Thursday, July 31, 2008


It’s Why We Read, Online and Off

Published: July 31, 2008
To the Editor:

Jordan Awan

The Future of Reading: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? (July 27, 2008)
Re “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” (“The Future of Reading” series, front page, July 27):

Most of us read all the time: road signs, recipes, people’s expressions. But sometimes reading is for purposes other than simply gaining information.
The teenagers mentioned in the article who eschew books in favor of online text may be well informed and may interact with others every day, but they lack the experience of “reading” that a literary narrative provides.
When reading is reduced to meaning only the acquisition of information, it is no surprise to find that minds are impoverished. Do you agree or disagree with “Jane Eyre”? With “Hamlet”? With “Their Eyes Were Watching God”? The question is meaningless, beside the point.
As more and more people fail to “read,” it becomes easier for the powerful to hoodwink them because extended narratives disappear, to be replaced by the quick conclusions available in a Google search. We no longer see that we are repeating old narratives, no longer see how we got to where we are.
To engage with democratic processes — to participate in making difficult decisions or answering challenging questions (shall we go to war? whose fault is poverty?) — requires the ability to examine multiple perspectives, to hold conflicting ideas simultaneously in the mind.
Such qualities of thought are practiced and honed by reading, not by scanning text for information.
As readers have become replaced by users, so our ability to understand what happens in our name will continue to be diminished.
Mark HusseyNyack, N.Y., July 27, 2008
The writer is a professor of English at Pace University.

To the Editor:
I wonder if the invention of the printing press in 1440 had experts of the day crying out that reading and writing were dead.
Pleasure literacy, academic literacy, cultural literacy and informational literacy are all different genres, and we should welcome new sources with delight.
As a lifelong reader, writer and teacher, and now a technological neophyte, I am pleased to be able to find the information I need so easily and quickly on the Internet rather than spending hours in library stacks as I used to do.
Our young people are not in danger because they are experimenting with literacy in a new form.
So what if it obsesses them for the time being? That’s what adolescence is all about. In maturity, they will have skills, knowledge and interests their parents only dreamed about.
Joanne Yatvin Portland, Ore., July 27, 2008
The writer is a former president of the National Council of Teachers of English.

To the Editor:
Show me the things on the Internet that compare with Sherlock Holmes’s deadly confrontation with Moriarty, the final scene with the titular spider in “Charlotte’s Web,” Winston Smith’s self-betrayal in “1984,” the brilliance of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels, the anger and the love and the sorrow of Harlan Ellison’s stories, the wordy mirth of Rex Stout’s brownstoned Nero Wolfe, Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld series, Tarzan, the Spenser mysteries, Roland of Gilead, Little Bear, Big Max, Martha and George. And that’s just one bookcase.
Show me humanity writ large on the Internet, and I’ll stop having any truck with these heavy, burdensome books.
Until then, please stop encouraging the endorsement of this “greasy kid’s stuff” as anything other than what it was described as in the article: an addiction. And an addiction, by definition, is not beneficial.
Alex Dering Princeton, N.J., July 27, 2008

To the Editor:
I struggle mightily with the book versus digital reading issue. I see the view that reading is reading. I know our real and reading world has changed dramatically.
But reading a book — Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Kate Chopin’s “Awakening” — is more of a lasting aesthetic experience than reading the Internet, which is a more ephemeral, economic lure.
Books ask us to pause, imagine, shush; the Internet says don’t think much, buy, rush.
So, yes, there’s a new kind of reader in town, but please give me Shakespeare and even Jonathan Swift now and forever, and let me take more time to decide on Internet swift.
Reading is reading is not always reading.
John Gabriel Chicago, July 27, 2008
The writer is the chairman of the teacher education department at DePaul University.

To the Editor:
The crucial issue might not be how one reads (in print or online), but what one reads (something important or trivial).
It probably does not matter in what form one reads a “great book,” but time is more likely better spent with it than with a book or article of lesser significance.
But to read an important book is not enough. One should examine and understand it, assess its relevance and credibility, and then answer this question: What have I learned of value from it?
Brad Bradford Upper Arlington, Ohio, July 27, 2008

To the Editor:
Is reading the nutrition information on a bag of potato chips “reading”? What about the box score for a Yankees game or closed captions on a TV program?
People have always been able to read in different media and circumstances. What’s important is the person’s purpose in reading, not the medium itself.
Are you looking for specific information, following a historical narrative or savoring the language in a Jane Austen novel?
There’s very little reading that can be done in one medium (the Internet) but not in the other (traditional print). The rest is all convenience.
It’s harder on the Internet to stumble on those small interesting stories in the back of a newspaper, but it’s easier to find specific facts. There’s no single answer to which is better, but it’s all good.
Mark Seidenberg Madison, Wis., July 29, 2008
The writer is a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.

Slingbox in Canada

I’m watching Charlie Rose on Slingbox right now! 5:26 am; Pte au Baril, Ontario, Canada
That’s what’s on my TV set in Cincinnati.

At 6 am CNBC comes on.

At 7 am there are so many users that Slingbox slows to a crawl.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tim Wu -- Worth Listening To

Op-Ed Contributor
OPEC 2.0


Published: July 30, 2008
AMERICANS today spend almost as much on bandwidth — the capacity to move information — as we do on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television and Internet connections, which is about what we spend on gas and heating oil.
Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry by creating a bandwidth cartel.
Like energy, bandwidth is an essential economic input. You can’t run an engine without gas, or a cellphone without bandwidth. Both are also resources controlled by a tight group of producers, whether oil companies and Middle Eastern nations or communications companies like AT&T, Comcast and Vodafone. That’s why, as with energy, we need to develop alternative sources of bandwidth.
Wired connections to the home — cable and telephone lines — are the major way that Americans move information. In the United States and in most of the world, a monopoly or duopoly controls the pipes that supply homes with information. These companies, primarily phone and cable companies, have a natural interest in controlling supply to maintain price levels and extract maximum profit from their investments — similar to how OPEC sets production quotas to guarantee high prices.
But just as with oil, there are alternatives. Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility. A future possibility is to buy your own fiber, the way you might buy a solar panel for your home.
Encouraging competition is another path, though not an easy one: most of the much-hyped competitors from earlier this decade, like businesses that would provide broadband Internet over power lines, are dead or moribund. But alternatives are important. Relying on monopoly producers for the transmission of information is a dangerous path.
After physical wires, the other major way to move information is through the airwaves, a natural resource with enormous potential. But that potential is untapped because of a false scarcity created by bad government policy.
Our current approach is a command and control system dating from the 1920s. The federal government dictates exactly what licensees of the airwaves may do with their part of the spectrum. These Soviet-style rules create waste that is worthy of Brezhnev.
Many “owners” of spectrum either hardly use the stuff or use it in highly inefficient ways. At any given moment, more than 90 percent of the nation’s airwaves are empty.
The solution is to relax the overregulation of the airwaves and allow use of the wasted spaces. Anyone, so long as he or she complies with a few basic rules to avoid interference, could try to build a better Wi-Fi and become a broadband billionaire. These wireless entrepreneurs could one day liberate us from wires, cables and rising prices.
Such technologies would not work perfectly right away, but over time clever entrepreneurs would find a way, if we gave them the chance. The Federal Communications Commission promised this kind of reform nearly a decade ago, but it continues to drag its heels.
In an information economy, the supply and price of bandwidth matters, in the way that oil prices matter: not just for gas stations, but for the whole economy.
And that’s why there is a pressing need to explore all alternative supplies of bandwidth before it is too late. Americans are as addicted to bandwidth as they are to oil. The first step is facing the problem.
Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School and the co-author of “Who Controls the Internet?”

Monday, July 28, 2008


Being up in Canada with limited ability to "cut and paste" articles into this blog forces me to me creative at a different level.

Many pass the time of vacation restoration by doing jigsaw puzzles. I endlessly work on the repairs necessary to Microsoft Outlook, using only the internet for answers to what is probably a simple problem.

This blog itself can serve as a well of resources for more ideas. I have been doing the blog for over one year now.

Over at one island slowness of downloading caused a forced focus on headlines. Now on a second island this problem is not present.

Fishing -- what is it all about? Many things I see. Individual and various skills are needed. Plus fishing is the one way to entertain guests and to pass the hours away until they leave.

Canada is certainly a different place in this most-favored playground of the country -- now officially proclaimed: Georgian Bay. Replacing the movie-star studded Muskoka, nearby.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Baad Upcoming Winter in the Northeast

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Standard Addendum From Internet

Real Estate Inspection Contingency

14. REAL ESTATE INSPECTION CONTINGENCY: For purposes of this clause, time is of the essence. Buyer has the option to have the Real Estate inspected at Buyer’s expense. If the buyer obtains an inspection of the Real Estate, on or before twelve (12) calendar days (Inspection Period) following written Contract acceptance, and if the inspection reveals a material defect(s) and Buyer wants to request corrections, Buyer shall deliver written notification of the material defect(s) along with the relevant portion(s) of the inspection report(s) and the corrections desired, to Seller within the Inspection Period. Upon delivery of the notice, Buyer and Seller shall have five (5) calendar days (Settlement Period) to negotiate to reach a written agreement in settlement of the condition of the Real Estate. If settlement is not reached within the Settlement Period, then this Contract shall be null and void. For purposes of this paragraph, "material defects" do not include minor, routine maintenance items nor functions unique to houses of such an age.

The Oil Man Commeth

Radon Again

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Need More Amps in a Home?

Morgenson Yesterday

Advertise on
Fair Game
Borrowers and Bankers: A Great Divide


Published: July 20, 2008
THE credit crisis has exposed and worsened a dangerous and deepening divide in this country between a vast number of average borrowers and a fairly elite slice of corporations, banks and executives enriched by the mortgage mania.
Borrowers who are in trouble on their mortgages have seen their government move slowly — or not all — to help them. But banks and the executives who ran them are quickly deemed worthy of taxpayer bailouts.
On the ground, this translates into millions of troubled borrowers, left to work through their problems with understaffed, sometimes adversarial loan servicing companies. If they get nowhere, they lose their homes.
Taxpayers, meanwhile, are asked to stand by with money to inject into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants, should they need propping up if loan losses balloon.
The message in this disconnect couldn’t be clearer. Borrowers should shoulder the consequences of signing loan documents they didn’t understand, but with punishing terms that quickly made the loans unaffordable. But for executives and directors of the big companies who financed these loans, who grew wealthy while the getting was good, the taxpayer is coming to the rescue.
To be sure, bailouts are becoming increasingly necessary in our highly leveraged, interconnected financial world. One obvious reason that huge companies are not allowed to fail is that so many people are hurt by such debacles. If a family files for bankruptcy or loses a home, the pain still hurts, but its emotional and financial ripples are confined.
And in the heat of a financial crisis, there is often little time to think through who deserves a bailout and who does not. In especially dire circumstances, leaders have no choice but to rescue companies. Think about Bear Stearns: even though it was relatively small in size for a brokerage firm, its demise had to be averted because of a possible domino effect that might have also taken down its many trading partners. In that multibillion-dollar bailout, it was Bear’s big and wealthy counterparties who benefited.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, however, present an exponentially larger problem. They are unquestionably too big to fail. With $5.2 trillion in mortgages either on their books or guaranteed by them, their bailout was completely predictable. If those companies had been left for road kill, the mortgage market would have ground to a halt and a financial conflagration of historic and devastating proportions would have resulted.
Not all big banks get bailouts, of course. IndyMac Bank, one of the nation’s largest savings and loans, was closed down by regulators last week.
Nevertheless, we are in dangerous territory today where bailouts are concerned, and not only because they feed Americans’ suspicions that only the rich and powerful get help in our country.
Bailouts are also ticklish affairs because of the precarious state of our economy. As Americans are being asked to shore up reckless financial companies, they are also being punished by high oil prices, rocketing food costs and a stomach-churning slide in the buying power of their currency, the once-almighty dollar.
So asking Main Street to bail out Wall Street leads to this inevitable question: Weren’t the financial folks the ones who helped create the mess we’re in?
Yet last week, regulators gave a nice boost to Wall Street and other members of the financial club. Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, devised an emergency rule change for traders wishing to sell short the shares of 19 financial companies, including Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Bank of America and Citigroup. The rule states that if you haven’t borrowed the shares you intend to sell short, you can’t make the trade. It extends until July 29.
There are several interesting aspects to this change. First, if the S.E.C. believes that shorting without previously borrowing shares is a problem in the market, why not apply the rule to all stocks? After seeing many of the 19 companies’ stocks shoot higher after the plan was announced, executives at General Electric, the American International Group and MBIA, companies whose shares have also been pummeled in the financial crisis, must surely feel left out of the fun.
Once again, this emergency action smacks of the regulatory responses of recent years: do nothing to curb the deal-making mania while it is occurring, but when the rout comes along, hurry up and rein it in.
Of course, people prefer rising stock prices to declining ones. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if shares never fell? But such actions call into question the claim that ours is a free-market system. More and more, our version of free markets holds that they are free only when asset values rise. When they fall, the markets must be managed.
HERE is a question: Might not the routs, which inevitably follow the manias, be less painful if things were not allowed to get wild and crazy on the upside? Might not the American people be better off with regulators who curb market enthusiasm — whether in the form of errant lending or voracious, ill-considered deal making — when it reaches manic levels, to protect against the free fall, and the bailouts, that ensue?
No, no, no — perish the thought, especially when the taxpayer is there to pick up the bill.
Which returns us to the dispiriting divide between those who receive help and those who don’t.
“The banks are too big to fail and the man in the street is too small to bail,” said John C. Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, the mutual funds giant, who is a philosopher of finance.
Mr. Bogle is working on his seventh book, titled “Enough,” which is scheduled to be published in November. He said he was disturbed by the extreme speculation that spread into the entire economy during the housing boom and that now threatens both consumers and investors.
“I predicted last summer that this would be my 10th bear market,” he said. “But this one is different. The others were more marketlike, reflecting problems in the market, not problems in the society and the economy as this one does. As a result, we’re in for a much more troublesome era than after the other big bear markets.”
Mr. Bogle, like most investors, is an optimist at heart. But he believes that we must work to correct the growing imbalances in our country. “We Americans are one lucky bunch,” he said. “But, let’s face the truth. While the Declaration of Independence assures us that ‘all men are created equal,’ we’d best face the fact that we may be created equal but we are born into a society where inequality of family, of education and, yes, even opportunity begins as soon as we are born.”
“But the Constitution demands more,” he adds. “We the people are enjoined to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, and to promote the general welfare and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. So it’s up to each of us to summon our unique genius, our own power and our own personal magic to restore these values in today’s imbalanced society.”
Not a bad idea, bringing a little 18th-century enlightenment to this moment of 21st-century gloom.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Comments to Gretchen Morgenson's Article on Debt

Probably worth reading:

Krugman Deserves a Re-Read


Published: March 21, 2008
If Ben Bernanke manages to save the financial system from collapse, he will — rightly — be praised for his heroic efforts.
But what we should be asking is: How did we get here?
Why does the financial system need salvation?
Why do mild-mannered economists have to become superheroes?
The answer, at a fundamental level, is that we’re paying the price for willful amnesia. We chose to forget what happened in the 1930s — and having refused to learn from history, we’re repeating it.
Contrary to popular belief, the stock market crash of 1929 wasn’t the defining moment of the Great Depression. What turned an ordinary recession into a civilization-threatening slump was the wave of bank runs that swept across America in 1930 and 1931.
This banking crisis of the 1930s showed that unregulated, unsupervised financial markets can all too easily suffer catastrophic failure.
As the decades passed, however, that lesson was forgotten — and now we’re relearning it, the hard way.
To grasp the problem, you need to understand what banks do.
Banks exist because they help reconcile the conflicting desires of savers and borrowers. Savers want freedom — access to their money on short notice. Borrowers want commitment: they don’t want to risk facing sudden demands for repayment.
Normally, banks satisfy both desires: depositors have access to their funds whenever they want, yet most of the money placed in a bank’s care is used to make long-term loans. The reason this works is that withdrawals are usually more or less matched by new deposits, so that a bank only needs a modest cash reserve to make good on its promises.
But sometimes — often based on nothing more than a rumor — banks face runs, in which many people try to withdraw their money at the same time. And a bank that faces a run by depositors, lacking the cash to meet their demands, may go bust even if the rumor was false.
Worse yet, bank runs can be contagious. If depositors at one bank lose their money, depositors at other banks are likely to get nervous, too, setting off a chain reaction. And there can be wider economic effects: as the surviving banks try to raise cash by calling in loans, there can be a vicious circle in which bank runs cause a credit crunch, which leads to more business failures, which leads to more financial troubles at banks, and so on.
That, in brief, is what happened in 1930-1931, making the Great Depression the disaster it was. So Congress tried to make sure it would never happen again by creating a system of regulations and guarantees that provided a safety net for the financial system.
And we all lived happily for a while — but not for ever after.
Wall Street chafed at regulations that limited risk, but also limited potential profits. And little by little it wriggled free — partly by persuading politicians to relax the rules, but mainly by creating a “shadow banking system” that relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass regulations designed to ensure that banking was safe.
For example, in the old system, savers had federally insured deposits in tightly regulated savings banks, and banks used that money to make home loans. Over time, however, this was partly replaced by a system in which savers put their money in funds that bought asset-backed commercial paper from special investment vehicles that bought collateralized debt obligations created from securitized mortgages — with nary a regulator in sight.
As the years went by, the shadow banking system took over more and more of the banking business, because the unregulated players in this system seemed to offer better deals than conventional banks. Meanwhile, those who worried about the fact that this brave new world of finance lacked a safety net were dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned.
In fact, however, we were partying like it was 1929 — and now it’s 1930.
The financial crisis currently under way is basically an updated version of the wave of bank runs that swept the nation three generations ago. People aren’t pulling cash out of banks to put it in their mattresses — but they’re doing the modern equivalent, pulling their money out of the shadow banking system and putting it into Treasury bills. And the result, now as then, is a vicious circle of financial contraction.
Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues at the Fed are doing all they can to end that vicious circle. We can only hope that they succeed. Otherwise, the next few years will be very unpleasant — not another Great Depression, hopefully, but surely the worst slump we’ve seen in decades.
Even if Mr. Bernanke pulls it off, however, this is no way to run an economy. It’s time to relearn the lessons of the 1930s, and get the financial system back under control.

