Swine Flu tip - don't do this

Comment: from my Sister in Law (who, being a nurse, knows of which she speaks!)

They once said that a black man would be President when pigs fly. His first 100 days in office and *bam* swine flu



Comment: Why buy an expensive PDF editing tool. This solution is web based and free.

Zodiac killer identified?

Woman claims father was infamous Zodiac killer


... a woman is stepping forward to claim that her father was the killer and that he took her along as a 7-year-old for thrills, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. During the height of the killings, the Chronicle received taunting letters believed to be the Zodiac killer.

The claim by Deborah Perez stirred up much skepticism about a case in which a number of people have tried to take responsibility.

But at least Perez, 47, offers a unique twist, the newspaper says.

She tells reporters that she is going public to finger her now-deceased father, Guy Ward Hendrickson, a resident of Santa Ana in 1968 and 1969, in an attempt "to right his wrongs."

"I was a child and just thought I was helping my father," Perez says. "He told me he killed many people."

Most intriguing, perhaps, is that she says she has a pair of brown, horn-rimmed glasses that her father supposedly took from his last victim, a cabbie, the Chronicle reports.

She also says she wrote a letter to famed defense attorney Melvin Belli at the age of 7 to try to get help for Hendrickson. The letter, with erratic punctuation and misspellings, read: "Dear Melvin This is the Zodiac speaking I wish you a happy Christmass. ... please help me."

The Chronicle quotes police investigators as saying they will look into the story.

Comment: Wiki on the Zodiac killer / This seriously creepied me out when I was a college student!

Swine flu: "relatively mild"

Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild


"This virus doesn't have anywhere near the capacity to kill like the 1918 virus," which claimed an estimated 50 million victims worldwide, said Richard Webby, a leading influenza virologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

When the current virus was first identified, the similarities between it and the 1918 flu seemed ominous.

Both arose in the spring at the tail end of the flu season. Both seemed to strike people who were young and healthy instead of the elderly and infants. Both were H1N1 strains, so called because they had the same types of two key proteins that are largely responsible for a virus' ability to infect and spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health published genetic sequence data Monday morning of flu samples isolated from patients in California and Texas, and thousands of scientists immediately began downloading the information. Comparisons to known killers -- such as the 1918 strain and the highly lethal H5N1 avian virus -- have since provided welcome news.

"There are certain characteristics, molecular signatures, which this virus lacks," said Peter Palese, a microbiologist and influenza expert at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. In particular, the swine flu lacks an amino acid that appears to increase the number of virus particles in the lungs and make the disease more deadly.

Scientists have identified several other differences between the current virus and its 1918 predecessor, but the significance of those differences is still unclear, said Dr. Scott Layne, an epidemiologist at the UCLA School of Public Health.

Ralph Tripp, an influenza expert at the University of Georgia, said that his early analysis of the virus' protein-making instructions suggested that people exposed to the 1957 flu pandemic -- which killed up to 2 million people worldwide -- may have some immunity to the new strain.

That could explain why older people have been spared in Mexico, where the swine flu has been most deadly.

Comment: Good news.

Questions about the homeless

In case you've ever wondered, I posed these questions to Pastor who works closely with the homeless (in Denver):

My questions:

I have a couple of questions about "the homeless" that center around "who are they?", "why are they (there)?", and "why are they homeless?".

The first observation (that leads to my second question) is that homeless seem to gravitate (do they migrate?) or they seem more prevalent in some areas. Eg. Denver, San Francisco, etc. Minneapolis seems to have a much smaller homeless issue (I suppose it is because of the bitterly cold winters, but I am not sure).

This is not a cynics question (although it may seem that way). In our drive downtown we often stop at a light near the end of I-394. A homeless (I presume this the case) is often stationed at this strategic location where thousands of cars pass and many stop every morning. I often look at the man (not always a man, but generally; and not always the same man) and wonder why doesn't this able bodied person work? I'm almost 60 and am handicapped. I cannot do physical labor at all. But when I look at these persons they appear physically healthy and able. I know the recent economic downturn has made finding work more difficult but for years there has been abundant work in the Twin Cities. Recently I had a lot of construction done on my house as a result of hail damage. All of the workers (roofers and siders) were Spanish speaking men. Why do these jobs go to immigrates (either legal or illegal) and the able-bodied homeless seem to not work?

Another question I have is "where are the families of these men?".

His answers:

In short, most of the "sign-flyers" do not want to work. They are professional homeless. They do not want responsibility, only handouts.

I don't think the domain thing here is a real issue. It's first-come, first serve.

I'm unsure as to the migration patterns. I know that very few of our homeless are natives.

Most of them have alienated their families or vice versa.

You can do a web search on the Denver Road Home and get a lot of stats and info there. My biggest gripe with the sign guys is that they tend to get all the attention whereas the single mom camping out on her sisters living room couch doesn't.

Further comments: If you've ever been to San Fran ... wow there are beggers everywhere! Step into a shop and many times you are stepping over "p". Makes me glad for very cold winters here in Minnesota.

Hard at work

So my readers know what a "slacker" I am! MacBook on the lap. Book stacked by my recliner.


Obama Motor Company

The mauling of GM's bondholders reveals Treasury's political hand.


The feds have decided they should own a neat 50% of GM, yet that is not the natural outcome of the $16.2 billion that the Treasury has so far lent to the company. Nor is the 40% ownership of GM that the plan awards to the United Auto Workers a natural result of the company's obligations to the union.


The biggest losers here are GM's bondholders. According the Treasury-GM debt-for-equity swap announced Monday, GM has $27.2 billion in unsecured bonds owned by the public. These are owned by mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds and retail investors who bought them directly through their brokers. Under Monday's offer, they would exchange their $27.2 billion in bonds for 10% of the stock of the restructured GM. This could amount to less than five cents on the dollar.

The Treasury, which is owed $16.2 billion, would receive 50% of the stock and $8.1 billion in debt -- as much as 87 cents on the dollar. The union's retiree health-care benefit trust would receive half of the $20 billion it is owed in stock, giving it 40% ownership of GM, plus another $10 billion in cash over time. That's worth about 76 cents on the dollar, according to some estimates.

In a genuine Chapter 11 bankruptcy, these three groups of creditors would all be similarly situated -- because all three are, for the most part, unsecured creditors of GM. And yet according to the formula presented Monday, those with the largest claim -- the bondholders -- get the smallest piece of the restructured company by a huge margin.


Certainly the bondholders deserve to take a haircut like everybody else. But squeezing them in such a blatant fashion has other consequences. Who would be crazy enough to lend GM money in the future? The Treasury also says it wants banks that do poorly in its "stress tests" to try to raise private capital before putting in more public money. The mauling of GM creditors tells investors not to invest in TARP banks because everything this Treasury touches turns to politics.

Monday's offer is so devoid of economic logic or fairness that it confirms the fears of those who said the original bailout would lead to a nationalized GM run for political ends. This fiasco will in part go down on George W. Bush's copybook, since he first decided GM was too big to fail.

