Pictures worth 1,000 words: Radical Islam vs Radical Christianity

Radical Islam: Let's Kill Somebody
Radical Christianity: Let's Tell Someone about Jesus

New Condo planned for Downtown East

Minneapolis condo king embraces downtown's east side

Jim Stanton, one of the most profilic housing developers in the city, says he’s ready to build his second postrecession condominium project -- and he’s heading to the east side of downtown again. Stanton recently bought a quarter of a city block in the Elliot Park neighborhood, near the Downtown East development and new Vikings stadium that are both under construction. Those projects weren’t the only catalysts for his, Stanton said. “It didn’t play into my decision, but it won’t hurt,” he said Thursday. “Downtown East has finally come alive.” His preliminary plans call for a tower of approximately 15 floors and up to 110 units. The site, at the corner of 8th Street and Portland Avenue S., is a weed-strewn lot adjacent to the Sexton Lofts, a warehouse building that was converted to living spaces during the worst of the housing crash. Stanton hopes to start construction this fall but has yet to submit plans to city and neighborhood groups.
Comment: Location


Douglas McAuthur McCain: Cooper's jihadist

Minnesota high school grad and terror supporter killed in Syria
A Twin Cities high school graduate who later moved to San Diego was killed in Syria in recent days, according to family members who had been concerned about his expressions of support of the Islamic State terror organization. Kenyata McCain and another first cousin said Tuesday that Douglas McArthur McCain’s mother received a call Monday from the State Department reporting that her son was killed over the weekend in Syria. Douglas McCain, 33, had lived in San Diego in recent years and was a 1999 graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School, said the cousins, who both live in the Twin Cities and are roughly his age. NBC News first reported Douglas McCain’s death and said he was fighting on behalf of the Islamic State. The network attributed its information to the Free Syrian Army. Kenyata McCain said she was in touch with Douglas McCain as recently as Friday, and “he was telling all of us he was in Turkey.” She noted that his Facebook page had a posting that “said ISIS and he was in support of it.” “I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs,” she added, “but I didn’t know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn’t think he would be.”
Douglas McAuthur McCain Wasn't Alone, More Americans Fighting With Extremists: Officials
Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego, California, was killed over the weekend fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the Free Syrian Army. Photos of McCain's passport and of his body -- which feature a distinctive neck tattoo -- have been seen by NBC News. According to an activist linked to the Free Syrian Army who also saw the body and travel document, McCain was among three foreign jihadis fighting with ISIS who died during the battle. Senior administration officials told NBC News they were aware that McCain was killed in Syria, adding that they believe dozens of Americans have gone there to fight with extremist groups - including, but not limited to, ISIS. "The threat we are most concerned about to the homeland is that of fighters like this returning to the U.S. and committing acts of terrorism," a senior administration official told NBC News. NBC News has contacted several members of McCain’s family and dozens of friends – including his mother, sister, aunts and cousins. A woman who said she was McCain's aunt confirmed that he had "passed" and referred calls to McCain’s mother.

Comment: A peer of my two sons'


On unjustifiable homicides by police

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

I got the phone call at 2 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2004. It was my oldest daughter. She said you need to come to the hospital right away, Michael’s been shot by the police. My first gut reaction was, “Michael doesn’t do anything serious enough to get shot by a police officer.” I thought he’d gotten shot in the leg or whatever. When I arrived, I saw the district attorney huddled with about five police officers. The last time I saw my son alive he was on a gurney, with his head wrapped in a big towel and blood coming out of it. I learned that an officer had put his gun up directly to Michael’s right temple and misfired, then did it again, and shot him. From the beginning I cautioned patience, though Michael’s mother and sister were in an uproar. They had watched him get shot. But as an Air Force officer and pilot I knew the way safety investigations are conducted, and I was thinking that this was going to be conducted this way. Yet within 48 hours I got the message: The police had cleared themselves of all wrongdoing. In 48 hours! They hadn’t even taken statements from several eyewitnesses. Crime lab reports showed that my son’s DNA or fingerprints were not on any gun or holster, even though one of the police officers involved in Michael’s shooting had claimed that Michael had grabbed his gun.
Comment: On the pros and cons of police cameras . This is not about the Ferguson case. My contention is that we need the police to be accountable to the community and that police homicides should be independently (and of course who's really independent!) investigated. The gun should be the last resort!

