American Airlines economy fliers to pay $25 for 2nd bag American Airlines on Monday became the latest carrier to announce that it would require passengers to pack lightly or pay up. The biggest U.S. airline said it must charge passengers $25 for checking a second bag to help offset fuel costs. The fee will apply to travelers who buy domestic economy-class tickets on or after May 12, American said. It also will affect...April 25: Dominican AA Manager gets it wrong! April 22: Save money! Send bags UPS?
Apr 30, 2008
Apr 29, 2008
Gordon's Notes: The end of television - now it's official
I never caught the TV habit. When I was a child we were too poor to have a working television (really -- people gave us TVs but they kept breaking), and after that I was too busy. My wife and I watched Star Trek - Next Generation in its heyday and I think it was great stuff, so I'm not opposed to television -- it's just that I rarely have time for it.
If our children were calmed by TV I'd use it as a pacifier, but the commercials agitate them. So they watch Netflix videos, including TV episode DVDs, three times a week.
We're a weird family, so I assumed television was still popular among the normals. It came as a shock seven months ago when I realized how little television my children's classmates seemed to watch. Since then I've begun to pay attention to the slow and quiet collapse of broadcast TV in America. It reminds me of the disappearance of public smoking -- an unquestioned bit of boomer life suddenly impermanent.
Now the decline has become official, marked by a Clay Shirky book and essay that's receiving deserved attention:
Apr 28, 2008
Most nude vacationers say that what they enjoy most is liberation from the typical pretenses of society. “When you don’t have any clothes on, you don’t know if someone’s a judge or a doctor, or a lawyer or a mechanic,” said Larry Massa. “You are what you are.”Read more from New York Times...
Nude recreation, of course, goes back at least to the ancient Greeks, who competed in the Olympics sans clothing, and later, in the United States, both Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau lauded the benefits of nude nature walks, or “air baths.”
But it wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century when nudism became organized in America, according to the American Association for Nude Recreation. Kurt Barthel, a German immigrant, is acknowledged as the founder of American nudism. On Labor Day of 1929 he led a small group of individuals to picnic in the buff in upstate New York and organized the first official nudist club, called the American League for Physical Culture, where nudists paid dues to gather to swim, socialize and relax in the nude.
Read more from New York Times...
Adams first visited Yosemite in 1916 when he was 14 years old. On that trip, he hopped up on a tree stump to take a photo of Half Dome, then stumbled, headfirst, and accidentally pushed the shutter release. The upside-down image remained one of Adams’s favorites, he wrote in his autobiography.
The park itself also remained a favorite. Adams ended up living much of his life in Yosemite, and took many of his most well-known photographs there. Today, it is not unusual to encounter professional photographers and novices alike trying to retrace his path. They wait for the perfect minute of moonrise over Half Dome or a shadow on a fallen tree in Siesta Lake. They remember his photo of a juniper tree they saw in a museum, on a coffee cup or a monthly calendar. Ansel Adams’s work, in some ways, is the best unpaid advertising a national park could get.
The first step on an Ansel Adams-inspired trip to Yosemite is to visit the gallery run by his family. It is in the park’s central area called Yosemite Valley, and displays and sells Adams’s work as well as photos taken by several contemporary artists. Before Adams died in 1984, he spent years living in a house behind the gallery and leading workshops there. Now others teach the workshops, and the gallery is managed by Adams’s grandchildren. The gallery’s staff leads free camera walks three days a week. The gallery also shows a free film about Adams once a week, rents out cameras and tripods and sells keepsakes and guidebooks.
