2.17.2018

The next "Monster"

Day before Parkland, grandmother foiled grandson’s school shooting plans

In his own words:


"I'm preparing myself for the school shooting,” the teenager wrote, according to court documents. “I can’t wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate ... I can’t wait to walk into that class and blow all those f---ers away."

“I’ve been thinking alot [sic],” the entry said. “I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count.”

“I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings (and attempted bombings),” he added, according to the court documents. “I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones.”
Comments: I could care less if the AR-15 were banned - the problem is not with this gun. We live in a sick society that spawns these monsters. PJ Media has a helpful article that is related:
5 Terrible Things the Media Communicates to Every Potential School Shooter:
  1. You will be famous
  2. The world will come to a stop for you and talk about nothing else for days
  3. A school is the target that will get you the most attention
  4. You should use an AR-15; they are the most dangerous and cool
  5. No one will shoot back at you at a school—and we’ll make damned sure it stays that way!

One time out on pastoral visitation (as an aside - every pastor should really visit in the homes of his congregants. You'll learn a lot!). I was visiting in the home of a family that had a very filthy house. It smelled and it was sticky. They knew I was coming and did nothing (apparently) to prepare for my visit. I was afraid to sit down (but of course I did). They had among other filthy things a very dirty aquarium. The image below represents what I saw. And in that turbid, murky water little goldfish were fighting to survive.


This is the world in which we live: a fallen, wicked, dirty, polluted, confused world that needs the light of the Gospel.

Related:

What is a "Worldview"?


James Sire: Some Personal Reflections

Excerpt:

[A worldview] is A set of assumptions (or presuppositions) held (either consciously or unconsciously) about the basic makeup of the world. A worldview answers such questions as these:
  1. What is the nature of ultimate reality? Is it matter, God, or ideas?
  2. How does the universe work? Is it a closed system or open to divine reordering through revelation and miracle?
  3. What is the meaning of history? Is it haphazard, linear, or cyclical?
  4. What is the basis of morality? Is it God, the self, or society?
  5. What is the human condition and is salvation possible?
  6. Is there an afterlife, and, if so, what it is like?
Comment: Top image from the AFA Journal. James Sire's The Universe Next Door.

Two helpful images (from Visual Unit)



2.12.2018

Newell Brands (NWL) - My "beat down" stock buy




Newell Brands

Why:

  • It is "beat down" ... 48% off of its 52 week high
  • Low P/E ratio
  • I expect my first dividend of $ 23. in mid-March
  • I like the brands 
  • My investment horizon for this is at least 52 weeks.
  • Basically the return beats the yield on my savings account
Related: This is positive:

If I only had $ 3,000 to buy a used sedan - The Buick Park Avenue

2000 Buick Park Avenue

Comment: we rented one when our son graduated from USMC boot camp in San Diego.

2.05.2018

"That photo!" - 50 years later: Why I didn't go to Viet Nam



Eddie Adams' iconic Vietnam War photo: What happened next

The photo was taken 50 years ago - February 1st, 1968. The background (read the entire article above)
Heavy street fighting had pitched Saigon into chaos when South Vietnamese military caught a suspected Viet Cong squad leader, Nguyen Van Lem, at the site of a mass grave of more than 30 civilians. Adams began taking photos as Lem was frogmarched through the streets to Loan's jeep. Loan stood beside Lem before pointing his pistol at the prisoner's head. "I thought he was going to threaten or terrorise the guy," Adams recalled afterwards, "so I just naturally raised my camera and took the picture." Lem was believed to have murdered the wife and six children of one of Loan's colleagues. The general fired his pistol. "If you hesitate, if you didn't do your duty, the men won't follow you," the general said about the suddenness of his actions.

  • Did I remember it? Sure! Probably was published in Newsweek and newspapers that I read.
  • Where was I? Freshman at the University of Cincinnati.
  • Why wasn't I drafted? I had a 2S student deferment. Relevant law.
  • What about the draft lottery? It was on December 1st, 1969 (My Junior year). My number was 311. The lottery ended the 2S system. In 1970 men were called up for the draft up to number 195. In 1971 up to 125. When I graduated from college I was eligible for the draft but my high number excluded me
  • Did I know anyone who died in Viet Nam? Yes. Bill Littleton. OHHS 1967

  • He had only been in Viet Nam for 4 months

From Tim Rodenberg's Facebook page


At the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall in Union Township, Clermont County. My best friend from high school was killed in Vietnam and I placed a wreath by the panel containing his name.







