Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 31st, 2007

US: a global credit risk?

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Warning from Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch:

Subprimes downgraded. Will Moody’s downgrade America’s debt next? Actually, that’s already happening; our credit rating is collapsing with the dollar.

Foreign banks are dumping dollar reserves, while we gorge on cheap toys and bad pet food. Actually, our biggest “terrorist” threat is internal: Distorted values are downgrading our nation’s “creditworthiness.” We’re like out-of-control kids with stolen credit cards, spending our future with no plans to repay.

Recently Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International), appeared before the U.S. House Budget Committee to “discuss an issue of great economic, financial and national security importance to our country — the growing dependence of the United States on foreign capital.” Currently we import $1 trillion new debt annually, with no repayment plans. That’s a historic break from over two centuries of American policy.

Hormats was in Washington with warnings from his brilliant new book, “The Price of Liberty: Paying for America’s Wars.” He traces the history of American wartime financing from the Revolution through the War of 1812, the Civil War, the two World Wars and the Cold War to the present.

Conclusion: “One central, constant theme emerges: sound national finances have proved to be indispensable to the country’s military strength” and long-term national security.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 7:57 pm

BP gets OK to dump mercury into Lake Michigan

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Ugly:

 A BP (BP) refinery in Indiana will be allowed to continue to dump mercury into Lake Michigan under a permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The permit exempts the BP plant at Whiting, Ind., 3 miles southeast of Chicago, from a 1995 federal regulation limiting mercury discharges into the Great Lakes to 1.3 ounces per year.

The BP plant reported releasing 3 pounds of mercury through surface water discharges each year from 2002 to 2005, according to the Toxics Release Inventory, a database on pollution emissions kept by the Environmental Protection Agency that is based on information reported by companies.

The permit was issued July 21 in connection with the plant’s $3.8 billion expansion, but only late last week began to generate public controversy. It gives the company until at least 2012 to meet the federal standard.

The action was denounced by environmental groups and members of Congress.

“With one permit, this company and this state are undoing years of work to keep pollution out of our Great Lakes,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., co-sponsor of a resolution overwhelmingly approved by the House last week that condemned BP’s plans.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Politics: the seamy side

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From CBS News:

The supersonic F-35 Lightning II is the military’s next-generation strike fighter. It flies so fast that the speed is classified.

Pratt & Whitney has the government contract to make the jet’s high-performance engine. But your tax dollars are also paying for GE to develop a spare engine — and it has cost you $1.6 billion so far.

The idea is that if GE and Pratt & Whitney compete, they’ll build better engines that cost less and end up saving money. But here’s where it really gets interesting: The military doesn’t want the alternate engine. The Air Force and two independent panels have concluded it’s “not necessary and not affordable” and that the supposed savings from competition “will never be achieved.”

So why did Sen. Ted Kennedy personally earmark $100 million tax dollars for the project this year alone? He wouldn’t agree to an interview, but part of the answer has to do with where it could be built: at GE’s Massachusetts plant in Kennedy’s home state — where it would bring jobs.

Kennedy is not the only one who wants to spend your tax money on the project. So does Congresswoman Jean Schmidt.

“The military says we don’t want it. It’s not going to save money in the long run. Why should taxpayers fund it?,” asks CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 5:40 pm

Fox News = bad reporting

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Global warming, GOP, Media

Still doing well

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Just came from endocrinologist: HbA1c at 5.9%, just at the top of the “normal” range. Liver enzymes, blood pressure, cholesterol all good. Need to lose weight and exercise more. I think a lot of the good control is my avoidance of high-sugar, high-refined starch foods. I also avoid potatoes, which send my blood glucose up. (Not true for everyone, of course.) Lots of whole grains, veggies, etc.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Daily life

The UK approach to corporate manslaughter

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Interesting article from FindLaw by Anthony J. Sebok, a FindLaw columnist and a Professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City:

Last week, the British government agreed to introduce a new law titled the “Corporate Manslaughter Statute.” This law is remarkable because it attempts to make companies–not persons–criminally responsible for deaths caused by a firm’s gross negligence. In this column, I will examine the law’s structure, its history, and finally, I will ask how American law approaches the same problems the Corporate Manslaughter Act is designed to solve.

The Corporate Manslaughter Act

The British law allows the state to prosecute a corporation or partnership (an “organization” for short) for the crime of manslaughter if the organization causes the death of a person as the result of its “gross” breach of a duty owed under the law of negligence. However, in order for the state to prove its case, it must prove that a substantial element of the gross breach of duty resulted from the way in which the organization’s activities were “managed or organised by its senior management.”