Apr 27, 2008
Apr 26, 2008
College students usually don't have much of a financial track record, so to obtain a private loan for school they frequently need a co-signer. And with lenders taking a harder look at borrowers during this credit crunch, the need for co-signers will only grow. But as much as you want to help a student, think twice before putting yourself in this situation. Better yet, think 20 times. Being a co-signer is like taking out the loan yourself, with less control. If the primary borrower—the new graduate—is late with payments, your credit score gets dinged too. Worse, if the borrower doesn't repay, you are on the hook to repay the loan. "They could try to garnishee your wages," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid, an online provider of financial aid information. Lenders require a co-signer when a student's ability to repay a loan is in doubt. With a co-signer, the student might also receive a break on the interest rate on the private loan. Over time and under certain conditions, a lender may allow a co-signer to be released from the loan. But this will be impossible if the borrower is frequently late with payments. Parents wanting to help a child, of course, might know the risks and be OK with them. But some co-signers—such as fellow students—might have no idea what they are getting into. More...Frugal Ben Says: Be creative! Find another way to help them! Most of the time, there are other things you can do to assist them, such as personal loans, gifts, whatever. If their ship is sinking, you won't be able to rescue them if your ship is sinking too.
Apr 25, 2008
As dumbness has been defined downward in American public life during the last two decades, one of the most important and frequently overlooked culprits is the public's increasing reluctance to give a fair hearing -- or any hearing at all -- to opposing points of view. A few years ago, I delivered a lecture at Eastern Kentucky University on the history of American secularism, and was pleased, in the heart of the Bible Belt, to have attracted an audience of about 150. The response inside the hall was enthusiastic because everyone there, with the exception of a few bored students whose professors had made attendance a requirement, agreed with me before I opened my mouth. Around the corner, hundreds more students were packing an auditorium to hear a speaker sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ, a conservative organization that "counter-programs" secular lectures at many colleges. The star of the evening was a self-described recovering pedophile who claimed to have overcome his proclivities by being "born again." (And yes, it is a blow to the ego to find oneself less of a draw than a penitent pedophile.) It is safe to say that almost no one who attended either lecture on the Kentucky campus that night was exposed to a new or disturbing idea. Indeed, virtually everywhere I speak, 95% of the audience shares my political and cultural views -- and serious conservatives report exactly the same experience on the lecture circuit.In critiquing the media, she goes on:
Genuine fairness does not mean the kind of bogus objectivity that always locates truth equidistant from two points, but it does demand that divergent views be understood and taken into account in approaching public issues.If you read the comments on her article, pay special attention to 16, 43, 55, 56. Frugal Ben says: Her points about bogus objectivity and divergent views are especially important in discourse about personal finance. In business reportage, it's common to find reporters failing to strike the appropriate balance. Reporters with tunnel vision overlook divergent points of view which should be represented. Just as commonly, pusillanimous reporters present divergent points of view as equally valid when inspection of underlying evidence clearly indicates some opinions are worth far more than others. Inattention to evidence makes stories about opinions and the opinions themselves worthless to investors, no matter whether the opinions come from the left or the right. When it comes time for a smart investor to take action, the action better be shaped by evidence, not feelings or empty opinions or ideologies.
Apr 24, 2008
The best thing to have happened during the Bush administration is something that did not happen.Listening is more enjoyable! Read if you must!
A new marketing study has found Mac owners tend to think they're more extraordinary than the average Joe. They're also more likely than PC users to whiten their teeth, drive hybrids, drink Starbucks coffee and eat organic food. Andrea Gardner reports.This is even more amusing heard (interview lasts about 90 seconds) but read if you must. Frugal Ben wants to know: What is MacFrugality?