Roger Cohen on Same Topic -- Good But Not Kristol


Published: July 21, 2008

Barack Obama has already won the U.S. election by a landslide. In Europe, that is. Polls show the French putting the first African-American in the White House with 86 percent backing. Obamania is about as intense in Germany and Britain, the two other European countries the Senator will visit this week.
So you might ask why Obama’s bothering. He’s got this constituency sewn up. You might also ask why the passion of these European societies for a black man stands in such flagrant contrast to their reluctance to vote minorities into their own legislatures. Freud might have something to say.
I dropped by the Élysée Palace to get a fix on things. The food was shockingly awful — tired crudités, desiccated hake, pasty potato purée — but the Château Batailley 2001 was a beauty. Seems President Nicolas Sarkozy’s too busy for solids.
Everything’s hush-hush about Obama’s movements, but we do know he’ll be at the palace Friday for a 90-minute session with Sarkozy, followed by a press conference. That's a first: French leaders don’t do pressers with U.S. presidential candidates.
But Obama’s visit is also, or maybe principally, about European politics. Sarkozy gets a touch of the Obamaura. Think halos in Florentine Renaissance paintings. Such reflected glory can do no harm, as Sarkozy the opportunist knows well.
The two men already know each other thanks to Jean-David Levitte, then the French U.S. ambassador and now Sarkozy’s shrewd national security adviser. He arranged a meeting with Obama when Sarko showed up in Washington as interior minister in September 2006. They got along famously.
The bonhomie is nice, but there’s work to be done. Obama arrives in Europe at an all-change moment. A U.S. diplomat is attending (inconclusive) discussions with Iran; there’s White House talk of a “general time horizon” for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq; casualties in Afghanistan have risen above Iraqi levels in recent months; and Israel is holding indirect peace talks with Syria.
Iran tops the agenda for the Sarkozy-Obama talks. The French like the incipient dialogue but want sanctions increased until Iran suspends uranium enrichment. Iran’s economy is a shambles (it’s importing 40 percent of its gasoline) and France sees an opportunity to redouble difficulties until the mullahs cede.
It’s interesting when a European power worries the United States might go wobbly. Every now and again Venus and Mars change places. This flux is an opportunity for Europe and America to get their act together.
Take Syria. France is convinced Damascus wants peace with Israel. President Bashar al-Assad had a long meeting with Sarkozy last week. He told the French president he hoped current Turkish-mediated talks with Israel would lead to direct negotiations in the fall co-sponsored by the United States and France, with the two countries guaranteeing security.
It’s too early to say if this idea will fly, although French contacts with Israel and the White House suggest it might. What’s clear is that there’s a significant chance here for the United States and Europe, in concert, to make a difference. Nothing would isolate Iran as much as a Syrian-Israeli peace.
Much has changed since 2000. Too much thinking is still so 20th-century. Wealth and power are shifting from the West. But a basic truism holds: when the United States and Europe work at cross purposes, as in Iraq, disaster ensues. When they work together, as in the Balkans or more recently Kenya, good things happen.
No better illustration of this exists than a united Germany, which is why Obama has chosen to make a speech there Thursday. Again, European politics have intervened. The Social Democrats favor an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate, but Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat Chancellor who has not met Obama, nixed so presidential a venue for a candidate.
Enter Germany history, as the Obama advance team has discovered. Some bright spark suggested the Victory Column in the Tiergarten as an alternative venue, but an older hand pointed out that one of the victories in question was Bismarck’s quashing of France — not ideal on the eve of the Paris visit.
Templehof airport was aired as a compromise, a suitable nod to the Allies’ 1948 airlift, but with the downside that it was designed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect. Aaah well, the past is ineffaceable.
That’s a good intellectual departure point for Obama. As Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Chrisitan Democrat foreign policy spokesman, said: “Obama mustn’t give the impression everything will change. He must build trust but not overload visions.”
Obama can galvanize this change moment. Capitalizing on shifts (Israel-Syria, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Iran) will be the work of his presidency if he wins. On all these fronts, and Afghanistan, he needs Europe. So keep the mania in check. Location, location, location has been the Berlin issue. My advice to him is: sobriety, sobriety, sobriety.

OK, Already, He Can Write, But...It's Still Kristol

Op-Ed Columnist
No Substitute for Victory


Published: July 21, 2008
I’ll go out on a limb and say that Barack Obama will be well received when he speaks in Berlin on July 24.
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William Kristol
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O.K., it’s not exactly a limb. A recent poll shows that the German public prefers Obama to John McCain by 67 percent to 6 percent.
But there is angst in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly not happy about the idea of a Ronald Reagan reprise in front of the Brandenburg Gate. So the Obama campaign has arranged for its man to speak at the Siegessäule — the Victory Column — in the heart of the city.
The Siegessäule is an impressive structure (especially if you have a militaristic bent). It’s a large fluted sandstone column on a base of polished red granite, topped by a golden statue of winged Victory. Completed in 1873, it commemorates Prussia’s victories in the previous decade over Denmark, Austria and France. The column was lengthened and relocated to its present site in 1939.
We’re an awfully long way from the European wars of the 19th century, and from the National Socialist regime of the 20th. Nonetheless, as the newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday in its online edition, some German politicians are concerned about the location of Obama’s speech. The deputy leader of the Free Democrats worries “whether Barack Obama was advised correctly in his choice of the Siegessäule as the site to hold a speech on his vision for a more cooperative world.” One Christian Democrat allows that speaking in front of a monument to a victory over neighbors who are today friends and allies “is a problematic symbol.”
I share every civilized person’s disdain for Prussian militarism and loathing for National Socialism. But I’m choosing to take the location of Obama’s speech as a hopeful sign.
I’m hoping it means that Obama in Berlin will go beyond the anodyne message his campaign advertised Sunday — a discussion of the “historic U.S.-German partnership” and strengthening trans-Atlantic relations. I’m wondering if Obama chose the Victory Column as his speech venue because he intends to make the case for ... victory.
There’s a precedent for this. As Obama knows, he’s been widely compared, especially in Europe, to another young, charismatic Democrat — John F. Kennedy. Perhaps Obama will choose to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps in Berlin.
When President Kennedy spoke to a huge crowd in front of West Berlin’s city hall in June 1963, victory in the cold war seemed a distant hope. The Soviets had crushed the East German uprising of 1953 and the Hungarian rebellion of 1956. Castro had taken power in 1959. The Berlin Wall had gone up in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis had brought the world to the brink of war less than a year before. There were many, in Europe and elsewhere, who wanted to find a way out of the struggle.
Speaking on behalf of “the world of freedom,” Kennedy challenged the anti-anti-Communists and the peaceniks. He chastised the “many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.” He rebuked those “who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists.” To all of them, Kennedy memorably said: “Let them come to Berlin.”
Perhaps Obama — with the Victory Column at his back — will also challenge those who think it impossible to imagine victory today. Perhaps Obama will also warn of the temptation of assuming we can somehow avoid confronting the terrorists and jihadists, and those who support them.
And perhaps Obama will quote Kennedy to the effect that “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” Surely he will express pride — whatever his judgment as to the prudence of the effort, and whatever his judgment as to whether it has been worth the cost — in the efforts of American servicemen and women, and those from our coalition partners, who have fought and sacrificed, along with countless Afghans and Iraqis, against those who would kill and subjugate their fellow human beings. And surely he will pledge our continued commitment to the cause of victory in this struggle.
Kennedy looked forward to a day when Berlin and Germany would be reunited in freedom. He remarked, “When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.”
The front lines are elsewhere today, in a struggle against a different enemy. We don’t know whether jihadism will turn out to be a less or more formidable foe than Communism. But at least Obama can say what Kennedy did not live to see: that just over a quarter-century after Kennedy spoke, after much controversy, and despite many mistakes, and thanks to considerable sacrifice, the world of freedom could take sober satisfaction in a remarkable victory.
Paul Krugman is off today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trouble at Fannie and Freddie Stirs Concern in China, etc.

Trouble at Fannie and Freddie Stirs Concern Abroad

Published: July 21, 2008
For more than a decade, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing giants that make the American mortgage market run, have attracted overseas investors with a simple pitch: the securities they issue are just as good as the United States government’s,
The marketing plan worked. About one-fifth of securities issued by Fannie, Freddie and a handful of much smaller quasi-governmental agencies, some $1.5 trillion worth, were held by foreign investors at the end of March. One out of 10 American mortgages is, in effect, in the hands of institutions and governments outside the United States.
Now that the two companies are at risk, how their rescue is handled will ultimately test the world’s faith in American markets. It could also influence the level of interest rates and weigh on the strength of the dollar for years to come, analysts say.
“No less than the international perception of the credit quality of the U.S. government is at stake,” said Richard Hofmann, an analyst with CreditSights, an independent research house with offices in London and New York.
Also at stake is Americans’ future ability to gain access to credit. If foreign companies and governments abandon United States investments, home, auto and credit card loans will be much more difficult to come by.
That helps explain why Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. is pressing American lawmakers for the authority to inject unspecified billions in cash into either company or both. The “blank check” nature of his request has raised concerns on Capitol Hill, but Mr. Paulson is betting that Congress is even more fearful of the consequences of doing nothing to rescue Fannie and Freddie.
On Sunday, in an appearance on the television program “Face the Nation,” Mr. Paulson said he was “very optimistic that we’re going to get what we need from Congress.”
“Congress understands how important these institutions are,” Mr. Paulson said.
Asian institutions and investors hold some $800 billion in securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, the bulk of that in China and Japan. China held $376 billion and Japan $228 billion as of June 2007, the most recent country-specific Treasury figures.
In Europe, roughly $39 billion in Fannie and Freddie debt is held in Luxembourg and $33 billion more in Belgium, countries that are home to large investment management firms. Investors in Britain hold $28 billion, and Russian buyers hold $75 billion. Sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East are also believed to be big investors in Fannie and Freddie debt.
The trillions in securities issued by Fannie and Freddie and backed by American mortgages were never explicitly guaranteed by the United States government, but foreign and domestic investors alike have always believed, because of the companies’ integral role in the housing market and their marketing pitch, that the guarantee would be backed up if it were tested.
As the United States government’s debt, and the corresponding amount of Treasury securities, shrank in the late 1990s, foreign investors with currency reserves needed a safe alternative to park their cash. Fannie and Freddie stepped up their overseas marketing efforts and, with the help of Wall Street banks, sold billions of dollars in securities overseas.
Asian banks and insurers bought Fannie’s and Freddie’s paper because it gave a little more yield than a straight Treasury note — “the same risk at a better price,” said Deborah Schuler, an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service in Singapore.
Investment managers at Asian banks and central governments are “very comfortable with the idea of implied government support” because it is so prevalent in Asia, Ms. Schuler said.
Still, this week’s Congressional debate on the issue “is going to worry people,” Ms. Schuler said, though she, like most analysts, is confident that Washington will deliver, just as it has in past financial crises like the savings and loan industry bailout of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Because America’s relations with a host of countries are intricately tied to Fannie and Freddie, the only realistic option open to lawmakers may be to hand the Treasury Department that blank check, analysts say.
The two housing agencies have always been fierce competitors, and they made no exception in their expansion into international markets. Top executives wooed governments, banks and insurance companies in Asia and Europe, and lent executives to help foreign governments, including Russia and Hong Kong, set up their own American-style mortgage markets.
Both companies often compared their product to United States Treasuries when they talked to international investors, and adjusted the way that bonds matured and were priced so they looked and acted more like Treasury bonds.
In an interview with a London financial trade paper in 1999, Jerome T. Lienhard, Freddie Mac’s senior vice president of investment funding, said, “Investors that make the transition from U.S. Treasuries to our securities will be pleased with the performance.” Freddie Mac’s program is “designed to mirror that already used by the United States government,” he said.
The Treasury will not comment on Fannie and Freddie’s international marketing pitches, but in the past it has tried to rein in the two institutions.
In March 2000, Gary Gensler, then Treasury under secretary, proposed more oversight of Fannie and Freddie, testifying to Congress that the two agencies “receive no funds from the federal government, and the government does not guarantee their securities.”
The companies “have been promoting their debt securities as an alternative market benchmark” to Treasuries, he noted, particularly as the amount of Treasuries issued by the government shrank with the deficit. Mr. Gensler’s comments roiled mortgage markets, sending prices down sharply on traded Fannie- and Freddie-backed securities and on both companies’ stock. Ultimately, the controls he proposed were softened.
The bulk of investments related to Fannie and Freddie are in the form of mortgage-backed securities, often called agency securities or agency paper. This agency paper is considered of much higher quality than securities backed by subprime loans because Fannie and Freddie generally lend to borrowers with good credit histories and require higher down payments.
Prices on senior Fannie and Freddie securities, the highest quality, have not changed significantly since the end of last year, even as the two companies’ stock prices have plummeted, Moody’s noted. As of June 30, 2008, prices on a typical Fannie or Freddie security maturing in 10 years were off only about 2 percent from December 2007.
Questions about Fannie and Freddie have prompted individual institutions and governments in Asia and Europe to specify their exposure in recent days, but so far international concern has been limited. Ingo Buse, a spokesman for Zurich Financial Services, Switzerland’s largest insurer, said it held $8.3 billion in mortgage securities backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and felt “comfortable with our position and asset allocation.”
Swiss Reinsurance, Switzerland’s largest reinsurer, said on Wednesday that it held $9.6 billion of corporate debt from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and $12 billion in mortgage securities backed by the two companies. Swiss Re’s holding of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae shares is minimal, it said.
Hannover Re, Germany’s second-largest reinsurer after Munich Re, said it held 125 million euros, or $199 million, in securities issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. “We are not worried about the exposure,” said Stefan Schulz, a spokesman for the company, “because we expect the U.S. government to step in if there is any problem.”
Julia Werdigier contributed reporting.

Good Writing

As a Cincinnatian, I love when the Reds are playing the Mets: You get good New York writing on the ballgame, the way it used to be:

Reds 7, Mets 2
Pérez and Mets Eventually Start a New Streak, and It’s a Losing One

"More frustrating still was the Mets’ rediscovering their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In the sixth, with two on and one out, Endy Chávez hit into a double play."

"Over the last month, Pérez has become Warthen’s pitcher. Since Rick Peterson was fired and Warthen was promoted from Class AAA New Orleans, Pérez’s numbers and confidence had steadily improved. But Saturday night here, Pérez had to scrape through six innings, counting on flyouts and his wavering command to deal with a modest Reds team."

Know Your Greek Gods and Goddesses?

Ich Bin Ein Jet-Setter


Published: July 20, 2008
I have a girlfriend in New York who puts her boyfriends through Feats of Strength.
Whenever she gets serious about somebody, she brings them home to Wisconsin, ostensibly for a relaxing vacation with her family. Then she leads them through their outdoorsy paces — biking, hiking, golfing, shooting hoops, swimming — to see if they can pass muster with her athletic clan.
It starts to dawn on these young men in the middle of their romantic triathlon that they are on a perilous quest and that if they falter, another lad might touch down in Kenosha several months hence.
Now Barack Obama is about to embark on his own Feats of Strength.
Maybe that’s why, back home in Chicago, he worked out three times on Wednesday. An Associated Press report jokingly compared his fitness regime to that of Mr. Universe and marveled at “a distinct lack of visible sweat on the Illinois senator.”
But even the perennially cool Obama may sweat this summer. In the next six weeks, he will have to successfully complete a number of tasks, some that he set up himself after being taunted by John McCain, some spawned from slaying the Clinton machine, and some that are a natural part of the path he’s on.
Because Obama started from scratch a year and a half ago in his amazing presidential odyssey, he has to swiftly and convincingly perform the political equivalent of the Labors of Hercules.
Cleaning the Augean stables in a single day seems like a cinch compared with navigating the complexities of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Jordan in a few short days.
He has a week to prove his commander-in-chiefiness, even though he doesn’t have the authority to do anything commander-in-chiefy.
“It’s important to note that it is not our intent to make policy or to negotiate; we won’t do so,” said Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser. “There’s one president of the United States at any given time, and we will certainly honor and respect that.”
Instead of slaying the nine-headed Hydra, he must bedazzle three European countries without causing Middle America to begrudge his popularity with a bunch of foreigners.
Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats. He doesn’t want a picture of him nibbling on a baguette to overtake the effete image of the Europhile John Kerry windsurfing.
Then again, maybe it will be a refreshing change to see a leader abroad reflecting the America the world wants to believe in, after the ignominy of Iraq, Afghanistan, Dick Cheney and Abu Ghraib.
Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there, when they can’t pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro’s chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords.
“I don’t know that people in Missouri are going to like seeing tens of thousands of Europeans screaming for The One,” a McCain aide snarked to The Politico.
Once Obama gets done with his European feats, which will have to include a knockout speech in Berlin, once he figures out where the dour Angela Merkel will let him soar, he has more labors at home.
Instead of obtaining the girdle of the Amazon warrior queen Hippolyte, Obama has to overcome the hurdle of the Amazon warrior queen Hillary. He has to figure out how to let her down easy on the vice presidential deal, while wooing the frantic Clinton sisterhood and Hillraisers who would rather see a McCain Supreme Court than support the glib, cocky young guy who presumptuously sped past their gal.
Obama must capture his own equivalent of the Erymanthian Boar, deciding how much to grovel to get Bill Clinton in his corner, and he has to calculate whether the Big Dog will be help or hindrance, or both, as he was with his wife, and how to use him, if at all.
Bill said Thursday at a press conference about his foundation’s work on malaria drug prices that he had had “a good talk” with Obama.
“He said he wanted me to campaign with him, and I said I was eager to do so,” he recalled, though his intimates confide that the sulky former president “is not there yet,” as one put it.
Obama’s last summer labor should be the simplest for him, nailing his Denver convention speech. Not half as hard as getting past that 100-headed dragon to steal the Apples of the Hesperides.


Op-Ed Columnist
It’s the Economic Stupidity, Stupid

if (;

Published: July 20, 2008
THE best thing to happen to John McCain was for the three network anchors to leave him in the dust this week while they chase Barack Obama on his global Lollapalooza tour. Were voters forced to actually focus on Mr. McCain’s response to our spiraling economic crisis at home, the prospect of his ascension to the Oval Office could set off a panic that would make the IndyMac Bank bust in Pasadena look as merry as the Rose Bowl.

“In a time of war,” Mr. McCain said last week, “the commander in chief doesn’t get a learning curve.” Fair enough, but he imparted this wisdom in a speech that was almost a year behind Mr. Obama in recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. Given that it took the deadliest Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul since 9/11 to get Mr. McCain’s attention, you have to wonder if even General Custer’s learning curve was faster than his.
Mr. McCain still doesn’t understand that we can’t send troops to Afghanistan unless they’re shifted from Iraq. But simple math, to put it charitably, has never been his forte. When it comes to the central front of American anxiety — the economy — his learning curve has flat-lined.
In 2000, he told an interviewer that he would make up for his lack of attention to “those issues.” As he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. McCain was still saying the same, vowing to read “Greenspan’s book” as a tutorial. Last weekend, the resolutely analog candidate told The New York Times he is at last starting to learn how “to get online myself.” Perhaps he’ll retire his abacus by Election Day.
Mr. McCain’s fiscal ineptitude has received so little scrutiny in some press quarters that his chief economic adviser, the former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, got a free pass until the moment he self-immolated on video by whining about “a nation of whiners.” The McCain-Gramm bond, dating back 15 years, is more scandalous than Mr. Obama’s connection with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Mr. McCain has been so dependent on Mr. Gramm for economic policy that he sent him to newspaper editorial board meetings, no doubt to correct the candidate’s numbers much as Joe Lieberman cleans up after his confusions of Sunni and Shia.
Just two weeks before publicly sharing his thoughts about America’s “mental recession,” Mr. Gramm laid out equally incendiary views in a Wall Street Journal profile that portrayed him as “almost certainly” the McCain choice for Treasury secretary. Mr. Gramm said that the former chief executive of AT&T, Ed Whitacre, was “probably the most exploited worker in American history” since he received only a $158 million pay package rather than the “billions” he deserved for his success in growing Southwestern Bell.
But no one in the news media seemed to notice Mr. Gramm’s naked expression of the mind-set he’d bring to a McCain White House. And few journalists have vetted the presumptive Treasury secretary’s post-Senate history as an executive at UBS. The stock of that banking giant has lost 70 percent of its value in a year after its reckless adventures in the subprime lending market. It’s now fending off federal investigation for helping the megarich avoid taxes.
Mr. McCain made a big show of banishing Mr. Gramm after his whining “gaffe,” but it’s surely at most a temporary suspension. When the candidate said back in January that there’s nobody he knows who is stronger on economic issues than his old Senate pal, he was telling the truth. Left to his own devices — or those of his new No. 1 economic surrogate, Carly Fiorina — Mr. McCain is clueless. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, a supporter, said that Mr. McCain’s latest panacea for high gas prices, offshore drilling, is snake oil — and then announced his availability to serve as energy czar in an Obama administration.
The term flip-flopping doesn’t do justice to Mr. McCain’s self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there’s some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence, as if he were compulsively consulting one of those old Magic 8 Balls. In a single 24-hour period in April, Mr. McCain went from saying there’s been “great economic progress” during the Bush presidency to saying “Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago.” He reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks.
In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he’d accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he’s again saying he’ll do it in his first term. Why not just say he’ll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn’t matter since he’s never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.
Mr. McCain’s plan for Social Security reform is “along the lines that President Bush proposed.” Or so he said in March. He came out against such “privatization” in June (though his policy descriptions still support it). Last week he indicated he isn’t completely clear on what Social Security does. He called the program’s premise — young taxpayers foot the bill for their elders (including him) — an “absolute disgrace.”
Given that Mr. McCain’s sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law’s beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there’s no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in. His campaign economist, the former Bush adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, could be found in the June 5 issue of American Banker suggesting even at that late date that we still don’t know “the depth of the housing crisis” and proposing that “monitoring is the right thing to do in these circumstances.”
Ms. Fiorina, the ubiquitous new public face of McCain economic policy, adds nothing to the mix beyond her incessant display of corporate jargon, from “trend lines” to “start-ups.” Before she was fired at Hewlett-Packard, its stock had declined 50 percent during her five-plus years in charge. She missed earning projections — by 23 percent in one quarter — much as she now misrepresents both the Obama and McCain records. This month she said Mr. McCain wanted to require insurance plans to cover birth control medications along with Viagra, when in fact he had voted against it.
Ms. Fiorina received a $42 million payout (half in cash) from H.P., according to a shareholders’ subsequent lawsuit. With this inspiring résumé, she now aspires to be Mr. McCain’s running mate. So does the irrepressible Mitt Romney, who actually was a business whiz before serving as Massachusetts’s governor. Beltway wisdom has it that the addition of such a corporate star will remedy Mr. McCain’s fiscal flatulence.
But Mr. Romney, while more plausible than Ms. Fiorina, is hardly what America wants at this desperate time. His leveraged buyout dealings as co-founder of Bain Capital induced plant closings, mass layoffs and outsourcing. If Mr. McCain truly intends to “put our country’s interests” above politics and reach across the aisle to move the nation forward, as he constantly tells us, why not go for a vice president who’s the very best fit for the huge challenges at hand?
The obvious choice would be Michael Bloomberg — who, as a former Republican turned independent, would necessitate that Mr. McCain reach only halfway across the aisle, and to someone who is his friend rather than a vanquished rival he is learning to tolerate.
Romney vs. Bloomberg is not a close contest. Bloomberg L.P. has roughly three times the revenues and employees of Bain & Company, where Mr. Romney ultimately served as chief executive. Mr. Romney rescued the Salt Lake City Olympics while running it in 2002, but Mayor Bloomberg revitalized New York, the nation’s largest metropolis, after the most devastating attack in our history. The city he manages has more than twice the budget of Mr. Romney’s state.
Yes, Mr. Bloomberg is a closet Democrat and an alpha dog who doesn’t want to be a second banana. And his views on gay civil rights and abortion would roil the G.O.P. base. But Mr. Romney shared some of those same views before he flip-flopped, and besides, these are not ordinary times. Millions of Americans are losing their homes and jobs. Whole industries are going belly up. The national crisis at hand, not yesterday’s culture wars, should drive the vice-presidential pick.
Mr. McCain reminds us every day how principled he is. That presumably means he’d risk a revolt by his party’s dwindling agents of intolerance and do everything in his power to persuade Mr. Bloomberg to join his ticket in the spirit of patriotic sacrifice. The politics could be advantageous too. A Bloomberg surprise could impress independents and keep the television audience tuned in to a G.O.P. convention that will unfold in the shadow of Mr. Obama’s address to 75,000 screaming fans in Denver.
But this is fantasy political baseball, not reality. Mr. McCain, sad to say, hung up his old maverick’s spurs the day he embraced the Bush tax cuts he had once opposed as “too tilted to the wealthy.” And Mr. Bloomberg? It’s hard to picture a titan who built his empire on computer terminals investing any capital, political or otherwise, in a chief executive who is still learning how to do, as Mr. McCain puts it, “a Google.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Standard Addendum

Property Address: 885 Greenville Avenue


This Seller’s Addendum is attached to and is a part of the Offer. The Seller’s Addendum will supercede the Sales Contract where inconsistent. The following terms and conditions are accepted and incorporated into the Sales Contract, subject to the following: Paragraphs in the Sales Contract (offer) which require initials by all parties, but are not initialed by all parties, are excluded from the final agreement.

In ¶14 the Buyer’s Inspection Report must be the report in full, with pictures, signature page of the expert, and vitae of the expert. It must include the address and telephone number of the expert and his company, including zip code.
In ¶16 the Buyer’s Inspection Report must be the report in full, with pictures, signature page of the expert, and vitae of the expert. It must include the address and telephone number of the expert and his company, including zip code.
Any radon test must be done on the first floor of the house since the basement is not finished and is uninhabitable.
Delivery of notice to the buyer must be direct, not through the Realtor, and can be by email or fax ( or 513 772 7991).
In ¶ 16 if the buyer and seller cannot agree regarding the radon issue the parties will split the cost to remediate rather than the entire contract made void.

Yes We Can -- Herbert This Morning

Op-Ed Columnist
Yes We Can


Published: July 19, 2008
As I was listening to Al Gore on the telephone, I was thinking: “Uh-oh, the naysayers will have a field day with this one.”
The former vice president was giving me an advanced briefing on the speech that he delivered on Thursday, calling on the United States to behave like a great nation and actually do something real about its self-destructive and ultimately unsustainable reliance on carbon-based fuel for its 21st-century energy needs.
“I’m going to issue a strategic challenge that the United States of America set a goal of getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable resources and carbon-constrained fuels within 10 years,” he said.
“One hundred percent?” I said.
“One hundred percent.”
Mr. Gore’s focus is primarily on solar, wind and geothermal energy. His belief is that a dramatic, wholesale transition to these abundant and renewable sources of energy is not just doable, but essential.
My view of Mr. Gore’s passionate engagement with some of the biggest issues of our time is that he is offering us the kind of vision and sense of urgency that has been so lacking in the presidential campaigns. But the tendency in a society that is skeptical, if not phobic, about anything progressive has been to dismiss his large ideas and wise counsel, as George H. W. Bush once did by deriding him as “ozone man.”
The naysayers will tell you that once again Al Gore is dreaming, that the costs of his visionary energy challenge are too high, the technological obstacles too tough, the timeline too short and the political lift much too heavy.
But that’s the thing about visionaries. They don’t imagine what’s easy. They imagine the benefits to be reaped once all the obstacles are overcome. Mr. Gore will tell you about the wind blowing through the corridor that stretches from Mexico to Canada, through the Plains states, and the tremendous amounts of electricity that would come from capturing the energy of that wind — enough to light up cities and towns from coast to coast.
“We need to make a big, massive, one-off investment to transform our energy infrastructure from one that relies on a dirty, expensive fuel to fuel that is free,” said Mr. Gore. “The sun and the wind and geothermal are not going to run out, and we don’t have to export them from the Persian Gulf, and they are not increasing in price.
“And since the only factor that controls the price is the efficiency and innovation that goes into the equipment that transforms it into electricity, once you start getting the scales that we’re anticipating, those systems come down in cost.”
The correct response to Mr. Gore’s proposal would be a rush to figure out ways to make it happen. Don’t hold your breath.
When exactly was it that the U.S. became a can’t-do society? It wasn’t at the very beginning when 13 ragamuffin colonies went to war against the world’s mightiest empire. It wasn’t during World War II when Japan and Nazi Germany had to be fought simultaneously. It wasn’t in the postwar period that gave us the Marshall Plan and a robust G.I. Bill and the interstate highway system and the space program and the civil rights movement and the women’s movement and the greatest society the world had ever known.
When was it?
Now we can’t even lift New Orleans off its knees.
In his speech, delivered in Washington, Mr. Gore said: “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet.”
He described carbon-based fuel as the thread running through the global climate crisis, America’s economic woes and its most serious national security threats. He then asked: “What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?”
Americans are extremely anxious at the moment, and I think part of it has to do with a deeply unsettling feeling that the nation may not be up to the tremendous challenges it is facing. A recent poll by the Rockefeller Foundation and Time magazine that focused on economic issues found a deep pessimism running through respondents.
According to Margot Brandenburg, an official with the foundation, nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds “feel that America’s best days are in the past.”
The moment is ripe for exactly the kind of challenge issued by Mr. Gore on Thursday. It doesn’t matter if his proposal is less than perfect, or can’t be realized within 10 years, or even it if is found to be deeply flawed. The goal is the thing.
The fetish for drilling for ever more oil is the perfect metaphor these days. The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.

Who's Who in Obama's Foreign Policy Team

Barefoot, Proximity Worldwide and the Wall Street Journal Article

BBDO Buys Barefoot
July 14, 2008 6:00 a.m.
Cincinnati-based Agency to Become Part of BBDO's Proximity Network

NEW YORK, July 14 /PRNewswire/ -- BBDO Worldwide announced today that it has acquired Barefoot, Cincinnati's premier creative advertising agency. The 15-year old agency will become part of BBDO North America and a member of the Proximity Worldwide Network, BBDO's award-winning global direct and digital marketing network.
"We have been interested in Barefoot for several years," said Andrew Robertson, President and CEO, BBDO Worldwide. "We're both about 'The Work,' and we have been impressed with how they've evolved into a digitally-driven integrated agency. Recently, we've had a chance to work together and get to know each other's organizations. We felt like this was a good time to forge a partnership."
Said Doug Worple, Barefoot's Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer, "In BBDO, we found the kind of people we would want to sit down and have dinner with -- which we did. We found a partner who actually treats creative ideas with even greater reverence than we do. Finally, in evaluating potential partners, we wanted someone that would give us the scale to better service our globally focused clients. As part of the BBDO family, we will have opportunities that almost certainly would not have come our way otherwise."
Under terms of the agreement, Worple will continue to lead Barefoot and will also become a member of the Proximity Worldwide Board. Each of the partners of Barefoot will stay with the company and continue to hold shares in the agency.
About Barefoot

Founded in 1993, Barefoot ( is one of the fastest-growing agencies in the country. Barefoot has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the nation's fastest-growing private companies, making it onto the magazine's inaugural "Inc. 5000. list. Also earlier this year, Worple was honored with an Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" award in Cincinnati.
About BBDO

BBDO Worldwide is part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) ( In 2008, BBDO was named Network of the Year at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes for the second year in a row as well as winner of The Gunn Report as the most awarded agency network in the world for the second consecutive year. In addition, BBDO was chosen Advertising Network of the Year by Campaign magazine for the second time in the past three years. To top it off, BBDO was the #1 ranked global agency network according to The Big Won across every major communication discipline ranging from above-the-line to below-the-line, online and offline.

/CONTACT: Roy Elvove of BBDO Worldwide, +1-212-459-5797 , /Web site:
/Web site:
/Web site:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Roppenecker IX

Roppenecker VIII

Roppenecker VII

Roppenecker VI

Roppenecker V

Roppenecker IV

Roppenecker III

Roppenecker II

Roppenecker I

3. Numerous issues pertaining to wood rot and its causes were identified in the structural report prepared by Matthew Klein P.E. (title, pgs. 1, 5-6 attached). He encouraged the remediation of these issues.