Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oregon governor pursuing GPS-based mileage tax

Being that I live in Oregon, I really don't like this idea.  Honestly, I don't think it will least I hope not.

Oregon governor pursuing GPS-based mileage tax - Autoblog
The gasoline tax has long been the method of choice for raising money for public road upkeep, but more fuel efficient cars are slowly eroding funds from the public coffers. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski wants to keep road repair money flowing, so he's proposing the dreaded mileage tax. Opponents of the idea see a GPS-based solution as being an invasion of privacy, giving the government the ability to track where tax-payers go. However, the proposed system in Oregon doesn't track any travel points. Mileage is instead read whenever drivers fuel up, and a 1.2 cent per mile tax is levied. The program was tested in 2006 and 2007 with 300 motorists participating in the experiment.

Someone driving 12,000 miles per year would pay $144 in mileage tax. For comparison's sake, a 25 mpg vehicle driving 12,000 miles would pay $115 based on Oregon's current 0.24 cent per gallon tax. Kulongoski has no power to enforce a mileage tax, so he's relying on the Oregon legislature to make the tax law. Since it will take time to get all vehicles on the road equipped with a GPS device, the standard gas tax would remain in effect for the foreseeable future, with a possible two cent increase. Commuters equipped with a GPS system would receive a refund for gas taxes paid.

Kill the Juice

Apparently Muslim demonstrators don't like OJ Simpson and his family:

Zionists Targetting Children!

Well not exactly. On the Hamas website they have a blaring headline accusing Israel of targetting women and children but the graphic belies that. It shows dead Hamas police. Link.

Here's a screen capture if they change the graphic:

Hamas legalizes crucifixion:

Useful idiots:  I wonder what kind of statement they are trying to make?

Column One: The 'realist' fantasy | Columnists | Jerusalem Post
Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

While Hamas joyously renewed its jihad against Jews and Christians, its overlords in Iran also basked in jihadist triumphalism. The source of Teheran's sense of ascendancy this week was Britain's Channel 4 network's decision to request that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad give a special Christmas Day address to the British people. Ahmadinejad's speech was supposed to be a response to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas Day address to her subjects. That is, Channel 4 presented his message as a reasonable counterpoint to the Christmas greetings of the head of the Church of England.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Live blogging the Israeli Conflict

Excellent site that has been live blogging the war:

Operation Cast Lead Tuesday Dec 30th | Israellycool

Fatah for Israel?

Could very well be:

A Fatah Friend Writes: I'm Supporting the Israeli Air Force - Jeffrey Goldberg
It's a strange world, but there you have it. I've been talking to friends of mine, former Palestinian Authority intelligence officials (ejected from power by the Hamas coup), and they tell me that not only are they rooting for the Israelis to decimate Hamas, but that Fatah has actually been assisting the Israelis with targeting information. One of my friends -- if you want to know why they're my friends, read this book -- told me that one of his comrades was thrown off a high-rise building in Gaza City last year by Hamas, and so he sheds no tears for the Hamas dead. "Let the Israelis kill them," he said. "They've brought only trouble for my people."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dodd and housing loans

I figured there must be more than just a couple of points off of a loan.  Seems I could have been right.

More on Dodd « For What It’s Worth
Seems that the problem with Dodd was not that he got a few points shaved from his fees by Countrywide, but rather that he got a no-doc loan for his retirement house in Ireland. Seems it might be a wee illegal to do so, particularly if the loan was a Fannie and/or Freddie secured one, or how it was booked, or any millions of reasons why a federally insured loan shouldn’t be given to a home under foreign jurisdiction. I hear that the Senator bought the house through a front company, and disposed of it in the same manner when the Countrywide thing went down, indicating, at least as the cop shows say, bad intent.

Political Correctness Amok

Hard to believe, but yet not:

Video - Political Correctness Vs. Freedom Of Thought : Founding Bloggers
Political Correctness Vs. Freedom Of Thought - The Keith John Sampson Story

Friday, December 26, 2008

We're Spending $1 Billion Less a Day on Gas!

Wow, this will help the economy:
Great Holiday News: We're Spending $1 Billion Less a Day on Gas! |
Looking for your own financial bailout?

