Gun club and hail storm

I spent most of my day at the Elk River gun club taking my concealed carry class. I had a good time but it was a long day. I enjoyed being on the range.

I got home at 5:30 and rested for just a bit when a hail storm came though. I think it lasted for between 10 and 12 minutes - golf-balled sized hail. Kathee just surveyed the outside of the house and we have some major hail damage in the form of dented siding on the North and South sides and dented window frames in the kitchen. It was the worst hail storm that we have every experienced in Minnesota.

I'll have to call Allstate to file a claim.

Tomorrow is our new Pastor's first day at 4th.


Who said?

I've been thinking about this quote - I'm sure you've heard it multiple times:

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it"

I Googled this quote and found these links:


"Studying history is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes. This saying comes from the writings of George Santayana, a Spanish-born American author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."


QUOTATION: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
ATTRIBUTION: George Santayana (1863–1952), U.S. philosopher, poet. Life of Reason, “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 12 (1905-6).

William L. Shirer made these words the epigraph for his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959)


A quick search on the Internet repeatedly bumps into the famous George Santayana quote “those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. Yet the ‘net contradictorily informs us that he actually said “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. Not to miss any angle, the Misinformation Superhighway quotes poor, tired, old George as having said “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Of course, cypherspace has a few other versions of this quote that offer condemnation instead of doom, such as “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” and “those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. Finally, for the historically unaware, the digital world serves up “those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it”.

Wiki: George Santayana

A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States, wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters, although, of his nearly 89 years, he spent only 39 in the U.S. He is perhaps best known as an aphorist, and for the oft-misquoted remark, "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it," from Reason in Common Sense, the first volume of his The Life of Reason.

More Santayana quotes

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

“Love makes us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers.”

“Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better.”

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit

Comment: I posted this on my "other site" and thought this might be a blessing. The damage to front bumper and grill was as a result of running through snow banks at the shopping center. The accident referenced in the above link resulted in the door being ripped off its hinges. I could "burn rubber" in reverse only and I had quickley slammed on the brakes and put the car in reverse. Meanwhile a friend was getting out of the car and as the car went backwards, the passenger side door hit him and wrentched the door off. Dad was not pleased (may he rest in peace (he died in '99)).

Hodge: "one great principle of scriptural economics"

From Charles Hodge's commentary on the Ephesians re Ephesians 4:28, "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."

The positive part of the apostle’s injunction is, instead of sustaining himself unjustly on the labour of others, let him labour, working with his hands the thing that is good. As he used his hands to steal, let him use them in doing what is right—i. e. in honest labour. Paul elsewhere lays down the general principle, "if any would not work neither should he eat." 2 Thess. 3, 10. No one is entitled to be supported by others, who is able to support himself. This is one great principle of scriptural economics. Another, however, no less important is, that those who cannot work are entitled to aid—and therefore the apostle adds as a motive why the strong should labour—that they may have to contribute to him that hath need. No man liveth for himself; and no man should labour for himself alone, but with the definite object to be able to assist others. Christian principles, if fairly carried out, would speedily banish pauperism and other cognate evils from our modern civilization.

Efficiencies in the supply chain

Wal-Mart puts the squeeze on food costs


With gas, grain, and dairy prices exploding, you'd think the biggest seller of corn flakes and Cocoa Puffs would be getting hit by rising food costs. But Wal-Mart has temporarily rolled back prices on hundreds of food items by as much as 30% this year. How? By pressuring vendors to take costs out of the supply chain.

"When our grocery suppliers bring price increases, we don't just accept them," says Pamela Kohn, Wal-Mart's general merchandise manager for perishables. To be sure, Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) isn't the only retailer working to cut fat from the food chain, but as the largest grocer - Wal-Mart's food and consumables revenue is nearly $100 billion - it has a disproportionate amount of leverage. Here's how the retailer is throwing its weight around.

Comment: While many bash Wal-Mart, I'm a fan. Here's how they work for the consumer. Read the entire article.


Franken's "Porn-O-Rama!"

Franken's old Playboy article concerns Democrats


At one point in the Playboy piece titled "Porn-O-Rama!" Franken called the Internet a "terrific learning tool," writing that his 12-year-old son was able to use it for a sixth-grade report on bestiality.

"As a parent and an aunt, and talking to other parents, people are very concerned about the type of Internet use that's out there, and how it has a potentially harmful effect on children," McCollum said. "Sexually explicit material is one of the things that parents are very concerned about, and want to make sure that they're steering their children away from."

Ellison said that and other parts of the article about sexual activities "made me feel a little uncomfortable."

"I have to ask myself, can I explain it to my 11-year-old daughter? I'd have considerable difficulty," Ellison said, adding that voters who have talked with him about it are "just sort of appalled."

Nonetheless, Ellison said he will support Franken if he receives the state party's endorsement. McCollum was making no such promises. "I'll have to see," she said.

Franken is the heavy favorite to take on Coleman, although he faces a challenge from college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Comment: Hard to believe this is the best the Dem's can do for a Senatorial candidate. Of couse they also have Ellison! See earlier post!

Save gas: 4 10 hour days

Workers shifting to 4-day week to save gasoline


When Ohio's Kent State University offered custodial staff the option of working four days a week instead of five to cut commuting costs, most jumped at the chance, part of a U.S. trend aimed at combating soaring gasoline prices.

"We offered it to 94 employees and 78 have taken us up on it," said university spokesman Scott Rainone.

The reason is simple: rising gas prices and a desire to retain good workers. And while so far only the university's custodians are eligible, Rainone hopes the option will be offered to all departments -- including his own.

"In our office, we have people who travel anywhere from five or six miles to a couple who are on the road 45 to 50 minutes," Rainone said. "As the price of gas rises, the level of grumbling rises."

Regular gasoline averages $3.94 a gallon in the United States, up 33 cents in the past month and 88 cents since the beginning of the year, the Energy Information Administration said this week.

The federal government has offered four-day workweeks to eligible employees for years as part of a flexible work program that also includes telecommuting.

But the surge in gasoline prices is pushing more private employers as well as local governments to offer a four-day week as a perk that eliminates two commutes a week.

Comment: I would like this!

Healthcare 101: NJ versus FL

The Florida Revelation . . .


Mr. Crist observed that state regulations increase the cost of health coverage, and thus rightly decided to do away with at least some of them. It's hard to believe, but this qualifies as a revelation in the policy world of health insurance. The new benefit packages will be introduced sometime next year and include minimum coverage for primary care and catastrophic expenses for major illness.
Some 13 states currently offer bare-bones policies on a full or trial-run basis. While not a cure-all, they're movement in the right direction – especially as the states can't do anything about the continuing tax bias for employer-provided health insurance. That kind of much-needed change can only come from Washington, as John McCain is proposing.

