Cancer sticks over fiscal responsibility

Stressed, broke smokers struggle with habit


As household budgets shrink, some smokers are forced to choose: Pay the bills? Or buy cigarettes?

“We had a light bill that needed to be paid, so we paid a third of it so we could have cigarette money,” said Leonard Perry, a pack-a-day Doral smoker from Elkhart, Ind. “We’ve done that a couple times. It kind of works out but it makes it rough for the next week.”

Perry, 55, worked at American Hauler, a cargo trailer manufacturer, before being laid off two years ago. Sometimes he collects scrap metal for cigarette money. "My woman’s workin’, so that helps me out there," he said. But his wife has her own pack-a-day Marlboro habit to support.


The national average price for a pack of cigarettes is about $6, and the average state cigarette tax is $1.27 per pack. But some local governments also have their own cigarette tax, including Chicago, New York City and Anchorage, Alaska. For smokers in both New York City and Chicago, a pack of cigarettes costs close to $10.

Comment: Addictive behavior is irrational behavior.

Moment of Silence for Jackson Left Democratic Congressman ‘Close to Nauseated’

Comment: Earlier CFG post. I'll second that!

John Yarmuth

Mark Sanford should resign

SC gov 'crossed lines' with women


South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Tuesday that he "crossed lines" with a handful of women other than his mistress—but never had sex with them.

The governor said he "never crossed the ultimate line" with anyone but Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine at the center of a scandal that has derailed his once-promising political career.

"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford said. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

During an emotional interview at his Statehouse office with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sanford said Chapur is his soul mate but he's trying to fall back in love with his wife.

He said that during the encounters with other women he "let his guard down" with some physical contact but "didn't cross the sex line." He wouldn't go into detail.

Sanford said the casual encounters happened outside the U.S. while he was married but before he met Chapur, on trips to "blow off steam" with male friends.

Sanford also admitted he saw Chapur more times than previously disclosed, including what was to be a farewell meeting in New York chaperoned by a spiritual adviser soon after his wife found out about the affair.

He described five meetings with Chapur over the past year, including two romantic, multi-night stays with her in New York before they met there again intending to break up.

He said he saw her two other times, including their first meeting in 2001 at an open-air dance spot in Uruguay.

"There was some kind of connection from the very beginning," he told The Associated Press, though he said neither that meeting nor a 2004 coffee date in New York during the Republican National Convention were romantic.

His interview was the first disclosure of any liaisons with Chapur in the United States and contradicted a public confession last week during which he admitted to a total of five encounters over their eight-year relationship.

Comment: For the sake of his wife and children AND for the sake of the South Carolina and National GOP, he should resign!

Updated: Why Gov. Sanford Should Resign

While it is unlikely the Republican dominated House or Senate will ultimately be in the mood for impeachment, it shouldn’t have to come to that. Governor Sanford should resign from public office until his private life can be repaired. The road to restoration with his wife and children may have begun but it is a road that is filled with many possible detours. When Jenny Sanford was asked if her husband should resign, she immediately put emphasis back where it belongs. She said she wasn’t concerned about her husbands’s career but with the health of her family. I wish her husband felt the same way. Right now, Governor Sanford should leave public service and serve his wife and boys. He should practice the family values that he has championed in the past and put the family first.


It pains me to say it but I believe restoring the trust of the people can only be achieved if Governor Sanford seeks to be restored to God and to his wife before asking to be restored to the trust of the people. He should resign and turn his heart toward home.

Minnesota Supremes 5-0 for Franken

Minn. court rules for Franken in Senate fight


A unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Democrat Al Franken should be certified the winner of the state's long-running Senate race, paving the way for the former Saturday Night Live comedian to be seated after an almost eight-month fight.

The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining his Senate seat are dwindling, saying Franken is entitled to the election certificate he needs to assume office.

"We affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under (Minnesota law) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota," the court wrote in its 5-0 ruling.

Comment: Time for Norm to bow out and for Tim Pawlenty to certify for Franken. I don't like it but I doubt a Federal court would overrule the Minnesota Supreme Court. This will go down as the closest Senate race ever (I believe I have this correct). Franken wins by 312 votes.

Update: Coleman concedes

"I thought we had a better case, but the court has spoken," Coleman said outside his St. Paul, Minnesota, home. "I'll abide by the results. There will be no further litigation."

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty said in a statement he would sign the election certificate immediately, allowing Franken, a former writer and actor for the popular Saturday Night Live television show, to join the Senate, likely next week.

"That Poster"

Fawcett 'last of the iconic pinup girls'


he shot of 14-year-old Curtis D. Tucker shows him unrolling one of his birthday treasures in 1976, mouth slightly agape and eyes intensely focused on the gift.

The present was one he had fervently requested from his parents and a hot item for many a young, red-blooded male during that bicentennial year: a poster of Farrah Fawcett (then known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors).

"I was a huge Farrah fan," said Tucker, now a cartoonist and entrepreneur living in Enid, Oklahoma. "I had started collecting all of the magazines and pictures and I was basically pinning up every picture that came out of every magazine. Then along came that poster."

"That poster" reportedly became the best-selling of all time -- with more than 12 million copies sold -- and helped make Fawcett one of the last great pinups.

Comment: When I worked at Digital Equipment Corporation back in 76-78, one of the field engineers had this poster up in his cubical. Different times back then! Today no company (unless it is an auto parts wholesaler) would permit posters like this to be displayed.

Bet you didn't know this about Rhode Island

Rhode Island Weighs Using Shorter Official Name


It does not appear on the state flag or license plate. You won’t see it on road maps or welcome signs. But Rhode Island has a lightning rod of a formal name — Rhode Island and Providence Plantations — that harks back to its prominent role in the slave trade and makes some of its residents cringe.

Defenders of the name say that the word “plantation” did not have a negative connotation when Rhode Island was founded in 1636, and that it referred to the state’s farming settlements. But the state’s early economy did thrive on the slave trade, with Rhode Islanders distilling rum from molasses, trading it in Africa for slaves and then trading the slaves in the West Indies for more molasses.

“We have more and more people in the state saying, ‘Look, change the name,’ ” said Joseph S. Almeida, a Democratic state representative from Providence. “We don’t want to change history. We want to add to it.”

After years of defending the state’s name, the State Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last week to allow a referendum asking voters whether to shorten it by seven syllables, to Rhode Island. On Tuesday the Senate could adopt the House’s bill, paving the way for the referendum.


Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, opposes the change, said his spokeswoman, Amy Kempe. But the governor will not try to stop it, Ms. Kempe said in an e-mail message, because he lacks the authority to veto resolutions for constitutional amendments.

“The historical definition of the word ‘plantation’ is ‘settlement or colony,’ ” Ms. Kempe wrote, “and is no way in reference to the most modern definition associated with slavery.”

Comment: See state seal above.


