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OBAMA: HOW COME THINGS ARE NOT ALREADY IMPROVING?

The Messiah has been chosen. Change is in the air. So why does the stock market still gyrate wildly? And why is the press filled with increasingly negative stories?

Beyond the obvious answers that President-elect Barack Obama is not yet the President and nothing really changes in such a short time period, there are other basic considerations driving both the economy and the news.

One, the media continues to insure that there will be no hint of recovery on President Bush’s watch that will allow the Bush Administration to claim that any portion of our economic problem was solved by him and/or his chosen advisors. In fact, it appears to be the media’s attention to complete the task that they have pursued over the last twenty-four months: the vilification of the Bush Administration and anything Republican.

Two, the Obama Administration-in-waiting has a very short window of opportunity to use a complicit media to reduce the expectations of the American public, many of whom drank the Obama Kool-Aid and deeply believe that Obama will usher in an era of real change and prosperity. Already the far-left is reminding Obama of their support and presenting a laundry list of demands.

Unfortunately, both history and circumstances tend to indicate otherwise as it appears that many of Obama’s key ideas and programs will be stymied by exigent circumstances surrounding both foreign affairs and the economy.

Three, Obama’s Administration will be deeply affected by the Clinton-effect. Even though he is surrounded – and only time will tell if he is overwhelmed, by Clintonistas whose perceived first loyalty is to themselves, followed by the Clintons and then the Country, it is possible that this internal fifth column will actively work against Obama in such a manner as to insure that he is a one-term president and that his successor is Hillary Rodham Clinton. One apparent effect of the Clintonization of the Obama Administration is that the frequency and severity of self-serving media leaks has increased and is likely to increase further. Especially as the Clintonistas attempt to reconnect with their media buddies on an official level.

Four, Obama’s choice for the savior of the economy is part of the problem. As the Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank,  Timothy Geithner has worked closely with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson to craft a Bush Administration solution to the current economic crisis. Spending billions of dollars in an exercise which has produced little or no long-lasting results. Even their assertion that their actions have ameliorated the situation and prevented a recession-like economy from deepening into a depression, is open to challenge. To think that somehow, when the Administration changes on January 2oth, 2009, that there will be some form of Messiah-inspired epiphany and the answers to our current crisis will become readily apparent is ludicrous.

Five, foreign affairs problems are heating up in the Middle East as the newsworthy saga of commercial pirates who have hijacked a Saudi oil tanker play out. One may ask, where are the environmentalists screaming about the potential ecological disaster should the ship be damaged and two million barrels of oil spill out in local waters? Where is the United Nations counter-terrorism strike force – or do they want to stay out of a part of the world that engenders the sympathy of the majority of UN members? Add to these problems, the Israel/Iran conflict, the deepening of political (not military) problems in Iraq and Afghanistan – possibly to keep the American cash flowing into the region in the face of an Obama-led pullout, and of course the ever-present starving North Koreans who need to do something to stem the current food crisis. And lest we not forget, the Russians are, once again, strengthening ties with nations who lead towards Marxist socialism: Venezuela and Cuba. The thought of a renewed Russian military presence, with weapons, off our coast is intolerable and brings back thoughts of Kennedy – and possibly a stage-managed crisis to demonstrate the power of the new Messiah.

One fight, possibly worthy of a wrestling match style television program is the long-anticipated battle between the Vice President-elect, Joseph Biden, who considers himself an expert on foreign affairs, and Hillary Clinton who was, in actuality, little more than a world-traveler and aide-de-camp to her husband and former-President Bill Clinton. While the Secretary of State is mandated to serve the needs of the President of the United States, we can hardly wait to see what form Hillary’s disagreement with official policy might take. Perhaps they might find the “missing” briefing papers long after a crisis has ended – turning up somewhere in a State Department Office used only by Hillary Clinton and her aides?

While it is highly amusing to note that Obama has created an “Office of the President-Elect” complete with a non-authorized seal and a website www.change.gov, it should be remembered that it was only through the good graces of President Bush that Obama’s transition team has been given early access to governmental resources to bring about a smooth transition and pre-clear many of his transition team members for security access to this nation’s secrets. It would be interesting to note if any team members are denied full access security clearances. Personally, I am waiting to see if Sandy “the Burglar” Berger who lost his security clearance for stealing classified documents will regain his clearance and serve as some form of national security advisor to the Obama Administration.

For his part, the unappreciated George Bush and his cronies seem ready, willing and able to decamp Washington for the highlife in Texas; having made their fortunes, cemented their connections and possibly started working on their memoirs.

But one thing is certain, there will be no lack of news in the coming months as we once again revisit the influence of politics, color, cronyism along with waste, fraud, corruption, malfeasance and incompetence in the incoming Administration. Paraphrasing an old saying, you can take politics out of Chicago, but you cannot take Chicago out of politics.

What can YOU do?

Protect yourself and your family from the ramifications of poor political decision-making which will be made on the basis of its effect on the media, rather than its effect on the economy.

Conserve and stay healthy.

-- steve

Quote of the Day: ”Commonsense and good nature will do a lot to make the pilgrimage of life not too difficult.” --William Somerset Maugham

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links: (none)


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



ACQUIRING U.S. BANKS: BUYING LEGITIMACY AND CAPITAL ACCESS? (Updated)

UPDATE: 11-25-08  MORE BANKS PLACED ON WATCH LIST

According the the Associated Press ...

"The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday the list of banks it considers to be in trouble shot up nearly 50 percent to 171 during the third quarter—yet another sign of escalating problems among the institutions controlling Americans' deposits."

"The 171 banks on the FDIC's "problem list" encompass only about 2 percent of the nearly 8,500 FDIC-insured institutions. Still, the increase from 117 in the second quarter is sharp, and the current tally is the highest since late 1995."

Under this new "on the shelf" registration program, it has occured to me that hedge funds and other capital pools could also exchange their toxic loans for the acquired financial institution's good assets under some pretense of purchasing additional equity using non-cash assets. While these assets would have to be of high quality (rated AAA by the ratings agencies -- as we know now a number of toxic assets were) and have some justifiable value (under mark-to-market accounting rules -- which we know are being circumvented by allowing unsustainable valuations to remain in place), it is possible under the current rules and regulations. Not to say that someone would attempt it, but you never know when big money is on the line.

The major unanswered question of the FDIC is: did these potentially "unsound" financial institutions receive additional federal funds which failed to improve their capital sufficiency? Has management been changed? And what are the common factors that caused this uptick in problematical banks and can they be mitigated by merger and/or acquitistion without spreading toxicity like ant bait that is brought back to the nest by infected ants.

Original blog entry ...

It is no secret that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors under the direction of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the United States Department of the Treasury under Secretary Henry Paulson have done everything in their power to pump trillions of dollars into the financial system.

Expanding the definition of a regulated bank …

Where banks were once at the top tier of regulated financial institutions, we now find that the two largest investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, have been allowed to assume a new status as regulated bank holding companies. Ditto, credit card issuer American Express.

Expanding governmental insurance coverage to non-banks …

In addition, Sheila Bair, Chairperson of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) has likewise greatly expanded her agency’s mission to guarantee bank deposits into supporting all means of other financial products and institutions.

Inventing new ways to shuffle financial institutions …

Now we find that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) which serves as the primary regulator of national banks has also entered the game with a new type of bank regulatory process.

Known as a “Shelf Charter” the process is designed to expand the pool of so-called “qualified” bidders for troubled institutions which have been highlighted by the FDIC and other regulatory agencies.

Providing legitimacy to hedge funds and capital pools?

Aimed at those with access to the global pool of capital – and large hedge funds – this new bank charter methodology will serve two basic purposes: one, it will allegedly remove a troubled institution from the roles of troubled institutions; two, it will allegedly facilitate a return to soundness, possibly involving a shift of management leadership; and three, it will allow the newly acquired/formed institution to tap into the extensive pools of capital assistance that are being made to financial institutions of all kinds.

