In-depth look at Toyota's sticky accelerator

HT: autoblog.com

Comment: My sister has a new Camry that has been recalled

Is IPad a Kindle killer?

Can the iPad compete as an e-book reader?


The biggest open question regarding the iPad’s potential as an e-reader relates to its bright, LED-backlit display. Amazon’s Kindle uses E Ink, which—while much duller and darker than an LED screen—is decidedly easy on the eyes. I can read my Kindle for hours, with no eyestrain afterwards.

Comment: Amazon Kindle There are no additional 3G fees with the Kindle!

Nancy Pelosi's party in the skies!

Taxpayers pay $101,000 for Pelosi's in-flight 'food, booze'


It reads like a dream order for a wild frat party: Maker's Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey's Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey … and Corona beer.

But that single receipt makes up just part of the more than $101,000 taxpayers paid for "in-flight services" – including food and liquor, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trips on Air Force jets over the last two years. That's almost $1,000 per week.

Comment: Check out the image of the receipt. (Click through to the article)

At least they didn't call it the "IFlow"

For Apple, iPad Said More Than Intended


Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products.


In the hours after the iPad announcement on Wednesday, “iTampon” became one of the most popular trending topics on Twitter. Apple’s communication team fielded a wave of queries on the subject but characteristically declined to comment.

“I care about words and their connotations, but you don’t have to be in junior high to make this leap,” said Robin Bernstein, a corporate speech writer on Long Island, who addressed the issue on her Facebook page on Wednesday. “A lot of women when they hear the word ‘pad’ are going to think about feminine hygiene.”

Michael Cronan, a naming consultant in Berkeley, Calif., whose company has helped come up with brands like TiVo and Kindle, said many naming experiments show that women tend to reflexively relate words like “pad” and “flow” to bodily concerns.

Comment: For more consider Brand names that don't export well

A scathing review: iPad: The Greatest Disappointment in Human History


Apple’s lost opportunity was to create a device that did one thing amazingly, exceptionally, innovately well. Instead they chose to make a giant iPod Touch that I can’t carry in my pocket and that I can’t use to call my wife when I’m going to be home late. I can’t take it on my morning walk to listen to music. I can’t take it to a conference in place of my MacBook, either. Now there is a chance that I could throw it in my bag in place of my Kindle, but I don’t know if that’s likely to happen. After all, the Kindle does one thing and it does it well—better, I think, than the iPad. It can do it for two weeks, rather than eight hours and doesn’t require a monthly contract.

Fujitsu’s iPad

IPad? That’s So 2002, Fujitsu Says


Sold mainly in the United States, the multifunctional device from the Tokyo technology company helps shop clerks verify prices, check real-time inventory data and close sales on the go.

Fujitsu, which applied for an iPad trademark in 2003, is claiming first dibs, setting up a fight with Apple over the name of the new tablet device that Apple plans to sell starting in March.

“It’s our understanding that the name is ours,” Masahiro Yamane, director of Fujitsu’s public relations division, said Thursday. He said Fujitsu was aware of Apple’s plans to sell the iPad tablet and that the company was consulting lawyers over next steps.

Fujitsu’s iPad, which runs on Microsoft’s CE.NET operating system, has a 3.5-inch color touchscreen, an Intel processor and Wi-fi and Bluetooth connections; it also supports VoIP telephone calls over the Internet, a technology also used by Skype.

“Mobile is a keyword for Fujitsu’s iPad, too,” Mr. Yamane said. “With the iPad, workers don’t have to keep running back to a computer. They have everything right at their fingertips.”

Fujitsu Says it Owns Rights to 'iPad' Name, Not Apple


In early 2009, Fujitsu's trademark application was declared abandoned by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but the company re-opened its application in June. Since the re-instatement of the Fujitsu application, Apple has been trying to take it away (via proxy) — in fact, they've filed three petitions to extend the deadline. Apple now has until Feb. 28 to oppose Fujitsu's claims.

And it looks the gauntlet's been thrown — according to the Wall Street Journal , Fujitsu is consulting lawyers over the next steps, as it is the company's understanding that the name is Fujitsu's.

Comment: See my next post for weirdness about the IPad name and a devastating critique of Apple's IPad


Ford: America's independent automaker

Ford posts first full-year net profit since 2005


Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F - News) reported 2009 earnings of $2.7 billion on Thursday, its first full-year profit since 2005, and said it expects a 2010 profit amid market share gains and a slow U.S. auto sales recovery.

Ford also posted a fourth-quarter profit that soundly beat Wall Street forecasts. It attributed the full-year profit in part to cost-cutting, gains from debt-reduction efforts, good results from its financing arm and stronger pricing.

The automaker repeated its forecast that 2011 would be "solidly profitable," but Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth cautioned that Ford still had to take steps to address its "uncompetitive balance sheet" and was watching for more signs the U.S. economic recovery would continue.

"We're working hard on that," Booth said of the balance sheet. "We did a lot last year and we have a lot more to do.

"The single most important thing is to see the economic recovery ... continue," he told reporters. "We are worried about how fragile that may be."

For the fourth quarter, Ford posted a profit of $868 million, or 25 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $6 billion, or a $2.51 per share. Revenue rose to $35.4 billion from $29 billion.

Comment: I'm a Ford stockholder


Note the quote on the slide

Image Source

"Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it"

Comment: Gag!

Sisyphus and Groundhog Day (the movie)

Sisyphean task


Sisyphus was compelled to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down again, forcing him to begin again

Groundhog Day (film)


The phrase "Groundhog Day" has entered common use as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats, or seems to

Comment: Still doing it in 2010 (see earlier post).

What does "skin in the game" mean?

Comment: You've heard this phrase a number of times? What's its origin? Meaning?

Language: Who's got a skin in the game?


Microsoft's Certified Professional Magazine Online quotes a vice president, Rick Devenuti, saying, "Customers want confidence, especially with this new product wave, that Microsoft has skin in the game." A reader can presume that this means the company will hire new employees in its new-wave consulting business because the executive hints provocatively that "there is some relationship to head count."

