In what an official for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is blaming on a state clerical error, a candidate to head Minnesota's Republican Party was arrested this week outside baggage claim, then fingerprinted and photographed -- for expired vehicle tabs. Brandon Sawalich, an executive with Starkey Hearing Technologies who a day later withdrew from the party race, said that airport police wanted to handcuff him Thursday afternoon on the gross-misdemeanor allegation but said they would reconsider "if I would cooperate." "I was stunned," said Sawalich, 36, who said his arrest came as he was being met by a Starkey assistant in his four-wheel-drive pickup truck, which he had just taken out of storage only to have police tow it to an impound lot. On Friday, Sawalich dropped out of the race to head Minnesota Republicans, saying in an e-mail to activists that the party "cannot afford distractions for the uphill battle our party has in store." Recounting his arrest, Sawalich said that "police were there [at one of the doors outside Terminal 1 baggage claim] waiting for me with one of my assistants" upon his return from a business trip to Portland, Ore. "They read me my rights. I apologized [for the expired tabs] and took full responsibility." On Friday morning, airport police at first declined to explain why this offense, "intent to escape tax," warranted booking Sawalich. By midday, the chief spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) said that Sawalich should not have been accused of a gross misdemeanor, blaming the mixup on a clerical error by the state's Driver and Vehicle Services. "We do not believe he had any such intent," said MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan. "Mr. Sawalich will receive a citation for failure to have current registration for his vehicle, which is a petty misdemeanor." Hogan said that police were working on inaccurate information from the state that the pickup's tabs had been expired since June 2010, leading to a suspicion of intent. They later determined that the tabs expired in June 2011, which reflects "a simple oversight" by Sawalich, Hogan said.Comment: My objective is to have mine reduced to a petty misdemeanon
Any person who shall, with intent to escape payment of any tax on a motor vehicle, as herein provided, delay or neglect to properly list and apply to register the same, or, with intent to prevent the payment or collection of the proper tax, fee, or lien thereon, violate or neglect to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
Comment: Turns out the license tabs on my truck were expired. I was picked up by the Plymouth police today at 1:00 p.m. After sitting in my car for about half an hour the policeman informed me that I was being arrested for the above Minnesota statute. I was handcuffed and frisked. Put in the back of a squad car and taken to police headquarters where I was finger printed and photographed. I had been on the way back from church after having lunch with our Pastor. I had to call someone for transportation (my truck was towed and the license plates were confiscated for evidence). Pastor Morrell's response - "you're kidding right!".
Pastor Morrell drove me down to the Hennepin County service center at Ridgedale (Minnetonka) and I bought new plates. Then to the Plymouth auto center where my truck had been towed. $ 100 for towing and fines and I was on my way and home by 5:15 p.m.
I called ARAG legal services and am engaging an attorney
The most memorable line of the first phase? There's "9-9-9" and "Oops," but the best came from Mitt Romney when he was asked about the Gingrich campaign's failure to qualify for the Virginia ballot. Mr. Gingrich had compared it to Pearl Harbor, a setback, but we'll recover. Mr. Romney, breezily, to a reporter: "I think it's more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory."
It made people laugh. It made them want to repeat it, which is the best free media of all, the line people can't resist saying in the office. And they laughed because it pinged off a truth: Gingrich is ad hoc, disorganized.
The put-down underscored Romney's polite little zinger of a week before, that Mr. Gingrich was "zany." And it was a multi-generationally effective: People who are 70-years-old remember "I Love Lucy," but so do people who are 30 and grew up with its reruns. Mr. Romney's known for being organized but not for being deft. This was deft. It's an old commonplace in politics that if you're explaining you're losing, but it's also true that if they're laughing you're losing. The campaign trail has been pretty much a wit-free zone. It's odd that people who care so much about politics rarely use one of politics' biggest tools, humor. Mr. Romney did and scored. More please, from everyone.
Comment: Newt failing to secure enough write-ins for the Virginia ballot does reveal organizational weakness.
Comment: Rove's article is interesting. Here are several of mine
- Republicans will keep the U.S. House, albeit with their 25-seat majority slightly reduced. In the 10 presidential re-elections since 1936, the party in control of the White House has added House seats in seven contests and lost them in three. The average gain has been 12 seats. The largest pickup was 24 seats in 1944—but President Barack Obama is no FDR, despite what he said in his recent "60 Minutes" interview.
- Republicans will take the U.S. Senate. Of the 23 Democratic seats up in 2012, there are at least five vulnerable incumbents (Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania): The GOP takes two or three of these. With the announcement on Tuesday that Nebraska's Ben Nelson will retire, there are now seven open Democratic seats (Connecticut, Hawaii, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virginia, Wisconsin): The GOP takes three or four. Even if Republicans lose one of the 10 seats they have up, they will have a net pickup of four to six seats, for a majority of 51 to 53.
- Romney will win the Republican nomination.
- Possible Republican VP candidates: Tim Pawlenty; Condi Rice; Rick Santorum
- Romney will be elected!
- The SCOTUS will overturn Obamacare's health insurance mandate
- Unemployment will briefly drop and then increase before the election
- Eurozone crisis is far from resolved. The stock market will continue to be volatile
- Iran will continue to be an issue. Things could heat up fast.
Comment ... take all of the above with a grain of salt!
A partial list shows four Minnesota Kmart stores are set to close as part of the store closings announced this week by the parent company of Sears and Kmart.
The four Kmarts are in Willmar, Duluth, New Hope and White Bear Lake. No Minnesota Sears stores are on the list.