12: Pure Stupidity

Grieving Jackson Fans 'Commit Suicide'


Gary Taylor, president and owner of MJJcommunity.com, said he understood the tragedies had mostly taken place outside of the UK but he believed one may have been British.

"I know there has been an increase, I now believe the figure is 12. I believe there may have been one Briton who has taken their life," he said.

"It is a serious situation that these people are going through but Michael Jackson would never want this. He would want them to live."

Jesse Jackson, a friend of the singer, has recorded a YouTube film on the site urging fans not to "self destruct".

Comment: flabbergasted (a word my Father would have used)

Honduras: Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Barack Obama all agree

Obama says Honduran ouster was 'not legal'


President Barack Obama says the weekend ouster of Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya was a "not legal" coup and that he remains the country's president.

Obama spoke to reporters in the Oval Office on Monday after meetings with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Obama said he wanted to be very clear that President Zelaya is the democratically elected president.

Obama pledged the U.S. to "stand on the side of democracy" and to work with other nations and international entities to resolve the matter peacefully.

Another view:

Honduras Defends Its Democracy


That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court's order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

Comment: Perhaps Obama is too quick to agree!

Update on "The Now Famous Chart"

Previous blog entry: The Now Famous Chart

Comment: OK ... now here it comes!

Romer upbeat on US economy


Ms Romer said stimulus spending was “going to ramp up strongly through the summer and the fall”.

“We always knew we were not going to get all that much fiscal impact during the first five to six months. The big impact starts to hit from about now onwards,” she said.

Ms Romer said that stimulus money was being disbursed at almost exactly the rate forecast by the Office of Management and Budget. “It should make a material contribution to growth in the third quarter.”

Comments: I was taking to a very wealthy retired man late last week - One of the very few millionaires I know. His view is that the Obama administration's policies (cap and trade (House approval only so far), health care reform (yet to be passed)) are all going to be sucking $$ out of the economy. Businesses, in his view, are afraid to hire because of uncertainty about upcoming taxes and the effects on the economy.

ISS captures Sarychev Peak Eruption

NASA: Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands


A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

Comment: Very cool. More photos here.

The now-famous chart

Moving the Stimulus Goalposts


Back in February, with Congress moving swiftly to approve President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, White House budget director Peter Orszag said the benefits of the stimulus would “take weeks to months” to be felt.

Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council, was even more optimistic: “You'll see the effects begin almost immediately,” Summers told CNN in February.

Just last month, Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, joined administration officials in asserting that the stimulus was already working, despite rising unemployment rates.

“The idea here is that, yes, the unemployment rate is rising, but it would be rising more quickly [without the bill],” Bernstein said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.” “We're spending about $1 billion a day -- and, by the way, with very careful oversight -- and that's creating, again, economic activity that would not have occurred in the absence of this plan. That's the essential point.”

Then there’s the case of the now-famous chart, prepared in January by the Obama transition team to forecast employment rates with and without a stimulus bill in place.

Obama’s economic advisers saw unemployment cresting at just below 8 percent with the stimulus in place; without it, they forecast the national rate topping out around 9 percent.

The stimulus, of course, did pass, though the national unemployment rate is now 9.4 percent. Two weeks ago, President Obama predicted that unemployment will top 10 percent this year.

Comment: Follow article for a PDF of the "the now-famous chart". Image captured from PDF and displayed above.

Google Voice

Google Voice


Google Voice wants to be the center of your voice communications. The Web-based service combines a lot of things: a permanent follow-around phone number; voice mail with transcriptions; and text messaging, to name a few. What it lacks—consistently high call quality, full recording capabilities, flawless conferencing and transcription—prevents it from being truly comprehensive. But that's just for now. And it's so close as it is that it earns our Editors' Choice for a unified messaging solution

The central feature of Google Voice is the single, permanent, virtual phone number. When called, that number simultaneously rings any or all of your physical (and verified) phones. The feature is just about perfect at what it does.

Comment: Have been using for some time.

Another test of religious liberty?

Bible-Dispensing Family Arrested At Pride Festival


The Pride Festival kicked off in Loring Park Saturday. There were live bands, food and thousands of people. It's now the third-largest gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender celebration in the country.

But there was some trouble there Saturday night.

Minneapolis Police arrested three people from Hayward, Wis. for trespassing. An amateur photographer named Aaron Bogle gave WCCO-TV video of a father, mother and son being arrested.

For 11 years, Brian and Doris Johnson have passed out free Bibles at the festival.

This year, they were not allowed to have a booth. Pride paid to rent the whole park and that gave them the right to choose which vendors they allowed in.

The Johnsons said they are born-again Christians and they believe homosexuality is a sin.

Comment: I haven't sorted this out. The three arrested were on public property (Loring Park), but the whole park had been rented out for a private event.


Billy Mays Dead at 50

Billy Mays Dead at 50


Billy Mays, the television salesman that is famous for his boisterous and aggressive sales tactics of products like Orange Glo and OxiClean is dead at 50 years old.

"Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth," Hillman's statement said. "Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams.

He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend,” says Discovery Channel’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Hillman.

Comment: Sad news


Thoughts on pain

I know something about pain. Actually I know quite a bit about pain. Advil is my friend. It dulls it pretty nicely. When I heard about MJ's "daily dose of Demerol" yesterday I knew he must have pickled himself.

Some pain you just have to live with! Some pain you work through. It's better to have a clear head with pain than a cloudy brain with no pain.

House holds moment of silence for Michael Jackson

Comment: Blah Blah Blah!

Cheetos attack

Shelbyville, Tennessee: Times / Gazette: Arguing couple does no damage with Cheetos


A local couple arrested on domestic assault charges Sunday had an unusual choice of alleged weaponry -- Cheetos.

Warrants filed by Cpl. Kevin Roddy, of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, stated he responded to a call at a home on Pass Road, where 40-year-old James Earl Taylor and Mary S. Childers, 44, were allegedly involved in an argument.

According to Roddy's report, the pair became "involved in a verbal altercation" with each other "at which time Cheetos potato chips were used in the assault."

"There was evidence of the assault," the report read, "however no physical marks on either party and the primary aggressor was unable to be determined."

Both Taylor and Childers were charged by Roddy with domestic assault. Both posted a bond of $2,500 and will appear in Bedford County General Sessions Court on July 15.

Comment: I've had a Cheetos attack (strong desire for) but have never been attacked with Cheetos!

Jackson death ripples through the Internet

Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him


How many people does it take to break the Internet? On June 25, we found out it's just one -- if that one is Michael Jackson.

The biggest showbiz story of the year saw the troubled star take a good slice of the Internet with him, as the ripples caused by the news of his death swept around the globe.

"Between approximately 2:40 p.m. PDT and 3:15 p.m. PDT today, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson," a Google spokesman told CNET, which also reported that Google News users complained that the service was inaccessible for a time. At its peak, Google Trends rated the Jackson story as "volcanic."