The Florida success also shows the political benefits when Republicans talk seriously about health care. Mr. Crist has made increasing consumer choice a signature issue. When Mr. McCain talked up his health-care reforms earlier this spring, he did so in Tampa. He chose the right state.

. . . And Escape From New Jersey


The average national cost for a family health plan is $5,799, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, but in New Jersey that same plan costs $10,398 on average. The state's politicians have driven up these costs by forcing insurers to provide gold-plated coverage – even for such voluntary medical services as in vitro fertilization. New Jersey also follows New York and Massachusetts – two other high-cost states – in requiring so-called "guaranteed issue." That allows New Jersey residents to avoid buying health insurance until they get sick, which means they can avoid paying premiums until they need someone to pick up the bill.

This one-policy-fits-all system tends to cause the young and healthy to drop insurance, which only raises the cost of insurance for the sick, which in turn makes coverage unaffordable for ever more families. It's no accident that about 1.2 million people – one of every eight residents – is uninsured in the state.

Under Mr. Webber's choice proposal, New Jersey residents could buy policies chartered in more enlightened states. For example, a healthy 25-year-old male could buy a basic health plan in Kentucky that now sells for $960 a year, about one-sixth of the $5,880 it would cost him in New Jersey. Residents of Pennsylvania pay health premiums that are one-half to one-third as high as do Garden State policy-holders. A new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that the availability of lower cost plans would reduce by 25% the number of uninsured.

Opponents of interstate insurance say families would be pushed into bare-bones health plans. Not so. Families could still buy the more extensive coverage, but those with modest incomes would have options other than going uninsured. The goal of public policy shouldn't be to cover every medical procedure or doctor's visit, but to prevent families from catastrophic expenses due to a health problem that is no fault of their own.

Comment: Read both of these articles and ask yourself: Do I want healthcare choices? Do I want the government to "get out of the way"? Do I want a healthcare system run with the efficiency of the Post Office and the compassion of the IRS? These questions will help you frame your vote in November!


Taking away our dividends

Don't Kill Our Dividends


In May 2003, President Bush signed into law the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (JGTRRA), which reduced the tax rate on qualified corporate dividends and long-term capital gains to 15% (in most cases). Without an act of Congress, however, JGTRRA will not last beyond 2010.

The effects of the act have been the topic of much debate, but here are three facts to help you decide for yourself. Between January 2003 and December 2007:

  • Dividends paid by S&P 500 companies increased by 70%.
  • The average yield of the S&P increased to 1.89% from 1.61%.
  • Tech stocks such as Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT), Xilinx (Nasdaq: XLNX), and Jabil Circuit (NYSE: JBL) began paying regular dividends.

Because JGTRRA reduced the dividend tax from the individual's ordinary income tax rate to a maximum of 15%, it lessened the adverse effects of "double taxation," where a corporation pays taxes on its earnings and then investors pay yet another tax on the distributed earnings. Now that the dividend tax has been reduced, corporations have been more willing to distribute dividends -- and investors have been more inclined to receive them.

Comment: You may think this will have little impact on the small investor, but if you have a 401K plan, it will impact you if this is not extended

Detroit-ification of Michigan

Granholm's Tax Warning


Michigan is now in the 18th month of a state-wide recession, and the unemployment rate of 6.9% remains far above the national rate of 5%. Ms. Granholm blames the nationwide mortgage meltdown and higher energy prices for the job losses and disappearing revenues, but this Great Lakes state is in its own unique hole. Nearby Illinois (5.4% jobless rate) and even Ohio (5.6%) are doing better.

Leon Drolet, the head of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, complains that "we are witnessing the Detroit-ification of Michigan." By that he means that the same high tax and spend policies that have hollowed out the Motor City are now infecting many other areas of the state.

The tax hikes have done nothing but accelerate the departures of families and businesses. Michigan ranks fourth of the 50 states in declining home values, and these days about two families leave for every family that moves in. Making matters worse is that property taxes are continuing to rise by the rate of overall inflation, while home values fall. Michigan natives grumble that the only reason more people aren't blazing a path out of the state is they can't sell their homes. Research by former Comerica economist David Littmann finds that about the only industry still growing in Michigan is government. Ms. Granholm's $44.8 billion budget this year further fattened agency payrolls.

There's another national lesson from the Granholm tax dud. If Democrats believe that anger over the economy and high gas prices have put voters in a receptive mood for higher taxes, they should visit the Wolverine State.

Comment: We have strong connections to Michigan: Mom and Pop Peet are from Michigan, we lived there for 2 years while I was in seminary, and we have many relatives there. The last time we visited, it is clear it is a state in decline!

The rent ratio

As Home Prices Drop Low Enough, a Committed Renter Decides to Buy


Over the last several years, I’ve come to like a simple, back-of-the-envelope way to compare the costs of renting and owning. You find two similar houses, one for sale and the other for rent, and divide the sale price by the annual rent. You can call the result the rent ratio.

The concept will probably sound familiar to stock market investors. It’s the real estate market’s version of a price-earnings ratio — a measure of how expensive an asset is, relative to the underlying economic fundamentals. Like a P/E ratio, the rent ratio provides something of a reality check.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the average rent ratio nationwide hovered between 10 and 14. In the last few years, though, it broke through that historical range and hit almost 19 by the time the housing market peaked, in 2006.

And while home prices — and rent ratios — have always been higher on the coasts, they reached whole new levels recently. In the Washington area, the ratio went above 20. In Boston, New York, Los Angeles and south Florida, it topped 25. In Northern California, it approached 35, higher than it had been in any city, at any point on record.

In concrete terms, a rent ratio above 20 means that the monthly costs of ownership well exceed the cost of renting. At current mortgage rates, for example, a $500,000 house would typically bring monthly expenses of about $3,000 (taking into account taxes, repairs, a typical down payment and, yes, the mortgage deduction). When the rent ratio is 20, that same house could be rented for only about $2,000 a month.

Comment: 20 is the magic #. Above 20, best to rent. Very good article. Be sure to view the graphic with the chart.


100 years of oil

100 years ago today, Middle East oil discovered

Wiki: William Knox D'Arcy

BP: First oil

Comment: It's hard to imagine life without oil!

Looking for a good woman!

Comment: Not me! Already have one!

Print your own (Monopoly) money

Print your own (Monopoly) money

Comment: The government does it ... now you can too!