Well, the unprecedented decline in gasoline prices the past five months is actually giving regular Americans a much-needed boost to their balance sheets possibly greater than what the government is doling out to the financial services and automobile industries.

New data just released by the Oil Price Information Service reveals that we're currently spending $1 billion a day less on gasoline than we were back in July.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Reserve Christmas Service Pews for Paying Congregants, Politicians Say

This definitely isn't the US.  HT: Ken. - Reserve Christmas Service Pews for Paying Congregants, Politicians Say
Germans who attend church only on high holidays such as Christmas should not be allowed to take pew space from regular church members, two politicians are insisting.

Seating room at the popular Christmas Eve services should be reserved for those who pay church taxes, Thomas Volk of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Martin Lindner of the Free Democrats told the Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

“I’m in favor of having church services on December 24 open only for people who pay church tax,” said Volk.

“Those who pay church taxes shouldn’t be like idiots locked out of their own churches during important services,” Lindner said. “Congregation members should be allowed to reserve seats ahead of non-members.”

Protestant and Catholic Church budgets in Germany are largely covered by taxes paid by all members of the respective churches, deducted automatically by the state. The right of recognized churches to tax members is enshrined in the constitution. Germans may opt out, but to do so they must also officially relinquish their membership.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Warren On? Party Off.

Apparently the parties over...

Richard Cohen - Obama's Choice of Rick Warren Ruined a Party -
Not that he was planning to attend, but Barack Obama should know that my sister's inauguration night party -- the one for which she was preparing Obama Punch -- has been canceled. The notice went out over the weekend, by e-mail and word of mouth, that Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation had simply ruined the party. Warren is anti-gay, and my sister, not to put too fine a point on it, is not. She's gay.

Monday, December 22, 2008

5 Reasons Why the Economy Might Recover Faster Than You Think in 2009

Here's a little Christmas cheer...hoping this will happen!

5 Reasons Why the Economy Might Recover Faster Than You Think in 2009 - Capital Commerce (
Let's all hope Barack Obama is wrong when he says that getting the U.S. economy straightened out "will take longer than any of us would like — years, not months. It will get worse before it gets better." And let's pray that Joe Biden is way off when he says the economy is in danger of "absolutely tanking." But, to be honest, far more economists would pretty much agree with those pessimistic statements than the number that wouldn't. (Though that is a good contrarian sign.) Most regular Americans, too. Still, there are a numbers of reasons to think that the economy might, just might, shift back into gear faster than most of us think or hope:

1) Plunging oil prices. It was only five months ago that oil prices hit a record high of $147 a barrel. Now they're below $40 thanks to slowing global demand. At the same time, gas prices have plunged from over $4 a gallon to around $1.67 nationally. (And some analysts think they're heading to a buck a gallon.) And just as high energy prices were a drag on the economy last summer, they're giving it a boost heading into 2009. JP Morgan Chase economist James Glassman estimates that the drop in oil prices represents "a boost equivalent to a $350 billion stimulus." To bring that down to the average consumer, Glassman explains, think of it this way: The typical household drives 15,000 miles annually. So a drop in gas prices to, say, $1.50 a gallon would represent a savings in their annual gas bill of $2,500 from when gas was at $4. This could boost GDP growth by as much as two percentage points.

2) Falling mortgage rates. If there's anything falling as fast as energy prices it's mortgage rates. Rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a low, low 5.19 percent last week thanks to the Federal Reserve's pledged efforts to purchase mortgage securities. That should help housing affordability and the ability of current homeowners to refinance their mortgages. And even more good news could be on the way if you don't mind Uncle Sam borrowing billions more for yet another bailout: The Treasury Department is reportedly considering a plan to push mortgage rates to as low as 4.5 percent for new homebuyers and, perhaps, even for current homeowners who want to refinance. Investment strategist Edward Yardeni thinks if rates could get pushed down to 4 percent, either via the Fed or Treasury's efforts, the economic impact would be amazing. He figures that the average rate on the $10 trillion in outstanding mortgages is about 6 percent. A two-percentage-point drop would amount to a $200 billion annual tax cut for the 45 million American households with mortgages.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Local teens claim pranks on county's Speed Cams

I don't think I would be happy if this happened to me.  It would be nice if this did away with speeding cameras.

