5.31.2017

Governor Dayton's Brinkmanship






Gov. Dayton and the Legislature: what happened, why and what comes next?

Excerpt:

Gov. Mark Dayton signed all the major spending bills state spending bills on Tuesday, which means Minnesota's two year state general fund budget of $46 billion is in place. Except he refused to fund the Legislature. It's a decision that sets up a summer's worth of political and legal disputes between the DFL governor and Republicans who control the Legislature.
 ...
Republican legislators ... are already calling the whole maneuver an unconstitutional breach of separation of powers. A House Republican I talked to is confident a judge will quickly order money for ongoing operations because the Legislature is an essential function of government. If that's the case, then that money, plus reserves, will allow the House to ride it out for a long time. They could also dump DFL staff as nonessential.
Comment: The main players above: Kurt Daudt, Mark Dayton, Paul Gazelka

Mark Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s funding. Was it constitutional?:
Doug Wardlow predicted the court case would be open-and-shut.

“To veto the funding for the Legislature entirely like that, basically is voiding another co-equal branch of government and violating the separation of powers,” Wardlow said. “I don’t think (Dayton) has a leg to stand on, because he has completely undermined the ability of the Legislature to function.”

Dayton said he’s in the right — if on uncertain legal ground.

“The courts will ultimately have to resolve (the dispute),” said Dayton, who came up with the idea for vetoing the Legislature’s funding himself. “There isn’t case law directly applicable to this.”

His preferred outcome doesn’t involve the courts at all, but rather Republicans re-opening negotiations and agreeing to concessions. Then Dayton could call a special legislative session to re-pass the Legislature’s funding along with any concessions Republicans agreed to.
Update:
Constitutional fight escalates between Gov. Mark Dayton, Legislature
The conflict is of a piece with the grim direction of national and state politics at a time when traditions of compromise and comity have given way to demonstrations of raw power.XXX That’s the diagnosis of constitutional scholars who say the new dynamic between the political parties — witnessed in Washington for years and more recently in St. Paul — dictates that every dispute has the potential to become a constitutional death struggle.

“They have taken their literal power to its ultimate lengths. And that’s constitutional crisis,” said Mary Jane Morrison, a Mitchell Hamline Law School professor who wrote a book on the Minnesota constitution.

Minnesota politicos were still reeling Wednesday from Dayton’s maneuver, which he said was his own idea.

He signed 10 budget bills Tuesday totaling $46 billion that will fund the executive branch for the next two years. He also signed a $650 million tax cut and a borrowing package of nearly $1 billion for public works.

But then he used his line-item veto authority to strike out $130 million in operating funds for the Legislature, which could leave 201 state lawmakers and several hundred legislative employees without pay as soon as reserves run dry in a few months.

“This is unconstitutional,” House GOP spokeswoman Susan Closmore wrote in a Wednesday memo. “The branches of government are coequal. If one branch takes action that infringes too greatly — such as eliminating all funding for four years — on another branch of government, it violates the constitutional separation of powers.”

Constitutional scholars agreed that the spirit of the separation of powers does not allow one branch of government to effectively kill another by defunding it.

“This is an abuse of a power that contravenes the very system of a separation of powers,” said H. Jefferson Powell, a Duke University constitutional scholar. A veteran of the Clinton and Obama Justice Departments, Powell, while not specifically familiar with the circumstances in Minnesota, emphasized his expertise is in federal separation of powers cases.

“Maybe you have the raw power to do this, but plainly this is a misuse of power,” he said.
Update: Minn. Legislature moves to sue Gov. Dayton over funding cut
Minnesota legislators agreed Friday to hire a law firm to sue Gov. Mark Dayton after he zeroed out the operating budget of the House and Senate. Calling Dayton’s move an unconstitutional encroachment on the legislative branch of government, a Republican led panel of House members and senators agreed on a party-line vote to enter into negotiations with the high profile law firm of Kelley, Wolter & Scott, which has offered to cut their $650 per hour fee in half to do the work. Barring a last-minute resolution, a lawsuit seems likely. “We feel like we had no choice,” said Senate Majority Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, who said the Senate would run out of funds around August 1. The Legislature employs more than 500 people, both partisan and nonpartisan.

