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Senator Carl Levin

Senator Levin and I are at opposite ends of most every issue. However, I commend him for his straight talk on the recent murders at Ft. Hood. In a situation where others are dissembling, failing to face facts, looking for excuses, Senator Levin called this an act of terror.
Of course most Americans know this. But somehow many of our leaders have failed to call it by its name. Terror. It was an act of evil. Even more fear to call something evil; it must be a product of mental illness or an abusive childhood or whatever. Well, maybe that too, but this was an evil act of terror.
We need more straight talk in America. We've become apologists. Afraid to hurt someone's feelings. Senator Levin: I salute you for standing tall on this issue and calling it what it is.

Doctors and Health Care Plan

We all want really smart, really well trained doctors. We don't want all the smart kids becoming hedge fund managers, or lawyers, or professional golfers because they can't make money commensurate with 10-12 years of college, medical school, residency and the like, along with racking up $250K of college loans.
Therefore, we don't need for the health plan to be based on screwing doctors under Medicare to the tune of a half billion. This is a really, really bad idea.
There are a lot of dumb parts of the proposed legislation, but that is the dumbest.
Please let your Congressman know that assuming they can clip docs for $500 mil doesn't seem like such a hot idea...

Stunning new global warming study

MIT scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen has released a study basically refuting most of the existing global warming theories. Perfect timing too - President Obama is off to Copenhagen - to participate with the true believers that humans cause everything bad on earth - and Americans are particularly bad humans. Link here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-7715-Portland-Civil-Rights-Examiner~y2009m8d18-Carbon-Dioxide-irrelevant-in-climate-debate-says-MIT-Scientist
Take some time to study his argument - based on 13 years of satellite observations of heat reflection from earth. Very smart: simple theory: if carbon dioxide etc is building up in the atmosphere, then less sunlight will be reflected. Hence, warming the earth resulting in all the apocalyptic stuff.
Good news earthlings; Dr. Lindzen says is isn't happening.
Let your Congressmen and Congresswomen know.

WinZip

Thanks WinZip folks! I realized I hadn't re-installed WinZip since the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2009. As opposed to some other software downloads which took hours of finding invoice records, entering 60 character passwords and the like, WinZip lets you copy and paste the password, didn't hassle me to prove I'd purchased a previous edition, etc.

Everything was done in a few minutes.

Thanks again!

William Safire

Rest in Peace. One of the great voices - and intellects of the conservative movement. And his columns on the use of the English language and the etymolgy of words were informative, educational and almost always entertaining.

Irving Kristol and William Safire in the same week. Two great conservatives who will be missed.

Note to conservatives

To my conservative friends:
We have the chance to make some important gains in the 2010 elections - but we need to be smarter. Here are a few commonsense tips:
1. Calling the President a liar is stupid and unproductive. The guy is still extremely popular, good looking, and smooth as silk. And, he is OUR president. If some Frenchman or Russian called him a liar, we would be outraged. Attack policies, not him.
2. Forget the "birther" nonsense. The framers of the constitution were concerned about some clever Brit re-establishing a monarchy; that is why the provision exists. The guy got elected. I'm accepting that he is a legitimate, qualified candidate. You birthers are making the rest of conservatives look goofy. Stop.
3. And calling Obama and some others Nazis or Fascists? Do you know any history at all - the Aryan nation wasn't too hot on black folks...
4. The conservative movement needs to return to first principles: a belief in small government, spending wi…

Josalyn and Adam's Wedding

On Sugah Blanco's Facebook page are a number of great pics of Josalyn and Adam Durham's wedding. Terrific young couple, fun wedding and reception. Look for pics of Jill D and me smoking Nubs. I'll try to upload one here.
Jos and Adam: all the best

GE Stock

Just read in yesterday's Barron's that technical analysts see a favorable pattern in GE stock. I like to think I know a little technical analysis, and I've looked at it, and can't see anything other than a positive MACD cross. But, I own the stock and I'm underwater on it, so here's hoping they are right.