Danger?

Which is why I see a major degree of danger in allowing hedge funds and other well-funded bidders to acquire troubled institutions.

The first danger is that it ONLY requires the necessity of a strong balance sheet and a suitable political/managerial group of entrepreneurs to acquire a troubled financial institution. After the conclusion of the acquisition, it is likely that the institution may access governmental capital sources and allow the bidder to withdraw their initial capital and thus acquire a troubled financial institution with the government’s money – and with minimal risk to its own capital and investors.

The second danger is that I believe it adds additional systemic risk to the banking industry and may greatly dilute the protections available to ordinary depositors from the FDIC. Many of these bidders are likely to be the same “fast money” operators whose machinations in the domestic and global financial markets are associated with the root causes of the current financial crisis.

And the third danger is that there is no guarantee that the newly enhanced management will use its capital availability to improve the profitability of the bank by traditional lending, and instead, seek to grow the financial institution by other mergers and acquisitions.

For the depositors, the management’s emphasis will be on paying the lowest possible return on depositor’s dollars while maximizing the rates on lending and greatly increasing the institution’s fee income. While you would think that competition would keep fees in check, one need only look at the credit card issuers who are maintaining an extremely high interest rate on advanced consumer funds. In addition, rates for CDs and other bank depository products seem to be priced in relationship to their risk: the soundness of the financial institution and their need to maintain core capital requirements. Thus we find a failing institution offering the highest rates to ordinary depositors. Possibly a key metric to judge any newly acquired financial institution.

How does it work?

According to the OCC …

“The new mechanism involves the granting of preliminary approval to investors for a national bank charter. The charter remains inactive, or ‘on the shelf’ until such time as the investor group is in a position to acquire a troubled institution.”

“By granting the preliminary approval, the OCC expands the pool of potential buyers available to buy troubled institutions, and in particular the new equity capital available to bid on troubled institutions through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s bid process.”

“The process involves several stages:

In the initial review, the OCC evaluates the qualifications of the proposed management team, the sources and amount of capital that would be available to the bank, and a streamlined business plan that describes how the acquired bank will be operated. At the end of this process, the OCC can grant conditional preliminary approval of a national bank charter, subject to certain conditions and to requirements that more detailed operating plans, satisfactory to the OCC, be submitted if the bank targets a specific institution for acquisition.

The investor group is thereby positioned to make proposals to acquire troubled institutions, and, in particular, to be cleared to view the FDIC’s list of failing or troubled institutions and to submit bids for those institutions. Through the conditions imposed in connection with the approval and the operating plan, the OCC retains the ability to oversee how the shelf charter will activate and provide for the new institution to be operated on a safe and sound basis.

In the case of an FDIC resolution of a failing institution, after a bid is submitted, the OCC will evaluate the specific proposal. If it is found to be acceptable, and if the FDIC approves the bid, final charter approval can be granted, together with final approval of deposit insurance by the FDIC. If the bid is not accepted by the FDIC, the charter remains on the shelf for up to 18 months. During that time, the charter can be used for other bids.”

What I don’t understand …

Why does the OCC need to undertake this particular process? It seems to me that when an investor group makes a bid for a troubled institution, the management and capital sufficiency is jointly evaluated by the OCC, Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and the FDIC. Upon completion of the vetting process, the acquiring group simply assumes the charter of the troubled institution or a new piece of paper with the new group’s name is produced by the OCC. It seems to me that troubled institutions have been purchased, acquired and merged without any resort to this newly created procedure.

Further danger …

I see an additional danger in allowing these hedge funds and other capital operators to openly view the FDIC’s list of troubled institutions. While the public can generally calculate the risk of a depository failure from publicly available statistics, it seems to me that exposing the true list to these so-called “operators” tremendously increases the risk of insider trading which could easily result in the complete collapse of the troubled institution or the possibility of insiders making undue profits based on their unique knowledge. Considering the laxity of the Securities and Exchange Commission under the present Administration, the risk of adverse requirements is at the lowest point in history – especially if the acquisition team included heavyweight “fixers” with political connections.

First test …

“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced today it had granted its first conditional preliminary approval of a new type of national bank “shelf-charter,” designed to facilitate new equity investments in troubled depository institutions.”

“The first such approval was granted Monday to establish the Ford Group Bank, National Association.”

Who might these investors be?

From the Conditional Preliminary Approval Letter (see reference link below), we find that the organizing group is known as “Commerce Street Capital LLC” a group of financial professionals engaging in bank development and other investment banking activities.

“The Bank will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ford Group Holdings, Inc. (the "Company"), a Texas corporation organized to become a bank holding company for the Bank. The Company will be a one-bank holding company and will own all of the issued and outstanding shares of the Bank.”

Several companies in turn would invest in the Company (collectively, the "Investors") thereby indirectly own the Bank. Hilltop Holdings, Inc. ("Hilltop Holdings") is a public company actively pursuing acquisition opportunities in the financial services industry. It reports approximately $700 million available to be invested in the Company and Bank. Flexpoint Ford
Overage Fund II, L.P.
("Overage"), Flexpoint Ford Fund II, L.P. ("Fund II"), Flexpoint Fund,
L.P. ("Flexpoint")
are private equity funds with, respectively, $480 million, $140 million, and $67.5 million in committed capital available to be invested in the Company and Bank) In total, the Bank would have approximately $1.38 billion immediately available for a transaction of the kind described below, although the amount initially invested will depend on the size on the initial
transaction. The applicants represent that sufficient capital will be injected to ensure the Bank is well-capitalized when it opens for business and thereafter.”

And the people behind the investment …

“The OCC poses no objection to the following persons serving as executive officers, directors, and/or organizers as proposed in the application:

  • Gerald J. Ford, Organizer, Chairman of the Board
  • Carl Webb, Organizer, Director, Chief Executive Officer
  • Randy Staff, Organizer, Director, Chief Financial Officer
  • Larry Willard, Organizer, Director, Chief Credit Officer
  • Jeremy Ford, Organizer, Director”

“We have not completed our background checks for the above individuals. Continued service of these individuals will be dependent on satisfactory completion of the background investigation process.”

Hilltop Holdings Inc. Company Description <Source: Hoovers>

“Manufactured housing communities by any other name are no longer called trailer parks, and Hilltop Holdings is no longer Affordable Residential Communities (ARC). In 2007 Farallon Capital Management and partners acquired the majority of Hilltop's business, which comprised 275 residential communities with more than 57,000 home sites in some two dozen states. What's left? Hilltop Holdings is a property and casualty insurance provider that offers coverage for low-value homes through its NLASCO subsidiary. It sells its insurance through some 6,600 independent agents in more than 20 states. NLASCO operates primarily in the southern US through subsidiaries National Lloyds Insurance and American Summit Insurance.”

The primary two executives of Hilltop are: Gerald J. Ford, Chairman; and Larry D. Willard, President, CEO, Director

Bottom line …

This is a pretty sophisticated play of interlocking interests to extend investments into the banking sector. Considering the management’s background in housing and insurance, there are a number of synergistic possibilities that can occur. This financial play should be watched with great interest by both the regulators and the public.

What can YOU do?

Watch out for your own investments and reduce your personal expenditures in times of financial difficulties.

Watch what the government does with the taxpayer’s money and remember the results of their actions when deciding on future support for political parties and politicians.

There is a great deal of money to be made from the current financial crisis, especially since the regulators and most of the government is in a transitory phase and in not really minding the store.

Be well, be safe, be prudent.

-- steve

Quote of the Day: ”Sharing money is what gives it its value.” -- Elvis Presley

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links:

OCC Conditionally Approves First National Bank "Shelf Charter" to Expand Pool of Qualified Bidders for Troubled Institutions

Conditional Preliminary Approval Letter|OCC

Commerce Street Capital|Website

Hilltop Holdings|Website


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



GoreBlog: Learning from the past or promoting your own cause?

