Monday, March 30, 2009

Reason vs. Faith!

God gave you Reason so you could actually think -- he wanted you to use your brains . . .

(well, maybe not this guy, as he is obviously not that bright -- but other people) 

 

http://reason.com/blog/show/132554.html

For the record, I don't think faith and reason are mutually exclusive.

 

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Amazing Staircases

The staircase with the drawer in the bottom was in the farmhouse at Kelliher.  Contained tools and shoe polish.




 










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See and download the full gallery on posterous

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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24 THINGS ABOUT TO BECOME EXTINCT IN AMERICA


     
    24. Yellow Pages
    This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like
    newspapers, print Yellow Pages 20 will continue to bleed dollars to their
    various digital counterparts, from Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), to local
    search engines and combination search/listing services like Reach Local and
    Yodle Factors like an acceleration of the print 'fade rate' and the looming
    recession will contribute to the onslaught. One research firm predicts the
    falloff in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10%
    this year -- much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate ;seen in past years.


    23. Classified Ads
    The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads
    might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one
    of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization
    as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by
    free online listings at sites like Craigslist.org and Google Base, then
    newspapers are not far behind them.


    22. Movie Rental Stores
    While Netflix is looking up at the moment, Blockbuster keeps closing store
    locations by the hundreds. It still has about 6,000 left across the world,
    but those keep dwindling and the stock is down considerably in 2008,
    especially since the company gave up a quest of Circuit City. Movie Gallery,
    which owned the Hollywood Video brand, closed up shop earlier this year.
    Countless small video chains and mom-and-pop stores have given up the ghost
    already.


    21. Dial-up Internet Access
    Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The
    combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed
    Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded
    the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.


    20. Phone Landlines
    According to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, at the
    end of 2007, nearly one in six homes was cell-only and, of those homes that
    had landlines, one in eight only received calls on their cells.


    19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
    Maryland's icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay. Last
    year Maryland saw the lowest harvest (22 million pounds) since 1945. Just
    four decades ago the bay produced 96 million pounds. The population is down
    70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. There are only about 120
    million crabs in the bay and they think they need 200 million for a
    sustainable population. Over-fishing, pollution, invasive species and global
    warming get the blame.


    18. VCRs
    For the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple
    in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and
    now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). In fact, the only remnants of the VHS
    age at your local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack are blank VHS tapes these days.
    Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are practically
    nowhere to be found. They served us so well.


    17. Ash Trees
    In the late 1990s, a pretty, iridescent green species of beetle, now known
    as the emerald ash borer, hitched a ride to North America with ash wood
    products imported from eastern Asia. In less than a decade, its larvae have
    killed millions of trees in the Midwest, and continue to spread. They've
    killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with
    tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana. More than 7.5 billion ash
    trees are currently at risk.


    16. Ham Radio
    Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless
    communications with each other and are able to support their communities
    with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing
    their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. However,
    proliferation of the Internet and its popularity among youth has caused the
    decline of amateur radio. In the past five years alone, the number of people
    holding active ham radio licenses has dropped by 50,000, even though Morse
    Code is no longer a requirement.


    15. The Swimming Hole
    Thanks to our litigious society, swimming holes are becoming a thing of the
    past. '20 /20' reports that swimming hole owners, like Robert Every in High
    Falls, NY, are shutting them down out of worry that if someone gets hurt
    they'll sue. And that's exactly what happened in Seattle. The city of
    Bellingham was sued by Katie Hofstetter who was paralyzed in a fall at a
    popular swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park. As injuries occur and lawsuits
    follow, expect more swimming holes to post 'Keep out!' signs.


    14. Answering Machines
    The increasing disappearance of answering machines is directly tied to No 20
    in our list -- the decline of landlines. According to USA Today, the number of
    homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has
    been particularly bad in New York; since 2000, landline usage has dropped
    55%. It's logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing
    traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.