Apr 23, 2008
When Douglas Holtz-Eakin took over in 2003 as the director of the Congressional Budget Office — the nation’s bean counter in chief — he walked right into a firestorm. For years, Republicans had been pushing the budget office to change the way it estimated the cost of a tax cut. Rather than looking only at the revenue lost, they argued, the office should also consider how tax cuts would change behavior. With lower tax rates, businesses would invest more, workers would work more — and the government would thus get a tax windfall. This, in a nutshell, is supply-side economics. A bearded academic, Mr. Holtz-Eakin had just finished a stint in the Bush administration and had spoken favorably about dynamic analysis. So his appointment excited Republicans almost as much as it scared Democrats. Senator Kent Conrad went so far as to call it “a mistake.” But it turns out that both parties underestimated Mr. Holtz-Eakin. He did indeed begin using dynamic analysis, which makes a lot of sense, since tax rates really do alter people’s behavior. Yet he used it as it should be used. What the budget office found, as study after study has shown, was that any new revenue that tax cuts brought in paled in comparison with their cost. This is why the deficit jumped under the last two tax-cutting presidents (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush) and fell under the last two tax-raising presidents (George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton).Leonhardt goes on:
Today, Mr. Holtz-Eakin again finds himself in a firestorm. He is the top economic adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign, and some fiscal conservatives have begun wondering what happened to the Douglas Holtz-Eakin who was a teller of unpleasant truths. For that matter, they’re wondering what happened to the John McCain who was a fiscal conservative himself, the man who not only railed against profligate spending but also voted against Mr. Bush’s deficit-creating tax cuts.Now McCain must decide whether he will use scientific understanding to illuminate the country's economic condition or pander to extremists who value ideology over facts. Frugal Ben Says: Benjamin Franklin and the other fathers of our country were proponents of science. Duh Uhhh! What do you think these patriots would tell McCain to do?
Apr 22, 2008
A free market is a market in which prices of goods and services are arranged completely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers. By definition, in a free market environment buyers and sellers do not coerce or mislead each other nor are they coerced by a third party.
Say Again? Buyers and sellers do not mislead one another?
On April 17, 2008, two stories ran in adjacent columns of the New York Times business section. The position of the articles invites the attentive reader to wonder, "Has American business leadership deteriorated to a point where executives are expected to deceive and mislead as a normal part communication with shareholders?"
The centerfold story: Patience Wears Thin: G.E.'s Shortfall Calls Credibility Into Question
For seven lean years, Wall Street has given General Electric and its chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, the benefit of the doubt.
...Now, in the wake of a surprise earnings shortfall last week, Wall Street's patience has run out as the stock has plunged to its lowest level in four years.
...Shares of G.E. closed at $32.23 on Wednesday, down from about $37 a week ago, and off sharply from where they were before Mr. Immelt took over on Sept. 7, 2001.
For Mr. Immelt, the problem now is not just the earnings disappointment — the consensus estimate for the first quarter was 51 cents and G.E. reported 44 cents — but a looming credibility gap. On March 13, he assured investors the company was on track to meet its profit targets. And in December, he told analysts that G.E.'s goal of earnings growth of at least 10 percent in 2008 was "in the bag."
..."I've been covering the company since 1996, and I've never seen a miss this big," said Nicole Parent of Credit Suisse, who had rated G.E. as her top pick but downgraded it to neutral after the earnings report...
When the news broke shortly after 6 a.m. last Friday, Mr. Tusa said: "I was on the train, and I almost fell out of my seat. It was a shock — people thought it was a misprint."
...Even defenders of Mr. Immelt admit that the juxtaposition of the rosy predictions and the ensuing shortfall have shaken the reputation of G.E., which is the sixth-largest American company by revenue as well as a barometer of the broader economy.
The adjacent story: Retailers Get Stingy With Data
J. C. Penney says the tumultuous economy is making it impossible to predict earnings over the next year. Macy's asserts that providing monthly sales information is too distracting and confusing. And Starbucks argues that annual profit estimates are unnecessary.
In American retailing, less is suddenly more — at least when it comes to giving investors the sort of financial information they have long expected from companies.
Faced with an economic slump, a growing number of national retailers are abandoning the longstanding tradition of reporting monthly store sales and forecasting annual profits.
The stores say that they are eliminating outdated practices that encourage short-term decision-making and can confuse investors.
But many Wall Street analysts and investors, who rely on these numbers to gauge a company's health and the mood of the American consumer, are crying foul. The motive for providing less financial insight, they suspect, is to avoid issuing embarrassing numbers in the middle of a recession, numbers that can drive down a company's stock price.