As sites fell, users raced to other sites: TechCrunch reported that TMZ, which broke the story, had several outages; users then switched to Perez Hilton's blog, which also struggled to deal with the requests it received.

CNN reported a fivefold rise in traffic and visitors in just over an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke.

Twitter crashed as users saw multiple "fail whales" -- the illustrations the site uses as error messages -- user FoieGrasie posting, "Irony: The protesters in Iran using twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of 'Michael Jackson RIP.' Well done." The site's status blog said that Twitter had had to temporarily disable its search results, saved searches and trend topics.

Wikipedia saw a flurry of activity, with close to 500 edits made to Jackson's entry in less than 24 hours. CNET reported that by 3:15pm PDT, Wikipedia seemed to be "temporarily overloaded."

Comment: Al Gore invented it and Michael Jackson broke it!

Climate Change: The collapse of the "consensus""

WSJ: The Climate Change Climate Change


Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.

In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.

The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)

The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.

Comment: As the world focuses on the death of Michael Jackson (I'm not sure why this is such important news!), Congress is ready to jam through a giant tax grab!


DWT: Driving while texting

Texting And Driving Worse Than Drinking and Driving


Car and Driver Magazine have now documented just dangerous it can be.

Rigging a car with a red light to alert drivers when to brake, the magazine tested how long it takes to hit the brake when sober, when legally drunk at .08, when reading and e-mail, and when sending a text. The results are scary. Driving 70 miles per hour on a deserted air strip Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman was slower and slower reacting and braking when e-mailing and texting.

The results:

* Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
* Legally drunk: add 4 feet
* Reading e-mail: add 36 feet
* Sending a text: add 70 feet

Comment: I haven't mastered texting while sitting still!

Chrysler bankruptcy: Attorney rip off!

Chrysler bankruptcy lawyers rack up $12.7M bill in first month


During bankruptcy, just about everyone involved with the affected company is going to feel the pain in some form. That is, of course, unless you're a lawyer. New York law firm Jonas Day has represented Chrysler during its time spent in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Automotive News is reporting that the firm billed $12.7 million for the month of May alone. That figure included 72 partners working on the case, in addition to another 193 lawyers chipping in. About $256,000 of that figure accounts for expenses, and the rest encompasses some hefty legal fees.

We're not all that surprised that it takes over 250 lawyers to execute a Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Chrysler's magnitude in only 40 days, but the figures for the firm's head lawyer, Corinne Ball, are staggering. Ball booked 15 hours a day, seven days per week for the entire month, at a bill rate of $900 per hour! That's $401,310 to you and I. On average, lawyers on the case billed $477 per hour, while paralegals came in at $224.

Comment: Someone is getting rich at taxpayers' expense!

Clunk: 'Cash for Clunkers'

'Cash for Clunkers' mostly a clunker


If you think the new "Cash for Clunkers" law is going to help you buy a new car, you're probably wrong.

As it's written, the law will benefit few car shoppers and those who might actually benefit from it probably shouldn't be buying a new car to begin with.

Here's why it won't do most people much good: The government refund vouchers for $3,500 or $4,500 are in replacement of -- not in addition to -- the ordinary trade-in value of the vehicle, which in many instances will be worth more than the voucher.

"It's not a rebate," pointed out Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of the auto Web site Edmunds.com. "It's a minimum trade-in allowance."

If your trade-in is worth more than the voucher amount, you'd be better off just trading your car in as you ordinarily would and not even bothering with the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Even if your vehicle is worth a little less than that amount -- say, $3,000 instead of $3,500 -- you will be $500 better off under "Cash for Clunkers." But it you weren't ready to buy a car before, is $500 going to make the difference?

All of this raises a bigger question, too. If you're currently driving an old fuel hog that's worth less than $4,500, there's probably a reason.

"Most likely, you have the old car because you're either frugal by choice or because of your situation," said Jeff Bartlett who writes about auto buying for Consumer Reports.

Comment: Fluff legislation

The seedy side of the modeling business

The Naked Truth About Modeling


A 16-year-old girl is on her first modeling shoot in Paris. She is unchaperoned and inexperienced. She takes a break for a cup of coffee, and a photographer follows her down the hall. She stops, and he fiddles with her clothes. Then he reaches in between her legs and gropes her. Stunned, the model says nothing. He says nothing. They walk back into the room and finish the shoot.

It's stories like these that stood out as Sara Ziff, a successful runway model, and her boyfriend, filmmaker Ole Schell, began shooting behind the scenes at Ziff's shows. For five years, they recorded parties, castings, inside hotel rooms, and backstage behind the runway as Ziff became the face of campaigns from Calvin Klein to Dolce & Gabbana. What emerged was a portrait of the dark side of the modeling world, one that most people never see: young girls, often half a world away from home, unprepared to handle the sexual objectification and frequent harassment that Ziff says is an all-too-common part of their jobs.


I started modeling at 14, after being scouted on the street walking home from school. One of my first castings was in a photographer's apartment downtown. I got there, and there was a line of models waiting at the door. I went in and he asked me to show him my book. I did, and then he said, "Well, this is a bathing-suit story, and it's a little hard for me to picture you in a bathing suit. Could you take your shirt off?" And I thought, "Well, that makes sense," so I did. And then he said, "Can you take your pants off?" And this continued to the point where I'm standing there [topless,] basically totally naked. I was 14. And in hindsight, it's crazy that I was put in that position, but I just didn't know any better.

Comment: Sick!

Sanford and Sons

Stuff Out Loud: Sanford and Sons

Comment: Good article by Larry Rogier

Here comes "Cap and Trade"

Comment: To be voted on tomorrow (Friday June 26th)

The Cap and Tax Fiction


When the Heritage Foundation did its analysis of Waxman-Markey, it broadly compared the economy with and without the carbon tax. Under this more comprehensive scenario, it found Waxman-Markey would cost the economy $161 billion in 2020, which is $1,870 for a family of four. As the bill's restrictions kick in, that number rises to $6,800 for a family of four by 2035.

Note also that the CBO analysis is an average for the country as a whole. It doesn't take into account the fact that certain regions and populations will be more severely hit than others -- manufacturing states more than service states; coal producing states more than states that rely on hydro or natural gas. Low-income Americans, who devote more of their disposable income to energy, have more to lose than high-income families.

Even as Democrats have promised that this cap-and-trade legislation won't pinch wallets, behind the scenes they've acknowledged the energy price tsunami that is coming. During the brief few days in which the bill was debated in the House Energy Committee, Republicans offered three amendments: one to suspend the program if gas hit $5 a gallon; one to suspend the program if electricity prices rose 10% over 2009; and one to suspend the program if unemployment rates hit 15%. Democrats defeated all of them.

