No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Archive for December, 2011

December 25, 2011

Have a blessed Christmas

by @ 0:01. Tags:
Filed under Religion.

From St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-12, NIV84)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Have a blessed Christmas.

December 24, 2011

Virginia’s Presidential primary a 2-way race between Romney and Paul

by @ 10:20. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

In case you were in a cave this week, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann failed to turn in any signatures to get on Virginia’s March 6 Presidential primary ballot, while Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich had enough of their under-12,000 signatures (11,911 and 11,050 respectively) signatures invalidated by the Republican Party of Virginia that they too missed the 10,000 (with at least 400 from each of the 11 Congressional districts).

That reminds me of Rep. John Nygren’s (R-Marinette) epic failure to get onto the recall ballot for the right to face Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). He turned in over 440 signatures, saw that number reduced to 424 on the Government Accountability Board’s initial review, and saw the GAB, at the urging of the Democrat Party of Wisconsin, strike another 26 to leave him 2 short.

For those of you wondering whether the 10,000 threshhold is so strenuous, nobody but the best-funded candidates can make the grade, do note tha the candidates could start collecting signatures back on July 1, and thus had over 5 1/2 months to get to 10,000. Further, there were 6 candidates on the 2008 Republican and 6 candidates on the 2008 Democrat Virginia primary ballots, including Dennis Kucinich on the Democrat side.

The kicker is there is no such thing as a write-in candidate in a Virginia primary, which makes the Gingrich campaign’s call for a write-in campaign moot. That is different than Wisconsin, where a write-in candidate can get a spot on the general ballot in a recognized party’s spot (Republican, Democrat and Constituion Parties) if he or she gets 5% of the number that voted in the most-recent gubernatorial election and almost immediately after the primary complies with registration requirements.

The next bits of actual news (barring somebody shoving his or her foot in the mouth, or a successful court challenge from the Perry or Gingrich campaigns) in the Presidential campaign will be on January 3, and there is a Wisconsin component. Not only is that the day of the Iowa caucus, but it is the day the Wisconsin Presidential Preference Selection Committee meets. This group, consisting of the Republican and Democrat party chairs, a national committeeman and national committeewoman from the two parties, the Assembly speaker and minority leader, the Senate president and minority leader, and a chair selected by the 10 aforementioned, will choose who they believe should be on Wisconsin’s primary ballot on April 1.

There is a way for those not chosen by the party bosses to get on the ballot – collect 1,000 nomination signatures from each of the 8 Congressional districts between 1/3 and 1/31.

December 23, 2011

How will you respond?

by @ 8:28. Filed under Miscellaneous, Religion.

In the first two chapters of Luke we read the Christmas story. Included in these chapters is the foretelling of John the Baptist, Mary’s conception and finally the birth of Jesus. Unique to Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is the inclusion of three angelic visits.

The first visit, as told by Luke, was to the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah. The angel came to tell Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth, would bear a son. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in years so it was hard for Zechariah to believe that his wife and he would become parents. Zechariah was so incredulous at the thought of becoming a father that he actually argued with the angel:

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

The third appearance is on the night of Jesus birth. This appearance occurred to shepherds who were working outside of Bethlehem:

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

This angelic interaction was characterized by Luke as “terrifying.” If we think about it, it’s not hard to understand why the shepherds may have felt “terror.” Imagine standing out in the country, a long way from any population or roadways. Suddenly, not only does someone appear out of nowhere but that someone has an aura or other appearance around them that makes them look unlike any person you’ve ever seen before. It’s not hard to understand how at least the initial response, might be terror.

The other angelic appearance was to tell Mary that she was going to be the mother of the prophesied Savior:

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26-28

Initially, we are told Mary was “troubled” by the Angel’s statements but the visit ends with Mary’s confident statement of trust in God’s provision:

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

About now you’re asking why you’re reading this and why I’m reprinting Luke for a post.

My Bible study looked through these chapters of Luke over the past few weeks. As we looked through the passages it hit me how different, even though each of the angels were bringing a message directly from God, the reaction to each of the three angelic visits were. The Priest, the person who you could argue should have been most comfortable with the idea of an angel acting on behalf of God, argued with the angel. The Shepherds, arguably the bravest of those visited by the angels, were terrified. The young girl who was just told that she would be pregnant out of wedlock, an offense for which she could have been stoned to death, responded with complete confidence in the Angel’s statement and God’s plan.