But rather than use his early popularity to force hard decisions through the bankruptcy code, President Obama has decided in essence to have the feds run GM and Chrysler. This inevitably means running them for the benefit of the UAW that is so closely tied to the Democratic Party. Next up will be tax changes and regulations intended to coax, or coerce, Americans to buy Gettelfinger Motors cars. This tale of taxpayer woe is only beginning.

Comment: Who will lend to GM again? Who will buy stock in them again? Who will buy a GM car again? (Not me!)

Cutting $100 Million from Our Budget: Visualized from Between Two Worlds

HT: Between Two Worlds

'68 GTO: Bonnie and Clyde GTO


Édgar of La Gloria

From Édgar, 5, Coughs Heard Round the World


The government has identified Édgar as the first person in Mexico to have become infected with a virulent strain of swine flu, a notoriety that could raise questions about how Mexican officials reacted — or failed to react — to the early stages of what might become a global epidemic.

Édgar was one of hundreds of people in La Gloria who came down with flulike symptoms in an outbreak that federal officials say began March 9.

Local residents accuse public health officials of discounting the outbreak at the time, reassuring them that it was nothing grave.

Federal officials said they did respond quickly, though they acknowledged that they took the matter more seriously after the virus infected people in another part of the country, which was at least a week after Édgar developed symptoms.

Among the many unknowns about the flu that struck Édgar are whether it could have set off more alarms early on, and whether it could have been contained if it had.

La Gloria may not, in the end, be found to be the source of anything. The village has many immigrants in the United States. Mexican epidemiologists say one theory is that someone who had been in the United States brought the virus back to the community.

Before Édgar fell ill, another person in San Diego may have been affected, said Dr. Miguel Ángel Lezana, Mexico’s chief government epidemiologist.

Even now, Édgar’s mother, María del Carmen Hernández, said she received conflicting accounts of the exact illness that kept her son in bed for three days. No one has explained what she should be doing to keep him and the rest of the family healthy, she said, signs that Mexico’s response effort may be spotty, especially in rural areas.

“Some people are saying my boy is to blame for everyone else in the country getting sick,” said Mrs. Hernández, 34, a blank stare on her face as she recounted the family’s ordeal. “I don’t believe that. I don’t know what to think.”

Comment: Cute kid .... interesting article. I may be wrong (but I hope I'm not): I think this has been way over hyped by the government and the media! What do you think?


"Ma Mitavanim"

'Yes We Can,' Farsi edition


Obama's signature campaign slogan, Yes We Can, has been replicated by the Iranian president in a promotional video issued for Iran's presidential poll on 12 June, when Ahmadinejad is seeking reelection.

The video features a cover picture of Ahmadinejad wearing his trademark white jacket and pointing to the Farsi phrase Ma Mitavanim (We Can) on a blackboard. The film is aimed at students and capitalises on his former status as a university lecturer.

Comment: Madman campaign slogan! More

"Mexico flu" ... "the North American virus" ... "H1N1 virus"?

U.S. officials want 'swine' out of flu name


What's in a name? U.S. pork producers are finding that the name of the virus spreading from Mexico is affecting their business, prompting U.S. officials to argue for changing the name from swine flu.

At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the "H1N1 virus."

"This is not a food-borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because really that's not what this is about," Vilsack said.

Israel has already rejected the name swine flu, and opted to call it "Mexico flu." Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health also objected to the name, saying the virus contains avian and human components and no pig so far has been found ill with the disease.

And there is growing sentiment in the farm sector to call it the North American virus -- although disease expert Anthony Fauci told a Senate hearing the "swine flu" designation reflected scientific naming protocol.

Comment: Don't want to offend the pork industry! Better to offend a Mexican!

Mileage tax: "a logical complement for fuel taxes"

Top lawmaker wants mileage-based tax on vehicles


A House committee chairman said Tuesday that he wants Congress to enact a mileage-based tax on cars and trucks to pay for highway programs now rather than wait years to test the idea.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said he believes the technology exists to implement a mileage tax. He said he sees no point in waiting years for the results of pilot programs since such a tax system is inevitable as federal gasoline tax revenues decline.

"Why do we need a pilot program? Why don't we just phase it in?" said Oberstar, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman. Oberstar is drafting a six-year transportation bill to fund highway and transit programs that is expected to total around a half trillion dollars.

A congressionally mandated commission on transportation financing alternatives recommended switching to a vehicle-miles traveled tax, but estimated it would take a decade to put a national system in place.

"I think it can be done in far less than that, maybe two years," Oberstar said at a House hearing. He was responding to testimony by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who recommended that the transportation bill include pilot programs in every state to test the viability of a mileage-based tax.

Blumenauer said public acceptance, not technology, is the main obstacle to a mileage-based tax.

Pilot programs "would be able to increase public awareness and comfort and it would hasten the day we could make the transition," Blumenauer said.

Oberstar shrugged off that concern.

"I'm at a point of impatience with more studies," Oberstar said. He suggested that Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the highways and transit subcommittee, set up a meeting of transportation experts and members of Congress to figure out how it could be done.

The tax would entail equipping vehicles with GPS technology to determine how many miles a car has been driven and whether on interstate highways or secondary roads. The devices would also calculate the amount of tax owed.

"At this point there are a lot of things that are under consideration and there is also a strong need to find revenue," Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard said. "A vehicle miles-traveled tax is a logical complement, and perhaps a future replacement, for fuel taxes."

Comment: Catch that last sentence: "a logical complement, and perhaps a future replacement, for fuel taxes". Taxes 101 ... once the government starts collecting them they won't stop. It would be in addition to gas taxes.

More from the article below:

A mileage-based tax has been unpopular in some states where it has been proposed. Critics say it unfairly penalizes drivers who live in rural areas and intrudes on privacy

Final comments: Democrats are just cooking up one new tax idea after another!

Pontiacs in my past

The Pontiacs that I remember:

  • I had two HS classmates with GTOs. What kind of parent in their right mind would buy a HS student a GTO?
  • My cousin Diane had about the coolest Pontiac that she got from her Grandparents. I think it was a 1949 Pontiac Chieftain. (like the photo above - same color but it might have been a 4 door)
  • Someone in our church (I was a Pastor then) gave us a 1982 J-2000 notch-back in 1989 or 90. It was a really reliable car. We kept it until '93 when the tranny failed. I had it towed to the Chevy dealer where they gave me $ 500 as a trade in on a Geo Metro.

Other related articles:

Thrill is gone — GM’s Pontiac bites the dust

Top 10 Worst Pontiacs Of All Time

Obamamania Messiah

100 days in office, coronated Messiah - Arms outstretched, he wears crown of thorns on his brow


On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be "crowned" in messianic imagery at New York City's Union Square.

Artist Michael D'Antuono's painting "The Truth" – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square's South Plaza.

According to a statement released about the portrait, "The 30" x 54" acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing, and is he being crucified or glorified?"