Here is a comment from Al Gore’s personal blog …

Capture11-20-2008-11.52.15 AM

“Looking Back to Look Forward”

“A new study suggests the Mayan civilization might have collapsed due to environmental disasters:

‘These models suggest that as ecosystems were destroyed by mismanagement or were transformed by global climatic shifts, the depletion of agricultural and wild foods eventually contributed to the failure of the Maya sociopolitical system,' writes environmental archaeologist Kitty Emery of the Florida Museum of Natural History in the current Human Ecology journal.’”

“As we move towards solving the climate crisis, we need to remember the consequences to civilizations that refused to take environmental concerns seriously.”

Another Gore “leap of faith?”

Wow!  That we should consider basing our current public policy on the speculations of what may have happened to an ancient civilization is almost incomprehensible. For those of you who do not follow Al Gore’s climatologically-challenged rantings:

Gore believes that certain computer models indicate that we are experiencing a global weather emergency that might assume catastrophic proportions if we do not limit man’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Primarily by the use of a carbon cap and trading system that would reward those who produce energy and products with lower carbon emissions and penalize those who produce energy and products with higher levels of carbon emissions. However, those who have lower carbon emissions can sell carbon credits to those producing higher emissions and thus satisfy some global carbon emission bookkeeper  at the United Nations.

My problem with this carbon cap and trade system is that the science is not settled over man’s contribution to global climate change and that the results of current climate models are still within the range of systemic measurement error.

I believe that global weather change is a naturally-occurring periodic function and that we do not know the actual periodicity of the cycles, the amplitude limits of the variations and our current position with respect to a regression to an unknown mean.

Computer models that approximate the current global weather curves may be little more than curve-fitting programs that require “forcing” adjustments to produce the type of results cited by Gore. Due to the relatively limited amount of clean historical data, adjustments in the data itself are often required to insure that the models work. All based on modeling assumptions which are currently being challenged by the ongoing work of scientists as this is written.

Other than the fact that I do not believe man can affect global climate change in a significant or measurable manner, what I find obscene is that the current model for the carbon cap and trade system is based on an Enron-type energy trading model which can be easily gamed for the financial advantage  of those who do nothing more than create, package and trade pieces of paper that purportedly represent emission credits. All while people are actually dying of more serious pollution-related illnesses in localities around the globe. To not mitigate this pollution first  over the creation and implementation of a political/financial scheme whose results may not even be measurable in six hundred to one thousand years is unconscionable.

Considering Gore’s assertion that we should “look back to look forward,” let us start by saying that the work cited was performed by a highly-credentialed, credible scientist with numerous publications. However, the findings may not fully support the proposition stated by Gore in his blog.

About the scientist …

“Kitty F. Emery, Ph.D., is the Curator of Environmental Archaeology at the FLMNH, where she investigates the ancient relationship between humans and the environments within which they lived. Dr. Emery received her Ph.D. in 1997 from Cornell University and has been with the FLMNH since 2001.”

“She works in the tropical forests of Central America, using ancient animal and plant remains recovered in archaeological deposits to understand how the ancient Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures used (and sometimes abused) their natural world. Dr. Emery has worked in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala for 15 years, and is currently studying materials from several Maya sites including Tikal, Copan, Dos Pilas (National Geographic Magazine Feb. 1993), Piedras Negras (NG Aug. 2003), and Aguateca (NG May 2003).”

The author is a well-credentialed researcher who is a serious scientist. However, I believe that Al Gore is promoting her findings into the suggestion that we ought to take action on his global warming initiative (and, according to my personal belief, personal money-making agenda) in order to avoid the fate of those – whose fate is not actually known and is subject to considerable scientific speculation.

An alternate theory?

“The Maya civilization was destroyed by a combination of civil war and Spanish conquest. The Spaniards arrived in Central America in 1519, searching for the New World and for pagan peoples to convert to Christianity. Although the Yucatán peninsula at that time consisted of minor city-states and independent small tribes, the Spaniards found the Maya unexpectedly hard to defeat in battle.”

“However, in the end the Maya could not withstand the modern weapons of the Spanish, and their cities were conquered one by one. A deciding factor was infectious disease that arrived with the invaders - within 100 years of the conquest, it is said that 90 percent of the Mayan population had perished from epidemics. From 1527, the conquest of Yucatán proceeded rapidly and in 1542, the establishment of the city of Mérida marked the start of Spanish colonial rule over the region. The tribes would continue to resist colonization and forcible conversion to Christianity until their defeat in 1697 at the battle of Tayasal, where the Mayans finally submitted to Spanish force.” <Source>

Checking the facts …

Unfortunately, I made an error in the time frame as the alternative theory shown above appears to be based on the civilization that was present 500 –700 years later than the work performed by Dr. Emery. Ah, the continuum of time and climate.

However, in a personal conversation with Dr. Emery, I did learn that the source of Gore’s blog piece was apparently from an item published in USA Today.

And the Gore quote was both self-serving and incomplete (my words) …

Emery's findings do not support the assertion that the aforementioned collapse of the Mayan civilization was a likely product of climate change and perhaps the word "collapse" is a misnomer as Emery indicated that the so-called collapse may be:

"Best interpreted as a gradual social and political restructuring rather than a cultural termination, this period of 200 years (varying from A.D. 800 to 1000 across the Maya world) was characterized by urban center abandonment and a cessation of elite political activity in many areas. It represented the culmination of a millennium of Classic period artistic, political, and economic florescence, and a transition to Postclassic lifestyles, that were encountered by the first Spanish arrivals in the early 1500s.”

As for an environmental causation of the so-called collapse, Emery is quite clear when she states:

"The lack of evidence for specific resource depression associated directly with the period of political collapse does not support a model of environmental failure during political disintegration in the Petexbatun. Correlations are found between animal use patterns and the specifics of site size and periods of peak political activity, suggesting that small-scale resource depressions might have resulted at some sites during early periods of human population growth, site expansion, and increasing political activity."

In her work, I found an interesting observation which may have some relevance to the continuing path of today’s societal changes.

"During the Classic period, human populations and proportions of elite nonproducers expanded rapidly, likely creating increased demands for subsistence products and status goods."

Which is an interesting observation given the rise of the numbers of people who are engaged in non-productive activities: mainly those who are well-entrenched in the political process and who add very little to the common safety or public weal'; those Wall Street Wizards who act as non-productive conduits or deal merchants who simply create products from whole cloth; and those in middle management who produce little value other than reports, studies and PowerPoint presentations. Needless to say, an ever-expanding government bureaucracy fits neatly into this category as many government employees are truly unnecessary to either the public's welfare or the functioning of the government.

Environmental failure?

“The Maya ‘Collapse’ as Environmental Failure”

“Archaeologists and others have proposed many variants of the environmental collapse model, most of which are sophisticated, complex, and multicausal.  These models, based on evidence from paleolimnology,
paleoclimatology, and microbotany, challenge social causality models that focus on warfare, foreign invasions, or economic realignments.”

“A less extreme model suggests that long-term limitations on essential subsistence resources led to a disruption of the Classic period political and economic systems by weakening the perceived ability of the ruling elite to predictably provide important resources. Regardless, a basic implication of the environmental-change model is that resource insufficiency caused by environmental failure led to the collapse of the complex Maya political system and that the ‘collapse’ and its coincident social restructuring would not have occurred had the resource insufficiency been surmountable.”

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the past is to implement public policies which prepare us to adapt to changing climatologically conditions – in the same manner that man has managed to live and thrive in extremely harsh environments with minimal technological support or has simply moved on to more resource-rich areas. By concentrating on developing sheltering, feeding, desalination and water use technologies, perhaps the Hansen climate model’s projected rise in temperature can be handled quite comfortably until the global temperature begins regressing to some, as yet, unknown mean.  There is some evidence that this regression has already begun and that global cooling is now starting to be manifest in atmospheric studies.

