8.31.2012

Death of a Salesman - 1st Edition

ABE Books - "Death of a Salesman"

Comment: I bought this in NY City about 40 years ago. My son is going to sell it and we are going to split the proceeds.

8.30.2012

iShares Russell 1000 Index (IWB)

The iShares Russell 1000 Index Fund seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the large capitalization sector of the U.S. equity market, as represented by the Russell 1000 Index. The index represents the approximately 1,000 largest companies in the Russell 3000 Index. iShares Russell 1000 Index (IWB)
 
Comment: Higher Beta (1.01) than LBTA but has much broader holdings (988 stocks). Relatively low yield of 1.9%.

The Russell 1000 Low Beta ETF (LBTA)

The Russell 1000 Low Beta ETF seeks investment results that closely correspond to the total return of the Russell-Axioma U.S. Large Cap Low Beta Index: LBTA Holdings (Approximate number of constituents: 140 as of 7/31/2012)

Comment: Broad diversification, looks safe, but not too exciting yield. Could be a safe harbor.

Justifiable deer-a-cide!

Prosecutor says Minnesota farmer won't be charged for shooting deer that attacked him

 Excerpt:
A northwestern Minnesota farmer who made news when he got pummeled by a deer won't be charged with shooting the buck out of season. A conservation officer who investigated the incident sent a report to the county attorney for review, per standard procedure. Norman County Attorney James Brue told the Grand Forks Herald with a chuckle that it was a justifiable shooting, so Mark Christianson won't be charged.
Comment: Why was there any doubt about this?

“You Can Be A Millionaire.. And Never Pay Taxes!”

But First ... a little "King Tut" “You Can Be A Millionaire.. And Never Pay Taxes!” Comment: The original SNL skit

What is Beta?

Building a Low Beta Portfolio

 Excerpt:
Beta is kind of like volatility. It's simply a trailing measure of how a stock or portfolio moves in relation to stocks as a whole. "Beta is just a measure of the risk of a stock or your portfolio or a fund relative to the risk of the overall market."

For instance if the market gains 1%, a high-beta equity would be expected to rise more. The opposite is true for a down day, with high-beta stocks suffering more than their steady counterparts during down periods.
Comment: Example of Coke above with a Beta of .45

8.29.2012

The 3-2-1 strategy

LAST HURRAH OF NIXON’S ‘NEW MAJORITY’?

Excerpt:
According to GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, the party has a 3-2-1 strategy. While holding all the states McCain won, the party must first recapture three red states that Barack Obama carried: Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. Next, Romney must carry the two major battleground states that Obama won last time: Ohio and Florida. Third, add one more state Obama carried in 2008, like Colorado. Then the GOP is home.

Yet with the exception of Indiana, none of those six states seems close to secure. And the GOP must win them all. And now Missouri, after Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” gaffe, has moved from Republican red into the undecided column.

The good news: With Paul Ryan on the ticket, Wisconsin is in play, and Mitt’s birth state, Michigan, is getting a second look.

Yet consider the uphill struggle the GOP faces in a year when the election should be a cakewalk.

Though he has four straight trillion-dollar deficits and 42 months of 8 percent unemployment to his credit, Obama appears to already have four of the seven mega-states — California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York — secure and is more than competitive in Ohio and Florida.

Looking to the future, what is the Republican strategy ever again to win New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois or California, other than due to some national calamity or new depression?
Comment: Below is the 2008 Electoral map from http://www.270towin.com/.


The broken Federal Budget

Comment: Image from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Say What!? Chinese "saving frenzy" responsible for the Great Recession

China - Not Wall Street - Caused 2008 Crisis: Study

Excerpt:
Thought the global financial crisis in 2008 was caused by subprime bonds, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other Wall Street engineering? Think again.

According to a new study, China, not Wall Street bankers, was responsible for the global crisis and the ensuing recession.

The study from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management says the saving frenzy of the Chinese created the cheap money, which fueled the U.S. housing bubble and its collapse.

Heleen Mees, writer of the study and assistant economics professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, says that exotic mortgage products could hardly have been the cause of the U.S. housing market bubble and the its ultimate collapse.

According to the study, mortgages with those special features -- like mortgage-backed securities and CDOs -- accounted for less than five percent of the total number of new mortgages from 2000 to 2006.
Comment: Blaming Chinese "saving frenzy" strikes me as way off! Image above from Wiki "Yellow Peril" article.  Compare also Stereotypes of East Asians in the United States.

Non-Dividend stocks like trading baseball cards

The Top 10 Dividend Quotes

Excerpt:
“I believe non-dividend stocks aren’t much more than baseball cards. They are worth what you can convince someone to pay for it.” –Mark Cuban
Comment: Wally Post was a member of the National League Cincinnati Reds in 1961.

GUI circa 1982


Article: Meet your desktop's ancestors: AT&T exhumes footage of the Bell Blit
Excerpt:

AT&T's video archives are rich seams of juicy historical tidbits, and today's offering is a fine example. It's sharing footage of the Bell Blit, a graphic interface that Bell Labs developed after being inspired by the Xerox Alto. Originally named the Jerq, it was created by Rob Pike and Bart Locanthi to have the same usability as the Alto, but with "the processing power of a 1981 computer." Watch, as the narrator marvels at being able to use multiple windows at once, playing Asteroids while his debugging software runs in the background on that futuristic green-and-black display. The next time we get annoyed that Crysis isn't running as fast as you'd like it to, just remember how bad the geeks of yesteryear had it
Comment: I was probably more productive with a pure text based TRS-80 model 3 than I would have been with Blit!

8.28.2012

10 things the post office won’t tell you

10 things the post office won’t tell you
  Excerpt:
  1. Your failure to send your Mother a proper birthday card is the least of our problems.
  2. Our retirees are just fine, thanks
  3. Anybody want to buy an ailing government agency?
  4. We’re hiring our competitors to do our jobs for us
  5. We’re addicted to junk mail
  6. Next thing you know, we’ll be asking you to trust us with your money.
  7. We’re sitting on a national treasure...
  8. ...And we’ll sell you a piece of it.
  9. We’re a hotbed for crime
  10. Our greatest strength is supernatural
Comment: Image: 1912 Motorcycle Postman. Did you know (I learned this in our recent study of Ezra and Esther) that the first credible claim for the development of a real postal system comes from Ancient Persia. Every bullet point in the above article is interesting.

I ♥ Big Blue and Big Iron

Mainframe Muscle


IBM Goes Big on New Mainframe with Fastest Chip, Flash Memory

Excerpt:
This system, announced Tuesday, includes a new 5.5-GHz, six-core processor, versus the 5.2-GHz, quad-core processor that shipped with the zEnterprise 196, announced two years ago last month. This may be the world's fastest commercial processor, say analysts. Despite this, it is not as big a jump in sheer clock rate as some of the earlier leaps in mainframe CPU speed. Regardless, IBM says this system has 25% more performance per core and some workloads will see performance gains by as much as 45%.
Comments:
  • IBM's official announcement
  • Image source = Flicker in above article.
  • Most people never see them ... they are in some vault-like area protected with man-traps and security
  • We had IBM stock way way back when we worked at IBM ... then sold it for a downpayment on a home we bought in Pittsburgh.
  • Recently bought IBM again ... it's expensive (not Apple expensive ... but expensive). A great company!

8.27.2012

Most don't pay Federal income taxes ... expect rich to pay more

Most Americans say the rich don't pay enough taxes

Excerpt:

The poll found that many Americans believe rich people to be intelligent and hardworking but also greedy and less honest than the average American. Nearly six in 10, or 58 percent, say the rich don't pay enough in taxes, while 26 percent believe the rich pay their fair share and 8 percent say they pay too much. Even among those who describe themselves as "upper class" or "upper middle class," more than half — or 52 percent — said upper-income Americans don't pay enough in taxes; only 10 percent said they paid too much. This upper tier was more likely to say they are more financially secure now than 10 years ago — 62 percent, compared to 44 percent for those who identified themselves as middle class and 29 percent for the lower class. They are less likely to report problems in paying rent or mortgage, losing a job, paying for medical care or other bills and cutting back on household expenses.
Is it true that only 53 percent of Americans pay income tax?

 Excerpt:
In 2009, according to a memo from the Joint Committee on Taxation, a bi-partisan Congressional committee, only 49 percent of Americans owed money on their Federal income tax returns. So yes, it's true that more than half of all Americans paid no Federal income tax in the tax year 2009, and the number of people who did pay taxes was even lower -- 51 percent, not 53 percent. For tax year 2011, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that only 54 percent of Americans will pay Federal income tax.
Comment: I pay taxes. And I think I could pay more taxes. But there is a disconnect between these facts: 46% don't pay Federal income taxes ....and 58% say the rich don't pay enough in taxes. Jim Peet's taxes proposals:
  • End corporate income taxes altogether (not property taxes!). Every penny of paid corporate income tax is just filtered into the costs of the product anyway. It's a hidden tax. Corporate income taxes encourage wasteful deductions (like a company buying a suite at a sport's stadium)
  • Tax all income the same: Dividends, capital gains, earned income
  • Eliminate deductions: Mortgage interest for one
  • Have 3 or 4 simple brackets: 5%, 10%, 15%, 20% (and these are not cast in concrete). But everyone should pay some federal income tax.
  • Eliminate the AMT
  • Eliminate tax free medical benefits but provide every worker a $ 7,000 tax credit for health insurance paid. Families and children more
  • Match the start of medicare to the normal social security retirement age.
  • Phase in an older start for medicare and social security (say to 67)
  • Make medicare like an HSA
  • Simplify the code! And freeze it for 5 years before changing it

Are you a Ri¢hie Ri¢h?

A Look at Household Net Worth and Household Income By Age Group from the 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances
  Excerpt:
The median American household earned $45,800 pre-tax. So if your family generates more than $3,817 per month in pre-tax income (before payroll taxes, retirement savings, and other reductions), you are in the top half of society. You are in the richest 1 out of 2 Americans. ...

To ... rank in the top 5% of households (making you richer than 95 out of 100 families), you and your spouse need a combined pre-tax income of $205,300 and a net worth of $1,864,100.

.. What is fascinating to me is the fact that for the 35-and-under household group, median net worth is only $9,300. That is all it takes to have a higher net worth than half of people in the same demographic. It’s insane. Short of catastrophic health problems or unexpected tragedy, the only reason someone should have a net worth that low by 35, a full 17 years after they entered the work force, is because they spend too much money. This is a cultural problem. Thriftiness, self-sufficiency, and independence are not valued and taught as they once were.

... Roughly 9 out of 10 young people 35 and younger don’t have a stock investment account. At the very moment in life when time is at its statistical greatest, when stocks and long-term investments have their most value, they are completely neglected.
Comments: Image is 1st edition of Richie Rich. From a closely related article: To Earn More In Dividend Income Than 50% of the World Earns Working Each Year Requires Only 1,074 Shares of General Electric. Ultimate riches is to know the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him (Romans 10:12)
  • For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9)
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)

8.26.2012

My Aunt's Alto house for sale


11432 Kirby St SE, Alto MI

Comment: Mentioned in my earlier post today - August 25,1953 - my cognitive birthday I was Zillowing around tonight to see if any houses in Alto were for sale and low and behold Auntie Eleanor's Kirby street house is for sale. (Eleanor died 10 years ago). Memories of this house:
  • Uncle Jim's Standard Oil tanker truck parked out front
  • My cousin Steve's Cushman motor scooter
  • My cousin Lila's house next door The Methodist church across the street
  • Cousin Steve's bedroom with the mounted bear head
  • Auntie's kitchen
  • Christmas times in the living room
  • Watching TV of the 1st moon landing in 1969
  • Uncle Jim's boat in the garage

The dearth of new antibiotics


NIH superbug outbreak highlights lack of new antibiotics

Excerpt:
As doctors battled a deadly, drug-resistant superbug at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center last year, they turned to an antibiotic of last resort.

But colistin, as it’s called, is not a fancy new creation of modern biotechnology. It was discovered in a beaker of fermenting bacteria in Japan — in 1949.

... Between 1945 and 1968, drug companies invented 13 new categories of antibiotics, said Allan Coukell, director of medical programs at the Pew Health Group.

Between 1968 and today, just two new categories of antibiotics have arrived.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved one new antibiotic, which fights one of the many bacteria, Clostridium difficile, causing deadly hospital-borne infections.

“What kept us out of trouble for the last 60 years is that every time drug resistance caught up to us, the pharmaceutical companies would go back to the drawing board and develop the next generation of drugs to keep us ahead of the game,” said Brad Spellberg, an infectious diseases physician in Los Angeles who heads a microbial resistance task force for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “That’s the part of the equation that’s changed. Drug companies are no longer trying to get one step ahead.”

... As a result, only four of the world’s 12 largest pharmaceutical companies are researching new antibiotics, said David Shlaes, a drug development veteran and consultant. Last year, Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, closed its Connecticut antibiotics research center, laying off 1,200 workers.

The company said it was moving the operation to Shanghai. But Shlaes said Pfizer is struggling to open the Chinese facility and has largely abandoned antibiotics. While a new antibiotic may bring in a billion dollars over its lifetime, Shlaes said, a drug for heart disease may net $10 billion. Depression and erectile dysfunction drugs — typically taken daily for years, unlike antibiotics, which are used short-term — are also more profitable than antibiotics.
Comment: Image Source: Clostridium difficile. Optimer Pharmaceuticals is not mentioned by name in the article but it developed Dificid (which finally ended my C-Diff infection) Also worth reading:

Fed regulatory rules squeeze banking employees

Low-level workers fired because of new banking standards

 Excerpt:

Richard Eggers doesn't look like a mastermind of financial crime.

The former farm boy speaks deliberately, can't remember the last time he got a speeding ticket, and favors suspenders, horn-rim glasses and plaid shirts. But the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran is still too risky for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which fired him on July 12 from his $29,795-a-year job as a customer service representative.

Egger's crime? Putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine in Carlisle on Feb. 2, 1963.

"It was a stupid stunt and I'm not real proud of it, but to fire somebody for something like this after seven good years of employment is a dirty trick when you come right down to it," said Eggers of Des Moines. "And they're doing this kind of thing all across the country."

Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since the issuance of new federal banking employment guidelines in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines in February.

The tougher standards are meant to weed out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes, like identity fraud or mortgage fraud, but they are being applied across-the-board thanks to $1 million a day fines for noncompliance.

Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally because of the rules, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney with Higbee & Associates in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the banking workers regain their eligibility to be employed. "Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face," Buchanan said.

The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and some other misdemeanor arrests.
Comments: First of all, I work for said bank but I don't believe this article is about that bank but rather federal regulations. Secondly it explains why the charge "intent to evade taxes" was such a serious issue for me! (And why HR was tracking the results).

August 25,1953 - my cognitive birthday

How far back can you remember? When earliest memories occur
Excerpt:

Our first palpable recollections — from vital, early mileposts to seemingly random snapshots of our toddler years — stick for good, on average, when we reach 3 1/2 years old, according to numerous past studies. At that age, the hippocampus, a portion of the brain used to store memories, has adequately matured to handle that task, experts say.

... For whatever reason, one lone moment has been selected and stamped in our brains as the first day our life experiences became worthy of mentally filing away and cataloguing. In a sense, they're our cognitive birthday.
Comments:  My earliest memories center around the birth of my younger brother Roger (who celebrated his 59th  birthday yesterday.

Roger was born in Fort Wayne Indiana. For whatever reason my sister and I were staying at my Aunt's house in Alto Michigan. I remember walking hand-in-hand with Aunt Eleanor downtown to the 5 and dime store to buy a birthday gift for my soon to be born brother. I remember being in that store. I remember clearly walking down the street with my Aunt. (image below: left box = Aunt's house ... right box = "downtown")



On the day Mom and Roger were discharged from the hospital, I remember Dad telling Nancy (my older sister) and me to wait outside of the hospital for him. Nancy (she was 7) and I (4 years old) played in the bushes outside of the hospital. It seemed like a very long time.

My next 1953 (or 1954) memory was when Dad and Mom bought a 1953 Ford wagon. My sister probably has a picture of it but I do not. It was light blue (like the first picture below). I remember Dad's 1949 Chevrolet (like the picture below - but it was light green)



So here's my question (read the article linked above first): What are your earliest memories and how old were you?

  Image source

8.25.2012

Guessing the value of one's home

Today Kathee and I were having the "next house" conversation. We've been in our house for 16 years. When we moved in we had three kids at home: 15, 13, and 10. Now we are empty nesters. We have 4 bedrooms, a den, 4 bathrooms, etc. 3,300 square feet. Too much space!

I believe we are approximately 3½ years from selling.

Our next house will almost surely be a condominium with between 1500 and 2000 square feet of living space.

Our house is in pretty good shape but there are things it will need before we sell. The carpet in ¾ of the house is 16 years old and will need to be replaced. The entire interior will need to be repainted before we sell. The exterior is in exceptional shape thanks to a hail storm 3 years ago. Siding has been replaced on half of the house. Almost every window was damaged then and was replaced. Our roof is a 40 year shingle and it was replaced 3 years ago. Our furnace and hot water heater are almost new and high efficiency. Our air conditioner is 12 years old. It may need to be replaced before we sell. Our driveway was repaved last year.

For the past two years, few houses in our neighborhood have been on the market. So it is difficult to gage the value of one's own home. This week a house up the street from ours went on the market.

We played a little guesstimate game in the car as to what it was listed for. Kathee guessed $ 325K and I  guessed $ 350K. We were not even close!

So without having a realtor connection how might one evaluate the value of one's own home.

Here's what I did:

First I checked the local MLS:


We've been in this house. I think Kathee viewed it when it was last on the market. Our house is at least this house. We have an extra room (a den that could be a bedroom). 

Second I checked Zillow


The Zillow estimate is $ 23.5K less than ours. 

Finally I checked the county property records


Hennepin County values the above property at $ 21,000 less than ours.

Now just because it is listed at $ xxx,xxxx doesn't mean it will sell for that amount. My own guesstimate on the value of my own home is $ 25,000 less than what this house is listed. So I will need to revisit the MLS site to see if their price is reduced and then after the sale revisit the county website to see the actual sale price. 




Berkshire Hathaway portfolio tracker

CNBC: Berkshire Hathaway portfolio tracker

After my power nap (Des Moines trip ... pervious post), I listend to CNBC for several hours (on Sirius XM.) They mentioned their CNBC: Berkshire Hathaway portfolio tracker. It's worth a look. Above are Berkshire Hathaway's top holdings. The online chart is sortable. A good resource for investors!

Driving back from Des Moines

I had my really exciting (not!) business trip to Des Moines this week. I left Monday at 5:25 a.m. and drove the office there. They wanted me there by 8. I arrived at 10:00 and really didn't miss much of the action.

I'm not that proficient at driving by myself anymore. I like driving with my wife. I'll drive an hour and then she'll drive an hour.

I was really groggy for a portion of the trip yesterday. I tried many things to get alert: listening to really obnoxious rock and roll on Sirius XM Radio for 20 minutes. It did not help. I literally slapped my face multiple times. That helped.

Finally I pulled over at a rest stop (one with parking only ... no facilities). I reclined my seat and opened the windows and power napped for about 20 min. I even got a dream in. I dreamed that Kathee was driving and I was very hot because she had turned off the air conditioner. I woke up angry at her (and also because a fly was buzzing around my face!). (She laughed when I told her I was angry at her in my dream!).

After my nap I was alert for the remaining 2 hours.

8.24.2012

Apple v. Samsung: Good for Apple, Bad for Consumers?

Apple Wins $1 Billion as Jury Finds Samsung Violated Patents

Excerpt:


After the verdict, Apple's lawyers said they will file for a sales injunction against Samsung within the next seven days. The judge in the case set a Sept. 20 hearing on the proposed injunction.

Brian Love, a Santa Clara law school professor, described it as a crushing victory for Apple: "This is the best-case scenario Apple could have hoped for."

In a statement after the verdict, Apple said, "We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it. The mountain of evidence presented during the trail showed that Samsung's copying went far deeper than even we knew ... We applaud the court for finding Samsung's behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn't right."

Samsung also issued a post-verdict statement, saying, "Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer. It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies ... This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims."
Apple's Victory Sends Fear Through Android Ecosystem

Excerpt:


The San Jose, Calif., jury's decision reinforces the Silicon Valley giant's status as the most powerful player in the mobile industry. For other companies, from wireless carriers to hardware manufacturers, that reinforcement may come as unwelcome news. .

.. Friday's verdict may provide a new boost to Microsoft's effort as it seeks to win support from carriers and device manufacturers.

The future of the Android ecosystem is now tinged with uncertainty, with other Android hardware and software designs seen to be vulnerable to lawsuits. "It's got to create some concern for that ecosystem," Baird analyst William Power said. "The legal risks are bound to make a manufacturer think twice."

Microsoft's software, on the other hand, uses an interface of "tiles" that's markedly different from the icon-based concepts in the iPhone and Android. "It is clear that Microsoft has a very different vision for how consumers should be using these devices than Apple did," said Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart. "So if using Android and being sued by Apple and losing is cost-prohibitive, then it actually could push people into Microsoft's camp."
Comment: I was surprised by the verdict. I could say I am happy because I am an Apple stockholder but as my readers know I only have 1 share! I find it hard to comprehend that Microsoft can compete with Apple in the Smartphone market but time will tell. Meanwhile Rimm is effectively dead! Image is from Yahoo Finance article




Home Energy Audit

www.homeenergysquad.net
We had the home energy audit from www.homeenergysquad.net today. Cost - $ 60. They did not find any issues at all. They replaced a bunch of light bulbs with CFL's ... included in the $ 60 cost.

Rare business travel: I was in Des Moines all week on business. Just returning late this afternoon. Less than exciting and I am very tired.

8.18.2012

California, Lawyers and the Food Industry

Lawyers who took on Big Tobacco target food industry

 Excerpts:
More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While they join a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the group of tobacco lawyers is moving aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes. ... The lawyers are being selective about where these suits are filed. Most cases have been filed in California, where consumer protection laws tend to favor plaintiffs.

... “It’s difficult to take some of these claims seriously, for instance, that a consumer was deceived into believing that a chocolate hazelnut spread for bread was healthy for children,” said Kristen E. Polovoy, an industry lawyer at Montgomery McCracken, referring to a lawsuit that two mothers brought against the maker of Nutella. “I think the courts are starting to look at the implausibility of some of these suits.”

... A federal judge in California in 2009 dismissed a case against PepsiCo, which accused the company of false advertising because Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal does not contain real berries. He ruled that “a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist.”
Comment: Anyone dumb enough to believe there is a berry called a "crunch berry" should stay home from the grocery store! The Californication of the legal business! More on the CrunchBerry case.

GM's problems in the "D-Segment"

General Motors Is Headed For Bankruptcy -- Again

 Excerpt:
To help understand why GM keeps losing market share, let’s look at the saga of the Chevy Malibu. The Malibu is GM’s entry in the automobile market’s “D-Segment”.

The D-Segment comprises mid-size, popularly priced, family sedans, like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The D-Segment accounted for 14.7% of the total U.S. vehicle market in 2011, and 21.3% during the first 7 months of 2012.

Because the D-Segment is the highest volume single vehicle class in the U.S., and the U.S. is GM’s home market, it is difficult to imagine how GM could survive long term unless it can profitably develop, manufacture, and market a vehicle that can hold its own in the D-Segment. This is true not only because of the revenue potential of the D-Segment, but also because of what an also-ran Malibu would say about GM’s ability to execute at this time in its history.

GM is in the process of introducing a totally redesigned 2013 Chevy Malibu. It will compete in the D-Segment with, among others, the following: the Ford Fusion (totally redesigned for 2013); the Honda Accord (totally redesigned for 2013); the Hyundai Sonata (totally redesigned for 2011); the Nissan Altima (totally redesigned for 2013); the Toyota Camry (refreshed for 2013); and the Volkswagen Passat (totally redesigned for 2012).

... In a recent speech, Dan Akerson admitted that GM’s powertrain technology had fallen behind that of competitors in some cases. This is illustrated by the Malibu Eco’s EPA gas mileage ratings. At 25 MPG City/37 MPG Highway, the Malibu Eco is not as fuel-efficient as the conventionally-powered 2013 Nissan Altima (27 MPG City/38 MPG Highway).

... In developing the 2013 Malibu, GM decided to shorten the wheelbase by 4.5 inches from that of the previous-generation Malibu, from 112.3 inches to 107.5 inches. This gave the 2013 Malibu the shortest wheelbase in the entire D-Segment.

The Car and Driver comparison-test-winning Passat has a wheelbase of 110.4 inches, which gives it a “unique selling proposition”, the roomiest back seat in the D-Segment. The Passat has combined front and rear legroom totaling 81.5 inches, 3.5 inches more than the Malibu. This may not sound like a lot, but, like baseball, automobile design is “a game of inches”.

... “The game isn’t over until it’s over”, but if President Obama wins reelection, he should probably start giving some serious thought to how he is going to justify bailing out GM, and its unionized UAW workforce, yet again. And, during the current campaign, Obama might want to be a little more modest about what he actually achieved by bailing out GM the first time.
Comment: Image source. Article is a very good read about auto design and also about the government bailout of GM. I'm not in a market for a car (and don't think I will be for 5+ years) but my own take in the D-Segment is that the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima are very nice. We were at the Plymouth Ford dealer this past Spring. I looked at the Taurus (which I would compare in size to my Buick) and the Fusion. Three years ago I rented an Altima and it road well and was comfortable.

Our First LED lamp


Batteries Plus is now carrying a wide assortment of lamps. We picked up one of the above for our string of hall lights in recessed "cans". From Zenaro.

 I am going to try to as much as possible eliminate incandescents if the price point makes sense. We have three areas of our house where one switch will turn on a bank of lights: the kitchen (now all CFLs), the hallway string (1 incandescent, 4 CFLs, and 1 LED), and the lower level family room (now all incandescents).

 The LED above only burns 10 watts. Pricy but could be a saver in the long run.

8.17.2012

"People are dying needlessly," of C. Diff

Far more could be done to stop the deadly bacteria C. diff

Excerpt:


A USA TODAY investigation shows that C. diff is far more prevalent than federal reports suggest. The bacteria is linked in hospital records to more than 30,000 deaths a year in the United States— about twice federal estimates and rivaling the 32,000 killed in traffic accidents. It strikes about a half-million Americans a year.

Yet despite a decade of rising C. diff rates, health care providers and the government agencies that oversee them have been slow to adopt proven strategies to reduce the infections, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and illnesses that could have been prevented, the investigation shows.

... Hospital billing data collected by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that more than 9% of C. diff-related hospitalizations end in death
Comment: USA Today article this week. C. Diff is what laid me low for about 8 months last year.

The end for 'World's Largest Retailer'?

Sears Done Pretending It’s a Retailer
  Excerpt:
The former holder of the title 'World's Largest Retailer' lost $132 million, or $1.25 per share. Revenues fell 6.6% to $9.47 billion. The average analyst estimate was for a loss of 86-cents, in line with what Sears called the "adjusted loss per share".

... Sears is selling off more than 1,100 Hometown and Outlet Stores in a move that could generate up to $500 million. According to streetinsider.com, Lampert is shopping Sears' Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands and has already moved the assets into a separate unit of the company.

Sears shares are strong today because the company is making progress on its liquidation and taking step away from bankruptcy in the process. Lampert isn't telling anyone his larger plan but it seems to involve keeping the stores alive long enough to sell off the company's other assets.

Lampert isn't competing with Wal-Mart. He's competing with the banks and the bears. Whatever finish line he has in mind it would seem he's the winning the race.
Comment: When was the last time you shopped at Sears? I used to use the Sears auto and tire store but that was more than a decade ago. Appliances? Not Sears! Batteries? Not Sears! Tires? Ditto. Clothing? Not Sears. It used to be "the place" for those items.

8.16.2012

What's the difference between Crazy Joe Davola and Crazy Joe Biden?

Crazy Joe Davola appears in The Opera (Seinfeld)

Comment: One is crazy funny ... the other is crazy stupid (and 1st in line!)

Global Finance: World’s 50 Safest Banks

Global Finance: World’s 50 Safest Banks

Comment: Some highlights. Note the Canadian banks:
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RY)
  • Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD)
  • Scotiabank (BNS)
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM)
  • JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
  • U.S. Bancorp (USB)
Not on the list: Wells Fargo. I'm surprised because I regard Wells Fargo as better bank than J P Morgan. Article

Chubb, Cincinnati Financial, and Aflac

3 Insurance Stocks Quietly Raising Dividends Year After Year
Excerpt:
There are, however, a handful of insurance stocks that have been quietly increasing their dividends year after year, decade after decade, exponentially. Like most insurers, their stocks are at fairly modest valuations right now:
Comment: The three:

I like all three of them. Insurance is not exciting stock!

Short war with few fatalities? Wishful thinking!

Israeli minister warns of 30-day war with Iran
  Excerpt:

Matan Vilnai, who is stepping down as home front defence minister to become ambassador to China, said the country was “ready as never before”.

“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” he told the Maariv newspaper.

“It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”

Speculation is growing that Israel is planning a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear programme - or that it is using the question to increase pressure on Barack Obama to launch an American strike.

... Mr Vilnai did not elaborate on how he reached his assessments, but his office relies on intelligence and other assessments about Iranian weapons capabilities and Israeli susceptibility. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has also said the Israeli death toll could be in the range of 500 in such a conflict.

"Just as the citizens of Japan have to realize that they can have earthquakes, so the citizens of Israel have to realize that if they live here, they have to be prepared to expect missiles on the home front," Vilnai said. "It's not pleasant for the home front, but decisions have to be made, and we have to be ready."
Comment: 30 days? ... I'm thinking months! 500 fatalities? My thinking 10,000. I'm not making a case against Israel striking Iran, but I think the numbers are low!

8.15.2012

Was Alexamenos a fool?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Comment: The image above is the famous Alexamenos graffito. Information on this may be found on Wiki (the previous link) and here and here. Jason Sampson sums up the significance of this image:
The earliest known depiction of the crucifixion of Christ is a graffito scratched into stone just years after the Gospel was first preached in Rome. Seen here, it is a rough sketch of a crucified man, but with the head of donkey. A young man has arm raised in reverence or worship. The letters etched below read “Alexamenos worships his god.” It was a common statement of insult, portraying Christians as those who gave their lives in worship to an ass. The Octavius, a very early work of Christian apology answers the common accusation made against Christianity that, The religion of the Christians is foolish, inasmuch as they worship a crucified man, and even the instrument itself of his punishment. They are said to worship the head of an ass . .
In the next chamber, another inscription in a different hand reads in Latin Alexamenos fidelis, meaning "Alexamenos is faithful" or "Alexamenos the faithful". This has been suggested as a riposte, by an unknown party, to the mockery of Alexamenos as represented in the graffito.

I suggest that to believers, the cross is glorious. It represents the payment made to redeem sinners:
  • Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) Galatians 3:13
  • For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:19)
  • knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18,19)
And to unbelievers, we are regarded as fools!

The "CENGAs": "their desire for hope and change has turned to disillusionment and unemployment"

A Romney first: over 40% of youth vote back him

Excerpt:

Zogby has been especially interested in the youth vote this election. In 2008, 66 percent chose Obama over Sen. John McCain,the highest percentage for a Democrat in three decades. But their desire for hope and change has turned to disillusionment and unemployment. Zogby calls them "CENGAs" for "college-educated, not going anywhere." In his latest poll, Obama receives just 49 percent of the youth vote when pitted against Romney, who received 41 percent. In another question, the independent candidacy of Gary Johnson is included, and here Obama wins 50 percent, Romney 38 percent and Johnson 5 percent.
Comment: Obama is breaking the bank by pandering to seniors (the Medicare fears) while laying debt on the next generations.

8.13.2012

"you two whales from Ireland?"

I was in a pub last Saturday night, and drank a few, and noticed two very large women by the bar.

They both had pretty strong accents, so I asked, "Hey, are you two ladies from Ireland?"

One of them chirped saying, "It's WALES, you friggin' idiot!"

So, I immediately apologized and said, "I'm sorry, are you two whales from Ireland ?" That's pretty much the last thing I remember. 

 Comment: sent to to me by a relative

Some people want an IPhone


iPhone 5, Dividend Payout Will Keep Investors Buying Apple

Excerpt:
Apple (AAPL) is testing April highs today on news that the soon-to-be-released next generation iPhone is driving down prices of the iPhone 4S at several national retailers. Investors, however, have not been scared off by the high share price and are buying in anyway, so Breakout welcomed Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions, and asked if there is anything that will frighten them out of the stock.

"I can see a world where you can just continue to buy the stock," says Sozzi, "because you got that dividend check. You're gonna want to go buy more Apple in front of key product launches. The stock could just continue to go higher."

Breakout's Jeff Macke argues that there was nothing wrong with what Apple was doing pre-dividend and "for the first time in their life they actually need cash to develop new product, and they're giving it to me" instead.
Comment: Saturday Kathee asked me what I wanted for my birthday ... I said 1 share of AAPL. I'm happy with the dumb simple one function (make and receive calls) phone that my company has provided me. When I retire, I'm going to have a dumb phone. I don't want to pay for the Smartphone dataplan. I don't need to be that connected.

Do you tithe?

Should We Tithe? A Biblical Analysis of Tithing

Excerpt:

You might find it interesting to know that Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the New Testament writers ever commanded the church to tithe. In fact the only time tithing is ever mentioned in the New Testament is in the context of Israel, or in dealing with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Just as a reminder, the Pharisees were still practicing Judaism. So, if the bible doesn’t command Christians to tithe, what does it tell us to do with our money? I’m glad you asked. Why do Some Say That Tithing is for Today? Some people believe that tithing is still a command for the church today. Let me say first of all that giving ten percent of your income to your church is by no means a bad thing (in fact most Christians don’t even do that!).
Comment: The legal tithe was more like 23% (source):
  1. An annual tithe for the support of the Levites, the tabernacle/temple workers (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:21-24). This was the only visible means of support for them, since they inherited no land when Canaan was conquered under Joshua. The Levites, in turn, passed along a tithe of this tithe to the priests, the highest echelon of worship leaders (Num 18:26).
  2. An annual feast tithe, which apparently went for the support of the house of God and its services (Deut 14:22-27).
  3. A "social ministry" tithe, received every third year, for helping the poor and needy (Deut 14:28; 26:12).
I have literally never heard a Baptist Pastor explain tithing. I've heard quite a bit of guilting from the pulpit (goes like this: "I don't know how much you give but the typical protestant only gives 2%. How much does God love you? (John 3:16). And how much do you love God?" et cetera). For the first half dozen years of my 16 years of pastoring I would have an annual "stewardship" Sunday and encourage people to tithe. One year I got alone in the Denver Seminary library and studied it out. I never again told people to tithe. Often when I say that I don't believe in tithing the listener will conclude that Jim is a miserly tight wad and cheap with giving. It provokes an emotional response. But the truth is, those who give 10% are really not tithing at all.

8.11.2012

Is Romney’s bold move is “a terrible choice”?

Smart Democrats Should Be Worried Excerpt:

Liberal pundits are already fanning out in force to attack and discredit Paul Ryan. Michael Tomasky, who recently wrote a Newsweek cover story calling Mitt Romney a “wimp,” has now decided that Romney’s bold move is “a terrible choice” because Ryan has proven himself to be an extremist on budget issues. No doubt there are many Democrats rubbing their hands in glee in contemplation of reviving some version of the ad that featured an actor playing Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff. But the smarter ones are worried. First, if Ryan is an extremist and his proposals are so unpopular, how has he won election seven times in a Democratic district? His lowest share of the vote was 57 percent — in his first race. He routinely wins over two-thirds of the vote. When Obama swept the nation in 2008, he carried Ryan’s district by four points. But at the same time, Ryan won reelection with 65 percent of the vote, meaning that a fifth of Obama voters also voted for him.
Comment: The infamous "wheelchair"ad above. My view .. a bold choice.

8.10.2012

Jimmy had Billy, Barack has George


Obama's slumdog brother: Meet the hopeless drunk from a Nairobi shanty town who is the U.S. President's BROTHER

Obama's truth problem and "the butterfly in Peking"

WSJ: The Postmodern President - The challenge is finding anything his campaign says that is true. Excerpts:
President Obama spent his formative years in academia, so he's no doubt familiar with postmodernism, the literary theory that rejects objective reality and insists instead that everything is a matter of interpretation and relative "truth." At any rate he's running the first postmodern Presidential campaign, now organized almost exclusively around allegations about his opponent that bear no relation to the observable universe.

... The most important document of this new approach to politics may be this week's now famous TV commercial in which a man on camera accuses Mitt Romney of killing his wife. (The man's late wife, not Ann.) The spot features a Missouri steelworker called Joe Soptic, who recounts how Bain Capital bought his plant and eventually closed it, costing him his job and health benefits. "A short time after that," he says, Ilyona Soptic was diagnosed with cancer. "I don't know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew we couldn't afford the insurance."

... So Mr. Romney is to blame because of decisions he didn't make at a business he didn't run that may or may not have set in train a series of random unconnected events many years apart that included Ilyona Soptic's illness.

Even more culpable is the butterfly in Peking that flapped its wings and forever altered the course of history. At least the Obamateers didn't suggest that Mr. Romney was the direct biological cause of her cancer. Perhaps they are saving that charge for October, given that a routine Democratic theme is that Republicans are in favor of killing people.

After all, the most substantive liberal critique of Paul Ryan's budget is an ad depicting his stand-in literally flinging an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. The other day Nancy Pelosi said the GOP believes there should be "no government role" in food safety and "They do not want to spend money to do that." Therefore the Republican Party is "the E. coli club" that Ms. Pelosi implied wants to poison children.

... The same pattern tessellates across the entire Obama campaign, from former White House counsel Bob Bauer's insinuation in July that Mr. Romney is a "felon," to the Tax Policy Center's white paper that makes up tax details that Mr. Romney has explicitly disowned, to hanging economic claims on the preposterous analysis of a columnist no one has ever heard of, to the President's serial genuflections about Mr. Romney's "sincere beliefs" that neither he nor any other normal person actually hold.
Comment: I suspect that the link is behind the Wall Street Journal paywall but the above quote provides the sense.

They should have robbed a candy store

1 dead, 2 wounded after breaking into SC gun shop Comment: Bert ... thought you would like this

Burning Corn

Livestock farmers still seeking pause in ethanol production

 Excerpt:
Livestock farmers and ranchers seeing their feed costs rise because of the worst drought in a quarter-century are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency waive production requirements for corn-based ethanol.

The Obama administration sees no need for a waiver, siding with corn growers — many of them in presidential election battleground states Iowa and Ohio — who continue to support the mandate.

"If not now, when?" Randy Spronk, a Minnesota pork farmer, said of the EPA's authority to defer the ethanol production requirement when it threatens to severely harm the economy of a state or region. "Everyone should feel the pain of rationing."

Spronk, who is president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, said livestock producers will have to reduce their herds and flocks because feed is becoming scarce and too expensive. Cattlemen and chicken farmers have the same concern.

"We do support the American ethanol industry," said Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "All we are asking for is that competition for that bushel of corn be on a level playing field."

The government, she said, "is picking the ethanol industry to be the winner to get that bushel of corn."

The Renewable Fuel Standard, enacted in 2005 and then significantly expanded in 2007, requires that 13.2 billion gallons of corn starch-derived biofuel be produced in 2012. The intent was to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change and dependence on foreign oil.
Comment: Image source.  The answer is simple - end ethanol subsidies and let the free market reign and determine the most efficient use of corn. Another little known use of corn is to burn in a furnace

"your premiums will go down"

President Obama’s claim that insurance premiums ‘will go down’

 Excerpt:
“The other thing we’ve done is to say, what are the critical needs of small business? A lot of time, one of the biggest challenges is to make sure that you, as a sole proprietor, that you can get health insurance for you and your family. So when you hear about the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — and I don’t mind the name because I really do care. That’s why we passed it. You should know that once we have fully implemented, you’re going to be able to buy insurance through a pool so that you can get the same good rates as a group that if you’re an employee at a big company you can get right now — which means your premiums will go down.”
Comment: Detailed analysis of.

8.09.2012

Matching money with values

Want More Money in Retirement? Spend Less

 Excerpt:
The financial reward of spending less is striking. Steven Sass, associate director at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, offers this example: Say you're 55 years old, and you plan on retiring in ten years. If you save an extra $1,000 a year, you'll have $10,000 plus investment earnings(in today's dollars). So, if your savings earned 4% above inflation -- you'd have about $12,500 (in today's dollars) at retirement. You could then withdraw about $500 a year in retirement, assuming you choose to spend 4% a year above inflation.

Here's the thing: The real return from this strategy comes from cutting spending to enable the extra savings. When you retire, you'll have actually improved your household finances by $1,500 a year: $1,000 in additional accumulated savings plus $500 in income. "As you approach retirement, and it's clearly too late to significantly add to your retirement savings by saving more, moving to a more sustainable standard of living has a much greater effect," says Sass. "The two effects of saving more and spending less could significantly improve your finances."

An emphasis on greater thrift doesn't have to mean living cheaply -- far from it. Instead, thrift or frugality should push us to match our money with our values. In History of the Thrift Movement in America, a 1920 book by Simon William Straus, Straus argues that thrift includes both saving and spending wisely.
Comment: I've got a lot to learn about thrift. I do know that a $ not spent today is money I will be able to live on in retirement. Next step for us ... house downsizing. Probably won't do until the Spring after we retire. Image source

Disconnect: Lolo is Christian, a virgin and naked

Sex and the Single Olympian: Lolo Jones Talks about Her Virginity

Comment: I won't point readers the photo but it was the 2009 ESPN Body issue. And she wonders why people criticize her!

It's like opening a candy bar in public and saying "you can't have it"



Just to make things clear: They want to level Israel!

Iran’s nuclear program designed to ‘finish off’ Israel, Hezbollah MP says

Excerpt:
Hezbollah MP Walid Sakariya told Lebanese television this week that the nuclear weapon Iran is allegedly developing is intended to annihilate Israel.

In a segment recorded and translated by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), Sakariya, also a retired general, told his interviewer on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV Tuesday that should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon it would serve Syrian as well as Iranian interests, namely the eradication of the Jewish state.

“This nuclear weapon is intended to create a balance of terror with Israel, to finish off the Zionist enterprise, and to end all Israeli aggression against the Arab nation,” Sakariya said.

“The entire equation in the Middle East will change,” he asserted.

Iranian officials typically assert that their controversial nuclear program is meant solely for peaceful purposes.
Comment: Israel could strike Iran before the end of the year. (this article is 2 years old!)

How nasty will this campaign be?

'Romney Murdered JonBenét Ramsey,' New Obama Campaign Ad Alleges

Comment: The Onion

Many Chiefs ... Polished Shoes

FBCH Staff Directory

Comment: Not much doctrine, godliness or discernment ... but nice shoes!

8.08.2012

Frugal investing .... saving on costs

5 Ways You're Paying Too Much To Invest

Excerpt:
According to Consumer Reports, a household with two median income earners will likely pay $155,000 in fees to service their 401(k). That's roughly three years of salary for an average worker and although it's reasonable to expect a person to be paid for their services, nobody wants to overpay. That might be what's happening in your investment accounts. How do you know if you're overpaying for your investments? ...
Fees to watch:

  • Expense Ratio: If you own mutual funds, ETFs or closed-end funds in any of your accounts, you're paying for somebody (or a team of somebodies) to manage that investment vehicle. The job of that product is to make you money, but some cost you more than others. The expense ratio tells you what percentage of your investment is taken to administer the product.
  • Loads: Look for no-load mutual funds
  • Financial Advisor: giving away 1.5% or 2% of your year's gains to your advisor is hard to swallow
  • Trading Costs: If you're a retail or part-time trader, you know that every time you trade a stock, bond, ETF, mutual fund or any other product, you have to pay a fee to buy and a fee to sell. On a $10,000 account, you could lose 1% of your gains in trading costs if you trade 142 times, assuming that a trade costs $7.
  • Taxes: If you hold your investment for less than a year, you'll pay short-term capital gains tax of 35%. If you hold an investment for longer than one year, you'll pay 15%. If you withdraw money from your 401(k) prior to age 59 1/2, you'll pay taxes on the gains plus a 10% penalty
Comments:
  • Coming soon ... 401K fees will be disclosed!
  • If one is past 59 1/2 one can roll 401K funds over to an IRA and have both greater investment choices and potentially lower costs. Not for the faint of heart!
  • I don't think a financial advisor is worth 1.5-2% of my assets !
  • Image source