Update:



The Association of Government Accountability, represented by conservative legal activist Erick Kaardal, sues Dayton administration over Legislature defunding
A group of conservative activists is suing the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton over his decision to defund the Legislature as of July 1.

The Association of Government Accountability, represented by conservative legal activist Erick Kaardal, is arguing in Ramsey County District Court that a 2016 constitutional amendment that sets legislative pay requires that state government pay lawmakers.

Dayton signed 10 bills last week that set the state’s next two-year, $46 billion budget, but he used his line item veto authority to strike out spending for the operating budgets of both the House and Senate. He wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to renegotiate deals over immigrant driver’s licenses; education policy; and, tax cuts.

Kaardal argues that the constitutional amendment on legislative salaries requires the Dayton administration to pay lawmakers. Voters authorized an outside group called the Legislative Salary Council to set lawmaker pay in the last election by approving a constitutional amendment that ended the practice of lawmakers voting on their own salaries. Details of suit

“It’s an extraordinary breach of trust of the public. It’s an extraordinary breach of the constitution,” Kaardal said at a Monday news conference on the steps of the Capitol.

Both the House and Senate will run out of money in a few months and not have enough money to pay lawmakers and staff; the Legislature is in the process of obtaining outside counsel to sue Dayton over what it calls an unconstitutional abuse of power.

5.29.2017

Kathee's Uncle Jack Hersant died in a Kamikaze attack on the USS Aaron Ward (1945)













USS Aaron Ward (DM-34)

Excerpt:

On 30 April, the destroyer minelayer returned to sea to take up position on radar picket station number 10. That night, she helped repulse several air attacks; but, for the most part, weather kept enemy airpower away until the afternoon of 3 May. When the weather began to clear, the probability of air attacks rose. At about dusk, Aaron Ward's radar picked up bogies at 27 miles (43 km) distance; and her crew went to general quarters. Two of the planes in the formation broke away and began runs on Aaron Ward. The warship opened fire on the first from about 7,000 yards (6,000 m) and began scoring hits when he had closed range to 4,000 yards (4,000 m). At that point, he dipped over into his suicide dive but crashed about 100 yards (100 m) off the destroyer minelayer's starboard quarter. The second of the pair began his approach immediately thereafter. Aaron Ward opened fire on him at about 8,000 yards (7,000 m) and, once again, began scoring hits to good effect — so much so that her antiaircraft battery destroyed him while he was still 1,200 yards (1,100 m) away.

At that point, a third and more determined intruder appeared and dove in on Aaron Ward's stern. Though repeatedly struck by antiaircraft fire, the plane pressed home the attack with grim determination. Just before crashing into Aaron Ward's superstructure, he released a bomb which smashed through her hull below the waterline and exploded in the after engine room. The bomb explosion flooded the after engine and fire rooms, ruptured fuel tanks, set the leaking oil ablaze, and severed steering control connections to the bridge. The rudder jammed at hard left, and Aaron Ward turned in a tight circle while slowing to about 20 knots (37 km/h). Topside, the plane itself spread fire and destruction through the area around the after deckhouse and deprived mount 53 of all power and communication. Worse yet, many sailors were killed or injured in the crash.

For about 20 minutes, no attacking plane succeeded in penetrating her air defenses. Damage control parties worked feverishly to put out fires, to repair what damage they could, to jettison ammunition in danger of exploding, and to attend to the wounded. Though steering control was moved aft to the rudder itself, the ship was unable to maneuver properly throughout the remainder of the engagement. Then, at about 1840, the ships on her station came under a particularly ferocious air attack. While Little was hit by the five successive crashes that sank her, LSM(R)-195 took the crash that sent her to the bottom; and LCS(L)-25 lost her mast to a kamikaze. Aaron Ward also suffered her share of added woe. Just before 1900, one plane from the group of attackers selected her as a target and began his approach from about 8,000 yards (7,000 m). Fortunately, the destroyer minelayer began scoring hits early and managed to shoot down the attacker when he was still 2,000 yards (2,000 m) away. Another enemy then attempted to crash into her, but they, too, succumbed to her antiaircraft fire. Her troubles, however, were not over. Soon after the two successes just mentioned, two more Japanese planes came in on her port bow. Though chased by American fighters, one of these succeeded in breaking away and starting a run on Aaron Ward. The aircraft came in at a steep dive apparently aiming at the bridge. Heavy fire from the destroyer minelayer, however, forced the plane to veer toward the after portion of the ship. Passing over the signal bridge, the plane carried away halyards and antennae assemblies, smashed into the stack, and then crashed close aboard to starboard.