Bottom line …

From the USA Today article

So what happened in the collapse, at least in this part of the Maya world? ‘It was a bellicose place,’ Emery acknowledges, with evidence of warfare and walls across some ceremonial sites. ‘But the bodies aren't there,’ from any massive fighting, she says. More likely, there was just a political collapse in which rulers came to be seen over a two-century period as no longer delivering the goods, better crops or more rain.”

Somewhat like our current political situation where our elected officials are not performing the tasks that were entrusted to them by the citizens of the United States and are engaging in self-serving activities which create and maintain political power and tend to enrich themselves, their friends and the special interests with large campaign contributions.

One might read the next paragraph and ask why, in the face of an environmental disaster, are these people still living in the region?

“Modern-day Maya still live relatively close to the abandoned sites, after all, descendants of the folks who lived there long ago. ‘Folks just melted away’ from ceremonial centers, Emery says, just like people today changing rulers come election season.”

I hardly see the type of geographical dislocation described by Gore in response to his global climate change theories.

What can YOU do?

Once again, we urge caution in adopting public policies which threaten to change our political, social and economic infrastructure. Especially policies based on unsettled science and promoted by those with an obvious and declared conflict of interest.

We urge you to ask your elected officials to continue the funding of scientific endeavors without political strings or preconceived results. Even subtle interference in a scientific project may render the results invalid.

Most scientists do not comment on research outside of their expertise and thus do not seem engaged in the climate debate. That is not to say they do not present their opinions at colloquia or publish in a variety of peer-reviewed journals where their work can be evaluated, verified, disputed or amplified by their fellow scientists.

In these times of sensitive social and economic upheaval, we need to be highly suspicious of those who would create a carbon cap and trading systems which would use financial instruments similar to the toxic derivatives found in today’s mortgage marketplace.

Curbing the local pollution of the ground, water and air should be the first task of all governments. In this manner, the bigger picture will similarly take care of itself.

Always question the difference between causality and coincidence.

Be well, be safe and keep an open mind.

-- steve

Quote of the day: “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.” -- Sir Barnett Cocks

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links:

Disclaimer: In the author’s own words: “Attached is the copy of my Human Ecology paper, and here is the link to the USA Today article on the work - if you read those you'll see that my results discuss the effects of overhunting in the ancient Maya world, not the implications of climate change. Those were discussed in the USA Today article as background to my work. However, that is not to say I don't think the argument for ancient climate change is very strong, just not my area of expertise.” 

Did environmental disasters play role in Mayan decline?| USAToday

A Zooarchaeological Test for Dietary Resource Depression at the End of the Classic Period in the Petexbatun, Guatemala|Dr. Kitty Emery

Looking Back to Look Forward|Al Gore’s Blog


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



My blog: Another crackpot response?

As is my custom, I reply to all of my e-mail: the good, the bad and also the insane. In what started off like a lecture on the wonderfulness of Michelle Obama and my ignorance as a non-black person, the conversation, if you can claim that two people talking at cross-purposes is a conversation, deteriorated into something quite ugly.

Here is part of the reader’s response …

“What an insult to look at a person and not see color. That's who they are, respect them! We hear this time and time again. ‘I don't see color I just see a human being’ This is absurd. My friends and I know and dislike you for disrespecting all that we are as human beings. Its racist plain and simple.”

Apparently, the reader also disrespects Martin Luther King, Jr. who famously said:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

When I pointed out that the reader needn’t use all caps in their message – which in netiquette terms is tantamount to shouting, they responded:

“When I use caps its because I am shouting. You don't like it don't respond. Don't tell me what and how to say it. Mammy died a long time ago.”

This is rather a strange comment:

“The way you talk about what you do for a living tells me you're probably the first in your family to receive higher education. an educated fool.”

And then it gets ugly …

“Put to rest your I'm afraid of Michelle and what she'll do to America blah blah blah!”

“Whatever she does or doesn't do will be far better than all the anglo  women of America who have run this country into the ground with depraved standards of morality.”

“I've got news for you. Your friends say one thing to you at work and then go home and talk about you like a dog.”

“I am not surprised that you are Republican, not a Lincoln,Frederick Douglas Republican,but a racist,slime John McCain,Cindy "crackhead" McCain Sarah Palin ho Republican. Aren't they just the role models we want for America, ha!”

The e-mail ends with the request:

“DON'T E-MAIL ME EVER IN LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Final comment …

I do not know why certain democrats, often professing to be intellectuals, revert so quickly to name-calling and allow things to turn ugly. Perhaps it simply proves the old adage: weak argument, shout like hell!

A little research on my part turned up a few interesting coincidences:

one, the reader appears to write blog-posts in CAPS;

second, the reader apparently urged Barack Obama to go “ghetto on McCain” and not be afraid of the angry black man label; and to put a some hard core thug rappers on staff for strategy.

But the saddest thing of all, the reader claims to work with children. Which is possibly why many children are taught racial politics, anger and hate at an early age. Which is possibly why many children are taught to accept victimhood and entitlements as a way of life. And which is a possible reason why there are not more entrepreneurs among the black community.

The probem with an open mind is like that of an open door, there is always the possibility of a cold draft -- steve

The blog entry that started this exchange can be found here.


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



Global Warming: Models may be overestimating global warming predictions -- Nah, can't be true or you would be labeled as a climate denier!

Once again we are presented with a scientific work which suggests that global climate modeling might contain erroneous assumptions which lead to improbable or implausible results.

Global warming predictions are overestimated, suggests study on black carbon

“A detailed analysis of black carbon -- the residue of burned organic matter -- in computer climate models suggests that those models may be overestimating global warming predictions.”

“A new Cornell study, published online in Nature Geosciences, quantified the amount of black carbon in Australian soils and found that there was far more than expected, said Johannes Lehmann, the paper's lead author and a Cornell professor of biogeochemistry. The survey was the largest of black carbon ever published.”

“As a result of global warming, soils are expected to release more carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, which, in turn, creates more warming. Climate models try to incorporate these increases of carbon dioxide from soils as the planet warms, but results vary greatly when realistic estimates of black carbon in soils are included in the predictions, the study found.”

Long lead times …

“Soils include many forms of carbon, including organic carbon from leaf litter and vegetation and black carbon from the burning of organic matter. It takes a few years for organic carbon to decompose, as microbes eat it and convert it to carbon dioxide. But black carbon can take 1,000-2,000 years, on average, to convert to carbon dioxide.”

Modeling the results …

By entering realistic estimates of stocks of black carbon in soil from two Australian savannas into a computer model that calculates carbon dioxide release from soil, the researchers found that carbon dioxide emissions from soils were reduced by about 20 percent over 100 years, as compared with simulations that did not take black carbon's long shelf life into account.”

Ten times more carbon dioxide than all of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities combined …

The findings are significant because soils are by far the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, producing 10 times more carbon dioxide each year than all the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities combined. Small changes in how carbon emissions from soils are estimated, therefore, can have a large impact.”

"We know from measurements that climate change today is worse than people have predicted," said Lehmann. "But this particular aspect, black carbon's stability in soil, if incorporated in climate models, would actually decrease climate predictions."

The study quantified the amount of black carbon in 452 Australian soils across two savannas. Black carbon content varied widely, between zero and more than 80 percent, in soils across Australia.

"It's a mistake to look at soil as one blob of carbon," said Lehmann. "Rather, it has different chemical components with different characteristics. In this way, soil will interact differently to warming based on what's in it."

What can YOU do?

Tread softly on creating public policy based on the science of global climate change.

It may be six hundred to a thousand years before we can see statistically measurable results of our efforts to change global weather. Or the measurements may still be in the systemic error range of our instruments and their placement. So why disrupt life and the economy for something that will not manifest in hundreds of year, if ever – all based on a computer model.

Be vigilant of losing your cash and your freedom in trumped up emergencies created by self-serving politicians who seek personal power, prestige and profits.

