...but Rep. Barney Frank is trying to make it a reality.
He wants the right to regulate the pay of ALL EMPLOYEES of ANY company who received government funds. This means that Washington, D.C. could set the salaries, benefits, bonuses, and perks for virtually every bank in the country. Plus, presumably, the auto makers and other companies currently begging for bailout money. The bill would be retroactive, so everyone who has ever accepted a penny would be covered.
Who says they can't pass an Ex Post Facto law? The Constitution? Silly rabbit.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
...but Rep. Barney Frank is trying to make it a reality.
If you are a PC user, remember that the Conficker worm/computer virus is set to activate tonight at midnight.
Be sure to update your virus scanner, install security updates, and confirm that you are not infected. If you are, this worm could take control of your computer and use it to do any number of illegal things, including capturing your credit card numbers during shopping online.
If you are a Mac or Linux user, you are safe.
Most Mod-Bloggers know that I have been enjoying biking for the last year, and those of you who have ridden with me know that I have been enjoying the various rail-trails that Connecticut has to offer. For those of you who are not aware, a rail-trail is a biking/hiking trail that has been built on an old railroad bed that had been abandoned. It is a good way to make use of the many level areas of continuous path that are left over from the age of the iron horse.
It now appears that Connecticut will be using some of its stimulus money to extend and refurbish existing rail-trails across the state. While I am not a fan of the pork-laden stimulus package, I can think of worse things to spend the money on.
For years, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have set themselves up as the ultimate spokespeople for animals in their interactions with humans. They have attacked celebrities who wear fur, they have criticized pet owners, and they have lambasted meat-eaters as mass murderers. Now, a new report is questioning this stand by noting how few pets turned over to PETA survived the experience.
According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.It should be noted this release was NOT from an uninterested third-party, but rather an organization that has attacked PETA in the past. Still, the report appears to be quite damning.
Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.
Monday, March 30, 2009
...I have two questions to ask President Obama...
...which I hope he addressed and I have just not found online.
1. Why is the government essentially subsidizing a buyout of Chrysler by an Italian company (Fiat)? If we're letting the jobs go overseas, why not just let it go bankrupt?
2. How does it help GM to sell cars to know the warrantee on it is run by the same people who are talking about rationing Health Care? ("Well, technically the fuel injectors are covered, but we don't deem that a critical issue. Come back in 6 months and try again.")
Is it any surprise that the market is greeting this announcement with a stock selloff?
Posted by Nomad at 12:55 PM
Sunday, March 29, 2009
In the emotional days after 9/11, the owners of the World Trade Center land promised that the replacement to the fallen towers would be a monument to those who died, to be called "the Freedom Tower." This was presented as a way to honor the fallen - and prove our victory over the terrorists - without requiring a more formal monument or grave site. But now, the owners are backpedaling and apparently want to use the more humble "One World Trade Center" monicker.
The change from Freedom Tower was revealed Thursday at a news conference where the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced the signing of the first commercial lease in the building to a Chinese company. The building is expected to be completed in late 2013.I understand the intent here, I think. First, One World Trade Center is highly descriptive and brings about a level of credibility to any business firm that chooses to do business there. And second - though this is unsaid in the article - avoiding the name "Freedom Tower" is probably seen as a way to avoid making the new tower a too-tempting target for politically-minded ne'er-do-wells, whether they be terrorists or hostile powers. But we need to understand that the blood of thousands has been shed on this site, and we also need to honor the dead with some kind of monument or memorial. Any attempt to return to business-as-usual without remembering those lost will simply make the building a pariah in NYC and for any who remembers the horror of those days.
"We've referred to the primary building planned for the site as One World Trade Center -- its legal name and street address -- for almost two years now, as well as using the name the Freedom Tower," said Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the Port Authority, in a statement released to CNN. "Many will always refer to it as the Freedom Tower, but as the building moves out of the planning stage and into full construction and leasing, we believe that going forward it is most practical to market the building as One World Trade Center."
Saturday, March 28, 2009
A good week for weight loss and biking! For weight loss, I hit a new low of 207.0 lbs after a few weeks or more or less static weight. I am back up to riding 12 miles a night on the stationary bike, which amounts to an hour of riding, and the hour of riding always makes a big difference over 45 minutes (10 miles) in my body's fitness and rate of weight loss. I am wondering if I might actually go below 200 lbs before the one-year anniversary of my biking career on June 1. My original goal was to reach 230 lbs before then, and I have been below there for a long time now (since December). It is nice to have a new goal to shoot for, but I need to remind myself that the real test is not losing MORE weight, but keeping off what I have lost in the long-term. That is why brings about real health benefits.
On the biking front, I had a new challenge at an old place this past weekend. We went riding with the Bowhunter Family along the Stratford Shore again. But this time, I was the carriage horse who was pulling the trailer with the Bowhunter babies for the entire ride (12 miles). This is like adding back in the 75 lbs I have lost so far back onto my body for the rate of the entire ride. The girls seemed to enjoy it (they both fell comfortably asleep to the smooth rhythm of the pedaling, and woke up happy afterward) and it forced my body to work a lot harder than usual. It also kept me from outpacing the others who are not biking every night. :-) Most of the time. Bowhunter confided to me at the end that after that ride I had pulled the girls in the trailer for more consecutive miles than he had ever done. Nice! (Bowhunter has been biking for decades, and had pulled the girls to the grocery store in that trailer many times.)