Sammy - devoted cat

From my Sister in Law this morning:

So there I was in the kitchen making oatmeal this morning and Roger says, "come and see what this cat is doing". Hence this photo. Sam is our oldest cat, at least 12, and Roger is her favorite person. If he had a pocket big enough, I know Sam would crawl down inside and go everywhere with him. I asked him if she crawled up there herself: "you don't think I could put her up there, do you?" Yes, a very devoted cat.

Comment: Brother will be by at 1:30 to lose at pool!

Hillary's wishful thinking?

Hillary's Bizarre RFK Comment


Her excuse now is that the Kennedys have been "much on my mind these days" with the illness of Senator Edward Kennedy, but that doesn't explain what brought it to mind more than two months ago.

Comment: Foot in mouth disease: born with pride, fomented by desire! I remember the Robert F. Kennedy assassination well. I had just finished my Freshan year at the University of Cincinnati and was working at the Monsanto Chemical plant in Addyston OH.

See this blogger's comment:

Hillary cites assassination possibility as reason to stay in race

Hers is probably one of the most tasteless comments I’ve ever heard uttered by a candidate other than a screwball no-chance third-party type, and is almost too tasteless to post, but it’s another indication of how desperate she’s become, and how her connection with sanity has become more tenuous. One has to wonder what kind of Freudian process is going on in her head to even suggest that the assassination of the frontrunner would change the entire nomination picture, and hence that possibility justifies her staying in the race.


Unusual morning

I had personal banking business to take care of today that involved going to the bank and getting a cashier's check and then getting a package together for the post office. Kathee is working from home so I was on my own. I was at the bank branch at 7:40 thinking I could take care of this through drive-through banking which is not so. So I had to wait for the branch to open at 9. I had more than an hour to "kill" so I drove into Gethsemane Cemetery to read my Bible and pray. Not to sound pius (that's not the purpose of this post) but having a pocket Bible in the car and some quiet time was a real blessing. I read Ephesians 4-6 and a passage in Romans.

It was interesting watching the comings and goings at the cemetary. I parked in a secluded shady spot and had my driver's side window down just enjoying the solitude. The comings and goings: an older woman parked near me (I actually thought it was some kind of a security person because it was a large, dark SUV) and visited a grave. A large street sweeper came along the road I was parked on. And then the most unusual: a Biff's porta potty truck pulled up and a large beefy guy unloaded a porta potty about 50' from where I parked.

But all in all I had a refreshingly quiet time of Scripture reading and prayer. The hour went by quickly and I was at the bank just after opening.


ITunes, IPOD, and Mac

I finally am getting an Ipod Nano. It is to arrive tomorrow.

One thing very nice about the MAC is the tight integration of ITunes with Mac OS X.

I used to have a Rio mp3 player and integration with Windows XP was deficient.

Tonight I am ripping some CD's (eg Simon and Garfunkle, Johnny Cash) and enjoying some old (30-40 years old) music. I bought a very nice set of headphones from woot.com and I am quietly chilling out.

Kathee is working (in the office, VPN'd into work!). My day today and my week was so hectic. Today I was on an emergency outage call from 9 a.m. until 3:45 p.m.

Health insurance: A smart approach

New Florida Law Allows Low-Cost Health Policies


His initiative, which both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature approved unanimously, enables insurers to create bare-bones policies that the governor hopes will sell for no more than $150 a month. That is about 60 percent less than the average cost of a policy for a single person in Florida, according to state insurance regulators.

The policies would be available to any Floridian 19 to 64 who has been uninsured for at least six months and who is not eligible for public insurance. In a critical provision, insurers would be prohibited from rejecting applicants based on age or health status.

To make the policies affordable, Florida will allow insurers to offer policies that do not include many of the 52 services that standard policies must currently cover, like acupuncture and podiatry. The state added a mandate on Tuesday, when Mr. Crist signed a bill requiring coverage for treating autism.

The low-cost plans have to include preventive services, office visits, screenings, surgery, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment and diabetes supplies.

Some options offered by insurers have to include catastrophic and hospital coverage. But an insurance company could, for instance, choose to limit the number of days of hospitalization it will cover or place a dollar cap on reimbursing certain services.

Mr. Crist acknowledged that the low-cost plans would not provide “Cadillac coverage.” But he said he was optimistic that uninsured Floridians would buy the plans after they are able to analyze their costs and benefits, starting early next year.

Comment: Amazing ... let the customer buy a less expensive package! I understand that Crist is on McCain's short list for VP.

What this tax will really do

First In Nation 'Pollution Fee' Coming To SF - Move Meant To Help Slow Global Warming


The Bay Area Air Quality Management District's board of directors on Wednesday approved new rules to charge businesses a fee for the pollution they emit.

The group's board of directors voted 15-1 on unprecedented new rules that will impose fees on factories, power plants, oil refineries and other businesses that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

The agency, which regulates air pollution in the nine-county Bay Area, will be the first in the country to charge companies fees based on their greenhouse gas emissions, experts say. The new rules will take effect July 1.

The modest fee -- 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide -- probably won't be enough to force companies to reduce their emissions, but backers say it sets an important precedent in combating climate change and could serve as a model for regional air districts nationwide.

The fee will not be imposed on vehicles, district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said.

"It doesn't solve global warming, but it gets us thinking in the right terms," said Daniel Kammen, a renewable energy expert at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's not enough of a cost to change behavior, but it tells us where things are headed. You have to think not just in financial terms, but in carbon terms."


More than 2,500 businesses will be required to pay the proposed fees. About seven power plants and oil refineries will have to pay more than $50,000 a year, but the majority of businesses will pay less than $1, according to district estimates.

The proposed program, which requires companies to measure and report their own emissions, could make it more complicated and expensive to do business in the Bay Area, said Shelly Sullivan, who heads the AB32 Implementation Group, a coalition of business groups working with state regulators to implement California's global warming law.

"It's going to make Bay Area businesses less competitive because companies outside the area won't face similar costs," Sullivan said. "There would be a patchwork of plans that would not be consistent."

Comment: Get this .. some businesses will only pay $ 1. But they will pay many dollars in calculating that $. Who will pay? Jobs lost!


Older and "wiser"?

Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain


...the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, “Progress in Brain Research.”

Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.

“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

Comment: I hope this is true!


Tax somebody else ... but give me government services

62% of Voters Prefer Fewer Government Services with Lower Taxes


The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 62% of voters would prefer fewer government services with lower taxes. Nearly a third (29%) disagrees and would rather have a bigger government with higher taxes. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.

Those numbers have changed little over the past month.

Republican voters overwhelmingly prefer fewer government services—83% of the GOP faithful hold that view while just 13% prefer more government involvement. Democratic voters are evenly divided on this question: 46% prefer more government services, while 43% prefer less government services.