Even the title of the piece, "The Truth," suggests a play on biblical themes, as Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Event Canceled: 'The Truth': D'Antuono Cancels Unveiling of Obama Painting Due to Public Outrage


Painter Michael D'Antuono has cancelled the planned public unveiling of his latest work "The Truth" at NYC's Union Square Park on President Obama's 100th day in office due to overwhelming public outrage. The artist's decision was based in part on thousands of emails and phone calls; online blogs and other public commentary received in the first 48 hours following its release.

The painting which was first made public on Friday depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross; atop his head, a crown of thorns. Behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. The photo was the most emailed picture on the web.

The artist insists that the work was intended purely as a political piece. "The religious reference was used metaphorically and not to insult anyone's religious beliefs. If that is the effect that my art has had on anyone, I am truly sorry," says D'Antuono.

Comment: Weird times!


Carter on Baptist unity

Carter says Baptist strife hurting evangelism


Addressing more than 1,000 Baptists at the closing session of the April 24-25 New Baptist Covenant Southeast regional gathering in Winston-Salem, N.C., Carter said people around the world do not associate Baptists in the United States with terms like "harmony," "peace" and "cooperation" but rather as a contentious and divided group.

"It is this image of division as we struggle for authority over each other," Carter said, that hinders evangelism. "The arguments and the animosity in the Christian faith are like a cancer metastasizing in the body of Christ," Carter said. "This diverts us from Christ's ministry and presents a negative image of Christianity."

Carter said he convened a group of Baptists several years ago, including several leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, who agreed to talk without criticizing each other and came up with a statement of agreement including the inspiration of Scripture, local church autonomy and respect for all people.

Carter said those words and the unity effort became meaningless in 2000, when the Southern Baptist Convention narrowed its doctrinal parameters to exclude women from serving as pastors.

Carter said issues like women's roles in the church and home, the theory of evolution, abortion and how to respond to homosexuality are important, but they are not as important as the common belief that salvation is attained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Carter said expansion from a few thousand Christians during the New Testament era to 30 million Christians in the Roman Empire would not have been possible if Christians then were as divided as they are today.

Observation: Over 1800+ years Christians agreed on creationism, the sanctity of human life, and God's definition of marriage. Perhaps Baptists should follow that formula!


Chavez's gift shows his ignorance

The Idiot's Bible


Just days after Hugo Chávez gave President Barack Obama a copy of "Open Veins of Latin America" in Trinidad last week, the English-language version of the book shot to the No. 2 slot on Amazon.com.

mericans seemed to be curious about Mr. Chávez's reading tastes. But in Latin America, "Open Veins" is a well-known rant by Uruguayan Marxist Eduardo Galeano. And it also has another distinction that Mr. Chávez may be less inclined to publicize: It is widely regarded in free-market circles as "the idiot's bible."

The book was tagged with that moniker in the 1996 best seller, "The Manual of the Perfect Latin American Idiot." Penned by three Latin American journalists -- Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Alvaro Vargas Llosa -- the "manual" is a witty assault on the populist, militarist, caudillo mentality that has dominated the region for hundreds of years.

Chapter three is dedicated to explaining the importance of Mr. Galeano's book for the idiot: "For the past quarter century the Latin American idiot has had the notable advantage of having at his disposal a kind of sacred text, a bible filled with all the nonsense that circulates in the cultural atmosphere that the Brazilians call the 'festive left.' Naturally we refer to Open Veins of Latin America."

Open any page of Mr. Galeano's book and you will learn that Latins are losers. Not on their own account, mind you. It's all because Europe and the U.S. (the world's winners) buy raw materials from them and don't pay a fair price. In this way the haves of the world exploit the have-nots. "The history of Latin America's underdevelopment is, as someone has said, an integral part of the history of world capitalism's development."


The Galeano book was not a present to Mr. Obama, though it was hyped as such. After all it was in Spanish, a language Mr. Obama does not read -- and Cuban and Venezuelan military intelligence surely would have advised Mr. Chávez of that fact. Its purpose was instead a way for the resentful Venezuelan to shove his anticapitalist, anti-American prejudices in Mr. Obama's face before rows of television cameras.

Yet, unwittingly, Mr. Chávez's gag gift served another purpose. If there has been any doubt about how he has run his oil-rich country into the ground during a decade of booming petroleum prices, the mystery is now solved. Mr. Galeano's book is Mr. Chávez's bible.

Comment: The last paragraph is the key!

Americans: epic consumers

No, You Can’t Get an Upgrade


For decades, Americans have been known as epic consumers, but it would be more accurate to call us epic upgraders. During all those years of packing up and moving, we were headed to a bigger house, at a better address, perhaps for a higher-paying job. We were trading up, and that urge — to acquire something bigger or better, preferably something bigger and better — is a quintessentially American urge. It is so neatly woven into the double helix of our DNA that we hardly notice it.

When we buy a television, it’s rarely because we lack a TV. We want a thinner TV, or a bigger TV, or a TV with features that sound beguiling even if we have no idea what they do. Like the DynaLight Dynamic Back Light Control on the latest Toshiba high-definition set. What is that? We don’t know. But we’ll take two.

Or we would if we could afford them. To fully understand our collective shock over our pulse-less economy, take a good look at the upgrade cycle that we’ve been gleefully riding for at least three decades. Until last year, if you were living the 2.3 version of Life, you had your eyes on version 2.4 and odds were pretty good that you’d get it. Maybe on an overextended credit card, or from a loan that you really couldn’t afford. But you’d get it.

Now, if you’re living Life 2.3, your ambition is to avoid Life 2.2.

Forget the upgrade. The game now is avoiding the downgrade. This is grim and troubling, in part, because so much of our consumer culture is built around the enticements of the Better.

Comment: Stuff does not satisfy!

Market rebound in 4½?

25 Years to Bounce Back? Try 4½


HISTORICAL stock charts seem to show that it took more than 25 years for the market to recover from the 1929 crash — a dismal statistic that has been brought to investors’ attention many times in the current downturn.

But a careful analysis of the record shows that the picture is more complex and, ultimately, far less daunting: An investor who invested a lump sum in the average stock at the market’s 1929 high would have been back to a break-even by late 1936 — less than four and a half years after the mid-1932 market low.

Comment: That would be great ... 4½!

Swine flu: " likely widespread and impossible to contain"

New swine flu likely widespread, experts say


A new and unusual strain of swine flu is likely widespread and impossible to contain at this point, experts agree.

The H1N1 strain has killed at least 20 people and possibly 48 more in Mexico and has been confirmed in at least eight people in the United States, all of whom had mild illness.

Probable cases also were found at a school in the New York City borough of Queens and experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they fully expect to find more cases. Here is why:

  • This new strain of influenza has shown it can spread easily from person to person.
  • It has been found in several places and among people who had no known contact. This suggests there is an unseen chain of infection and that the virus has been spreading quietly.

