Thursday, October 30, 2008

The latest family support group program 
The Army is all about families.

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For Guitar Players Only 
The late Mr. Ted Greene. Send in the Clowns.

I didn't pick up the fiddle until I was 28 or so, when I found an old Hopf at Barry's Pawn Shop in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Prior to that, I was a chord-melody jazz guitar fanatic, from high school on.

I learned so much from Ted's book "Chord Chemistry," and consider it a must for any serious guitarist.

But it's nothing compared to simply listening to this great master.

Splash, out


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tax tip for military families 
I just came across this little gem:

If you were a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, compensation includes any nontaxable combat pay you received. This amount should be reported in box 12 of your 2007 Form W-2 with code Q.

If you received nontaxable combat pay in 2004 or 2005, and the treatment of the combat pay as compensation means that you can contribute more for those years than you already have, you can make additional contributions to an IRA for 2004 or 2005 by May 28, 2009. The contributions will be treated as having been made on the last day of the year you designate. If you have already filed your return for a year for which you make a contribution, you must file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the latest of:
3 years from the date you filed your original return for the year for which you made the contribution,

2 years from the date you paid the tax due for the year for which you made the contribution, or

1 year from the date on which you made the contribution.

Now, I say this with a bit of a caveat:

In my opinion, most military people would be better off funding a Roth IRA, if they're otherwise eligible, rather than a traditional IRA, which is the account this particular paragraph refers to.


Simple. Think of it this way: A regular or traditional IRA (I'll call them "T-IRAs for short) lets people take a tax deduction now, but forces them (or their heirs) to pay full-boat income tax when they retire. Secondarily, there are very complex and draconian requirements T-IRA owners have to follow which tell them when and how they have to take distributions...that is, receive income from the IRA.

A Roth IRA is the reverse: They pays theys' thar taxes NOW, but if they can leave the money alone until retirement, (with certain exceptions), they never have to pays thar taxes on it again EVAR!. And if a family inherits it, they can stretch out that IRA a lot longer and not have to swallow a huge income tax bill in the first five years like the families that inherit a T-IRA.

So the calculation is if you think your taxes will be higher in the future than they are now, you want a Roth. If you think your family will inherit a balance (I.e., you're a smoker, a diabetic, a skydiver, or are otherwise playing fast and loose with the standard mortality tables) you want your family to inherit a Roth, as well, rather than a traditional IRA. The IRS is hungry, and THEY WANT THAT TAX REVENUE that you deducted when you first made the T-IRA contributions, and they WILL go after your heirs to get it, and they WILL go after you if you don't take distributions according to their schedule!

Clear as mud?

Now, consider that if you drew significant non-taxable combat pay, your AGI is artificially low. Which means so is your tax bill, and probably your tax bracket.

So since your tax bracket is artificially low that year, chances are that that serviceman or woman will want to use the Roth, pay that artificially low tax, and never have to worry about getting screwed by the IRS in retirement. In essence, a military person who drew mostly combat pay in that year is funding his or her retirement account with tax free dollars - and taking it out, tax free as well. (Investment returns after fees being equal, this kicks the shit out of the Thrift Savings Program for the military, which will force you to pay full boat income tax in retirment.)

Tax wise, it's the best investment structure going!

Now, this is where it gets tricky: There's no guarantee you can qualify. Your income limits may still screw you out of the IRA or the Roth IRA, if you had significant nonmilitary income, or if your spouse works, earns decent money in the civilian world and you filed jointly. And if you blow the income limits and try to contribute anyway, the IRS WILL hunt you and your family down with an axe. Well, you'll pay a modest penalty at least.

Sit down with a tax professional and see how the above applies to your specific situation. Countercolumn does not give tax advice.

But don't expect your tax preparer to be conversant with rules as they apply to military members. Most garden variety tax preparers can barely spell IRS. You need to go in and be able to show them the regs. In this case, IRS Publication 590.

Splash, out


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Ohio Democrat Accuses Republican Pol of Going 'AWOL' to serve a tour in Iraq 
The pol's wife: "His obligation to George Bush is greater than his obligation to the people who live in his district."

Oh, he's got a Jewish name, too. "What else is it gonna take?"

Splash, out


Oh, and a blue sign. What's up with THAT comment? This prick is seriously twisted!

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Obama the Marxist ... in his own words 
This snake oil salesman just can't help it. He's all about the redistribution of wealth, not just as a means (there are certain redistributive effects to, say, Social Security that make sense) but as an administrative goal.

Stop the ACLU has the audio, from a Barack Obama appearance on Chicago Public Radio in 2001, when he was a state Senator.

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, (ASK WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU!!!! - EDITOR) and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that...

I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way.

Think about it. Major. Redistributive. Change.

Why not? It worked so well for Zimbabwe!

Here's the audio:

I can hear Biden now: "This is not the Obama I have come to know."

Anyone who holds "major redistributive change" as a policy goal in this country - an unqualified good for its own sake - and seeks to promote policies that promote it via the administration of government, is by definition a Socialist.

Via Ace.

Splash, out


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain Support in the military overwhelming 
I happened to pick up a paper copy of Army Times today and went over the poll results, and was planning to post on it.

But Greyhawk is already all over it.

See the pie-chart breakdown here. The troops have spoken, and while the methodology probably overstates the results (very young soldiers are undersampled and are not broken out separately), those who are career-minded overwhelmingly support the veteran on the ticket.