The reality is that cost estimates for climate legislation are as unreliable as the models predicting climate change. What comes out of the computer is a function of what politicians type in. A better indicator might be what other countries are already experiencing. Britain's Taxpayer Alliance estimates the average family there is paying nearly $1,300 a year in green taxes for carbon-cutting programs in effect only a few years.

Americans should know that those Members who vote for this climate bill are voting for what is likely to be the biggest tax in American history. Even Democrats can't repeal that reality.

Al Gore not coming to D.C.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act, better known as the Waxman-Markey bill, would cut greenhouse-gas while promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The measure, which is likely to have a tough go in the Senate, is a linchpin of Obama's first-year agenda. A victory would give the White House momentum going into a vote on health care later this summer.

Pelosi asked Gore to cancel last night saying she would prefer to have him on the ground making calls "not in the air for five and a half hours," according to an aide.


Strike Sanford from the list (of potential GOP candidates)

Sanford admits affair, apologizes to family


Gov. Mark Sanford admitted today that his secret trip to Argentina over Father's Day weekend was to visit a woman he is having an affair with.

Comment: Adultery is always nasty! When your friends say this - "Lies. Lies. Lies. That's all we get from his staff. That's all we get from his people. That's all we get from him," said state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia. - you know you are in trouble (politically)!

Health Insurance: Funny numbers

The Unhealthy Accounting of Uninsured Americans


The Census Bureau estimates that the number of uninsured amounts to 45.7 million people. But the agency might be overcounting by millions due to faulty assumptions. Another problem: That 45.7 million figure includes undocumented immigrants, even though they aren't likely to be covered under new laws.


These sorts of numbers made headlines last week when the CBO dealt a blow to a bill introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy. The congressional budget watchdog, which relied in part on the 45.7 million uninsured number, said the bill would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, and reduce the number of uninsured Americans by just 17 million, leaving tens of millions of people without coverage.

Even though legislation won't cover many of them, illegal immigrants are especially difficult to enumerate: Few raise their hands to be counted. Prof. Gruber estimates they make up about 13% of the uninsured today, or nearly six million people of that 45 million number.

Of the rest, some people are eligible for health insurance but don't know it and many can afford it but don't want it. About 43% of uninsured nonelderly adults have incomes greater than 2.5 times the poverty level, according to a report released Tuesday by the business-backed Employment Policies Institute.

Comment: I know two people who have no health insurance by choice. One (a young adult) did not buy into it when the opportunity presented itself (an employee plan) - preferring to "go commando" about insurance. Another a retired millionaire did not enroll in Medicare. He pays out of pocket and negotiates the best price he can.


Debt: A cautionary tale

$60,000 in debt, and nothing to show for it


Mary Uhazi has more than $60,000 in credit card debt and, by her own account, “nothing to show for it.”

“You have some clothes, you have some dinner, you have a handbag, you have whatever, but it’s not $11,000 worth or it’s not $60,000 worth,” Uhazi said.

Uhazi is drowning in a sea of debt. And, like millions of other Americans, it is a debt load that she built up slowly over more than two decades of easy credit that made it all too simple to spend.


“The more money I earned, it seemed like the more money I spent, and the higher my credit was extended,” she said.

Soon, her wallet was stuffed with 13 credit cards, from stores such as Costco, Target, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Sam’s Club plus financial institutions. Still, Uhazi said she didn’t often worry about her credit card debt, reasoning that she paid at least the minimum balance on all her cards. She said she only made a single late payment, and that was an oversight.

“I was able to make the payments, and as long as I was able to make the payments I was OK,” she said.

Uhazi rarely talked about her credit card debt with her friends or family until recently. Her own mother, who has since passed away, went through a bankruptcy when Uhazi was in high school. But, Uhazi said, “I didn’t learn from her.”


One morning this spring, she sat down and tallied her debt. The total: $62,597.

“It’s awful, just looking at it,” she said.

If the debt was startling, so was the amount she was paying to service it. That month, Uhazi realized, she would have to pay $1,932 just in minimum credit card payments, about two-thirds of her reduced take-home pay of $3,018. After rent and other fixed expenses, she figured she’d have just $127 left for gas, food and other incidentals.

Perhaps the worst part was trying to figure out how her debt had reached that point.

“It was like, what do I have to show for this, really?” she said. “If I have anything, it’s just material stuff, or it’s a waistline from, you know, going out to lunch or something.”

Comment: Sad story .... 20 years of irresponsibility!


Economics: Cash-for-Clunkers impact

Analysts: There's no guarantee that Cash-for-Clunkers will really drive car sales


Four analysts interviewed by Automotive News estimate that only 70,000 to 200,000 more vehicles will be sold because of the clunkers bill. According to the detractors, there are three main factors that will likely blunt the bill's impact:

  • It's just four months long – the law will only offer cash for your clunkers from July 1 until November 1.
  • While the bill requires the new vehicle to be more fuel efficient than the one you're trading in, the 18 mpg limit on the old ride (details here) doesn't encompass nearly enough vehicles.
  • The economics of the law don't make a lot of sense in the real world. If you're driving an eligible car, then chances are that you can't afford to purchase a new vehicle right now – even if you can get a $4,500 federal credit on the price. More often than not, it makes greater sense to just buy a used car.

Comment: More government stupidity!

"for the virtuous person, doing the right thing is incentive enough"

Incentives vs. Virtue


Greensboro, North Carolina, is paying teenage mothers $1 for every day they are not pregnant. Like paying students to improve their grades and test scores, paying teen mothers to not get pregnant appears to be having the desired affect.

The core ideas in these kinds of programs come from a new field known as “behavioral economics.” Classical economics assumes that people are rational and act in accordance with their best interests. Behavioral economics knows that, in the real world, people make bad and even self-destructive choices all the time.

The goal of behavioral economics is to identify the “dizzying array of human foibles” and help policy makers take them into account when shaping policy.

In the case of incentive programs like the ones I have described, it means “nudging” people to act in their own best interests. It’s an approach, by the way, that is favored by a “number of high-level appointees” in the Obama administration.

While basing policy on human beings as they actually are is certainly preferable to basing them on rational “economic men” that exist only in economists’ imaginations (you can count me among the critics on that one).

It doesn’t surprise me that these “nudges” can have a short-term positive effect. But it’s difficult to imagine these programs making a long-term difference.

On the contrary, the “long term damage” mentioned earlier may very well include creating a generation of people for whom incentives will become a necessity, not a nudge.

To put it in Christian terms, incentives will replace virtue. Instead of doing the right or prudent thing because it’s what a moral person does, people will do what they do because they get something out of it. This doesn’t build character—it builds calculators.

What’s more, in the real world, people don’t always reward you for doing the right thing. But there are still consequences for behaving foolishly. How will people raised on a steady diet of nudges avoid these pitfalls?

The answer is that many won’t avoid them because they never learned that, for the virtuous person, doing the right thing is incentive enough.