Comment: Have to wonder how far this will go? Of interest to me because my Father born during the 1918 flu pandemic (3/29/1918)

Sad news

Missing Minneapolis man's body found in Anoka pond


Jelani Brinson, the 24-year-old man who disappeared after leaving a friend's Anoka home April 17, was found dead Saturday in a golf course pond.

An employee of the Greenhaven Golf Course in Anoka called the Anoka County Sheriff's Office to report seeing the body floating in the pond shortly after 1 p.m.

The sheriff's office confirmed the body was Brinson's but did not say whether there were signs of foul play.

Brinson, of north Minneapolis, had been missing since he walked away from a friend's house on Kennedy Street in Anoka.

Comment: Young man graduated from our church's school several years ago. We've been praying about this.


An unsustainable path

Sen. Judd Gregg on the president's big-government agenda


That's bad news, in Mr. Gregg's view, because "We're headed on an unsustainable path. The simple fact is these [budget] numbers don't work and the practical implications of them are staggering for the nation and the next generation."

His "main concern," he says, "is that if you look at the Obama budget, it projects on average about a $1 trillion deficit [every year] over the next 10 years." And as a result of all that spending, "You see the size of government growing from 21% [of gross domestic product] to 22%, to 23%, 24%, 25% . . . toward 30%."

Comment: "Elections Have Consequences" ... as we are quickly (100 days) finding out!

A lesson for California

Gregg Industries iron foundry closes in California


After manufacturing machine parts in this blue-collar city for more than 60 years, Gregg Industries Wednesday shut its foundry equipment down for the last time.

The closure came a week earlier than planned, and company officials said state air quality authorities were to blame.

"In my mind, California is not open for business," said Bob Ostendorf, President and CEO of Neenah Foundry Company, Gregg's parent company.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has cited the company repeatedly in recent weeks for emitting nuisance odors into the surrounding community, in violation of air quality regulations.

Gregg officials charge that this recent scrutiny is unprecedented and reached a level of harassment in the days before the foundry's planned closure. AQMD leaders say they have simply been responding to odor complaints from neighbors and following normal protocol in citing the company.

Comment: CNBC reports they are moving to Nevada.



Comment: Wiki. Must check out. I saw the founder on CNBC tonight

Conficker wakes up!

Conficker Virus Comes Alive, Attacks PCs


Weeks after causing an April Fool's scare, the Conficker bug has come to life and used some personal computers to send out spam, Reuters reports. The computer virus, which has infected millions of PCs, downloaded the spam software onto a small percentage of them in recent weeks. One expert warns this is just the beginning. "Expect this to be long-term, slowly changing," he said.

Conficker has also downloaded a virus onto PCs warning of an infection. If users agree to buy fake anti-virus software, their credit card data is stolen and even more malware is downloaded. Also called Downadup or Kido, Conficker infected personal computers last year and enabled a remote server to effectively control them—but did little else until now.

Comment: And doesn't attach MAC or Linux!

Obama's buddies decry capitalism

The Declaration of Cumaná: Capitalism 'threatens life on the planet'


We, the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela [declare] ...


Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction.


Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis


The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet.

Eccentricities & Secrets

How Bernie did it


Bernie had his quirks, and to a startling extent they colored the firm -- quite literally when it came to the décor. Virtually every piece of furniture, equipment, or decoration was black or gray. That extended even to the pushpins in employees' cubicles. "Bernie had the manufacturer just send boxes of black ones," says Bob McMahon, a former employee.

Comment: Worthwhile read. He will have fun in jail for the remainder of his life

Pontiac - the end! (Maybe not!)

GM to Eliminate Pontiac in New Plan


General Motors Corp., facing the threat of a bankruptcy filing if it can’t meet a June 1 U.S. deadline, will preserve the GMC truck line and drop its 83-year- old Pontiac brand as part of a government-led recalibration of its business plan, people familiar with the decision said.

The Detroit automaker, which received an additional $2 billion in federal assistance on April 22, will keep the GMC, Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick brands, after a review that included profitability with the Obama administration’s automotive task force, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decisions have not been announced.

GM may reveal next week the end of the make that produced the Grand Prix, Bonneville and Firebirds, they said.

“I hate to see these brands go, they are a part of the American experience,” said John Wolkonowicz, a forecaster and auto historian at IHS Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. “If you were growing up in the 1960s, Pontiac was the hottest thing going.”

Pontiac spawned the “muscle car” era in 1964 when it stuffed a 389-cubic-inch V8 engine into a Tempest and called it the GTO. Killing the brand highlights the changes GM is being forced to make to survive in its second century of carmaking.

GM had already decided late last year to cut Pontiac to a niche brand, possibly with just one model, to sell alongside Buick and GMC in combined showrooms. To trim from its roster of eight U.S. brands, GM has said it will sell or shut Hummer, Saab and Saturn.

Comment: In the year of my H.S. graduation - 1967 - the Pontiac GTO was the hottest car around! More below:

Maybe NOT!


As General Motors Corp. races to come up with another turnaround plan, there has been growing speculation that the Detroit automaker will drop its Pontiac brand.

The company tried to pat down those reports today with a statement saying it hadn’t yet announced any changes to its long-term viability plan.

GM has been in similar messes at least twice before, as have most carmakers


In GM's case, the bankers took over the company in 1910 and put it on an austerity program, although after the 1910 Financial Panic ended, rising sales proved that GM was viable in any condition.

Billy Durant, GM's ousted CEO, went off to start two more car companies, Little and Chevrolet. The Chevrolet was a flop, but the Little automobiles weren't, so Durant switched the nameplates and Chevrolet as we know it was born. Durant then used his stock in Chevrolet to retake control of General Motors — and then was fired for good during the recession of 1920-21.

That move brought Alfred Sloan to his position with the company, and for the second time in 10 years GM downsized the number of its divisions and altered its financial accounting, and the General Motors of legend was born. In the second major downsizing of GM, the only company Sloan kept that was losing money was Frigidaire. Sloan believed, as Durant did, that refrigerators for the average person had a definite future in America. It should also be noted that GM's second reincarnation was a product not just of Sloan's brilliant management, but of timing: The 1920s were the first major boom decade for the average American.

MN DFL: Republicans perennial push back

Pawlenty, DFL square off on taxes


With the House and the Senate on the verge of passing $1.5 billion and $2.2 billion tax bills, respectively, Gov. Tim Pawlenty went on the offensive Thursday, calling the DFL's budget proposals "bad," "horrifically bad," "laughable," and "almost bizarre."

Proposals to raise taxes while cutting education and, in the House, eliminating a host of targeted deductions for homes and child care, shows "in rather dramatic fashion, just how out of touch they are," he said.

Comment: We've lived in Minnesota for 13 years and this happens almost every year. The DFL (Democrats) propose higher taxes and the Republican Governor pushes back. Imagine what it will be like with a DFL Governor.


Errant 102-pound shell zings over MN home

Couple: A 'sorry' would be nice after stray Ripley shell


Two weeks after a wayward 102-pound artillery shell fired from Camp Ripley, Minn., narrowly missed their house and plowed an ugly path through their woods, a central Minnesota couple is still shook up.

"We haven't gotten an apology," Kathy Nelson said Wednesday night of the April 7 incident at her longtime family home just south of Pillager.

One of eight inert wax-filled rounds fired during a test by BAE Systems, a defense company, flew almost 8 miles off Camp Ripley property onto Kathy and Rich Nelson's 80-acre property, according to Capt. Ross Nieber of Camp Ripley.

The shell streaked over the Nelson home, startling three remodelers, two of whom were outside sawing cabinetry materials.

"I was upstairs and had the window open and I heard this loud ppsshh, like a giant bottle rocket being set off, and it wasn't three seconds and it was right over us," said Loren Patnode of Patnode Custom Cabinets of Brainerd, Minn. "We were just amazed -- we knew it was something big. It was like a bomb going off, like something from a movie."

The round slammed into trees behind the house, went underground, then resurfaced and hit more trees, Patnode said.

The Nelsons, who were not home at the time, have lived in the area for decades, said they've never had anything similar happen.

"If people hadn't been here and seen it, we wouldn't have found the shell until hunting season," Kathy said. "At first when we called Camp Ripley, they said every round was accounted for, and my husband said, 'Oh no they're not. That evening one of their guys came up our driveway and said, 'I'm wondering if we lost something,' and Rich said, 'You sure as heck did.'"

The Nelsons had tracked the shell by its damage trail, but stopped short of approaching it in case it was live.

Comment: See linked article for photo of the shell

Obama AG wants your gun data!

Attorney General Eric Holder voices concerns about current rules on gun-buy records


The Obama administration may seek to reduce legal limits on sharing gun-purchase data, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress Thursday.

Holder said at a congressional hearing that the so-called Tiahrt amendment — the subject of a years-long fight between opponents and supporters of gun control — may limit evidence-sharing by state and local authorities.

"We are concerned about the impact the amendment has had on the ability to share information that is needed by state and local authorities," Holder said, though he added he wanted to make sure that increased information-sharing does "not put anybody at risk."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a national gun control advocate, has long urged Congress to abolish the Tiahrt amendment. Gun rights advocates say the legislation only prevents frivolous lawsuits against gunmakers, and the further spread of such information may compromise police investigations.

Comment: The "Tiahrt Amendment" on Firearms Traces: Protecting Gun Owners' Privacy and Law Enforcement Safety

For more than five years, cities suing the gun industry and anti-gun organizations have sought access to confidential law enforcement data on firearms traces. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) compiles these records when it traces firearms in response to requests from law enforcement agencies.

Every year since 2003, the U.S. Congress has passed increasingly strong language to keep this information confidential. The legislation—a series of "riders" to the appropriations bill that funds BATFE—is widely known as the "Tiahrt Amendment," after its sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

Illinois: Bogus toll tickets Minnesota our drivers

Minn. tells Illinois: Quit sending bogus toll tickets to our drivers


Attorney General Lori Swanson said today that Illinois Tollway officials have promised numerous times to clear up the improperly issued tickets, but nothing has been done.

Some of the cases involve vehicles that Minnesotans had sold before the ticket was issued or bought after the alleged violation, Swanson said. In Minnesota, license plates stay with the vehicle following a transfer of ownership. In Illinois and other states, the plates stay with the motorist.

Citizens have been threatened by collection agencies that their driver's license or vehicle registration will be suspended if they do not pay a fine to a collection agency -- even when they weren't responsible for the alleged infraction, Swanson said.

Other incidents involve errors in the visual processing of license plates from tollway photographs, she said.


[Attorney General Lori] Swanson said that Minnesotans who question tollway tickets that are mailed to them, or who have been threatened by a debt collection agency over missed-toll violations should contact her office at 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787.

Comment: Another reason to avoid Illinois!

The Real Pirates / Hostage Story?

Comment: Sent to me by a friend.

The Real Story Of Obama's 'Decision-Making' With The Pirates And Hostage

Having spoken to some SEAL pals here in Virginia Beach yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:

  1. Barack Hussein Obama (BHO) wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
  2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE [Rules Of Engagement] that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
  3. The first time the hostage jumped into the sea, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
  4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
  5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams.
  6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies.
  7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.

Read the following accurate account.

Philips' first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn't worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country's Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors and none was taken.

The guidance from National Command Authority, the president of the United States , Barack Obama had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage's life was in clear, extreme danger.

The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel, thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance from Washington and a mandate from the commander in chief's staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a peaceful solution would be acceptable.

After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on scene commander decided he'd had enough.

Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage's life, and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer, unnamed in all media reports to date, decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips' back was a threat to the hostage's life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.

Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.

There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday's dramatic rescue of an American hostage

Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in the Indian Ocean and declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president's toughness and decisiveness.

Despite the Obama administration's (and its sycophants') attempt to spin yesterday's success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort. What should have been a standoff lasting only hours, as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location, became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.

Money Aisle - looking for a great CD rate?


Comment: www.moneyaisle.com is to savings (think CD's) what www.lendingtree.com is to borrowing. Banks bid .... good deal!

More from the NYTimes: Do I Hear 4%? On This Site, Banks Bid for Your Cash

Screen shots below:


Obama's uncanny coincidence

Obama finds a sacrifice for budget gods


The president has set an example for his Cabinet. He has ladled a trillion or so dollars hither and yon, but while ladling he has, or thinks he has, saved about $15 million by killing, or trying to kill, a tiny program that this year is enabling about 1,715 District of Columbia children (90 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic) to escape from D.C.'s failing public schools and enroll in private schools.

The mayor and school superintendent support the program. But the president has vowed to kill programs that "don't work." He has looked high and low and -- lo and behold -- has found one. By uncanny coincidence, it is detested by the teachers unions that gave approximately two times $15 million to Democratic candidates and liberal causes last year.

Comment: Obama's (liberal) doctrinaire approach to governing!

Henry Waxman pontificates

Comment: Sent to me by my Brother

Man stopped for not disobeying the law!

Police Stop Man For Carrying Gun Out In Open


As WISN 12 News was interviewing a West Allis man about his past arrest for carrying a gun in the open, police confronted him again Tuesday night -- one day after the state's attorney general ruled it's legal.

"Somebody called the police that somebody was walking around with a gun on their hip," a West Allis police officer said.

"I would fit that description," Krause said.

"That would be you," a West Allis police officer said.

Police arrived up to investigate Krause while 12 News was interviewing him about his previous arrest for carrying a holstered gun on his hip outside his home. One officer saw Krause's gun and asked what agency he's affiliated with.

"I'm the same guy I was when you arrested me the last time," Krause said.

The officers asked for his name and called dispatch.

"The reason I'm checking is because felons can't have guns in Wisconsin," West Allis police said.

Krause is not a felon. He's a certified firearms instructor.

"Pretty much any time my pants are on, I'm armed," Krause said.