By the way, is this a first? The Democrats have run a ticket with NO military experience on the part of either candidate.

Splash, out


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Alright, explain this one to me: 
Social security recipients who, by and large AREN'T working get a COLA increase of 5.8% this year - the highest increase in 25 years.

Military personnel getting their asses shot up and working their tails off all over the world, and who are paying IN to Social Security, get an average raise of 3.9%.

Splash, out


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

For guitar players only 
Mr. Chet Atkins (RIP) and Mark O'Connor.

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Inside the Latest CounterColumn Editorial Board Meeting 
YOU.... are there!

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The last word on the Obama-Ayers Connection 

Hippie-kay-yay, motherf****r.

H/T: Ann Althouse.

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Urban Bigotry at the New York Times 
The New York Times is looking for stringers out in Jesusland, and so has taken out an ad on JournalismJobs.com, a popular internet watering hole for the unemployed, underemployed and soon-to-be-laid-off.

I think it's encouraging that they're making an effort to improve their coverage of heartland America and expand cultural diversity among their editorial staff.

Oh, and before you rush to send in your clips, make sure you mind the Times' editorial guidance:

"Do not submit ideas regarding dog fights, cock fights, or the Confederate flag."

I swear, you can't make this shit up, folks. What a bunch of condescending pricks.

How offensive is this? Well, let's imagine an ad that reads thus:

The Metro News Journal is looking for experienced freelance writers to cover the African-American community. Please do not submit any ideas regarding watermelon recipes, fried chicken, or "I Found My Baby-Daddy" confessionals.

Post your story ideas for the New York Times below.

Splash, out


Hat-tip: Instapundit

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How to Deal With The "Palin Pals Around With Terrorists, Too!" Lie 
I actually encountered this one at a leftist cafe I occasionally play music at (and where I pissed off some of the Obamatons who tried to draw me into their tripe, assuming that because I was a musician I must agree with them):

Sarah Palin pals around with terrorists.*

Their construct: Obama/Ayers = Todd Palin/Alaska Independence Party.

Their hope is to neutralize the Obama/Ayers connection by slandering Todd Palin and the AIP.

Case in point: the lameass who writes "The Smirking Chimp:"

The question that needs to be asked now more than ever is, “Are you, Sarah Palin, a terrorist?”

Governor Palin, there is a man by the name of Joe Vogler living in your state. He has led this organization called the Alaska Independence Party. Guess what, Governor Palin, your husband Todd, Alaska’s self-designated “first dude” has held membership in it.

You remember the organization well since you addressed one of their recent conventions and wished those Alaskans well.

Indeed, you wished them well, and you call Barack Obama someone who consorts with a known terrorist. Let us examine your vulnerability in that area.

Organizations are known and recognized by their leadership. As for this Joe Vogler, what does he think about the America that you are seeking to convince the nation’s voters that you are ready to lead as president or vice president?

Sarah, if you become vice president or perhaps president, should circumstances dictate, would you follow the lead of Vogler and spearhead an effort by your own state of Alaska secede from the union? Does this sound like Civil War II?

Have you read, Sarah, what Vogler has said about America on the Alaska Independence Party’s website?

Here are Vogler’s stinging words:

“I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.”

Do you support those words of the leader of the party you wished well and that your own husband joined, Sarah?

Sarah, don’t those words of Vogler’s sound like a … like a terrorist?

The author, a libtard named Bill Hare, is a dumbass in more ways than I can count.

First of all, only a thumb-sucking imbicile could have written "there is a man living in your state named John Vogler," without first having done enough research to learn that Vogler has been dead since 1993.

Second, Hare-brain is too stupid to figure out that Vogler was killed before Palin even entered politics as a city council woman in Wasilla. Palin had very little chance to "pal around" with Vogler in any politically relevant way.

Third, Vogler was a Fairbanks guy. That's a long-ass way from Wasilla. It's a hell of a lot longer from Fairbanks to Wasilla than it is from one end of the hallway at a Chicago office building to another.

Fourth, Ayers is an unrepentant terrorist. There is no evidence that Vogler every advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government, while Ayers formally declared war against it.

Fifth, there is no evidence that Vogler ever espoused violence to achieve his political objectives; it is part and parcel of Ayers' political philosophy and he put it into practice, with deadly results.

Sixth, as a transplanted Hawaiian, I can tell Hare-brain that even though his information-starved view of history is so limited that he cannot conceive of a secessionist movement without immediately equating it to the Confederacy, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and there are legitimate secessionist movements that have absolutely nothing to do with the C.S.A., either in motive, political philosophy, or legal justification.

I do not support Hawaiian secessionism personally. But to equate them with the C.S.A. or terrorist movements is just retarded. Ditto with Alaska. Hare-brain apparently doesn't understand oddball-state psychology or native and long-time resident resentment. Hell...even Texas sometimes thinks it's still a Republic!

Seventh, there is no evidence that Palin was ever a member of the Alaskan Independence Party (but so what if she was? Vogeln wasn't a terrorist, it's legal to be an AIP member.)

Eighth: Todd Palin was indeed a member. But he did not become a member until AFTER Vogler's death. Again, not much of a chance to pal around with the guy - again, who wasn't a terrorist. Bill Ayers is.

Ninth: Todd Palin isn't even on the ballot. But Obama is.

Don't let these libtard rats try to obfuscate away the Obama/Ayers connection and Obama's radical roots. Their attempt to do so is a filthy, contemptible lie.