This upcoming week may be a bit leaner in terms of outdoor biking opportunities. Saturday is spoken for with Quiz Team and Sunday is spoken for with a family/friends-as-close-as-family commitment. But with the sunset later, it is possible we may be able to sneak in a few opportunities. We shall see.
Friday, March 27, 2009
As we struggle to deal with the Recession and its various economic crises, it is useful to look back on history as a guide. TheAtlantic.Com has up an article from a former IMF executive who things we should NOT look back to the Great Depression, but to the third-world IMF bailouts of the 80s and 90s for clues to what caused our problems.
In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.While I am certainly no financial whiz, this smacks of truth to me. We keep seeing Washington DC eager to bail out companies "too big to fail", to assume debt from failed enterprises, and to "tweak the system" in an attempt to turn back the clock of history. But why not allow failed companies to... well... fail? Because they contributed a LOT to your election, and their failure would bankrupt you for the next election cycle. The marriage of money and power always leads to problems for a democracy.
But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
I had noticed a lot more large families at the churches I attend and visit. Whereas one day four kids was a lot, nowadays at many churches you see families of 7 or 10. I thought it was interesting, but apparently it is a movement. Who knew?
The movement, called Quiverfull, is based on Psalm 127, which says, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."...The Swansons subscribe to the Quiverfull movement.Honestly, I find the idea a bit strange, although I know this kind of thing was the norm only a few generations ago. My grandfather came from a huge family... but only a small number made it to adulthood. Is this a reaction to the overpopulation mania of the 70s, or a real Biblical idea?
"When we first got married, we actually didn't want children," Kelly's husband, Jeff Swanson, says.
But then the Swansons began to notice that the Bible was very high on big families. And Kelly says that she and Jeff decided that God knew how many children they could handle.
"We just started thinking, 'God is sovereign over life and death. God opens and closes the womb,' " Kelly says. "That's what his word says, so why we're trying to fiddle around and controlling ourselves, we need to stop doing that."
Thursday, March 26, 2009
A leader in a Romanian district has decided that saving money in these tough economic times should be a higher priority than some people's comfort. He has ordered that the elevators at the Prefects office only run from 7am-9am and 3pm-5pm. This seems like a good idea to me as that will let most people use the elevators, but will cut out the inefficient times. I know this can't happen in the US because of Disability laws, but I hope this will spur other on to creative ways to save money.
Secretary of the Treasure Tim Geithner today laid out his plans to overhaul regulation of the financial services industry with significant new regulation and oversight.
There is a lot to be said about these actions by Secretary Geithner, but I really have just one question for Mod-Bloggers. Why is every financial plan out of the Obama White House "The Geithner Plan"? Shouldn't at least some of these be "The Obama Plan"? We have the Monroe Doctrine, the Bush Doctrine, etc., but the current president seems loathe to put his own name onto anything. Perhaps to provide deniability when/if the plan should fail.
Posted by Nomad at 11:00 AM
Ah, the joys of a television show that is both beloved and highly flammable. Apparently, Mythbusters was filming a segment on explosives when they used a tad too much ammonium nitrate. When it was set off, it caused panic in a nearby town and shattered windows.
It sounds like in the end no one was hurt, and the show is paying to replace the shattered windows. Still, it is a reminder that even entertainment can be hazardous in our day and age.
Posted by Nomad at 8:33 AM
I don't agree with President Obama on many things, but I am continually impressed by the innovation his administration is bringing to the online experience. George W. Bush's White House could not even back up their e-mails properly, but Barack Obama's White House is hosting an online town hall meeting where users both submit questions to the president and then vote on which ones he should address.
It may well be that we'll learn the questions actually get picked by Obama's handlers. But if this is real, it is really a great thing to try out.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
While many of us lean right here at Mod-Blog, we try to tell both sides of the story whenever possible. So, it was with great interest that I saw the NYTimes had posted a resignation letter from an AIG executive who was in the middle of the bonuses scandal. It gives an eloquent defense of the bonuses and is worth a read.
The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers...As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.
Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.
Did you know if you are a PC owner that your machine may be hiding a dark secret? As many as 10 million PCs are believed to be infected with a worm program called "Conficker C" which is currently dormant, but appears set to activate on April 1. What the program will do on April 1 is unknown, but it may allow some remote criminal to take control of the entire network of computers.
More likely, though, said DeBolt, the virus may try to get computer users to buy fake software or spend money on other phony products.If you own a PC without up-to-date virus protection and the latest updates, you have 6 days to deal with this. After that point, if you are infected then you are at risk for anything from stolen personal information to someone piping illegal materials thru your machine. Now is the time to get right. Or get a Mac (sorry, couldn't resist).
Experts said computer hackers largely have moved away from showboating and causing random trouble. They now usually try to make money off their viral programs.