On Burger King and becoming Canuck King

Burger King stock soars on whopper of a tax deal

Burger King is working on a whopper of a business deal. The burger chain is in talks with Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons about merging, a plan that, if accomplished, would create the world's third-largest fast food restaurant company, with more than 18,000 outlets in 100 countries and about $22 billion in system sales, the companies said in a statement. Shares of Burger King (BKW) surge 23% in afternoon trading on the news that the companies were looking to create a new, publicly traded company headquartered in Canada. With a new base in Canada, Burger King, now based in Miami, could shave its U.S. tax bill. Tax inversions have become increasingly popular among U.S. companies trying to cut costs. In an inversion, a U.S. company reorganizes in a country with a lower tax rate by acquiring or merging with a company there. Inversions allow companies to transfer money earned overseas to the parent company without paying additional U.S. taxes. That money can be used to reinvest in the business or to fund dividends and buybacks, among other things.
One Way to Fix the Corporate Tax: Repeal It
“Some people are calling these companies ‘corporate deserters.’ ” That is what President Obama said last month about the recent wave of tax inversions sweeping across corporate America, and he did not disagree with the description. But are our nation’s business leaders really so unpatriotic? A tax inversion occurs when an American company merges with a foreign one and, in the process, reincorporates abroad. Such mergers have many motives, but often one of them is to take advantage of the more favorable tax treatment offered by some other nations. Such tax inversions mean less money for the United States Treasury. As a result, the rest of us end up either paying higher taxes to support the government or enjoying fewer government services. So the president has good reason to be concerned. Yet demonizing the companies and their executives is the wrong response. A corporate chief who arranges a merger that increases the company’s after-tax profit is doing his or her job. To forgo that opportunity would be failing to act as a responsible fiduciary for shareholders. Of course, we all have a responsibility to pay what we owe in taxes. But no one has a responsibility to pay more. The great 20th-century jurist Learned Hand — who, by the way, has one of the best names in legal history — expressed the principle this way: “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” If tax inversions are a problem, as arguably they are, the blame lies not with business leaders who are doing their best to do their jobs, but rather with the lawmakers who have failed to do the same. The writers of the tax code have given us a system that is deeply flawed in many ways, especially as it applies to businesses. The most obvious problem is that the corporate tax rate in the United States is about twice the average rate in Europe. National tax systems differ along many dimensions, making international comparisons difficult and controversial. Yet simply cutting the rate to be more in line with norms abroad would do a lot to stoaap inversions.
Comment: A close relative is changing their tax domicile from Minnesota to Florida just to save on state income taxes and to eliminate inheritance taxes.


S&P 500: Will Friday be for Profit Taking?

S&P 500 sets record close on signs of healthier economy

Comment: Prediction .... tomorrow will be pull back on profit taking

Bill Clinton: "We call it Riding the Gravy Train"

Bill Clinton Now Enjoys $1,000 Cigars
Wait until he is Hillary's "First Man". Consider Lewinsky's Testimony

Gallup's "Best Friend at Work" Question

Do you really need a 'best friend' at work?


... it being a Gallup copyrighted question, we have a few good reasons. 1. Even on basic grammar considerations it isn't that great a question. The question consists of the following statement which is accompanied by an agreement scale: 'I have a best friend at work' Does it mean my best friend works with me? Or does it mean that I have a colleague who I like more than other colleagues who I would consider a friend? Or does it mean I can identify anyone as being more friendly than my other colleagues? Many people tell us they have a 'good', 'close' or even 'totally awesome' friend at work, but 'best friend' is often described as confusing
Comment: The YouTube version of the above:

Comment: I sleep with my best friend at work (wife works with me). In our Q12 meetings this does not get a laugh


My Commute

Google Maps Has Been Tracking Your Every Move, And There’s A Website To Prove It

The website:

Comment: We've been doing this commute for 18 years. We have tried multiple options and this route is the shortest and easiest.

On Sharkophobes and Islamophobes

Sharks and Islamists: Equally Misunderstood?
Almost every shark program follows the same pattern: the large predators are portrayed in all their grandeur, roaming the seas. Then we hear of several anecdotes of shark attacks on humans, often with the survivors recounting their experiences. The prevalent theme is this: it’s not the shark’s fault that it attacked and maimed this or that surfer, swimmier, or kayaker. Rather, humans are responsible for entering the shark’s domain, the ocean. If anything, then, it’s the human’s fault for getting attacked. Even great whites, so we are assured, attack humans only by mistake. Finally we get the speech about how sharks are in fact the ones being mistreated by humans, etc. To those familiar with the way liberal talking heads constantly whitewash the violence and intolerance of Islam, does this not all sound familiar? From the notion that “it’s our fault” we got attacked, and we “had it coming,” to the idea that we need to be more “understanding and respectful,” the “progressive” memes are all there. Similarly, two types of survivors often recount their experiences. Most explain how they do not at all blame the shark that attacked them; more magnanimously, others say that since they lost this or that appendage, they have dedicated their lives to protecting sharks. The second, more atypical kind of survivors openly demonize sharks and come off less “enlightened.” Such was this one Australian survivor I watched, who seemed the quintessential “hillbilly” – missing teeth and all. He appeared on one of the programs, emphatically declaring that all sharks are “evil.” In other words, he was something of an ignorant, bigoted “sharkophobe.”