    13. Cameras That Use Film
    It doesn't require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the
    film camera in America. Just look to companies like Nikon, the professionals
    choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006, it announced that it would
    stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market -- only 3% of its
    sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.


    12. Incandescent Bulbs
    Before a few years ago, the standard 60-watt (or, yikes, 100-watt) bulb was
    the mainstay of every U.S. home. With the green movement and
    all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb (CFL)
    is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. The EPA
    reports that 2007 sales for Energy Star CFLs nearly doubled from 2006, and
    these sales accounted for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. light bulb
    market. And according to USA Today, a new energy bill plans to phase out
    incandescent bulbs in the next four to 12 years.


    11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys
    Bowling balls. US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at
    least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys.
    Today most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types of
    recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades,
    climbing walls and glow miniature golf.  Bowling lanes also have been added
    to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts
    and gambling casinos.


    10. The Milkman
    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 1950, over half of the
    milk delivered was to the home in quart bottles, by 1963, it was about a
    third and by 2001, it represented only 0.4% percent. Nowadays most milk is
    sold through supermarkets in gallon jugs. The steady decline in home

    delivered milk is blamed, of course, on the rise of the supermarket,
    better home refrigeration and longer-lasting milk. Although some milkmen
    still make the rounds in pockets of the U.S., they are certainly a dying
    breed.


    9. Hand-Written Letters
    In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion e-mails
    were sent each day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an
    estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world's
    population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half-a-trillion text
    messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially
    since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the
    elegant, polite hand-written letter?


    8. Wild Horses
    It is estimated that 100 years ago, as many as two million horses were
    roaming free within the United States. In 2001, National Geographic News
    estimated that the wild horse population had decreased to about 50,000 head.
    Currently, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board states that
    there are 32,000 free roaming horses in ten Western states, with half of
    them residing in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to reduce
    the total number of free range horses to 27,000, possibly by selective
    euthanasia.


    7. Personal Checks
    According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan
    to decrease their use of checks over the next two years, while a net 14%
    plan to increase their use of PIN debit.  Bill payment remains the last
    stronghold of paper-based payments -- for the time being. Checks continue to
    be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying
    at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a
    bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers' recurring bill
    payments (down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003).


    6. Drive-in Theaters
    During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in
    this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly
    zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and
    five reopened in 2006, so there isn't much of a movement toward reviving the
    closed ones.


    5. Mumps & Measles
    Despite what's been in the news lately, the measles and mumps actually,
    truly are disappearing from the United States. In 1964, 212,000 cases of
    mumps were reported in the U .S. By 1983, this figure had dropped to 3,000,
    thanks to a vigorous vaccination program. Prior to the introduction of the
    measles vaccine, approximately half a million cases of measles were reported
    in the U.S. annually, resulting in 450 deaths. In 2005, only 66 cases were
    recorded.


    4. Honey Bees
    Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting
    so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the
    honey bee. Very scary. 'Colony Collapse Disorder,' or CCD, has spread
    throughout the U.S. and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to
    90% of the colonies of many beekeepers -- and along with it, their
    livelihood.


3. News Magazines and TV News 
While the TV evening newscasts haven't gone anywhere over the last several
decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing
returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three
network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast
forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that.


2. Analog TV
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S.
get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For
the remaining 15% -- or 13 million individuals -- who are using rabbit ears
or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air
If you are one of these people you'll need to get a new TV or a converter
box in order to get the new stations which will only be broadcast in digital


1. The Family Farm
Since the 1930s, the number of family farms has been declining rapidly.
According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in 1950, but this
number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census (data from the
2007 census hasn't yet been published). Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms
are small family farms. 

Change is interesting...but to us "old" folks also somewhat disheartening. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen

Meet the bankers and brokers responsible for the financial crisis - and the officials who let them get away with it

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26868968/the_dirty_dozen


(Is it just me, or can Rolling stone not count to 12?)