The Sentinel
As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.

From the NRO.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Falling Fortunes, Rising Hopes and the Price of Oil

This is the best summary I have read.  HT Ken.

Bill O'Reilly: Intel Briefing
Oil prices have now dipped—albeit only briefly—below US$40 a barrel, a precipitous plunge from their highs of more than US$147 a barrel in July. Just as high oil prices reworked the international economic order, low oil prices are now doing the same. Such a sudden onset of low prices impacts the international system just as severely as recent record highs.

But before we dive into the short-term (that is, up to 12 months) impact of the new price environment, we must state our position in the oil price debate. We have long been perplexed about the onward and upward movement of the oil markets from 2005 to 2008. Certainly, global demand was strong, but a variety of factors such as production figures and growing inventories of crude oil seemed to argue against ever-increasing prices. Some of our friends pointed to the complex world of derivatives and futures trading, which they said had created artificial demand. That may well have been true, but the bottom line is that, based on the fundamentals, the oil numbers did not make a great deal of sense.

Things have clarified a great deal of late. We are now facing an environment in which the United States, Europe and Japan are in recession, while China is, at the very least, expecting to see its growth slow greatly. Demand for crude the world over is sliding sharply even as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member states so far seem unable (or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, perhaps unwilling) to make the necessary deep cuts in output that might halt the price slide. The bottom line is that, while the breathtaking speed at which prices have collapsed has caught us somewhat by surprise, the direction and the depth of the plunge has not.

Prices are likely to remain low for some time. Most of the world's storage facilities—such as the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve—are full to the brim, so large cuts are needed simply to prevent massive oversupply. Yet any OPEC production cuts—the cartel meets Dec. 17 and deep cuts are expected—will take months to have a demonstrable impact, especially in a recessionary environment. And there is the simple issue of scale. The global oil market is a beast: Total demand at present is about 86 million barrels per day. This is not a market that can turn on a dime. A firm fact that flies in the face of conventional wisdom is that oil actually falls far faster than it rises when the fundamentals are out of whack. This has happened on multiple occasions, and not that long ago.

...Low oil prices create both winners and losers on the international scene. First, the winners' list.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cinderella vs. the Barracuda

Good analysis of the duplicity of a certain political segment in our society:

Jonah Goldberg : Cinderella vs. the Barracuda -
One could say without fear of overstating things that the liberal reaction to the inexperienced Caroline has been somewhat more gracious than the reaction to the "inexperienced" Palin. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has devoted two columns in as many weeks to this "fairy tale" scenario in which Kennedy, our "tragic national princess," is finally rewarded -- for her years of quiet dignity, selflessly avoiding scandal and the paparazzi -- with the Senate seat that once belonged to her uncle Bobby. What's astounding about the normally sensible Marcus' case for "the Cinderella Kennedy" (New York magazine's phrase) is that she doesn't really make one, at least not on the merits. Marcus doesn't even bother. It's all schoolgirl gushing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Emanuel talked directly to gov

Things continue to get interesting:

Emanuel talked directly to gov: source :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Gov. Blagojevich
President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned. Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.

Emanuel talked with the governor in the days following the Nov. 4 election and pressed early on for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the post, sources with knowledge of the conversations told the Sun-Times. There was no indication from sources that Emanuel brokered a deal, however.

A source with the Obama camp strongly denied Emanuel spoke with the governor directly about the seat, saying Emanuel only spoke with Blagojevich once recently to say he was taking the chief of staff post.

But sources with knowledge of the investigation said Blagojevich told his aides about the calls with Emanuel and sometimes gave them directions afterward. Sources said that early on, Emanuel pushed for the appointment of Jarrett to the governor and his staff and asked that it be done by a certain date.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gay leaders furious with Obama

This is going to blow up in their face. 

Gay leaders furious with Obama - Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson -
Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to perform the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.

Nice roundup here.

The Blagojevich Timeline:

This helps to understand all the nuances of this fiasco.