DeBolt said Conficker C imbeds itself deep in the computer where it is difficult to track. The program, for instance, stops Windows from conducting automatic updates that could prevent the malware from causing damage.
The program's code is also written to evolve over time and its author appears to be making updates to thwart some of the Conficker Cabal's attempts to neuter the worm.
Yeah, it is a cheap publicity stunt, but such things can sometimes be important for inspiring us. The CEO of UnderArmour clothing has cut his salary from $500K to $26K when his company failed to meet sales goals. The salary is the same amount he earned in his first year as CEO.
Such symbolic gestures are sometimes important to motivate the rank-and-file that make a company run. Moves like this bring about hope and a sense of teamwork. The alternative is the sense of fear that comes with layoffs, or the sense of injustice that comes from seeing failed executives walk away will millions in bonuses.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state was one of the formative events of my youth. I still remember finding ash on my father's car on the East Coast a few days later. It kindled a life-long love of geology and vulcanism. Now, we may be seeing the birth of another generation of geologists as Alaska's Mount Redoubt has erupted!
A total of five "explosive events" were recorded at Mount Redoubt, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters Monday.The eruption is not nearly as spectacular as Mount Saint Helens and is unlikely to effect the mainland of the USA. But it is still fascinating to know that the Earth is far less stable and certain than we usually take for granted.
The eruptions sent ash columns some 60,000 feet into the air above the snow-covered peak, and several communities west of Anchorage, Alaska, reported falling ash, officials said.
It also raised concern about ash fallout in towns near the volcano.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Since Secretary Geithner announced his $1 trillion plan for combating the economic crisis, there has been a surplus of critics and a shortage of defenders. The whole thing looks like a boondoggle to most of us. But I was able to find one intelligent defense of the package that is worth a read for Conservatives and Liberals alike.
Q: Where does the trillion dollars come from?
A: $150 billion comes from the TARP in the form of equity, $820 billion from the FDIC in the form of debt, and $30 billion from the hedge fund and pension fund managers who will be hired to make the investments and run the program's operations.
Q: Why is the government making hedge and pension fund managers kick in $30 billion?
A: So that they have skin in the game, and so do not take excessive risks with the taxpayers' money because their own money is on the line as well.
Q: Why then should hedge and pension fund managers agree to run this?
A: Because they stand to make a fortune when markets recover or when the acquired toxic assets are held to maturity: they make the full equity returns on their $30 billion invested--which is leveraged up to $1 trillion with government money.
Reading thru an article by Elliot Spitzer this morning, I was stricken again by the phrase "too big to fail" which has been flung around by protectionists and internationalists alike, of late. The phrase has been applied to multiple financial institutions and to the Big 3 car-makers, with the claim that if they went bankrupt that the economic ripples would become a tidal wave. Those looking to save the institutions are clear to say that they do not advocate socialism or nationalization as a cure.
But really, if we're even using the phrase "too big to fail" aren't we already socialized? A fundamental tenet of capitalism is that failure is a good thing. The ability to fail allows corrupt or inefficient companies to be eliminated without the need for outside influence. It punishes bad decisions (with bankruptcy) and rewards good decisions (with wealth). By saying a company is "too big to fail", we are (1) not allowing the market to work for us and eliminate failed companies, and (2) we are encouraging ALL companies to become "too big to fail". We have socialized our economy by deciding which companies deserve to live and die, and governmentally-enforcing which companies are on top.
It is time to start calling this "too big to fail" mentality what it is. And it is time to start thinking about allowing companies like AIG to fail. Some cancers can be treated. But others can only be cured by cutting them out, despite the pain and recovery time that the body must go thru.
New York has its share of controversial celebrities, but George Webber was never one of them. Mr. Webber, a news anchorman for WABC radio, was found stabbed to death this weekend in his apartment.
News ran through his veins and arteries 24 hours a day," Sliwa said.Ironically, his death is sure to be one heck of a news story for some young reporter.
"He wasn't a rip-and-read newsman. He wanted to be there," he said. "And you know what his trick was? He'd pack up his dog, Noodles, a dachshund, and walk him there. People would see the dog, they'd pet the dog, they'd get a level of comfort with him. And then he could get them to talk."
Sunday, March 22, 2009
More and more these days, it is clear that money is an illusion - an artificial means of tracking value that is more game than reality. So why do we remain obsessed with money? Why are so many willing to do evil things to get more of it? New studies indicate that love of money really is about making yourself God... which cuts you further and further off from your fellow man.
Vohs suggests there is a simple dynamic at work here. "Money makes people feel self-sufficient," she says. "They are more likely to put forth effort to attain personal goals, and they also prefer to be separate from others." The touchy-feely social side of us may disapprove of such behaviour but it is useful for survival...Numerous psychological studies have found a general trade-off between the pursuit of so-called extrinsic aspirations - such as wealth, but also fame and image - and intrinsic aspirations, such as building and maintaining strong personal relationships. People who report a focus on the former score low on indicators of mental health, and those strongly motivated by money are also more likely to find their marriage ending in divorce.