Quickly on the heels of that attack, still another intruder swooped in toward Aaron Ward. Coming in just forward of her port beam, the plane met a hail of anti-aircraft fire but continued on and released a bomb just before crashing into her main deck. The bomb exploded a few feet close aboard her port side, and its fragments showered the ship and blew a large hole through the shell plating near her forward fireroom. As a result, the ship lost all power and gradually lost headway. At that point, a previously unobserved enemy crashed into the ship's deckhouse bulkhead causing numerous fires and injuring and killing many more crewmen.

Aaron Ward endured two more devastating crashes before the action ended. At about 1921, a plane glided in steeply on her port quarter. The loss of power prevented any of her 5-inch mounts from bearing on him, and he crashed into her port side superstructure. Burning gasoline engulfed the deck in flames, 40-millimeter ammunition began exploding, and still more heavy casualties resulted. The warship went dead in the water, her after superstructure deck demolished, and she was still on fire. While damage control crews fought the fires and flooding, Aaron Ward began to settle in the water and took on a decided list to port.

She still had one ordeal, however, to suffer. Just after 1920, a final bomb-laden tormentor made a high-speed, low-level approach and crashed into the base of her number 2 stack. The explosion blew the plane, the stack, searchlight, and two gun mounts into the air, and they all came to rest strewn across the deck aft of stack number 1. Through the night, her crew fought to save the ship. At 2106, Shannon arrived and took Aaron Ward in tow. Early on the morning of 4 May, she arrived at Kerama Retto where she began temporary repairs. She remained there until 11 June when she got underway for the United States. Steaming via Ulithi, Guam, Eniwetok, Pearl Harbor, and the Panama Canal, Aaron Ward arrived in New York in mid-August. On 28 September 1945, because her damage was so severe and the Navy had a surplus of destroyers at the time, she was decommissioned, and her name was struck from the Navy list. In July 1946, she was sold for scrapping. Her anchor is on display in Elgin, Illinois.
Comment: I relied on this list of US ships attacked by Kamikazes. Gravesite and memorial info

Note: The attack was during the battle for Okinawa . See Kerama Retto below




NOTE: After attack photo source with following narrative:

Six kamikaze planes hit the destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) in the early evening of May 3, 1945. Although the attacks killed 42 men, the ship managed to stay afloat but never returned to action. Arnold Lott, a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who sailed in the 1920s on the first destroyer named Aaron Ward, performed extensive research for this history. This included numerous interviews with surviving crewmembers and bereaved family members, examining official Navy logs and action reports, and reading hundreds of letters from the crew. Brave Ship Brave Men, a tribute to the courageous men who served on Aaron Ward, depicts regular life aboard the ship before the kamikaze attacks and provides personal glimpses into the crew's emotions as they faced incoming planes and recovered after the strikes.

The first five of eight chapters cover the ship's first five watches on May 3, 1945, from midnight up to 6 p.m., as the crew waits in anticipation of Japanese plane attacks. The author introduces the ship's history through a series of flashbacks. Aaron Ward, which had been originally built as a destroyer (DD-773), was converted to a destroyer minelayer before her commissioning in October 1944. These first few chapters also describe the many different jobs of the some 350 men aboard this ship. The crew passes the first 18 hours of May 3 with little excitement but much tension about enemy planes that could appear over the horizon at any moment.