Straight talk on health care reform

George Will: The stealth single-payer agenda


Conservatives say that a government program will have the intended consequence of crowding private insurers out of the market, encouraging employers to stop providing coverage and luring employees from private insurance to the cheaper government option.

The Lewin Group estimates that 70 percent of the 172 million persons privately covered might be drawn, or pushed, to the government plan. A significant portion of the children who have enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program since eligibility requirements were relaxed in February had private insurance.

Assurances that the government plan would play by the rules that private insurers play by are implausible. Government is incapable of behaving like market-disciplined private insurers.


The president says competition from a government plan is necessary to keep private insurers "honest." Presumably, being "honest" means not colluding to set prices, and evidently he thinks that, absent competition from government, there will not be a competitive market for insurance. This ignores two facts:

There are 1,300 competing providers of health insurance. And JWR columnist Morton Kondracke notes that the 2003 Medicare prescription drug entitlement, relying on competition among private insurers, enjoys 87 percent approval partly because competition has made premiums less expensive than had been projected. The program's estimated cost from 2007 to 2016 has been reduced 43 percent.

Some advocates of a public option say health coverage is so complex that consumers will be befuddled by choices. But consumers of many complicated products, from auto insurance to computers, have navigated the competition among providers, who have increased quality while lowering prices.

Comment: The Dems want single payer because they want more government control!

Easter stickers, plastic grass, and Peeps "a religious statement"?

Woman Says She Was Evicted Over Easter Decor


Carol Burdick claims her landlord unjustly told her to remove a display of Easter stickers, plastic grass, and Peeps marshmallow candies from her door a few days after the April 12 holiday this year.

''An Easter decoration is a religious statement and should be protected -- even if it is just bunnies,'' said her attorney, John Pineau.

Burdick, 59, is not asking for monetary damages but wants jurors to find that she's not liable for more than $2,000 in rent and late fees that she refused to pay. Jury selection is set for this week.

Pineau told the Daily Camera newspaper that when Burdick refused to remove her display, apartment managers posted a notice saying she was violating her lease, which says balconies, patios and other areas must be kept ''in a clean sanitary condition.''

Pineau said that amounted to calling Burdick's Easter display ''garbage.''

Comment: Does she go to the Peeps church?

Intel chip naming strategy

Intel's Chip Renaming Strategy Meets Resistance


The chip company on Wednesday said it was making changes to the naming convention of Core processors, switching the derivatives attached to it. Tags like Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad will be replaced by names like Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, depending on the type of PC and configuration.

Chips for entry-level desktops and laptops will carry the Core i3 brand, while chips for mid-level and high-end PCs will have Core i5 and Core i7 tags respectively. The Core i7 tag is already being used on Intel's Nehalem-based chips that go in high-end desktop PCs.

Intel said it will continue to use its Atom brand for low-power processors used in netbooks and smartphones. The company will also retain the Celeron and Pentium entry-level chips for mainstream laptops and desktops. In platforms, the company said it would phase out usage of the popular Centrino brand to describe mobile laptop platforms by early next year.

Comment: My Linux netbook has an Atom chip.


Plasectomy videos

Ready for your Plasectomy?


As any Dave Ramsey devotee knows, sometimes the only way to stop yourself from wracking up more debt is to cut off your ability to do so. Or, cut up as it were. Dave coined the term Plasectomy to describe the destruction of your credit cards so that you will not use them again.

Well, if you’re going to get rid of those cards, you may as well have some doing it! We don’t condone violence, but sometimes a simple pair of scissors just won’t do. Here are some of our favorite Plasectomy videos:

Comment: Thanks to reader Mitchel. Link has more!

Update: $ 134 Billion in bonds fake!

Comment: Update on $134 Billion in suitcase - "the absurdity of our times"

Mafia blamed for $134bn fake Treasury bills


Few details have been revealed beyond a June 4 statement by the Italian finance police announcing the seizure of 249 US Treasury bills, each of $500m, and 10 “Kennedy” bonds, used as intergovernment payments, of $1bn each. The men were apparently tailed by the Italian authorities.

The mystery deepened on Thursday as an Italian blog quoted Colonel Rodolfo Mecarelli of the Como provincial finance police as saying the two men had been released. The colonel and police headquarters in Rome both declined to respond to questions from the Financial Times.

“They are all fraudulent, it’s obvious. We don’t even have paper securities outstanding for that value,’’ said Mckayla Braden, senior adviser for public affairs at the Bureau of Public Debt at the US Treasury department. “This type of scam has been going on for years.’’

The Treasury has not issued physical Treasury bonds since the 1980s – they are handled electronically – though they still issue savings bonds in paper format.

In Washington a US Secret Service official said the agency, which is working with the Italian authorities, believed the bonds were fake.


Italian officials, while pointing out that hauls of counterfeit money and Treasury bills were not unusual, were stunned by the amount involved. Investigators are looking into the origin and destination of the fakes.

Italian prosecutors revealed last month that they had cracked a $1bn bond scam run by the Sicilian Mafia, with the alleged aid of corrupt officials in Venezuela’s central bank. Twenty people were arrested in four countries.

The fake bonds were to have been used as collateral to open credit lines with banks, Reuters news agency reported. The Venezuelan central bank denied the accusations.


Timelapse: Lightning storm over St. Paul



St. Paul saw a lively electrical storm last night -- with all the flash, but none of the rumble -- as cloud-to-cloud lightning lit up the sky. MPR news reporter Tim Post captured the storm as it passed over Como Park from 10:48 to 10:51 p.m.

$134 Billion in suitcase - "the absurdity of our times"

Suitcase With $134 Billion Puts Dollar on Edge


Two Japanese men are detained in Italy after allegedly attempting to take $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds over the border into Switzerland. Details are maddeningly sketchy, so naturally the global rumor mill is kicking into high gear.

Are these would-be smugglers agents of Kim Jong Il stashing North Korea’s cash in a Swiss vault? Bagmen for Nigerian Internet scammers? Was the money meant for terrorists looking to buy nuclear warheads? Is Japan dumping its dollars secretly? Are the bonds real or counterfeit?

The implications of the securities being legitimate would be bigger than investors may realize. At a minimum, it would suggest that the U.S. risks losing control over its monetary supply on a massive scale.

The trillions of dollars of debt the U.S. will issue in the next couple of years needs buyers. Attracting them will require making sure that existing ones aren’t losing faith in the U.S.’s ability to control the dollar.

The dollar is, for better or worse, the core of our world economy and it’s best to keep it stable. News that’s more fitting for international spy novels than the financial pages won’t help that effort. It is incumbent upon the U.S. Treasury to get to the bottom of this tale and keep markets informed.

GDP Carriers

Think about it: These two guys were carrying the gross domestic product of New Zealand or enough for three Beijing Olympics. If economies were for sale, the men could buy Slovakia and Croatia and have plenty left over for Mongolia or Cambodia. Yes, they could have built vacation homes amidst Genghis Khan’s Gobi Desert or the famed Temples of Angkor. Bernard Madoff who?

These men carrying bonds concealed in the bottom of their luggage also would be the fourth-largest U.S. creditors. It makes you wonder if some of the time Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spends keeping the Chinese and Japanese invested in dollars should be devoted to well-financed men crossing the Italian-Swiss border.

This tale has gotten little attention in markets, perhaps because of the absurdity of our times. The last year has been a decidedly disorienting one for capitalists who once knew up from down, red from black and risk from reward. It almost fits with the surreal nature of today that a couple of travelers have more U.S. debt than Brazil in a suitcase and, well, that’s life.

Comment: I would like to know more about this!


Credit Cards Get the Ax -- and Blender


When Fred Wilharm decided to ditch his credit cards, he reached for the chainsaw.

The real-estate investor from Franklin, Tenn., sliced, drilled and shredded his credit cards in his YouTube video "The Tennessee Credit Card Massacre." Mr. Wilharm says he had just paid off $3,000 in credit-card debt after the card issuers jacked up his interest rates, and that making the video helped him deal with his anger.

His only regret about the video: "Explosives would have been nice."

Comment: Haven't been able to view the video: The Tennessee Credit Card Massacre. My own view: Have a credit card and use it as much as possible to earn rewards, but pay it off every month. (I've become a little obsessed with being debt free, but I pay off my CC every Friday!)

How Americans view the world

Comment: click image for larger view.

Florida Crackerville: Wear underwear & use deodorant

Brooksville: Workers Must Wear Underwear


The Brooksville city council recently approved a revised dress code as part of its effort to update existing policies.

The revision instructs employees to observe "strict personal hygiene," including the use of deodorant. It lists "the observable lack of undergarments and exposed undergarments" as "unacceptable attire."

It also prohibits clothing with foul language or messages promoting drug use, "sexually provocative" garments, halter tops and piercings anywhere except the ears.

Repeat offenders can be fired.

The city council approved the dress code 4-1. Mayor Joe Bernadini opposed the revision, saying the underwear edict "takes away freedom of choice."

Comment: My wife's parents used to live in Brooksville. Wiki: Florida cracker. I file this with this thought: There is something wrong with people that would have to be told this!

PETA: Treat flies humanely

PETA wishes Obama hadn't swatted that fly


The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter in chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he's bedeviled by a fly in the White House.

PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside.

"We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals."

During an interview for CNBC at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama's conversation with correspondent John Harwood.

"Get out of here," the president told the pesky insect. When it didn't, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smacked it dead.

"Now, where were we?" Obama asked Harwood. Then he added: "That was pretty impressive, wasn't it? I got the sucker."

Friedrich said that PETA was pleased with Obama's voting record in the Senate on behalf of animal rights and noted that he has been outspoken against animal abuses.

Still, "swatting a fly on TV indicates he's not perfect," Friedrich said, "and we're happy to say that we wish he hadn't."

Comment: What about spiders, ants, roaches, etc? (I guess they would not approve of the "Roach Motel"!)


Economic stutter steps?

Roubini sees weeds amid green shoots


The U.S. economy will not recover until the end of this year, and even then growth will remain meek and vulnerable to higher interest rates and commodity prices, economist Nouriel Roubini said on Tuesday.

Roubini, who rose to prominence for predicting the global credit crisis, tore down the "green shoots" theory that a rebound is imminent, saying there was a significant risk of a "double-dip" recession where the economy expands slightly only to begin contracting again.

"In addition to green shoots there are also yellow weeds," he told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in New York.

He pointed to the growing divergence between business sentiment surveys, which have been improving in recent months, and industrial production, which is down sharply and receded another 1.1 percent in May.

Roubini, the head of economics research firm RGE Global Monitor, said the U.S. jobless rate, already at a 26-year high of 9.4 percent, would reach 11 percent before it begins to ease. He added that he saw few engines for growth given that U.S. consumers are tapped out

As a result, Federal Reserve policy-makers, whom Roubini says completely missed the magnitude of the crisis at its inception, face an unenviable set of policy choices.

He said weak growth would allow the U.S. central bank to leave interest rates near the current rock-bottom levels for the foreseeable future. Eventually, however, trillions of dollars of unprecedented emergency measures to heal the financial system will need to be mopped back up to prevent an upsurge in inflation.

Rampant inflation could lead to negative economic cycles like the ones that plagued much of the industrialized world in the 1970s.

Comment: As I recollect 6 months or so ago they were talking about an economic recovery mid-2009. Well we missed that! Compare previous posts:

11.17.2008: Recession half way over?

the U.S. economy entered a recession in April and that it will last 14 months

10.20.2008: Cusp of harsh recession?

Many experts expect unemployment will soar from its current level of 6.1 per cent and worry it could go above 8 per cent. The Fed now thinks that unemployment will rise above 7 per cent and is likely to peak at about 7.5 per cent

Reality: NYTimes 06.05.2009: "The unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent in May, the government says"


Letterman apologizes

Letterman re-addresses Palin: 'I had no idea [Willow] was there'


"I had, honestly, no idea that the 14-year-old girl, I had no idea that anybody was at the ball game except the governor, and I was told at the time she was there with Rudy Giuliani," Letterman said. "It’s not your fault that it was misunderstood, it’s my fault. ... So I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke."

Comment: Right thing to do!

Samuelson on ObamaCare: "Naive, Hypocritical and Dishonest"

Robert Samuelson: Naive, Hypocritical and Dishonest


His emphasis on controlling costs is cosmetic. The main aim of health care "reform" now being fashioned in Congress is to provide insurance to most of the 46 million uncovered Americans. This is popular and seems the moral thing to do. After all, hardly anyone wants to be without insurance. But the extra coverage might actually worsen the spending problem.

How much healthier today's uninsured would be with that coverage is unclear. They already receive health care -- $116 billion worth in 2008, estimates Families USA, an advocacy group. Some is paid by the uninsured themselves (37 percent), some by government and charities (26 percent). The remaining "uncompensated care" is either absorbed by doctors and hospitals or shifted to higher private insurance premiums. Some uninsured would benefit from coverage, but others wouldn't. Either they're healthy (40 percent are between ages 18 and 34) or would receive ineffective care.

The one certain consequence of expanding insurance coverage is that it would raise spending. When people have insurance, they use more health services. That's one reason why Obama's campaign proposal was estimated to cost $1.2 trillion over a decade (the other reason is that the federal government would pick up some costs now paid by others). Indeed, the higher demand for health care might raise costs across the board, increasing both government spending and private premiums.

Comment: I don't trust Congress to improve Health Care!


PogoPlug setup (Wow!)

I received my PogoPlug Thursday and today was setup day.

We had other activities that were higher priority (*) so I didn't begin until about 4 pm.

It literally took me more time to get the 500 Gig Iomega drive and the PogoPlug out of the shipping boxes than the set up.

Half a Terabyte does seem like much any more but I remember Norwest Colorado running all of our banks on 220 Gig! And I remember IBM System 3's with 15 MB drives. So yes 500 gig is a lot.

It's pretty impressive to have a secure, shareable 500 Gig available. How it works (for techies!): How Pogoplug Works


So I reached out to Pogoplug maker Cloud Engines’ chief technology officer, Brad Dietrich, who in the past has worked in digital device startups such as Mediabolic (which has since been bought by Macrovision). He shared some insights with me via email as the innards of this device, which is a computer in its own right.

Om: Are you using an embedded Linux on this device?

Brad Dietrich: Yes, we are running a Linux kernel on a Marvell ARM SOC. My team and myself have been working in the embedded Linux world for well over 10 years now (my background was at Mediabolic and the digital home) and we are very good at stripping things down to a bare minimum.


We had an fire alarm problem at 3:30 in the morning. All of our alarms - Firex G6 (original to the house) went off at 3:30. After less than 30 seconds they reset. 20 minutes later the same. It took us another hour to get back to sleep. Today Kathee was up on a ladder (10' ceilings) looking them over. No known problem. 1st time this has happened in 13 years.


Bulldozing Flint

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive


The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.

"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

Graphic: Largest corporate bankruptcies

Graphic: Largest corporate bankruptcies

Comment: Full screen view!


Taxing company cell phones as a "fringe benefit"

Tax Man's Target: The Mobile Phone


The use of company-issued mobile phones could trigger new federal income taxes on millions of Americans as a "fringe benefit," spurring efforts by the wireless industry and others to kill the idea.

The Internal Revenue Service proposed employers assign 25% of an employee's annual phone expenses as a taxable benefit. Under that scenario, a worker in the 28% tax bracket, whose wireless device costs the company $1,500 a year, could see $105 in additional federal income tax.

Comment: Would impact both K and I as we have company paid cell phones. Sounds like a great benefit but it means we could be called any time of day or night (and we sometimes are!)

Beauty queens and moral truth

New beauty: Marriage between man, woman


Cavuto asked, "Do you mind my asking you, Tami, how you feel, about gay marriage since this has been such a hot issue with your predecessor?"

Farrell's response: "You know, I think it's hilarious right now that the world is turning to beauty queens for the answers for this. I think it's an important issue and I think that it's one that I don't think I can win a battle. I don't want to be any more divisive than it's already become."

Comment: Right!

TCO on those fancy phones

Total Cost of Ownership: iPhone 3G S versus Palm Pre versus Android G1


[link above] is a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of the latest mobile technologies, analyzing the comparative features of each, along with the actual price you will pay for the phone and service over the course of a two year contract.

Comment: I still want an IPhone! Not gonna do it .... not gonna do it!

Madman: "bye bye?"

Iran election race tightens


Whereas President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a sure bet just 10 days ago, the race has closed this past week, in what is clearly turning into a referendum on his four years in office.

Rivers of green have flowed through the streets, those decked out in the colors of his main challenger, former Prime Minster Mir Hossein Moussavi.

The week started with tens of thousands of his supporters forming a human chain along 17 kilometers of the main Tehran artery Vali-Asr Street.

Called out by text message and email the numbers exceeded all expectations, their ranks swelled by thousands more who joined the chain spontaneously or just lined the route to watch.

"Ahmadi bye bye, Ahmadi bye bye," they sang. Others held up posters that said 'NO LIARS.' It has become the opposition slogan.

Comment: Could be turning point if a moderate is elected.

Thanks to Obama: "they love us again!"

Ann Coulter: Welcome Back, Carter


Now that our silver-tongued president has gone to Cairo to soothe Muslims' hurt feelings, they love us again! Muslims in Pakistan expressed their appreciation for President Barack Obama's speech by bombing a fancy hotel in Peshawar this week.

Operating on the liberal premise that what Arabs really respect is weakness, Obama listed, incorrectly, Muslims' historical contributions to mankind, such as algebra (actually that was the ancient Babylonians), the compass (that was the Chinese), pens (the Chinese again) and medical discoveries (huh?).

But why be picky? All these inventions came in mighty handy on Sept. 11, 2001! Thanks, Muslims!!

Obama bravely told the Cairo audience that 9/11 was a very nasty thing for Muslims to do to us, but on the other hand, they are victims of colonization.

Except we didn't colonize them. The French and the British did. So why are Arabs flying planes into our buildings and not the Arc de Triomphe? (And gosh, haven't the Arabs done a lot with the Middle East since the French and the British left!)

In another sharks-to-kittens comparison, Obama said, "Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam." No, he said, "the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life."

So on one hand, 12-year-old girls are stoned to death for the crime of being raped in Muslim countries. But on the other hand, we still don't have enough female firefighters here in America.

Comment: Ann Coulter's tone is harsh, but the comments are valid!


"I don't know anything about cars"

New GM Chairman Whitacre admits: "I don't know anything about cars."


Newly tapped General Motors Chairman Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. may have built AT&T into a telecommunications powerhouse, but it's fair to question whether he can help do the same for GM. You see, he isn't particularly savvy on the whole auto business thing. In his own words: "I don't know anything about cars." While he admits that cars are a new consideration for him, Whitacre doesn't see it as a much of a problem: "A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I'm not that old, and I think the business principles are the same."

Comment: With apologies to my daughter, this - "I don't know anything about cars" - sounds like a direct quote. Like a response to my question, "When did you last have your oil changed?". Mr Whitacre, we all understand because neither does President Obama (your de facto boss ("Car Maker in Chief"!). Neither does he know much about Economics!

DC is is awash in your money

WSJ: Washington DC - Boom Town


According to new data, the area's unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in April from 5.9% in March. This is the second consecutive month of improvement for Washingtonians, and it's leagues from the national unemployment rate, which hit 9.4% in May.

With unemployment for all government workers about half the private sector's rate, the Beltway has been spared the tightening elsewhere. The federal government is the second largest job sector in the area, making up 11.6% of jobs, while state and local government workers add another 10.4%. According to a February survey by the Greater Washington Initiative, Washington area business executives were also "significantly more positive" about their own companies and the region's prospects than about the national economy. Translation: It's good to be close to Uncle Sam when stimulus funds start flying.

In a speech to GWI's conference last week, former venture capitalist and now Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia saw nothing but green for most of Washington's public-private economy. "The federal government's level of activity in the economy is unprecedented," he said, adding that new stimulus projects and investments in green technology in particular look like a jackpot for the region. As Mr. Warner put it to the Washington Business Journal, "It helps to be where the money is." Or better yet, where everyone else's money gets sent.

Comment: No surprise here.

San Diego: on second thought .... Home Bible studies OK!

San Diego County Formally Apologizes to Local Pastor


County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard sent a letter, dated Wednesday, to Pastor David Jones rescinding the citation and stating that a permit is not required to hold Bible studies at home.

“Christians should not be punished simply for holding a Bible study in their home, so we are very encouraged by the county’s response and their commitment to immediate corrective action,” said Dean Broyles, president of the Western Center for Law & Policy and Jones' attorney.

“We are confident that, as a result of the county’s statements, Bible studies and prayer meetings held in homes throughout San Diego County will be free from government regulation, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment,” he added.

In April, a code enforcement officer issued Jones a citation, ordering him to stop hosting the weekly Bible study – which the officer considered a "religious assembly" – or face fines upwards of $1,000. Jones was told that he needed to obtain a major use permit in order to continue the religious gathering.

When the news was revealed across several major media outlets, the San Diego County was flooded with complaints and accused of attempting to "muzzle religious expression."

Last week, Ekard expressed regret over the situation and stressed that religious intolerance is not and never will be allowed in San Diego County government. He further underscored his own commitment to the freedom of religious expression and said the Bible studies in Jones' home may continue while he reviews the matter.

Jones, however, wanted something more concrete than a public statement.

"We don't have anything in writing. We want something very clearly that states people can pray in homes and have friends over and read Bible together and study a bit," Jones, pastor of South Bay Community Church, told the local 10News, which first reported the incident.

According to 10News, Jones is satisfied with Wednesday's letter.

Comment: Followup to San Diego: Home Bible study illegal? . Thanks to Larry N who sent me the link!


This is not "Victory"

Murdered Doctor’s Clinic Is Shuttered


The clinic of Dr. George R. Tiller, in Wichita, had been one of a few in the country to provide abortions to women late in their pregnancies, and for decades, women had traveled there from all over the nation and overseas. The office, Women’s Health Care Services Inc., was also the state’s only remaining clinic, even for abortions performed early in pregnancy, outside the Kansas City area.

“Notice is being given today to all concerned that the Tiller family is ceasing operation of the clinic and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic,” a statement issued by Dr. Tiller’s lawyers read. The lawyers said they would offer no additional comments.

Suspect claims 'victory' in closing of slain doctor's clinic


An anti-abortion activist suspected in the death of Kansas doctor George Tiller told CNN on Tuesday the closing of Tiller's women's clinic is "a victory for all the unborn children."

Scott Roeder, 51, would not admit to CNN's Ted Rowlands that he killed Tiller, who was gunned down at his church May 31. But he said if he is convicted in Tiller's slaying, "the entire motive was the defense of the unborn."

Tiller's family said Tuesday the clinic he headed will permanently close, effective immediately, and they would issue no more statements. At the time Roeder was interviewed Tuesday, word of the permanent closure had not come out -- but when told the clinic had been shuttered since Tiller's death, he said, "Good."

Roeder said the closure would mean "no more slicing and dicing of the unborn child in the mother's womb and no more needles of poison into the baby's heart to stop the heart from beating, and no more partial-birth abortions."

Comment: It is not victory because not morally won!

"the government that runs Amtrak ... vows to make GM efficient"

George Will: Have we got a deal for you


Washington mandates that Detroit must build cars for which there is much less demand than Washington demands that there be. Then Washington tries to manufacture demand with a $7,500 tax credit for purchasers of the electric Chevrolet Volt, supposedly GM's salvation. So, GM is to be saved by a product people will not buy without a cash incentive larger than the income tax paid by 83.4 percent of America's families.

It is reasonable to assume that GM will become profitable — if you make unreasonable assumptions about annual vehicle sales and GM's share of the market. Besides, the government that runs Amtrak (which has lost $23 billion, in today's dollars, just since 1990) vows to make GM efficient.

But one reason Amtrak runs on red ink is that legislators treat it as their toy train set, preventing it from cutting egregiously unprofitable routes. Will Congress passively accept auto plant-closing decisions? Rattner says that Washington's demure vow is: "No plant decisions, no dealer decisions, no color-of-the-car decisions." He is one-third right. Last week, under the headline "Senators Blast Automakers Over Dealer Closings," The Post reported, "Because the federal government is slated to own most of General Motors and 8 percent of Chrysler, some of the senators said they have a responsibility, as major shareholders do, to review company decisions."


Washington's "rescue" of GM began because GM is "too big to fail," and bankruptcy is (well, was) "unthinkable." Big? GM's market capitalization, $375.8 million on Wednesday, is about the size of California Pizza Kitchen's ($340 million) — is it too big to fail? — and one-eleventh that of Harley-Davidson ($4.3 billion). Fail? If GM has not already failed, New Coke was a success.

Comment: A better idea .... now that we have poured billions into GM: Senator Lamar Alexander Wants Taxpayers, Not Lawmakers, to Have Control of GM

Government health care is neither compassionate and equitable

Canada's ObamaCare Precedent - Governments always ration care by making you wait. That can be deadly.


Between 2006 and 2008, Ontario sent more than 160 patients to New York and Michigan for emergency neurosurgery -- described by the Globe and Mail newspaper as "broken necks, burst aneurysms and other types of bleeding in or around the brain."

Only half of ER patients are treated in a timely manner by national and international standards, according to a government study. The physician shortage is so severe that some towns hold lotteries, with the winners gaining access to the local doc.

Overall, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology last year, five-year cancer survival rates are higher in the U.S. than those in Canada. Based on data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health (done by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics), Americans have greater access to preventive screening tests and have higher treatment rates for chronic illnesses. No wonder: To limit the growth in health spending, governments restrict the supply of health care by rationing it through waiting. The same survey data show, as June and Paul O'Neill note in a paper published in 2007 in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy, that the poor under socialized medicine seem to be less healthy relative to the nonpoor than their American counterparts.

Ironically, as the U.S. is on the verge of rushing toward government health care, Canada is reforming its system in the opposite direction. In 2005, Canada's supreme court struck down key laws in Quebec that established a government monopoly of health services. Claude Castonguay, who headed the Quebec government commission that recommended the creation of its public health-care system in the 1960s, also has second thoughts. Last year, after completing another review, he declared the system in "crisis" and suggested a massive expansion of private services -- even advocating that public hospitals rent facilities to physicians in off-hours.


In Canada, private-sector health care is growing. Dr. Day estimates that 50,000 people are seen at private clinics every year in British Columbia. According to the New York Times, a private clinic opens at a rate of about one a week across the country. Public-private partnerships, once a taboo topic, are embraced by provincial governments.

In the United Kingdom, where socialized medicine was established after World War II through the National Health Service, the present Labour government has introduced a choice in surgeries by allowing patients to choose among facilities, often including private ones. Even in Sweden, the government has turned over services to the private sector.

Americans need to ask a basic question: Why are they rushing into a system of government-dominated health care when the very countries that have experienced it for so long are backing away?

Comment: Soon coming .... Obamacare!