What to make of today's market drop?





Credit Markets to Stock Investors: Calm Down

Excerpt:

So why are stocks falling?

The difference between the two asset classes this week may in part reflect stocks’ more exuberant start to the year.

Equity markets drew record inflows and the S&P 500 rose 5.6% in January, its biggest monthly gain since March 2016. Since the beginning of the year credit spreads on both the euro and dollar iBoxx corporate indexes have declined by roughly 0.1 percentage point. “All of the discussion at the moment that is negative about the equity market, none of it is about the economics, it’s all about those valuations and ratios,” Mr. McAlpine said. I

nvestors have been debating whether U.S. stocks look expensive, and what valuation should be used to measure that. The S&P 500’s 12-month rolling price to earnings ratio, a popular valuation measure, reached 23.4 in January, its highest level since 2002.

But not everyone believes that the message from corporate debt markets is the correct one. On Monday, S&P Global Ratings warned that the global proportion of highly leveraged companies, with a debt to earnings ratio above five to one, has risen by 5 percentage points since 2007, to 37%. Higher debt levels leave companies vulnerable to unexpected fast increases in interest rates, which would make it more costly to pay off their debt.

Comment: So what is Jim doing? Today I bought 6 shares of DUK. Source of above 






The Day After:

Wells Fargo "taken behind the woodshed" - time to Breakup Wells Fargo?



The Fed's unprecedented slap at Wells Fargo may cost the bank more than just $400 million this year

Excerpt:

Last week's unprecedented rebuke on Wells Fargo from the Federal Reserve was noteworthy in a number of ways. Never before has the Fed placed a firmwide limit on a bank, stopping them from growing.

Outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen described the growth restriction as "unique and more stringent then the penalties the Board has imposed against other bank holding companies for similar unsafe and unsound practices, but is appropriate given the pervasiveness and persistence of the problems at Wells Fargo."

The Fed has enacted this by preventing the bank from growing assets. This means, that all else equal, the bank cannot write any new loans. However, there are some changes within their balance sheet that they can make in order to be able to lend, such that they remain "open for business" in CEO Tim Sloan's words.

Still, these changes may cost them in the region of $400 million of earnings for this year alone, according to the bank's estimates. The rationale for this particular form of punishment stems from the bank having prioritized growth since the financial crisis. In the Fed's view, Wells Fargo failed to increase risk management and oversight alongside that growth. Thus, the central bank decided to limit growth until things like risk management catches up. It also felt the incentive for Wells Fargo to act will be strong, since they will be starved of the growth they seek in the meantime.
Maxine Waters: I want to break up Wells Fargo (9/2016)

Excerpt:

The top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee said Thursday that she is actively working to break up Wells Fargo. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) announced that the creation of potentially 2 million fake accounts by bank employees has led her to believe the bank is too large to be effectively managed.

“I have come to the conclusion that Wells Fargo should be broken up. It’s too big to manage,” she said. “I’m moving forward to break up Wells Fargo bank.” Waters made her announcement at a hearing with John Stumpf, the bank’s CEO and board chairman. For several hours, Stumpf was excoriated by members of both parties by the wrongdoing at his bank. The bank potentially created more than 2 million accounts without authorization from customers in order to meet sales goals.
Warren Statement on Fed Chair Yellen's Regulatory Actions Against Wells Fargo

Excerpt:

Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released the following statement on the Federal Reserve's decision to freeze the growth of Wells Fargo and remove four of its board members:

"For months, I have repeatedly pressed Janet Yellen to hold Wells Fargo accountable for its fake accounts scam and push out responsible Board Members. Today she did it - in her last act as Fed Chair. Fines alone will never rein in fraudulent behavior at the big banks and by pushing out Board Members at Wells Fargo, Chair Yellen sends a strong message. Her decision today demonstrates that we have the tools to rein in Wall Street - if our regulators have the guts to use them," said Senator Warren. "The massive fraud at Wells Fargo showed the whole country that we need more accountability on Wall Street. But for more than a year, we've watched as President Trump and his administration raced to turn big banks loose again to once again threaten our whole economy. Trump has filled our top economic jobs with people obsessed with sucking up to Wall Street. Today is Chair Yellen's last day at the Fed. Tomorrow, her replacement will face a choice: show the same kind of courage - or own the next financial crisis." Today, Chair Yellen sent a letter in response to Senator Warren's many calls for removing Wells Fargo Board Members. Read the letter detailing the Fed's actions against Wells Fargo here.


Comment: Reader may think that I care (or am biased) because I am a Wells Fargo retiree. I actually am neutral. As a customer I am very happy with Wells Fargo but I could just as easily be with Charles Schwab.  While we are very diversified, we are also Wells Fargo investors. The stock did take a hit today!


What the Wells Fargo board could decide is that a self-initiated breakup could be best for investors!  Imagine this (a hypothetical even split):


Final: Look ahead to the mid-terms. Imagine a Democratic sweep! Maxine Waters as the chair of the House Financial Services Committee and Elizabeth Warren as the chair of the United States Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Update:

1.31.2018

On Deciding to NOT be like Chicken Little!


I had a weird dream this week [disclaimer: I'm not a dreamer in the sense that God is revealing something to me!]: 

In my dream, I was on the job at a terminal and I had forgotten how to use ISPF (an IBM technology that I haven't used for 20 years). I also had forgotten how to use IEBGENER (another IBM technology). In my dream I was in a fearful panic ... what a failure I was! 

Back when I was a pastor I occasionally had dreams about standing in the pulpit and having not prepared (this never happened - I was always prepared (not that every sermon was the proverbial home run!)) 

In January of 1986, I began using the New King James Version from the pulpit. I bought a very nice, real leather bound maroon Bible. That Bible is now 32 years old! Kathee carries it to church now. 

On Labor Day of 1987 I had a severe crippling accident: I broke my neck in a trampoline accident. I nearly died. On Thanksgiving Eve 1987 (11/25), I was discharged. Altogether I was hospitalized for 11½ weeks: 1 week in intensive care, a little more than a week in another neuro-trauma unit and 9 weeks at a rehabilitation hospital. 

I saw and experienced much during that time. I had a lot of questions: would I ever walk again? Would my fingers and limbs ever move again? What would my future be like? Another pastor visited me weekly and was a tremendous encouragement to me. I tearfully poured out my fears to him and he succored me through the Word of God. Kathee was by my side daily and recorded two verses that he shared with me (these are on the flyleaf on my Bible):



Perhaps, dear reader, you've heard my good news:

So I've received some good news ... a reprieve of sorts ... great! Now what?

Well there is always something else to fear: Now it's Fear of Cancer Recurrence. What if that cancer monster comes back?!

I observe that the Christian (I'm talking to myself now!) is called to live confidently with a positive disposition about what God will do with his my life!

Paul had that confidence:



Living confidently is a choice - Really believing, TRUSTING the God who saved us! [If I can trust Him with my soul, surely I can trust Him with my body!]



The Chicken Little story is really the ancient Henny Penny story. Versions of the story go back more than 25 centuries. It's almost as old as human history! 

There's another type of fear in the Scriptures and that is fearing the Lord. I'm not going to develop now, but just cite one verse:



There will always be some boogeyman in the darkness to scare us: what if I lose my job? What if I fail in my job (my dream in the first paragraph!)? What if cancer comes back?!

I may not always be as confident as I am at this moment, but my Lord has never let me down! He has met every need and cared for every care! Today I resolve to live confidently and rest in His assurances. May these verses comfort you as they do me!



1.11.2018

Outsource the IRS!



IRS Needs Funding for GOP Tax Overhaul, Report Says Years of budget cuts have hindered taxpayer service and tech upgrades, according to advocate

Excerpt:

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said Wednesday, “We need to reform the IRS...but I am concerned that they’re not able to do their job and not maintaining their information systems to protect personal financial data by taxpayers and the like.” He added that he doesn’t have “an arbitrary amount that I think should be spent.” The agency will need $495 million over two years to implement the law, according to an IRS estimate cited in Ms. Olson’s report. She said the years of budget cuts have prevented the IRS from providing adequate taxpayer service or updating its technology.
IRS Spends Four Years and $140 Million to Upgrade Windows Software for Only Half Their Servers. Note: This article is 2 years old, but represents the incompetence of the tech side of the agency! 

Excerpt:

The IRS has failed to upgrade Windows software on its computers and servers by end of life deadlines, despite being expected to spend almost $140 million in taxpayer funds, according to a recently released report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The agency has already spent four years upgrading this technology, but is yet to upgrade half of its servers. In all, the IRS had 110,000 workstations to upgrade from Windows XP and 6,000 servers to upgrade from Windows Server 2003. This process officially began in April 2011, but the IRS did not actually begin upgrades until September 2012, 17 months later. Progress was so unsatisfactory that the agency’s Chief Technology Officer began to directly oversee this process. As the report notes: "Because the Windows 7 effort was not making sufficient progress in its completion, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) made the decision in July 2012 to oversee the Windows 7 upgrade directly due to its complexity and magnitude." At the time of the TIGTA report, the IRS still has not upgraded half of its windows servers despite the “new” operating system being seven years old, and the current system being out of date and unsupported by Microsoft. However, it has completed upgrades for "most" computers although over 1,000 machines remain unaccounted for.
Top Ten Most Ridiculous Items Purchased with IRS Credit Cards

The list:


  1. $119 worth of Nerf footballs that were intended to be used for a “team-building exercise.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, they never used the balls, which are “currently stored in a filing cabinet” somewhere in the bowels of the IRS.
  2. At one luncheon, IRS credit cards were used for “related alcohol purchases” including 28 bottles of wine—for 41 guests. As a bottle of wine contains about five servings, this equates to three and a half glasses of wine per person.
  3. For the child in all of us, the IRS purchased these for “managers’ meetings.” These were part of the “almost $4,000 in improper decorative and give-away items” that TIGTA found in their review. [see article for image]
  4. Along with some jigsaw puzzles, the IRS purchased the “world’s largest crossword puzzle.” These purchases cost $89 of taxpayer money. Hopefully the IRS actually used these in their “team building” activities -- unlike those poor Nerf footballs.
  5. Even IRS agents need a little love sometimes, which may be why plush animals were purchased with IRS credit cards as give away prizes.
  6. Another one of the “give-away items” at the IRS managers’ meetings were “bathtub toy boats”. The IRS spent $418 to purchase these, along with some other “improper decorative and give-away items.” [see article for image]
  7. Stove top hats [think Abe Lincoln] were purchased using an IRS credit card as yet another “give-away prize.”
  8. The IRS must enjoy the sound of Kazoos. They used your tax money for “novelty decorations and give-away items, such as kazoos” which were awarded as prizes during their managers’ meetings.
  9. a “dinner at an approximate cost of $140 per person, four times the Federal Government per diem rate in Washington D.C.” At the time of this conference the per diem rate was $36 for dinner.
  10. The IRS spent five times the Federal Government per diem rate of $18 when they bought lunch at $100 per guest.
IRS admits Tea Party, other conservative groups were targets during Obama era

Excerpt:

In an unprecedented victorious conclusion to our four year-long legal battle against the IRS, the bureaucratic agency has just admitted in federal court that it wrongfully targeted Tea Party and conservative groups during the Obama administration because of their political viewpoints and issued an apology to our clients for doing so. In addition, the IRS is consenting to a court order that would prohibit it from ever engaging in this form of unconstitutional discrimination in the future.

In a proposed Consent Order filed with the Court yesterday, the IRS has apologized for its treatment of our clients -- 36 Tea Party and other conservative organizations from 20 states that applied for 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) tax-exempt status with the IRS between 2009 and 2012 -- during the tax-exempt determinations process. Crucially, following years of denial by the IRS and blame-shifting by IRS officials, the agency now expressly admits that its treatment of our clients was wrong.




You Can’t — and Shouldn’t — Abolish the IRS

Excerpt:

...the IRS does a lot of things besides just process complicated individual tax returns. Much of its resources, for instance, go into enforcing the corporate tax code ... . Meanwhile, a lot of IRS agents — quite possibly not enough — are assigned to providing customer service to taxpayers. And while conservatives are rightly wary of the civil-liberties violations that tax enforcers can commit, labor-intensive audits are important. If a lot of income goes unreported or taxes go uncollected, trust in the system breaks down, rates have to be higher, and the economy ails.
Comments:


What do you think? Comments appreciated! 


1.10.2018

Illustration of "Cancer is the great equalizer"


In my 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 period at radiation: (not naming names):
  • A contractor who comes in filthy jeans and a ratty sweatshirt
  • A Star Tribune reporter
  • Me (a nobody)
  • One of the most heralded attorneys in Minnesota
All with cancer

1.03.2018

On "supporting" the President - I'm no Ziba, I'm no Shimei!



My brief little post is a response to the following (click through for full articles):

Billy Graham's Granddaughter Slams 'Hypocritical' Evangelicals, Franklin Graham for Praising Trump

Excerpt:

Armfield took issue with the narrative around American evangelicals and the way, she claimed, that many seem to have compromised on personal morals in order to support Trump and other controversial figures, such as former Alabama candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore.
Interpreting Trump and the Never or Anti Trumpers

Excerpt:

I see Trump as a judge-like figure of the Old Testament Judges type. I say, Judge like, but pretty close to like them. He himself is not righteous, but he's doing a lot of great stuff for the righteous team, whether he believes in it or not, just like the judges. As you read this, I want you to understand that I know that God doesn't have a covenant with the United States of America. However, when you study the Old Testament major prophets, you read large sections on the judgment of the nations, where God has expectations of Gentile nations with whom He does not have covenant. Those nations, and the United States, are still responsible to God. People can be blessed of God depending upon what they do, because this is still our Father's world. You and I live in an anomaly of history for true Christians, the United States of America. True believers haven't had freedom like this. Jews haven't either for the most part, since the destruction of Jerusalem.
Do I support Trump? My answer:
  • First a nuanced response on what it means to "support" him:
  • What do I support? This is easy:
    • Constitutional government
    • National defense
    • Fiscal conservatism
    • Values such as :
      • Human dignity and the elevation of human life because men and women are created in the image of God (so Jim is opposed to Roe v Wade!)
      • Christian marriage
    • Observation: Not even Presidents that I didn't particularly like at times were right in my mind as in Clinton and the Defense of Marriage Act (he has since renounced it and SCOTUS declared it unconstitutional. ) 
    • As an aside, both Clinton and Gore once were opposed to abortion. Documented here: Clinton: "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions."; Gore: "I have strongly opposed Federal funding of abortions. In my opinion, it is wrong to spend Federal funds for what is arguably the taking of a human life. It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong." (You can chalk those comments up to "doing anything to get elected!")
  • Back to a previous point which is important: "Not even Presidents that I didn't particularly like, at times were right in my mind". Even Obama, whom I loathed, had his good points: he apparently has been faithful to his wife (in contrast with JFK as an example) and is a good father!
  • The Christian and two citizenships and my football game analogy: 
    • Being born here (Fort Wayne in 1949), I am a US citizen. 
    • Being born again, my citizenship is in heaven (my true home): "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20)
    • Many times I have watched a football game where I really don't care about the outcome. Most times actually. Elections are closely analogous to this.
    • Theologically speaking we are in the age or "time of the gentiles" and soon that day will be fulfilled: Read about it in Daniel here and here.
    • The Jeremiah illustration: "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare"
    • Summing up: I'm in a foreign land (the good-old USA) and I want the good-old-USA to be successful because this is where I live.
  • Do I now support Trump? You've been waiting for this! I want him to succeed. I pray for him. I'm not committing to vote for him - it's too early for that! "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior" (1 Timothy 3:1-3)
  • On Ziba and Shimei and the context - it's from 2nd Samuel 16:4-6 when King David was fleeing Absalom: "Ziba said, 'I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.' When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, 'Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! '"
  • Conclusion:
    • Donald Trump is a constitutionally limited President
    • He's no King!
    • And I'm no Ziba!
    • Nor am I a Shimei!


This will help readers understand Trump-talk: