Cider Press Hill

Ethics is just a pretty word

Saturday, 7:29 am

By Kate

Sep

24

2005

sunny

Well, it’s a brand new day and what have we on the news? Mostly Rita, but also a little blurb about our Senator Frist being investigated, by the SEC and Justice (according to Bloomberg), for insider trading. The story goes like this: Frist had blind trusts set up, for himself and his family, to protect himself from any accusations of conflict of interest while being an important person in the Congress. Then he sold some of those securities two weeks before a publicly traded company, with Frist family connections, issued a poor earnings report. According to Investopedia, a blind trust is a “trust in which the executors have full discretion over the assets, and the trust beneficiaries have no knowledge of the holdings of the trust.”

According to this Associated Press article, Frist’s trusts weren’t so blind. He received regular updates on his investments held in these ‘blind’ trusts.

Then, when HCA, Inc (a hospital operating company founded by his father and brother and on whose board of directors his brother still serves) started to head south, he sold off the company stock held in those blind trusts, coincidentally just two weeks before the company issued an unfavorable earnings report—after which the publicly traded stock tanked some 16%.

Two problems there: He, not the trust executors, was making investment decisions on the blind trusts’ contents, despite publicly stating on national television that he had no knowledge of the blind trusts’ composition and he gives every appearance of having sold off the HCA, Inc securities, along with other insiders, two weeks before the stock tanked on the basis of a poor earnings report—before the general public knew anything about the earnings report.

Frist claims, of course, that he did no such thing. He claims that he lately learned that he still had the HCA, Inc securities and was trying to unload them to prevent conflict of interest. Which, supposedly, is what the blind trusts were supposed to protect him from. I wonder how he’ll weasel around verifiable evidence that he was being fed updates on the securities, and then sold a bunch of his family company’s securities just before an unfavorable earnings report came out.

The SEC and Justice are now investigating. And if I was cynical, after reading the slant of the Bloomberg piece, I might suspect there was some political payback involved in this.  It’ll be interesting to see if Frist ends up wearing an orange jumpsuit or just ends up with his presidential ambitions crushed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

On Rita: Still too soon to know what damage has been wrought across the Texas and Louisiana coastal regions, but there are a lot of people who are feeling the slightest bit jumpy about the state of oil and natural gas production. The hurricane came on shore in an area thick with refineries. And it plowed through a portion of the Gulf that is thickly populated with oil rigs. The Oil Drum will have tons of reliable information coming in during the next several days that will keep those interested up to date on the damage and production issues. It’s a good resource.

While the potential loss of life and property are very important concerns in the wake of the hurricane, a hard hit to the energy industry will not help the already devastated local economy nor the health of our national economy.

As for New Orleans—now what? I love that city very much. It has always been dear to my heart. But realistically, how do we pump billions and billions of dollars into rebuilding the city when the levees are so compromised? Wouldn’t it be prudent to address the levees first before rebuilding and redeveloping the city?



 

Oops

Friday, 5:58 am

By Kate

Sep

23

2005

partly cloudy

One way to make myself especially popular is to dash into the lad’s room, at a couple of minutes past seven, and shake him awake, yelling, “You’re gonna be late”—and then remember there is no school because it is teacher enrichment day.

Teacher enrichment. Where do they come up with these names?

Anyway, my popularity rating took a hit this morning. He just wandered by, muttering something about somebody baking chocolate chip cookies later today to make amends. I can probably do that.

Meanwhile, the firewood situation is showing signs of trouble. I took a day to think about things and a couple dozen other people jumped into the void and snapped up orders. There appears to be a bit of a shortage all of a sudden. The same thought that occurred to me apparently occurred to a lot of other people. Bad hurricane—higher prices and shortages. Get wood now. I have a little left from last year, but not nearly enough. Shoot. I’m entering panic mode.

Update: I feel better, I think. My regular wood guy has tons of wood, but he’s been out in Colorado for the past month, working on some wood related project. His wife said he had been due home today, but now he’s stuck because of the hurricane. He was supposed to fly into Houston and then north. The airlines are a mess and the earliest he can get out now is Tuesday. So, it’ll probably take a couple of weeks before he gets his wood orders taken care of. His wife assured me that he has plenty. The only wild card is that she has no idea what price he’s going to charge. This could end up being a little more expensive than I’d thought. But at least the wood is available and his regular customers get first dibs.



 

Weather junkie

Thursday, 3:14 pm

By Kate

Sep

22

2005

I love weather. In theory, not necessarily in real life. I am fascinated by large weather systems like hurricanes and nor’easters. And here we have one huge hurricane churning its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

Something so destructive and deadly can still be a thing of beauty. In theory, of course. Considering the death and destruction delivered by Katrina, which wasn’t as powerful as Rita, it’s probably not politic to wax poetic about such a storm. But still. Look at the symmetry in this image from last night when Rita was at her peak. She was more perfectly formed than any hurricane I’ve ever seen.

Rita

And this image of the hurricane, with the perfectly formed stadium eyewall. Even the hurricane hunters remarked on its beauty in the moonlight. How awful that something so beautiful can be so destructive.

Rita"

Some other Rita links of interest:
NASA 3-D Cat Scans of Rita and Katrina
NASA’s Map of Gulf Water Temps - and where Rita is tracking through
Animated Infrared loop of Rita’s last several hours
Animated satellite loop of Rita’s last 12 hours

Interactive Map of Oil Rigs in the Gulf - with Rita’s path through them. (occasionally it’s very slow to load)



 

Firewood time

Wednesday, 8:41 am

By Kate

Sep

21

2005

sunny

Perhaps a profitable morning spent pricing firewood for the wood stove. For some reason, which I’m not in the least unhappy about, the price of wood dropped this year. Two cords would heat the house from mid-November through mid-March and, according to the price quotes so far this morning, I could do it for $480. With seasoned hard woods that burn hot and long. Considering the price of natural gas this year, I’m seriously reconsidering my plan to go wood-free this year. Especially with Hurricane Rita threatening to tear up the Gulf Coast and natural gas production. I think it might be prudent.

If it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself that I should buy a couple of cords of wood, it’s absolutely because I am. I do love wood heat. My stove is pretty clean with the catalytic converter and the mere trickle of smoke that meanders out the chimney (I don’t know the mechanics involved, but it also burns its own smoke when I maintain a certain temp.) And it is just the most most wonderful, even, cozy heat available. But stacking 2 cords, hauling wood daily, and caring for the woodpile to keep it dry is hard work and by January 1 have an absolute love/hate relationship going with the wood stove. And the wood crumbs....bleh. When I’m not hauling wood, I’m vacuuming. Still....$480 vs. $900 shouldn’t really be too hard a decision to make. I’m guessing that’s what the cost of natural gas will look like this year. Could be more, probably not much less. And did I mention that I really don’t like my gas utility? They double the delivery system prices on November 1. It makes a big difference. Rip off.

I guess I’ll order a couple of cords once I hear from my regular wood guy who I hope will give me a loyal-customer discount as he has the past three years.



 

Gay cups

Tuesday, 11:03 am

By Kate

Sep

20

2005

light rain

There are several reasons why I might not patronize Starbucks, but I am absolutely certain it isn’t because their cups are too gay.

Some of these Concerned Americans are in desperate need of useful lives.



 

In the neighborhood

Tuesday, 7:46 am

By Kate

Sep

20

2005

light rain

house under construction

A couple of months ago, this nearby house was a very small one storey ranch house. Now there is a second storey, a small addition on the right side and a larger addition in the rear.

Yesterday they started putting on the siding. You can sort of see it on the left end of the house. I look forward to seeing the complete transformation. The only odd thing is the small window on the lower right side. Probably a bathroom window, but it does throw the symmetry off a bit. With the right landscaping, it would probably be less noticeable.

There have been a few houses in town that have suddenly grown a second storey. So far, none of the upgrades and rebuilds have been built to the edges of their lots. At least folks are keeping it reasonably modest. This house, I should note, is so packed with insulation now that its energy costs should be cut by magnitudes. I was amazed by the amount of insulation they installed. Great move!



 

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