Winston Churchill Cigar

Just smoked a Winston Churchill #10. New line from Davidoff. I haven't been a Davidoff fan - I bought some at the height of the cigar boom and was very disappointed. I have several aging in a humidor, so I should give them another chance.

The Winston # 10 was good. Mild-to-medium, burned perfectly, nice light wrapper. I'd definitely smoke another, but I wouldn't push the Padron Annivesarios or Punch Grand Crus out to make room...

Republican National Committee

You've got to hand it to the RNC; they don't quit.
They keep soliciting me for a contribution and I keep sending them the same response.
This time the letter was from Robert Bickhart, the finance director.
My response:
Mr. Bickhart:
I received your letter of August 14th. No, I didn't abandone the Repubican Party - it abandoned me.
I have one simple requirement: I'll support candidates that take a "no earmarks" pledge.
Otherwise, no cash for no body.
Sincerely

The Great Discover Card Caper

OK - you'll have to bear with me on this - the back story is complicated.
Step one - I've owned Wal*Mart stock for a long time, and it has been a rewarding investment. That makes me a happy Sam's Club shopper; I get great prices and feel like I get a little of it back. Sam's sells gasoline at most of its locations at generally the lowest price around. To purchase quickly, one needs a Discover Card. Specifically an "Advantage Member" Discover Card. So, I got one and every so often, as Discover works, you get a little rebate check.
Step two - I've also owned Morgan Stanley stock for almost as long as I've owned Wal*Mart. Until the crash of 2008, MS had performed well also. For a while, MS owned Discover, but eventually spun it off to shareholders. As a result, I own a little bit of Discover stock.
Step three - Discover outsourced management of some of its portfolio to the financial arm of GE, including the Sam's Club affinity card program. Guess what: …

Stephen D. Weinroth

I'm a shareholder of Hovnanian Enterprises - symbol "HOV". Buying it was a very bad decision - but I'm a big boy and I went into it with my eyes wide open. However, the Board of Hovnanian decided to give company president Ara Hovnanian a bonus of just under $1 mil after a year where the firm incurred massive loses and the stock plunged.

Now, I'm fine paying huge bonuses to executives who produce, baseball players who hit homers or have low era's, and talk show hosts with big ratings. But rewarding a disastrous performance is stupid and inappropriate.

So, I wrote letters to the heads of the Audit Committee and Compensation Committee of HOV to let them know how I feel.

Somewhere is an SEC filing I got the address for Stephen D. Weinroth, who is head of the Audit Committee. Well, the letter cam back not deliverable. So, if there is someone from the SEC who monitors Google Alerts for SEC - you can check out why directors are filing bogus addresses with you.

And,…

Letter to Senator Casey of PA on GM Stock

Here is an email that I sent to Senator Robert Casey of PA about General Motors Stock


Senator Casey:
I’m one of the fortunate top five percent tax payers who pay half of all income taxes. My family has been blessed; we live in the greatest democracy in the world and have enjoyed some measure of financial success. And while I’m a conservative, I believe taxes should have been raised to support the war our country is fighting.

I know the tax cuts from the prior administration will expire, creating a de facto tax increase. I’m going to be paying even more. Since part of what I’m going to be paying for is the General Motors rescue, how about giving me a chance to earn some of my money back? Distribute that big hunk of GM stock to all us taxpayers. Pro rata for every individual tax return.

Gets the government out of the car business, creates a chance for the government to earn tax on any capital gains that develop, and gives me a chance to recover some of the big tax increase headed my …
And a letter from Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn responding to good friend Dr. Richard Fisher's letter:


August 6, 2009




Dr. Richard Fisher
8808 Bredbury Cove East
Cordova, Tennessee 38016-6498


Dear Dr. Fisher:

What a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for contacting me to share your opposition regarding a universal government run health care plan. Hearing from constituents on issues of concern is important to our office and me as we work to represent our district.