... the point here is that this business of always apologizing for Islamic violence, insisting that it is some sort of misunderstanding, which “enlightened” Western persons should be patient of if not completely overlook, has so penetrated society that it has metastasized to almost anything and everything that is potentially dangerous, including ravenous sharks. Nor does the analogy end here. When Western liberals hold Muslims to a lower standard than the rest of humanity – ignoring the beheadings, massacres, rapes, enslavements, and church burnings habitually committed by the likes of the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, et al. – are they not, in essence, placing such Muslims on a “subhuman” level? Are they not placing them on the level of wild animals – sharks, for instance – that are not responsible for their actions? In the end, however, the shark analogy fails. After all, sharks attack and kill for survival – like all carnivores – whereas the Islamists intentionally attack, torture, rape, massacre, mutilate, and incinerate humans simply for not being Muslim. That is the definition of evil.
Obama on Journalist's Killing: 'No Just God Would Stand For What They Did'
Obama said: “ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.”

... “There is evil in this world, and we all have come face to face with it once again,” Kerry said. “Ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic and valueless evil. ISIL is the face of that evil, a threat to people who want to live in peace, and an ugly insult to the peaceful religion they violate every day with their barbarity.”

Does the Quran really contain dozens of verses promoting violence?
Comment: Above link has many Quran quotes.Muslims must own their own sacred writings! Image source - shark


When Al Sharpton came to town

Lots of rhetoric, no problem-solving from Sharpton and other leaders
So Al Sharpton came to town. Didn't see him when the grandmother was killed in the crossfire. Or when little Antonio Johnson died while doing homework. Or on any weekend when violence seems to be an ordinary occurrence. Why? Well you don't need a Harvard degree to figure it out. He calls himself a "shining light" but the truth is, he and many leaders are dim bulbs in a dysfunctional society. There's lots of rhetoric, gesturing and catchy phrases but no positive, productive problem-solving. No looking inward. Does anybody really think those involved with looting, vandalism, civil disobedience care what these leaders say? They understand a totally different kind of language. My thoughts are with the good people of Ferguson. May your community start to heal and become unified.
Justice will be served in Brown's killing
I'm a black man, born and raised in the city of St. Louis. I went to public schools, graduated from Beaumont High. I served my country in the Navy. This behavior in Ferguson makes no sense. We need to look in the mirror. This killing of Michael Brown is a tragedy. Justice will be served, but not like this. All of this is taking away from what happened to this young man. He was trying to better himself; we should be remembering all of his wonderful qualities. The person that did this will be brought to justice. When given time, the justice system will work. In closing, why is it that nobody sees or knows anything when it is a black killing a black? We kill each other everyday, and nobody in the neighborhood sees anything. Why is that?
Comment: Two common sense letters to the editor. Re the first letter - I hyperlinked to the Antonio Johnson story. Not sure what the "grandmother" story is about. Image source


Texas Chainsaw Prosecution: The Joke of the Rick Perry Indictment

Texas Chainsaw Prosecution - Criminalizing politics hits a new low with the Rick Perry indictment
Usually when prosecutors want to use the criminal statutes to cripple a political opponent, they come up with at least some claims of personal or political venality. In this case the D.A.'s office is trying to criminalize the normal process of constitutional government. The background facts don't make the case any more compelling. In 2013 police found Travis D.A. Lehmberg drunk in her car with a blood alcohol level of 0.23, or nearly three times the legal limit. A video made at the time shows her ranting against and abusing the police attempting to book her. The Democrat eventually did jail time. Mr. Perry saw a political opening and said he would veto $7.5 million in funds for Ms. Lehmberg's Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned. He argued, plausibly enough, that a prosecutor who breaks the law and abuses law enforcement shouldn't judge the "public integrity" of others in government. Ms. Lehmberg refused to step down, and Mr. Perry used his line-item veto to strike the appropriation.
Comment: There's no doubt Perry will ultimately prevail in court ... and it may propel his Presidential ambitions!

