5.30.2015

The ‘Ferguson effect’ and the New Nationwide Crime Wave



The New Nationwide Crime Wave

Excerpt:

Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years. In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing. Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.

... The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months. Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today. A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police. Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, before he stepped down last month, embraced the conceit that law enforcement in black communities is infected by bias. The news media pump out a seemingly constant stream of stories about alleged police mistreatment of blacks, with the reports often buttressed by cellphone videos that rarely capture the behavior that caused an officer to use force. Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests, like those that followed the death of Vonderrit Myers in St. Louis last October. The 18-year-old Myers, awaiting trial on gun and resisting-arrest charges, had fired three shots at an officer at close range. Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter.

Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice. Proposals aimed at producing more cop convictions abound, but New York state seems especially enthusiastic about the idea.

... This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%. Similar “Ferguson effects” are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014. “Any cop who uses his gun now has to worry about being indicted and losing his job and family,” a New York City officer tells me. “Everything has the potential to be recorded. A lot of cops feel that the climate for the next couple of years is going to be nonstop protests.”

... “There are no real consequences for committing property crimes anymore,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Armando Munoz told Downtown News earlier this month, “and the criminals know this.” The Milwaukee district attorney, John Chisholm, is diverting many property and drug criminals to rehabilitation programs to reduce the number of blacks in Wisconsin prisons; critics see the rise in Milwaukee crime as one result. If these decriminalization and deincarceration policies backfire, the people most harmed will be their supposed beneficiaries: blacks, since they are disproportionately victimized by crime. The black death-by-homicide rate is six times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other black civilians, not the police. The police could end all use of lethal force tomorrow and it would have at most a negligible impact on the black death rate. In any case, the strongest predictor of whether a police officer uses force is whether a suspect resists arrest, not the suspect’s race.
Comment: Image source - movie poster from 1954's Crime Wave.

Jerry Dior: The Man Behind the MLB Logo



The Man Who Made the MLB Logo

Excerpt:


Jerry Dior, who died May 10 at age 82 at his home in Edison, N.J., according to the New York Times, was the man responsible. In 1968, he was working as a graphic designer at Sandgren & Murtha, a New York-based marketing company, when MLB commissioned the agency to design a logo. The Wall Street Journal revealed his role in its creation in a 2008 story. “It just came to me,” Dior said at the time. “I did the rough sketch and cleaned it up a bit, and that was that. I never thought anything about it until I turned on the television and saw it on the New York Mets’ uniforms” during the 1969 World Series. Although the logo became famous, Dior didn’t. He left the company not long after creating the logo and received no royalties for it—and didn’t expect any. He did, however, petition baseball for recognition.
Comment: Image source Wikipedia. On whether Harmon Killebrew was the inspiration of the drawing: Yes / No.


5.28.2015

On Market Liquidity, High Volume Trading Periods; and Low Volume Stocks




NYSE Looks to Ease Late-Day Pileup - Exchange plans midday auction for thinly traded shares
Excerpt:

For investors trying to buy and sell shares of smaller companies, a lack of liquidity can mean big money lost. The goal of the auction is to give retail and institutional investors alike an opportunity to trade shares without unduly affecting prices. “The fact that more trading is happening on the open and close today than in the past is a symptom of a larger problem, which is that the market is so fragmented during the day,” Mr. Farley said. He said it is “difficult for investors to find moments of true and deep liquidity.”
Stock-Market Traders Pile In at the Close - End-of-day surge in action boosts costs at other times, increases vulnerability to sharp swings
Excerpt:

More than one in six trades in S&P 500-listed stocks took place between 3:30 and the 4 p.m. closing bell last year, according to an analysis by Ana Avramovic, trading strategist at Credit Suisse. ...... For shares of smaller companies, 19.3% of trades were in the final 30 minutes, up from 14% in 2007. That is important because it can often be difficult for investors to trade smaller-company stocks without pushing the price up or down. Even the closing minutes of trading have become more crowded. The final five minutes accounted for 6% of all volume last year, rising each year since 2010, according to Trade Informatics, a trading-analytics firm. During the day, “people are watching the paint dry,” said Leonid Hmelnitsky, head of equities trading for Mellon Capital Management, a San Francisco money manager with $404 billion under management. “We’ve definitely seen the shift.”
Comment: Things I've never thought about. I tend to trade right out of the chute. I have some money to invest ... I move it to the brokerage account .... and trade by 9 a.m. Central. Maybe I shouldn't?!