So far this year, Starbucks, Macy's, CVS, Caremark and Jos. A. Bank have ditched one or both of the financial reporting practices that were once standard in retailing.
And on Wednesday, J. C. Penney joined the list, saying it would stop offering annual profit estimates, known in the industry as guidance, at least for now. (It will still provide monthly sales and quarterly profit estimates.)
Myron E. Ullman, the chief executive of J. C. Penney, said that with the housing market in turmoil and gas prices surging, "there is not enough visibility to give something meaningful."
The analysts who track J. C. Penney and the rest of the retail business can barely contain their frustration with all the lip zipping. "Withholding information is not what investors want," said Bill Dreher, a longtime retail analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities. "They want clarity."
A tough economy, Mr. Dreher added, "is a time to be more communicative, not a time to deprive us of guidance or clamp down on information."
How does this affect you? It's Simple!
You can't make good investment decisions about companies whose executives camouflage the company's state from its investors!
Look at the situation of a buy-and-hold investor who trusted Immelt in December when he said 10% earnings growth was "in the bag" or trusted him in March when he said the company's profit targets were on track. On April 10, that investor's GE closed at $36.75. On April 11, after the earnings report was issued, Frugal Ben bought some GE for $32.
Today, the stock is trading at $32.25. Ben is happy enough with that. The stock pays a 3.25 % dividend yield which allows Ben to wait for the first good selling opportunity so that he can dump this speculative puppy.
The trusting investor lost about 13% of his investment overnight. If he needed to sell now, he's screwed. To break even, he has to wait until the stock appreciates almost 15%.
Free market dupes often argue that stories like the above confirm the effectiveness of a deregulated market: Eventually, the dupes tell us, misrepresentation or concealment gets discovered without government intervention and the market corrects the problem. This sort of wacky reassurance misses the point and is of no use to retail investors! You are not and never will be the market as a whole over an infinite period of time. You're the investor who gets robbed today and all too often cannot make up the loss over the rest of your investing lifetime.The free market utopia pops up all the time in our political discourse but is rarely recognized for the faith-based reification that it is.
Few people would be taken in by the wackiness when someone says "Vote for me! I want to eliminate all government regulation concerning car thefts. We don't need that kind of regulation, we need freedom! We live in a country where the general economy keeps improving. You will be better off in the future than you are now. So, if your car is stolen, eventually you will recover from the loss."
If that doesn't play, why should one believe a free market utopian who promises, "Vote for me! I want to eliminate all government regulation concerning corporate investment misrepresentation. We don't need that kind of regulation, we need freedom! We live in a country where the general economy keeps improving. You will be better off in the future than you are now. So, if your investment gets whacked 13% or 50% or even 100% because executives deceived you, eventually you will recover from the loss." When you shop for a house, you enjoy some protection because the seller is required to truthfully disclose information in response to your direct questions about house defects. Why should the situation be different when you shop for a stock? Frugal Ben Says:
Inoculate yourself against simple-minded arguments from free market extremists. They are preachers of a utopian fantasy irrelevant to real middle class people. Learn to think critically about their assurances that a free market helps investors. In the real world, investors are entitled to accurate information about what they are buying. We cannot trust executives to provide such information in unregulated markets. By the time the market catches on to cheats, irreversible damage to middle class people has already been done. You will never have perfect information when you make an investment decision. On the other hand, you are entitled to good information - that is, information free from distortion rooted in incompetence, irresponsibility or outright deceit.
In short, you are entitled to market regulation that guarantees transparency from prima donna executives.
Apr 21, 2008
Credit between family members requires the formalities of a bank loan, but the rate can be more favorable.