Comment: map location. This would be a great site for a Wal-Mart! The K-Mart store is blighted. In 16 years I was only in it once.
Brands that have stood the test of time for decades are falling by the wayside at an alarming rate. For instance, Pontiac – a major car brand since 1926 – is gone, shut down by a struggling GM. Blockbuster is in the process of dismantling, after it once controlled the VHS and DVD markets. House & Garden folded after 106 years. It succumbed to the advertising downturn, a lot of competition, and the cost of paper and postage. Its demise echoed the 1972 shutdown of what is probably the most famous magazine in history–Life. That was a long time ago, but it serves to demonstrate that no brand is too big to fail if it is overwhelmed by competition, new inventions, costs, or poor management.
This year’s list of The Ten Brands That Will Disappear takes a methodical approach in deciding which brands will walk the plank. The major criteria were as follows: (1) a rapid fall-off in sales and steep losses; (2) disclosures by the parent of the brand that it might go out of business; (3) rapidly rising costs that are extremely unlikely to be recouped through higher prices; (4) companies which are sold; (5) companies that go into bankruptcy; (6) firms that have lost the great majority of their customers; or (7) operations with rapidly withering market share. Each of the ten brands on the list suffer from one or more of these problems. Each of the ten will be gone, based on our definitions, within 18 months.
- Sony Pictures
- American Apparel
- Sony Ericsson
- Kellogg’s Corn Pops
- Soap Opera Digest
- A&W will continue to exist as a DPS beverage
- Kodak is close to extinction
- The name "Baptist" (and I lament this) has been sorely tarnished by KJVonlism, legalism, shallow preaching, authoritarianism, and isolationism that I fear it will soon disappear as a brand in North America. Baptists today are far from their founding documents and history!
- Identical to my very first calculator (that I bought back in the early 70's ... probably 1974 or '73)
- Received last week (a retro Christmas gift)
- I didn't think it worked but I didn't know how to turn it on. Today under close inspection I found the on-off switch
- Model is TI-2500B
- I'm surprised this still works ... but it works like a champ
- I love the clunkiness
- See earlier post
Jehovah’s WitnessesComment: Is there a J/W do not call list!?
11525 73rd Avenue North
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Jehovah Witnesses’ Leadership,
Please put my residence on the do not call list.
I don’t know when Jesus was born (and it probably wasn’t December 25th … I get that!), but this is the day I have chosen to celebrate His birth.
I was extremely offended that as my family was gathered to celebrate the birth of my Savior, that JW representatives knocked on my door.
I have a very clear and large “no solicitation” sign on my front door.
Please respect my right to not be bothered and never visit my house again.
The retail industry also has many reasons to embrace them. Stores can’t count money received from the gift givers who purchase the cards as revenue until they’re redeemed, but this offers a number of benefits. First, it sets up a source of cashflow in the weeks after the holidays as recipients make their way to stores to spend the money on their cards.
Gift-card redemptions also often further add to retailers’ coffers. As anyone who’s used iTunes can attest, it’s awfully hard to spend exactly $15 or $25 on items that cost 99 cents or have sales tax added. Analyst Brian Riley of TowerGroup estimates that more than a third of gift-card purchases go over the face value of the card.
The vast majority of the money put on gift cards gets redeemed, but Riley estimates that since 2005 $41 billion in money on gift cards has been lost or is likely never to be cashed in. The lion’s share of money lost on gift cards from 2005-2009 came from fees and expiration dates. All that changed with the passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 that was signed into law last year. The Act largely forbids fees on cards sold by retailers (cards given away as promotional items can still charge fees), and it prohibits expiration dates less than 5 years after the card is purchased.
Comment: We gave some this year (Wells Fargo Visa gift cards). I received a $ 25 gift card to Outback steak house from my manager.
As Kodak struggles, Eastman Chemical thrives
George Eastman is best known as the inventor of photographic film and founder of Eastman Kodak Co, but his century-old legacy of entrepreneurship now rides on the lesser-known Eastman Chemical Co.
That was hardly the case in 1994, when Eastman Kodak spun off its chemicals business to help pay down debt. At that time, Kodak was still a colossus in photography whereas Eastman Chemical was a small player very much in its parent's shadow.
But because of a sea change in digital technology and different approaches to business, Eastman Chemical's stock market value has since increased 71 percent to $5.5 billion today, while Kodak's has plummeted 99 percent to about $185 million.
Comments (his biography is interesting):
Noonan: "Our movie culture has descended into immaturity, deep and inhuman violence, a pervasive and flattened sexuality. It is an embarrassment"
Noonan on today's movies
We are at a point in our culture when we actually have to pull for grown-up movies, when we must try to encourage them and laud them when they come by. David Lean wouldn't be allowed to make movies today, John Ford would be forced to turn John Wayne into a 30-something failure-to-launch hipster whose big moment is missing the toilet in the vomit scene in Hangover Ten. Our movie culture has descended into immaturity, deep and inhuman violence, a pervasive and flattened sexuality. It is an embarrassment.
In Iraq this year I asked an Iraqi military officer doing joint training at an American base what was the big thing he'd come to believe about Americans in the years they'd been there. He thought. "You are a better people than your movies say." He had judged us by our exports. He had seen the low slag heap of our culture and assumed it was a true expression of who we are.
And so he'd assumed we were disgusting.
Comment: Kathee and I watched Holiday Affair (1949) tonight. There's not an affair in it!
Pyongyang Myth-Builders Step It Up
The Official Line
Some of the regime-driven mythology surrounding North Korea's leaders
About Kim Il Sung, founder of North Korea: He once made a hand grenade from a pine cone to blow up an American tank.
About his son and successor, Kim Jong Il: When he was born, the sky was filled with lightning and thunder, and a rainbow.
About the new leader, Kim Jong Eun: He is 'an excellent general who displays the extraordinary talent of hitting the center of the target no matter how many times he fires.'
Comment: One wonders when North Korea will be free!
I survived 2011
- I am getting ready to leave the office - not to return until January 3rd.
- I deleted all of my sent messages
- I cleaned out my inbox
- Out of office on
- All items deleted out of my deleted items folder
- I cleaned off my desk and workplaces.
- I survived 2011 at work! I've seen co-workers die! I've seen co-workers laid off. God has been gracious to me! Hallelujah!
Comment: Pick one ... work on the pronunciation ... attempt to use in a sentence at work ... report back.
Available wiki articles:
Not until I walked with Bruce Schneier toward the mass of people unloading their laptops did it occur to me that it might not be possible for us to hang around unnoticed near Reagan National Airport’s security line. Much as upscale restaurants hang mug shots of local food writers in their kitchens, I realized, the Transportation Security Administration might post photographs of Schneier, a 48-year-old cryptographer and security technologist who is probably its most relentless critic. In addition to writing books and articles, Schneier has a popular blog; a recent search for “TSA” in its archives elicited about 2,000 results, the vast majority of which refer to some aspect of the agency that he finds to be ineffective, invasive, incompetent, inexcusably costly, or all four.
As we came by the checkpoint line, Schneier described one of these aspects: the ease with which people can pass through airport security with fake boarding passes. First, scan an old boarding pass, he said—more loudly than necessary, it seemed to me. Alter it with Photoshop, then print the result with a laser printer. In his hand was an example, complete with the little squiggle the T.S.A. agent had drawn on it to indicate that it had been checked. “Feeling safer?” he asked.
“The only useful airport security measures since 9/11,” he says, “were locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors, so terrorists can’t break in, positive baggage matching”—ensuring that people can’t put luggage on planes, and then not board them —“and teaching the passengers to fight back. The rest is security theater.”
Comment: And it can! "security theater" indeed!
Playing payroll tax roulette
For payroll processors, the two-month option because of the $18,350 cap is the toughest to implement. Not impossible, just more complicated and costly to set up quickly, executives from the American Payroll Association and the National Payroll Reporting Consortium told CNNMoney.
Many payroll systems may not be able to make all the needed changes in January, the NPRC believes. And some may even struggle to get the job done by February.
There are two reasons why: The first pertains to high-income workers -- those who earn more than $110,100 a year. Since many of them will earn more than $18,350 in the first two months of the year, payroll systems will need to be programmed to withhold their Social Security taxes first at 4.2%, then at 6.2% for earnings above the $18,350 limit.
The second reason concerns the quarterly forms that payroll processors have to fill out for the IRS. A quarter is three months, but the extension would be for two months. So those forms would need to be redesigned and the systems would need to be programmed to reflect those adjustments. If all that can't be done by March 31, companies may later have to amend their returns.
Comment: Not sure whom to blame but I feel the President has not provided leadership on this
My view: The payroll tax cut was a mistake a year ago (my comments last year). Social security has its own problems and underfunding it is not wise. We did appreciate the 2% cut and we did save it. The 2% payroll tax cut was intended to be temporary. I doubt it did much to stimulate the economy but the reality is that letting the payroll tax cut expire is in effect a tax increase for every American worker. The Wall Street Journal opinions that Boehner has misplayed this: "Republicans ... failed to put together a unified House and Senate strategy." The New York Times reports that "the House Republicans’ attempts to seize the political high ground by advocating for a full-year payroll tax cut are undercut by their shifting stands in the months leading up to the showdown". Politico sees that the Republicans lack a "carefully scripted drama" and asks "has John Boehner lost control?"
Businesses don't like short term tax fixes: Payroll Executives Complain About Lawmakers' Penchant for Brief Fixes and Small Employers Fret Over Payroll-Tax Uncertainty. For the average worker payroll tax means thousands in savings
Conclusion: Advantage Obama! For another advantage to Obama consider George Will's comments:
Atop the Republican ticket, Gingrich would guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection, would probably doom Republicans’ hopes of capturing the Senate and might cost them control of the House. If so, Gingrich would at last have achieved something — wreckage, but something — proportional to his swollen sense of himself.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Customer Service Department
Discover Financial Services
P.O. Box 30943
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0943
Re: Closing the account ending in _____
Dear Sir or Madam:
This letter is our formal request of closure of Discover credit card account ending in _______. Please close our account with your company and notify us by mail at the address below that this action has been taken.
In addition, please include on our credit report that the account was closed at our own request and that the account was in good standing at the time it was closed.
The reason we are closing this account is that we have two other credit cards that are our preferred cards. We have had great customer service from Discover and are in no way dissatisfied with Discover. We simply wish to have one less credit card.
If you have any questions, you can reach us at the address below.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Two relevant articles:
How to cancel a credit card
How to cancel a credit card
Kim Jong Il’s reign was a bizarre, hypocritical, Stalinistic empire. An estimated 20,000 political prisoners languished in re-education camps, and children starved in out-of-sight areas while the communist dictator annually imported $650,000 worth of Hennessy’s finest Cognac, and flew in chefs from Tokyo and Italy. His regime was a cardboard, papier-mâché empire that only allowed the free world an extremely limited glimpse of staged city areas of Pyongyang, the forbidden city, while the rest of the country was rumored to be in poverty and ruins.
Kim Jong Il: Road to ruin - The North Korean strongman led his nation through stagnation into misery
The career of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's "Dear Leader," was marked by a series of historical firsts — most of them dubious at best. He was, to begin, the first ruler of a Marxist-Leninist state to inherit absolute power through hereditary succession from his father, "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK.
He was also the first ruler of an urbanized, literate society to preside over a mass famine in peacetime: The Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s, which erupted shortly after his father's death, is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of his subjects, and perhaps more. (Outsiders cannot know the precise toll; that figure remains a state secret.)
Since the very late 1990s, when North Korea's famine apparently subsided, the food situation in the country has remained desperately precarious: Resumption of famine has been forestalled only by humanitarian food aid, Western economic assistance and Chinese largesse. Thus Kim Jong Il also earned the lifetime achievement award for overseeing the first industrialized economy ever to lose the capacity to feed itself.
Comment: We need to pray for this country that the Gospel doors would open!
The Volt subsidies flow through multiple companies involed in production. The analysis includes adding up the amount of government subsidies via tax credits and direct funding for not only General Motors, but other companies supplying parts for the vehicle. For example, the Department of Energy awarded a $105.9 million grant to the GM Brownstown plant that assembles the batteries. The company was also awarded approximately $106 million for its Hamtramck assembly plant in state credits to retain jobs. The company that supplies the Volt’s batteries, Compact Power, was awarded up to $100 million in refundable battery credits (combination tax breaks and cash subsidies). These are among many of the subsidies and tax credits for the vehicle.
It’s unlikely that all the companies involved in Volt production will ever receive all the $3 billion in incentives, Hohman said, because many of them are linked to meeting various employment and other milestones. But the analysis looks at the total value that has been offered to the Volt in different aspects of production – from the assembly line to the dealerships to the battery manufacturers. Some tax credits and subsidies are offered for periods up to 20 years, though most have a much shorter time frame.
GM has estimated they’ve sold 6,000 Volts so far. That would mean each of the 6,000 Volts sold would be subsidized between $50,000 and $250,000, depending on how many government subsidy milestones are realized.
If battery manufacturers awarded incentives to produce batteries the Volt may use are included in the analysis, the potential government subsidy per Volt increases to $256,824. For example, A123 Systems has received extensive state and federal support, and bid to be a supplier to the Volt, but the deal instead went to Compact Power. The $256,824 figure includes adding up the subsidies to both companies.
Comment: Even if it is only the $ 7,500 Federal tax rebate per vehical ... it is too much!
We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.
That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this. Freedom of speech, for example, means that we put up with a lot of verbal and visual garbage in order to make sure that individuals have the right to say what needs to be said, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. We forgive the sacrifices of free speech because we value its blessings.
Increasingly, we have let our elected officials abridge our own economic freedoms through the annual passage of thousands of laws and their associated regulations. We see human tragedy and we demand a regulation to prevent it. We see a criminal fraud and we demand more laws. We see an industry dying and we demand it be saved. Each time, we demand "Do something . . . anything."
The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.
Comment: Good read!
Cigars, cognac and mass starvation: 10 facts that divide North Korea from the world
Kim Jong Il piloted jet fighters, according to the country's propaganda machine, even though he traveled by land for his infrequent trips abroad, reputedly because he was nervous about flying. He penned operas, had a photographic memory, produced movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf, shooting 11 holes-in-one on the first round he ever played — if North Korea is to be believed.
Kim Jong Il remembered as 'Team America' star
Comment: Image capture above. I didn't see the movie (for a number of reasons ... one is that it looked stupid! I watched 2 clips in the article. One has a profanity (I listened to it very low here at work so it wasn't completely clear to me!)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appears to have no doubt where deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may have ended up in the afterlife.
“I can only express satisfaction that the Dear Leader is joining the likes of Qaddafi, Bin Laden, Hitler and Stalin in a warm corner of hell,”
Comment: And from a year ago on this blog: Kim impersonator
Isberg wrote that “many payroll systems are not likely to be able to make such a substantial programming change before January or even February. The systems affected tend to be highly complex, normally requiring at least ninety days for a change of this magnitude for software testing alone; not to mention analysis, design, coding and implementation.”
KROFT: Tell me, what do you consider your major accomplishments? If this is your last speech. What have you accomplished?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we're not done yet. I've got five more years of stuff to do. But not only saving this country from a great depression. Not only saving the auto industry. But putting in place a system in which we're gonna start lowering health care costs and you're never gonna go bankrupt because you get sick or somebody in your family gets sick. Making sure that we have reformed the financial system, so we never again have taxpayer-funded bailouts, and the system is more stable and secure. Making sure that we've got millions of kids out here who are able to go to college because we've expanded student loans and made college more affordable. Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Decimating al Qaeda, including Bin Laden being taken off the field. Restoring America's respect around the world.
The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we've got a lot more work to do. And we're gonna keep on at it.
Comment: Commentator's view (which I share): "But to be so egotistical to compare yourself to Abe Lincoln is to take flight from reality. CBS probably realized this which is why they strategically cut the remarks from their final edit of the interview"
In July 2011, a customer at a Chase Bank branch in West Hills, Calif. noticed something odd about the ATM he was using and reported it to police. Authorities who responded to the incident discovered a sophisticated, professional-grade ATM skimmer that they believe was made with the help of a 3D printer.
Comment: Check out detailed images associated with the article
The Chicago Expulsion Act of 2011
Chicago pols control almost all seats of power in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White are all Democrats from Chicago. So was former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who this month was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, including trying to sell President Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. Consequently, as Mr. Wooters says, a lot "of the money that we have down here goes up there to bail out Chicago."
In 2008, lawmakers in Springfield cobbled together a $530 million rescue package for Chicago's transit system, which was on the brink of collapse because of sky-high labor and legacy costs. Just this week they pushed through $300 million of tax credits for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Sears to prevent the businesses from fleeing to lower-tax climes. Both Indiana and Ohio have been aggressively poaching Illinois businesses, especially since January, when lawmakers raised the state income tax to a flat 5% from 3% and the corporate tax to 9.5% from 7.3%.
Comment: I basically hate the state. I hate driving in Chicago and avoid it the best I can. There is not one region of the state that I find appealing. You couldn't pay me to live there.
Dividend Stocks Become the Heroes
Urging investors toward dividend-paying shares has been an easy sell. This year, the 100 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index with the highest dividend yields are up an average of 3.7% before dividend payouts, according to Birinyi Associates. The 100 lowest-yielding stocks are down an average of 10%.
Investors hungry for stock-price gains have been barreling into dividend-paying shares, long regarded as "widow-and-orphan stocks" because of their steady but stodgy performance. Some analysts say such stocks are the most "crowded" trade around these days. Investors have been dazzled by dividend yields of more than 4% on many utilities, household-goods manufacturers and telecommunications companies. That is twice as much as recent paltry yields on 10-year Treasurys.
Dividend-stock fans say the unusually strong performance is likely to last as long as volatility driven by Europe's debt crisis and the global economic fits and starts continues to grip financial markets. Stocks that pay steady dividends tend to fall less than others when times are tough.
Comment: We only buy stocks where we know something about the company. We ask ourselves these questions:
- What does this company do? What do they produce (product or service)?
- Do we have any experience with the company?
- Who are their competitors?
- Are they currently paying a dividend? Are they able to afford that dividend (the payout ratio)? Are they likely to continue to earn enough to pay a dividend?
Many of the stocks we buy are not exactly exciting: We have stock in Kimberly-Clark. We buy their products: Kleenex and Scott's. We reason that their products are superior (who buys check tissues?!) And it pays a dividend. Other examples are McDonalds, P&G, Heinz. Companies that we have a bad opinion of .... we don't buy (example ... airlines). Every stock except one in our portfolio pays a dividend. The average dividend rate is currently 3.4%
Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Halifax ...
She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.
To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.
Heidi keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Halifax and probably in Nova Scotia .
By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.
Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit.
He sees no reason for any undue concern because he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!
At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS.
These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.
Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AAA Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb - and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.
One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.
Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons. But, being unemployed alcoholics -- they cannot pay back their drinking debts.
Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Heidi's 11 employees lose their jobs.
Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%.
The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.
The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities.
They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.
Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.
Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.
The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, nondrinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.
Now do you understand?
Comment: Sent to me by a relative (in Wisconsin!). Also found on the web (when I Googled Heidi's bar) here
On a Friday in 1948, six aeronautical designers from the Boeing Company holed up in a hotel suite in Dayton, Ohio. They stayed put until Monday morning, except for the one who left to visit a hobby shop and returned with balsa wood, glue, carving tools and silver paint.
The group emerged with a neatly bound 33-page proposal and an impressive 14-inch scale model of an airplane on a stand. Col. Pete Warden, the Air Force chief of bomber development, studied the result and pronounced, “This is the B-52.”
One of those six was Holden Withington, and on Dec. 9, at age 94, he became the last of the B-52 designers to die. His daughter, Victoria Withington, said he died at his home on Mercer Island, Wash. He had Alzheimer’s disease.
A debate raged in the service and beyond over the merits of a jet engine versus those of a turbo prop, which would use less fuel but sacrifice speed. The RAND Corporation, the research group, favored the turbo prop.
But the turbo prop approach “just wasn’t coming together,” Mr. Withington told The Times of Shreveport, La., in 2002. “The program was at risk of being canceled,” he said.
A meeting was held at Wright Field in Dayton to address what Mr. Withington said was now viewed as a crisis. Colonel Warden decreed that the turbo prop idea should be dropped in favor of jet engines, then ordered the group back to their hotel room for their weekend of frenzied work. They used slide rules for calculations.
Comment: Image source Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. I have a collection of slide rules (which I used back in college.
Manning, the Hall of Fame-worthy 35-year-old quarterback, firmly established himself as the most irreplaceable player in the game this season, and did it without taking a single snap. Some have even suggested he deserves Most Valuable Player consideration: With him, the Colts are a perennial Super Bowl contender, without him they're a laughingstock.
One player can have this kind of understandable impact in the NBA, where a LeBron James can leave Cleveland Cavaliers and reduce them from a 60-win team to the worst team in the league. In the NBA, you're talking about five players on the court at a time.
Nobody could have imagined this would happen in football, where Manning is one of 11 players, and doesn't play defense or special teams.
When the New England Patriots lost Tom Brady for the 2008 season, they still went 11-5.
The Colts, who two years ago were in the middle of a debate over whether an undefeated season was possible, are now wondering if they will win a single game. We've always known Manning is he face of the franchise (and, to a certain extent, the entire NFL). Now we're finding out he's the heart, the soul, the brains ... everything.
The Colts aren't just losing this season; they're barely competitive, enduring a season that included a nationally televised, 62-7 shellacking by the Saints in New Orleans.
Turns out the Colts picked the perfect year to stink.
If they get the first pick in the draft -- and they have a two-game lead on Minnesota and St. Louis with three games remaining -- they will be in position to pick Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck , by most accounts the best quarterback prospect to come out of college since Hall of Famer John Elway left Stanford and joined the Denver Broncos in 1983.
Not a bad deal: The Colts get 13 years of elite quarterbacking from Manning, suffer for one season, then get Luck for another decade or more of elite quarterbacking.
Comment: Lucky them! Image source
We replaced a first generation Apple AirPort Extreme that I would guess was 4 ½ years old. We replaced it because it was running very hot and because we have had a very difficult time consistently printing with our HP Officejet 6000 Wireless Printer.
I have some final tuning but the router itself was a very easy setup.
What's working and not:
- We have three wireless networks: a 2.4GHz that is password protected, a 5GHz that is password protected, and a guest network that is isolated and open
- Kathee rearranged the devices and the cables in the den
- The NetGear router has a nice web interface that does not require a CD for set up
- We cannot get the printer to printer wirelessly but we had that issue before
- The printer works flawlessly connected to the router
- I had to reset the Pogoplug Classic (connected to a 500 gig drive). The Chumby had to be connected wirelessly with the new password.
- We use OpenDNS.com and the settings for that carried over to the new router (I'm not sure why that happend but I am not complaining).
Czech financial officials say they do not recommend setting a date for the country to adopt the troubled euro currency because of potential costs associated with the debt crisis.
The finance ministry and central bank say the Czech Republic would face extra costs if it were to join the euro because it would have to contribute to the eurozone's bailout fund
In a joint statement released Thursday, the two institutions also said the country still has not met necessary financial criteria, including a low deficit, to join the euro.
The Czechs say it will be "vital" to monitor how the eurozone deals with its financial problems.
All non-euro countries in the EU, except Britain and Denmark, are officially committed to join the euro, though in practice they can defer that decision indefinitely."
Comment: Smart Czecks!
One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.
“I wasn’t calling my friends anymore,” said Ashleigh Elser, 24, who is in graduate school in Charlottesville, Va. “I was just seeing their pictures and updates and felt like that was really connecting to them.”
To be sure, the Facebook-free life has its disadvantages in an era when people announce all kinds of major life milestones on the Web. Ms. Elser has missed engagements and pictures of newborn babies. But none of that hurt as much as the gap she said her Facebook account had created between her and her closest friends. So she shut it down.
Many of the holdouts mention concerns about privacy. Those who study social networking say this issue boils down to trust. Amanda Lenhart, who directs research on teenagers, children and families at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, said that people who use Facebook tend to have “a general sense of trust in others and trust in institutions.” She added: “Some people make the decision not to use it because they are afraid of what might happen.”
Erika Gable, 29, who lives in Brooklyn and does public relations for restaurants, never understood the appeal of Facebook in the first place. She says the daily chatter that flows through the site — updates about bad hair days and pictures from dinner — is virtual clutter she doesn’t need in her life.
“If I want to see my fifth cousin’s second baby, I’ll call them,” she said with a laugh.
Ms. Gable is not a Luddite. She has an iPhone and sometimes uses Twitter. But when it comes to creating a profile on the world’s biggest social network, her tolerance reaches its limits.
Comment: I am conflicted about Facebook. Yes I am "on it". I do see value to it (Like seeing Bike Bubba make bread with his daughter!). I am concerned about the privacy issues. My wife has given up on it. Image above: The Leader of the Luddites from Wikipedia
Be careful of what you ask for. That's a lesson that Max Schrems of Vienna, Austria, learned the hard way when he sent a formal request to Facebook citing European law and asking for a copy of every piece of personal information that the world’s largest social network had collected on him.
After a wait, the 24 year-old law student got what he was seeking: a CD with all his data stored on it - 1,222 files in all. The collection of PDF format documents was roughly the length Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace but told a more mundane story: a record of Schrems' years-long relationship with the world's largest social network.
Collected together were records of when Schrems logged in and out of the social network, the times and content of sent and received messages and an accounting of every person and thing he’s ever liked, posted, poked, friended or recorded. The archive captured friend requests, former or alternative names and email addresses, employment and relationship statuses and photos, in some cases with their GPS locations included, to name a few. To Schrems' dismay, much of the data he received from the network was information he thought he had deleted. Facebook, it seems, doesn't think much of the Delete key and continued to hold copies of the data on its servers.
Comment: Makes one wonder whether one should Facebook!
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday that it had voted to recommend the ban on the use of mobile devices by drivers, citing what it said were the risks of distracted driving.
The recommended ban applies to hands-free devices, a recommendation that goes further than any state law to date. The agency said it is recommending that drivers be allowed to use their phones for emergency purposes.
“No call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” said Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairman of the N.T.S.B., an independent federal agency that is responsible for promoting traffic safety and investigating accidents and their causes. It will be up to the states to decide whether they want to follow the agency’s recommendation.
She said the decision was a hard one because such a ban would be unpopular among some people. But she said its time had come, given what she said were growing distractions in the car and the spread of increasingly powerful mobile devices.
“This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time,” she said.
Comment: Should be the law!
Now is a great time to buy blue chip companies with steady payouts. Forget about Treasury bonds, the dollar, gold or other so-called safe haven bets. Dividends are the place to be.
Ford (F, Fortune 500) just reinstated its quarterly payout after five years without one. The yield will be a respectable 1.8% -- not much lower than the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury.
Earlier this year, tech giant Cisco Systems (CSCO, Fortune 500) finally decided to put some of its "caysh" to work and started paying a dividend. It yields 1.3%.
And companies that are dividend stalwarts, such as Dow components Walt Disney (DIS, Fortune 500), General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) and Pfizer (PFE, Fortune 500), have all recently said they are boosting their dividends.
So why on Earth would anyone looking for safety in income buy a bond when they could a blue chip company with an even higher yield instead?
"There's a lot of risk in longer-term bonds. Treasuries will only do well if the world comes to an end," said Rex Macey, chief investment officer with Wilmington Trust in Atlanta. "You can't buy a 10-year with the yield at 2% and expect a real return. Quality dividend stocks are bargains compared to Treasuries."
Comment: Of the above mentioned stocks we have F, CSCO (in IRA), GE, and PFE (in IRA). I almost sold F this year. Decided to keep it (we only have 100 shares).
In Tim Tebow's first start of the season, became the first NFL team to overcome a 15-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining.
Broncos 18, Dolphins 15, overtime, in Miami, Oct. 23.
By rallying to win this one, the Broncos had confidence the next time they were behind late. For this one, the Broncos and Tebow were on their own. Not only did the Broncos need two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to tie it, there was so little time left that they needed to recover an onside kick in between.
When citing the difficulty of this comeback, there's no sense overlooking the obvious. The 15 points appeared impossible given the way Tebow was playing in his first start. When the Broncos got the ball at their 20 with 5:23 remaining, Tebow was 4-of-14 for a mere 40 yards while taking five sacks for 27 yards of losses. Suddenly, magically, Tebow started throwing with accuracy. He threw two touchdown passes and ran in the two-point conversion.
In overtime, Denver needed Matt Prater, who had missed two field goals earlier in the game, to come through from 52 yards. He did. Tebow Time was officially on the clock.
Comment: Image source: Author Jeffrey Beall. All he does is win!
DeAndre Levy had a fist full of Joe Webb's facemask, got away with it, and wasn't apologizing for Detroit's good fortune in a 34-28 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
"We get a lot of calls called against us," the Lions linebacker said. "So, they owed us one if I did."
Detroit (8-5) is still in prime position in the NFC wild-card race. Barely.
Webb had the Vikings a yard away from a potential winning touchdown on the game's final snap, but the backup quarterback fumbled just before Levy's right hand tugged his facemask, and a penalty wasn't called.
Comment: Not that it matters ... the seasons been over for a while!
First, avoid open-ended buy and sell orders. The UAL trade was a market order, or an instruction to sell at the best available price. "Rule No. 1 for the small investor is never, ever put in a market order," says Joe Saluzzi, a partner at Themis Trading in Chatham, N.J. Instead, use a limit order that stipulates either the price below which you won't sell or above which you won't buy.
Comment: I haven't used Limit orders and have not been burned by a "flash crash". Going forward to protect myself I will be using Limit orders
But if all discouraged workers are included, the 8.6% figure rises. Including “marginally attached workers” – those who are discouraged – was 15.6% in November, according to government data. John Williams, a statistician and economist, says the real unemployment figure including all discouraged workers who stopped looking for work is closer to a staggering 22.6% — nearly a quarter of the potential workforce. Since 1994, the government data defines discouraged workers as those who have been looking for work within the last year. Williams includes all discouraged workers. “I know plenty of people who have been discouraged for more than a year,” he says.
The employment rate – those with jobs as a percentage of the population – gives a more accurate picture, says Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn consultants in Roseland, N.J. It was 58.5% in November,
Comment: I know half a dozen who basically have given up
Hewlett-Packard bought Palm last year in a $1.8 billion deal. And now, H-P is making the guts of Palm free for the world. Hooray for the world! Bad for H-P.
Comment: My daughter had a WebOS Palm phone. Strikes me that it outshines Apple's iOS. Because of this misstep and others (exit the PC business) (never mind) Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) is not on my investing radar.
I had a friend once who amused herself thinking up bumper stickers for states. The one she made up for California was brilliant. "California: It's All True." It is so vast and sprawling a place, so rich and various, that whatever you've heard about its wildness, weirdness and wonders, it's true.
That's the problem with Newt Gingrich: It's all true. It's part of the reason so many of those who know him are anxious about the thought of his becoming president. It's also why people are looking at him, thinking about him, considering him as president.
Ethically dubious? True. Intelligent and accomplished? True. Has he known breathtaking success and contributed to real reforms in government? Yes. Presided over disasters? Absolutely. Can he lead? Yes. Is he erratic and unreliable as a leader? Yes. Egomaniacal? True. Original and focused, harebrained and impulsive—all true.
Sen. Lindsey Graham told a reporter that Mr. Gingrich could be a historic president if he has "matured as a person and is, for lack of a better word, calmed down." That is as close as most of those who've worked with him get to a compliment.
Republicans on the ground who view Mr. Gingrich from afar, who neither know nor have worked with him, are more likely to see him this way: "Who was the last person to actually cut government? Who was the last person who actually led a movement that balanced the federal budget? . . . The last time there was true welfare reform, the last time government was cut, Gingrich did it." That is Rush Limbaugh, who has also criticized Mr. Gingrich.
There are many good things to say about Newt Gingrich. He is compelling and unique, and, as Margaret Thatcher once said, he has "tons of guts."
But this is a walk on the wild side.
Comment: Newt's not my choice but he would offer a clear alternative to Obama. My wife says ... everyone knows about Newt's baggage.
Thinking Wrongly About Money
Debt: We live in a debt-based economy. A strange fact about this economy ...
Instant Gratification: We want things and we want them now. ...
We Are Materialists: We have an intrinsic drive toward materialism. Materialism is a way of looking at life through what is material ...
Asceticism: We could call it spiritualism or asceticism and it can have a bit of a grip on some Christians. Martin Luther said that humanity is like a drunk guy who gets onto a horse and falls off one side, then climbs back on and falls off the other side. In other words, we tend to go too far in one direction and if we don’t like that, too far in the other. Asceticism is the very opposite of materialism, but it’s still wrong.