-- steve

Quote of the day: “There are ONLY two types of politicians: the ones that are dead (and therefore presumed to be honest) and those who are the living undead who are presumed to be corrupt.”

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links:

Cornell Chronicle: Black carbon affects climate predictions


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



PUBLIC OFFICIALS: PUBLIC RELATIONS COUNSEL -- BARRIERS TO ACCOUNTABILITY? (Updated)

UPDATE:09-09-09 YORBA LINDA: SUE US!

The Orange County Register is reporting ...

"The City Council has voted to deny $43.6 million in claims from residents who lost their homes or had property damaged during last year's Freeway Complex fire and the floods that came in its wake. Most of the 10 claims blame the city for not providing adequate water to hill areas and not watering landscape easements near the residents' homes, leaving them vulnerable to the swiftly-moving flames. Residents have six months to file lawsuits. Council members made no comments before voting 4-0 to deny the claims. Councilwoman Jan Horton was absent."

"The city's report said former interim City Manager Bill Kelly, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, and the city's adjuster, NovaPro Risk Solutions, recommended the City Council deny all claims. Although the staff report doesn't list any specific reasons why the claims should be denied, Carvalho said they are the same points brought up in May, when Mayor Mark Schwing read a statement about why city officials believe Yorba Linda is not responsible for the loss of homes and property."

Almost a year later, it sounds like they are still taking professional advice.

Original Blog Entry ...

It is increasingly apparent that elected public officials and government agencies are turning to professional crisis management teams to curtail the political fallout from waste, mismanagement, corruption and malfeasance. Top notch firms, paid for with public funds, are being used to “control” the flow of official information in order to “manage” the public’s perception of an adverse event and to minimize the damage to elected official’s public image. Is this the best use for our hard-earned taxpayer funds? I think not. 

Imagine the worst, a wildfire destroys and damages a number of homes in a local community served by a water district which,  for some as yet unexplained reason, failed to maintain adequate water delivery and pressure in fire areas.

Now see what a representative of a highly-regarded crisis management company did to earn the taxpayer’s money …

The firm: The Abernathy MacGregor Group

“Our crisis communications practice assists clients when unplanned circumstances threaten public perception of their organizations and businesses. Such crises include product failures or recalls, facilities disasters, employee strikes, consumer boycotts, class action litigation, regulatory sanctions and criminal prosecutions.”

“Crises happen when unplanned circumstances arise to endanger an organization. A product fails or is recalled. A regulator threatens sanctions. Financial results collapse. Workers strike. Consumers boycott. Employees commit a crime. Hackers compromise computer or Web security. Activists demonstrate. A hurricane levels a factory. A prosecutor files charges.”

“In these and other crises, there are several missions: deal with the problem itself; communicate in ways that limit the spread of the problem; reassure those most directly concerned; and start the organization on the road back to normalcy. Opinions form rapidly in a crisis situation, and their effect can be lasting. But crisis response is often hindered by the unfamiliarity of the circumstances, by lack of preparedness, by strong emotion, and by issues of legal liability.”

“We assist clients in all phases of crisis planning and response. We advocate a crisis preparedness discipline that involves identifying areas of vulnerability, establishing procedures, training spokespeople and agreeing to broad principles of crisis conduct. Both in preparation and in crisis management, we prefer to work closely with a team made up of a client’s operating management and legal advisors.”

“Most crises can be mitigated. Some can be managed to avoid measurable impact on a company’s operations or on the attitudes of employees, customers, shareholders and other key constituencies. When crises arise, we most often recommend taking the initiative, controlling dialogue, accepting responsibility, making full disclosure, fixing what’s broken, helping those harmed by the events and mobilizing friends and supporters. We urge caution with the news media, which can make a small issue seem much larger; we urge sensitivity to the increasing role of the Internet in spreading information and shaping opinions.”

The person: Sally Sherry, Vice President, Los Angeles Office

“Sally Sherry, a media strategy specialist, advises clients across a broad range of industries on crisis communications, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, financial public relations and investor relations. In addition, she coaches and prepares clients to interact with the media.”

“Ms. Sherry brings to Abernathy MacGregor her many years of experience as a broadcast journalist. She was an anchor and reporter for network affiliates ABC, NBC, and CBS and also appeared frequently on CNN. Her work has been honored with a number of awards including the Journalistic Excellence Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, the San Diego Press Club Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Substance Abuse Summit Award for Excellence in Television Journalism.”

“In 2004, Ms. Sherry was awarded the prestigious Knight-Bagehot Fellowship for Journalists in Business and Economics, which brought her to study at Columbia University. In 2005, she was awarded the Wiegers Fellowship, and the following year, graduated with an M.B.A. degree from Columbia Business School and an M.S. and a Certificate in Economics and Business Journalism from Columbia School of Journalism. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California San Diego with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Economics.”

The crisis:  Homes were destroyed or damaged due to the lack of water and/or water pressure that was necessary to protect homes from a major wildfire.

“More than 200 people flooded a meeting of Yorba Linda and other officials Tuesday with questions about why the weekend's fire went the way it did. Throughout the city, 113 homes were destroyed and 50 were damaged.”

The official story: It was a communications problem and we are looking into the causes.

“The main problem was that the water district lost communication to the Santiago reservoir, which serves water to about 100 homes in the Hidden Hills area, because computer and telecommunications systems had melted, said Michael Payne, general manager for the water district. Without the communication, district officials are still unsure why the water pressure was so low to Hidden Hills during the fire.”

“The 49-year-old district was under heavy scrutiny Tuesday as officials tried to explain why water pressure died in some areas, mainly among the view homes in the Hidden Hills area. Officials stressed that the 50 million-gallon system met minimum standards for fire flow and, in fact, was operating at nearly double the capacity.”

“Questions remained, however, about whether Orange County Fire Authority could have required – and the district could have built – a system with more firefighting capacity to serve a city built mostly among the hills nestled against a brushy state preserve.”

“ ‘You can't put a system that strong in place that would be economical,’ said Ken Vecchiarelli, assistant general manager of the 14,445-acre water district. ‘It's no secret the system was meant to fight one (structure) fire in a service area, not three or four.’ The district is divided into 19 service areas.”

“‘It was a problem of too much fire, not a problem of not enough water,’ said district spokesman Laer Pearce.”

The unofficial story: $9 million dollars was spent on a lavish office building rather than an upgrade of the water system.

“Fire officials are also looking into reports of water delivery problems in the Yorba Linda area. The Yorba Linda Water District recently unveiled a new headquarters and just broke ground on $11.2 million project to replace a 95-year-old reservoir, one of the oldest in Orange County.” <Source>

Questions continue to swirl around the water district as residents complain that the reservoir, whose construction was said to be authorized two years ago (2005/2006), was delayed while the office building was completed. And that the abysmally low water pressure in the area affected by the fire was already known to the board’s officials and yet they did nothing to ameliorate the problem.

The meeting: The City Council faces residents.

“Residents packed Tuesday's City Council meeting as fire and water district officials laid out their case in PowerPoint, explaining they did everything they could. Mutual aid requests sent dozens of engines roaring toward the fire within half an hour. Air resources were called in and evacuation plans worked, officials said. But stepping in to the ring with Mother Nature sometimes means ending up on the losing end of the fight.”

“For the residents left behind to watch their homes burn to the ground, the victims of angry flames ripping through bedrooms and garage, the explanation simply wasn't enough.
‘The fire hydrants didn't work,’ said Diane Manista, who has lived with her husband on Mission Hills Road in Hidden Hills for the past 19 years. ‘No firemen came because there was no water.’ ‘Five trucks passed our street,’ said Manista. ‘No one would stop. When I flagged down a truck, they said there was no water.’” <Source>

Enter the crisis manager, Sally Sherry …

According to a report on KFI-640’s John and Ken Show, Aaron Bender, who attended the Yorba Linda City Council meeting, was having a pleasant conversation with William Mills, Board Vice President, when he was rudely interrupted by a woman, later identified as Sally Sherry, who did everything in her power to prevent the interview from going forward. Even though the meeting was held by public officials, in a public place, for the benefit of the public, this PR flack informed Aaron Bender that the ONLY person who was allowed to answer questions was Ken Vecchiarelli who is the assistant general manager of the water district. The reporter was reported to be fully credentialed and using a flagged-KFI microphone. When challenged by the reporter, she walked away without identifying herself.

The KFI reporter, representing the public’s interest, was prevented from speaking with public officials. And the one official who was permitted to speak seemed to be using previously prepared talking points.

How stupid is a crisis manager to cut-off a reporter with the Southland’s largest radio station? Or to fail to identify yourself as you blow past him with a stupid and trivial comment?

Question: Do we need highly-paid public relations flacks and crisis managers to stand between the public and their officials?

Considering the large amount of money spent on public relations to protect the reputations of public officials and to put a happy face on prominent problems, it seems that these people should be the first to be eliminated from public budgets. Of course, paid lobbyists who act on behalf of elected officials and their agencies against the interests of the public should also be eliminated.

What can YOU do?

Demand that public relations flacks, crisis managers and lobbyists be eliminated from budgets before a single dollar is cut from any public protective service: police, fire, paramedics, etc.

Demand that public officials answer questions directly and truthfully or, if the matter is especially egregious, answer the questions before a grand jury investigation.

Demand that your elected officials, appointees and agency heads fully account for the repair and replacement of our crumbling infrastructure.

Demand that no developer receives a permit without adequate fire, police and water resources.

-- steve

Quote of the day: “As I grow older, I regret to say that a detestable habit of thinking seems to be getting a hold of me.” -- H. Rider Haggard

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



Global Warming: Weather Measurements by Proxy

We live in a very large, imperfect world where direct measurement of historical events and the forecast of future events is not always easy, practical or accurate.

In many cases, no observers or instruments were available to measure local weather conditions so we must rely on measurements imputed by other phenomena: weather by proxy.

In the modern world, one may study tree rings, dissolved gases trapped in ice cores, calcium carbonate deposits and other such item and then try to correlate these findings with historical records and then try to use this data for our highly sophisticated computer model.

Sometimes the data is useful and agrees with our suspected results, other times it is extremely flawed. We have taken the liberty of demonstrating an erroneous conclusion based on an unchecked feedback loop.

It was already late fall and the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new Chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.

Since he was a Chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets.  When he looked at the sky he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like.

Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of  the village should collect firewood to be prepared.

But being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea.  He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, 'Is the coming winter going to be cold?''

It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,' the meteorologist at the Weather Service responded. So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.

A week later he called the National Weather Service again. 'Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?'  'Yes,' the man at National Weather Service again replied, 'It's going to be a very cold winter.'

The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.

Two weeks later the Chief called the National Weather Service again.  'Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?'

'Absolutely,' the man replied.  'It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen.'

'How can you be so sure?' the chief asked.

The weatherman replied, 'The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy.'

Yes, this is an old joke, but one that has never been truer as it reminds us to check our assumptions about global climate change before rushing off to create and implement public policy.

Hope you had a chuckle.

-- steve


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



Attleboro, Massachusetts: Reduce your city budget, fire the terminally stupid!

Today’s example comes from Attleboro, Massachusetts where  City Collector, Debora Marcoccio, claims that she is unwilling to waive a utility bill for one cent.

For threatening to place a lien on the property of a blind resident for one cent … I give you Debora Marcoccio, City Collector, and the idiot du jour …

Idiocy on display …

Capture11-18-2008-9.04.06 PM

"It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to have staff weed through the bills and pull out any below a certain amount," [Debora] Marcoccio said. " And what would that amount be?"

" ‘My question is, how come it wasn't paid when the bills went out?’ she said. In the meantime, the city is holding firm on the amount due.
Marcoccio, who called the whole situation ‘ridiculous,’ said the city will not waive the balance. ‘If there's a bill, it must be paid,’ she said.”

First, these utilitiy bills are prepared by a computer which can easily be programmed to ignore the generation of  threatening notices for amounts under $100 or a sum that is less than the city’s cost of pursuing the matter further. The amount in arrears is charged interest and added to the next month’s statement. If the account is closed and the amount owing is less than the cost of collection, the amount is written off as a loss.

Second, there mere thought that this collector would consider the staff time to wade through computer generated bills  is indicative of her bureaucratic thinking.

From the Sun Chronicle …

“Bill threatens lien, penalty to elderly, blind homeowner who owes one cent”

A 74-year-old blind woman has been told a lien will be put on her South Attleboro home if she doesn't come up with a penny she owes on an outstanding utility bill.”

“Eileen Wilbur, of Glenn Street, said she discovered the notice of the potential lien after her daughter, Rose Brederson, came over to read her mail. ‘It's so upsetting,’ Wilbur said. ‘It sent my blood pressure up so high.’”

“The city sent Wilbur a letter dated Nov. 10 stating that if the 1 cent balance is not paid by Dec. 10, the city will assess a lien of up to $48 on Wilbur's next property tax bill.”

" ‘They wasted taxpayer money on the letter,’ Wilbur said, noting the 42-cent charge for a stamp.”

Stupid is as stupid does …

“City Collector Debora Marcoccio said the bill was sent out along with more than 2,000 others as the city tries to recoup outstanding balances before resorting to putting liens on property.”

“A computer automatically printed the letters for any account with a balance remaining, and they were not reviewed by staff before being sent out, Marcoccio said.”

" ‘It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to have staff weed through the bills and pull out any below a certain amount,’ Marcoccio said. ‘And what would that amount be?’"

“According to the letter, the outstanding balance stems from a water and sewer bill from fiscal year 2008, which ran from July 2007 to July 2008. Marcoccio said that before lien notices are sent out, the city sends out bills for the outstanding balance.”

" ‘My question is, how come it wasn't paid when the bills went out?’ she said. In the meantime, the city is holding firm on the amount due.
Marcoccio, who called the whole situation ‘ridiculous,’ said the city will not waive the balance. ‘If there's a bill, it must be paid,’ she said.”
Brederson said her mother was very upset by the situation, but will likely end up paying the penny to avoid having the cost rise.”

" ‘The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous,’ she said.”

Screwing with the system …

As the chief technologist for a computer corporation, it would be a fairly simple matter to file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to examine the computer code that controls the program to determine if the round-off algorithm is implemented correctly. The cost of preparing a response would be far greater than the single penny that they are seeking and it is a resident’s right to determine if the bill was calculated accurately.  Perhaps the investigation could be widened-out to include meter reading errors and if the city provides prompt refunds of overages when the amount paid does not match the amount billed.

Of course, each person in the city could simply overpay their bill by one cent and then demand a refund which would be poetic justice.

In the mean time, the stupid collector should be fired on the grounds that she is, according to her own criteria, fiscally irresponsible for not assuring that the computer is programmed in a manner to assure that inconsequential mistakes are not elevated into a time-wasting and costly national drama.

What can YOU do?

Do not promote stupidity in local, state or federal governments. Promote only those who ask the question: does this make sense, is cost effective and prove to be beneficial to the people?

As for the idiot du jour, send her a penny and ask for written confirmation of its receipt. Bury her in telephone calls questioning her loyalty to the residents of Attleboro when she is oblivious of the necessity to cut unnecessary expenditures in order to save the city money in these troubled times.

Feel like chatting with the City Collector?    508-223-2222 ext. 3121

The City Collector in Attleboro appears to be a political position and the current City Collector should be tossed out in the next election. Threatening a blind resident over a one-cent balance owed on a city bill is grounds for rejecting Debora Marcoccio  in the next election on the grounds that she is a bureaucratic idiot.