If you lend money to family members — say, to buy a house or a car, start a business or pay off an unfavorable bank loan — you must charge a minimum rate of interest set each month by the Treasury, called the applicable federal rate. In April, the rate for long-term loans (those lasting more than nine years) and requiring monthly payments is an extremely attractive 4.31 percent. Alternatively, you can benefit parents or siblings by borrowing money from them and paying more interest than they could get from money markets or bank C.D.'s. There's no maximum government-set rate, but Mr. Moore suggests you "mimic the market" by paying what a bank in your area would charge for a comparable personal loan.
See more about other frugal techniques for dealing with this issue: When Generosity Bumps Into Gift Tax
THESE days, many prosperous baby boomers are subsidizing parents, and sometimes siblings, who are less fortunate. Innocuous as this may seem, being generous can also subject you to gift tax. While helping a family member often occurs under the radar, if the gift exceeds a certain value and the I.R.S. catches it, you could be forced to pay the tax as well as interest...
If your favorite free Web service sends you an e-mail that declares itself "Important," open it pronto--and brace yourself for grim news. If my in-box is any indication, "Important" is becoming a cold, hard euphemism for Sorry, pal, the free ride is over. In just the last month or so, Driveway notified me (and 8 million other users) that it was discontinuing its online storage service. UReach.com told me it was taking away my all-in-one messaging service--unless I started paying at least $5 a month. And Searchbutton, which hosted the search engine for my personal Web site, instituted a $500 annual fee for the service it had been giving away. There's no denying the facts: Lots of companies that thought they could make a business out of free services can't. Either they start charging, or they disappear...
Frugal Ben Says: Is this problem with free web services or with all web services? What happens if you are trustingly backing up your important data to a backup site for which you pay a monthly fee and the company goes out of business? You might wish you had also been backing it up to a hard drive or DVD in your personal possession.
Apr 19, 2008
Fed by the Fed Federal Web sites can out-shovel anyone when it comes to free data, but they often lack interface niceties. Still, for certain kinds of statistics, there's no better place to poke around. FedStats is a gateway to stats from federal agencies. Just pick a subject (Environment, say), and a list of relevant agencies, from EPA to NASA, pops up. Click the Key Statistics link to get quick hits on notable studies. You could also turn to the Social Law Library's State Law Page for a comprehensive and current list (organized by state) of links to state agencies, courts, and laws.Frugal Ben Says: FedStats is very convenient when you are starting some research.
Scouting the Web Web newsletters appeared minutes after the Web debuted. One of the first and best is The Scout Report, a weekly digest of useful sites with an academic bent. (Specialized spin-offs are devoted to physics, life sciences, and math/engineering/technology.) A typical 20-item report might reveal new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an archive on the free speech movement, a cool online collection of sheet music, and a special focus on a topic in the news.Frugal Ben Says: Worth subscribing to. See Scout Report Archives for sample newsletters.
Apr 18, 2008
Apr 17, 2008
I commend Fed Chairman Bernanke for taking an active role in addressing the weakness in our economy through injecting much-needed liquidity and cutting interest rates. I also am pleased that the Administration and the Congress were able to reach agreement on a stimulus package that provides some support for working families who are bearing the brunt of these difficult times.As for Cox, Dodd said:
As for the SEC, I commend Chairman Cox for his oversight of the credit rating agencies and for enforcement efforts related to subprime-related cases.To be fair, Dodd also said that
...more needs to be done to address the root cause of our economic problems. And, I say respectfully, that includes by the three agencies led by our witnesses today.Aw, shucks, Chairman Dodd. Don't be so hard on these guys! Who thinks that Bernanke, Paulson or Cox would say that their work is finished? That the mess they made in banking, real estate and credit liquidity and corporate transparency has been cleaned up? With there now being a growing consensus that the steps they took to deal with the banking and recession crises are fundamentally flawed, we might all be better off if they decided their work was finished. They wouldn't do anything more to foul things up! But, I digress. The main topic of this post is dot connection, not ranting. Let's connect. No matter how you cut it, Connecticut is a rich state. According to the Census Bureau, it was in the top three in terms of median household incomes in 2006. By other criteria, it might be the richest state period. Incidentally, George Walker Bush (our 43rd US President) was born in New Haven on July 6, 1946. Parts of Connecticut are bedroom communities for mega-rich elites from Wall Street. The state also is home for a number of large corporations. Especially corporations in the finance industry. The major industries in Connecticut are insurance companies, along with helicopter and also submarine manufacturing. Naturally, the state is a site for class warfare, which the rich generally win:
Connecticut’s Tax Code: Tax the Poor & Middle Class More Than the Wealthy When all Connecticut taxes are totaled up, the study found that:This being the case, whom do you think the state's Senators are most likely to serve? Connecticut's Senators are Dodd and Joe Lieberman. The two of them have worked hand in glove with each other to deliver the pork in regard to industries like defense or insurance. Later we will be looking at some courageous journalism that might lead you to believe Lieberman is owned by the financial industry. For many years he has sponsored or surreptitiously amended legislation whose effect has been to decrease the transparency of corporate accounting. You might even be able to argue that legislation crafted and guided to fruition by him was largely responsible for debacles like Enron. That being so, one could further argue that he might have more responsibility for the destruction of middle class wealth than any other single government official in the last 60 years. But again, I am digressing. We'll get to Lieberman eventually. (Those of you who can't wait might Google: Lieberman Hillary Clinton sponsor. Lo and behold, bedfellows? Want weirder insight into these two, such as who is related to Angela Jolie? Check the Muckety.) Senator Dodd's committee has a broad jurisdiction over the operation of our nation's financial institutions, housing and mass transit programs. Whether it does its work well or badly, its activities have immense national significance. Unfortunately, Dodd and his committee have been sleeping through the real estate crisis, the banking crisis and the recession. The flattering Wikepedia article on Dodd's presidential bid is remarkable mostly for what is absent about his interests: Among descriptions of his passions for the usual political claptrap, there is no significant mention of his activities on the Banking Committee! The same is true on his website. Whoa! Senate Committee Chair leaves Committee accomplishments off resume? Even Mary Poppins would recognize this omission to be a red flag. Frugal Ben says, Connect the Dots! Dodd's committee is just as responsible for the destruction of middle class wealth as the industries it watches and the administration hacks who doze through their duties when they are not putting a fake face on things. So we have to ask why Dodd is so enamored of administration officials whose behavior has been so ineffective in regard to middle-class interests? Why doesn't he aggressively publicize his Banking Committee activities instead of relegating them to a shadow existence? What ties do the other members of his committee have to the industries they supposedly regulate? Above all, why did the established media give him a pass on his committee's actions when he ran for President and continue to give him a pass after he dropped from the campaign? Citizen journalists, are you out there? The country needs a spotlight on the Senate Banking Committee. What's the real story? Are they protecting us or the elites they claim to be regulating?
- The state and local tax rate on the best off one percent of Connecticut families—with average incomes of $2.4 million—is 6.4% before accounting for the tax savings from federal itemized deductions. After the federal offset, the effective tax rate is only 4.4%.
- The average tax rate on families in the middle of the income distribution—those earning between $37,000 and $60,000—is 10.4% before the federal offset and 9.5% after, more than double the effective rate the richest pay.
- But the tax rate on the poorest Connecticut families—those earning less than $21,000—is the highest of all. At 10.3% it is nearly two and a half times the effective rate on the very wealthy.
Apr 16, 2008
February 14 2008 Treasury secretary and Fed chairman say rate cuts and rebates should keep economy out of recession NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson both acknowledged problems in the U.S. economy Thursday, but both said they believe the nation will avoid falling into recession. The two made their comments at a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee about the economy. Their testimony comes in the wake of troubling economic readings that have raised recession fears on Wall Street...Not everyone was still in the dark: From "The Face of a Prophet": April 2008 Article about George Soros.
...But last summer, at a luncheon at his home in Southampton with 20 prominent financiers, he struck an unusually bearish note.You think Henry Paulson might learn something from John Paulson? (They are not related.)
“The mood of the group was generally gloomy, but George said we were going into a serious recession,” said Byron Wien, the chief investment strategist of Pequot Capital, a hedge fund.
Mr. Soros was one of only two people there who predicted the American economy was headed for a recession, he said.
Shortly after that luncheon Mr. Soros began meeting with hedge fund managers like John Paulson, who was early to predict a crisis in the housing market. He interrogated his portfolio managers and external hedge funds that manage his fund’s money, and he took on new positions to hedge where they might have gone wrong. His last-minute strategies contributed to a 32 percent return — or roughly $4 billion for the year.
Apr 15, 2008
Look to the opening of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film, “Olympia.”With a history like that, would anyone be surprised that the torch run lends itself to controversy? But somebody seems to be: Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said, "It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that." He added, "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms." Bigger storms? What's he talking about? Integrity issues? If that's what he's talking about, just wait and see what the politically connected do in Daley's Chicago if that city wins its Olympics bid! Sports are wonderful when everyday people are the participants. But big time sports are just another mechanism for transferring wealth from the middle classes to elites. Frugal Ben says taxpayers should evict officials who intemperately spend on divisive, wacky Aryan fantasies.
In that homage to Berlin’s 1936 Olympic Games the origins of this ritual are revealed. Never before had a lighted torch been relayed from a Greek temple in Olympia to an athletic competition, let alone by thousands of runners trying to keep it from being extinguished.
So Riefenstahl creates the myth the Greeks never got around to telling, creating a filmic counterpart to the opening of Wagner’s “Ring,” in which an entire world gradually emerges from elemental fragments. The camera begins by surveying a misty landscape of ruins, of shattered pillars and overgrown grasses. Restless and circling, the camera reveals a Greek temple standing amid the stones. Heads and the bodies of Greek statues appear in an eerie erotic landscape. Under the sensuous caresses of Riefenstahl’s lens, a naked discus thrower comes to life, polished stone becoming muscular flesh. Another athlete prepares to throw a javelin, its trajectory leading toward a bowl of fire. Lighting the Olympic torch, another nude acolyte triumphantly raises it aloft like Wagner’s Siegfried displaying his sword.
Humanity is given its purpose; the relay begins. The torch is conveyed from one bearer to the next and ends in Berlin at a 110,000-seat stadium where it ignites an altar of flame. Through shimmering heat the sun itself can be seen, vibrating in sympathy. And Hitler salutes the cheering crowds.This passing of the torch thus demonstrates a lineage of inheritance — a historical relay — making Nazi Germany the living heir to Ancient Greece.
Apr 14, 2008
One by one, a machine operator has been shoving hundreds of retired New York City subway cars off a barge, continuing the transformation of a barren stretch of ocean floor into a bountiful oasis, carpeted in sea grasses, walled thick with blue mussels and sponges, and teeming with black sea bass and tautog.According to Jeff Tinsman, “They’re basically luxury condominiums for fish.” Enjoy! Be sure to take a few seconds to see the slide shows!
Apr 13, 2008
- For all but the simplest tax situations, a computer program for doing your tax returns is a must! If your tax situation is complicated enough to require you to use the long Form 1040, it's unwise (errors will occur) and very difficult to do your return by hand.
- All major tax preparation programs guide you through an interview which will allow you to prepare an accurate form. Needed information is automatically placed in all the proper spaces and all calculations are guaranteed correct.
- Using a program saves a lot of time compared to doing taxes by hand. It might even be faster for you than using a tax preparer! I still shake my head over how long it took to gather tax materials, organize them, write notes and then drop the package off with my accountant. Even more time was burned up in inevitable phone calls and emails needed to clarify things. When I started using software to prepare my own taxes, I saved time.
- Using even the most expensive program probably costs less than taking your stuff to a tax preparer.