Not surprisingly, conservative voters like less government while liberal voters favor a bigger government. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of politically moderate voters prefer smaller government. A separate survey found that most adults (56%) are worried that the next president will raise taxes too much.

Comment: What most really want ... more services but tax somebody else.

Obama on abortion

HT: Between Two Worlds

Comment: Many Christians will still vote for him because most do not connect politics and theology.


The Obama Doctrine

Click for larger image.

From: freedomswatch.org


Saturday happenings

I gave blood again today via apheresis. I received my 1 gallon pin (I've given much more blood ... but one gallon via apheresis).

Today was somewhat of a witnessing opportunity as well. Tonya was my phlebotomist and I had an opportunity (not as effective I would like) to chat with her about the Savior. I should have had a Gospel of John to give her but I did not.

Now waiting for my brother to arrive. He doesn't know it yet, but I want to tske him to the gas station to fill up my 5 gallon gas can and then fill up my tractor.

Then afterwards to play pool.

Son will be with us for dinner tonight.

Chinese Communism: "the party stands naked"

Earthquakes and the Mandate of Heaven


The massive quake that shook China's Sichuan province this week is one of the worst natural disasters – in terms of lives claimed and property destroyed – that the world has seen in some time. But an earthquake, according to Chinese tradition, is not a mere act of nature, nor is it simply a matter of fate. Traditionally, every earthquake announces profound changes that will affect the entire society.

Journalists on location, as well as survivors, likewise observe that the buildings first to crumble, and that killed the most victims, were public edifices – schools and hospitals. Everyone in China knows that a common form of corruption in the ranks of the Communist Party consists in economizing on materials and construction standards.

Children crushed by the walls of their school are victims of the corruption of builders, businesses and government officials as much as they are victims of the earthquake. This the people know, and all the gesticulations of aid agencies and national leaders will not be able to eradicate this source of collective hatred of the people towards the party.

So it is with China and with tyrannical regimes: The party is convinced it controls everything. But it is often unexpected events that reveal fault lines in the system, the hypocrisy of public discourse, and the most unbearable injustices. Even as the people of Sichuan attempt to recover from this deadly quake, we learn that scores of children have died from an epidemic of hand, foot and mouth disease that has sickened tens of thousands. All of this reminds us of the panics of recent years provoked by the SARS virus, avian flu and the AIDS epidemic.

Epidemics and natural catastrophes (or not-so-natural catastrophes, if the Three Gorges Dam should also crumble) are more serious threats to the Communist tyranny than democratic pamphlets disseminated on Web sites. The party has resolved to imprison dissidents. But in the face of viruses, popular beliefs and earthquakes, the party stands naked.

Comment: Check out earthquake in the book of Revelation. The coming "BIG ONE": "there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth." (Revelation 16:18)


Smart Fortwo

Kathee and I visited the Smart dealership in Bloomington last Saturday. Funny thing is that we thought it was at the Mercedes dealership (which it is not) and we went there first. Kathee had a pair of jeans on that had bleech spots (you know where bleach splashes on the jeans) and I had a food stain on my pants (hey it was the end of the week!). That morning I was eating a very soft banana (like black!) and one of my cats was on my lap. She lept off my lap and the banana went flying and landed on my pants! (It happens!). I also had not shaven since Wednesday. We didn't look like much and that's the way were were treated! Oh well!

Then onto the Smart dealership. We were treated like human beings there! I'm not buying one (yet) but I was very impressed. I can actually fit nicely into this thing (which is saying alot because I am tall, heavy, and somewhat crippled up). My crutches fit nicely between the seats.

I read this week that the Smart Fortwo received 5 Star safety ratings. I definitely would not drive to Dallas in one of these but it would work nicely around town. Silly me ... I thought Fortwo was some Japanese word (like "fort - wo") but it is pronounced "for two").

Here's an interesting link about the Smart: TruthAboutSmart


Carter-Obama Taxes

Drop in housing prices: Crisis or Blessing?

George Will: Alice in Housing Land


One symptom of the "crisis" is that housing prices have fallen. How far is unclear. Estimates range from 3 percent to 13 percent. Questions arise.

Do young couples struggling to purchase their first homes concur with the sudden consensus that the decline in prices is a national misfortune? The Economist reports: "Monthly payments on a typical house with a 30-year mortgage and 20 percent downpayment were 18.5 percent of the median family's income in February, down from almost 26 percent at the peak — and close to the historical average."

By this measure of housing affordability, the "crisis" is welcome.

Comment: He also touches briefly on Global Warming:

Although Earth's temperature has risen and fallen through many millennia, the temperature was exactly right when, in the 1960s, Al Gore became interested in the subject.


Hillary: After WV "Staying Alive"

Comment: Talk about "when the music died"! Hillary is staying in to (one or more of the below):

  1. Raise more funds to pay off that $ 11 M she loaned her campaign
  2. Position herself to run as Obama's VP (there's a match made in hell!)
  3. Position herself for 2012 should Obama lose to McCain

Obama's "I'm a Christian" pitch

Barack Obama’s Pitch in Kentucky

Comment: Select link for full sized of the brochure. Note the "Faith, Hope, and Change" ... er ... I thought it was "Faith, Hope, and Love"

Trajectory Hermeneutics

Denny Burk: Irving Bible Church Goes Egalitarian?


The Elders Embrace Trajectory Hermeneutics. Point number three reveals that the elders have embraced some version of trajectory hermeneutics. Trajectory hermeneutics holds that some of the Bible’s teachings fall short of God’s ideal ethic for His people. The progress of revelation reveals “redemptive movement” with respect to some ethical norms. Thus the patriarchy prescribed by Paul does not reflect God’s ultimate ethic. There is something better than the norms enjoined by Paul and the other writers of scripture.

This approach to reading the Bible was made popular by William Webb in his book
Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. I regard Webb’s proposal as a threat to biblical authority and therefore very harmful to the church when it is embraced. For a sound critique of this perspective, see Wayne Grudem’s “Should We Move Beyond the New Testament To a Better Ethic?” in JETS 47 (2004): 299-346. I don’t think it an overstatement when Grudem concludes: “Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic nullifies in principle the moral authority of the entire New Testament and thus contradicts the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura.” Thus it is troubling indeed that the pastors of IBC have gone down this very dangerous road. See also Tom Schreiner’s “William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women &Homosexuals: A Review Article” in SBJT 6.4 (2002): 46-64.

Comment: First time I've heard the term "Trajectory Hermeneutics". Not all trajecories are "up"!