We're all familiar now with the AIG bonuses debacle. A group of AIG employees ran their business into the ground, sought a taxpayer-funded bailout, and then walked away with millions of dollars. This is clearly an injustice, which numerous government agencies and authorities are now looking to rectify.
But now the administration is looking for authority to regulate the pay of all bank executives. This means that the government could mandate the maximum amount that your bank - whether a one branch shop or a multinational corporation - can pay the people most responsible for how your money is protected. Presumably a bg part of this will be keeping salaries to "reasonable" levels.
What will this mean? One of two things. Either (1) the smartest people leaving banking for less regulated and thus more dangerous industries (energy conglomerates, perhaps) or (2) the people really running your bank leaving "executive" positions to places on the org chart with equal power but far less accountability. Do either of these options sound good for your future financial safety?
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wow, this last week was a tale of two cities - the best of times and the worst of times. On the downside, I gained about 5 lbs over a "free weekend" when I allowed myself to eat what I wanted (except sugar). I enjoyed potato chips, french fries, and pizza and OH! it tasted good. But I paid for it as the pounds piled back on to a max of 213 lbs on Tuesday. But the UPSIDE of "free" times is they allow my metabolism to "reset" and any sense my body had of having to hoard energy is wiped out. So, I made it back down to my previous low of 208 lbs by Friday meaning the "free weekend" was a wash in the end. I am hopeful it means some new lows to come soon.
But besides the food, this weekend was also great because I got to ride with CRChair and Bowhunter along the shore in Stratford. We had an unbalanced ride for the first half, as not only were Bowhunter and CRChair held back by less training (I am doing 10 miles a night on the stationary bike right now, and they are doing 10 miles of life instead) but Bowhunter was also weighted down by a trailer in which he was pulling the Bowhunter babies. But about halfway thru, he decided I was ready for a little parental responsibility (and a little challenge) and strapped the trailer onto MY bike. Hmmm... A little bit more difficult! I was just about pulling the same weight that I was pulling when I started my biking journey! :-D But I kept up the same speed as before, and we had a great time. We did 10.6 miles which is less than usual, but not bad for a Sunday.
This next week looks positive. We're planning to bike again on Sunday (Saturday is booked with social events) and I'll be on-plan all week, eating-wise. And, we're looking forward to the return of biking up to Captains for GNO, every Tuesday - also known as "REAL biking up major hills." Oh, what fun!
Friday, March 20, 2009
I come from a conservative background of the Protestant church tradition. My friends and family tend to be non-demonstrative lot at church, with little more than the occasional "A-men!" when we are REALLY moved. So, it has bothered me to see a particular phenomenon from the charismatic/pentecostal tradition starting to appear in church - the raising of hands. This action, usually done during singing, always seemed showy to me and distracting. But, it is important to separate "it bothers me" from "it is wrong." So, I decided to do some research into the phenomenon, and see what the Bible had to say.
First, I found an amazing number of defenses of the practice online. The best explanation of why people lift their hands in worship came from here.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of surrender.The "surrender" symbolism is especially significant, it seems to me. In my own observation, I have noticed that the lifting of hands is especially common among women in the churches I have visited. Surrender is something that is culturally-appropriate for women in America - giving oneself to your husband, to your children, to your church, to your friends - but is less culturally-appropriate to the rugged individualism which governs men in our culture.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of trust.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of openness.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of affection.
In looking through scripture, there appears to be three classifications for the raising of hands:
1. Prayer (5 references): 1 Timothey 2:8, Lamentations 3:40-42, Psalm 28:1-2, Psalm 141:1-2, Nehemiah 8:5-6
2. Worship (2 references): Psalms 63:3-4, Psalm 134:1-3
3. Study (1 reference): Psalm 119:48
Going by the pure number of references, it is clear scripture favors the raising of hands as a posture of PRAYER over worship. However, it is equally clear that scripture does call for the lifting of hands in worship. One interesting note from the same article listed above may be significant in this.
The Hebrew word for hand is the word yad; yadah means to “throw out the hand” or to worship with extended hands.Which may indicate that the extension of hands to an object of adoration is simply an assumption of Hebrew culture.
Another article noted one other aspect of the raising of hands - which C.S. Lewis also applies to kneeling in The Screwtape Letters - is that movements and positions of the body influence the attitude of the mind and heart.
But of note also is this article which makes the claim that all raising-of-hands references in the old testament are related to the sacrificial system, and thus are inappropriate to a Christian world where sacrifices have been fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Christ. The author dismisses the 1 Timothy 2:8 scripture as a figurative passage asking for "clean hands" of Christians.
Overall, the middle road here appears to be that the raising of hands is a Biblical practice. It is permitted and encouraged by Scripture, but is not commanded or required. This article does a good job of summarizing what I have come to: worshiping with lifted hands is appropriate and scriptural, but should be done with an eye toward its potential impact on others around you. If you are in a service with people who will find it distracting, or who will be tempted toward showing off, then keep your hands down. If you are in a service where people are comfortable or ambivalent to the practice, go right ahead.