Unilever: UN vs UL

Choosing Which Unilever Share Class Is Right For You


In summary: There is Unilever NV, a Netherlands-sourced operating company with shares carrying the ticker UNA trading in Amsterdam, and equivalent ADRs under the ticker UN trading on the NYSE. There is also Unilever PLC, a United Kingdom sourced operating company with shares carrying ticker ULVR trading in London, and equivalent ADRs under the ticker UL trading on the NYSE. Also worth noting, dividends are declared in euros. Here are two tables: The first shows the tickers for the four possible ways to invest in Unilever. The second table shows the currency exchange each dividend declared must go through before being received by the holder of the various shares.
Comment: I have UN. I probably bought it not knowing the difference. If one is in a taxable account - it probably doesn't matter. In an IRA ... buy UL. See list of Unilever brands


1701 Madison Street NE 108

1701 Madison Street NE 108


  • A drive-by ... no interior viewing
  • A lot of space (1400 sq feet) for the money
  • Two underground parking spots
  • We talked to a a neighbor walking on the sidewalk - he said the neighborhood has some rough edges to it
  • Map


POTUS Golfing Off

Obama’s one achievement — outgolfing Tiger Woods


As Barack “Eldrick” Obama approaches his 200th round of golf since his election as president, here’s a fact to put that into perspective: Since January 2009, Tiger Woods has played 269 rounds of golf. And Tiger, beleaguered by injury, is almost certainly done for the year. So that means the president, if he keeps up with his pace of play during his 15-day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard (a round a day) and his normal weekly round, will pass Tiger sometime next spring. Think about that for a minute. The president of the U.S., juggling the American economy and the entire world’s problems — Iraq is in full meltdown, the Middle East is a powder keg, Russia is moving on Ukraine — has played golf nearly as much as a guy whose day job is playing golf.
Comment: See his POTUS custom golf balls. Image source. He makes Ferris Bueller look like a work-a-holic. An editorial cartoon that explains it all!


What's a Reverse Morris Trust?

Definition of 'Reverse Morris Trust'


A tax-avoidance strategy, in which a corporation wanting to dispose of unwanted assets can do so while avoiding taxes on any gains from those assets. The Reverse Morris Trust starts with a parent company looking to sell assets to a smaller external company. The parent company then creates a subsidiary, and that subsidiary and a smaller external company merge and create an unrelated company. The unrelated company then issues shares to the shareholders of the original parent company. If those shareholders control over 50% of the voting right and economic value in the unrelated company, the Reverse Morris Trust is complete. The parent company has effectively transferred the assets, tax-free, to the smaller external company.

The Reverse Morris Trust originated from the Morris Trust. In 1966, the case Commissioner vs. Mary Archer W. Morris Trust went to court, and Morris Trust received a favorable ruling. Due to this ruling, a loophole was created for companies to avoid taxes when looking to sell unwanted assets. The difference between the Morris Trust and the Reverse Morris Trust is that in the Morris Trust, the parent company merges with the target company and no subsidiary is created. For example: A telecom company, looking to sell off old landline to smaller companies in rural areas could use this technique. The telecom company might not wish to spend the time or resources to upgrade those lines to broadband or fiber optic lines, so they could sell these assets using this tax-efficient transfer.
Comment: Upcoming example is Dupont

DuPont Co. (DD) is considering alternatives to a planned spinoff of its performance chemicals unit, which may pave the way for a deal with Tronox Ltd. (TROX) Tronox shares rose the most since February. DuPont is considering a so-called Reverse Morris Trust for the unit that makes titanium-dioxide pigment, Teflon and refrigerants, Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Fanandakis said today. A Reverse Morris Trust may create “synergies” with a potential partner, he said. The company, the largest U.S. chemical maker by market value, announced plans in October to spin off the unit because of volatile earnings. In a Reverse Morris Trust, a company first spins off unwanted assets to its stockholders. The tax-free transaction is completed when the new company merges with a smaller company, giving shareholders of the spinoff a majority stake. “We are open to the possibility of someone coming in with an RMT or even a sale, a direct purchase opportunity,” Fanandakis said today at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Basic Materials Conference in New York. “It’s got to be of sufficient value, though, to offset the risk and uncertainty that we would take with that endeavor versus pursuing the spin path.”