China: Lax building codes contributed to disaster

An Unnecessary Tragedy


China's massive earthquake wasn't without precedent. In 1993, a magnitude 7.5 tremor killed about 9,000 people in the northwestern Sichuan Basin. Monday's event happened when, according to the United States Geological Survey, the Earth's crust underlying the high Tibetan Plateau edged west, rubbing up against the crust underlying the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China. It was a shallow event, meaning the collision happened only a few miles below the Earth's surface -- intensifying the destruction. Its tremors were felt even 2,000 kilometers away, in Bangkok.

The Chinese government was aware of this threat and took measures to protect against it. In 2006, Chinese regulators updated the country's building codes and made major changes in regard to new buildings' required "earthquake loads," or the ability of a structure to withstand shaking. China's code is now on par with similar codes in seismically active areas of the world. China has become one of the most active users of modern approaches of structural control and health monitoring of civil infrastructure structures. Virtually all major new civil structures, such as long bridges and athletic stadiums, are heavily instrumented with sensors that can detect and assess rapid changes in the building's condition. Innovation is booming.

As in other countries, however, China's problem is that there are many older structures that do not meet the stricter new codes, or don't maintain it once the building is constructed. From initial reports, the geographical distribution of destruction suggests that near the center of the industrial city of Chengdu, where the damage has been limited, building codes had been enforced. But in the rural areas -- which were hit hardest -- these codes weren't followed. This pattern, where the surrounding, poorer areas of large cities suffer the most casualties, is often observed in the aftermath of natural disasters in developing nations. The types of catastrophic collapses seen in the first news reels from China this week are reminiscent of similar scenes most recently from Bam in Iran in 2003 and Turkey in 1999.

Those earthquakes were of a smaller magnitude but had a similar impact in terms of deaths. And many of those deaths were entirely unnecessary. There is no excuse for the collapse of schools or other public buildings such as hospitals, whether they were built recently or decades ago. If any local authority wanted to use public buildings that did not meet current codes, Beijing could have required local governments to retroactively strengthen those structures. In this regard, the Chinese government can do much better.

Comment: Lindsay T. from 4th Baptist has friends in Dujiangyan


Ahmadinejad: Israel to "be soon swept away"

Ahmadinejad: Israel to be 'swept away soon'


Tehran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Israel would "be soon swept away" from the Palestinian Territories by the Palestinians. It is the second time within less than three years that the Iranian president predicted the eradication of the Jewish state.

The first time was in 2005 when Ahmadinejad hoped that Israel would be eradicated from the Middle East map.

"This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians," Ahmadinejad said in a press conference in Tehran.

Referring to worldwide celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Israel's foundation, he said that "it would be futile to hold a birthday ceremony for something which is already dead."

"As far as the regional countries are concerned, this regime does not exist," Ahmadinejad added.

The Iranian president said last week that the anniversary feasts could not save this "rotten and stinking corpse."

Comment: Psalm 83:1-4

1 Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
2 For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
3 They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
4 They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

CFG: Ahmadinejad archive

Smart ... but not wise!

Einstein letter calls Bible ‘pretty childish’


The letter up for sale, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954, suggests his views on religion did not mellow with age.

In it, Einstein said that "the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

"For me," he added, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions."

Addressing the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people, Einstein wrote that "the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

Comment: Psalm 14:1, "The fool has said in his heart,“There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good"

Melting Glacier on the Brain

John McCain Has Melting Glaciers on the Brain

Dear John,

The liberal mainstream media is going to give you a pass on this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t help set the record straight while you’re on your panderfest with treehuggers in the Pacific Northwest.

A few essential reads for your perusal:

Antarctica Ice Cap Growth Reaches Record High Levels
New NASA Evidence Refutes Global Warming
Arctic Sea Ice Back to its Previous Level
Unusual Winds Caused Arctic Ice Melts, Not Global Warming
NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007
Arctic Sea ice loss - “it’s the wind” says NASA
Sea Ice May Be on Increase in the Antarctic: A Phenomenon Due to a Lot of ‘Hot Air’?
Antarctic volcanoes identified as a possible culprit in glacier melting
Ancient Greenland was actually green! DNA analysis reveals ice-covered country was once home to butterflies

Comment: The last link about Greenland is very good!


Mother's Day photos

My dear Mother, turned 88 on Friday. Yesterday my Sister hosted a small family Mother's Day party for her.

I haven't seen her since December (my B-I-L's funeral) but she will be flying to Minneapolis in July!

Will Hillary jump out of the tub?


What Democrats fear could have a lasting impact is what Clinton might say about Obama that could split the party or be gleefully reused by Republican John McCain in the fall election.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn, an Obama supporter, compared Clinton to the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction" -- a spurned woman turned stalker who was apparently drowned in a bathtub only to jump up one more time to be shot dead.

"Glenn Close should have stayed in that tub, and Sen. Clinton has had a remarkable career and needs to move to the next step, which is helping elect the Democratic nominee," Cohen said during a local TV interview. He later apologized for his comments.

Comment: Stay in the tub!


A couple of old photos

Mother (who turned 88 on Friday) took a bunch of old slides and had them converted to jpegs. Here are two:

Mom and Dad with my older Sis. I'm guessing that this is would be about 1947 (my Sister is now 62).

This is a picture of Mom and Dad with Sis and me in (I'm guessing) 1949. In front of our house on Monroe Street in Fort Wayne Indiana.

See House Lust for another photo of our house.

What's wrong with Detroit?

Chrysler unleashes Dodge Challenger


It's a difficult time to be launching a $40,000 car with the fuel economy of a large sport utility vehicle. U.S. auto sales were down 8 percent in the first four months of the year as the weak U.S. economy took a toll on consumer confidence.

At the same time, gas prices reached a record high of $3.62 per gallon recently and could climb to a national average of $4 per gallon in the coming weeks. The 2008 Challenger gets 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway, the same as Chrysler's largest SUV, the Dodge Durango.

Comment: Kathee and I drove down to Bloomington yesterday and looked at the Mini Cooper and the Smart car. Both very impressive. Meanwhile Detroit still is in "legacy"-mode ... producing new gas guzzlers!


Rove prognosticates

Comment: This is interesting:

It's Obama, Warts and All


My analysis of individual state polls shows that today Mr. McCain would win 241 Electoral College votes to Mr. Obama's 217, with 80 votes in toss-up states where neither candidate has more than a 3% lead. Ironically, Mrs. Clinton now leads Mr. McCain with 251 electoral votes to his 203 with 84 in toss-up states. This is the first time she's led Mr. McCain since I began tracking state-by-state results in early March.

Mr. McCain is realistic enough to know he will fall behind Mr. Obama once the Democratic nomination is settled. He's steeled himself and his team for that moment. And he's comforted by a belief that there will be plenty of time to recapture the lead. Mr. McCain saw Gerald Ford come from 30 points down to lose narrowly to Jimmy Carter in 1976, and watched George H.W. Bush overcome a 17-point deficit in the summer to hammer Michael Dukakis in the fall of 1988.