Splash, out


* CNBC interviews The Nation reporter Max Blumenthal without bothering to speak to anyone from the McCain campaign or anyone else to provide accountability to Blumenthal's one-sided reporting. Oh, and for good measure, CNBC doesn't bother to mention that Max is the son of former Clinton aide Sydney Blumenthal.

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Social Security COLA Increases and Coordination of Benefits. 
Dr. Helen has a blog post up on senior griping over the unintended consequences of raising the Social Security payout by 5.8% this year.

The comments are full of people who slam the entitlement mentality of some of those seniors who complain. But conservatives shouldn't be so quick to pooh-pooh those concerns. Here's why:

There is a branch of financial planning that specializes in special needs planning for the handicapped, and another that specializes specifically in Medicaid planning. There is a good deal of overlap in that Medicaid largely serves the elderly poor and the chronically handicapped, especially the indigent. Medicaid, as a matter of fact, is one of the largest if not the largest payors of nursing home care for the elderly.

Now, in order to qualify for Medicaid, recipients must meet some extremely draconian eligibility criteria. Specifics vary by state, but an individual cannot receive Medicaid unless he or she has an income at or below what amounts to the poverty level, AND does not have more than a certain amount of countable assets.*

Now, imagine a middle-class guy who's worked hard all his life, but who, 80 years old can't work anymore, and needs assistance in his day to day activities. He's been responsible, and has tried to put away a bit of a nest egg, which he has annuitized in order to guarantee him a subsistence-level income. Now, he may have done some planning before, and he's got Social Security coming in, in addition to a monthly payout from his annuity. He has already sold all of his other assets in order to pay for care. Let's assume he does not own a home, or if he did, he sold it to pay for nursing home care, too.

Under the old rules, his Social Security check and his annuity payout were low enough to keep him from being disqualified for Medicaid and being forced to pay for care out of his own pocket.

But what if, under the new rules, an unexpected 5.8% increase in his Social Security, combined with his annuity, put him over the Medicaid limit?

After all, under the current rules, there is no phaseout for medicaid eligibility (though maybe there should be.) If you go ONE DOLLAR over the allowable monthly income limit for Medicaid, you disqualify yourself from the whole kit and kaboodle.

Now, few people collecting Social Security alone will have checks large enough to bust the limit by themselves. But remember, this is a guy who saved something. Who did the right thing and tried to provide for his future. Now, he's disqualified for Medicaid - and unless rules change, he could be disqualified permanently, based on a sudden increase in Social Security payouts.

But he's got no other assets with which to pay for care. And his income is nowhere near sufficient to pay nursing home costs of 150 to 200 DOLLARS PER DAY. (The average daily cost of nursing home care in Florida is $236/day, and rising faster than inflation.

So if he's got no assets, his income doesn't get within spitting distance of the money he needs to raise, and no Medicaid eligibility, what do conservatives suggest we do with this man? And given that he's stuck with the Medicaid eligibility rules we have, not the rules we wish we had, how can we slam him for griping at losing his Medicaid eligibility?

The irony is that conservatives are oh-so-attuned to absurd incentives in the income tax code that reduce the marginal value of the next dollar of earned income, and are constantly on the lookout for situations where earning the next dollar could cause cause the taxpayer MORE than a dollar in a combination of lost credits and higher tax brackets.

Coordination of benefits is an absolutely legitimate concern, and it's serious business. I hope State Medicaid coordinators are on the ball with this one... and conservatives should take a chill pill rather than conduct knee-jerk attacks on seniors who could not have seen this coming, and like our hypothetical 80 year old, will wind up punished for doing the right thing.

After all, someone who had ZERO annuity income would not lose Medicaid eligibility from Social Security payments alone. It is only the one who saved something to provide for himself in later years who would take it on the chin....indeed, the consequences to a responsible man in our imaginary friend's position could be catastrophic.

Long Term Care insurance? Maybe he should have it. But hardly anyone was selling it 20 years ago, when he was 60. Suppose he tried to buy it, but was uninsurable by then?

Splash, out


* (Certain assets are considered non-countable under medicaid rules, including a certain amount of home equity if the applicant lives in or is expected to return to the home, one car, a burial plot, and certain annuities that meet specific criteria. Even then, the state generally becomes the first beneficiary of any such assets until it recovers its Medicaid expenditures on the Medcaid patient.)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

According to the New York Times 
The bodhran is an "Irish tambourine."

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The Bill Ayers Connection 

Nicely done video.

I was actually unaware of the Mike Klonsky connection until this morning, but apparently, Ayers, Obama, and Klonsky, the former head of the American Communist Party, all maintained offices on the same floor of the same building in Chicago for three years.

The media, of course, are devoting all available man-hours into investigating the ancient driver's license suspension of Joe the Plumber. Media fascism.

I have become convinced: Obama's roots and sympathies are with the far, far left. He's not a uniter. He's a manchurian candidate for the radicals. There is no other explanation for his long and close association with the vilest jackals in American politics. He's not a unifying force between Democrats and Republicans, and is intellectually incapable of being one. He is a unifying force between Democrats, Greens, Socialists and Communists.

Yes, he's articulate and clean, as Biden would point out... with the outward appearance of a genteel family guy. Why was he plucked from obscurity by the Ayers crowd? Because he was attractive and smooth and the only guy from their tribe who didn't have a criminal record.

Who was it who said it? Ah. You can put lipstick on a pig: He's still a pig.

Splash, out


Hat tip to Ace.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Got a pending VA disability claim? 
Better check on it.

Splash, out


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Well, that didn't last long.

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Socialism. Catch the fever.

But wait...there's more!

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

"People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free," said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. "I don't believe that was the intent of the program."


Were there really people so STUPID as to think that wouldn't happen? But I have an idea. Let's implement it at the national level right away!

I swear, I can't figure out why liberals don't drown themselves by gawking at the rain.

Splash, out


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Enter the Dragon 
Buffett's going long!

If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.


A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.

Let me be clear on one point: I can’t predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.


That said, Buffett can afford to be wrong. Your mileage (and mine) may vary. My own belief is that those nearing retirement should not be 100% equities, and people Warren's age with limited nest eggs should not be 100% equities.

Look...Warren can take a 5% bath in equities, and continue to draw his customary 100k in income each year and do just fine. He's not running a 4 or 5 percent spend down ratio on his assets each year simply in order to make basic living expenses. His vast personal wealth allows him to be more aggressive with his portfolio than you can.

My own approach - and again, your mileage may vary - is to maintain roughly the same asset allocation I had before the bear market. Which also means selling some fixed income and cash assets in order to purchase deeply discounted equities (I use indexes primarily right now, but that may change).

My personal situation is quite a bit different as I have some investments to make in my own business before I can pick up these bargain stocks, but for the most part, I still agree with a robust insurance foundation against disability, catastrophic illness, death, or the need for long term care, and then for the accumulation portion of a portfolio, a conservative split between stocks and bonds with a healthy emergency fund set aside.

Don't panic. Adjust the helm to put you on the course you were charting prior to the crash.

Your destination didn't change, so neither does your bearing. The only thing that may have changed is the speed with which you will reach your goals.

Splash, out


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The Crack in Obama's Argument 
So now the whole world's piping up with nutty arguments about Joe the Plumber, who informed Obama that he's planning on buying a company that "makes" $250,000 per year.

The libtards are arguing two things:

1.) Joe the Plumber doesn't know the difference between GROSSING $250,000 and PROFITING $250,000.

2.) Plumbers don't make $250,000 per year.

No, journeyman plumbers don't make $250k per year. But plumbing CONTRACTING firms sure as hell do, and do it pretty often.

Look, here's a study from Yellow Pages that finds that plumbing firms typically gross $172,000 per year from a Yellow Page display ad alone!

Figure about a 40% margin per job and that gets you to a gross profit (before fixed expenses) of .40 x 172k or $68,800.

Put two Yellow Page ads in two different cities within an hour of your business and you've got $137,000 gross profits. Firms in cities which are inland could easily place in four phone books, which takes them to $275,000. Firms in my home city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida could easily place ads in the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami phone books. We're a special case because there are no cities to our East to serve, and the closest major city to our West is 90 minutes away across the Everglades, which would make our firms uncompetitive when you factor in three hours of drive time to and from a job in Naples. Still, if this study is true, Yellow Page revenue alone would generate a pretty hefty portion of that 250k in a lot of markets.

And that's before the contractor got his first referral from a happy customer, before he got his first commercial plumbing job, or won his first bid with a municipality, state or federal agency. Those are typically narrower margins, but contracts can be very large, even for modest sized firms.

A reasonably successful plumbing contracting firm with a few crews on the road and a couple of lucrative contracts could earn $250,000 in profits without batting an eye.

But look who's reporting on this!

Almost no cub reporters have ever owned a home. Certainly very few journalists and producers in the NYC media complex own homes. They've never dealt with a plumber directly, other than to show him the way to the bathroom through the living room. Very few reporters on the story have ever signed a check for a plumber's services directly. What they don't realize is that a solid journeyman plumber outearns the garden-variety reporter handily... and that the owner and principals of a decent plumbing firm handily out-earn even the executive editor levels of newspapers and magazines in almost any market you care to name.

Most of them, however, have not read the excellent personal finance book The Millionaire Next Door. They have no idea how small business works.

For example, had the reporter spent any time in private industry doing business development, he or she may well have learned how to look up actual contract awards - specifically to small-businesses, as defined under GSA Contract regulations. A search on FedBizOpps for awards granted over the past 365 days limited to small-businesses operating under the NAICS code for plumbers and plumbing contractors will turn up quite a number of awards that would put a firm close to the 250k figure by themselves.

The first one I looked at was an award to a small firm to do water chiller maintenance at an Air Force facility on Tybee Island, Georgia - a contract of $206,000 by itself.

This single galley sewer and HVAC upgrade at a single US Coast Guard Station in Destin, FL resulted in a 306,000 award to a small business, Enola Contracting Services, Inc. Figure a nice 30 to 40 percent markup they took for themselves (they'll be subject to bacon wages, and will have to figure in a margin of safety, since it looks to me they'll be subbing most of the work out).

Those were just the first two I opened. And that is just the ones on Fed Biz Opps limited to small businesses. My point is that even small plumbing firms will routinely enter into contracts that are worth six figures at a pop, not even counting private commercial projects which are not publicly available on the internet. A plumber who has a few crews on the road and can accurately price his services to maintain a 40% margin can quite feasibly muster 250k in gross profits - at which time the plumber will do his best to spend down profits to provide pre-tax benefits to himself and his family, through retirement plans, key person and split dollar insurance arrangements, deferred comp, employee benefits, etc.

As the son of a roofer, I find the libtard tendency to look down their noses at plumbers to be grossly offputting.

And that's the nut of the argument.


Splash, out


Sunday, October 12, 2008

For the record... 
I called a bear market in almost everything in sight back in March of last year.

Here's what I wrote:

Looks like bonds will be under pressure. Real estate will be under pressure. International stocks will be under pressure (actually, already are). Growth stocks will be under pressure. Is this the Perfect Storm?

I can't wait.

Yep. Pretty exciting for a long guy, but now that it's here, I can't say I'm terribly enthused about it. Forward P/Es are down around the 13 level, according to the Morningstar data on the Vanguard 500 fund, which I'm using as a quick proxy, with a dividend yield of around 2.47%.

Not too bad, but those forward-looking estimates were assuming normal times, and I would have to regard them as obsolete. I think the actual earnings next year will be quite a bit less than projected, and the real P/E is closer to 20x earnings right now, looking forward. So forward multiples will expand (because of declining earnings), or stocks will continue to fall until the the ACTUAL P/E, looking forward, is 12 or less (based on dividends of 2.5% or less.)

A big chunk of dividends will disappear, as financial services companies...most of them dividend payers themselves, struggle to recapitalize by retaining earnings.

Nevertheless, look at Bank of America, now trading at 11.5x earnings, with a yield of 12.27%! Very tempting, although that yield I suspect will fall, as BofA shores up its balance sheets. It may stop altogether for a while. And of course, as every stock investor should ALWAYS keep in mind, it COULD go to zero!

Remember, though...last year's earnings are not this year's earnings. Foreclosures will rise if there is a recession, forcing mortgage holders out of work or forcing upside-down homeowners to relocate to find employment. So again, I see that 11.5x earnings as closer to 16x or so. Maybe even higher.

I had zero in equities going into the fall, outside of retirement money I won't need for 25 years, though that was pretty heavy in stocks, so I got stung on paper. But I had gone entirely to cash outside of retirement, having sold the last of my non-qualified stock funds about a month ago.

Because I was super prescient?

No. Nobody's that precient. Because of the career change and I needed to cover living expenses while training, ramping up, etc.

Long term, I like the buying opportunity. But ONLY with long term money as I still smell a downside in the short term for stocks. Long-term, however, I think the upside exceeds downside potential now.

No, this is not advice. This is just my take on things for now. YMMV.

Splash, out


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Code phrase 
Apparently, to Time's Amy Sullivan, the phrase "Bible-believing Christian" is "code."

Well, she's right. It's code for "Bible-believing Christian," you drooling genius!

You would think Sullivan would do a better job than she does with this hack of an article. After all, she's the author of "The Party Faithful: How the Democrats are Closing the God Gap. (Answer: Simple! Ronald Reagan isn't running!). And she claims to be an evangelical herself (though apparently doesn't understand it beyond the Wikipedia homework level.)

Case in point: Here's Sullivan on the "task from God flap from Palin's Charlie Gibson interview:

But Palin herself has at times consciously distanced herself from her Evangelical faith. When asked by ABC's Charlie Gibson about a comment for which she has been criticized — asking her former congregation to pray that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are "on a task that is from God" — Palin argued that she had been paraphrasing an Abraham Lincoln quote. In fact, she had used fairly standard Evangelical language in expressing a desire that human actions conform with God's will. In trying to separate herself from that tradition, Palin's explanation struck both secular critics and many Evangelicals as scripted by political strategists.

This is stupid beyond description. Sullivan sets up an absolutely false dichotomy. There is no contradiction between paraphrasing an Abraham Lincoln quotation and being connected to Christian tradition. It is certainly conceivable that Palin is not the first evangelical to quote Lincoln, for example. And the Lincoln quote is certainly a matter of publicly available record.

At the same time, however, Palin's statement is firmly rooted in a longstanding Christian tradition of praying for those in authority...which certainly predates the Iraq War. Indeed, it goes all the way back to Pauline New Testament writings (specifically, I'm thinking of I Timothy 2:1-2

"I urge then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."

What evangelicals are praying for, when they pray for "those in authority," is precisely what Palin was saying: That we should pray that those in authority make decisions in humility and align public policy with the designs of a living and loving God. In other words, we should pray that our politicians and leaders should work to ensure that we are on God's side.

But wait: Sullivan get's even dumber:

And in her interview with Couric, Palin was, if not ashamed, purposefully vague about her churchgoing habits. "I don't have a church, I'm not a member of any church," she said. "I get to visit a couple of churches in Alaska when I'm home, including one, Wasilla Bible Church." Church-hopping is a common practice for many religious Americans, but it is relatively unusual for Evangelicals with children to shift among a number of churches instead of belonging to one stable faith community.

What do you mean "if not ashamed?" Amy? Why would you use such a damning, yet mealy-mouthed construction? (Imagine if I had written that "Amy Sullivan is, if not a child molester, purposefully vague about her child-rearing habits." Inappropriate? You betcha.

It is not for Amy to draw conclusions or inferences by clucking her tongue at whether Palin chooses to attend a variety of churches. I would imagine that Palin probably has close friends at a number of congregations, and occasionally chooses to accompany one group or another. Perhaps Palin doesn't feel the need for a "stable faith community" in one church, because her stable faith community exists in more than one church!

Sullivan's argument, such as it is, is just ridiculous. She should not be clucking her tongue at Palin and looking down her nose at another Christian's decision to church hop. There is nothing in the new testament that requires any Christian to attend one and one church only.

But Sullivan gets dumber still:

It is this Pentecostal association that most concerns and confuses the McCain campaign.

Sullivan basis this observation on...on.. on what, exactly? There's no sourcing cited in the article at all. Why? Because she pulled it out of her ass, that's why!!!!

As Minnery makes clear, millions of Evangelicals have accepted Palin because of her membership in a Bible church. But there is no denying that mainstream Evangelicals and Pentecostals, while political allies on many social issues, have historically had significant tensions over theological differences. The Evangelicals' swoon for Palin might fade if it turns out that she continues to hold fast to Pentecostal practices and beliefs.

Ridiculous. Yes, mainstream Protestants and evangelicals are a bit puzzled by the practices of charismatics and pentacostals. But those who are deeply enough ensconced in Christian practice to understand and articulate the differences between mainstream protestantism and the evangelical movement is probably NOT voting for Obama!

Splash, out


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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fiddle blogging 
Paddy Glackin on fiddle, playing for two dancers.

Love those tight, precise, warbly rolls. This is how it oughta be.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Camille Paglia, a REAL liberal, versus a drooling libtard 
"I am very concerned about whether our professional class, buffed all shiny and bright by the elite universities, will ever have the will or stamina to defend this nation in a major crisis."

--Camille Paglia, in Salon, responding to this letter:

"Would you care to justify your view that "Americans owe every heroic, wounded veteran an incalculable debt of gratitude"? I am sorry that John McCain spent years in prison. But I am even sorrier that the U.S. ever went into Vietnam. I am an American, and I do not feel that I owe Mr. McCain "an incalculable debt of gratitude" for his participation in that stupid, unnecessary war. If he willingly went to a war which was unjust and uncalled for to begin with, then I, as a American, definitely do not owe him a debt of gratitude. In such a case, a resistance to such an unjust war would rather be the act of patriotism for which we should be grateful.

I remind you that the USA was not attacked by Vietnam, neither did I nor the rest of Americans consider them our enemy, nor did the Vietnamese present any threat at all to the United States. Therefore it is entirely illogical to make such a statement or to concede that I, or any American, owe any special thanks to Mr. McCain for his suffering, which obviously was his own fault. There is nothing worse than a "blind patriot," so why aren't we allowed to say so? If we do, we may very well lessen the possibility of such folly in the future. Insofar as it involves him becoming president, his own decision certainly calls into serious question his political judgment then, as now."

All libtards are liberals. But not every liberal is a libtard.

Splash, out


UPDATE: Don't miss this from Paglia as well:

"The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin over the past month would rival Everest. What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, too many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin's brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don't we all know that the best bits ended up on the cutting-room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering green Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality."

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Liveblogging McCain/Obama Redux 
9:04 Hello, everyone! It's the town hall format. I hate these pseudopopulist wankfests.

9:05 Obama mentions AIG's 400 thousand dollar junket. He's right...that was absolutely unconscionable. Shareholders should be screaming for management's heads on pikes. But it should have been SHAREHOLDERS. Not government. (Granted, those are pretty much the same people.)

9:07 No, Sen. McCain. It's not YOUR job as a politician to fix the problem. It's ours. Just get out of the way.

Added: McCain says "My friends." Everybody drink a shot!

9:07 McCain's rambled for too long before he got to his point...which was an a proposal for an artificial shoring up of home values. Obama was stronger and more coherent on the first question. Point: Obama.

9:10 Warren Buffett would be an EXCELLENT choice for Secretary of the Treasury. But fat chance he'll take it!

9:12 Another "what's in it for me" question.

9:14 McCain on Fannie and Freddie "There were some of us who stood up against us. There were others who took a hike." Too bad he didn't bother to follow through on that point. This is a town hall debate. Subtlety doesn't work here. Now Obama's going to be UNSUBTLE...and more effective. With his deregulation lie. Obama's lying his ass off (as usual). And Obama's being more effective. Point: McCain on substance, Obama in style.

9:19 The "How can we trust you when both parties got us into this mess?" No, Republicans didn't get us into this "crisis." To the extent any party is responsible, this is PURELY a Democrat mess. It is very clear that it was Republicans sounding alarm bells going back years. It was the DEMOCRATS in charge of Fannie and Freddie, and it was the DEMOCRATS who sold us out to ACORN. It was the DEMOCRATS who defended Frannie and Freddie and shielded them from regulators, and who demanded they overextend themselves into subprime and adjustable mortgages.

9:22 "Senator Obama has never taken on the leadership of his party on any issue." YES! Bring it! (He doesn't.)

9:26 Obama calls for an independence on foreign oil in 10 years. Except he opposes every reasonable alternative energy source. Will he be challenged?

9:27 Obama wants to go through every line of the federal budget. Is he calling for a line item veto? Talk about a radical expansion of the power of the President!

9:28 McCain calls for elimination of government programs. Good. Will Obama do the same?

9:30 McCain calls for a spending freeze. During an expected recession? Keynesian economics be DAMNED. (Well, maybe it SHOULD be damned. It's grossly inflationary. But let's be aware of what we're doing!

9:32 Obama is pro offshore drilling all of a sudden! And he's pro-coal! Who knew?

9:35 "The last president to raise taxes during tough economic times was Herbert Hoover!" Yeah, perhaps.

9:37 McCain starts throwing the goodies. Though I like the health savings voucher ideas, as well as the per child tax credit increase.

9:38 Tom Brokaw sprouts a pair, and quashes Obama, who wants to play fast and loose with time.

9:39 "The straight talk express lost a wheel." Good line. That stuff works in this format.

9:41: McCain hits the "taken on party leadership" point again. But McCain is wrong if he thinks that Social Security is easy to fix. It is NOT easy to fix. But I like the privatization idea more with the Dow at 9,500 than I did with the Dow at 12,000. Of course, it is precisely when the idea is BEST that it is most unpopular, and precisely when the idea is worst that it is most popular.

9:42 Wait a minute.... Obama says if you like your current plan, you can keep your current health insurance. But he also says he can cover everyone else's preexisting conditions under a federal plan, AND reduce premiums. Sorry, but their ain't no such thing as a free lunch. A federal system that offers guaranteed issue to self-selectors creates a HUGE adverse selection problem for the government.

10:00 I haven't heard a single Ayers reference yet. McCain's not mean enough.

10:00 "Called a Peacemaker but I never knew why. I never knew why. I didn't understand. Mama said a pistol is the Devil's Right Hand!"

10:02 God I hate that stupid 3rd grade reasoning on Iraq. "I don't understand how we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." No shit, sherlock. We didn't invade Iraq because it had something to do with 9/11. We invaded it because it was an obvious and motivated potential sponsor of future terrorist attacks. Obama doesn't understand that you can't secure America by looking in the rear view mirror.

Further, Obama says we should intervene in Darfur, where we have NO interest. But we shouldn't in Iraq, where we have crucial national interests at stake. I hate that half-wittery.

10:01. Obama said "my friend." (drink).

10:10 "Should we respect Pakistani sovereignty?" Why ask questions that cannot be truthfully answered?

10:20 MadTom writes in that Republicans bear the blame for Fannie and Freddie because Republicans were in the majority. Not really. Even strong majorities in a majority party need a few minority party individuals to go along. Republicans can go 70-30 in favor of any issue as a majority party...an overwhelming position...but they will not be able to overcome a fanatic voting bloc like the Democrats set up to defend Fannie and Freddie. (By the same token, the majority Dems in congress needed Republicans to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1964! Republicans voted in favor...Dems voted against. But the vote carried the day.

10:26 "Without preconditions." Bring it, Mac! Hammer that! Force the SOB to deny it, so we can rub his face in the video.

10:27 McCain says "my friends" again. (Drink.)

10:27 Obama says "we cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon." But it doesn't mean anything. But Obama does categorically reject the authority of the UNSC to veto actions in our own interest.

Damn unilaterist.

10:30 Did Obama just confirm that his assessment is that Iran is using centrifuges specifically to develop nuclear weapons?
If so, then it is flatly impossible for the US to attack Iran "under false pretenses." Because the only real pretense is true!

10:36 McCain: "Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Just to keep things in perspective ... 

Just. Plain. Wrong.

(I love it.)

Splash, out


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Guess the headline 
This is the time on Countercolumn when we try to guess the Ass. Press headline from the text in the news story.

Are you ready? Ok, here's the text from the story:

The al-Qaida in Iraq leader was killed Friday elsewhere in northern Baghdad. American troops also killed the man's wife in a firefight as they tried to capture him, the military said.

Mahir Ahmad Mahmud al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Assad or Abu Rami, was accused of directing an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for nearly simultaneous car bomb and suicide attacks Thursday, according to the statement.

Iraqi police and hospital officials have said some two dozen people were killed in Thursday's attacks targeting two Shiite mosques in Baghdad.

Those attacks and others that struck during Ramadan have raised fears that al-Qaida in Iraq is trying to provoke Sunni-Shiite reprisal killings as U.S.-led forces begin to draw down.

Al-Zubaydi was among the most senior insurgents killed by U.S. forces as they seek to shore up security gains that have driven the level of violence to its lowest point in more than four years.

Sooooo.... can you guess the headline?

If you guessed "U.S. Military: Iraqi Killed in Helicopter Collision," you'd be right.


Splash, out


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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Liveblogging the Palin - Biden Debate 
8:59: The whole debate starts out with an insult - the insult to the intelligence of the American people that is the selection of Gwen Ifyll to moderate the debate. That should not be tolerated.

9:00 Iiiiiiiiit's SHOWTIME!!!!!!

9:01 Lanny Davis. Good man. For a Democrat, anywyay.

9:01 Ok, got a phone call. Chill, people.

9:07 Initial impression: Palin: Ham-handed. Biden: ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz

9:09 Palin is the first with a statistic! 97% of his votes are strictly along party lines.

9:11 Demand strict oversight. But she doesn't go in for the kill by quoting Congressional Democrats resisting calls to tighten oversight on Fannie and Freddie.

9:12 Palin's flag is sooooo much BIGGER than Biden's flag pin. That must mean she loves her country that much more!

9:13 Biden says the middle class needs tax relief. Funny when libtards argue like that. It's almost as if they secretly believe tax
decreases are stimulatory!

9:14 Palin's bringing it! Stats! Nice!

9:15 Palin: I'm going to talk straight to the American people." Brilliant! She's showing very well for herself, here. And bitch-slaps the moderator in the process.

9:17 Close your eyes. When Biden talks, does he sound like Captain Kirk to anyone else besides me?

9:18 I hope we get to the part where Palin wants to rape the continental shelf and then make it pay for its own rape kit soon!

9:19 How is a tax credit "budget neutral?"

9:19 Uh oh. Those "artificial lines between states" are called "borders." What Palin is advocating, de facto, is the evisceration of the authority of State Insurance Commissioners. So much for "federalism," eh?

9:21 Palin tried to out-wonk Biden. Biden can out-wonk her to death. The danger for Biden is he doesn't know when to stop.

9:26 Great!!! We want oil companies to produce more energy. Let's tax them more!

9:26 Man, I wish I had the chance to tear Biden's stupid ass apart up there on Exxon and the "windfall profits tax." What a libtard moron.

9:28 Palin: "It's a toxic mess on Main Street, that's affecting Wall Street." ROFL!!!!

9:29 Biden wants the courts to shred legal contracts and shred contract law. God, libtards are stupid! Like THAT'S what we need to restore confidence in our transactional markets!

9:31 I think Palin is doing very well at dispelling fears about her cometence so far.

Heh heh. I mispelled "competence." I'll leave it, though, for the craic.

9:35 BINGO!!!!!! "Raping the continental shelf!!!!! Called it!

9:36 Biden "Maybe he's for everything if the free market takes care of it!" The libtard says that like it's a BAD thing?

9:37 The constitution calls for same sex couples having life insurance policies and visitation hours in hospitals? Curiouser and curiouser.

9:38 You know, I think that Ms. Ifill might be being a little tougher putting Biden on the spot than Palin so far.

9:41 Now John McCain is the only candidate in this race that knows the nightmare of surrender first hand.

9:41 Obama has been advocating withdrawal over the next 16 months for the last 36 months.

9:42 At any rate, drawing down over the next 16 months is different from the current projection exactly how?

9:42 Rub Obama's nose in the surge. Nice.
"I don't know how you can defend that position now." Heh.

9:45 John McCain voted against that bill to fund the MRAPs because Libtards in Congress were holding the MRAP hostage to that ill-advised timeline. "Vote to surrender, or the soldier gets it." Bastards.

9:46 Well, actually, until recently, Al Qaeda itself considered Iraq the central front in the war against the West. Until recently.( Good for Palin for pointing that out!)

9:48 I'm hoping we have four more years of pissing off libtards with the word "Nu-cu-lar!" That alone would be worth the price of admission!


9:49 Heh. Dropping Kissinger's name. The libtards who have been calling for his head for war crimes'll love that! :)

9:50 Obama sure as hell did say he'd sit down with Ahmadinejad, Senator.

9:56 Biden's still running against Bush? I'd rather run against Congress!

9:57 Heh. Nucular weapons would be the 'be all, end all' of too many regions.

This term "be all, end all," you keep using, Governor. I do not think that it means what you think it means.

9:58: In fairness to Obama, I think he was referring to air raiding villages in Iraq, not in Afghanistan.

I think Biden's point that the surge will not work the same way in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq is fair.

10:02 Senator, have you ever seen a war you didn't support?

10:03 We can impose a 'no fly zone' in Darfur. But is it really pilots that are doing or enabling the Janjaweed killing? Will a NFZ really change ANYTHING? Where would you fly out of? Over whose airspace? Wanna put a carrier out there permanently? I don't get it!

10:06 Biden: "I never supported John McCain's (winning) strategy on the war!"
(I might have added the (winning) part.)

10:19 Ummm. "Shining city on a hill." That wasn't Reagan, toots. That's far older and bigger than Reagan.

10:20 Biden: "My excessive passion." HURL!!!!!!

10:21 Biden's trying to out-regular guy Palin? HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

10:24 Biden "McCain's not been a maverick on the war?!?!?!" Biden has gone off his rocker.

10:44 It's over. Palin did just fine. Hopefully, that will be the end of people questioning her competence. Megan McCardle was dead wrong when she prematurely wrote off Palin as "a disaster" on her blog the other day. A lot of other people misunderestimated her, too. But she went toe to toe with Biden and parried him on his strength...foreign policy, and even carried a number of points. I think Palin won handily.

Biden has a serious medical problem compelling him to withdraw from the race in 3...2...1...

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Whither Hedge Funds? 
Someone on Megan McArdle's blog asked for a primer on hedge funds. (Why anyone asks for primers on noncontroversial topics in the age of Wikipedia is beyond me) but here is my response to the request for a primer on hedge funds, and why they might be the next shoe to drop:

A hedge fund is basically a counterparty to transactions. Sometimes they become great big hairy stinking counterparties to transactions. They get so huge largely because they employ so much leverage.

The reason they employ so much leverage is because they think they are magnifying returns on a sure thing. I.e., arbitrage.

They blow up once in a while because even arbitrage transactions aren't sure things. And even if they are, the timing on their payoff isn't, and sometimes the payoff comes AFTER the fund goes insolvent. C.f. Long Term Capital Management.

Hedge funds imploding every once in a while is not a terrible thing -- UNLESS you are a lender to them (enabling them to get highly leveraged, or unless they are a counterparty to your much-needed transaction.)

Hedge funds tend to be fairly nimble, though, which enables them to dodge the occasional bullet.

Problem is, there are a number of different bullets headed their way right now, including a sudden and sharp rollback in available credit. And some of these hedge funds rely on continued high levels of credit in order to maintain their highly leveraged positions. If they get a lot of loans called at the same time, they may be forced to sell assets...or even non-asset assets like positions in derivatives at fire sale prices in order to raise cash...all to a market that no longer exists because no one else can leverage up to buy so many positions at the same time either.

The markets are discovering the meaning of counterparty risk.

Pass the popcorn.

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