That includes carrying a gun outside his home as Wisconsin's attorney general has ruled is legal.

Comment: Video w the article

Honestly blasted!

Commentary: Miss California, thanks for being honest


She opposes same-sex marriage. OK, fine. So what if she had said, "Hey, I'm in full support of same-sex marriage." Would she now be celebrated on gay-focused blogs, magazines and Web sites? Would her detractors actually be saying how open she is and that she's a great person?

Same-sex marriage is undoubtedly a hot button issue. And being from California, the site of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that voters approved outlawing same-sex marriage, Prejean has surely had to hear the debate go back and forth. But her remark isn't outside the mainstream. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows that 55 percent of Americans are against same-sex marriage, and Proposition 8 did pass in her state 52-48 percent.

What's interesting about this is that many of the same folks who are slamming her for her remark voted for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who both have the same belief: that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that she has the same view, and it was her husband, President Bill Clinton, who signed the In Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that forbids states from having to recognize gay marriage in other states.

In other words, four of the biggest liberals in the country have the same belief as Prejean, but a beauty pageant winner is being torn to shreds. Hello, hypocrisy!

Those who criticize Prejean have the same right as she does to express their viewpoints. But enough with all the political correctness, where someone says she should have danced around the issue, smiled and move on. iReport.com: 'Thank you, California!'

At the end of the day, we all have to be true to ourselves. Whether it's a gay gossip writer who favors same-sex marriage or a heterosexual woman who is against same-sex marriage. The day we condemn folks for speaking honestly is the day we become a bland society.

Maybe we're already there.

Comment: Weird when believing in traditional marriage (man & a women) which has been the view for all of recorded history is not politically correct!

Harbinger for bad Freddie Mac news?

Police: Death of Freddie Mac's Kellermann may be suicide


he acting chief financial officer of mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac was found dead Wednesday morning at his home, police said.

David Kellermann was found dead of an apparent hanging, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

There were no signs of foul play when officers arrived at the home in Vienna shortly before 5 a.m., said Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for police in Fairfax County, Virginia. She said the death "may have been an apparent suicide."

A second Fairfax County police spokesman, Eddie Azcarate, said Kellermann's body was found in the basement.

Comment: Makes one wonder if he knows something about Freddie Mac's finances that the general public will soon come to know! Very sad for his family!

Update: Friend says Freddie Mac exec chased success

A Bay City attorney says he is shocked that former high school classmate and Freddie Mac executive David Kellermann would commit suicide.

Jeffrey Martin described Kellermann as someone who worked hard to be successful.

They graduated in 1985 from T.L. Handy High School in Bay City, about 90 miles north of Detroit. Martin says Kellermann wanted to be "Alex P. Keaton," the television character played by Michael J. Fox on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties."

He says Kellermann "knew he wanted to climb the corporate ladder, and he climbed the corporate ladder."

Comment without Christ: “ Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Bulldozing Flint

An Effort to Save Flint, Mich., by Shrinking It


Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods.

The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval.

“Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life,” said Dan Kildee, the Genesee County treasurer and chief spokesman for the movement to shrink Flint. “We need to control it instead of letting it control us.”


While the shrinkage debate has been simmering in Flint for several years, it suddenly gained prominence last month with a blunt comment by the acting mayor, Michael K. Brown, who talked at a Rotary Club lunch about “shutting down quadrants of the city.”

Nothing will happen immediately, but Flint has begun updating its master plan, a complicated task last done in 1965. Then it was a prosperous city of 200,000 looking to grow to 350,000. It now has 110,000 people, about a third of whom live in poverty.

Flint has about 75 neighborhoods spread out over 34 square miles. It will be a delicate process to decide which to favor, Mr. Kildee acknowledged from the driver’s seat of his Grand Cherokee.

Comment: Truly sad! My Grandparents lived NW of there when I was a child.


Economy forcing Church budget cuts

Church budget-cutting: Prudent planning or excessive anxiety?


As the nation’s economic crisis seeps further into congregations, budget cuts are the order of the day. But are churches reacting more to fear than facts?

The financial pain for churches is real. But evidence is mixed about how much member giving is suffering right now and how widespread -- or necessary -- budget cutting has become.

If you listen to the conversation between pastors, however, it’s clearly the topic on top of their minds.

“I know of one [church finance] committee that wanted to make 33 percent cuts based on computer projections,” reported Michael Smith of First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, Tenn. “Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, the need was shared with the church, and the need for such a major cut evaporated.”

The majority of churches contacted for this article -- such as Emerywood Baptist in High Point, N.C., and River Road Church, Baptist, in Richmond, Va. -- have made significant budget cuts already this year, typically between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Comment: We need to 1) Be faithful to our local church!; 2.) Give faithfully; 3.) Pray

China: Nuke subs ... threat to Taiwan?

China to Unveil Nuclear Submarines


A senior Chinese naval officer said that China would unveil its nuclear submarines to the public on Thursday as part of an international review of the country’s naval fleet “aimed at promoting understanding about China’s military development,” according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.

The appearance of the submarines, in the northeastern port city of Qingdao, would be the first time that China has publicly shown the vessels. They are among the most powerful ships in the Chinese Navy.


China’s main military concern, though, is Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that China says must be reunited with the mainland and that the United States supports with arms sales. Some Taiwanese strongly advocate open independence, and at times China has threatened the island with violence, but relations between Beijing and Taipei have improved since the election last year of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan. Mr. Ma rejects any notion of declaring independence.

The Pentagon released a study on March 25 that said that the Chinese government is seeking weapons and technology to disrupt the traditional advantages of the American military, and that the veil of secrecy the Chinese government has thrown over its military could lead to a miscalculation or conflict between the two nations. According to the report, a main goal of China’s military buildup is to have sufficient forces on hand in the event of war across the Taiwan Strait.

Comment: More on China's military.

The wrong guy was placed on paid administrative leave

Principal on leave after words with Minneapolis board member


A southwest Minneapolis school principal was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after an unannounced visit from a school board member escalated into an argument between the two men last week that included charges of racism, district parents said.

Board Member Chris Stewart made a surprise visit to Burroughs Elementary School on Friday during which he called Burroughs Principal Tim Cadotte and the entire school community racist, parents said.

Comment: If the facts stand, that board member called "the entire school community racist", then he should be forced to resign from the school board!

I'm "melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels and killing rain forests"

Fatties cause global warming


Scientists warned that the increase in big-eaters means more food production — a major cause of CO2 gas emissions warming the planet.

Overweight people are also more likely to drive, adding to environmental damage.

Dr Phil Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Moving about in a heavy body is like driving in a gas guzzler.”

Each fat person is said to be responsible for emitting a tonne more of climate-warming carbon dioxide per year than a thin one.

It means an extra BILLION TONNES of CO2 a year is created, according to World Health Organisation estimates of overweight people.

The scientists say providing extra grub for them to guzzle adds to carbon emissions that heat up the world, melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels and killing rain forests.