“There is hereby established within the Municipal Government a Collector's Department headed by the City Collector who shall be elected for a term of two years by and from the voters in accordance with the provisions of the Attleboro Home Rule
Charter. The City Collector shall receive such salary as the Municipal Council shall determine by ordinance.”

-- steve

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links:

City wants her cent - The Sun Chronicle Online - News


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



Steve's random musings (11/18/08)

Selling out the United States and the conundrum of appointing Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State?

It is amazing to me that Barack Obama would select Hillary Clinton as his designated Secretary of State. Not because she is unqualified, but because she may represent a clear and present danger to the nation.

First, there will be an inherent conflict about nuanced diplomatic instructions which could spell disaster for an Obama Administration and possibly set Hillary up for the Presidency in four years. Depending on the severity of her actions, it is unlikely that the nation will be well served by someone who may have greater ambitions and a known conflict of interest.

And second, there is the problem with former President Clinton whose cronies attempted to sell-off American technology to various and sundry countries, some of which were covertly plotting acts of espionage.  Even though the vetting process is said to include the finances of the Clinton foundation, unless that information is made public and is transparently available for scrutiny, I do not trust the democrats to present a fair and unbiased look at the Clinton operation. I have no doubt that Clinton and some of his friends may, in actuality, become unofficial and unregistered lobbyists to the Obama Administration. One need only look at the proposed staffing of the Obama Administration to realize that the preponderance of transition team candidates and potential employees have worked for, and are considered loyal to, the Clintons.

Obama has never struck me as a strong-willed leader who can keep the Clintons in check. One needs only to consider why Hillary would accept this transitory position as the handmaiden to the President rather than becoming a power in her own right in the United States Senate to have worries about this appointment?

Obama and McCain …

If this is Barack Obama’s idea of bi-partisanship, we are in a world of hurt. For all intents and purposes, John McCain is a conservative democrat whose signature bi-partisan legislation, McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform, has failed miserably and has actually introduced more unaccountable money into political campaigns than was previously imagined. But it is his other two attempts at bi-partisanship which greatly worry me.

McCain-Kennedy to grant amnesty and citizenship to hoards of illegal aliens who have almost single-handedly destroyed our California healthcare, education, judicial, retirement, social and cultural infrastructure and now would be a legitimate drag on our economy.

It is my opinion that we need to first secure our borders  and to normalize the nationality question to mandate that children assume the nationality of their parents. And then to implement an illegal alien registration program with tamper-proof identification. In my humble opinion, there is no need to grant any illegal alien citizenship, permanent residency provided that there is no criminality, yes – but not citizenship. In this manner, the problem will self-resolve over the coming years.

And then there is the bi-partisan McCain-Lieberman climate stewardship legislation which will use the issue of global climate change to enlarge government, increase taxes and further curtail personal freedoms. These are the weather Nazis who will use their newfound abilities to grab and hold political power  -- even though there will be no apparent measurable global climate results for hundreds of years.

Like the pundit says: when a liberal democrat and a liberal republican run, the result is that a liberal democrat will always be elected.

Pressing on …

Now that a complicit media has thrown their lot in with the Obama camp, they are now attempting to re-capture much of their disgusted audience with a series of self-serving self-analyses. This should not be tolerated at any level and their actions must be punished. The media, for all of their pretentions to be journalists, crossed the boundary into punditry and became reporters of the celebrity social scene. They failed to adequately vet both democrats, Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, while subjecting Republican Sarah Palin to a gynecological exam. And now they want absolution before the play has even started.

Considering that the chattering classes live or die by gossip, let us see what kind of job they do in the coming years – before we trust them again to speak truth to power.

The Jesse Jackson media tour …

Now that the old “do as I say, not as I do, race-baiting hustler is trying to revive his relevance to an Obama Administration, I say ignore his feeble attempts to grab media attention with his concerns that President Bush may do something totally egregious in his final days in office. One thing is certain, he probably won’t be selling pardons on the corner and stealing White House furniture and knick-knacks.  Put Jesse Jackson back on the ash-heap of history and move beyond his pathetic pronouncements.

“The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he's concerned about the effect President Bush could have in his last months in office. Jackson said Sunday at a Baltimore church that the nation's economic crisis is being compounded by the ideology of the Bush administration.”

“The civil rights leader and former presidential candidate also said his relationship with Obama is a ‘great one.’ He refused to comment on whether his son, an Illinois congressman, would be chosen to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat. Jackson apologized to Obama earlier this year for saying the Illinois senator appeared to be talking down to black Americans. Jackson said the comments were private and he didn't know they were being recorded.”

Is this the same guy who famously said he wanted to cut Barack Obama’s nuts off for talking down to the black people? In effect, doing a Jesse Jackson – preaching morality from an immoral position.

Firestorms and the environmentalists …

Once again the environmentalists, or as I call them, the perfect people for a perfect planet, are calling for a moratorium on building in hazardous areas.

In spite of all of their self-professed “stewardship” of the land, these are the very same people who march against controlled burns (contributes to global warming) and the type of supervised logging (rape of the land) which thins out the fuel load which gives rise to periodic and catastrophic fires.

In many uninhabited areas, letting the fire simply burn, while creating temporary smoke and pollution is often a far smarter measure than allocating a tremendous amount of money and fire-fighting resources to bring the fire to a complete stop.

What we are learning is that even homes built to code and with adequate brush clearance can burn in the face of 70-mile per hour wind driven flames.

For people who want to build in almost inaccessible areas or do not take prudent measures to protect their lives and property, they have made a choice and should seek to mitigate potential problems at their own expense. Sort of real-world default credit swaps.

Global warming: chill out …

According to the London Telegraph …

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

“GISS's computerized temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-skeptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.”

“A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen's institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.”

“If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change. (He was recently in the news here for supporting the Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminally damaging a coal-fired power station in Kent, on the grounds that the harm done to the planet by a new power station would far outweigh any damage they had done themselves.)”

“Yet last week's latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in question. In 2007 he was forced by Mr Watts and Mr McIntyre to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as he had claimed, but the 1930s.” <Source>

In spite of the implicit suggestion that this single data reporting failure is symptomatic of NASA’s sloppy work – and that the United Nations is asking the people to rely on models with shoddy data, this is a simple data error. Quickly discovered by the larger lay-scientific community and rectified by those who are charged with keeping the data clean.

So for those who are going crazy in the blogosphere claiming that this is somehow linked to a conspiratorial smoking gun – chill out. Not all automated data transactions are inherently clean. It is ludicrous to even think that one month’s or two month’s worth of data is even significant in the overall scheme of things; especially when global climate change cycles may be measured in hundreds or thousands of years. Bitch about the construction of the models, the assumptions that underlie the models, the techniques for interpolating and/or smoothing data – but move on to more substantive issues.

Stay vigilant and be safe.

-- steve

Quote of the Day: ”It is better to aim at perfection and miss, than to aim at imperfection and hit it.” --Thomas J. Watson

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell



FDIC: JEOPARDIZING THEIR MISSION? (Updated)

UPDATE (02): 11-25-08 MORE MISSION CREEP AT THE FDIC

The New York Post is reporting ...

"Good news! Citibank is participating in the FDIC's Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program," the e-mail read. "Through December 31, 2009, all of your non-interest and interest-bearing checking deposit account balances are fully guaranteed by the FDIC for the entire amount in your account."

Another expansion of the FDIC's mission which may further compromise their original mission of guaranteeing customer accounts up to $100,000 (now $250,000) without additional government assistance.

UPDATE (01): 11-19-08 MISSION CREEP AT THE FDIC

From CNSNews.com  ...

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson supports the idea of a foreclosure-prevention plan that could put the government on the hook for 50 percent of a mortgage-servicing company’s loss should it renegotiate a bad mortgage -- and the renegotiation fails. But he doesn’t want to use TARP (Toxic Asset Relief Program) money – the $700 billion bailout money Congress approved before the election – to pay for it."