Today, more than 41 million Americans are either without health care or participate in a basic system that provides only marginal coverage. As a result of a myriad of state regulations and our current tax code, many small businesses cannot afford to offer health insurance and many individuals cannot afford to purchase health insurance. Additionally, people often fear leaving their current job with employer-based health insurance due to the lack of portability and the limited number of affordable insurance options either for …

More healthcare letters

And from fellow conservative Mark Hogeboom, a response from Senator Kyl to Mark's letter:


Dear Mr. Hogeboom:

Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

The U.S. health care system is the best in the world, spurring advancements in new medical treatments and technologies. Such innovation helps physicians treat and prevent diseases better than ever before, eradicates once fatal epidemics, and helps Americans lead longer, healthier lives.

Despite these advances, millions of Americans struggle to find affordable health insurance options. From 1999 to 2008, the average cost of a family health plan increased by 119 percent from $5,791 to $12,680. Meanwhile, workers' wages increased 34 percent during the same nine-year period. Ensuring access to quality, affordable health care is a laudable goal. I support targeted solutions that lower health care costs and improve health care by building upon, not completely dismantling,…

Healthcare letters

My conservative buddies - and me - have been writing our Senators and Congressmen about the health care bills.

I encourage you to do the same, regardless of your point of view, you should make it heard on this very important topic.

Here is the response I received from Senator Casey. Even though I disagree, it is at least reasonably well argued.


Dear Mr. Morphis:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about health care reform. I appreciate hearing from all Pennsylvanians about the issues that matter most to them.

We cannot afford to wait any longer to reform America’s health care system. As a member of the United States Senate and of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, I am working with my colleagues and with President Obama to enact meaningful health care reform, with the goal of providing every American with access to high quality, affordable health care. Ensuring the unique health needs of children are met will be a specific priority of mine in health care refor…

Letter - Congressman John Boehner

I received a nice letter from Congressman John Boehner. It contained one of those phony surveys designed to get one so worked-up that a contribution is inevitable, e.g.-"Should Republicans resist Democrat efforts to restore Clinton-era restrictions against information gathering by our counterterrorism agencies?" And, of course, a request for a contribution.

So, I wrote the good Congressman a letter.

Dear Congressman Boehner:

Got your letter - great to hear from you!

Here's the deal: when you were part of the majority, you sold us conservatives out. You spent like Democrats on steroids. So, now that we're back in the minority, you want me to believe that you're off the spending needle.

Sorry, but I'm not convinced just yet. If you can get all your buddies on your side of the aisle there in Washington D.C., and the Republican candidates for office, to take a "no earmarks" pledge, well then I'll open my checkbook back up. Otherwise, I'm not persuade…

History of Government Health Care

Interesting link from Dr. Richard Fisher: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/History/Downloads/PresidentCMSMilestones.pdf The most interesting is the comment about the Eisenhower administration.

I have long felt that one of the logical first steps to universal coverage would be a government stop loss program. (Reinsurance). Could be funded by a payroll tax, and we should all pay in.

Health Care

Here is a modest suggestion. Make the VA hospitals the model for care. Make them better than the Mayo Clinic. Have Veterans prefer to go there than to MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, Thomas Jefferson, Dana Farber or Sloan Kettering.

First, our veterans deserve the best. And second, once we've done that, you can talk to me about government-lead health care reform.

Health Care Plan

I've been to Canada a number of times. Canadians are friendly and polite. Toronto is one of the world's great cities. A solid capitalist economy - I've owned the Canadian Ishares for a long time.

But, I'll stay with my health care plan, thank you very much.

There are a number of things we can do to cover more Americans with a health plan, without having the folks who run the IRS take over customer service for health.

First, millions of the "uninsured" actually work for companies that offer coverage but they don't take it. Presumably they believe they can't afford it. Well, let's make it mandatory: if you work for a company that offers coverage, you have to take it. We will need some rules. For example, most companies aim for a 70/30 or 80/20 split. That is, the company pays 70% to 80% of the cost, and the employee pays the difference (generally up to some kind of a stop loss level). So, all companies would have to get their plans up to that …

I WANT MY GM STOCK part deux

I must confess: I was originally against a bankruptcy filing for GM. Having seen how lawyers and other advisers suck the assets out of a company in bankruptcy, (fees in the United Airlines bankruptcy exceeded $600 million) I thought that the cost to the company would probably destroy it.

I was wrong.

We shouldn't have tried to save it. A courtroom process, even with lawyers getting in excess of a billion in fees, would have been far cheaper for the American public.

But I still want Congress to distribute my shares to me.

I Want My GM Stock

It isn't clear how many shares of General Motors will be issued. I've nosed around, but can't find anything definite. However, the general indication is that the U.S. government (that is, us) will own 60% post bankruptcy.

I want my piece immediately. And I want you to get yours to. According to the IRS website, about 156 million tax returns were filed for 2008. So, let's do this: 156 million multiplied by five equals 780 million shares. So, distribute five shares to everyone whot filed a return. After all, we taxpayers are going to be paying for this mess for years to come.

Sure, there will be some very predictable whining that the government can't get repaid like that, or the cost to GM of keeping records and sending annual reports to all those independent shareholders is too great a cost. Well, I don't give a damn about that. The bad management and greedy unions that got GM into this mess could have foreseen the problem and they didn't. Tough noogies. I wan…

The People of Iran

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their…

A VB Thanks

Thank you Hawaii Web Services, whomever you are.

I've been stumped on how to get my email working on my new laptop with my expensive Verizon Fios. And the Verizon people haven't been too helpful - no one apparently wants to support Outlook - just Outlook Express.

So, anyway - these folks http://www.hawaiiwebservices.com/verizon_email_setup.html have been good enough to spell it out. Verizon could spare themselves a lot of help desk time by putting some nice straightforward info like that on their FAQ page, which, BTW, is completely lame.

President Obama's Speech

OK Republicans, we had our day in the sun with President Regan. Time to give President Obama his due: today's speech was very good. Despite the sniping by some conservative talk show hosts, it was a balanced and direct speech. Not tenative. I was particularly impressed by the blunt talk about the Holocaust.

No nonsense, made it clear that we aren't buying any Iraqi revisionist denial. And that we were going to do a job in Afganastan, whether they liked it or not.

Conservatives should welcome the speech. It was sound foreign policy.

The Death of Magazines

I received a letter from Portfolio magazine, announcing that they were ceasing publication. I'm only mildly surprised and mildly disappointed. Surprised only because it joins a list of magazines that I had paid subscriptions to, which folded, or turned into ezines. Red Herring was a favorite of mine, but it disappeared years ago. I became a convert to Business 2.0. It didn't really get my attention at first, but over time I began to look forward to it. It closed a couple of years ago; I still don't think Time Warner gave it a fair chance.

More recently, PC Magazine converted to a net-only product. In all three cases, it was obvious that advertising was down as once-fat magazines full of ads became as thin as a supermodel, but not as rich. I occasionally go to PC Mag online, but for me it just isn't the same.

And I'm only mildly disappointed in that I had paid for issues I'll never receive. I'd already decided not to renew my subscription. In an atte…

Congress and Unintended Consequences

I attended a conference at Pebble Beach this week. Being a total business junkie, I always ask everyone how business is.

At the tony Pebble Beach Resort, it turns out business isn't very good. The staff generally tried to put a good spin on it; blame the general economy. But after a bit they would open up a little about the criticism companies have undergone from Congress and the press about meetings at resorts.

My feelings about this certainly haven't changed, some middle manager banker busts his ass all year trying to close a couple of loans while working with clients in trouble trying to collect something without knocking them into bankruptcy and losing all the bank's money, and that guy has a contest that if he makes his numbers he wins a trip and the next thing he knows; trip canceled.

The staff at Pebble were courteous, friendly, helpful and went out of their way to thank us for the business. But I learned that as soon as our conference was over, there weren't a…

UA 186 SFO to PHL

Yesterday, I took United Airlines from San Francisco to Philadelphia.

The plane was at the gate before the scheduled departure time. But, it was raining and the pilots for our flight were stuck in Reno. Those things happen; I brought more than enough to read for just such a situation.

After about a two hour delay, the pilots made it in and we boarded. Since the flight was only about two-thirds full, there was adequate overhead bin space and we were able to board quite quickly. But, once boarded and seated, we waited.

Waited for the luggage to be loaded.

How does that happen? How does a plane sit at the gate for over two hours and the ground crew not put the luggage on the plane, so that when everything else is ready so is the plane????

If you fly often at all, you see just exactly how the airlines manage to rack up the losses and have to take a periodic pilgramage to the cleansing water of a bankruptcy court...

Retail Sales and the Market

Stocks were down today. Party line is that the market was surprised on the downside by retail sales.
!!!!!
Last week, Target, GAP, Macy's, JC Penney, Nieman Marcus (same store sales -30%!) and just about every one else reported a sales decline. How could anyone expect the government series to be anything but down?

We either need new market observers or they need to come up with something different to say...

Villager - UBS

OK - you've seen here before that I occasionally like to smoke a small Swiss cigar named Villiger. And they pack a bit of a punch.

So, UBS has replaced its Chairman Peter Kurer with former Swiss Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger.

Connected with the cigar company? A coincidence? I don't think so...

Michael Steele

The new chairman of the Republican National Committee sent me a letter soliciting a contribution. So, I sent this letter back:

Mr. Michael Steele
Chairman
RNC

Mr. Steele:
I received your letter soliciting a contribution to help you "clean house". I certainly agree that needs to happen.

However, I have no belief in the veracity or sincerity of the elected Republicans.

So, I'm subjecting them to a simple test: a "no earmarks" pledge. Until they are willing to sign up for that, I'm unwilling to sign-up for more money.
Respectfully,

Stimulus Plan

Mr. President:
The House stimulus bill is awful. Dangerous. Counter-productive. It has a very high probability of making things worse!. Your man Rahm Emanuel is supposed to be a tough guy: turn him loose on the House Dems - they are selling you down the river.
Some simple tests: the spending will improve long-term productivity; the spending will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and the spending will happen fast; very, very fast.
There may need to be some legislation to enable spending without years of environmental review. For example, spending on wind farms would improve long-run productivity and reduce dependence on foreign oil. But let's say the wind farm is a couple of miles offshore. You can't have environmental groups stopping the development to see if some fish will be harmed. This spending has to happen now.
And, no tax cuts with the possible exception of AMT. People aren't going to spend any tax savings; they are going to pay their credit card bills or repa…

Letter to the RNC

I received a letter this week from the Republican National Committee. I decided to send them a formal response:

Mr. Robert M. Duncan
Chairman
Republican National Committee

Mr. Duncan:
I received your solicitation of January 16Th, 2009. As you know, I have occasionally contributed to the RNC and, over the years, directly to various Republican candidates.

However, I feel that the candidates I supported completely betrayed me. For years, I've railed and fulminated about "tax and spend Democrats". But the Republicans over the past decade became something far worse: spend and borrow Republicans.

Why is this far worse?

President Regan demonstrated that a tax cut, associated with some fiscal discipline, can generate quick results. However, the borrowing created by spend and borrow lasts for decades, damaging the Republic, perhaps for multiple future generations.

So, let's cut to it. Forget a "no new taxes" pledge: anyone who believes we are going to get out of this debt me…

PC Magazine

Many of my favorite magazines continue to wither away - joining Look and Life in magazine heaven. I was a dedicated reader of Red Herring, loved the practical - and occasionally snarky - Business 2.0.

PC Magazine announces on the inside that the January issue is its last print version; from now on it will be an e-zine. It really isn't all that surprising. There aren't dozens of PC producers anymore fighting for our business. No more Eagle, Brick, WYSE, DEC, Tandy, Packard Bell, Swan or even IBM. And not much invention happening in software either. No competition=no advertising. I understand it even though I don't like it.

Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff wrote a "Dear Reader" letter bound into the January edition. In it he tried to convince me that the e-zine format is just as good. His first two points are: "It arrives in youre-mail automatically." and " It is portable". Well, Lance, the magazine arrived in my mail box automatically, a…