- Watch for the best sale prices you can find. For example, consider what I thought was a good deal at Staples. Here's an update. I got Quicken Starter bundled with TurboTax but had to pay for electronic filing. The Quicken, TurboTax and filing fees finally cost about $75. At the Intuit website, I would have gotten "free" filing, but would have paid $84.90 for state and federal tax programs and would have gotten no free Quicken. Total savings: Around $40 on $85 purchase.
- You have many more choices than TurboTax or TaxCut. See the IRS Partners or google for software or reviews.
- State and federal tax sites are improving every year. Be sure to check out how they can help you deal with regular income taxes. What do they offer in the way of free filing, online or otherwise? What do they do for you in terms of free electronic payments or refunds? Practice frugality by exploring these resources well before you need them. For example, do it around December or January instead of shopping and partying.....Weeeeell, NOT! Just do it early.
- If you should pay estimated federal or state taxes, check government websites for programs which will automate the process for you without any charge.
- There are three reasons to electronically transmit your tax forms: Transmission leads to fewer errors than scanning paper forms, it is said. Transmission is faster if you let things go to the last minute and the post office has closed. Finally, your government likes it because it makes things easier. Should you pay $35 for someone to transmit your forms and payment to the government after you have already paid a bloated price for software? That doesn't seem fair.
Apr 12, 2008
Apr 11, 2008
First, at the federal tax site, you can schedule automatic payments of your federal estimated taxes. You can also pay income taxes. There are no charges for these services. Second, some (maybe all?) states provide the same free services.It's well worth investigating these and other services your state and federal websites might provide to help you with your particular tax problems. Just do so well before you need them! You don't want to be farting around with new websites and new procedures when it's April 14 and you're over the top with stress.
Apr 10, 2008
Representative Jackson's introduction to the world of investing came while he was in law school at the University of Illinois in 1991. He saw an infomercial for an investment seminar being led by Charles J. Givens, the author of ''Wealth Without Risk.'' He bought the book and attended one of Mr. Givens's seminars. ''I learned more about personal finance in an hour-and-a-half seminar than I had in three years in business school,'' he said.Jackson's book came out shortly before the DJIA hit its high of 11723 on January 10, 2000. His theme of getting minorities to invest in Wall Street was picked up and sounded elsewhere. By 2001, blacks were being encouraged from the pulpit to practice frugality and invest in stocks. On September 17, 2001, the DJIA fell to 8848. Then the market rallied and again collapsed to a low of 7850 in 2003. If you were black, the market treated you just as if you were white. Someone who bought the market high and was forced to sell at the bottom would have lost 33% of the investment. Were the Congressman and the ministers on the cutting edge of social change, opening peoples' minds to the importance of investing and saving? Or were they simply victims of mob psychology themselves as they encouraged people to chase an unsustainable market bubble? Would they have served everyone better had they recommended bonds, not stocks? Were the Congressman and ministers too quick in dismissing the historical suspicion minorities have shown to the financial industry? Were James's family and friends correct to be suspicious about investing in stocks or mutual funds? Should I have been suspicious about a mutual fund manager who made me a lot of money before he was banned from the business? In regard to the rulers, the two I kept still sit on my workspace, even though the stock pages in the newspaper are gone forever. The magnifiers are still handy for keeping a place on a page, the odd 8-inch length is perfect for making lines across typing paper and, most importantly, the rulers daily remind me that investors best protect their families by thinking critically and giving constant attention to the big picture. More tomorrow.
Apr 9, 2008
Apr 8, 2008
For many investors, the condo hotel may go down as the Pets.com of the real-estate bubble.
Many buyers purchased the hotel rooms from developers hoping to get paid every time the room was rented. But condo hotels, which account for as much as 10% of all hotel rooms under construction and a much greater percentage in resort markets such as Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas, are coming back to haunt many of the people who bought the units, the developers that constructed the buildings, and the operators hired to run the hotels.BloodhoundBlog