- The battlegrounds will look familiar. It will be the industrial heartland from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, minus Indiana (Republican) and Illinois (Democrat); the western edge of the Midwest from Minnesota south to Missouri; Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in the Rocky Mountains; Florida; and New Hampshire.

Mr. Obama will argue he puts Virginia and North Carolina into play (doubtful), and may make an attempt at winning one or two of Nebraska's electoral votes (it awards its electoral votes by congressional district). Mr. McCain will say he can put New Jersey and Delaware and part of Maine (it splits its vote like Nebraska) in play. But it's doubtful he'll win in Oregon or Washington State, although he believes he can.


Mr. Obama is increasingly seen not as the Second Coming, but as a typical liberal Chicago pol with a thin record, little experience, an array of troubling relationships and, to top it off, elitist sensibilities. Nominating him will now test the thesis that only a Democrat running as a moderate can win the White House.


Workers want Macs

Consumers driving demand for Macs at work


Soon after Michele Goins became chief information officer at Juniper Networks in February, she decided to respond to the growing chorus of Mac lovers among the networking company's 6,100 employees. For years, many had used Apple's computers at home and clamored for them in the office as well. So she launched a test, letting 600 Juniper staffers use Macs instead of the standard-issue PCs that run Microsoft's Windows operating system. As long as the extra support costs aren't too high, she plans to open the floodgates. "If we opened it up today, I think 25 percent of our employees would choose Macs," she says.

Funny thing is, she has never received a single sales call from Apple. While thousands of other companies scratch and claw for the tiniest sliver of the corporate computing market, Apple treats this vast market with utter indifference. After a series of failed offensives by the company in the 1980s and 1990s, Chief Executive Steve Jobs decided to focus squarely on consumers and education customers when he returned to Apple in 1997. As a result, the company doesn't have ranks of corporate salespeople or armies of repairmen waiting to respond every time a hard drive fails. Nothing that could divert his minions from staying focused on Apple's core calling: creating the next cool thing for the world's consumers.

Comment: What's holding Macs back? In my opinion:

  1. The existing support structure inside large corporations is Windows based: Engineers, technicians, desktop support help desks. There is a large base of workers that would need to be cross trained.
  2. Support for multiple platforms grows exponentially not linearly. Eg: 2 platforms takes 4 times as much support. This holds the Mac back and Linux.
  3. The interoperability issues (particularly around office documents and email) make the hybrid Mac / Windows office problematic.
  4. Outlook (Windows) is stronger than the native Mac "Mail". And Outlook is more robust that the Entourage (Microsoft/MAC) mail client.
  5. Office 2008 (Mac) does not have an Access counterpart (Office 2007). Many don't use Access, but in my company everyone (at least in technology) has it.
  6. While on can run Windows on a Mac ... if you want to run Windows, it is less expensive to buy a native Windows (Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc) machine.
  7. Windows workstations are heavily discounted in the corporate environment. Even an ordinary consumer can buy a Windows PC for perhaps half of what a Mac will cost.

If I were a small businessman outfitting a new office, I would go with Mac!

Blogging as group therapy

Your blog can be group therapy


John Suler, a psychology professor at Rider University in New Jersey, has studied the overlap of psychology and cyberspace. Blog audiences are usually small, he says, but "going public with one's thoughts and experiences can be a self-affirming process."

He and other experts say blogging shouldn't replace face-to-face counseling -- although it can complement sessions when a patient shares their writing with the therapist.

"Some psychologists take special interest in any activities that their clients may undertake online," Suler says, "because such activities often reveal a lot about how they express their identity and relate to other people."

Kim did start psychotherapy, but kept blogging. "My therapist will give me little assignments and I'll blog about them," she says. "If I come home (after a session) and write about it, it solidifies it."

One Chicago licensed social worker and therapist in her 50s encourages patients to release bottled emotions through blogging. Leah, who asked that her last name not be used because of the nature of her profession, started EveryoneNeedsTherapy.blogspot.com to share professional insights.

Soon, however, she was talking about her own feelings -- and her husband told her it seemed to lift her mood.

"It's a form of group therapy," says Leah. "Not only can you express your feelings, but you can get comments, and that creates a dialogue."

Comment: Interesting!

Ahmadinejad and the Mahdi

Iran clerics rebuke Ahmadinejad over 'hidden imam'


Clerics have told President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stick to more worldly issues after he was quoted as saying the "hidden imam" of Shiite Islam was directing Iran.
Ahmadinejad has always been a devotee of the Mahdi, the twelfth imam of Shiite Islam, who Shiites believe disappeared more than a thousand years ago and who will return one day to usher in a new era of peace and harmony.

But in a speech to theology students broadcast by state television on Monday, Ahmadinejad went further than ever before in emphasising his belief that the Mahdi is playing a critical role in Iran's day-to-day politics.

"The Imam Mahdi is in charge of the world and we see his hand directing all the affairs of the country," he said in the speech, which appears to date from last month but has only now been broadcast.

"We must solve Iran's internal problems as quickly as possible. Time is lacking. A movement has started for us to occupy ourselves with our global responsibilities, which are arriving with great speed."

Comment: It's those "global responsibilities" that concern me! Re "the Madhi": Wikipedia, The Mahdi. Here's a list of those claiming to be "the Madhi".

'We Now Know Who the Nominee Will Be'

Pundits Declare the Race Over


The moment came shortly after midnight Eastern time, captured in a devastatingly declarative statement from Tim Russert of NBC News: “We now know who the Democratic nominee’s going to be, and no one’s going to dispute it,” he said on MSNBC. “Those closest to her will give her a hard-headed analysis, and if they lay it all out, they’ll say, ‘What is the rationale? What do we say to the undeclared super delegates tomorrow? Why do we tell them you’re staying in the race?’ And tonight, there’s no good answer for that.”

Comment: See this interesting post: For Hillary to Win, She Must Drop Out


Hillary can’t win on delegates; she must win on narrative, and no conceivable narrative gives her the momentum or leverage to convince the superdelegates if she remains in the race. If she wants to win, if she hopes to prove that Obama really can’t, in any circumstances, win working class whites, she must drop out. So that she can attempt to rise from the ashes after West Virginia. It’s still a huge long-shot, but it’s frankly the only hint of a hope she has left.