Posted Mar 25, 2009 8:40 AM


The Enabler
ALAN GREENSPAN

WAS Chairman of the Federal Reserve (1987-2006)
WHAT HE DID Pushed for sweeping power to regulate Wall Street — and then failed to use it. Fueled "irrational" bubble with low interest rates.
WORST MOVE Called derivatives like CDOs "extraordinarily useful"; regulating them would be a "mistake."
NOW ADMITS He was "partially" wrong to not impose tougher oversight.



The Pioneer
SANDY WEILL

WAS CEO of Citigroup (1998-2003)
WHAT HE DID Created the first too-big-to-fail company, Citigroup. Led the boom in subprime mortgages.
RECENTLY Celebrated $45 billion taxpayer bailout of Citi by taking Mexican vacation on Citigroup jet, complete with $13,000 carpets, pillows made from Hermés scarves, and Baccarat crystal glassware.



The Ideologue
PHIL GRAMM

WAS Senate Banking Committee chair (1995-2000)
KNOWN AS "High priest of deregulation"
WHAT HE DID Pushed repeal of Glass-Steagall Act, leading to rise of megabanks.
WORST MOVE Wrote law that exempted disastrous CDS deals from all regulation.
NOW ADMITS Nothing. Says there is "no evidence" his laws caused crash, which he dismissed as a "mental recession.




The Arsonist
JOE CASSANO

WAS Senate Banking Committee chair (1995-2000)
WHAT HE DID Blew a $500 billion hole in fabric of the universe by placing massive bet on the bubble economy with money he didn't have.
WORST MOVE In August 2007 told investors his CDS deals could not lose even "$1"; lost $352 million that quarter.
NOW Enjoying his $280 million in earnings.




The Bagman
ROBERT RUBIN

WAS Treasury secretary (1995-1999)
WHAT HE DID Opposed regulation of credit swaps; fought to overturn Glass-Steagall Act, leading to creation of Citigroup, where he later made $115 million.
WORST MOVE Asked Treasury to pressure ratings agencies to delay downgrading Enron, a Citigroup debtor.
NOW Still on Citi's board; mentor of Treasury Secretary Geithner.



Mr. Buck Passer
CHRISTOPHER COX

WAS Chairman of the SEC (2005-2009)
WHAT HE DID Gave the market a free ride, waiting until far too late to reverse the disastrous "voluntary regulation" program of 2004 and police the ratings agencies.
LAME EXCUSE Insisted it wasn't his fault, claiming deregulatory policies tied his hands.
NOW SAYS His "greatest contribution" during the crisis was staying "calm."



The Predator=
ANGELO MOZILO

WAS Head of Countrywide Financial (1969-2008)
WHAT HE DID Biggest provider of subprime mortgages; specialized in predatory loans that put broke people in mansions.
WORST MOVE "Friends of Angelo" program gave favorable mortgages to Sens. Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad.
NOW SAYS Called plea from homeowner facing foreclosure "disgusting."



The Decorator
JOHN THAIN

WAS Chief of Merrill Lynch (2007-2009)
WHAT HE DID Concealed $15 billion hole in Merrill balance sheet until government subsidized the sale of his company. Went skiing in Vail just before revealing losses.
WORST MOVE Proposed $10 million bonus for himself as company imploded; OK'd $1.2 million office refurbishing.
IS NOW Facing class-action suit for concealing losses.



The Maestro
HENRY PAULSON

WAS CEO of Goldman Sachs (1999-2006); Treasury secretary (2006-2009)
WHAT HE DID Pushed for end to debt restrictions for banks like Goldman, then arranged big bailout for Goldman.
WORST MOVE TARP proposal just three pages long; made his decisions "non-reviewable."
NOW SAYS "I don't think we've made mistakes on the major decisions."




The Big Loser
DICK FULD

WAS CEO of Lehman Brothers (1993-2008)
WHAT HE DID Piloted Lehman to largest bankruptcy in U.S. history; earned $22 million the year firm went bust.
WORST MOVE Tried to avoid lawsuits by selling his $13 million Florida home to his wife for $100.
NOW SAYS Feels "horrible" about Lehman, but insists his management was "prudent and appropriate."