Chapters 6 and 7 describe the attack by about 25 kamikaze planes on the five ships at Radar Picket Station 10: Aaron Ward, destroyer Little, and three smaller support ships. Aaron Ward gets attacked by 11 planes within one hour, but the ship's gunners managed to down five of the incoming planes. However, six others crashed into Aaron Ward, and the engine, propeller, and a wing of one downed plane also hit the ship. Four kamikaze hits sunk the destroyer Little with the loss of 30 men, and a kamikaze plane also crashed into and quickly sunk the LSMR-195 (Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket)) as the rockets loaded on board exploded. Aaron Ward, dead in the water, received help from her sister ship, the destroyer minelayer Shannon (DM-25), which came from Okinawa and towed Aaron Ward through the night to Kerama Retto, a group of small islands off the southwestern coast of Okinawa.

The last chapter tells about Aaron Ward 's cleanup and temporary repairs at Kerama Retto in order to try to return to the States for more extensive repairs. After the surviving crew cleaned the decks of body parts and metal scraps, kamikaze attacks continued while the ship remained moored at Kerama Retto hidden under smoke screens. Aaron Ward left Okinawa on June 11, 1945, and returned to San Diego under her own power on July 8. The final chapter includes several moving stories of how families of dead seamen reacted to the news.
Also see Presidential Unit Citation to U.S.S. Aaron Ward
"For extraordinary heroism in action as a Picket Ship on Radar Picket Station during coordinated attack by approximately twenty-five Japanese aircraft near Okinawa on May 3, 1945. Shooting down two Kamikazes which approached in determined suicide dives, the U.S.S. AARON WARD was struck by a bomb from a third suicide plane as she fought to destroy this attacker before it crashed into her superstructure and sprayed the entire area with flaming gasoline. Instantly flooded in her after engineroom and fireroom, she battled against flames and exploding ammunition on deck and, maneuvering in a tight circle because of damage to her steering gear, countered another coordinated suicide attack and destroyed three Kamikazes in rapid succession. Still smoking heavily and maneuvering radically, she lost all power when her forward fireroom flooded under a seventh suicide plane which dropped a bomb close aboard and dived in flames into the main deck. Unable to recover from this blow before an eighth bomber crashed into her superstructure bulkhead only a few seconds later, she attempted to shoot down a ninth Kamikaze diving toward her at high speed and, despite the destruction of nearly all her gun mounts aft when this plane struck her, took under fire the tenth bomb-laden plane, which penetrated the dense smoke to crash on board with a devastating explosion. With fires raging uncontrolled, ammunition exploding and all engine spaces except the forward engineroom flooded as she settled in the water and listed to port, she began a nightlong battle to remain afloat and, with the assistance of a towing vessel, finally reached port the following morning. By her superb fighting spirit and the courage and determination of her entire company, the AARON WARD upheld the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

5.27.2017

Remembering the Manchester Victims





Comment: Source: 1

Note: New Tag: Islamic Terrorism

One of the greatest evils of our day!

5.25.2017

John Wesley on Islam



John Wesley on Islam

Excerpt:

“Ever since the religion of Islam appeared in the world, the espousers of it have been as wolves and tigers to all other nations, rending and tearing all that fell into their merciless paws, and grinding them with their iron teeth; that numberless cities are raised from the foundation, and only their name remaining; that many countries, which were once as the garden of God, are now a desolate wilderness; and that so many once numerous and powerful nations vanished from the earth ! Such was, and is at this day, the rage, the fury, the revenge, of these destroyers of human kind.” (John Wesley)
Comment: Yup!