The environmental impact of fat humans is made even worse because they are more likely to travel by car — another major cause of carbon emissions.

Comment: I'm an eco-terrorist! You know if more of us would use Beano, there would be less CO2!


Not a dime's worth of difference

SPIN METER: Saving federal money the easy way


Cut a latte or two out of your annual budget and you've just done as much belt-tightening as President Barack Obama asked of his Cabinet on Monday.

The thrifty measures Obama ordered for federal agencies are the equivalent of asking a family that spends $60,000 in a year to save $6.

Obama made his push for frugality the subject of his first Cabinet meeting, ensuring it would command the capital's attention. It also set off outbursts of mental math and scribbled calculations as political friend and foe tried to figure out its impact.

The bottom line: Not much.

The president gave his Cabinet 90 days to find $100 million in savings to achieve over time.

For all the trumpeting, the effort raised questions about why Obama set the bar so low, considering that $100 million amounts to:

  • Less than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.
  • 4 percent of the military aid the United States sends to Israel.
  • Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.
  • 7 percent of the federal subsidy for the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system.
  • 1/10,000th of the government's operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill.

Link: AP, Tapper Confront Obama Admin Over $100 Million

Comment: Painless, showy, smoke and mirrors!

TCF to rid itself of TARP

TCF Financial Corp. to return $361.2 million in federal bailout money


TCF Financial Corp. said it received government approval to return $361.2 million in federal bailout money, and will cut its quarterly dividend by 80 percent.

The Wayzata-based regional bank, which has $16 billion in assets, originally received an investment from the U.S. Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, last November. But after tighter restrictions were placed on banks receiving the funds, TCF chief executive Bill Cooper filed notice in March that he intended to return the funds.

On Monday, TCF said the U.S. Treasury gave the bank permission to buy back all the 361,172 shares of preferred stock it issued to the government under TARP, effectively enabling the bank to exit the bank bailout program.

The move will boost TCF's profits because it means the bank will not have to make dividend payments to the U.S. Treasury. The bank estimates its earnings per share will improve by over 14 cents per share annually as a result of the move.

"Participation in the TARP has created a competitive disadvantage for TCF and we believe it is in the best interest of our stockholders to repurchase these shares," Cooper said in a written statement.

Comment: Good for them!


China, Friend or Foe?

China, Friend or Foe?


The Pentagon views China as the country most likely, at some point down the road, to acquire the capacity to challenge the U.S. military on a global scale. The U.S. in recent years has moved to strengthen its forces in the Pacific and urged its ally Japan to do the same. Washington and Tokyo are working together to boost anti-missile defenses, to defend against threats from both North Korea and China. And some in the Defense Department talk up the "China threat" to justify greater spending on new weapons systems.

This week, Adm. Wu Shengli, the top officer in China's navy -- officially known as the People's Liberation Army Navy -- said the service would move faster to modernize its arsenal and build larger and more capable warships "to boost the ability to fight in regional sea wars" using high-tech weaponry. In an interview with China's official Xinhua news agency ahead of the navy's 60th anniversary next week, he also said the navy would improve its ability to operate on the high seas. Other officials in recent months have talked about China building its first aircraft carrier, adding to U.S. concerns that China wants to project its power.

However, many observers, both in China and the U.S., say that fear of China is exaggerated. China's armed forces are still no match for U.S. firepower at sea, on land or in space. Many American security analysts -- including former senior military officers -- do not believe that China intends to take on the U.S., as the former Soviet Union once did. For now, China's military falls back on a mix of high-tech weaponry, such as its new Jin-class nuclear-missile submarines, and low-tech stealth and cunning.

Comment: My brother and I were talking about this yesterday. If China invaded Taiwan would / should the US defend?

Ethanol makes little economic sense

The Ethanol Bubble Pops in Iowa


In September, ethanol giant VeraSun Energy opened a refinery on the outskirts of this eastern Iowa community. Among the largest biofuels facilities in the country, the Dyersville plant could process 39 million bushels of corn and produce 110 million gallons of ethanol annually. VeraSun boasted the plant could run 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the demand for home-grown energy.

But the only thing happening 24-7 at the Dyersville plant these days is nothing at all. Its doors are shut and corn deliveries are turned away. Touring the facility recently, I saw dozens of rail cars sitting idle. They've been there through the long, bleak winter. Two months after Dyersville opened, VeraSun filed for bankruptcy, closing many of its 14 plants and laying off hundreds of employees. VeraSun lost $476 million in the third quarter last year.

A town of 4,000, Dyersville is best known as the location of the 1989 film "Field of Dreams." In the film, a voice urges Kevin Costner to create a baseball diamond in a cornfield and the ghosts of baseball past emerge from the ether to play ball. Audiences suspended disbelief as they were charmed by a story that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality.

That's pretty much the story of ethanol. Consumers were asked to suspend disbelief as policy makers blurred the lines between economic reality and a business model built on fantasies of a better environment and energy independence through ethanol. Notwithstanding federal subsidies and mandates that force-feed the biofuel to the driving public, ethanol is proving to be a bust.

Comment: Last paragraph is key!

Five Ways to Use Plastic Wisely

Five Ways to Use Plastic Wisely


  1. Making larger purchases or ordering online: credit cards can protect consumers making larger purchases.
  2. When traveling: credit is "safer than carrying all that currency around with you,"
  3. When buying necessities: Plastic also can be helpful in emergency situations
  4. When using a budget: Statements from credit cards can help with budgeting
  5. When building up reward points: Using a card that earns reward points that you can redeem for merchandise, travel or something else puts extra money in your pocket -- especially if you pay off your bills each month.

Comment: A key, in my mind, is to pay it off every month!

Murtha's airport

Murtha’s $150 million in earmarks lift airport


The John Murtha airport sits on a windy mountain two hours east of Pittsburgh, a 650-acre expanse of smooth tarmac, spacious buildings, a helicopter hangar and a National Guard training center.

Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.

The key to the airport's gleaming facilities -- and, indeed, its continued existence -- is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year's stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.

Comment: This is taxpayer money wasted to the nth degree!

The growing burden of student loans

In Grim Job Market, Student Loans Are a Costly Burden


hey bought into the notion that if they went to college — never mind the debt — their degree would lead to a lucrative job. And repaying their student loans would never be a problem.

But the economic crisis has turned those assumptions on their ear as thousands of recent graduates have been unable to find jobs or are earning too little to cover the payments for loans that are sometimes as high as $50,000.

The result has been rising default rates for student loans. And unlike other debts, student loans cannot easily be renegotiated.

“You often hear the quote that you can’t put a price on ignorance,” said Ezra Kazee, who has $29,000 in student debt and has been unable to find a job since graduating from Winona State University in Minnesota last May. “But with the way higher education is going, ignorance is looking more and more affordable every day.”

About two-thirds of the students graduating from college next month, or an estimated 1.8 million, have taken on student loans to pay ever-rising tuition and room and board. The average cumulative debt among graduating seniors is about $22,500, according to FinAid.org, a Web site that specializes in financial aid.

Comment: Student loans are a good idea if you are going to be a Doctor .... otherwise avoid them!


Coleman & Franken: onto State Supreme Court

Minnesota's Missing Votes - Some Senate absentee ballots are more equal than others.


[a] solution is to hold a special Senate election. Minnesota law does not specifically provide for such a runoff. However, the U.S. Constitution's 17th amendment does provide states with a roadmap for filling "vacancies," which might be a legal starting point for a do-over. Even before the shifting standards of the contest trial, the St. Paul Pioneer Press looked at the ballot-counting evidence and called for a revote. It could be that this is where the court case is leading in any event.

Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.

Comment: The problem with a revote is the cost to the State but that's my preference.



Comment: Cool zipcode mapping site I discovered. Search for zipcodes !


Oliver North: I am an Extremist

Oliver North Comments on the DHS "Rightwing Extremism'" Report: I Am an Extremist


According to the U.S. Government, I am an extremist. I am a Christian – and meet regularly with other Christians to study God’s word. My faith convinces me the prophesies in the Holy Bible are true. I believe in the sanctity of human life, oppose abortion and want to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I am a veteran with skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. I own several firearms, frequently shoot them, buy ammunition and consider efforts to infringe on my 2nd Amendment rights to be wrong and unconstitutional. I fervently support the sovereignty of the United States, am deeply concerned about our economy, increasingly higher taxes, illegal immigration, soaring unemployment, and actions by our government that will bury my children beneath a mountain of debt.

Apparently, all this makes me a “rightwing extremist.” At least that’s what it says in the April 7, 2009 “Assessment” issued by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The nine-page report, titled, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” is full of warnings about American citizens who share any of my background or subscribe to the beliefs above. It is one of the most alarming documents produced by our government that I have ever read.

Comment: I'm am too!

John Stumpf is CEO of the Year

Wells Fargo's John Stumpf is CEO of the Year


Wells Fargo & Co. didn't merely survive the economic tsunami that wiped out prominent financial institutions and transformed the Wall Street landscape. The San Francisco bank rode the wave, playing the upheaval to its advantage by picking up a crippled, but substantial, competitor on the cheap.

The roughly $13 billion acquisition of Wachovia Corp., completed on the final day of last year, converted the super regional bank into one of the nation's largest. Based on preliminary first-quarter results released this month, it's also among the strongest.

For that, the bank's leader, John Stumpf, is The Chronicle's Chief Executive Officer of the Year for 2008.

His office declined an interview request for this article, citing SEC rules in advance of the company's scheduled earning announcement on Wednesday.

Stumpf became CEO of Wells Fargo, San Francisco's largest private employer and one of the biggest charitable contributors, in June 2007.

The company would not have been in a position to seize the opportunities presented by the economic meltdown last year had it not largely avoided the boom time behavior that would eventually doom so many of its peers. Specifically, it offered far fewer of the exotic and now toxic mortgages that wiped out credit markets and sparked the takeover or dissolution of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial Corp., Washington Mutual and scores of other lenders.

"We were the No. 1 mortgage company in this country in the early part of this decade, and all of a sudden we started to see people do things that we didn't understand," Stumpf said in an interview earlier this year, citing negative-amortization and payment-option mortgages.

"We gave up tens of billions of dollars in loan-origination volume and millions and millions of dollars in profit," he said. "But we didn't see how doing this would help customers succeed financially. We don't think lending money to somebody who we know can't pay us back serves anybody. Others did that because they were interested in short-term profits, and they got nailed."

Comment: I've met John. Impressive guy!

Macs a smaller target

Macs Aren’t Safer, Just a Smaller Target


It’s true that very few viruses have been written for Macs — and none are spreading actively right now. Similarly, hacker programs distributed by malicious Web sites typically run only on PCs.

Yet Macs’ relative safety is primarily due to their still-slim market share. They’re simply a waste of time for today’s attackers, who are trying to accomplish crime on a large scale by infiltrating millions of computers. And there’s nothing inherently more secure about a Mac. Researchers found 26 vulnerabilities in OS X in 2008, about the same as in Windows Vista (27), according to the security software maker Symantec. If its market share rises enough, the Mac will become a target and attacks will succeed.

Comment: And Linux yet a smaller target

Treasury won't let TCF return TARP

Treasury Allows New Bank to Return TARP Funds, Keeps Other Bank Waiting


... the Treasury Department is allowing another bank to return money loaned to it under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), it is still keeping one institution – TCF Financial – in the lurch, declining to tell it or CNSNews.com why it has taken more than the required 30 days to process the money-return request.


TCF Financial, based in Wayzata, Minn., also thinks that Congress has changed the rules and would like to return taxpayers’ money as soon as possible. However, according to TCF spokesman Jason Korstange, the Treasury Department has not approved the return yet, nor have they told TCF why they are taking so long.

“Not yet, we’re hoping to hear any minute, any day,” Korstange told CNSNews.com. “We have not heard back. We have certainly talked to them, but we haven’t received an answer yet.”

Korstange said that Treasury had not provided a reason for the delay, but noted that TCF had given Treasury everything it asked for.

“No reasons,” he said. “We’ve given them a lot of information, any information they ask for, any information we thought was necessary.”

Korstange explained that Treasury had originally invited TCF to apply for TARP funds, saying it wanted the participation of healthy banks to mitigate the shock to the financial system from the failure of large firms like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

TCF agreed, wanting to do its civic duty by aiding the government in keeping the nation’s hobbled financial industry going.

“They came to all the banks,” said Korstange. “They did come to us and suggested that it would be a good idea, that if you didn’t take it you would be looked on as a bank that couldn’t get it, that you were too bad to get it.

“It made sense to do it at that time. We thought we were being good citizens. We didn’t need the money,” Korstange added.

The $700-billion TARP was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush last fall.

The law says that the Treasury Secretary "is authorized to establish the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or ‘TARP’) to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, troubled assets from any financial institution, on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Secretary, and in accordance with this Act and the policies and procedures developed and published by the Secretary. ...

“The term ‘financial institution’ means any institution, including, but not limited to, any bank, savings association, credit union, security broker or dealer, or insurance company, established and regulated under the laws of the United States or any State, territory, or possession of the United States ...."

Korstange said that changing the rules of TARP and demonizing banks that participate in it ultimately hurts the government’s own efforts, because the TARP program is the best recovery program the government is offering.

“It’s the best thing the government has going for it right now, as a matter of fact, [because] it’s not given to the bank, it’s a loan,” Korstange told CNSNews.com. “We’re paying dividends on it. They’re getting 5 percent. To be perceived as this ogre that’s out there gobbling up all this tax money is just wrong.”

That negative perception, fueled by the actions of both the Obama administration and Congress, pushed TCF to get out of TARP. Korstange said that when the government decided it could tell banks how to do business, it had gone too far.

Comment: Once the government's hand get's in your pocket it's hard to get it out!