For me, this study has been a comfort. It reminds me that my own prejudices should not rule how I view others, or their relationship with God. Surely, some raise their hands to be showy. But others do so with sincere hearts, looking to praise God and obey scripture.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
One of the most important parts of the systems I have worked on in the past are the audit logs. These logs track user and system activities, and often provide the ONLY reliable window into the true inner workings of your system. When something goes wrong, there is NOTHING better than being able to go back to the logs and see every step, in order, and see where it went wrong.
Unfortunately, Diebold's electronic election machines do not record everything. Adding to the long history of concerns about reliability, researchers have discovered that it is possible to delete votes from an election on a Diebold machine and nothing shows in the audit log. This means even if electoral fraud/manipulation were suspected, it could never be proven/detected by the system.
It is time for a truly open-source approach to this problem. The saying is "light disinfects". The more eyes on a piece of software, the harder it becomes to hide bugs like this.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Coming into work the other day, I noticed a unique service that Bristol, CT appears to be offering to their citizens in these hard times. (I was unable to find confirmation of this online, so I am working off of a sign posted by the road.) The city has set up a bus service at least once a week to bring out-of-work residents to local job fairs! The citizens simply have to get to the bus (located in a central point of town) and the bus will take them to job fairs set up by other organizations in nearby towns. Thus, an out-of-work person doesn't need to spend time scouring the papers looking for job fairs nor waste a lot of gas driving all over the state chasing them. They simply have to find a way to the bus, and will have their chance to meet with businesses with open positions.
Seems like a GREAT idea, and relatively inexpensive. Why am I not hearing about more towns doing similar things for their residents?
Posted by Nomad at 9:08 AM
For years, nationalists and end-times conspiracy theorists have been suspicious of such global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the Global Criminal Court, etc. The fear has been that such organizations will eventually lead to a single world government that will trump all national laws. This has been regularly ridiculed by supporters of these international institutions as paranoid.
But now, people are beginning to talk about a "global currency" as a way to combat the current economic climate. A dictator once said something like, "Let me control the courts and the currency, and that gives me control of everything else." (Sorry, Google could not find the original quote quickly.) How long until an international bureaucracy is dictating the laws that control the lives of everyday Americans?
Or are we just being paranoid again?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
It is no surprise that the President wants to take a stand against AIG's unreasonable bonuses. But now, he apparently has ordered the Treasury Secretary to prevent payment altogether.
“In the last six months, A.I.G. has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury,” Mr. Obama said. He added that he had asked Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner “to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.”I'll say it again. It is time to stop trying to make corrupt banking executives do the right thing. It is time to start PUNISHING these executives for what they did wrong. Pay them their millions, and then start taking it back in fines and civil lawsuits. Who would want $6.5 million, if the cost is to have to pay back $20 million?
Later in the day, a White House official disclosed that the administration would use a pending $30 billion installment for A.I.G. to recoup the $165 million in retention payments to A.I.G. employees in the business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.
I may be in a bad area to judge, but while I hear a lot about the "Tea Parties" going on around the country, I don't see much of that sentiment in the Northeast. These political protests are patterned after the "Boston Tea Party" and are collecting together people who oppose the massive bailouts of lenders and those caught up in the Mortgage Meltdown.
What about you? Are you seeing a "Tea Party" mentality where you are? Mod-Bloggers cover a lot of the East and West Coast. I wonder if this sentiment shows up there, or only in the heartland.
Posted by Nomad at 8:28 AM
Hat-tip to Sean for posting this one on twitter. Apparently, there is an Episcopal priest in Seattle who is being defrocked for a simple reason. She has converted to Islam. And yet, apparently she is fighting the move.
Ann Holmes Redding, who marks the 25th anniversary of her ordination on March 25, says she believes she can practice both faiths and should not have to recant her Muslim beliefs...Jesus spoke to this pretty directly in Luke 16:13, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."
Wolf has told Redding that her conversion to Islam constitutes an abandonment of the Christian faith and she must recant by March 30 or lose her status as a priest.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
There is a saying that was popular a few years ago: "Common sense isn't common." And you can certainly see it at AIG, where even now, millions of dollars are being paid to executives of the division which caused AIG's collapse despite unrelenting public outcry.
The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.Clearly, it is time for the Federal government to stop simply playing the "carrot" of bailout money. It is time to also bring out the "stick" and begin prosecuting executives who caused these monumental collapses. If they want million dollar bonuses and AIG can't stop them, fine. But they had better be ready to pay out the bonuses as fines and in civil lawsuits.
The bonus plan covers 400 employees, and the bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $6.5 million. Seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses.
Release the hounds, Mr. President.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Finally, I have good news to report on both the biking front AND the weight loss front. First, on the weight loss front I hit a new low of 208.6 lbs this week - a full pound and a half under my goal weight of 210 lbs. And what is more, I kept it under 210 lbs pretty much the whole week. I had a major spike in weight over the weekend, for no discernible reason, but once I started losing on Monday night, the weight came off pretty quickly and stayed off. This is no doubt due to the fact that I am biking every day again and am doing 10 miles a day on the stationary bike. (Yes, virtual miles, my attic is not THAT large.) Using the distance goal (10 miles) instead of the time goal (60 minutes) is working well to keep me motivated. Time can be unforgiving. But distance means if I want it to go faster, I can simply pedal faster.
On the biking front, I took a long ride along the Stratford shoreline with CRChair, Nick, Bowhunter, Mrs. Bowhunter, and Brother-of-Bowhunter on Saturday. The weather was amazing - near 60 degrees Fahrenheit all afternoon with just enough wind to keep the sweat from sticking around. We rode well over 10 miles and saw many small signs that Spring may be in the air (despite the return to freezing weather during the week). The most fun moment was when Bowhunter, Nick, and I took an unexplored side trip on a dirt road and found ourselves on the wrong side of the Housatonic River. We found a narrow spot and each took a different tack. Bowhunter rode on thru, I walked on thru (in waterproof shoes), and Nick leaped over. One guess as to which method is my favorite to recount. This was also our largest biking group of all-time with 6 people on a single trip. This Spring, we plan to do some group rides which should dwarf this crowd. it was a great time.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Well, it was an awfully short honeymoon. Vivek Kundra has been placed on indefinite leave after a raid on his former offices in Washington D.C. Apparently, the FBI is investigating some of his business partners on bribery charges. The president says the action is merely because of an "abundance of caution".
Is it really so hard to find qualified, competent people without a skeleton in their closet? Or this merely a sign of the level of scrutiny that the new president is under? Either way, it would be good to see the cabinet forming up without so much turmoil
Apparently, we'll see a preview on March 17 The early rumors are the new iPhone OS will support MMS and tethering.
Tethering, for those not in the know, is the practice of hooking up your cell phone to your laptop, to use the cell phone's data services to access the internet. MMS is a service akin to text-messaging that allows sending pictures, sounds, and video between phones.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Yes, I know looking at Chuck Norris as an intellectual leader of the GOP is like looking at Jean Claude Van Damme as the intellectual leader of Europe. But talk like this of secession over the economy and the policies of Barack Obama needs to be called what it is - stupid, inflammatory rhetoric. And by EVERYONE who is a Republican needs to condemn it as unworthy of the party of Lincoln.
The Union survived John Adams's alien and sedition acts, we survived a Civil War, we survived FDR's alphabet soup programs, we survived LBJ's Great Society, and we survived George W. Bush's War-On-Terror-To-The-Exclusion-Of-Everything-Else. We will survive Barack Obama's policies. We may even thrive under some of them.
Stop talking secession - even in jest - and start talking about how to rebuild a party that represents YOUR ideas. Or else stop talking entirely.
Posted by Sean at 9:04 AM
The bill reported on by CRChair and I over the last couple of days which would have given the legislature the power to regulate church government, is apparently dead. The uproar appears to have been more than the bill's authors expected, and even after the bill was shelved there are protests planned in Hartford.
Hat Tip to Mod-Blog friend Nick for pointing out a very interesting commentary from the Christian Science Monitor about the Evangelical movement. The basic thesis is that "Evangelicalism" is dying and will see a collapse in terms of numbers, influence, and money in the next decade. This is blamed on an increasingly secular society and the failure of "evangelical" Christians to engage the larger culture.
WHY IS THIS GOING TO HAPPEN?Now, I am what most would call an "Evangelical." I am a bible-believing, born-again Christian who attends a church that believes the same and I take part in the larger "Christian culture" of music, movies, etc. I am not sure if the article writer is correct so much as I wonder if he is irrelevant. While I may be an "Evangelical," I have no particular love for any "Evangelical" culture. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If that is preached by "Evangelicals" or "Orthodox" or "Charasmatic" or "House Church" people, I am satisfied. I will admittedly be uncomfortable with the worship styles of some others (I don't even raise my hands during singing). But "uncomfortable" doesn't bother me in looking at the future, so long as the Cross of Christ is preached.
1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society...
2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it...
What do you think?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
CRChair reported yesterday on a bill being considered by the Connecticut legislature to mandate church governmental forms, especially Catholic churches. In the last 24 hours, several CT Mod-Bloggers contacted our state representatives on the subject and we got back some responses!
Thank you for your notes on Raised S.B. No. 1098 AN ACT MODIFYING CORPORATE LAWS RELATING TO CERTAIN RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS.And yet another for your consideration.
I agree that this legislation is an inappropriate invasion of religious freedom. I will actively oppose this bill and any other attempt of the state to interfere in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church or any religion.
I do not believe Connecticut should dictate to any religion how they should govern themselves, nor give the state broad investigatory powers whenever any allegation is brought forward. Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, and SB-1098 clearly violates the separation of church and state. All religions should have the right to govern themselves as their clergy and parishioners see fit—not have decisions forced on them by politicians in Hartford.
I am happy to report that following days of public pressure, the chairs of the Judiciary Committee have decided to table the bill and postpone a scheduled public hearing. However, given the late notice of the postponement and the importance of the issue at hand, Republican legislators will be holding an informational hearing of our own tomorrow (Wednesday March 11th) at 12:00pm in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.
I encourage you to attend this informational hearing. Sign up will begin at 9:30am in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building at 300 Capitol Avenue in Hartford. Attending legislators will allow members of the clergy to testify first and then open the hearing for public comment.
-Dan Debicella, CT State Senator
Thank you for reaching out to me on this extremely troubling billAnd yet another
before the legislature's Judiciary Committee. First and foremost,
please know that I support you and the Church 100%. You have my
commitment to oppose this bill.
Why the legislative majority of the State of Connecticut thinks it's ok to dictate how the Catholic Church must govern itself is beyond comprehension. I believe that the legislature has no right to interfere in the structure of the Church and though this bill is directed only at the Catholic Church today, as Bishop Lori has pointed out, it could be forced on other denominations in the future. This is, at best, unconstitutional. At worst, it's an underhanded attempt to silence the Catholic Church. The state has no business controlling religion.
You should send your thoughts to Judiciary Committee Co-chairs, Senator Andrew McDonald and Rep. Michael Lawlor. They need to know how people feel about what they have proposed.
As you may already be aware, the Judiciary Committee public hearing scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 11th) on S.B. 1098, AN ACT MODIFYING CORPORATE LAWS RELATING TO CERTAIN RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS has been canceled. However, in an effort to give the people who have contacted us an opportunity to express their concerns with this bill, many of which we share, the members of the House and Senate Republican
Offices, will be going forward tomorrow with an informational hearing on this bill starting at 12:00 pm. The hearing will be held in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and overflow rooms will be available.
Sign up for the hearing will start at 9:30 am in the first floor lobby of the Legislative Office Building. We will hear from Church officials first and then open it up for public comment. We are inviting anyone who has contacted us on this bill so we can let them know they can be heard on this issue tomorrow. We will also be inviting our Democrat colleagues to join us. If you have any questions please let me know.
- Jason Perillo
113th District - Shelton, CT
As you may already be aware, the Judiciary Committee public hearing scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 11th) on S.B. 1098, AN ACT MODIFYING CORPORATE LAWS RELATING TO CERTAIN RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS has been cancelled. However, in an effort to give the people who have contacted us an opportunity to express their concerns with this bill, many of which we share, the members of the House and Senate Republican Offices, will be going forward tomorrow with an informational hearing on this bill starting at 12:00 pm. The hearing will be held in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and overflow rooms will be available.
Sign up for the hearing will start at 9:30 am in the first floor lobby of the Legislative Office Building. We will hear from Church officials first and then open it up for public comment. We are inviting anyone who has contacted us on this bill so we can let them know they can be heard on this issue tomorrow. We will also be inviting our Democrat colleagues to join us. If you have any questions please let me know.
Rep. Lawrence Miller, CT State Representative
Maybe I have read too much science fiction, but President Obama's latest order on stem cells seems self-contradictory to me. On the one hand, he endorses the use of embryonic stem cells - a moral issue for those who believe embryos are "human life" where embryos may be created and destroyed to harvest stem cells. On the other hand he condemns the use of stem cells for human cloning.
Obama also said the stem cell policy is designed so that it "never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction." Such cloning, he said, "is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society."The statement that cloning is "profoundly wrong" is made without any defense or philosophical rationale. He simply assumes it is obvious. But it is not. If you are not worried about "human life" in embryos, how is cloning different from producing twins from current fertility techniques? (*cough* octo-mom *cough*) Can anyone out there explain this to me logically?
Or is it just that to Barack Obama stem cell research "feels right" and cloning "feels wrong"?
Posted by Sean at 12:10 AM
Monday, March 09, 2009
The Connecticut State Legislature is considering a bill that will ban Catholic clergy from making financial decisions for their parishes. The well meaning idea is a response to a case in Connecticut where a Priest stole money from the church for years. THe Bill however would open up a floodgate of government interference in churches. It could very well lead to things like the government saying what criteria can and can't be considered in determining church membership or hiring/firing PAstors. Let's all hope this bill fails to come up for a vote.
Posted by CRCHAIR at 4:45 PM
The reported church shooting from this past weekend has left a lot of people wondering how to prepare their own houses of worship for such an attack. This site has up a good list of questions to ask yourself and to ask your church leadership.
1. Does your church have a series of written, known, and practiced emergency plans?Please note, this list does not mean that Mod-Blog endorses the policies and procedures (or even assumptions) of the parent site. But it is a good checklist to think about for the future. Even if you decide that some of the assumptions (i.e. a security force in a church is appropriate) is not for your house of worship.
2. How secure is your children’s ministry?
3. Does your church have security?
4. Does your church have a warm relationship with the local police?
5. Does your church have a policy for potentially dangerous people?
A new study is confirming what we have been expecting. Americans of this generation are far less religious than those of past generations. Of most interest to me was the fact that the change does not appear to be specific to region or ethnic group, and even unassimilated immigrants are tracking with the trend. Does this mean that we are headed toward purely secular societies like Europe, or is it a sign that the poll is too tied to older religion designations and is ignoring new movements like the "Emerging Church"?
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Not much to report this week. No biking due to weather, and my weight stayed within a pound of the 210.0 goal. New low of 209.8 lbs this week, but that is well within the margin of error. Hopefully, we can get in some good biking today, now that we at least have one Spring-like Saturday.
Friday, March 06, 2009
The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined.
Posted by Nomad at 9:20 AM
I'm not so sure. Brooks is still defending his "moderate" understanding but there is an admission in his writing that at least gives some sense of hope for those of us who were not fooled by the politics of the Obamassiah.
Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”Well at least it only took a couple of months for some of the duped to begin to see the truth behind this administration.
The only change that Obama has brought to Washington is a change in the names of those benifiting from the pork and spend governing we've had to tolerate for the better part of a decade now. Sadly, even a brief review of Sullivan's blog serves as a who's-who of so-called moderates who are still drinking the Kool-Aid and shows that Brooks is very, very alone in his observations.
Posted by Ward at 8:14 AM
Thursday, March 05, 2009
While I love the Phillies, I am not the kind of baseball fan who sees every game or even cares to see the score to every game. I am more likely to wake up about once a month and ask a nearby uber-fan how the season is going. CRChair, on the other hand, is a sports junky (in the best possible sense). For him, and those like him, Major League Baseball has releases the 2009 version of the "At Bat" iPhone app for $5...
...I am not sure I like the idea of having to rebuy the same application every year, but the cost is low here. So I guess it is a reasonable way to pay for the rights involved and to encourage ongoing development.
Posted by Nomad at 12:40 PM
It has been amusing to see the nearly endless tirade of commentators criticizing Rush Limbaugh for his comments since the beginning of the Obama presidency. There has been considerably glee in dwelling on his physical form, his quirks, his speech mannerisms, and his ego. And he has enjoyed every second of the attention, watching as his listenership goes up and up.
If you are one of those on the Right or the Left engaged in either defense or attack on Limbaugh, I have to remind you of something: IT DOESN'T MATTER. The radio personality is taking part in an age-old practice of warfare: "Drawing fire." In the aftermath of George W Bush and Barack Obama, the Republican Party is in disarray with no clear leader. The Democratic Party has been taking their time targetting potential leaders - John McCain, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal - and was scoring some hits. Now, Limbaugh has raised his own profile and suddenly is drawing 99% of the attacks. And the GOP has time to reorganize and establish a new leader with suddenly less scrutiny.
If you enjoy the Rushathon on CNN, FoxNews, etc. right now, go ahead. But don't be decieved as to what is happening. This is no power play by the radio host. It is a strategic move to defend his party.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
It comes as no shock to those of you who know that I coach a Bible Quiz Team, that I am a big advocate of Bible reading. In my opinion, no person should consider themselves educated unless they have read significant portions of the scriptures for themselves... in whatever translation. How can you understand our legal system unless you have read about the 10 Commandments and Moses's practice of acting as judge over Israel? How can you understand political protest and standing firm before authority without reading about Daniel and the fiery furnace or the lion's den? How can you understand most of the literature of the Western World without reading about the life of Jesus, to which it constantly alludes?
Well, one agnostic Jewish man decided to take the challenge for himself and got more than he expected out of the experience. Both for the positive and the negative. His conclusion? "Everyone should read it—all of it! In fact, the less you believe, the more you should read."
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
If you're wondering how the start of the Great Depression stacks up to the current Recession, wonder no longer. Fair warning, this is a SCARY story. If you are already stressed or anxious today, leave it for another day.
At the same time, we must remind ourselves that while history repeats themes, it rarely does so with absolute fidelity. History loves variation. This means there is hope to produce a better result out of the current economic climate.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Sigh. What more can be said? Sigh.
The government agreed late Sunday to provide $30 billion more to American International Group as the company prepares to report a $62 billion loss today, people involved in the discussions said.I hate to ask as a Conservative, but would it be cheaper to just let AIG go bankrupt and promise to fund all the displaced people for 5 years via the unemployment system, when the Recession will likely have passed?
The insurer’s quarterly loss would be the biggest in history.
The intervention marks the fourth time that the federal government has been forced to step in to help AIG avert bankruptcy.
When George W. Bush announced a freeze on Federal support for Stem Cell research in 2000, he was roundly condemned by the medical establishment who accused him of "wanting Alzheimer's patients to suffer." But at the time, Pro-life advocates were already pointing to sources of stem cells which did not require the death of an embryo - fetal cord blood, for example. Now, scientists have announced they have found a way to produce stem cells without embryo death from any patient! A mere 8 years - when added to a little political pressure - was enough to completely free the way for future stem cell experimentation.
In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form...So, not only is it a morally-defensible solution for Pro-Lifers, it is actually a better solution medically because it uses the patient's own cells and obviates the need for anti-rejection drugs (which suppress the immune system in general). In my ever-so-humble opinion, this justifies GWB's decision from 8 years back.
Because the cells can be made from a patient's own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
I was only an AM Radio Boffin for a few years of my life, but one of the regular joys of the airwaves was the daily news program by Paul Harvey. In a world where "If it bleeds, it leads" was the watchword of reporting, he was unafraid to also report happy and uplifting news. And he always had a cheerful take on life. Now, he has passed away, and we are poorer as a nation for it.