5.23.2017

Lila Lee Grummet: In Memory of my Cousin




Lila Lee Grummet
Lila Lee Grummet, age 80 of Alto, passed away Monday, May 22, 2017. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert; and brother, Steven Green. She is survived by her children, Bob (Becky) Grummet, Bill (Carol) Grummet, Marilee (Mark) Trierweiler, Joe (Laurie Wenzel) Grummet; sister Linda (Denny) Hawk; 13 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren; and good friend, Pat Thomet. Lila Lee loved spending time with family and traveling. She was also an avid sportswoman, enjoying hunting and fishing. She was active in the Alto community as a member of the Alto Development Association, Head of the Alto United Methodist Church Administrative Board, and President of the United Methodist Women. The family will greet friends and family Thursday, May 25, from 9:30-11:00 a.m. at Alto United Methodist Church, 11365 64th St. SE, Alto, MI 49302. Memorial Funeral Services to follow at 11:00 a.m. at the church. Rev. Robert Wright officiating. Interment Bowne Center Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to Alto United Methodist Church; Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Burn Care Clinic, 3229 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229; or Kent District Library Alto Branch; c/o Sandy Graham, 6071 Linfield Ave., Alto, MI 49302.
Comment: She was diagnosed with cancer on April 30th and died in just over 3 weeks. We spent 3 days with her a year ago. Lovely and will be missed. Obit for her husband (preceded her by 10 years). Obit for her brother Steve who died 2 years ago.

We had hoped to go to the funeral but she died last night at 10 pm and the Thursday funeral doesn't enable enough time to wrap things up here and get there.

My sister provides this interesting photo from what she believes is Mothers Day 1949


This was taken in Alto, MI (that's the old Methodist church in the background); My grandmother (Beulah Hayward) is in the front row center. Her husband Basil is standing behind her. Basil died December 1949 when I was 4 months old (not yet born in May of '49).  The boy next to granddad is my cousin Steve. The girl on the other side of grandpa is Lila (age 12). In front of Lila is my cousin Linda (my only surviving cousin). In front of Steve is my sister Nancy (age 3).

Update: Photo from my brother. Date Mother's day 1971

Left to right: Aunt Eleanor, My Mother, My Dad



General Mills' Yogurt Problem




General Mills' Yoplait yogurt brand has foundered, falling behind Chobani—that’s only one problem for the packaged food giant.

Excerpt:

These are boom times in the yogurt business. If you have any doubt, check out the dairy section of your local supermarket. For starters, chances are yogurts occupy a much bigger portion of it than they used to. You’re likely to see an abundance of brands claiming heritage from Greece, from Australia, from Bulgaria—even from Iceland. You prefer yours without cow’s milk? No problem. There are offerings based on sheep’s milk or the juice of a coconut. You can choose an ascetic unsweetened Greek yogurt that makes you grimace at its sourness, opt for a drinkable style—or pick a dessert-like option that lets you mix in “­cinnamon-glazed cake pieces,” to cite one example. The days when there were only a handful of brands, each with strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry preserves at the bottom, are far behind us.

Last year, nine of the top 10 yogurt brands enjoyed rising sales. Which one managed to sink even as a rising tide lifted all the other boats? Yoplait. Its sales have plunged 23% over the past year, according to market researcher IRI, after a 7% drop the prior year. Yoplait has fallen so much that its crown as the top U.S. yogurt brand was snatched by upstart Greek-style brand Chobani. (Danone, which owns a stable of varied brands, ranks No. 1 when their sales are combined.) Indeed, Yoplait’s shipwreck was so epic that its effect overwhelmed the combined sales increases for all other yogurt companies last year and caused the category in the U.S. to decline by 2%.
Comment: GIS is my sleepy stock: No growth but reliable dividend (for now). I wonder why General Mills didn't just buy out Chobani?

Update on 6/3: Does General Mills need to get out of the yogurt business? General Mills sales haven't been growing, and one big reason is slipping sales in the U.S. yogurt business.
Yogurt sales in the last reported quarter for General Mills in the U.S. retail business declined 20 percent, a steeper rate of decline than in the first part of the current fiscal year. This is far worse than the performance of the last full fiscal year, when sales of yogurt in the U.S. slid 7 percent.

The company pointed to a presentation that Harmening gave earlier this year at a Florida investor meeting for some background on its thinking, including its long-term commitment to yogurt. Yogurt is a $78 billion worldwide consumer market that is growing, as one slide in the presentation explained, obviously too attractive a market to quit. In the United States, it plans to both refresh its current products as well as go after premium segments like natural and organic.