Illustrations: Victor Juhasz.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Derivative markets .... an understandable explanation:


Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi’s drink now pay later marketing strategy and as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi’s bar and soon she has the largest sale volume for any bar in Detroit.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Heidi’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral.

At the banks corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS, and PUKEBONDS.

These securities are then traded on securities markets worldwide. Naive investors don’t really understand the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics.

Nevertheless, their prices continuously climb, and the securities become the top-selling items for some of the nations leading brokerage houses.

One day, although the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the bank (subsequently fired due his negativity), decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi’s bar.

Heidi demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Therefore, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy.

DRINKBOND and ALKIBOND drop in price by 90 %. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80 %. The decreased bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans.

The suppliers of Heidi’s bar, having granted her generous payment extensions and having invested in the securities are faced with writing off her debt and losing over 80% on her bonds.. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 50 workers.

The bank and brokerage houses are saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock negotiations by leaders from both political parties.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by a tax levied on employed middle-class non-drinkers.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Cat Painting



Some of the paint jobs cost $1,000s of dollars and have to be repeated
 
every few months as the cat's hair grows out. 

And people wonder why cats sometimes attack their owners!! 





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Friday Funnies

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Great Depression Quotes 1929 vs 2008:

A few select quotes during the depression years of 1929 to 1931.

“Expert” opinions -- convey optimism, the bank bailouts, government assurances, the Hoover (Bush/Paulson) plan.

 

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue”
- Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury. September 1929

Stock Prices Will Stay at High Level For Years to Come, Says Ohio Economist .
-Dr. Charles Amos Dice, professor of business organization at Ohio State October 13, 1929

“FISHER SEES STOCKS PERMANENTLY HIGH”
-Irving Fisher, Yale economist, October 16h, 1929

“BROKERS IN MEETING PREDICT RECOVERY; Partners in 35 Wire Houses at Conference Agree Selling Has Been Overdone.” October 25, 1929

NEW AID IS PLEDGED TO BANK COALITION; G.F. Baker Jr. Joins Parley at Morgan Offices and Many Other Offers Are Made. SUPPORT EASES ANXIETY
-October 26, 1929

Brokers Believe Worst Is Over and Recommend Buying of Real Bargains
– New York Herald Tribune, October 27, 1929
 

October 29, 1929 - Stock Market Crashes!

BROKERS BELIEVE BOTTOM IS REACHED; Others Say a Sharp. Recovery Is in Order.
-October 30, 1929 (Glad they covered both sides of the story!)

“FISHER SAYS PRICES OF STOCKS ARE LOW; Quotations Have Not Caught Up With Real Values as Yet, He Declares. SEES NO CAUSE FOR SLUMP”
-October 22, 1929

“Time to Buy Stocks” John J. Raskob, one of the country’s leading industrial and political leaders
-October 30, 1929

Headline “INSURANCE HEADS URGE TO BUY STOCKS”
-October 30, 1929

ROCKEFELLER BUYS, ALLAYING ANXIETY; Elder Financier Says Business Status Does Not Warrant the Destruction of Values. October 31, 1929 (Remember Warren Buffet in Sept 2008?)

Stocks Up in Strong Rally; Rockefellers Big Buyers; Exchanges Close 2-1/2 Days
– New York Herald Tribune, October 31, 1929

SEES NEW BULL MARKET.; President of Philadelphia Stock Exchange Makes Predictions.
-November 22, 1929

BANKING CIRCLES SEE TURN FOR THE BETTER; Several Developments Cited as Presaging Recovery of the Stock Market. -November 15, 1929

HOOVER CALLS LEADERS OF NATION TO CONFER ON WAYS TO SPUR BUSINESS;
-November 16, 1929

Headline: The Quieting-Down of Wall Street–Aspects of Government’s Relief Projects.
-November 25, 1929

“The Government’s business is in sound condition.”
Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury
-December 5, 1929