The penalties for violating the act are quite interesting. First, a court can impose unlimited financial penalties on the organization, once it is convicted. Second, a court may issue a “publicity order,” which requires the organization to publicly announce (through advertisements, it seems) that it has been successfully prosecuted for corporate manslaughter and is subject to any other penalties the court may have ordered.

The third and final potential penalty is that the court can order the organization to publicly take remedial steps to correct the conditions that led to the breach of duty. This penalty could have potentially far-reaching consequences, depending on how the courts choose to interpret it. For example, under this remedy, suppose a court decides that a design defect was the result of conscious indifference to the safety of others (such as in the famous Ford Pinto case). The court could simply order a manufacturer to change the design of their product–a power that no American court currently possesses.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business, Government

Page numbering in MS Word

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I’m writing another book—this one will be available as a free download—and I’m going crazy with MS Word page numbering. But I did find this useful document, so I thought I’d share the knowledge.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Emergency fund strategies

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A useful post on 21 strategies to create an emergency fund.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 8:56 am

Posted in Daily life

Yum! Make your own Kua Txob Tuav Xyaw Dos

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 8:19 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Credit card usury

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The NY Times has a good editorial today:

The federal agencies that are supposed to regulate the banking and credit card industries have failed utterly to keep pace with deceptive and unfair practices that have become shamefully standard in the business. As a consequence many hard-working Americans who pay their bills are mired in debt — and in danger of losing whatever savings they have, and perhaps their homes. Congress, which sat on its hands while the problem got worse and worse, needs to rein in this sometimes predatory industry.

The scope of the problem was laid out in Congressional hearings this spring held by Senator Carl Levin, the Democrat from Michigan. According to testimony, one witness exceeded his charge card’s $3,000 limit by $200 — triggering what eventually amounted to $7,500 in penalties and interest. After paying an average of $1,000 a year for six years, the man still owed $4,400.

That experience has become all too common as the credit card industry has stealthily adopted methods designed to maximize burdensome penalties and fees, while ratcheting up interest rates as high as 30 percent. Companies bombard unwary consumers with teaser packages that promise very low interest rates to start, while reserving for themselves the right to raise rates whenever they choose. The details are buried in deliberately arcane contracts that run 30 pages long and that even lawyers have trouble understanding.

Congressional investigations and studies by consumer advocates have exposed other unsavory practices. Some card companies apply penalty rates retroactively — to purchases that were made before the penalty was incurred or in some cases to debts that were even paid off. As one Congressional witness pointed out, the credit card industry is the only one allowed to increase the price of a product after it has been sold.

Under a provision known as “universal default,” a cardholder who pays a credit card company faithfully can still be hit with a high penalty interest rate for missing payments with another creditor. In another despicable tactic known as “double cycle billing,” a cardholder who pays $450 of a $500 balance is charged interest on the entire amount as opposed to the unpaid balance.

State usury laws would once have precluded many of these practices, but those have been preempted by federal regulations that are increasingly designed to make banks and credit card companies happy — rather than protect consumers.

A bill introduced by Senator Levin would limit “penalty” interest rates to an additional 7 percent above the previous rate. It would also prohibit retroactive penalties and double cycle billing, and it would limit the amount of fees companies could charge customers who exceed their credit limit.

Passing the Levin bill would be a good start. But Congress needs a comprehensive approach to this problem. Lawmakers need to ban deceptive card offers outright, strengthen federal oversight and toughen truth-in-lending laws.

Meanwhile, American consumers should think long and hard before they accept credit card offers that are too good to be true.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 8:10 am

Nelly on the hunt

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Nelly on the hunt

Here’s Nelly in her New York apartment. If that stupid pigeon was on this side of the window, he’d be a goner.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 7:55 am

Posted in Cats, Nelly

Mango oil shaving soap

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I used the J&E Atkinson Mango Oil shaving soap this morning. Very good lather, worked up with the Simpsons Emperor 1 Super, a fine little brush. Three passes of the Treet Blue Special in the Edwin Jagger Ivory Chatsworth. This is the fifth shave for this blade—and still no sign of rust. I got an excellent shave, but I had to do a bit more work. Probably four is the magic number. I think, though, I’ll try for a sixth shave, just to bring the cost per shave for the blade below 2¢, thus saving ever so much money.

Aftershave was Taylor of Old Bond Street No. 74 Victorian Lime.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2007 at 7:21 am

Posted in Shaving

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