Using tragedy to advance an agenda

Al Gore Calls Myanmar Cyclone a 'Consequence' of Global Warming


“And as we’re talking today, Terry, the death count in Myanmar from the cyclone that hit there yesterday has been rising from 15,000 to way on up there to much higher numbers now being speculated,” Gore said. “And last year a catastrophic storm from last fall hit Bangladesh. The year before, the strongest cyclone in more than 50 years hit China – and we’re seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming.”

Comment: Like the title says: advancing an agenda!

andon, kanban, kaizen

The open secret of success: Toyota turns the concept of innovation on its head, shares it and still wins


According to Matthew E. May, the author of a book about the company called “The Elegant Solution,” Toyota implements a million new ideas a year, and most of them come from ordinary workers. (Japanese companies get a hundred times as many suggestions from their workers as U.S. companies do.) Most of these ideas are small — making parts on a shelf easier to reach, say — and not all of them work. But cumulatively, every day, Toyota knows a little more, and does things a little better, than it did the day before.

The system doesn’t necessarily preclude missteps — in 2006, Toyota ran into a series of quality problems — and it’s possible that the focus on incremental innovation would be less well suited to businesses driven by large technological leaps. But, on the whole, the results are hard to argue with. They’re also phenomenally difficult to duplicate.

In part, this is because most companies are still organized in a very top-down manner, and have a hard time handing responsibility to front-line workers. But it’s also because the fundamental ethos of kaizen — slow and steady improvement — runs counter to the way that most companies think about change. Corporations hope that the right concept will turn things around overnight. This is what you might call the crash-diet approach: starve yourself for a few days and you’ll be thin for life.

The Toyota approach is more like a regular, sustained diet — less immediately dramatic but, as everyone knows, much harder to sustain. In the 1990s, a McKinsey study of companies that had put quality-improvement programs in place found that two-thirds abandoned them as failures. Toyota’s innovative methods may seem mundane, but their sheer relentlessness defeats many companies. That’s why Toyota can afford to hide in plain sight: It knows the system is easy to understand but hard to follow.

Comment: Good read.

John MacArthur: on Evolutionism

What follows are 5 linked articles on Evolutionism by John MacArthur:

  1. Evolution: Science or Faith?
    Thanks to the theory of evolution, naturalism is now the dominant religion of modern society. Less than a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin popularized the credo for this secular religion with his book The Origin of Species. Although most of Darwin’s theories about the mechanisms of evolution were discarded long ago, the doctrine of evolution itself has managed to achieve the status of a fundamental article of faith in the popular modern mind. Naturalism has now replaced Christianity as the main religion of the Western world, and evolution has become naturalism’s principal dogma

  2. Naturalism’s Missionary Zeal
    Modern naturalism is often promulgated with a missionary zeal that has powerful religious overtones. The popular fish symbol many Christians put on their cars now has a naturalist counterpart: a fish with feet and the word “Darwin” embossed into its side. The Internet has become naturalism’s busiest mission field, where evangelists for the cause aggressively try to deliver benighted souls who still cling to their theistic presuppositions. Judging from the tenor of some of the material I have read seeking to win converts to naturalism, naturalists are often dedicated to their faith with a devout passion that rivals or easily exceeds the fanaticism of any radical religious zealot. Naturalism is clearly as much a religion as any theistic world-view. The point is further proved by examining the beliefs of those naturalists who claim to be most unfettered by religious beliefs.

  3. Evolution and Ethics
    Indeed, the rise of naturalism has meant moral catastrophe for modern society. The most damaging ideologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were all rooted in Darwinism.

    One of Darwin’s earliest champions, Thomas Huxley, gave a lecture in 1893 in which he argued that evolution and ethics are incompatible. He wrote that “the practice of that which is ethically best—what we call goodness or virtue—involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence.” [Evolution and Ethics, The Romanes Lecture, 1893.]

  4. Monkeying with the Meaning
    At this moment in history, even though most of modern society is already fully committed to an evolutionary and naturalistic world view, our society still benefits from the collective memory of a biblical world-view. People in general still believe human life is special. They still hold remnants of biblical morality, such as the notion that love is the greatest virtue (1 Corinthians 13:13); service to one another is better than fighting for personal dominion (Matthew 20:25-27); and humility and submission are superior to arrogance and rebellion (1 Peter 5:5).

  5. Is Evolution Compatible with Christianity?
    Evolution was introduced as an atheistic alternative to the biblical view of creation. According to evolution, man created God rather than vice versa. And as we have seen, the evolutionists’ ultimate agenda is to eliminate faith in God altogether and thereby do away with moral accountability.

    Intuition suggests a series of questions to the human mind when we contemplate our origin: Who is in control of the universe? Is there Someone who is sovereign—a Lawgiver? Is there a universal Judge? Is there a transcendent moral standard to live by? Is there Someone to whom will we be accountable? Will there be a final assessment of how we live our lives? Will there be any final judgment?

    Those are the very questions evolution was invented to avoid.

    Evolution was devised to explain away the God of the Bible—not because evolutionists really believed a Creator was unnecessary to explain how things began, but because they did not want the God of Scripture as their Judge.

Where the Candidates fit Ideologically

Where the Candidates fit Ideologically


Pew Research released a ton of polling data a few days ago. The most interesting part asked voters where they placed the Presidential Candidates on the ideological spectrum. The choices were very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, very liberal. The poll also asked these voters what they considered themselves to be.

Comment: Interesting. I'm probably to the right of McCain.


The "way back" computer

Charles Babbage’s Proto-Brain Comes to America


The Science Museum in London has built two replicas of Charles Babbage’s original design for the Difference Engine No. 2. Originally planned between 1847 and 1849, the five-ton, 8,000- part system for calculating polynomials was finally completed in 2002 by a team of engineers who took 17 years to complete the entire project. Difference Engine No. 2 includes a remarkable printing component that almost certainly would have been the world’s first automated typesetter, had Babbage completed his original design during his lifetime.

The all-mechanical Difference Engine adds with numbers that are 31 digits long and it can calculate polynomials up to the seventh order. However, it is the printer that appears to be even more strikingly modern. It will produce an ink printout, but also has the capability of producing a mold for a printing plate. It automatically typesets results in columns as well as employing two separate font sizes.

Comment: Be sure to view the video in the NYTime article. Also consider these helpful links: Charles Babbage and Difference engine


Mantuary from matrimony

Why he needs a room of his own


"I have it decorated with all the sports memorabilia that my wife would not allow anywhere in the house in a million years," says Brian, 30, a sales director for a print media company.

But for Brian, it's not just about holding onto the ratty futon and the "Fletch" movie poster from his bachelor days. It's about having a "mantuary," or "man cave" -- a space just for him where he can watch sports uninterrupted or play Xbox games with his buddies.

"When his friends come over, they will go downstairs," says Vicki, a 31-year-old account executive at a communications firm. "It's like the basement in 'That '70s Show.'"

What does Brian have stashed away?

"Millions of movies," he says, plus a 32-inch flat-screen TV, film posters, his guitar, an exercise bike, and a few family treasures, including the first-place trophy he won at a melanoma charity golf tournament he played in honor of his deceased father.

Having a room of one's own can provide refuge in a stressful world, but can a mantuary actually help a marriage?

Comment: My home is my mantuary!

"Raul, Tear down that firewall!"

Cuba puts first computers on sale to public


The Cuban PCs have Intel Celeron processors with 80 gigabytes of memory and 512 RAM and are equipped with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Both could be violations of a U.S. trade embargo, but not something Washington can do anything about in the absence of diplomatic relations with Havana.

Clerks said the PCs were assembled by Cuban companies using parts imported from China. For about $80 less, buyers in the U.S. can get a desktop with more than twice the memory, a 80 GB SATA hard drive and 22-inch LCD flat screen monitor.


Except for some trusted officials and state journalists, most Cubans are banned from accessing the Internet at home. So many of these new computers may never be connected to the Web.

Comment: Real progress HAH ... still prohibited from the web!


Subprime CC debt, auto loans, & student loans

Fed Takes Steps to Add Liquidity


The Federal Reserve announced new steps on Friday to help ease tight global credit markets by increasing the size of its cash auctions to banks and allowing financial institutions to put up credit card debt, student loans and car loans as collateral for Fed loans.

The Fed also acted in coordination with central banks in Europe to make it easier for European banks to obtain dollars in currency swaps.

In a terse statement Friday morning, announced just before the government reported that 20,000 jobs were lost in April, the Fed said that it was acting to counter “persistent liquidity pressures” in credit markets in Europe and the United States.

The Fed’s action came as some analysts are saying that a measure of stability has returned to American financial markets after months of turbulence. Nevertheless, the Fed has made clear that it remains concerned about the risk from credit markets seizing up because of losses from bad loans, particularly in the housing sector.

Comment: More federal guarantees of risky loans. See my previous post about risk management!

National Economic Risk Management

“For Want of a Nail”: ERM for the Regulators

Comment: A long article that is difficult to summarize or excerpt. A good read.


It’s ironic, but tragic, that the fundamental core of all U.S. financial regulation—the requirement that firms identify, assess, plan for, and ameliorate market risks—has long been missing from the way this country’s regulators oversee our financial and capital markets. With the release of Treasury’s Blueprint for a Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure, we’re only now just embarking on a long overdue examination of the way this country regulates its financial and capital markets. But, it does not take a blueprint to identify the one obviously missing ingredient in our regulatory arsenal—the application of risk assessment and amelioration, in the form of enterprise risk management. Government long ago should have learned the folly of a mantra that encourages the private sector: “Do as I say, not as I do.” And yet, for all the requirements of transparency and risk assessment imposed on those who provide financial services, the government has been woefully inept at requiring at least as much of itself.

It’s long been noted that there’s no foolproof way to make money on Wall Street, but there are plenty of time-tested, proven, and foolproof ways to lose large amounts of money with absolute certainty. The 1987 October equity market sell-off was triggered by “portfolio insurance.” Brokers established programs for financial institutions that allowed them to control their market exposures by constructing theoretical “put” positions and delta trading them. This is fine, but that technique requires financial institutions embracing it to accelerate selling as the market falls. If enough large institutions engage in selling at the same time, markets panic and the result is what was produced in October 1987.

Comments: It is difficult to make money in the stock market. First dividends are doublely taxed (the firm pays income tax on its earnings, and then the investor pays tax on the dividend income); secondly one pays capital gains taxes (which are complex to calculate and require odious record keeping AND their is no indexing for inflation). Its no wonder few people invest! It's a spend as fast as one can borrow economy!


the ultimate act of sportsmanship

Central Washington offers the ultimate act of sportsmanship


Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career. Central Washington senior Mallory Holtman was already her school's career leader in them. But when a twist of fate and a torn knee ligament brought them face to face with each other and face to face with the end of their playing days, they combined on a home run trot that celebrated the collective human spirit far more than individual athletic achievement.

Comment: Men's sports (think the NFL, MLB, etc) are virtually devoid of sportsmanship!

Albert Mohler: on Sex Selection Abortions

Albert Mohler: A Tale of Two Nations -- Getting Honest about Sex Selection Abortions


The Prime Minister of India delivered a brave and important speech on Monday of this week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared his nation's practice of sex-selection abortions to be a "national shame" and called for increased enforcement of laws that would prevent the practice.

Sex selection by abortion is widespread in both India and China, although it is practiced in many other nations as well. In both nations efforts to limit the size of families is part of the equation. In China, the nation's draconian "one child only" policy has led to a dramatic imbalance of males to females. In India, only 927 baby girls are born for every 1,000 baby boys.

Throughout India, ultrasound technologies and other diagnostic procedures are used to identify the sex of the unborn baby. Close nearby are abortionists ready to terminate a pregnancy of the unwanted gender -- almost always baby girls.

Comment: Excellent read!

What's the fuss?

St. Thomas to student: Not Planned Parenthood


St. Thomas is a Catholic university, and the church has an issue with Planned Parenthood because it is a leader on abortion rights. So the student committee that oversees public service choices grudgingly gave her permission work with Planned Parenthood as long as she stayed clear of anything related to either birth control or abortion.

But even before she heard about that decision Law School Dean Thomas Mengler stepped in and nixed the whole thing. He’d received a flood of protests from others at the school objecting to the committee’s decision. Any volunteering for Planned Parenthood is unacceptable, he said in a letter to the committee and the school.

“Volunteer service at Planned Parenthood, whatever the nature of that service, advances the mission of Planned Parenthood, an organization whose mission is fundamentally at odds with a core value of the Catholic Church,” he said.

Borton has calmed down some, she said, “but when I read that email I was really upset.” She understands his point — that allowing her to volunteer for Planned Parenthood makes it look like the school is endorsing its mission. “But I think that’s totally off base,” she said. “I think that much it’s more of an academic detriment to the school than it is protective of Catholic identity.”

Besides, Borton is not Catholic. She is what her mother calls “a recovering Catholic,” she said. It’s not right for the school to impose Catholic doctrine on non-Catholic students, she said.

She chose St. Thomas law school in part because she believed in its social justice mission, which is closely tied to its Catholic identity, she said. “But my idea of of social justice is working at Planned Parenthood.”

Comment: Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest purveyor of abortions. Catholicism is against abortion. St Thomas is a private institution. What's missing. Ms. Borton: get over it!