At the same time, on the other side of the world, Lachlan McKeough, chief of an Australian insurance brokerage on an acquisitions spree, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the key to the company's success is the way that "front-line staff" retains a substantial equity in the business. Asked to describe his business model, he replied, "They have got skin in the game, so to speak."


The skin in this case is a synecdoche for the self, much as "head" stands for cattle and "sail" for ships. The game is the investment, commitment or gamble being undertaken. Thus, investors in a company will be more comfortable in their own skins if they know that the managers are personally invested as well - that they share the risk and have an incentive to share the gains.


From "Town Talk," The Oakland Tribune, April 20, 1912: "It cannot be said that the latest visit of Eleanor Sears to California was an unqualified success. ... She didn't play polo, though she seemed crazy for a chance. She was very insistent while the men refused to let her hazard her skin in the game, but when they finally consented she was attacked by what the vulgar call 'cold feet' and reneged."

PETA vs Groundhog Day

PETA: Replace Punxsutawney Phil with robot


An animal rights group wants organizers of Pennsylvania's Groundhog Day festival to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robotic stand-in.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it's unfair to keep the animal in captivity and subject him to the huge crowds and bright lights that accompany tens of thousands of revelers each Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, a tiny borough about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. PETA is suggesting the use of an animatronic model instead.

But William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, countered that the animal is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania."

Comment: Funny! Also the Groundhog Club response: "being treated better than the average child". Perhaps the Caddyshack Gopher could be the Groundhog Day standin?

IPad: Will It Float?

Apple announces ‘iPad’ touchscreen tablet - Steve Jobs calls it 'truly magical' and 'revolutionary' device


After months of rampant speculation, Apple Wednesday announced a touchscreen tablet computer, the "iPad" for consumers who want to take their movies, TV shows, music, games and reading with them, be it around the house or on the go.

"We want to kick off 2010 with a truly revolutionary and magical product," CEO Steve Jobs told a packed audience at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on Wednesday.

"So far it really looks like an oversized iPod Touch, which is great, but if that's it, price will be paramount," said Avi Greengart, Current Analysis analyst, blogging from the event itself for Reuters news service.

Comment: Will It Float? was a long running Letterman sketch. I'm close to buying a smart phone .... probably a Nexus One. I just don't see how the IPad fits. Would someone want to haul this around? Thoughts?


This is for Bert Perry

Comment: Because he is an engineer and I am not. But very cool regardless

Article: Omnivore engine technology

Flash animation: Omnivore engine technology

FREE to FEE checking

TCF Bank Cutting Off 'Totally Free' Checking


TCF Bank has long boasted of their offer to provide customers with "totally free" checking accounts, but that is soon to be a thing of the past.

According to a representative from the Twin Cities-based bank, TCF has already begun the process to no longer offer fee free checking.

The bank intends to introduce a monthly maintenance fee to over 1 million current checking accounts. The bank has not placed fees on these accounts for nearly a quarter century.

Free checking was first offered in 1986. They were the first bank in the marketplace to offer this opportunity, which bolstered their account base.

Comment: I read somewhere where they have 1.7 million checking accounts ... thus the change will impact approximately 60% of their customers!

Free Checking Could Go the Way of Free Toasters


... free checking may be an endangered species.

Banks are feeling heat from all sides. This week, President Obama moved to limit the size and activities of the biggest institutions. Last week, he proposed a tax to recover bailout funds.

The biggest impact on checking accounts, however, is likely to come from new regulations governing overdraft protection. Starting in July, banks will need explicit permission from customers before allowing them to use their debit cards to spend more than they have in their bank accounts on a one-time purchase. Similar restrictions will apply to A.T.M. withdrawals.

Banks earn billions in overdraft fees, money that helps pay for free checking.

A chunk of that revenue will disappear when some consumers elect not to sign up for the opportunity to spend more than they have. This week, Bank of America said that $160 million in overdraft fee revenue had already disappeared, because of changes it made in its policies ahead of the new federal rules.

When that money evaporates as other banks comply with the regulations, they’re going to try to make it up some other way, particularly if they’re paying more taxes to the federal government and have fewer ways to trade their way to outsize profits.


In the 1990s, Washington Mutual brought free checking to the masses. “It was an anchor product that allowed them to get customers in the door,” says Jim Neckopulos, a Hitachi Consulting vice president who worked with Washington Mutual at the time. Then, the bank tried to get customers to sign up for loans and other more profitable services that could subsidize the free checking.

Soon, most every bank had some version of free checking, and they were helped by the rise of the debit card. “People’s behaviors changed dramatically,” says Aaron Fine, a consultant and partner at Oliver Wyman. “They were no longer balancing their checkbook and were overdrawing their accounts with the card. And that’s what allowed it to be profitable.”

How heavily did banks lean on the overdraft fees? Well, G. Michael Flores of the financial services consulting firm Bretton Woods estimates that the average customer paid 12 overdraft or other insufficient-fund charges in 2009, often at $25 or $30 per transgression.

Comment: Sad to think that people don't balance their checkbooks. I still do. By the way, there is no good reason to overdraw one's account if one has access to online banking. Most banks provide this for free. Additionally many banks have a service where one can sent a TXT message of "BAL" to the bank and get an SMS message back in seconds! (I have this set up with both Chase and Wells Fargo. I can send the same TXT message to both banks at once and see which one gets back to me faster!)

Evernote: Notes in "the cloud"



Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your notable life using your computer, phone, and the web.

Comment: I read a review of Evernote today and decided to check it out.


People who walk away mortgages are "jerks"

Walking Away From Your Mortgage Is Morally Wrong And Financially Stupid


As millions of Americans begin to realize that it will be years if not decades before their houses are worth what they owe on them, there has been lots of talk about whether it's okay to just voluntarily walk away from your mortgage.

I argued last week that, in some circumstances, it is okay -- because your mortgage is a business contract between you and a bank. As the contract makes clear, if you stop paying, the bank gets the house, and you lose your equity and credit rating. That seems like a fair trade, especially if you have tried to renegotiate the mortgage first.

Our guest Megan McArdle, economics editor for The Atlantic, thinks this argument is wrong. First, Megan says, walking away from your mortgage voluntarily is often financially stupid: There are plenty of fees and costs associated with defaulting, and your credit rating will be destroyed for years.

Second, Megan says, it is morally wrong to walk away, because your mortgage represented "a promise to pay." If everyone entered into a mortgage with a secret plan to walk away if the house value falls, Congress would write new laws allowing mortgage-lenders to go after borrowers' other assets (which already exist in some states). This would make borrowing money harder and more expensive for everyone.

Megan concludes that people who walk away are "jerks". In the accompanying video, she makes her case.

Comment: Earlier post If it is amoral for businesses to walk away from debt ... why is it immoral for individuals?

Sen. Inhofe: "I Believe In Racial And Ethnic Profiling"

Comment: I agree!

A humdinger of an earthquake!

Comment: I'm a futurist on the Book of Revelation (I believe the events of Revelation 6 to the end of the book are future.) Why am I a futurist? Answer: Revelation 1:19, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this" AND Revelation 4:1, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this"

Thinking about Earthquakes, I find these references in Revelation interesting

Keyword Search results: Earthquake

Note the 16:18 reference:

And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth

Also found this WIKI article interesting: Largest earthquakes by magnitude & Deadliest earthquakes on record

The Revelation 16:18 earthquake is said to be "as had not occurred since men were on the earth"!

That's gonna be a humdinger of an earthquake!

What's missing in health care reform

NPR: Why Public Support For Health Care Faltered


As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to pass a health plan with important benefits for the average American. For the typical family, costs would go down by as much as $2,500 a year. Adults wouldn't be required to buy insurance. No one but the wealthy would face higher taxes.

George Will: Democrats on the precipice of failure


... Democrats have had to resort to serial bribery to advance it. Massachusetts voted immediately after the corruption of exempting, until 2018, union members from the tax on high-value health insurance plans. This tax was supposedly the crucial component of what supposedly was reform's primary goal: reducing costs.

Comments: Why people are angry about it:

  • The Cornhusker Kickback
  • The Louisiana Purchase
  • Union exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health-care plans
  • People probably don't care about taxing high income workers (AKA more than $ 250,000 per year!). But most doubt the Dems can keep that promise
  • The public option smells like socialism. There is mistrust (rightly so!) that the government can do it better. Medicare is going broke! The government couldn't handle the relatively simple "cash for clunkers" program!
  • It is another unfunded Trillion $ program
  • Many object to mandatory buy-in requirements!
  • It is not bi-partisan!
  • There is no tort reform
  • It will not cost less

The Edge of Hope

spiegel: The World Bids Farewell to Obama


US President Barack Obama suffered a painful defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday. With mid-term elections looming, it means that Obama will have to fundamentally re-think his political course. German commentators say it is the end of hope.

US President Barack Obama has had a number of difficult weeks during his first year in the White House. Right after he took office, he had to wade through a week full of partisan bickering over his economic stimulus package combined with a tax scandal surrounding Tom Daschle, the man Obama had hoped would lead his health care reform team.

Then there was the last week of 2009, when a failed terror attack on a flight inbound for Detroit exposed major flaws in US efforts to identify and stop potential terrorists.

This week, though -- a week when Obama should have been celebrating the first anniversary of his inauguration -- may have been the president's worst yet. Scott Brown, an almost unknown Republican member of the Massachusetts Senate, defeated the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley for the US Senate seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The defeat in a heavily Democratic state not only highlights Obama's massive loss of popular support during his first year in office, but it also could spell doom for his signature effort to reform the US health care system.

Comment: Sounds like a soap opera: "The Edge of Hope"

A rare investment that has skyrocketed

Fifth Third stock up on profitable ’09


Loan charge-offs moderated for FifthThird Bancorp in the fourth quarter, helping to produce a lower-than-expected loss and a profit for the full year.

That news helped kick up shares of Fifth Third (NASDAQ: FITB) by about 7 percent or 80 cents, to $12.11 in Thursday morning trading.

11 months ago: Financial Bloodbath!

Today trading over 10X purchase price.

On Passwords

If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe


Back at the dawn of the Web, the most popular account password was “12345.”

Today, it’s one digit longer but hardly safer: “123456.”

Comment: Our work password rules: At least one UPPER CASE. lower case OK. Must have at least one symbol like !@#$%^&*/. Must have alpha characters. And must have numeric as well. Must be changed every 60 days. Must not repeat. If you (or someone else) attempts to access a password protected site or workstation with an incorrect password (as I recollect twice but it may be three times), the site, server, workstation, etc is locked out for that user account.

Counterproductive accounting rules

Comment: good read by the CEO of INGDirect!

Why Mortgage Modification Isn't Working - The loan adjustment success rate is just 1%


That's a success rate of just 1%. This means that up to 99% of eligible homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments have been unable thus far to modify their loans.

A big reason for HAMP's limited success is that the government is suffocating banks with counterproductive accounting rules. Under current law, if a bank modifies a mortgage it must record the write-down as an expense on its books. For example, if a homeowner's monthly mortgage payment is reduced by $400 per month for 24 months, the bank has to report that it "lost" $9,600 ($400 times 24 months).

The bank, though, didn't lose any money—it's still scheduled to receive the totality of the loan principal, just less interest.

This rule, for obvious reasons, makes banks reluctant to modify. They don't want to take the "loss," which can get very big for larger mortgages with long modified periods. So there's a huge financial disincentive to offer modification.

Comment: By the way, INGdirect has a great banking product. We use them for savings and for CD's.

Mr. Brown goes to Washington

Brown heads to Washington after upset Senate win


The timing of his swearing-in remained in question. While Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin sent a letter to the Senate clerk Wednesday declaring Brown the unofficial winner of the seat, senators had to decide whether they were going to waive a waiting period for absentee ballot arrivals.

Brown was meeting first with his highest-profile backer, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Next up was his new state partner, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and then Sen. Paul G. Kirk Jr., who has been holding Kennedy's seat on an interim basis since shortly after Kennedy's death from brain cancer in August.


"If you were to tell me growing up that a guy whose mom was on welfare and parents had some marital troubles, and I had some issues growing up, that a guy from Wrentham would be here standing before you right now and going to Washington, D.C., are you kidding me?" Brown said at a postelection news conference.

After his day trip to Washington, Brown was returning to Massachusetts to contemplate when to resign his state Senate seat and how to cope with the new demands of being a capital commuter.

Comment: Washington still experiencing "after-quakes" from the upset!


"The Oracle" on taxing banks

Buffett Says He Can’t See Rationale for Bank Levy


Warren Buffett opposes President Barack Obama’s proposed levy on financial institutions because firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. already repaid bailout funds.

“I don’t see any reason why they should be paying a special tax,” said Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in an interview on Bloomberg Television today. Supporters of the plan to tax the banks “are trying to punish people,” he said. “I don’t see the rationale for it.”

Obama announced a plan last week to impose a fee on as many as 50 financial companies to recover losses from the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The levy would apply to firms with more than $50 billion in assets, including Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, two companies that Berkshire has investments in. It would exclude Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage lenders taken over by the U.S.

“Look at the damage Fannie and Freddie caused, and they were run by the Congress,” said Buffett. “Should they have a special tax on congressmen because they let this thing happen to Freddie and Fannie? I don’t think so.”

Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and other beneficiaries of the bailout such as Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. repaid the money they got from the government. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owe about $110 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

“Most of the banks didn’t need to be saved,” Buffett said. “Including Wells Fargo.”

Comment: I agree with the Oracle of Omaha

Speaking of the Highway 169 Triangle

Comment: Project details here:

Project home: Highway 169 Triangle

Final layout (PDF - large)

I494 at Lyndale

I-494: The Twin Cities' highway to Hell?


According to a new analysis of freeway traffic congestion, 494 in the vicinity of Lyndale Avenue along Bloomington's northern border ranked 17th-worst in the nation.

The analysis found that the worst bottleneck stretches for about a half-mile near Lyndale, with it gridlocked 32 hours a week. Motorists' average speed: just over 19 mph.

Comment: Other bad areas (from personal experience): Hwy 169 at Hwy 81 (remediation project ongoing) and Hwy 169 just S of I494.

If Democrats can lose in Massachusetts, they can lose anywhere

“The Party’s Over”


Any Democrat with even the faintest fear of a tough race in 2010 is rattled. It was easy for some to rationalize the defeats in New Jersey and Virginia last year — and even the flood of polls showing bad news since then.

They are in denial no more: If Democrats can lose in Massachusetts, they can lose anywhere. That is the mind-set that will shape the next nine months for Democrats. It will affect who runs for reelection, who bolts on big votes, who gives money and who speaks out against Obama. All of this will make governing harder.

The focus has been on the special election for the past week. But Democratic insiders were equally concerned about other signs of trouble that got insufficient notice: Polls show Democrats could lose the New York Senate seat, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s favorable ratings plummeted in Nebraska, new polls showed Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) trailing badly in his swing district, and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) is in a statistical tie and in more trouble than previously expected.

Comment: OK this is a quote from a Republican blog. But the upset in Massachusetts was so stunning that I believe it accurate!


Democratic Senator Jim Webb takes high road

On to Plan C


In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.

Comment: !!!

Meanwhile SEAT BROWN tomorrow!

Favre's Secret Weapon

YouTube: Favre's Secret Weapon

Comment: Who knew?

Upset in Massachusetts!!!

Comment: Now seat him! Seat him tomorrow!

Brown wins Mass. Senate race in epic upset -- GOP victory leaves President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in doubt


In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in a U.S. Senate election Tuesday that left President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in doubt and marred the end of his first year in office.

The loss by the once-favored Coakley for the seat that the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy held for nearly half a century signaled big political problems for the president's party this fall when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot nationwide.

More immediately, Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the GOP to block the president's health care legislation and the rest of Obama's agenda. Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican filibusters.

In stunning upset, Scott Brown wins US Senate in Mass.


Republican Scott Brown pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Massachusetts political history tonight, defeating Democrat Martha Coakley to become the state's next United States senator and potentially derailing President Obama's hopes for a health care overhaul.

The victory caps a dramatic surge in recent days as Brown, a state lawmaker from Wrentham once thought to have little chance of beating a popular attorney general, roared ahead of Coakley to become the first Republican senator elected from Massachusetts since 1972.

With 73 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had 53 percent and Coakley had 46 percent.

In a race that became the center of national attention, Brown's win is widely seen as a vote against the president's agenda from one of the most reliably Democratic states. And in a particularly ironic twist, Brown, in succeeding Edward M. Kennedy -- the late liberal lion who deemed health care "the cause of my life" -- may well be the 41st vote to prevent the Democratic-led plan from moving forward.

Aid for Haiti: "perpetuating the toxic circle of dependence and misrule"

To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid


Take something as seemingly straightforward as food aid. "At some point," Mr. Shikwati explains, "this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the U.N.'s World Food Program."

Mr. Sachs has blasted these arguments as "shockingly misguided." Then again, Mr. Shikwati and others like Kenya's John Githongo and Zambia's Dambisa Moyo have had the benefit of seeing first hand how the aid industry wrecked their countries. That the industry typically does so in connivance with the same local governments that have led their people to ruin only serves to help keep those elites in power, perpetuating the toxic circle of dependence and misrule that's been the bane of countries like Haiti for generations.

A better approach recognizes the real humanity of Haitians by treating them—once the immediate and essential tasks of rescue are over—as people capable of making responsible choices. Haiti has some of the weakest property protections in the world, as well as some of the most burdensome business regulations. In 2007, it received 10 times as much in aid ($701 million) as it did in foreign investment.

Reversing those figures is a task for Haitians alone, which the outside world can help by desisting from trying to kill them with kindness.

Comment: this is not so much about earthquake relief - that this blogger strongly encourages!

Massachusetts' Senate race ripples across the country

Tight Massachusetts race alarms California Dems


The possible loss of a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts has Democrats on edge 3,000 miles away in California, where party activists fear a GOP upset today could trigger a conservative wave and swamp health care reform and the 2010 midterm elections.

"Regardless of the outcome ... this should be a gigantic wake-up call to the Democratic Party - that we're not connecting with the needs, the aspirations and the desires of real people right now," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

With Republican Scott Brown poised to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts race to succeed the late Edward Kennedy, Democrats at the annual Martin Luther King community breakfast in San Francisco were buzzing about the impacts of such an upset: an end to the party's 60-vote supermajority and a possible mortal blow to the health care legislation championed by President Obama.

Comment: Results should be in by 9 Central!


Haiti is not Katrina

Haiti is not Katrina


To get an idea of the distinction between the two events, imagine that all of the U.S. west of the Mississippi were to be destroyed or extensively damaged by some immense catastrophe in one minute, with absolutely no warning. That is the situation Haiti faces.

As horrific as it was, Katrina was a region-wide catastrophe, not a national one. Damage was enormous in the Gulf region, but the resources of the larger nation remained intact and available for mobilization, even though aid was slow in coming.

Katrina did not flatten our nation's capital or prevent national leaders from communicating with one another. Impacts were catastrophic in areas where Katrina struck, creating significant logistics problems, but the infrastructure of the rest of the nation was untouched. Also important, it was possible to issue warnings for Katrina, which enabled the vast majority of those who were at risk to evacuate to safety. The victims of the earthquake had no such warning.

Comment: good read. Hope you give!

Netflix: rental patterns in Minneapolis

A Peek Into Netflix Queues

Don’t use the term “social justice” without explanation

A Modest Proposal


The term is unassailable to some and arouses suspicion in others. For many Christians, social justice encompasses everything good we should be doing in the world, from hunger relief to serving the poor to combating sex trafficking. But the phrase is also used to support more debatable matters like specific health care legislation, minimum wage increases, or reducing carbon emissions. If something can be included as a “social justice” issue then no one can oppose said issue, because who in their right mind favors social injustice?


The notion of social justice is a hazy one. It resembles words such as community, intimacy, and relational, warm words whose meaning may seem self-evident and which we assume are obviously biblical categories, when actually they are rather undefined and culture relative.


“Social justice” then implies the idea of a “just society,” one in which different individuals and groups in society get a “fair share” of its benefits. But Christians disagree about what constitutes a just society and how we achieve it (for instance, how far by governmental intervention to effect income redistribution and how far by market forces and the encouragement of philanthropy)…The meaning of the phrase social justice has become opaque over the years as it has become a buzz expression

Comment: The phrase "social justice" seems to me a lot like "hate crime". Are there "love crimes"?

Haiti: the culture of national poverty

The Underlying Tragedy


This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.

In the recent anthology “What Works in Development?,” a group of economists try to sort out what we’ve learned. The picture is grim. There are no policy levers that consistently correlate to increased growth. There is nearly zero correlation between how a developing economy does one decade and how it does the next. There is no consistently proven way to reduce corruption. Even improving governing institutions doesn’t seem to produce the expected results.

The chastened tone of these essays is captured by the economist Abhijit Banerjee: “It is not clear to us that the best way to get growth is to do growth policy of any form. Perhaps making growth happen is ultimately beyond our control.”

The second hard truth is that micro-aid is vital but insufficient. Given the failures of macrodevelopment, aid organizations often focus on microprojects. More than 10,000 organizations perform missions of this sort in Haiti. By some estimates, Haiti has more nongovernmental organizations per capita than any other place on earth. They are doing the Lord’s work, especially these days, but even a blizzard of these efforts does not seem to add up to comprehensive change.

Third, it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Comment: A good read. Some people groups are resistant to progress.


Senate upset in Massachusetts?

GOP hopes for Massachusetts Senate upset


Republicans may be on the verge of pulling off what was politically unthinkable until now: winning the race to fill liberal lion Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Tuesday's special election is deadlocked, according to a new poll.

President Obama will campaign Sunday in Massachusetts to try to help save the seat for Democrats, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

A GOP victory in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts could give Senate Republicans enough votes to block Obama's health care plan. It also could shatter assumptions about the competitiveness of politics in the progressive Northeast.

No Republican has a won a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1972. The state's entire congressional delegation is Democratic. Obama crushed Sen. John McCain in Massachusetts in 2008, beating the GOP nominee by 26 percentage points.

Kennedy, an advocate for overhauling health care throughout his career, held his seat for more than 46 years. His brother, President Kennedy, had it for another eight.

A Suffolk University/7 News poll released Thursday night indicates that 50 percent of likely voters back GOP state Sen. Scott Brown. Forty-six percent support state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee.

Comment: It would be massive if the Dems lost this seat! Special election is Tuesday.

Mother admits: "he may have terroristic tendencies"

Comment: Our government hard at work ... patting down 8 year olds! Read full story for the title quote in the correct context!

Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List


“Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal,” Mrs. Hicks recounted. “A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don’t catch him. But my 8-year-old can’t walk through security without being frisked.”

It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.

At some point, someone named Michael Hicks made the Department of Homeland Security suspicious, and little Mikey is still paying the price. (His father, also named Michael Hicks, was stopped for the first time on the Bahamas trip.)

Both lists are maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are given to the Transportation Security Administration, which in turn sends them to the airlines.

Full quote from Mother: "I understand the need for security, But this is ridiculous. It’s quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane."


Anarchy in Haiti

Who's running Haiti? No one, say the people


Haitians are doing their best to survive chaotic conditions in the absence of any clear leadership, said Latin America expert Dan Erikson of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

"The sad truth is that no one is in charge of Haiti today. This vacuum, coupled with the robust response from the Obama administration, has inevitably created a situation where the U.S. will be the de facto decision-maker in Haiti."

Even President Rene Preval lost his home. "My palace collapsed. ... I can't live in the palace, I can't live in my own house," he told CNN on Wednesday.

The 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force, which might have been able to step into the void, has been left counting its own dead after its headquarters were destroyed in the quake.

The United Nations said 36 of its personnel in Haiti had been killed and many more were still missing.

Peacekeepers occasionally patrolled the city in buses and trucks and have mobilized some heavy earth-moving equipment but the blue-helmet soldiers have largely stayed off the streets.

Underlying the growing sense of chaos and abandonment around the half-destroyed coastal capital Port-au-Prince, some looting began -- a phenomenon Haitians have seen many times before in past political crises.

At one crushed supermarket, young men calmly carried off bags of food and electronics without a policemen in sight.

Comment: A country destroyed!

A CEO issuing such massaged numbers would land in jail

Don't Like the Numbers? Change 'Em


The administration has introduced the new notion of "jobs saved" to take credit where none was ever taken before. It seems continually to confuse gross and net numbers. For example, it misses the jobs lost or diverted by the fiscal stimulus. And along with the congressional leadership it hypes the number of "green jobs" likely to be created from the explosion of spending, subsidies, loans and mandates, while ignoring the job losses caused by its taxes, debt, regulations and diktats.

The president and his advisers—their credibility already reeling from exaggeration (the stimulus bill will limit unemployment to 8%) and reneged campaign promises (we'll go through the budget "line-by-line")—consistently imply that their new proposed regulation is a free lunch. When the radical attempt to regulate energy and the environment with the deeply flawed cap-and-trade bill is confronted with economic reality, instead of honestly debating the trade-offs they confidently pronounce that it boosts the economy. They refuse to admit that it simply boosts favored sectors and firms at the expense of everyone else.

Rabid environmentalists have descended into a separate reality where only green counts. It's gotten so bad that the head of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, announced this past fall that costly new carbon regulations would boost the economy shortly after she was told by eight of the state's most respected economists that they were certain these new rules would damage the economy. The next day, her own economic consultant, Harvard's Robert Stavis, denounced her statement as a blatant distortion.

Scientists are expected to make sure their findings are replicable, to make the data available, and to encourage the search for new theories and data that may overturn the current consensus. This is what Galileo, Darwin and Einstein—among the most celebrated scientists of all time—did. But some climate researchers, most notably at the University of East Anglia, attempted to hide or delete temperature data when that data didn't show recent rapid warming. They quietly suppressed and replaced the numbers, and then attempted to squelch publication of studies coming to different conclusions.

Comment: One senses that we are being lied to!

Obama discards campaign promises like most people discard used Kleenex

The President's Bait-and-Switch Operation


Among the pledges he cast aside were reducing the deficit, reining in federal spending, not allowing lobbyists to work in his administration, increasing taxes only on those who make more than $250,000, and opposing "government-run health care" because it is "extreme."


During his campaign, Mr. Obama pledged that any negotiations on health-care legislation would be broadcast on C-SPAN, "so the American people can see what the choices are," and not conducted behind closed doors. "Such public negotiations," he said, were "the antidote" to "overcoming the special interests and the lobbyists who . . . will resist anything that we try to do."

Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart collected videotape of Mr. Obama making the same promise eight different times in 2007 and 2008—evidence that this was not a hasty or ill-considered pledge. It was supposed to epitomize the "change" that was at the core of the Obama campaign.

Now, however, the final negotiations on health-care reform are being conducted behind closed doors and there's no formal legislative conference between the House and Senate, which would guarantee Republicans at least a few seats at the table. This bill is not only being written in secrecy, it is being written by an anonymous group of Democrats. We can therefore throw Mr. Obama's commitment to bipartisanship onto his mountain of broken promises.


Mr. Obama even talked this week about "changing the way Washington works." But we can see that Mr. Obama's preferred style is backroom legislative drafting and what that style produces—sweetheart deals like Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's "Cornhusker Kickback" and dozens of other special-interest provisions that benefit one state or a group at the expense of good policy. Mr. Obama should insist that every last payoff be removed from whatever bill is cobbled together.

Comment: That's "change" some people were stupid enough to "believe in".

Haitian quake vs the 1994 Northridge quake

Haiti's Tragedy


We may never learn the precise toll inflicted by Tuesday evening's earthquake in Haiti. But even now it's clear it may rank with the 2004 Christmas tsunami and the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China as one of the worst natural disasters in living memory.


The earthquake is also a reminder that while natural calamities do not discriminate between rich countries and poor ones, their effects almost invariably do. The 1994 Northridge quake was nearly as powerful as the one that struck Haiti, but its human toll was comparatively slight. The difference is a function of a wealth-generating and law-abiding society that can afford, among other things, the expense of proper building codes.

In the long term, the best defense against future natural disasters is to promote the political and economic conditions that can move people out of the slums and shanties that easily become death traps

Comment: More on 1994 Northridge earthquake. Readers are strongly encouraged to give to relief efforts! Here's a list of EFCA Organizations providing Haiti relief. We gave to Baptist Haiti Mission.

Images from the NYTimes: A Closer Look at the Destruction in Haiti


Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab & Seat 19A

Why the Jockstrap Bomber picked seat 19A


If the so-called Jockstrap Bomber had detonated his device, would it have brought down the airplane? Among the many unanswered questions about the plan followed by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab are several involving his position in seat 19A, a window seat in the left side of the cabin. Two questions, particularly: Did he get to choose that seat and, if so, why?

If you wanted to bring down the Airbus A330 with a compact explosive device, like the one embedded in Abdulmutallab’s underpants, you would try to hit the most vulnerable part of the airplane. Al Qaeda’s technical planners have proved themselves experts in the detail of aviation operations. Their training of the 9/11 hijackers was just enough to equip them with the skills to fly an airliner precisely into targeted buildings. They would surely have studied the architecture of the Airbus to decide where a bomb would be most effective. And as an engineering student, Abdulmutallab would have been a quick study.

So, in theory at least, seat 19A would seem ideal. It is positioned exactly over the center of the wings, and under it is a tank capable of holding 41,559 liters of fuel.

Comment: Interesting

Haiti: after the dust settles

Haiti was 'catastrophe waiting to happen'


Haiti's infrastructure was among the world's worst even in the best of times, the country's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday.

"It was a catastrophe waiting to happen," Raymond Alcide Joseph told CNN from Washington shortly after a 7.0 earthquake leveled parts of his home country, cutting power and phone lines in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. "Sadly, it has happened."

He called the result "a catastrophe of major proportions." The capital city is surrounded by hills to which "little flimsy houses" were struggling to hold on, he said.

Experts warned of Haiti earthquake risk


Scientists have warned for years that the island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, was at risk for a major earthquake.

Five scientists presented a paper during the 18th Caribbean Geological Conference in March 2008 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, stating that a fault zone on the south side of the island posed "a major seismic hazard."