RESERVE BANK AREAS FORECAST NEW YEAR
Despite the obvious slackening of the pace of business at the close of the year, leaders in banking and industry throughout the country maintain an optimistic attitude toward the prospects for 1930.
-January 1, 1930

MORTGAGE MONEY SCARCE
-February 23, 1930

“The worst is over without a doubt.”
James J. Davis, Secretary of Labor.
- June 1930

‘BUSINESS CYCLE’ SEEN AT NEW PHASE; Bankers Hold Downward Trend in Markets Indicates Recovery Is Near. DENY ANALOGY TO 1920-21 Economists Point to Superior Credit Conditions Now, Holding Easy Money Points to Revival.
-July 6, 1930

BIG BANKERS PUT UP $100,000 SAFEGUARD; House of Morgan Among Those Required to Provide Protection for Investors. -August 3, 1930
“We have hit bottom and are on the upswing.”
James J. Davis, Secretary of Labor.
-September 12, 1930

BIG FIRM SUSPENDED; Prince & Whitely, 51-Year-Old House, Is Unable to Meet Its Obligations
In the midst of the severest market reaction in two months, the New York Stock Exchange announced yesterday that the 51-year-old firm of Prince Whitely, one of the largest and best known houses in Wall Street, had been suspended on its own admission that it was unable to meet its obligations. (Can we say Bear Stears?)
-October 10, 1930

SCHWAB FORESEES RECORD PROSPERITY;
-October 25, 1930

“30% OF STOCKS SELL UNDER BOOK VALUES; Capital Is Above Market Price.”
-December 14, 1930

NEW YORK JOINING IN BRITISH CREDIT; Federal Reserve Bank Agrees, if Requested, to Buy Prime Commercial Bills.
-August 2, 1931

REDISCOUNT RATE CUT TO 1 % RECORD LOW; Federal Reserve Bank Here Takes Drastic Action
-May 8, 1931

RELIEF FUND URGED MEMBER BANKS
Out of the experiences of the depression, resulting in the necessity for organization of the $500,000,000 corporation to relieve banks temporarily in distress, may come a remodeled Federal Reserve System that will be so constituted as to meet the requirements of present-day commerce and industry.
-October 9, 1931

BANKERS OF NATION BACK HOOVER PLAN; October 8, 1931 (Paulson Plan 2008)

HOOVER’S BANK PLAN GETS WIDE SUPPORT; November 15, 1931 (Media Manufacturing Consent)

$2,000,000,000 POOL FOR BANK AID URGED; October 26, 1931 (Bail Out Bill)

URGES BUILDERS’ AID IN HOME FINANCING; Bank Official Says Industry Could Help More With Second Mortgages.
-August 30, 1931

REAL ESTATE MEN ON THE HOOVER PLAN; Some Skepticism Is Voiced, but the General Belief Is That Good Will Result.
-October 11, 1931

HOOVER PLAN HAILED IN HOLIDAY SERMONS;  (Praise the lord)
-November 29, 1929
“The depression has ended.” (Finally see the “D” word, but only to refer to it in the past tense…very common)
Dr. Julius Klein, Assistant Secretary of Commerce.
- June 9, 1931 (Stock market did bottom one year and 50% later)

5-YEAR MORATORIUM PROPOSED BY KEYNES; Hoover Plan Is a “Stop-Gap” Device
-July 1, 1931

WORLD COOPERATION: A NEW STEP AHEAD; The Hoover Plan Has Focused Attention on the Problem of Economic Unity THE NEW WORLD COOPERATION
-July 12, 1931

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Great Depression Quotes 1929 vs 2008:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Foreign Demand for Treasuries is Fading


I wanted to highlight one trend that I glossed over on Monday, namely that foreign demand for long-term Treasuries has disappeared over the last few months. Consider a chart showing foreign purchases of long-term Treasuries over the past 3 months. Incidentally, the split between private and official purchases in this data should largely be ignored. The revised (i.e. post-survey) data generally have attributed nearly all the flow from 2003 to the official sector.







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