2008 Financial Crisis: a “perfect storm” of events



Lehman’s Fuld, 7 Years Later, Says ‘Perfect Storm’ Caused Crisis

Excerpt:

Richard Fuld Jr., the man at the helm of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. when it collapsed in 2008, said a “perfect storm” of events caused the financial crisis. Among the contributing factors Mr. Fuld listed Thursday were government officials who pushed for lower home-lending standards and homeowners who used their equity on their homes “as ATM accounts.” “It’s not just a one single thing, it’s all these things taken together,” he said.
Comment: Image source.

Dividend Investing for Retirement Income



Dividend Stocks Beat Bonds for Retirement Income 

Excerpt:

Your goal isn’t only to save enough, but also to buy assets that match your future liability—which is your need for retirement income. Traditionally, bonds have been viewed as a pension plan’s surest bet. But with bond yields so low, here is why stocks could prove to be the better choice—even if share prices plunge. ... Mr. Farrell’s suggestion: Buy stocks instead. He isn’t focused on price appreciation, which is always iffy. Instead, he suggests purchasing stocks for their dividends. “If you put together a portfolio of good blue chips, you might start with a yield of 3%,” he says. “You have to train your brain to ignore the price movement. You want to focus on the income production and the growth of that income.” Over the past 50 years, the S&P 500’s dividends have grown an average 5.7% a year, somewhat ahead of the average 4.1% inflation rate. If we continue to see that sort of 1.6 percentage-point gap, retirees who have a big enough portfolio to live solely off dividends would potentially be in great shape, because they would be collecting a stream of income that is rising faster than inflation.
Comment: My strategy is just this! An example is Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). Our portfolio has a 3% dividend yield overall. I am counting on it growing with inflation AND producing a 3% yield. See also Top Dividend Stocks for 2015

The Dark Side of Steve Jobs



This Bill Gates Quote Summarizes What The Tech World Thought Of Steve Jobs

Excerpt:

To Gates, Jobs could only interact with people in one of two ways. Jobs was "either in the mode of saying you were s--- or trying to seduce you," the Microsoft leader said. ... Sometimes the wrath was part of the seduction. In 1981, rival Xerox came out with the Star, a computer that was supposed to be the hot new thing. Jobs visited Xerox. He was unimpressed. The Star ultimately flopped. A few weeks after his visit, Jobs called Bob Belleville, one of the Star's hardware designers. "Everything you've ever done in your life is s---," Jobs said, "so why don't you come work for me?" Psychologists have a word for this pattern of behavior: narcissism. Narcissists have a constant need for validation, a willingness to control people, and a ruthlessness in getting their needs met — which, interestingly, often makes them super-effective executives, as was the case with Jobs. "Narcissists thrive in ... leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation," Psychology Today reports. Sounds like classic Jobs.
Comment: Image source

5.26.2015

On Pedal Pub "Hate"



Pedal pubs in Minneapolis made for a tempting target – online and by bike

Excerpt:

But why choose pedaling pubs as a target? There are many reasons to dislike the self-propelled drinking parties, critics say. Riders can be noisy, especially after a few drinks. The slow-moving, 16-passenger bikes (yes, they’re considered bikes) can impede traffic, even though they are piloted by nondrinking company employees who adhere to all traffic rules. And it’s not unheard of for riders to leave unwelcome bodily fluids in their wake. But a noted anthropologist points the finger at social media, which has done so much in recent decades to change the way Americans interact with each other. When there’s a Facebook page called “I Hate the Pedal Pub,” with more than 4,000 “likes,” it can embolden people to act in ways they never might have before. “I think that is very definitely a factor,” said William Beeman, chairman of the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota. “You get something you’re interested in pursuing, and you have no idea whether anybody else feels the same way. And all of a sudden, you see that other people do feel the same way. You feel empowered, you feel like you’re a group that now has some legitimacy because of the numbers involved.
Comment: Facebook page. I personally like them. Whenever we see one we honk. They do tie up intersections.

Travelers and their Umbrella Logo









Travelers Doesn’t Want to Share Its Umbrella Logo

Excerpt:

Travelers is an unusual case because it is asserting a degree of ownership of a generic item that also is a popular symbol of protection and other qualities that a range of businesses want to promote, say some brand experts and lawyers. “So what’s next? Requesting that Rihanna issue a disclaimer that she’s not referring” to insurance when she sings her “Umbrella” hit? asks Missouri-based trademark attorney Morris Turek. Travelers, which says it has used an umbrella since the 1800s, hasn’t always owned the trademarks it is now fighting to protect. The company was part of Citigroup from 1998 to 2002, when Travelers was spun out to shareholders. Citigroup kept the umbrella logo until 2007 then sold it to Travelers for an undisclosed sum. Since then, Travelers has sought to convince companies and courts there is no spare room under its upright red umbrella.
Comment: Images: Screen shots from various websites

The Pedal Pub Massacre



Pedal Pub assault ends in six arrests
Excerpt:

Cyclist on cyclist violence in Minneapolis over the weekend. Per the AP: “Six people are facing potential criminal penalties in a series of water attacks on three pedal pubs in Minneapolis, including one that carried six off-duty police officers. … PedalPub Twin Cities manager Lisa Staplin said the first two ‘Mad Max’-style attacks Saturday evening involved bicyclists who sprayed a driver and passengers with high-powered water guns and threw water balloons at them. She said the pilot of the first pedal pub was momentarily blinded by the blast. … Kurtis Johnson, 31, of Inver Grove Heights told MPR News he was one of the men squirting at the pedal pub passengers. He says the off-duty officers used excessive force. … ‘If you can't take a joke and think that there's something more to it than just water, I mean, you've got to take a big look at your life if you think we're out to try to hurt people. We were just having fun,’ Johnson said.” Certainly good advice, but maybe misdirected here.
Comment: Image capture from the article. In red ... hyperbole

Meet the "Pedal Pub Five":


Source:  : Six people were arrested in the incidents and the five now charged have been released from custody. A sixth person was booked on a probable cause hold for potential terroristic threats -- he has since been released from custody but was not charged on Tuesday. The men who were charged include John Davis Rock, Jr. who was charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct, Kurtis Wayne Johnson, charged with fifth-degree assault, Jason Leonard Carlton, Francis Wayne Bellanger and Mark William Dean -- all charged with disorderly conduct. All five will make their first court appearance on June 4. Comment: Love  the guy in upper right! 

Free the Pedal Pub Five!




How Venezuela solved its Toilet Paper Crisis



The Crisis

Venezuela Is Running Out of Toilet Paper

Excerpt:


Amid skyrocketing inflation and a contracting economy, Venezuelan consumers have been faced with widespread shortages of products. Nicol├ís Maduro’s government blames hoarders looking to destabilize the government, but businesses and economists say it’s the result of government price controls that discourage production and restrictions on foreign currency and make it difficult for manufacturers to purchase raw materials. Food, car parts, cooking oil, detergent, and household appliances have all been in short supply. But it’s toilet paper that has been the iconic product of the shortage, with fresh rolls quickly running out from stores amid overwhelming demand. In late 2013 the government seized control of a toilet paper factory and announced plans to import millions of rolls, but shortages have continued.
The Solution


Venezuelan Bolivar Now Worth More as Toilet Paper Than as Money

Excerpt:

Back in February, when the Venezuelan government introduced its official and complicated three-tier exchange rate, 190 bolivars bought you one U.S. dollar on the black market—which is where real people without government connections shop for hard currency in Caracas. Now, just a few months later, the bolivar is worth about half that much. This is a brilliant testimony to the innovative power of the government's socialist policies: faced with a crushing shortage of toilet paper, the Bolivarian regime has converted its own currency into butt-wipe.
Comment: Image source. See When you can't flush your money

5.23.2015

The Duggars, the Louds and me


The Louds were the first reality show family (c. 1973) and of course everyone knows about the Duggars.  Thankfully few know about "The Peets"! My observations:


  • We "The Peets" are an under the radar, no one wants to know about us, we would never do a reality show, kind of family. I advise more families to eschew the kleig lights of the media! 
  • What's been exciting about "The Peets"? Absolutely nothing! And i like it like that!
  • We are somewhat of a Modern Family and we have our own Bloodlines in that I am a Mayflower descendant.
  • We were married and still are after 204 Kardashian units
  • We've had kids and the grew up and moved out
  • There is no Wiki page on "The Peets" (Thankfully)
  • About the latest spectacle, it does not need to be rehashed here. But it is newsworthy not in a Benghazi kind of way, but rather in a tabloid way.
  • The Duggars are in the news because:
    • They have a lot of kids and kids are good!  
    • They have chosen to be very public about their family and they have had (up to yesterday) a reality show. 
    • They are portrayed as squeaky clean fundamentalist Christians. 
    • And when squeaking clean meets scandal, it's tabloid time.
  • About Christians: I am and we are (Kathee and me). 
  • We are kind of secularists to some of the fundamentalist persuasion because some of our practices are fundamentalist taboos. 
  • Excitement in our lives? I once was very sick and thankfully now I'm not. And I was once arrested. The first gross and the second rather boring. 
  • We are also flawed. I say this not to ridicule the Duggars because I know they would say the same about themselves. By flawed, I mean I am a sinner. I am less than the best husband. Less than the best father (kids please do not comment), and not the perfect employee. 
  • About being a Christian: with Paul I say "I am the chiefest of sinners". And I am redeemed (in that Christ died for my sins). 

5.18.2015

Mark Dayton - Crybaby!



My blog title bluntly reveals how I feel about the guy!

S.S. Badger gets upgrades and continues service



S.S. Badger sails again — and this time in accord with U.S. environmental law

Excerpt:

A $2.4 million renovation of her innards now enables the Badger to retain the ash on board until it can be offloaded ashore for use in cement-making and such. Under separate provisions of a consent decree negotiated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Badger will be burning about 15 percent less coal than it used to, the result of improved combustion controls.
Comment: Image source.  We've done the Badger multiple times and both directions. The Lake Express is also mentioned in the article. We've taken the Eastern passage with them. Driving around Chicago? Hate that trip! Our preferred driving method is via the U.P.

5.15.2015

Are stocks "Too High"?





Stock Prices: Is ‘Quite High’ Too High?

Excerpt:

Consider one of the most widely followed ways of measuring stock valuations—the cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio, or CAPE, which was devised by Robert Shiller, a Yale University economist and Nobel Prize winner. The CAPE is calculated by dividing stock prices by average earnings over the prior decade, all adjusted for inflation. The ratio for large U.S. stocks in April was 27, while the long-term average since 1881 is 16.6, according to Mr. Shiller’s data. When the ratio is above average, future returns are often lower down the road. When the ratio is below average, future returns tend to be relatively high.
Comment: I was asked this question this week. My take is that some stocks are too high. I think Facebook is too high. DOW ... about right (see image above). A tutorial on the P/E ratio.

Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ



Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ Excerpt:

Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows Christ to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is
Comment: Perhaps I have posted this before. John Piper's book Rethinking Retirement is a book that I've read multiple times and recommend to all. Follow the link above and download in PDF format. Image source = screen snap from here.  I am definitely in retirement countdown mode - I'm not announcing anything! The terminus ad quem of my retirement is when Kathee turns 65 in April 2016. Since I am already 65 (almost 66), I could retire at any time. I was thinking this morning about the personal economic / paradigm shift of retirement:

  • The ancients knew nothing about retirement. They worked and worked and died! This whole "retirement thing" is a new thing. Weird
  • What of the Biblical command to work? Adam worked the garden pre-fall (Genesis). The curse among other things is that he would work by the sweat of his brow and labor would be less productive. Think of the rebukes of the lazy and slothful (Proverbs) or the directive "if a man doesn't work, neither shall he eat". 
  • So today I labor to live. I've been laboring to live for all of my adult life. I have that Puritan work ethic as part of my DNA. You have to work! You want or need something? Work for it. When I raised support for campus ministry my parents were uncomfortable with that! To them it was wrong to ask for money!
  • In retirement, one lives off his capital. Pre-retirement, one lives off his labor. 
  • Here's an interesting blog post: Why Your Financial Goal Should Be to Stop Trading Time for Money: So today I am trading time for money. Every day I make XXX and every two weeks I receive a paycheck for that trade off.
  • What about working in retirement? I doubt I will need to work (I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that - so imprinted into me is this "I have to work"! What if I found a job that paid $ 15 per hour. Suppose it is something I might even enjoy doing? Is that a good use of my time? (not bragging but I make a multiple of that today).
  • Suppose there were an opportunity in a ministry (say a college or a church) to work? Is it sinful to NOT take a wage? What would that be like to be making $ 0 when others are being paid. Would that be demeaning? Would that devalue my labor?
  • Finally a Marxist quote (that I disagree with but I find interesting): "Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." I personally view capital as stored labor (hence the image above). Capital is that which I have earned but not yet spent. 

5.11.2015

The Lottery preys on the poorest



Lotteries: America's $70 Billion Shame

Excerpt:

The national average hides a lot of variance among the states. In North Dakota, per-capita lottery spending is a pittance at just $36 a year. In South Dakota, however, it’s an egregious $755 per head. Lotto games bring in the most money per person in the mid-Atlantic and northeast: number-one Rhode Island (nearly $800 per capita!), Massachusetts, and Delaware are among the top five states, while New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania join them in the top 13 (so does Washington, D.C.). ... it’s the poor who are really losing. The poorest third of households buy half of all lotto tickets, according to a Duke University study in the 1980s, in part because lotteries are advertised most aggressively in poorer neighborhoods. ... In an age of rising income inequality, it’s pernicious that states rely on monetizing the desperate hope of its poorest residents. State lotteries take from the poor to spare the rich, all while marching under the banner of voluntary entertainment.
Comment:Image Source

5.05.2015

No Turkey for Thanksgiving?



U.S. bird flu outbreak may mean no turkey for Thanksgiving

Excerpt:

The largest-ever U.S. outbreak of avian influenza, which has devastated Midwestern poultry and egg producers in recent weeks, could be felt at Thanksgiving tables across the nation come November, farmers and some trade groups say. The virulent H5N2 strain has already spread to 14 states and led to the deaths or scheduled euthanizations of more than 21 million birds, including 3.3 million turkeys in Minnesota, the nation’s top turkey producer. And now, with Thanksgiving just seven months away, farmers say they may be running out of time to raise enough turkeys –the traditional centerpiece of holiday feasts – to meet the demand. Once a farm has been infected, flocks must be culled, composted in barns, then disposed of. Buildings must then be thoroughly disinfected. The whole process can take up to three months before a new flock of turkey poults can be brought in, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. After chicks are re-introduced to the barns, farmers say, it typically takes about four months to produce a full-sized hen – the type of turkey most Americans prefer for their holiday feasts. If breeder farms that supply the young birds have also been infected – as some in Minnesota have – simply acquiring the chicks could prove challenging. And in Minnesota, there’s still no sign of an end to the outbreak, despite tight biosecurity measures and quarantines. Already, at least one turkey processing plant has cut back on workers’ shifts because of a lack of birds to slaughter. “We’re going to have fewer turkeys coming out because of this,”
Comment: Image source: Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want (painting)

5.04.2015

The Chevrolet Chevelle



Secrets of the Chevrolet Chevelle

Excerpt:

The Chevelle is one of America’s favorite classic muscle cars. If you turn on your favorite televised classic car auctions at random, chances are that there will be a Chevelle crossing the block.
Comment: This was my college dream car. I wanted to buy a '72 a year after graduation. Two years later I bought a 1974 Satellite Sebring Plus (400 cu engine, bucket seats). Image source = Ebay

Depression and Debt Linked



Does credit card debt lead to depression?

Excerpt:

Credit cards can carry more than high interest rates—they actually might increase your chances of depression. It's common sense that high levels of debt can stress you out. Now researchers have found a statistically significant link between short-term household debt, such as credit card debt and overdue bills, and increases in symptoms of depression. The link between depression and debt was strongest among unmarried people, people near retirement and those who are less educated, according to the new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study also found that, on average, people's depressive symptoms tend to increase as their short-term debt rises. "Our results suggest that taking on unsecured debt may adversely influence psychological well-being," said Lawrence Berger, the study's lead author and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Research on Poverty.
Comment: Image details:
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  SalFalko