Tuesday's potentially disastrous 7.0 earthquake occurred in Haiti along the same fault line, known as the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone.

Comments - Please be praying! Consider giving as the Lord leads you:

  • I aware of several missionaries missing in Haiti. I'm sure many others are missing as well
  • Readers may wish to consider giving towards relief efforts. Kathee and I gave to Baptist Haiti Mission that operates a hospital in Fermathe.
  • I pray that before another masonry brick is ever laid in Haiti or any concrete mixed and poured, that the country adopt modern building standards! And then enforce them.


IPhone Nexus One matchup

Blame Bush is Obama's mantra

Obama's 'buck' still often stops with Bush


Over and over, Obama keeps reminding Americans of the mess he inherited and all he's doing to fix it. A sharper, give-me-some-credit tone has emerged in his language as he bemoans Washington's fleeting memory about what life was like way back in 2008.


"I don't need to remind any of you about the situation we found ourselves in at the beginning of this year," Obama told people at a Home Depot stop last month. And then he reminded them anyway, detailing a nation in financial freefall when he took office.

Comment: President Bush is gracious enough to not speak up or complain!

On the UNCF and NAACP

'Slap In The Face'? 'Negro' Is On 2010 Census; Update: It's Been There Before


The Census Bureau says it includes "Negro" as a way for individuals to classify their race in the 2010 Census because some older African-Americans wrote it on their forms in 2000.

But many African-Americans find it insulting.

-- "It's almost like a slap in the face," Nikyle Fitzgerald tells WTOL in Toledo.

-- "I am a little offended," Dawud Ingram says to WCBS-TV.

-- "It's a bad vibe word," Kevin Bishop says in the New York Daily News.


The United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP

"Negro" definition

More: I had my face slapped by my Father back in the 50's for calling someone a "n*gger" I was sitting in the back seat of our '54 Ford wagon and we were driving in the "colored area" of Fort Wayne Indiana (where we lived at the time). I don't remember specifically what I said but I know that the sentence included the "N-word". I might have been 7 or 8. The Ford wagons weren't much bigger than a compact car back then. Dad's big arm swung from the front drivers seat to the back seat an his hand landed hard and fast on my little pink face. There was a lesson learned! Dad said ... "they are negros!". At 60 I have so few memories from the 50's .... I remember the birth of my brother in 1953. Buying the '54 Ford in ... 1954 .... and I'm sure scores of others. But that hand slap was an education. It's wrong to be a racist. It is wrong denigrate another based upon race. I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. - "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin". I'm not going to do that. This isn't a new thing ... goes back more than 50 years.

I'm come to understand theologically that there is but one human race! And we are all descended from Adam. Answers in Genesis has a great article about that: Are there really different races?

I used the "N-Word" ... not the one mentioned above ... but the "Negro" word in the late '60's and got a figurative hand slap from a black man who told me indignantly that they were not Negros but black people. I'm ok with that too but to all black Americans you really more tan than black. I know black ... one of my best friends is Joseph, a co-worker from Nigeria!

By the way, I am an Uncle to three black Americans. I love the like my other nieces and nephews and pray for them by name!

Of course the other race denominator is "African American". I suggest that most African Americans about about as African as my wife is German, my Sister-in-law is Irish or I am English. Most of us have been here long enough to just be Americans. It's interesting that the Somalis I know don't call themselves African Americans.

Maybe it's time to just drop the "race" question all together! I'd like to think Martin Luther King Jr. might just smile!


If it is amoral for businesses to walk away from debt ... why is it immoral for individuals?

Walk Away From Your Mortgage!

Interesting statistics:

  1. The housing collapse left 10.7 million families owing more than their homes are worth.
  2. A family who bought a three-bedroom home in Salinas, Calif., at the market top in 2006, with no down payment (then a common-enough occurrence), could theoretically have to wait 60 years to recover their equity. On the other hand, if they walked, they could rent a similar house for a pittance of their monthly mortgage.
  3. A quarter of mortgages are underwater
  4. 10 percent of mortgages are delinquent

Comment: Interesting read ... I just culled out the statistics. More below:

Morgan Stanley recently decided to stop making payments on five San Francisco office buildings. A Morgan Stanley fund purchased the buildings at the height of the boom, and their value has plunged. Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral — perhaps because no one assumed it was moral to begin with. But the average American, as if sprung from some Franklinesque mythology, is supposed to honor his debts, or so says the mortgage industry as well as government officials. Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. declared that “any homeowner who can afford his mortgage payment but chooses to walk away from an underwater property is simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (Paulson presumably was not so censorious of speculation during his 32-year career at Goldman Sachs.)

The "lips that touch liquor" photo

Comment / Question: I know about the Women's Christian Temperance movement and the song. But I have a question about the top photo. I've seen this many times (you can Google it and it is all over the place). A friend sent it to me recently. The question is this .... is this a joke? Or were these real women that stood against liquor? I ask because the women are all .... how do I put this nicely .... not real kissable looking! Thoughts?

Frozen Al Gore

Frozen Al Gore

Comment: Pics ... video at above link


Smart Phone comparison

Current Crop of Smartphones: A Cost and Feature Comparison

Comment: Click article for graphic

Baltimore's lawsuit against Wells Fargo tossed

Court dismisses city's discriminatory lending lawsuit against Wells Fargo


A federal court judge on Wednesday dismissed Baltimore's landmark lawsuit against Wells Fargo, saying it was "not plausible" that the mortgage giant triggered millions of dollars in damages, as the city claimed, by causing increased foreclosures through racially based, discriminatory lending.

"The alleged connection is even more implausible when considered against the background of other factors leading to the deterioration of the inner city," U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz explained in an six-page memorandum opinion accompanying the dismissal order. He pointed specifically to Baltimore's "extensive unemployment, lack of educational opportunity and choice, irresponsible parenting, disrespect for the law, widespread drug use, and violence."

Motz left the door open for the city to file an amended complaint, however, narrowing the scope of its claims.

"He's asking the city to paint with a less-broad brush if it wishes to do that," said City Solicitor George Nilson. Counselors plan to discuss their options, which include appealing or filing a reduced lawsuit, as early as Thursday, he said.

Baltimore's original lawsuit was touted as the first of its kind when it was filed in January 2008. It claimed Wells Fargo targeted the city's minority communities for bad loans, through an illegal practice known as "reverse redlining," which allegedly led to defaults and a disproportionately high rate of foreclosures and vacancies in Baltimore's black neighborhoods.

Comment: Didn't surprise me!

Arnold wants "Cornhusker Kickback" for California

Arnold Schwarzenegger: 'Bribes' infect health reform


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger savaged congressional plans for health reform in his 2010 State of the State address on Wednesday, calling the legislation "health care to nowhere" that's infected with "bribes, deals and loopholes."

With the nation's largest state enduring a fiscal crisis, Schwarzenegger said California's lawmakers should vote against the bill or push to get the Medicaid subsidies that were written into the Senate bill in order to secure Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) as the 60th and passing vote for that chamber's version of reform. The deal has been attacked as the "Cornhusker Kickback."

"While I enthusiastically support health care reform, it is not reform to push more costs onto states that are already struggling while other states get sweetheart deals," Schwarzenegger said before a joint session of the California State Legislature.

"Health care reform, which started as noble and needed legislation, has become a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes. You've heard of the bridge to nowhere. This is health care to nowhere. California's congressional delegation should either vote against this bill that is a disaster for California or get in there and fight for the same sweetheart deal Senator Nelson of Nebraska got for the Cornhusker State. He got the corn; we got the husk."

Comment: Time to contact your Congressman and Senators. We need the "Cornhusker Kickback" for Minnesota!


Comment: Image is a little hard to read. Click on it to open it larger.


Nexus One review

Google Nexus One: The TechCrunch Review


This is the best Android powered phone to date. It’s also the fastest and most elegant smartphone on the market today, solidly beating the iPhone in most ways.

Comment: Sounds like it is better than the IPhone (Also not tied to A.T.&T. which is an Achilles' heel to the IPhone).

Related news:

On card fees

Will Congress Take Another Swipe at Credit Cards?


The "interchange fee" (sometimes called the "swipe fee") is an element of the price a merchant pays when a consumer uses a credit card for a purchase. Interchange partially compensates the cardholder's bank for the cost and risk of offering payment cards to consumers. This includes clearing costs, billing and collection, fraud recovery, customer service, credit losses, and the resolution of any disputes that might arise from the transaction.

Credit cards generate three basic revenue streams: finance charges, merchant fees, and behavior-based fees such as penalties for late payment. Because annual fees have largely disappeared on standard credit cards, interchange is generally the only compensation issuers receive for the billions of dollars of credit they make available to consumers who pay their balance off every month. Credit unions and community banks, which cater to lower-risk customers who are less prone to revolve balances and pay penalty fees, rely especially heavily on interchange revenues.

Merchants pay, on average, less than 2% of the transaction amount in interchange fees. In exchange, merchants are relieved of the cost and risk associated with running their own in-house credit operations. And they benefit because consumers can make purchases even when they don't have enough cash in their wallets. This deal is voluntarily assumed by merchants who agree to accept payment cards because the benefits exceed these costs.


The most important pro-consumer innovation in payment systems of the past two decades has been the general disappearance of annual fees on most credit cards. Cardholders now carry and use multiple cards at little or no cost. The consequences for consumer choice and competition have been profound—card issuers compete for consumer business literally every time they open their wallet to make a purchase.

Annual fees are essentially a tax on card-holding. Policies that produced a return of annual fees would strangle this process of competition by making it more expensive for consumers to hold multiple cards and to switch cards easily. Small businesses, three-quarters of which rely on credit cards, would also have to pay more to maintain access to multiple credit lines, stifling the most potent engine of economic recovery.

Discouraging credit card use would also slow the evolution from a paper-based payment system to a more efficient electronic system. In 2009 the Federal Reserve budgeted $600 million just to print currency (excluding coins). This doesn't even consider the deadweight costs to the economy of cash, such as the time consumers spend making ATM transactions, the cost of paying armed guards to drive around pieces of paper in armored cars, increased crime and tax evasion, or the time spent waiting in the checkout line behind check-writers. Checks are so inefficient that British banks have announced a plan to phase out their use by 2018.

Comments: Would that US Banks phase out checks! I'm one who benefits by not paying an annual fee, the use and convenience of ready credit, and a rewards program!

State AGs say "Cornhusker Kickback" is unconstitutional.

The Cornhusker Pushback


Under the "Cornhusker Kickback," the federal government will pay all of Nebraska's new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

"In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just," the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to "general Welfare." If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the nongeneral welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the "display of arbitrary power" that was established in 1937's Helvering v. Davis.

Obviously Congress treats different states differently all the time, via earmarks and the like, but in this case there is simply no plausible argument for some kind of "general" benefit. The only state that gains from special treatment for Nebraska is Nebraska—and this actively harms all other states, which will have fewer tax dollars for their own priorities while effectively subsidizing the Cornhusker state.

The 12 Attorneys General are all Republicans, but as it happens their complaints are echoed by the liberal states of New York and California. In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the "crushing new burden" of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the "unfairness of the Senate bill" when "New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back."

The reality is that national taxpayers have subsidized New York and California's social services for years because Medicaid's funding formula rewards higher state spending. That spending helps explain why these two states, plus New Jersey, are in such budget fixes today. But we welcome Mr. Paterson's discovery that redistributing income via progressive taxation is harmful.

"The final bill must provide equitable federal funding to all states," Mr. Paterson insisted, and in that sense Mr. Nelson may be right about his opening the political door. As Democrats merge the House and Senate bills, they may extend the 100% Nebraska deal to all states to shut them up, assuming they can rig the budget math. Of course, that gambit would harm either medical providers, given that state Medicaid reimbursement rates are well below even Medicare's, or Medicaid patients, as more doctors and hospitals simply drop those patients.

We recognize that mere Constitutional arguments won't deter the political juggernaut that is ObamaCare. But no one should be surprised when Americans wonder if this unprecedented federal intrusion into their lives violates our nation's founding principles.

Comment: Meanwhile .... Democratic Leaders Plan Secret Health Reform Deliberations