"On Tuesday, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Sheila Bair told members of the House Financial Services Committee that $24 billion of the bailout funds should be used to prevent families from losing their homes from foreclosure. She warned that it is 'essential' for the Treasury Department to offer loan guarantees and credit to help keep people in their homes."

"Bair’s plan, however, is that Treasury take over a loss-sharing 'foreclosure-prevention plan' already in place at FDIC – one that commits the federal government to pay for 50 percent of a bank’s losses if it renegotiates a customer’s mortgage – and the customer defaults again. "

While it is commendable that Sheila Bair considers the ramifications of mortgage insurance, she surely knows that protecting lenders by insuring mortgages is primarily the job of the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and anything which detracts from the FDIC mission of providing safety and security to those with insured bank accounts only dilutes the protection of accountholders and further impairs the agency's mission. So why did the FDIC adopt the plan in the first place?

Original blog entry ...

Insurance company of last resort …

For most people, the FDIC is their insurance company of last resort, insuring their deposits in regulated financial institutions against default, defalcation or other actions which might jeopardize a depositor’s funds. A backstop that has, until recently, protected up to $100,000 in eligible accounts. People sleep soundly at night knowing that at least a portion of the funds are protected by the government.

More than doubling their exposure …

After discussing the possibility of multiple bank failures in the current financial crisis, the FDIC was telling Congress and the media that it might require more funding to continue its mission.

The FDIC  immediately turned around and more than doubled their guarantees to the public, up to $250,000 per eligible account and thus greatly increased their risk of running out of cash.

“On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which temporarily raises the basic limit on federal deposit insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor. The temporary increase in deposit insurance coverage became effective upon the President's signature. The legislation provides that the basic deposit insurance limit will return to $100,000 after December 31, 2009.”

"This temporary increase in deposit insurance coverage should go far to help consumers maintain confidence in the banking system and the marketplace," said FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair. "And clearly the public's confidence is key to a healthy and stable economy."

Good leadership … turning political?

FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair is widely respected for her innovative financial solutions to problems such as effecting mortgage mitigation efforts at IndyMac Bank which was recently placed into FDIC conservatorship.

So why would the FDIC further jeopardize their current resources by extending a guarantee of $139 BILLION dollars to General Electric?

According to Bloomberg News …

Granting GE Capital, which isn’t a bank, access to a new Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. program may reassure investors and help the unit compete with banks that already have government protection behind their debt, said Russell Wilkerson, a spokesman for the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company. Coverage would be for about $139 billion, or 125 percent of total senior unsecured debt outstanding as of Sept. 30 and maturing by June 30.”

“ ‘Inclusion in this program will allow us to source our debt competitively with other participating financial institutions,’ Wilkerson said. GE sent investors an e-mail about the program today and posted the letter on its Web site. ‘Our participation is a positive development for our investors.’”

What is going on?

Why would an institution whose mission is to insure the deposits of regulated banks, turn around and extend a guarantee to a “non-bank” in order to make it more competitive with regulated banks? And to reassure their “investors” who did not place the funds in a regulated bank? This makes absolutely no sense and, in my humble opinion, further jeopardizes the FDIC’s ability to manage its mission.

I might ask, why the FDIC is extending this guarantee and not the Federal Reserve; which has wider latitudes since they are a private organization owned by their member banks.

Does anyone know what is going on?

We have seen the Federal Reserve turn the two remaining investment banks into regulated bank holding companies and now it appears that any association with a bank entitles you to feed at the public trough.

“GE’s finance businesses are able to seek FDIC debt coverage because its GE Capital subsidiary also owns a federal savings bank and an industrial loan company, both of which already qualify. GE last month started using a new Federal Reserve program designed to revive demand for commercial paper amid the global crisis.”

“U.S. regulators introduced the FDIC program Oct. 14, making the insurance automatically available for banks on debt issued through June 30, 2009. Affiliated non-bank units have to apply separately, as GE did. Like the banks, GE would pay a premium for the insurance. GE said the coverage would begin on or before Nov. 14 and lasts through June 30, 2012.”

IS SOMEONE LYING OR ARE WE BEING PLAYED?

In an article titled "GE chief signals appetite for media assets," FT.com reports ...

"Jeffrey Immelt has declared his interest in buying media assets in a sign that a slumping economy has not shaken General Electric’s confidence in its television and film business, NBC Universal."

"Media stocks have plunged this year amid concern the financial crisis will weigh heavily on companies dependent on advertising revenue and consumer spending."

"In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Immelt, GE chief executive, said the company had the resources to capitalize on bargains as it wades through the downturn. 'There are going to be some opportunities in media consolidation, in infrastructure, oil and gas, aviation,' Mr Immelt said. 'And my hope is that we can play in some of those as time goes on.'”

"Mr Immelt’s stated willingness to expand his media business comes as Vivendi, which owns 20 per cent of NBCU, neared its annual window to exercise a put option that would force GE to buy back the stake."

If  Immelt is telling the truth about having the resources to invest in media properties, why is the FDIC guaranteeing $139 BILLION in GE debt? Why shouldn't this debt be guaranteed by GE itself?

I am not sure that I want to see the FDIC compromise its core mission to extend into other insurance guarantee products which may jeopardize the agency’s mission. While the money appears to come from the same public pocket, mixing and matching inter-agency guarantees only muddies the water and serves to reduce the transparency in government guarantees and bailout operations. It is almost like the Administration is trying to obscure the depth and extent of the present crisis by making the bits and pieces impossible to track.

What is up with GE management?

Under Jack Welch, GE prospered and continued to grow. Under Jeffrey Immelt, NBC and its affiliates have turned their news department almost into a propaganda arm of the Obama campaign and, if Bill O'Reilly is to be believed, continued to do business with Iran while they were assisting in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. These claims have been widely discussed and it seems that Jeffery Immelt is coming up short. Considering the FT.com article was published November 16, 2008, it cannot be said that Immelt did not know his company was seeking an FDIC guarantee or did not plan in advance to consider the purchase of additional media properties.

This seems like a bad parallel to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson lending Congressionally-approved bailout funds to banks, only to see them use the money to pay for acquisitions,  shareholder dividends and to shore up their own balance sheets. Perhaps this is Immelt's "Hail Mary" play to shore up the sagging fortunes of NBC and save his sorry butt from being dismissed by the GE Board of Directors. In my opinion, I do not think that the taxpayer should save Immelt's sorry butt -- especially if the GE/IRAN allegations are true.

Who is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) …

Mission -- “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent agency created by the Congress that maintains the stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system by insuring deposits, examining and supervising financial institutions, and managing receiverships.”

Vision -- “The FDIC is a leader in developing and implementing sound public policies, identifying and addressing new and existing risks in the nation’s financial system, and effectively and efficiently carrying out its insurance, supervisory, and receivership management responsibilities.”

Financial Stewardship -- “The FDIC acts as a responsible fiduciary, consistently operating in an efficient and cost-effective manner on behalf of insured financial institutions and other stakeholders.”

What can YOU do?

Demand a fair and honest accounting of the taxpayer’s money from your elected officials. Expect that some will stick to their hands and the hands of their friends.

Demand that your government institutions stick to their core missions. When mission creep becomes the norm, responsibility and accountability is compromised and the public’s trust and faith in their government vanishes.

Do not elect well-spoken highbinders and con-men to office and recall or prosecute those who have breached the public’s trust. Do not be satisfied with elected official’s being censured, allowed to file retroactive amended reports or donate suspect money to charities of their choice and in their name.

Protect yourself as the government seems hell-bent on spending the taxpayer’s money to save a currently corrupt system and to preserve its practices by re-defining the terms used to describe theft and embezzlement as bonuses and severance pay.

-- steve

Quote of the day: “The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.” -- Frank Zappa

A reminder from OneCitizenSpeaking.com: a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

Reference Links:

GE Wins FDIC Insurance for Up to $139 Billion in Debt (Update3)|Bloomberg.com


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell