1.31.2013

House Next Door



4250 Cottonwood Lane N

Comment: Our neighbor Shirley has moved in with her daughter and now her home is on the market. We knew it was going on the market and guessed the value at about $ 350,000. It's on the market for nearly $ 75,000 more. Will be interesting to see what it sells for. Hennepin County has it on the tax rolls for $ 338,000.


Below is pick of back of the of house .... red box is corner of back of mine.



Comment: See Guessing the value of one's home. This house was one the market for 1 or 2 weeks and then withdrawn

Wall Street Journal compares Smart Phones


WSJ Comparison

 Comment: Most impressed with the Galaxy S III

1.30.2013

Loretta Lacy: In a hurry on I-90

Speeder caught 4 times -- once at 112 mph -- in a few hours in S. Minn.
Excerpt:


A 49-year-old motorist was stopped for speeding four times in about 2 1/2 hours on a southern Minnesota interstate as she raced in from South Dakota and toward southeastern Wisconsin at speeds topping 110 miles per hour, authorities said Wednesday.

Loretta Lacy, of Sioux Falls, was first stopped on I-90 in Martin County shortly before 2:30 p.m. Friday after witnesses reported her speeding and zipping in and out of traffic, according to the State Patrol.

Lacy was clocked at 112 mph in her 1999 Chrsyler LHS sedan as she passed a state trooper, then was pulled over and ticketed for speeding, no insurance and possession of marijuana, said Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske. A "very, very small amount" of marijuana was confiscated, Roeske said.

Just 20 miles later she was stopped again, this time going 99 mph. She was ticketed again for speeding and no insurance, the patrol said. After Minnesota and Wisconsin patrols were put on the lookout, she was stopped a little more than an hour later in Freeborn County, this time for driving 88 mph and still no insurance -- not that she had time to buy any. Her last ticket before entering Wisconsin came shortly before 5 p.m. for driving 88 in a 70 mph zone.
Comment: Says a lot about her 1999 Chrsyler LHS (file photo from Wiki)


Comments:

  • Interstate 90 in Minnesota: 276 miles (mostly boring I suppose!). At 70 mph one could traverse Minnesota in 4 hours. At 90 in a little more than 3.
  • I've never driven above 80 for sustained periods of time. 75 yes.
  • I've probably done 90 ever now or then in bursts. Mostly unnecessarily
  • I know we have driven on I-90 from I-35 west into South Dakota and from Wisconsin to I-35 but I don't recall ever doing the whole 276 in one trip

You likely have more money than Zimbabwe



Zimbabwe checks its bank balance, finds only $217
Excerpt:


Before you get depressed about the state of your finances, spare a thought for the nation of Zimbabwe, which as of Tuesday had exactly $217 in the bank.

That's 217 dollars, not $217 million or $217 billion.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Tuesday that that was all that was left in the country's public accounts after it paid its civil servants last week, the South African Press Association reported. He told reporters in the capital, Harare, that some of them were probably better off than the state.

After a decade of inflation hit 500 billion percent in 2008 — leading to the issuance of 100 trillion-dollar bills in Zimbabwean currency — the country switched to the U.S. dollar and formed a coalition government in 2009, which the International Monetary Fund credited in September with taming inflation and stabilizing the economy.
Comment: For all interesting Zimbabwe links click here. Be sure to find my favorite "When you cannot flush your money "

1.29.2013

Retirement nest egg .... half a million short!



Boomers' Average Nest Egg Is $500,000 Short: Study
Excerpt:
Baby Boomers, forget about retirement. We'll be working for the rest of our lives. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but not by much. We have not saved enough money. And worse, many of us will still be up to our eyeballs in debt when we do retire. We're just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. According to Boomers and Retirement, a new survey by TD Ameritrade, the average Baby Boomer is about a half-million dollars short on retirement savings. And 74 percent of Boomers in the survey say they will have to rely heavily on Social Security in retirement. (The average Social Security check, by the way, is $1,230 a month.)
Comment: My problem is knowing how much is enough. So the article ... "$ 500 K short" ... and I am wondering "short of how much"? Is a million enough? $ 600K? I think we will have enough. I think my SS check if I retired today would be above the average by a bit.

Mali: how quagmires begin



Mali: Here We Go Again - Obama's inauguration speech drops hints at further overseas involvement
Excerpt:
In testimony before Senate and House committees, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enthusiastically endorsed increased U.S. intervention in Africa. When government officials seem incapable of learning obvious lessons from the recent past, maybe their incentive is not to learn but to keep doing the same destructive things.

President Obama’s inaugural speech contained this line, which has gone quite overlooked: “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad.”

That’s a recipe for perpetual war and perpetual fiscal crisis.

The latest locale for American intervention is the west African country of Mali. Aside from whatever covert activity the U.S. government may be conducting there, the American role is said to consist of logistical support for France, Mali’s former colonial overlord, which has intervened militarily to defend a central corrupt government. (The deadly hostage-takings in Algeria may have been retaliation for France’s action.) As The New York Times reports, “The Pentagon is airlifting a French battalion to join the fight in Mali against Islamist militants, Pentagon and administration officials said.” Ominously, the Times adds, “The airlift expands the involvement of the United States in support of a NATO ally, but officials stressed that the American military footprint on the ground in Mali would remain small.” That is, there’s already an American footprint on the ground.
Comment: I'm not an isolationist but unless we carefully prioritize what is really in our national interest we will have "perpetual war and perpetual fiscal crisis". Consider also Why France Can't Fight.

Happy 20th Birthday - SPY ETF


ETFs Mark 20th Anniversary: A Look at the Market’s Hottest New Product
Excerpt:
On a cold January day 20 years ago, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovering at about 3,300, a team of investors from State Street Bank (STT) unveiled their new creation to the denizens of Wall Street: the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). They now describe the launch of the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) on this day in 1993 as "the one that started it all," calling the debut of the Spider (short for S&P Depositary Receipt) "an investment product that gave people a more precise way to buy and sell an entire index, but could be traded like a stock." It took some time for ETFs to catch on, but when they did the once lonesome Spider paved the way for what is now a $1.4 trillion industry with more than 1,400 different funds.
Comment: More on SPY here, here, and here. My first three ETF's: SPY, DIA, and QQQ.

Kim Jong IL and the magical hummingbird



Comment: HT: Bored Panda. Image credits: imgur. He had an ordinary death!

January's "Great Rotation"

Fund Outflows? Blame the 'Cliff'
Excerpt:

The first few weeks of 2013 have seen a stark shift in investor attitudes in favor of stocks, a trend being dubbed the "Great Rotation," that has helped push U.S. benchmarks to around five-year highs. So far this month, investors have added a net $55 billon to stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds—a monthly record—according to TrimTabs Investment Research.

... In the fourth quarter, contentious negotiations in Congress to avert looming spending cuts and tax increases cast a pall over the stock market, driving the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index down 1% and causing investors to pull their money out of the stock market. That hurt results even at historically strong performers like T. Rowe Price.

... Across all types of T. Rowe Price funds, investors pulled a net $4.2 billion in the fourth quarter, its first quarter of net outflows since the third quarter of 2011. Assets under management still inched up 0.4% to end the quarter at $576.8 billion, as $6.6 billion in market gains offset the fund withdrawals. Institutional accounts outside the U.S. were responsible for a large chunk of outflows, losing a net $3.8 billion. But T. Rowe's mutual-fund business also took a rare hit, seeing a net $1.4 billion withdrawn from its stock and blended-asset funds.

... Waddell & Reed also saw investors flee its mutual funds in the fourth quarter, although at less of a degree than some analysts expected. The company reported fourth quarter outflows of $165 million, far less than the $400 million Sandler O'Neill analyst Michael Kim was expecting, for instance.
Comment: Explains the strong January in the stock market

1.28.2013

Brazil's Cocoanut Grove


Fire rips through crowded Brazil nightclub, killing 233
Excerpt:
"It was a really complicated scene. A lot of smoke, a lot of shoes that was left, cell phones, because everybody tried to get out of there running," he said. "While we were there, we saw the cell phones were ringing. It was parents, friends, trying to know about what was happening and nobody was answering." A fire swept through the packed, popular nightclub in Santa Maria early Sunday, killing at least 233 people -- enough to fill a large plane -- Brazilian Health Minister Alexandro Padilha told reporters. Of those, 185 have been identified so far. Many apparently died from smoke inhalation. Others were trampled in the rush for the exits, one security guard told Band News. More than 90 people were hospitalized, Padilha said, including 14 patients with severe burns. About 2,000 people were inside the club when the fire broke out -- double the maximum capacity of 1,000, said Guido de Melo, a state fire official.
Comment: For a long long time I've had an adversion to crowds. I do not attend our church's musical events because the auditorium is packed. I do not like crowded restaurants or theaters (about 6 times a year I'll take in a movie). More on the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire. In my youth and in my city (although we were living in Pittsburgh at the time) there was the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. Image above is from the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. My adversion to crowds has grown since I broke my neck.

1.27.2013

Donald Hornig, Last to See First A-Bomb, passes



Donald Hornig, Last to See First A-Bomb, Dies at 92
Excerpt:


In a small shed at the top of a 100-foot-tall steel tower deep in the New Mexico desert, Donald Hornig sat next to the world’s first atomic bomb in the late evening of July 15, 1945, reading a book of humorous essays.

A storm raged, and he shuddered at each lightning flash. It was his second trip to the tower that day as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret American effort to build an atomic bomb.

He had earlier armed the device, code-named Trinity, connecting switches he had designed to the detonators. But J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the project, had grown nervous about leaving the bomb alone. He told Dr. Hornig to return to the tower and baby-sit the bomb.

A little after midnight, the weather had improved, and Dr. Hornig was ordered down from the tower. He was the last man to leave and the last to see the weapon before it changed human history. A little more than five miles away, Dr. Oppenheimer and others waited in a bunker to see if the device they called “the gadget” would actually go off.

After Dr. Hornig joined them, he took his position for his next task: placing his finger on a console switch that when pressed would abort the blast, should anything appear awry. The countdown began, his finger at the ready.

The bomb was detonated at 5:29:45 a.m. on July 16 as Dr. Hornig and the others watched from the bunker. He later remembered the swirling orange fireball filling the sky as “one of the most aesthetically beautiful things I have ever seen.”
Comment: How he became involved in Manhattan Project:

Well, immediately after I finished my Ph.D. I went down to Woods Hole where we had set up a laboratory. All my biographies say it was the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, but in fact that was just the home for a small laboratory on one of the small islands, Nonamesset, for testing or studying explosives--the detonation of explosives in air. I worked there through a rather dismal winter (Woods Hole is not a good place in the winter, it's a gorgeous spot in the summer). In the spring I had to make the next real decision in my life on the basis of absolutely no evidence. It was a rather interesting affair because the director of the laboratory grabbed me by the arm one day and said, "Come up to the attic." And I went up there and he said, "How would you like to leave this job?" And I said, "What the matter? Have I done something wrong?" And he said, "No, you've been requested for another job." And I said, "Oh, that's interesting. Who requested me?"' He said, "Well, I can't tell you that." And I said, "What kind of a job is it?" And he said, "Well, I can't tell you anything about it. It's a very secret matter." I said, "Well, what part of the country is it in?" He said, "I can't tell you that." "Well, can you at least tell me north, east, south, west, what have you?" He said, "I can't tell you that either." And I said, "Is it connected in some way with what I am doing now?" And he said, "I can't tell you that." And after a little bit more of this sort of thing, I said, "Well, I don't know how I can say anything on this basis." And he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, Don, you take your time and think it over very, very carefully and let me know what you want to do tomorrow morning."

So I thought about it and said, "On the basis of this information, no, I'm not interested. Unless you tell me that the war requires that I do it, that it's a matter of sufficient urgency." And he said, "Well, I can't take that responsibility." Well, that is typical of the security in the war. Later in the day the lab intercom said very loudly that I had a call from Santa Fe, New Mexico from Kistiakowsky, and Kistiakowsky said, "What the hell is going on down there? Everyone's mad that you said no. You are the first person that has said no." So I explained to him that his call had helped me a great deal already. A little while later Conant called me from Washington and wanted to know what the devil was going on. Was I unpatriotic? "Remember, Hornig, Uncle Sam is pointing his finger at you." I never forgave him for that remark, but it's a point. So, anyway, we went out to Los Alamos in the spring of '44. When I got there I found that despite all the urgency, I didn't have much to do because my main job was to plan for testing the device. The only trouble was that the device had not only not been built yet, but there was no material to build it with. In fact, it was still quite a ways off.




1.25.2013

Motel Caswell and the limits of Government authority

Court Rejects Justice Department Seizure of Motel
Excerpt:


A federal judge rejected the Justice Department's effort to seize a family-owned motel in Tewksbury, Mass., a decision that could rein in the federal government's power to seize private property.

The government argued the property, known as the Motel Caswell, was forfeitable because it had been connected to criminal activity, in this case 15 drug-related incidents that took place between 1994 and 2008. The Caswell family, which owns the motel through a trust, said it had nothing do with the drug activities.

In a sometimes scathing ruling, which for now halts the civil action brought by the federal government, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein said the federal government "had not met its burden of proving a substantial connection between the Motel Caswell and the forfeitable crimes, and, therefore, has not met its burden of proving that the Property is forfeitable."

The judge added that the motel's proprietor, Russell Caswell, of Tewksbury, Mass., did meet his "burden of proving the innocent owner defense."
Comment: Obviously (read the reviews) a seedy place but an important ruling

Financial Accounts one should regularly check



5 Financial Accounts You Should Check Every Week
The five most important accounts to examine every week are:


  1. credit card
  2. cell phone bill
  3. online checking account
  4. retirement account
  5. budget account software (such as Mint.com)
Comments: My recommendation:

  1. Credit cards(s) - Check daily. See Fraud: Nip it in the bud.
  2. Cell phone bill - I don't have a personal cell phone but checking frequently seems like a good idea
  3. Online checking account(s) - I check daily
  4. Retirement account - I check on the Saturday after our bi-weekly paycheck (sometimes less often but probably at least once a month)
  5. Budget account software - we use Yodlee (which having used Mint, I recommend over it!). I check this weekly to validate categorizations
  6. Credit score: I check quarterly using MyFico. There are other free services ... check right hand column of this blog for one source.
  7. HSA(s): I check monthly to validate



Challenging the Government's right to determine the Individual's "need"

Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm†
Excerpt:


Many are opposed to private ownership of firearms, and their opposition comes under several heads. Their specific objections are answerable retail, but a wholesale response is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. On a lower level of abstraction, there are more than 2 million instances a year of the armed citizen deterring or stopping armed criminals; a number four times that of all crimes involving firearms.

The Left loves a phantom statistic that a firearm in the hands of a citizen is X times more likely to cause accidental damage than to be used in the prevention of crime, but what is there about criminals that ensures that their gun use is accident-free? If, indeed, a firearm were more dangerous to its possessors than to potential aggressors, would it not make sense for the government to arm all criminals, and let them accidentally shoot themselves? Is this absurd? Yes, and yet the government, of course, is arming criminals.

Violence by firearms is most prevalent in big cities with the strictest gun laws. In Chicago and Washington, D.C., for example, it is only the criminals who have guns, the law-abiding populace having been disarmed, and so crime runs riot.

Cities of similar size in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and elsewhere, which leave the citizen the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in the Constitution, typically are much safer. More legal guns equal less crime. What criminal would be foolish enough to rob a gun store? But the government alleges that the citizen does not need this or that gun, number of guns, or amount of ammunition.
Comment: Author David Mamet. Image source. Consider the "Fence Test"





If you ever wondered which side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a Republican doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a Democrat doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a Republican is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a Democrat is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a Republican is homosexual, he quietly leads his life. If a Democrat is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a Republican is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A Democrat wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a Republican doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Democrats demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a Republican is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A Democrat non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced.


If a Republican decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A Democrat demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a Republican reads this, they'll forward it so their friends can have a good laugh. A Democrat will delete it because he's "offended".

Shakedown and intimidation


Corporate Cash Financing Obama 501c4
Excerpt:


Only in its first week of operation, the Obama campaign 501(c)4 is soliciting financing from major corporations like Lockheed Martin, Citi, and Duke Energy, Politico reports. President Obama’s reelection campaign formally announced its rebirth as “Organizing for Action,” a tax-exempt 501(c)4 on Sunday. With that designation, the group is able to accept unlimited donations and is not required to disclose the identities of those donors, though OFA says they will do so.
Emanuel To Banks: Stop Supporting Gun Makers
Excerpt:


In a letter sent Friday to the CEOs of Bank Of America and TD Bank, Emanuel said: “In the past, the gun industry has stood in opposition to these safety measures. They opposed a ban on assault weapons on America’s streets, opposed a ban on military-style clips, opposed a criminal background check on all gun purchases and opposed any effort to crack down on criminal gun traffickers.”

In the letter, Emanuel says TD Bank offers a $60 million line of credit to Smith & Wesson, which produces the AR-15. That is the weapon used by James Holmes in the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre that killed 12 people. Emanuel wrote. Emanuel told CEO Bharat Masrani “to use your influence to push this company to find common ground” on an assault weapons ban and gun background checks.

In a separate letter, Emanuel urged Bank Of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan to do the same thing with Sturm, Ruger & Co., which has a $25 million line of credit with the bank.
Comment: Image source. SWHC and RGR. These are legitimate businesses who have every right to have a business relationship with the bank of their choice. And the banks have the right to do business with these American icons! Earlier this week Chuck Schumer called the NRA Is 'A Fringe Group'. I sense we are seeing a Nazification of the Democratic party!



1.24.2013

Ode to “Parka of Kim Jong Il during his field guidance”

North Korea's poets of propaganda stay true to their muse despite world's laughter
Excerpt:
"His parka was that of a great father, with which he kept all the people on this land from snow, rain and cold,”
Comment: I have an old LLBean wool shirt that is thread-bare in back.


Red and black checks it is ... the wife tried to trash ... it will be kept and worn .... else the woman will be thrashed!

1.23.2013

3M stock reaches all-time high: $99.67

3M stock reaches all-time high: $99.67
Excerpt:


3M Co.'s stock reached an all-time high Wednesday as investors awaited fourth-quarter results due Thursday. The Maplewood-based conglomerate struck $99.67 a share by midafternoon Wednesday before closing at $99.49. The stock has climbed 16 percent in the last year, silencing naysayers who worried that economic woes abroad could thwart a surge in the company's share price. Instead, analysts said investors were impressed that 3M recently reset earnings expectations to more reasonable levels. As a result, many are now looking ahead and betting on more achievable results for the second half of 2013. Others believe 3M could benefit from the weakening U.S. dollar, which typically makes prices of U.S. products cheaper abroad, analysts said. 3M, the $30 billion maker of Scotch tape, Post-it Notes, respirators, adhesives and thousands of other products, generates about 66 percent of its sales outside the United States. The last time 3M's stock traded near $100 a share was in July 2011, when it hit $97.97 a share. The recent bullrun in price comes despite 3M's restrained guidance reports over the last few months.
Comment: I think it is because my daughter works there!

The School of Hard Knocks

School of Hard Knocks
Excerpt:
The School of Hard Knocks or University of Hard Knocks is an idiomatic phrase meaning the (sometimes painful) education one gets from life's usually negative experiences, often contrasted with formal education. The term is frequently misattributed to George Ade, but was actually coined by Elbert Hubbard in a piece he wrote on himself for Cosmopolitan in 1902. The term was re-popularized by the song "It's the Hard Knock Life" from the 1977 musical adaptation of Annie, which chronicles the life of poor, uneducated orphans.
Comments:
  • The Tuition is very high!
  • The Program is long
  • The Completion date is indeterminate
  • Students are often hardheaded!

1099-DIV: Qualified vs. Ordinary Dividends

Comment: I don't think I have every really understood the difference. This is what I found out.

Ordinary Dividends

Excerpt:
A share of a company's profits passed on to the shareholders on a periodic basis. Ordinary dividends are taxed as ordinary income and are reported on Line 9a of the Schedule B of the Form 1040. All dividends are considered ordinary unless they are specifically classified as qualified dividends.
Qualified Dividend

Excerpt:
A type of dividend to which capital gains tax rates are applied. These tax rates are usually lower than regular income tax rates. Ordinary dividends that do not qualify for this tax preference are taxed at an individual's normal income tax rate. In order to qualify:
  1. The dividend must have been paid by an American company or a qualifying foreign company.
  2. The dividends are not listed with the IRS as dividends that do not qualify.
  3. The required dividend holding period has been met.
More from Fidelity: Qualified Dividends
Qualified dividends are generally dividends from domestic corporations and certain qualified foreign corporations for which the requisite holding period(s), described below, are satisfied. ... Requisite holding periods: Dividend–paying stock — In order for a dividend you received during the 2012 tax year (1/1/12 – 12/31/12), with respect to a share of stock, to be classified as a qualified dividend, you must have held that share of stock unhedged for at least 61 days out of the 121–day period that began 60 days before the ex–dividend date. For certain preferred stock, the relevant holding period is at least 91 days out of the 181–day period beginning 90 days before the ex–dividend date.

My summary explanation:
  • Qualified dividends are taxed at a lower rate
  • Qualification is a function of the ex-dividend date and the length of time one has held the stock.
  • My broker keeps track of (Wells Trade) and reports on the 1099-DIV 

On Suffering

Categories of Suffering (Elihu's message to Job):
  1. Preventive Suffering: Suffering may prevent one from error. Job 33:16-17,29-30
  2. Corrective Suffering: Suffering may chasten the believer. Job 33:19
  3. Educational Suffering: Suffering teaches humility and patience. Job 35:12-14
  4. Glorification Suffering: In suffering, God is glorified when His work is displayed. Job 36:22-26 ... compare John 9:1-3
  5. Revelational Suffering: Suffering helps one gain a deeper understanding of Gods' love, mercy and grace. Job 36:1-16 and Job 33:26-30
  6. Organizational Suffering: Suffering helps one to prioritze what is important. Job 37:7; 33:30
  7. Relational Suffering: Suffering helps us related to God in prayer. Job 33:26; 34:28
  8. Judgmental Suffering: Suffering may be the result of sin. Job 34:21-30
  9. Proclaiming Suffering: Even in suffering God is Just (Job 34:10-15), Pure (Job 34:10), and cannot be manipulated (Job 35:4-8)
Comment: From John Wivell in our ABF this past Sunday. I found it helpful and pass on to all of us who have suffering, are suffering, or will soon be suffering!

Apple tanks - Check out Afterhours!

Apple Plunges $50 On Short Revenue -- Bye Bye Cook, Hello Ivey
Excerpt:
Apple (AAPL) reported financial results after Wednesday’s market close that fell short of expectations. In after-hours trading the stock is down $32. And this raises questions about whether Apple, under its former supply chain guru, has lost its ability to innovate.
Comment: Glad I just have 1 share! Better Times

Burt's Bees and Bag Balm

Comment: When the weather is this cold .. the air is so dry ... and one's skin really dries out. Here's what works

For the hands (absorbs quickly and is not greasy)   Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream There is also a banana product: Beeswax & Banana Hand Cream   For calf, arms and elbows (but wear a long-sleeve shirt!).  Bag Balm



The S&P 500 at 1,500?

As S&P 500 Flirts With 1,500, a Look at Past Visits
Excerpts:
The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index is within a flutter of reaching 1,500, a level it attained only twice before on the way up, in March 2000 and May 2007.

... In 2000, the market was vastly overvalued, with bubble-grade multiples on largely illusory or over-inflated corporate profits. The S&P traded at nearly 30-times the prior year’s earnings when it got to 1,500, and the total U.S. stock market was worth a towering 180% of U.S. gross domestic product. This excessively expensive starting point largely explains the subsequent decade’s negative return on stocks. At the time, 10-year Treasuries yielded better than 6%, offering an excellent alternative for the few who saw it as such at the time.

In 2007, the market was at 18-times earnings, higher than the historical average of around 15, and a touch higher than the present P/E of 17-times the past year’s reported earnings.

By these gauges, the present valuation is neither enticingly cheap nor resoundingly expensive. If 2013 analyst forecasts are reached, which is no sure thing, the market is at a forward multiple near 14, still above average but in a zone where valuation would neither be an impediment to additional upside nor a comforting cushion to absorb any economic setbacks.

At least two things stand out as supportive factors for today’s S&P 500 at the 1,500 mark. First, today’s market contains fewer obvious imbalances. The 2000 market was distended nearly beyond recognition by the bubbly values, silly business models and capital destruction of the tech sector. In 2007, financial earnings had peaked near 40% of total index profits, and they’d soon be reversed as massive credit losses in the bust.

Today, the market isn’t clearly dependent on a single sector. Seven of the S&P’s 10 industry sectors today account for at least 10% of the index’s market value each, compared to five in 2007 and three in 2000. True, low rates are the common prop to profits in the consumer area and have slashed borrowing costs for all companies, but low rates are also penalizing financial-company profits.
Comment: I wasn't investing much back in 2000. Kathee had been in a 401K for 8 years and me for 6 years. I've felt for a long time that I need the S&P 500 to be above 1,500 for me to retire. Monthly S&P 500 index from my birthday (1949)

Update on 1/24/13 - Milestone reached


1.22.2013

Do People, by Nature, Have a Free Will to Come to Christ?

Do People, by Nature, Have a Free Will to Come to Christ?
Excerpt:

Does any person, by nature, have a free will to come to faith in Jesus Christ? No. The Bible declares that we were all held captive by our corruptions, Satan and the world. That is why Paul prays for unbelievers, "…if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Now if we were held captive to do someone else’s will then it is clear that our will was not free, and according to the above passage, freedom comes to an individual only when God grants it. Likewise when Jesus promises freedom to the captives to sin, He says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) And again, in like manner Paul declares that "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) We would only do ourselves harm if left to our own boasted free will.

Notice the word "perhaps" before praying for God to grant them repentance. This clearly reveals that in Paul's mind, God did not do so for everyone. This granting of repentance was only for those the Father has "given" the Son (John 6 & 17) Likewise Jesus does not say "when the Son sets you free" but rather "IF the Son sets you free..."
Comment: Good read

Microsoft & Dell?


Microsoft buying a chunk of Dell would be smart (for Microsoft)
Excerpt:


The move would make strategic sense for Microsoft. The software giant invested heavily in Windows 8, but PC and tablet sales are lackluster so far -- particularly in the low end of the laptop market, which goes head-to-head with the blockbuster iPad.

With Dell directly under its influence, Microsoft could pressure the PC maker to produce Windows 8 devices that more closely align with its vision.

"I think Microsoft has identified this is an issue and is trying to have more say in its destiny," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. "It's clear that Microsoft wants to be more aggressive in controlling and directing the hardware ecosystem for PCs."

Microsoft's strategy is evident in the Surface, the first PC of its own design. But having a say in Dell's affairs could also give Microsoft the ability to head off its rivals.
Microsoft May Back Dell Buyout

The effort to take Dell private has gained a prominent, if unusual, backer: Microsoft. The software giant is in talks to help finance a takeover bid for Dell that would exceed $20 billion, a person briefed on the matter said on Tuesday.

Microsoft is expected to contribute up to several billion dollars. An investment by Microsoft — if it comes to pass — could be enough to push a leveraged buyout of the struggling computer maker over the goal line. Silver Lake, the private equity firm spearheading the takeover talks, has been seeking a deep-pocketed investor to join the effort. And Microsoft, which has not yet made a commitment, has more than $66 billion in cash on hand.

... So why not just buy all of Dell, as Google did with Motorola? That's too big a risk, analysts say. "Microsoft shouldn't be perceived as favoring one hardware maker over another," said Ronald Gruia, principal consultant at Frost & Sullivan. "That's the last thing Microsoft needs." Taking a stake could be enough to help mold Microsoft's vision for Windows. For Dell, though, having to serve Microsoft as its overlord might not play out so well.

Comment: Not convinced this is a good move for Microsoft

When John Piper took an abortionist out to lunch



We Know They Are Killing Children—All of Us Know
Excerpt:


I took an abortionist out to lunch once, prepared to give him ten reasons why the unborn are human beings. He stopped me, and said, “I know that. We are killing children.” I was stunned. He said, “It’s simply a matter of justice for women. It would be a greater evil to deny women the equal right of reproductive freedom.” Which means women should be no more encumbered by the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy than men. That equal freedom from the burden of bearing unwanted children is the basis for abortion that President Obama refers to again and again when he talks about equal rights for women. We know we are killing children.
Comment: Aren't you glad your Mother didn't abort you!

Sheriff Tim Rodenberg on Gun Control

Comment: I went to high school with Sheriff A.J. "Tim" Rodenberg, Jr.. Click image for larger viewing.

1.20.2013

On Keeping Guns away from Felons and "Nut Cases"



Murderous 'monster' acquires an arsenal
Excerpt:


They knew the Delano house far too well. It was where Christian Philip Oberender, then 14 years old, had murdered his mother in a shotgun ambush in the family rec room in 1995.

Now, 18 years later, Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson was sending his deputies back to the home where Oberender still lives. Just two days earlier, Olson had scanned the day's shift reports and froze when he tripped over Oberender's name. A scan of a Facebook page then showed firearms spread out like a child's trophies on a bed inside the home, along with notes about the Newtown, Conn., gunman who shot 20 children to death.

What Olson's deputies found in the home was chilling: 13 guns, including semi-automatic rifles, an AK-47, a Tommy gun, assorted shotguns and handguns, including a .50-caliber Desert Eagle.

Even more disturbing was the letter Oberender had written recently to his late mother, Mary: "I am so homicide,'' it said in broken sentences. "I think about killing all the time. The monster want out. He only been out one time and someone die.''

Today, Oberender sits in a Carver County jail cell on a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms. And Olson, who investigated the 1995 murder as a young detective, finds his investigators at the center of a case that exposes the dangerous loopholes in the nation's gun laws and Minnesota's system of criminal background checks.

Even though Oberender killed his mother with a firearm, even though he was committed to the state hospital in St. Peter as mentally ill and dangerous more than a decade ago, he was able to obtain a permit to purchase firearms last May. That piece of paper gave Oberender, now 32, the ability to walk into any licensed Minnesota retailer and buy any assault weapon or pistol on the rack.

Dozens of other Minnesotans judged by a court to be mentally ill have also found that designation no barrier to obtaining deadly weapons.
Comments:

  • I'm ok with gun background checks. (I've been through that myself!)
  • I'm ok with fingerprinting and adding that ....
  • And I am OK with linking in the SS # if that information is kept secure (to prevent ID theft)
  • Felons should not have guns. NEVER!
  • This kid .. who murdered his Mother! ... should never have been permitted to acquire guns


On the value of Community Colleges



Community Colleges: Higher Ed, Lower Cost
Excerpt:


Like Martinez, millions of Americans are choosing community college -- and for nearly as many reasons. In addition to being cheaper and shorter than traditional four-year universities, community colleges offer degrees in vocations with a more practical bent, including automotive technology, business administration, computer information systems and nursing.

Community college enrollment makes up a sizable chunk of higher education in the U.S. The American Association of Community Colleges represents 1,132 community colleges, and students at these schools were 44% of the entire U.S. population of undergraduates in 2009. These colleges have been around for decades, but as millions of workers remain unemployed, many available jobs go unfilled and the cost of a post-high school education balloons, they're being viewed in new ways.

Martinez, for example, is among the almost 13,000 credit-seeking and 8,000 continuing education students at Brookhaven, whose campus is located just northwest of Dallas. The college, founded in 1978, is one of seven members of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD). As is the case with community colleges across the country, Brookhaven offers classes for first- and second-year students that can go toward an associate degree or a transfer to a bachelor's program. Along with general college courses, it has a host of technical and professional programs for students who want to learn a skill and get to work quickly.
Comment: Community College grads in our family:

  • Dave White (Kathee's brother):(Graduated with an Associates degree from  Saint Petersburg Community College). Bachelors in Engineering from University of Florida)
  • Carol (Kathee's sister):  (Graduated with an Associates degree from  Saint Petersburg Community College). Bachelors in Education  from University of Florida)
  • Dan White (Kathee's brother): (Graduated with an Associates degree from  Saint Petersburg Community College). Bachelors in Physical Therapy from University of Florida)
  • Kathee: (Graduated with an Associates degree from  Saint Petersburg Community College). Bachelors in Math from Florida State)
  • My two sons: AA degrees. One with Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota, the other about to graduate with a Bachelor's in Finance and Accounting
  • My Brother: AA. Bachelors from the University of Cincinnati
Final comments: Accreditation matters. And regional accreditation is crucial. 


President Obama's inauguration w Lady Gaga

AP Source: Inaugural Ball to Feature Lady Gaga
Excerpt:


Watch out Beyonce and Katy Perry. There's another diva set to perform during the inauguration festivities — Lady Gaga. A person familiar with the inauguration tells The Associated Press that the pop star will perform at Tuesday's ball for White House staffers. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because that person wasn't authorized to publicly reveal the information.
Comment: So much for Obama being against gun violence. I spared my readers by covering up her *ss.

1.19.2013

Remembering Stan "the Man"

Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial Dies at Age 92
Excerpt:


Stan Musial, one of baseball's greatest hitters and a Hall of Famer with the St. Louis Cardinals for more than two decades, has died. He was 92. Stan the Man won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s. The Cardinals announced Mr. Musial's death in a news release. They said he died Saturday evening at his home surrounded by family. Musial was so revered in St. Louis, two statues of him stand outside Busch Stadium. He spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team 24 times — baseball held two All-Star games each summer for a few seasons.
Comment: My memory. August 19th, 1961 (my 12th birthday). At old Crosley Field . My parents gifted me with tickets for my birthday. My brother and I knew then how special it was to see Stan play. Boxscore (note the game time was 2 hours, 7 minutes)


1.18.2013

Quick cool beverage



HT: 40 Life Hacks That Will Change Your Life

Comment: I'm going to give this a try. 39 more but this was the only one I found interesting Update on 1/22/13: I had the wrong link. Sorry ... corrrected. Here's another one about quick cooling a beverage.

Siwei is Caterpillar's Autonomy



Caterpillar writes off most of China deal after fraud
Excerpt:


Caterpillar Inc uncovered "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" at a subsidiary of a Chinese company it acquired last summer, leading it to write off most of the value of the deal and wipe out half a quarter's profits.

Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of tractors and excavators, said on Friday it would take a noncash goodwill impairment charge of $580 million, or 87 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Analysts had expected the company to earn $1.70 per share in the fourth quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.

Caterpillar closed the purchase of ERA Mining Machinery Ltd and its subsidiary Siwei last June, paying HK$5.06 billion, or $653.4 million at current exchange rates.

A member of the Caterpillar board during the course of the Siwei deal told Reuters the board was distracted at the time by a larger transaction and paid relatively little attention to the Siwei acquisition.

"It came as a complete surprise to us," the former board member said of the fraud, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. "It was presented to us as a pretty straightforward transaction. It's a shame. It should have been investigated further."

In a statement, Caterpillar said an ongoing investigation launched after the deal closed "determined several Siwei senior managers engaged in deliberate misconduct beginning several years prior to Caterpillar's acquisition of Siwei."
Comment: HP's Autonomy mess.

Remember the actual death of Lizzy Seeberg?



WSJournal

But perhaps the strangest and queasiest thing about the ubiquity of this spectacularly strange and queasy story is how much more attention the imaginary death of Te’o's imaginary girlfriend has received than the actual death of Lizzy Seeberg. Seeberg accused a Notre Dame football player whose name was never made public and who was never charged of sexual assault in 2010. She later committed suicide after an alleged campaign of harassment by players and school officials. A campus disciplinary hearing on the sexual assault charges took place, and the player was found “not responsible.”
Notre Dame Scandal: Family of Lizzy Seeberg Speaks Out
Excerpt:


The parents of the college freshmen who committed suicide after claiming she'd been assaulted by a Notre Dame football player feel betrayed by the university that's been attended by generations of their family members. "This isn't a matter of someone stealing a laptop or a beer bust, this is a very serious allegation," said Tom Seeberg, father of Lizzy Seeberg. "This started in September, there were still leaves on trees and here we are with snowstorms and as I say, here we are." Lizzy, a 19-year-old student at Notre Dame's sister school, St. Mary's College, took her life Sept. 10, days after she reported to university police that she'd been improperly touched by a football player on the night of August 31.
Comment: Also Reported sexual assault at Notre Dame campus leaves more questions than answers

Meanwhile: More on the Manti Te'o story:
Manti Te'o in his own words


SI: How do you want her to be remembered?

TE'O: Lennay was so special. Her relationship with the heavenly father was so strong. She's so humble, hard working. And her main thing was her family. Her family was everything to her. As long as she took care of her family. And as long as she knew that her relationship with our heavenly father was strong, she had faith that everyone would work out. With her it was just always loving God and her family. I was just blessed to be part of that.
Comment: Media should not ignore a real young woman who really lived and died!








Biden fudges school massacre connection

Biden’s claim of brush with gun massacre questioned
Excerpt:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s claim that he heard the gunshots of a 2006 school massacre while playing golf is raising questions about his veracity or his memory.

Mr. Biden told a meeting of mayors in Washington Thursday that he was about a quarter-mile away from an Amish schoolhouse on Oct. 2, 2006, when a gunman shot and killed five students and wounded five others.

“I happened to be literally — probably, it turned out, to be a quarter of a mile [away] at an outing when I heard gunshots in the woods,” Mr. Biden recounted. “We didn’t know … we thought they were hunters.”

But a search of maps of the area in Lancaster County, Pa., shows the nearest golf course to the site of the shooting, Moccasin Run Golf Club, is about five miles away. Rodney King, the golf pro at Moccasin Run, said Friday he was working at the course on the day of the shooting and never saw Mr. Biden, who was then a U.S. senator.

“There’s a lot of things here that I find hard to believe,” Mr. King said. “I looked in my database, and he [Mr. Biden] is not in my database.”
Comment: I tend to think that lying is a foundational principle of the Obama administration

1.17.2013

4th Century Chinese "Yellow Soup"

Comment: this is not about soup!

NYTimes: When Pills Fail, This, er, Option Provides a Cure
Excerpt:

Transplanting feces from a healthy person into the gut of one who is sick can quickly cure severe intestinal infections caused by a dangerous type of bacteria that antibiotics often cannot control.

A new study finds that such transplants cured 15 of 16 people who had recurring infections with Clostridium difficile bacteria, whereas antibiotics cured only 3 of 13 and 4 of 13 patients in two comparison groups. The treatment appears to work by restoring the gut’s normal balance of bacteria, which fight off C. difficile.

The study is the first to compare the transplants with standard antibiotic therapy. The research, conducted in the Netherlands, was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Fecal transplants have been used sporadically for years as a last resort to fight this stubborn and debilitating infection, which kills 14,000 people a year in the United States. The infection is usually caused by antibiotics, which can predispose people to C. difficile by killing normal gut bacteria. If patients are then exposed to C. difficile, which is common in many hospitals, it can take hold.

The usual treatment involves more antibiotics, but about 20 percent of patients relapse, and many of them suffer repeated attacks, with severe diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Researchers say that, worldwide, about 500 people with the infection have had fecal transplantation. It involves diluting stool with a liquid, like salt water, and then pumping it into the intestinal tract via an enema, a colonoscope or a tube run through the nose into the stomach or small intestine.

Stool can contain hundreds or even thousands of types of bacteria, and researchers do not yet know which ones have the curative powers. So for now, feces must be used pretty much intact.

Medical journals have reported high success rates and seemingly miraculous cures in patients who have suffered for months. But until now there was room for doubt, because no controlled experiments had compared the outlandish-sounding remedy with other treatments.

The new research is the first to provide the type of evidence that skeptics have demanded, and proponents say they hope the results will help bring fecal transplants into the medical mainstream, because for some patients nothing else works.

“Those of us who do fecal transplant know how effective it is,” said Dr. Colleen R. Kelly, a gastroenterologist with the Women’s Medicine Collaborative in Providence, R.I., who was not part of the Dutch study. “The tricky part has been convincing everybody else.”

.....

Fecal therapy has often been used to cure gut trouble in cows and horses. Books on traditional Chinese medicine mention giving it to people by mouth to cure diarrhea in the fourth century; one book called it yellow soup.

In 1958, Dr. Ben Eiseman, of the University of Colorado, published a report about using fecal enemas to cure four patients with life-threatening intestinal infections.
Comment: Missionary friend sent the article to me. I find it interesting that the concept goes back to 4th Century China. Glad I did not have to take orally! Also interesting that only 500 have been done. I was # 9 in the Park Nicollet system. About the effectiveness ... yes ... a complete cure. Consider that I was sick for 10 weeks ... thousands of dollars in pills ... 4 days hospitalized. Almost $ 15,000 in costs (although my max out of pocket threshold was $ 5000.). 7 weeks of missed work! (and that's just in 2012! I was sick for about the same amount of time in 2011!) To have a complete cure is amazing to me. I am praising the Lord and thanking my Doctor!

Two methods are mentioned in the article ... tube though the nose into the small intestine and the back door approach. I had the later.

About "yellow soup" ... that's about right .... but more like yellow broth. 1 liter of it.

Boeing: Blue Chip or Cow Chip?


When Blue Chips Go Bad: What Should Investors Do With Boeing?
Excerpt:
[Boeing] is in the universe of quality stocks they follow. While there is no way of knowing how long problems will plague this new plane, how quickly the cause can be identified or how costly repairs will be, Smith says so far this issue looks to be short-term in nature and not something that threatens long-term earnings growth or compromises its financial strength.

"You have to factor in if a company's balance sheet is getting compromised because of its difficulties," Smith says, adding that the 787 is only one of many products sold by Boeing, albeit an important one. "Right now we have put this in the category of a short-term problem not the beginning of a long term obstacle, but that could change."

To be fair, Boeing is not the only "blue chip turned cow chip," as Smith characterizes it. In fact, there are three members of the Dow Jones Industrials that are technically in their own private bear markets right now, having fallen more than 20% from their 52-week highs. They are Hewlett Packard (HPQ) -42%, Intel (INTC) -25%, and DuPont (DD) -20%, and Smith says only one of them is on his cow chip list, so to speak.

"We like both DuPont and Intel and see their problems more as short-term headwinds," Smith says, while calling Hewlett Packard's plight one of secular, long-term challenges, as well as management issues.
Comment: We bought it in June '11. Down $ .30 per share since then. Holding onto. I agree that HPQ is "cow chip". For those not familiar with farming: Cow Chip

The bizarre case of the nonexistent girlfriend

For Notre Dame, an Inspiration That Wasn't Real
Excerpt:
A University of Notre Dame football star received broad public sympathy last fall over the death of a girlfriend who turns out not to have existed.

The sports website Deadspin reported Wednesday that Lennay Kekua, the supposed girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, never existed, even as media outlets ran articles last fall about Mr. Te'o's inspiring on-field performances in the wake of what was said to be her death in September.

Both Mr. Te'o and Notre Dame acknowledged Wednesday that Lennay Kekua, who was said to have been a Stanford University student, was a hoax. Both Mr. Te'o and the school described the player as a victim of that hoax. "Over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her," said Mr. Te'o's statement.

In a news conference Wednesday, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Mr. Te'o told the school that he learned of the hoax in the first week of December, when he received a phone call from the number he had associated with Lennay Kekua. The voice he knew to be the woman's told Mr. Te'o that she wasn't dead. "Manti was very unnerved by that, as you may imagine," Mr. Swarbrick said.
Comment: I think I may have been in love with a soriety girl like this back when I was a freshman in college! ABC news calls it being "catfished". Of course we all want to see picture of the beauty. Oh never mind! (Didn't help 'em with Bama!)

Deadspin article that broke the hoax. More from Slate. Leave dating tips for Manti in the comments.

Update: Nine Questions | Timeline

Now here's a question (article):

According to WSBT-TV, Te’o made reference to his dead girlfriend two days after the day he supposedly learned of the hoax. “I don’t like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer,” Te’o said on December 8, while talking to reporters in advance of the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

1.16.2013

Children as Props

More

Comment: Obama image screen snip from Drudge

Washington DC: Where Gun Control Misfired



What I saw as a prosecutor in Washington, D.C., makes me wary of strict firearms laws.
Excerpt:


As a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who enforced firearms and ammunition cases while a severe local gun ban was still in effect, I am skeptical of the benefits that many imagine will result from additional gun-control efforts. I dislike guns, but I believe that a nationwide firearms crackdown would place an undue burden on law enforcement and endanger civil liberties while potentially increasing crime.

The D.C. gun ban, enacted in 1976, prohibited anyone other than law-enforcement officers from carrying a firearm in the city. Residents were even barred from keeping guns in their homes for self-defense.

Some in Washington who owned firearms before the ban were allowed to keep them as long as the weapons were disassembled or trigger-locked at all times. According to the law, trigger locks could not be removed for self-defense even if the owner was being robbed at gunpoint.

The only way anyone could legally possess a firearm in the District without a trigger lock was to obtain written permission from the D.C. police. The granting of such permission was rare.

The gun ban had an unintended effect: It emboldened criminals because they knew that law-abiding District residents were unarmed and powerless to defend themselves. Violent crime increased after the law was enacted, with homicides rising to 369 in 1988, from 188 in 1976 when the ban started. By 1993, annual homicides had reached 454.

The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department also waged a war on firearms by creating a special Gun Recovery Unit in 1995. The campaign meant that officers were obliged to spend time searching otherwise law-abiding citizens. That same year, the department launched a crackdown called Operation Cease Fire to rid the District of illegal firearms. But after four months, officers had confiscated only 282 guns out of the many thousands in the city.

Civil liberties were endangered. Legislative changes empowered judges to hold gun suspects in pretrial detention without bond for up to 100 days, and efforts were made to enact curfews and seize automobiles found to contain firearms.
Comment: Image source