As I contemplated these chapters, I thought about how my reactions to God are so much like those of the people visited by angels those many years ago.

There are many times where I argue with God. Oh, I don’t yell or shake my fist. By my actions, my thoughts and words, there are numerous times where I show or indirectly tell God that I’m not happy or satisfied with the plan He has for me. Can’t he move faster, why can’t XXXX happen, I need answers…NOW are all ways that I argue with God.

There are other times where I am terrified of God. Yes, I’m a Christian and yes, I know the saving grace of Jesus. But, regardless of the veneer of “a pretty good life,” I’m a sinner, and as Paul said “… the worst sinner.” I guess it is this recognition that confirms my Christianity but it is also this recognition that at times, leaves me terrified when my faith slips a bit and leaves me exposed to what my future would be without the saving grace of Jesus.

Finally, there are times when I can respond as Mary and say, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Times when I am at peace and have confidence in the promises God has made to me as a believer. Admittedly, there have not been many of those times as of late. I won’t bore you with the details, let’s just say that a reason to be anxious seems to hide around nearly every corner I have turned the last few months.

Christmas is nearly here; the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the promise of a different life if we believe and take him as our Savior. It’s also the time of the year where most of us spend time thinking about the year. I think about the blessings I’ve had and begin the process of gearing up for the new year.

After looking at the passages I’ve listed and doing some contemplating this past week, I know I have a choice to make as I enter the new year. I can chose the path Zechariah took and continue to argue with God about the things He has allowed in my life or, like the shepherds, I can chose to be terrified of things that don’t fit into my paradigm of how things should work. Or, like Mary, I can CHOOSE to exert my faith more and trust the God who has never left me and has fulfilled every promise He has ever made.

2,000 years ago, Mary made her choice as to how she would respond to God’s calling on her.

This Christmas, as we hear the Christmas story and reflect on our year, each of us will get a chance to choose how we will respond to God’s desire to be in our life.

I know how I will respond.

How will you respond?

December 17, 2011

Double-dipping, Texas-style

by @ 0:28. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

(H/T – Allahpundit)

If you’re in Wisconsin, unless you’ve been in a cave the last several months, you’ve heard of the practice of double-dipping, as various state and local employees “retired” and then returned to state/local employment, sometimes to their old jobs in a pre-planned move a month later, collecting both the salary of the job and the pension. Indeed, the situation has become so far out of control that Rep. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) introduced a bill to limit the practice among those who “retire” and subsequently come back to work at least half-time at a position.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas governor, and candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Rick Perry one-upped that back in January. After an official with the Texas Employee Retirement System contacted him to tell him that he was eligible to do the career politican version of the double-dip, telling him that he “would be rather foolosh to not access what (he had) earned”, Perry did so, adding a gross pension payment of $7,698 per month to his $11,083 per month salary as governor.

The pension is being paid out as though Perry was a member of the “employee class”, despite Perry being an elected official for the entirety of his service to the state of Texas and continuing to serve as governor with no “sit-out” period. How? Let’s walk through it:

  • Generally, elected state office-holders can choose to participate in the Texas ERS on the “elected class” track. That gives, upon departure from office (and only as long as one isn’t in a state elected office), a pension equal to the number of years of service (including military service) times 2% of the district judge salary (currently $208.33 1/3 per month), not to exceed 100% of the district judge salary ($10,416.66 per month).
  • Non-elected state office-holders and employees automatically participate in the Texas ERS on the “employee class” track. One can qualify for a pension with no reduction if one is at least 60 years old and one’s age and length of service (including military service) equals or exceeds 80 years. For those who entered the “employee class” track after August 2009, that is the average of the 48 months of highest salary (it used to be 36) times 2.3% times the number of years of service.
  • Elected officials can transfer the entirety of their service (including military service) to the “employee class” track. Since the two tracks are “separate”, one can “retire” as an “employee”, collect a pension as a “retiree”, and still remain in elected office.

While Perry may not have been responsible for the abusive system, he is responsible for fully-participating in the abusive system.

December 15, 2011

Last call before the Iowa Caucus (?) debate drunkblog

by @ 9:38. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

At least promoter/broadcaster Fox News is promising tonight’s debate will be the last one before Iowa begins the delegate selection process. The debate is at 8 pm Central, and we’ll fire it up about 7:45. The 12/27 NewsMax debate, which before moderator/potential third-party candidate Donald Trump dropped out had only two candidates scheduled, is in serious doubt now.

The big news is from Rasmussen, which has the current NotRomney experiencing the almost-inevitable bust after the boom. It has Mitt Romney leading at 23%, up from 20% and second last month, Newt Gingrich at 20%, down from the leading 32%, Ron Paul at 18%, up from 10% and fourth (behind the departed Herman Cain last time), and Rick Perry at 10%, up from 6% and a multi-way tie for fifth.

As always, you’re on your own for liquor; between the bells and the blue-light words you’re going to need it. Shoebox and I will once again be using CoverItLive, so you don’t need to refresh to keep up. Do feel free to comment in the window below; unless we get too many people, once we see you there, we’ll probably auto-approve you (unless we have no clue who you are). If, for some reason, you don’t see the window, you should mash here.

How much down the UAW hole again?

by @ 3:16. Tags:
Filed under Business, Politics - National.

It’s been a while since I last ran the numbers on the transfer of taxpayer wealth to UA…er, bailout of GM, Chrysler, and their affiliated credit companies. Due partly to the profit turned today by the UAW VEBA on GM’s bankruptcy, and due partly to wild claim from Car Cza…er, Commissar Steven Rattner that the taxpayers will get back all but $14 billion (I think The Right Scoop misquoted from the clip due to an off-camera cough) of the auto-related bailouts, it’s time to once again go through what has and has not been recovered. Thankfully, the Treasury Department has a PDF-ed spreadsheet to help track all the changes between last October’s look and the end of November 2011. Before I do, however, I have to note Zip caught the expiration of yet another Obama statement – that the Treasury would be paid back in full for the auto bailouts.

To review, back in the beginning of October 2010, $65.89 billion of the $72.59 billion spent on old General Motors, new Government Motors, old Chrysler, new Chrysler/UAW Motors/Fiat, Chrysler Financial, and GMAC/Ally (more-correctly called Government Bank), including $0.04 billion in notes taken out by new Chrysler I was previously unaware of, was still outstanding. Since then, the Treasury has recovered:

  • $13.50 billion from the sale of some of its common stock in GM between 11/18/2010 and 11/26/2010, leaving it with a 32.04% stake.
  • $2.14 billion from the early buyback by new GM of all the Series A preferred stock held by the Treasury.
  • $0.11 billion of the $0.99 billion in loans that remained at old GM, paid to the Treasury on 3/31/2011, 4/5/2011 and 5/3/2011 as old GM was liquidated.
  • $5.46 billion from new Chrysler to “fully” extinguish the TARP loans, including the previously-undisclosed notes, on 5/24/2011. However, $3.5 billion of that repayment appears to have come from an Energy Department loan program meant for modernization of assembly plants dedicated toward fuel efficient/”clean” vehicles.
  • $0.56 billion from Fiat for the remaining 6.6% stake (plus the rights to “excessive” proceeds from the sale of the UAW’s share of new Chrysler) the Treasury held in new Chrysler on 7/21/2011.
  • A bit under $0.01 billion ($9.67 million) as the last bit of cash was wrung out of the remains of old Chrysler, credited on 12/29/2010.
  • $2.67 billion from Ally for the extinguishing of the Trust Preferred Securities held by the Treasury on 3/2/2011.
  • $0.79 billion in dividends on preferred stock in Ally between November 2010 and November 2011.

The $25.24 billion recovered over the past 13 months brings the amount still outstanding from the bailout of the auto industry down to $40.65 billion. The Treasury also converted 110 million of the nearly 229 million perferred shares it held in Ally to 531,850 common shares to give it control of 73.8% of the common shares.

The remaining claims on assets the Treasury holds are:

  • 500,065,254 common shares of new GM. At yesterday’s close of $19.47 per share, the Treasury would get about $9.73 billion (give or take brokerage fees) if they were able to sell their 32.04% stake.
  • $0.88 billion in loans still owed by old GM, which will likely never be recovered.
  • A continuing stake in whatever assets can still be liquidated from old Chrysler, likely to be very minimal.
  • 118,750,000 Series F-2 Preferred shares in Ally Financial, which if Ally does not pay $5.94 billion plus any outstanding dividend (9% annual dividend, or $0.53 billion per year) to extinguish the preferred shares, will be converted to, at the present value, 513,000 common shares in Ally at the end of 2016. The dividend through the end of 2016 would net the Treasury $2.67 billion.
  • 981,971 common shares in Ally, which represents 73.8% of the outstanding common shares in the privately-held company.

Last year’s estimate of $17 billion down the UAW hole once all the dust settles still seems quite operative, assuming the government is willing to let go of both GM and Ally. If it’s not willing to let its seizures go, then far more money will have gone down the UAW hole.

Let’s compare that to the UAW take. I previously covered the all-but-guaranteed $28.39 billion in post-bankruptcy payments from GM (not counting anything from the sale of the UAW’s stock in GM, currently worth $3.12 billion) on $20.36 billion in pre-bankruptcy liabilities from GM the UAW VEBA will get, and except for the dividend payments that have now made UAW’s profit official, nothing has changed. I hadn’t covered the UAW’s recovery schedule of the $10.5 billion owed it by old Chrysler as, up until earlier this year, it had not fulfilled its (voluntary) promise to file reports with the SEC. Now that it is filing the reports, that can be tracked.

Much like it did from GM, the UAW received the cash set aside by old Chrysler pre-bankruptcy for the VEBA. In this case, it was about $1.5 billion. For the remaining $9 billion in unsecured claims against old Chrysler for its VEBA, the UAW received what is currently a 44.7% stake in new Chrysler (after various options exercised by Fiat diluted its initial 67.7% stake) and a $4.59 billion unsecured note carrying an effective 9% annual interest rate and maturing in July 2023. While the repayment schedule is back-loaded, payments did begin in 2010, with a $315 million payment in 2010 and a $300 million payment in 2011. Assuming all the payments are made, the UAW will get $9.16 billion.

That does not include any money it might get from the liquidation of its stake in new Chrysler. That is limited to $4.25 billion (plus 9% compounded annually starting from 2010, or about $5.05 billion if Chrysler goes public in January 2012 and the UAW sells its entire stake) with any excess going to Fiat after Fiat bought the Treasury’s rights to that excess for $60 million and the Canadian government’s rights to that excess for $15 million. Fiat also holds a call option to buy up to 40% of the original UAW stake between mid-2012 and mid-2016 for, depending on whether Chrysler has gone public, either the going stock price or a formula.

December 9, 2011

Hey Hey Ho Ho

by @ 14:44. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

Another debate is about to go!

Join us, sober or drunk. This one is sure to be a lot of fun!

December 8, 2011

Open Thread Thursday – It’s been too long

by @ 9:48. Filed under Open Thread Thursday.

I’m trying to get something up here every day, but I’m back to the malaise I’ve had the last month, along with a dying throat. Fortunately, it’s Thursday, so I can simply declare an Open Thread Thursday. I need a hot toddy, bartender…

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In case you forgot what to do while listening to the Blues Brothers, share links to some kick-ass stories in the comments.

December 7, 2011

Does December 7, 1941 still live in infamy?

by @ 8:24. Filed under History.

70 years ago today, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States fully into World War II. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that it would live in infamy. The Washington Times interviewed some of the survivors of the attack (H/T – Ed Morrissey)

The sad news is that the survivors, just like the larger group of World War II veterans, are dying due to old age, and the memories and lessons of that day and that war are in large part being lost. From the Times article:

Since the 1950s, Mr. Davis and others have kept their legacies alive through the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, but the group will disband at the end of the year. Its members are nearing 90 years older, and many have serious health problems.

“It was just getting to be too much for them. The youngest survivors are 88 years old,” said Carol Gladys, the daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor and secretary of Sons and Daughters, Pearl Harbor Survivors Inc. It’s been in existence since the 1970s, but now will play a much larger role in ensuring the stories aren’t forgotten.

“I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. You walk up to a lot of younger people and ask them what the USS Arizona was, and they have no idea,” Ms. Gladys said. “The younger generation, they have no idea what happened in Hawaii.”

Another indication of that is what is featured, or more-properly, not featured, on the front pages of the three major search engines. Much like what was noted two years ago, neither Google nor Yahoo did anything special for today. Indeed, nothing related to Pearl Harbor is listed among the “trending now” topics on Yahoo as of 8:20 am CDT. Fortunately, Bing picked up the slack, featuring the USS Arizona Memorial.

Revisions/extensions (12:06 pm 12/7/2011) - Allan Bourdius recognizes the sixteen who earned the Medal of Honor 70 years ago today.

December 6, 2011

The Solis “Miracle” – less than what was claimed

by @ 11:22. Filed under Economy, Politics - National.

The Right Scoop flagged me to an interview Labor Secretary Hilda Solis did on The Bill Press Show yesterday (or at least it was posted yesterday) and asked whether I could look into a few claims she made at the beginning of the interview:

  • Over the last 22 months, the economy added 3 million private-sector jobs.
  • Over the last 21 months, the average private-sector job gain was around 160 thousand.
  • Both numbers were significanly better than the George W. Bush record.

It took a bit longer than I thought because I wanted to be a lot more thorough than the Labor Secretary, but it isn’t exactly all that Solis claims.

The first bit is the closest to the truth. Using the Current Establishment Survey (the part of the jobs report that differentiates between the non-farm private-sector jobs and the government jobs), the economy did gain 2,926,000 jobs between January 2010 and November 2011. While it is a bit of a stretch (like Ford’s stretch of the 302 V-8 into “5.0L”), it’s close enough for government work.

Unfortunately, the 21-month recovery in private-sector jobs, from February 2010 to November 2011, saw an average gain of 140,333 jobs per month. I don’t call overestimating reality by over 14% close, especially when the CES covers roughly a third of all workers (or somewhere just north of 40 million).

The last item on the list requires a rather lenghty bit of explanation. I could go the very-cheap route and point out that for the entirety of the Obama administration (starting with the change from January 2009 to February 2009 as the January surveys are taken before the Presidential inauguration), the private sector lost an average of 37,120 jobs per month, while over the 8 years of the Bush administration (again starting with the January 2001-February 2001 change and ending with the December 2008-January 2009 change), the private sector lost just an average of 6,800 jobs per month despite a full recession and 2/3rds of a second. That would be way too easy, however.

I could also compare the first 21-month stretch of unbroken private-sector job growth under Bush to the current streak under Obama (average of +152,860 jobs/month to +140,333 jobs/month), but Bush’s streak began far later than Obama’s. In fact, it was exactly one year later into the recovery, August 2003, that the jobs market stopped producing CES private-sector losses.

Using the CES numbers, the private sector added 705,000 jobs between July 2002 and April 2004, for an average of +33,570 per month. The private sector added 2,947,000 jobs between February 2010 and November 2011, for the aforementioned average of +140,333 per month. However, if the 22-month time frame is narrowed down to the last 6 months, the Obama recovery (May 2011-November 2011) lags behind the Bush recovery (October 2003-April 2004), with an average of +132,830 per month compared to an average of +144,500 per month.

The bad news is the CES, while it covers an estimated 1/3rd of the labor force, double-counts those who hold multiple jobs and pretty much misses those who are either self-employed or working at a start-up. The Current Population Survey, though it is far smaller than the CES because it covers “only” 60,000 people each month, is still an order of magnitude bigger than your typical political survey, counts multiple job-holders only once and covers the portion of the survey who are self-employed.

The CPS chart that comes closest to the non-farm private payroll CES is the private wage-and-salaried non-farm workers chart. Between July 2002 and April 2004, 1,987,000 more people found private-sector wage/salaried work (an average of +94,620 per month), while between February 2010 and November 2011, 3,103,000 more people found private-sector work (an average of +147,760 per month).

However, that still doesn’t include the self-employed. While 299,000 more people were self-employed between July 2002 and April 2004, 364,000 fewer people were self-employed between February 2010 and November 2011.

Adding the two together nets 2,286,000 more people either self-employed or employed by a private entity between July 2002 and April 2004 (an average of +108,860 per month), and 2,739,000 more people either self-employed or employed by a private entity between February 2010 and November 2011 (an average of +130,430 per month). The same “last-6-month” metric shows the same lag for the Obama recovery – +111,170 self-employed/private employed per month between May 2011 and November 2011, and +132,830 self-employed/private employed per month between October 2003 and April 2004.

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