Suicide - I've thought about it

  • This is not a Robin Williams rant ... he was a comic genius and will be missed. I will miss him myself - although I only know him via TV (Mork and Mindy) and film (Mrs Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, Aladdin and more.
  • I heard the statistic today that 108 people commit suicide daily ... nearly 40,000 per year.
  • I have my own experiences with suicide: congregants who attempted or who talked about their feelings about it with me in counseling sessions. 
  • In a church I pastored, a congregant gassed himself in the garage while his wife and two children were at church. I am still connected with his son (now an adult and married himself)
  • I spent 11 weeks hospitalized after breaking my neck, the last 9 weeks at Craig hospital . For years afterwards I served as a volunteer chaplain at Craig. One night I was called to the hospital to meet with a man who was healing from an attempted suicide. I drove to the hospital and spent some time with the man. His wounds were healed over but the scars remained. He had shot himself through the temple .... all the way through ... in one side and out the other. He was blind in one eye and basically completely paralyzed. 
  • As for myself .... I did think about it once. It was while I was still at Swedish Hospital (where I was initially after my accident. I know it was in my second week there because my first week I was basically out of it. 
  • I wanted a button ... I wanted a kill button ... I wanted to kill myself ... and perhaps I would have. As it turned out, I was paralyzed anyway ... I wouldn't have been able to push the button (ironic!)
  • One of Robin Williams closest friends was Christopher Reeve. Reeve broke his neck in a terrible riding accident. His injury was much worse than mine. He himself considered suicide:
    After considering his situation, believing that not only would he never walk again, but that he might never move a body part again, Reeve considered suicide. He mouthed to Dana, "Maybe we should let me go." She tearfully replied, "I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you." Reeve never considered suicide as an option again
  • God did not give me "the kill switch". I did briefly ponder suicide. Two of the men I was hospitalized with made that choice. Both were my contemporaries
  • I have chosen to live. Every day is a gift. No day is so dark that I don't look forward to the prospects of the next
  • Suicide means to kill oneself. God said "Thou shalt not kill" and that includes myself. God has something for me to do ... until He calls me home! Killing me is His prerogative.

How I kind of envisioned my own personal "kill switch". The button was red:

For a reader considering suicide ... get help


The "Do-Gooder" US Foreign Policy releases "The Howling Man"

There’s a lesson here for do-gooders everywhere

The Southern tradition is to deal with life as it is rather than forcing the world to conform to some abstract ideal. As Richard Weaver once noted, “The Southerner accepts the irremediability of a certain amount of evil and tries to fence it around instead of trying to stamp it out and thereby spreading it. His is a classical acknowledgment of tragedy and of the limits of power.” That reminds me of a classic Twilight Zone episode, “The Howling Man.” Thinking he is helping an innocent man cruelly imprisoned by religious fanatics, a tourist unwittingly frees the Devil. There’s a lesson here for do-gooders everywhere:
Laura Ingraham: ‘Iraq Is Worse Off’ Now Than Under Saddam
Ingraham contended that military action in the country — even to prevent genocide and oppression — seems to always backfire. “We try to do all these things in Iraq, now Iraq is worse off,” she said. “I mean, I hate to say that, but Iraq is worse than before we went into Iraq.” “Christians are gone, there’s no sense of order at all,” she explained. “Saddam Hussein is gone, that’s a good thing. But what’s left? A more emboldened Islamic State, not contained, apparently, even by U.S. airstrikes.”
Army colonel: Don't go back to Iraq
We fought long and hard, spending over $25 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces. We helped them develop a working government based on democratic principles. And while it might be wholly appropriate for the U.S. to provide humanitarian aid to those under siege, it's the responsibility of the Iraqis to protect Iraq. As someone who helped train these forces, I know they have the capability to stand and fight. The training wheels have to come off. While it is frustrating and painful to watch militants take over a third of the country, we must focus on the here and now. The responsibility is to our soldiers who spent 13 years at war accomplishing what they were asked to do, often at a great cost. I fought to help my Iraqi friends and fellow soldiers establish a rule of law, and we achieved remarkable results. Civilian casualties fell from an estimated 29,380 in 2006 to 4,153 in 2011. In Diyala province, we went from 1,500 violent acts a month to less than 250. What is happening now should not detract from that success.

Comment: In Syria, in Libya, in Iraq ... our involvement has backfired.

2014: What about the Senate?

A series of links
  • 270towin.com/2014-senate-election (simulation website ... image screen shot above)
  • fivethirtyeight: "So it’s almost certain that Republicans are going to gain seats. The question is whether they’ll net the six pickups necessary to win control of the Senate."
  • peoplespunditdaily: "But, for now, the Republican Party is favored to win control of the U.S. Senate, with a likely net gain of 6 — 8 seats"
  • washingtonpost: "New Election Lab forecast suggests 86 percent chance that GOP wins Senate"


USA Today predicts Republican pickup in Mid-Terms

Democrats have no hope of taking over the House

Comment: Seems about right (pickup of 2). From what I am hearing the Republicans will take the Senate.


