayton blink?

Short take: An early bet on GOP in budget in stalemate

Excerpt:

Friday was Day 1 Without A Salary for more than 23,000 workers in Minnesota. And while their adrenaline is running high, financial hardship is a reality, especially in one-paycheck households.

Their hardship will make the kind-hearted Dayton hard-pressed to hold out for an extended period of time in the budget face-off.

In contrast, key Republican constituencies will face some hardships and inconveniences — businesses needing various licenses or permits, for example. But the pain won’t be felt on the same scale.

Dayton’s leverage in budget negotiations now depends on how long he’s willing to keep core constituencies out of work.

The soft shutdown gave Republicans an advantage and may allow them to walk away with a spending cuts-heavy budget and a reason to say “We prevailed” in 2012.

Comment: How the State shutdown impacts us - Nada!

  • We don't use the HOV lanes
  • We won't need to turn in a lotto ticket
  • We aren't in need of any licenses
  • I can only think of a handful of times in 16 years I've stopped at an Interstate rest stop
  • I don't care if the race track or the zoo is closed
Dayton needs to cave ... he does not have the bargaining chip. He only won the gubernatorial election by 9,000 votes!