Comments: A very good article. Follow the link above and read the whole thing. I don't see many who struggle with asceticism. I could add two more but I'm not really sure if they are categories that fit the author's fine article:
- Entitlement mentality. Something is owed me by (fill in the blank: my parents, my church, the government)
- A failure to plan for the future which results in a failure to save.
In Germany, far fewer kids go to college than in the United States. Instead, most German high school students opt for apprenticeships and on-the-job training. These students are given high-skill, technical training that motivates theory with practice, and the students are paid! Moreover, on-the-job training promotes acculturation into the adult world instead of walling off 16- to 18-year-olds in their own, sometimes dangerous, world.
By the way, when I make these arguments I am sometimes accused of not appreciating that college education makes for a "well-rounded" person. What a load of rot. Basically, these critics define well-rounded as someone who can quote Plato! Rather self-serving. Well-rounded should also mean being able to replace a light fixture, a challenge to many Platonists!
More seriously, take a look at students in Finland, Sweden, or Germany. In these countries, more than half the students enter apprenticeship programs instead of going to college, but these students are very well-educated and well-rounded.
Forty percent of students don't graduate within six years (and probably never will), many more graduate with degrees that won't help them much in the labor force, and even the ones that do graduate often do so with student debt that will follow them for decades.
Bank of America, says in a filing made Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver that Martino charged $13,049 on two credit cards just prior to filing bankruptcy on Sept. 2 and hasn't paid.
Although not at issue, the charges listed in court records show Martino was actually in New York City when his bankruptcy was filed Sept. 2, eating at some of the city's toniest restaurants racking up tabs totaling more than $2,000 in just four days.
Comment: And you know who gets "stuck with bill" for his foolishness ... the very consumers he pretends to protect.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your Christmas album?
A: It came in Bible college in the mid-'90s when I took this Old Testament survey class. It was the first time I realized that the whole Bible was about Jesus; I never realized that the Old Testament was as much about him as the New. It just lit up my imagination, and that eventually turned into this idea: What if we could convey that through a cycle of songs about the coming of Jesus into the world?
Andrew Peterson website
Comment: I highly recommend this album. We have 4 in hand that we are prayfully using this season to introduce friends to the Savior.
More than a third of U.S. shoppers are already done with most of their holiday shopping, a survey showed on Monday, signaling that retailers need to offer bigger incentives to win sales in the few weeks before Christmas.
The findings underscore the fragility of the U.S. recovery, since consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economy.
About 32 percent of people surveyed by America's Research Group said they finished a majority of their Christmas shopping in November. Last month included Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when stores pulled out all the stops on discounts to woo shoppers during their biggest season of the year.
More than 6 percent completed most of their holiday shopping in the first weekend of December.
Comment: All shopping completed. All on-line. Not one visit to a mall! We cut the budget in half this year. Thankfully all paid for. No debt!
Comment: We have 4 toilets and only 1 plunger. It's a practical gift!
Credit card use stages a comeback
At the end of 2008, more consumers were using debit cards than credit cards but now that trend has reversed, said Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, which processes card transactions for 4.1 million merchant locations.
"Credit is back in favor," he said. "Consumers have spent the last couple of years de-leveraging and reducing credit card use, but during the past month -- and since April [of this year] -- they've been using their credit cards more and are starting to return to pre-recession buying habits."
Purchases made with credit cards rose 8.2% in the first quarter of 2011, 9% in the second quarter and 10.6% in the third quarter, according to First Data. That compares with gains in debit card use of 9.6%, 8.3% and 5.9% for the same quarters.
And a growing number of holiday shoppers are already opting for credit this year. Payments made with credit cards on Black Friday jumped 7.4% from the same day a year earlier, while debit card use only rose 3.4%.
Comment: We are credit card exclusively. Never use the debit card and rarely use cash (except the pop machine at work)
Debt among Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 is growing faster than for any other age group, according to the Federal Reserve. As of 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, the median debt level of that age group was $40,130, up from $27,458 in 2004. Research group Strategic Business Insights' Macromonitor conducted a separate survey and found that households headed by Americans 75 and older carried an average of $7,200 in credit-card debt in 2010, more than triple the 2008 level.
Collecting the debts of the dead is often easier than other collection work, says Mark Russell, a director at debt-collection advisory firm Kaulkin Ginsberg in Rockville, Md. Most borrowers behind on their bills have little or no money. Successfully collecting death debts takes just one relative who is willing to pay, he says.
Comment: WSJ article. I feel sorry for the debt collectors. Article has 2 associated voice conversations
Most airlines found a way back to profitability in the last few years by shedding costs through bankruptcy, reducing capacity and merging with one another. But American lost passengers to newly merged carriers like Delta Air Lines and United Airlines as well as low-cost competitors like Southwest Airlines. It retrenched around fewer hub airports. It struggled with older, jet fuel-guzzling planes and delayed renewing its fleet.
So American’s decision to file for bankruptcy this week highlighted both the industry’s remarkable transformation over the last decade and the distance now separating this airline from its peers. While other airlines have found ways to remain profitable even with elevated fuel prices and slowing passenger demand, American has been losing about $100 million each month. American was once the nation’s leading domestic and international carrier; now it is a distant third.
Comment: I worked for American for 2 years as a Campus Sales Representative at the University of Cincinnati. Pay was $ 50 per month plus I received 2 round trips anywhere ever year. The second year I received three. Once I flew from Cincinnati to New York and then flew first class on a 747 to LA.