Retiring Abroad

31% of Americans have no retirement savings at all

It's no secret that many Americans aren't saving enough for retirement, but a big chunk of households have saved nothing at all. Nearly a third, or 31% of U.S. adults said they had no savings or pension to help them afford retirement, according to the Federal Reserve Board. Even more alarming: 19% of those very close to retirement age, between the ages of 55 and 64, said they had no savings. As a result, more than half of these respondents said they planned to either work full-time or part-time during their retirement years
Comment: Scary!!!!

5 reasons not to retire in the U.S. - The number of retirees overseas has more than doubled in 10 years
Americans’ dollars have more buying power in countries with a favorable exchange rate. Michael Ward, CEO of Europe and North America at USForex, an international money transfer service, notes that Americans abroad will only get around 75 euro cents on the U.S. dollar. However, the Czech Republic is not part of the Eurozone and, therefore has a more favorable exchange rate. Costa Rica, Argentina and Mexico are other countries with a good exchange rate and lower cost of living than the U.S., he says. For the truly adventurous, the U.S./Australian dollar rate has greatly improved over the last year, Ward adds.
Comment: Close friends are intending in retiring to Costa Rica. He was born there and they have a farm AND beachfront property in Costa Rica. He is currently retired and she is 2 years away from retirement. Image source


Paragon Offshore - A Dividend Opportunity

Paragon Offshore

Comments: Newly spun off from Nobel. I have all of 10 shares. Quote


Stock Buybacks: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Apple Buybacks Pay Most Ever as CEOs Spend $211 Billion on Their Own Shares
Apple's $18 billion repurchase in the first quarter and the $16 billion it spent between April and June of 2013 are the two biggest buybacks by any company in data compiled by S&P starting in 1998. They came as the stock advanced as much as 77 percent over 15 months after falling to a 16-month low in April 2013. The return followed the weakest period for Apple shares in the last decade. After vaulting almost 900 percent from the end of 2005 through September 2012 and becoming the world's largest company by market value, Apple plunged 44 percent in seven months amid concern about new products and competition. Impeccable Timing "Their timing was impeccable," Todd Lowenstein, who helps manage $16 billion at Highmark Capital Management in Los Angeles, said in a July 31 phone interview. "They went in big, and it said to the market that they had confidence in their business plan and thought their stock was grossly undervalued. That's worked out well for them." Companies spending the most on their own stock are outperforming the S&P 500. The 100 firms with biggest buybacks relative to market value have gained 5.5 percent this year, compared with a 4.9 percent increase in the benchmark index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Stock buybacks: Buy high and sell low Excerpt:
In 2006 and 2007 timber giant Weyerhaeuser ( WY ) conducted one of the biggest share buybacks in its history. It unleashed $800 million to purchase its shares, which were dancing near an all-time high of $80. In 2009, with the stock at $30, the company spent a mere $2 million on its own stock. Similarly, semiconductor equipment maker MEMC Electronic Materials ( WFR ) purchased $100 million of its shares near their peak of $90 in 2007. Today the shares are trading at $8, and MEMC shows no signs that it’s buying. Then there’s the ultimate horror story: Citigroup ( C ) spent $31 billion last decade on its own stock, only to see it crash 97%. Citi then needed $45 billion in infusions from the government. Call it the other bubble: From 2004 to 2008 companies flush with cash and confidence spent $1.8 trillion on their own soaring shares. When the market collapsed, what did they do? Rather than take advantage of discount share prices, as wise investors are supposed to do, they stopped buying. Indeed, the chart below illustrates just how closely share buybacks track the markets, when they should be doing the opposite.
How Does Buying Back Stock Affect Stockholders Equity? Excerpt:
When a company buys back stock from the public, it is returning a portion of its contributed capital to shareholders. Those shareholders are literally cashing in their equity. As a result, total stockholders' equity declines. It's important to note, however, that the remaining shareholders -- those who didn't sell their shares back to the company -- don't really "lose" anything when equity declines through buybacks. After a buyback, there is less equity in the company, but there are also fewer shareholders with a claim on that equity. In fact, by reducing the supply of company stock available in the market, buybacks tend to push share prices up, which leaves the remaining shareholders with stock that's more valuable than before. A stock buyback is solely a balance sheet transaction, meaning that it doesn't affect the company's revenue or profits. When a company buys back stock, it first reduces its cash account on the asset side of the balance sheet by the amount of the buyback. Say a company repurchases 100,000 shares for $50 each. The company would subtract $5 million from its cash balance. In the equity section, the company increases the "treasury stock" account by $5 million. Treasury stock represents money paid out to reacquire stock; it is a "contra equity" account that offsets contributed capital, so increasing treasury stock $5 million has the effect of reducing net contributed capital $5 million. The balance sheet is back in balance.
Comment: First article ... the success of Apple in buying back shares. Second article ... the less than successful buybacks by three companies. Finally the third article .. what it means to the company's balance sheet and to the stockholder. Image source from Ebay.