The biggest problem here in the United States appears to be what’s printed on the label and not what’s inside. When Greek yogurt sales were surging, introducing Yoplait Greek sounded to many consumers a little like some big food company executive wanted to try to cash in on the Greek yogurt trend. Better to buy a real Greek yogurt, shoppers reasoned, rather than something with Yoplait in the name.

That’s how, in a matter of years, Chobani pulled ahead of Yoplait. It’s an amazing case study, a little like watching a start-up like Tesla overtake Ford in just a few years.

In fairness to General Mills, nothing obvious comes to mind as a quick way to improve the company’s position in the U.S. What the company is trying, including better-tasting products, seems to be a good idea at just about any food company.

On the other hand, a “product renovation” is just the kind of incremental move the consulting firm Bain & Co. discussed in a study of corporate divestitures some years ago, finding that big companies often put off making the tough call on whether to get out or invest a lot more, choosing to tinker instead.

Bain had observed, looking back two decades, that companies really good at knowing when and how to sell a business delivered far better returns to investors than the average company. And the just average companies used a default strategy of buy-and-hold in their portfolio of businesses.XXX The choices for any business unit that starts to go into the tank boil down to only three, according to the Bain analysis. One is to sell, another they called “milk” for cash flow and the other was “transform,” which is how the consultants talked about fundamentally changing the business, usually by committing a lot of additional time and capital.

Roger Moore passes at 89









Roger Moore, star of 7 James Bond films, dies at 89 after cancer battle

Excerpt:

Sir Roger Moore, who starred as James Bond in seven movies, has died. He was 89. The actor, author and UNICEF Goodwill ambassador passed following a brief battle with cancer. There will be a private funeral held in Monaco, his family said on Tuesday.

Comment: Not my favorite Bond. See list Vox: Sir Roger Moore is dead at 89. His James Bond was a secret comedic genius.Moore was 007 at his most quintessential, during the franchise’s most ridiculous era
Moore’s Bond era was perhaps its most cheekily ridiculous; as a series that had started out as tongue-in-cheek satire, it had rapidly trended toward bigger action scenes, over-the-top gadgets, and showboating self-parody. Moore’s primary job was to merge Bond’s charm with his rougher, beefier side through the franchise’s many fight scenes
On the positive side, we were given the cutest Bond girl in Britt Ekland (Man with the Golden Gun)


Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight: Bond's assistant. Described by the critic of The Sunday Mirror as being "an astoundingly stupid blonde British agent"


Update


Update:

5.21.2017

Investing with the "Dogs of the Dow"



Dog Steps

Excerpt:

Investing in the Dogs of the Dow is relatively simple. After the stock market closes on the last day of the year, of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, select the ten stocks which have the highest dividend yield. Then simply get in touch with your broker and invest an equal dollar amount in each of these ten high yield stocks. Then hold these ten "Dogs of the Dow" for one year. Repeat these steps each and every year. That's it!
Comment: The 2017 "Dogs"


Not my strategy but interesting. I recently sold 100 IBM and replaced with 100 AAPL. Not keen on CAT or KO. I would pick DE over CAT and PEP over KO


“Take up and read; Take up and read“ - but not just "any book"



Peggy Noonan's Commencement Speech, 128th Annual Commencement, Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, May 13, 2017

Excerpt:

But tomorrow put down the smart phone, put aside the internet of things, find the real and actual THING of things. Read and be taken away in a way that enriches, that strengthens, that makes you smarter, more serious, more worthy.

Keep it up. Pass it on. If your generation doesn't, it will disappear.

Civilization depends on it.

And so ends my chance to give you the advice the singing schoolchild made, unknowingly, to a bright, semi-wayward young man who would become a great one. "Pick up the book, take up the book" the schoolchild sang. And the man who would become St Augustine did, and changed himself, and changed our world.
The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Excerpt:

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read. “ Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body.

Comment: “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”― Augustine of Hippo. I appreciate Peggy but she completely missed the context.

Aside: Her column in the WSJ this week is a good read: Democracy Is Not Your Plaything  - When the circus comes to Washington, it consumes everything, absorbs all energy

From Satellite Sebring to Buick LaCrosse




Half of today’s vehicles blow away the baddest rides of the 1970s. But the reasons are more complicated than you might think.

Excerpt:

If a 1976 driver were to somehow get his hands on a car from 2017, he’d be at grave risk of whiplash. Since those days, horsepower in the U.S. has almost doubled, with the median model climbing from 145 to 283 stallions. Not surprisingly, the entire U.S. fleet grew more game for a drag-race: The median time it took for a vehicle to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour was halved, from almost 14 seconds to seven.
Comment: I bought a 1973 Plymouth Satellite Sebring new in February 1973. As I recollect it was $ 4,200. It had a 400 cid  (6.55 liter) 185 hp engine. The LaCrosse has a 3.6 liter engine that generates 310 hp. About half the engine with about twice the hp. (and about 10 times the price, but the dollar isn't what it used to be!).

5.19.2017

Carfentanil arrives in the Twin Cities



Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil linked to 5 more overdose deaths in Minnesota

Excerpt:

Ten people in the Twin Cities metro have now died of overdoses related to carfentanil, a powerful opioid that is used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals.

Authorities began warning people about carfentanil in March after it was revealed as the source of five overdose deaths. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has now linked five additional overdose deaths to the drug.
Comment: Image source

How many American Atheists?



Way More Americans May Be Atheists Than We Thought

Excerpt:

The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

... Atheists have been on the fringe for quite some time. They remain one of the country’s most disliked “religious” groups: Only 30 percent of Americans have a “warm” view of atheists. Research has also shown that even as America has grown increasingly accepting of religious diversity, atheists have been the exception.

Americans express a considerable degree of intolerance toward atheists. More than half of Americans believe atheists should not be allowed to put up public displays that celebrate their beliefs (for example, a banner highlighting Americans’ freedom from religion under the Bill of Rights). More than one-third believe atheists should be banned from becoming president, and similar numbers believe they should be denied the opportunity to teach in public schools or the right to hold a rally.

And therein lies the problem: The stigma attached to the atheist label may prevent Americans from claiming it or sharing their beliefs with others. In certain parts of the country, pressure to conform to prevailing religious practices and beliefs is strong. A reporter with The Telegraph writing from rural Virginia, for example, found that for many atheists, being closeted makes a lot of sense. “The stakes are high,” said a Virginia Tech graduate who was raised Christian but is now an atheist. “Do I want to be supported by my friends and family, or am I going to risk being kicked out of clubs and organizations? It’s tempting just to avoid the whole issue.”

The fear of coming out shows up in polling too. A 2016 PRRI survey found that more than one-third of atheists reported hiding their religious identity or beliefs from friends and family members out of concerns that they would disapprove.

... Despite the fears that some nonbelievers have about coming out, 60 percent of Americans report knowing an atheist. Ten years ago, less than half the public reported knowing an atheist. Today, young adults are actually more likely to know an atheist than an evangelical Christian. These personal connections play a crucial role in reducing negative feelings. A decline in stigma may also encourage more atheists to come out. This would allow us to provide a more accurate estimate of atheists in the U.S. — is it 3 percent, 10 percent, or 26 percent? — and could fundamentally change our understanding of the American religious landscape.

Comment: The bolded sentence in the last paragraph is unsettling

5.18.2017

Social Security Full Retirement Age: Patience is a Virtue




Retirement Planner: Full Retirement Age

The Benefits of Delaying


If you retire sometime between your full retirement age and age 70, you typically get a credit. For example, say you were born in 1944 and your full retirement age is 66. If you intend to take your benefits at age 68, you can get a credit of 8% per year multiplied by two (the number of years you waited). This makes your benefit 16% higher than the amount you would have received at age 66. You can also refer to your annual Social Security statement, which lists your projected benefits at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70. If you need a copy of your annual statement, you can request one from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you feel like it will be difficult to wait, you're not alone. Even though most people would probably be better off delaying benefits, more than two-thirds of eligible workers take Social Security early.
Comment (what we did): I took my benefit at 66. We are delaying Kathee's until 70 (4 more years)

5.17.2017

JCP vs AMZN - a tale of two stocks


JCP vs AMZN over 20 years



Amazon’s 49,000% Gain: The Most ‘Super’ of ‘Superstocks’ Since 1926

Excerpt:

Finding the next Amazon.com, which first sold shares to the public 20 years ago this week, is hard. In fact, finding the last Amazon was hard, too. From 1926 through 2015, only 30 stocks accounted for one-third of the cumulative wealth generated by the entire U.S. stock market; Amazon was one.

That’s 30 out of a grand total of 25,782 companies that were publicly traded over that period.​ The search might not be completely futile, but many investors are going about it the wrong way. That’s because the average return of the stock market, and the return of the average stock in the market, are nothing alike. Even though the stock market generates positive average returns over time, more than half of all stocks lose money over their lives as public companies, and the number of stocks that make big money is astonishingly small. ...

Amazon beat the return on cash by an average of 36% annually through the end of 2015, the highest rate among any of the superstocks, his research finds. (Altria Group grew at a lower rate but, because it was around for all nine decades, increased investors’ money more than 2 million fold.) “How hard it is to envision how great a great company can become!” says James Anderson, a partner and senior investment manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., an Edinburgh-based firm that has owned Amazon stock since 2004 and is now the eighth-largest institutional holder of the shares. All that time, he recalls, Amazon offered “no earnings and no guidance,” which ensured that even as the stock rose over time, “there wasn’t an excess of enthusiasts or an absence of shorts” who were betting against it.
Comment:  JCP IPO'd on January 13th, 1978. AMZN: May 15, 2017 — is the 20th anniversary of Amazon.com Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AMZN Amazon.com Inc AMZN 944.76 -2.21% ) initial public offering (IPO). Those in the investment industry know that Amazon has been a hot stock for quite some time. However, this was not always the case. When Amazon first went public in 1997, its stock was priced at just $18 per share. From that modest beginning, the online retail giant has seen its stock skyrocket, despite a rocky period during the dot-com crash. In fact, if you had invested just $100 in Amazon's IPO, that investment would have been worth $63,990 by close last Friday. On the 20th anniversary of its IPO, the stock price opened at $958.68, slightly under the all time high the previous week at $962.

I have neither JC Penney nor Amazon. I can tell you that had I been investing 20 years ago, I wouldn't have given AMZN a second look. I could have bought it 5 years ago but passed. Missed opportunity!

The Market and Presidential Crisis



Here's what the stock market did during Watergate — and why

Excerpt:

Everyone these days seems to have one word on the tip of their tongues: Watergate. In the 1970s, the U.S. stock market endured one of the longest and most brutal bear markets in its history. After the Dow nearly topped 1,000 — topping out at 990 — for the first time in 1966, it would not regain this level on a closing basis until 1982. It would never trade below that level again.

In 1979, BusinessWeek famously published its cover declaring the “Death of Equities.” Inflation was running in double-digits while unemployment rose as “stagflation” riddled the economy.

In the months around Watergate, there was certainly political turmoil for investors to worry about, but the economic headwinds were far more problematic for the stock market, which endured one of its worst stretches in history. From the start of 1973 through Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, the S&P 500 fell about 50%. ...

Inflation ... was running in the double-digits. Consumer prices rose 3.6% from the prior year in January 1973. One year later, inflation was running at 9.6% year-on-year; by November 1974, inflation was up 12% year-on-year. Unemployment, meanwhile rose throughout 1974, eventually hitting 9% by May 1975.
Comment: We were kind of in the market then but not strongly and we bailed out completely. We had a brokerage account and had perhaps 100 shares of the Southern Company. I also had bought several hundred shares of a solar company called Alpha Solarco. It failed. We worked for IBM then and bought shares of IBM through a stock purchase plan. In the Fall of 1976 we sold all and used the proceeds  as a down payment on a house in Pittsburgh.

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