World Series Joy Contrasted with a Boy's Mourning in the Loss of His Mother

Death, Resurrection, and Carlton Fisk's World Series Home Run

On Tuesday, I didn't go to the visitation. Instead I watched the World Series with Wally. I didn't care who won the game, but as Fisk hit the game-ending homerun, Wally and I got caught up in the moment of the event. NBC replayed it over and over again until it was engrained in my mind. The next day, my family buried my mother.

... The Western calendar is divided between B.C. and A.D, with the birth of Christ marking the transition from one era to the other. My life could be divided between pre-October 1975 and post-October 1975. Carlton Fisk's homerun became a permanent marker of the transition from one period to the other, from carefree childhood to adult loss, disappointment, and pain.

... For years, I had hoped my mother would not have died when she did. I had hoped my life would have been different. I had hoped that I was not defined by death and mourning. My mother's death was the end of the story. All that was left was for me to die one day. All I saw was death. All the disciples saw was crucifixion, but what they did not see in Jesus' crucifixion is that God was submitting himself to and participating in a world where so much fails to work out the way we want or plan or expect. He doesn't stand aloof, accepting the results. God is not a spectator in heaven, untouched by suffering, pain and death. God enters our world of crucifixion and makes it a world of resurrection. I now react to Carlton Fisk's homerun with what Lewis called Sehnsucht, the longing "to find the place where all the beauty came from," my country, the place where I ought to have been born, the longing for home. It is a bitter reminder that we were not meant for death yet daily experience the many faces of it, waiting for the time when death itself will die. The Bible reveals very little about heaven. But it speaks of a new earth and a new heaven, where God will dwell with us, where he will wipe away every tear, where there no longer will be any death or mourning or crying or pain.
Comment: A very good read by a man now 50. He lost his Mother at the age of 12. I remember this World Series so well because I'm from Cincinnati and was a huge Red's fan. Kathee and I were newlyweds and living in Tampa Florida

Goldman Sachs: Long Term Stock Prospects

Here’s What Will Happen When Fed Raises Rates

Stocks look much more attractive than bonds–at least through 2018. “We forecast a dramatic divergence between stock and bond returns during the next several years,” a Goldman team led by stock strategist David Kostin wrote to clients this week. Goldman predicts the S&P 500 will generate a 6% annualized total return between now and 2018, compared to a 1% annualized gain for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, assuming the Fed starts raising rates in the middle of next year. Goldman predicts the federal funds rate, which has been pinned near zero since the financial crisis, will reach 4% by 2018. The last time the Fed raised rates was in June 2006. ... Goldman predicts the S&P 500 will rise by about 8% over the next 12 months, which would take the stock index close to 2100. It closed Monday at 1939. The firm estimates the S&P 500 will reach 2300 by the year 2018, with the 10-year yield climbing to 4.5% from its current 2.5% level. Bond yields and prices move inversely of one another. And as the Fed gradually raises rates over the next several years, Goldman expects the U.S. economy will keep growing at about a 2.0%-to-2.5% rate.

Goldman: 'Dramatic divergence' coming in market
Stocks will significantly outperform bonds in the years ahead as investors get used to interest rates that will rise more than consensus expectations, according to an analysis from Goldman Sachs. Goldman foresees the Federal Reserve raising rates in the third quarter of 2015 and taking its funds rate all the way to 4 percent eventually, about double the level predicted by many in the market, including bond manager Pimco, which foresees a short-term "neutral" level of half that. "We forecast a dramatic divergence between stock and bond returns during the next several years," Goldman strategist David J. Kostin and others wrote in a note to clients.
Comment: We have several Bond ETFs: BND and AGG. Neither are performing well.


Kathee went crazy with the clippers: Before and After

Comment: Kathee went crazy with the clippers

Sharknado 2 - yes I watched it

Three Secrets That Made Sharknado 2 the Biggest TV Movie Ever

Why it worked for me:
  • It was incredibly stupid but it was played that way - it was not intended to be taken seriously (unlike Jaws or Jurassic Park sequels)
  • The actors played it as camp
  • Al Roker and Matt Lauer and the ridiculous weather reporting : "sharks falling at 2" per hour"

Take a Retirement Annuity or a Lump Sum?

Take a retirement annuity or a lump sum?

Theoretically, you often can make more money by taking a lump sum and investing it than by accepting the annuity, which offers a lifetime stream of payments. But perhaps you've heard the quote "In theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they are not." Anyone who knows much about behavioral finance knows there are many, many ways such a plan can go wrong. You could pick the wrong investments, take too much or too little risk, trade too much or spend too much, and wind up much worse off than if you'd chosen the annuity. You could turn over the investing decisions to a pro, but there's no guarantee that person won't make mistakes. Even if he or she chooses great investments and allocates your assets well, your nest egg could still take a hit from the market. If you were comfortable taking that extra risk to get the extra possible reward of more cash, accepting the lump sum would be the way to go.
Comment: Image source with a related article: Using Annuities to Generate Retirement Income . We've worked through this and decided to take the lump sums. Both of us qualify (we were grand-fathered in to the previous company's retirement plan) and the total amount is not insignificant. The annuity option would provide a greater monthly income but have nothing left for the estate.

Retirement and Taxes

Taxes to Watch Out for in Retirement

Taxes are likely to be one of your biggest bills in retirement, especially if you have done most of your saving in tax-deferred retirement accounts. But where you live plays a big role in the tax rate you pay on your retirement income. "Taxes are not the only thing that matters for retirement, but they can definitely have a sizable impact as people start to narrow down which states they are considering for retirement," says Scott Drenkard, an economist for The Tax Foundation. "I think one of the driving reasons to move to Florida is because the weather is a lot nicer, and there's no tax on income." Here are the taxes to consider as you select a place to retire:

Income tax. If your retirement income is high enough that you will owe taxes on it in retirement, you can reduce your tax burden if you move from a state with high income taxes to one without an income tax. Seven states do not have an individual income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Two other states -- New Hampshire and Tennessee -- tax dividend and interest income only. However, reducing your income tax bill isn't a guarantee that your overall tax bill will decline. "Before impulsively moving to a state without an income tax, though, the retiree should make sure he or she isn't trading one tax for another," says Twila Slesnick, co-author of "Nolo's Essential Retirement Tax Guide." "For example, although Texas does not have an income tax, the average property tax rate in the state is quite high. You might find that you are paying more in property taxes in the new state than you were paying in income tax and property tax combined in the old state."
Comment: We don't really have a tax avoidance plan. My brother is planning on moving to Wyoming (May 2016). He loves the West. He and his wife formerly lived in Colorado and she has family there. One of my brother-in-laws is preparing to re-domicile in Florida (from Edina MN). They own a condo in Naples and are already gone from the state (MN) for almost 6 months. His main reason to re-domicile is estate taxes. I used to talk about moving to Tennessee but of late (the last 2 years) we have planned to stay in Minnesota. One child has moved away. If one more would move away we would move. But the other two are planning on staying here. Image source with a related article


Computer Programming Is a Trade

Computer Programming Is a Trade; Let's Act Like It


If you're a young person who is thinking about becoming a computer programmer but can't afford college, you might think about skipping college altogether, says Ryan Carson, co-founder of an online coding school. And he isn't alone. In interviews with other code-school founders, I heard the same story again and again: Committed programming students are getting jobs whether or not they have a college degree and whether or not they are starting careers or switching, midlife, from another field. The most intensive schools, like Seattle-based Code Fellows, are so sure they can get students work they will refund a student's tuition—$12,000 for 16 blitzkrieg weeks to get a person from zero to trained—if that person doesn't get a job. .... it turns out that a computer-science degree isn't necessary to get a job in programming. Fourteen percent of the members of some teams at Google don't have a college degree, and 67% of the programming jobs in the U.S. are at nontech companies where other kinds of industry experience are more likely to be valued. Computer programming, in other words, has become a trade. Like nursing or welding, it's something in which a person can develop at least a basic proficiency within weeks or months. And once budding coders learn enough to get their first jobs, they get onto the same path to upward mobility offered to their in-demand, highly paid peers.
Comment: codefellows.org Imagine ... a high paying job after 12 weeks of training.



Phlebotomy technician

I did the every 8 week blood donation today. I asked the 23 year old phlebotomist where she was trained (Century College - link above). I also guessed her wage at $ 28,000. This young single mother of two boys, invested 9 weeks and $ 1,300 for training. Straight out her wage was $ 13.30 per hour and she received a 30¢ raise after a short period. I actually know a seminary graduate who at the age of 30 makes just about the same amount
Comment: Image source

Dispassionate Investing

Sells in the last several weeks: Kellogg's, Molson Coors, Colgate-Palmolive. In essence taking capital gains and investing in stocks I consider a better value - Eg. Agrium, TransCanada Corporation, Ensco plc
Comment: Image source