The Volokh Conspiracy - The Blagojevich Timeline: Everything Fits Easily Except Obama's Monday Denial.
Most people have misunderstood the timeline of the Blagojevich Senate scandal. Pretty much everything fits except Barack Obama's statement yesterday that he knew nothing about it.

If we didn't have Obama's denial to contend with, the actions of all the parties, including those purporting to speak for Obama, are consistent with Obama and his staff learning about Blagojevich's corrupt plans on Monday, Nov. 10.

Consider the timeline, as revealed in the complaint and press reports:

Holder holding out on Blagojevich connections

And Obama isn't even President yet!  Good grief, when will this end?

Hot Air » Blog Archive » Holder holding out on Blagojevich connections
Up to now, the only member of the incoming Obama administration worried about ties to Rod Blagojevich was Rahm Emanuel. Today, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that another key appointment by Barack Obama hasn’t told the complete truth about his work for the disgraced governor of Illinois. Eric Holder, who already will face questions about his role in the controversial Marc Rich pardon and the deportation of Elian Gonzales, left off a key role on his resumé:

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Second Mortgage Disaster On The Horizon?

You have to be careful of the hyperbole, but good grief:

A Second Mortgage Disaster On The Horizon?
When it comes to bailouts of American business, Barney Frank and the Congress may be just getting started. Nearly two trillion tax dollars have been shoveled into the hole that Wall Street dug and people wonder where the bottom is.

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, it turns out the abyss is deeper than most people think because there is a second mortgage shock heading for the economy. In the executive suites of Wall Street and Washington, you're beginning to hear alarm about a new wave of mortgages with strange names that are about to become all too familiar. If you thought sub-primes were insanely reckless wait until you hear what's coming.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We need to let Jesus out of the cradle

The Bible encourages us to “in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15). Christmas is a wonderful thing. It is a good beginning. But at some point in time we have to let Jesus out of the cradle.

Jesus must be allowed to grow up, and we must grow up with him. We have to change from thinking of him as a baby and understand that he is God who came and wrapped himself in human flesh for a time. We have to go from wonder to worship.

We must understand that there is more to the story than a baby in the hay. In that cradle lay the hope of the ages. In that stall was the salvation of the world.

The story about a child being born is true and it is wonderful, but we have to go beyond being charmed by it to being changed by it.

We need to see beyond the tradition and be transformed. We must go beyond the admiration of a child to the adoration of a Savior. No one truly understands Christmas until we find ourselves on our knees in worship.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chavez and Venezuela are in Trouble

This isn't going to be pretty.  I truly feel for the people of Venezuela, they are in for a rough time.

Investor's Business Daily -- Chavez Steps Into 'Devil's Excrement'
Venezuelan oil prices are now $34 a barrel. Producing 2.3 million barrels a day, down 16% from 2005, and now consuming 795,000 barrels of that, as Caracas investment banker Miguel Octavio estimated on his blog, "The Devil's Excrement," he doesn't even have enough earnings to finance imports. He's given away about 424,000 barrels of oil output, and must make do on sales of about 1 million barrels. With oil down, Chavez has entered the worst phase of the oil cycle.

The cash he used to buy elections in 2004 and 2006 is no more, and his hasty call for a new measure to end term limits — and enable him to be president for life — is pretty much a desperate effort to end any calls for accountability in the wake of the bust.

He's not likely to last in these conditions any more than the other strongmen thrown out in Venezuelan history. The irony is that he sold his revolution on faith in socialism.

In reality, it was an ungodly faith in high oil prices. With oil prices falling, the devil is coming for his due.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Official Google Blog: Search and find magazines on Google Book Search

Amazing. What will tech be like in 20 years?

Official Google Blog: Search and find magazines on Google Book Search: "Today, we're announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony."

Man who lost family when jet hit house: I don't blame pilot

Christianity in action...just wow.  Keep he and the pilot in your prayers.

Man who lost family when jet hit house: I don't blame pilot -
A Korean immigrant who lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family's house said Tuesday he did not blame the pilot, who ejected and survived.
Firefighters and military personnel sift through wreckage Monday in San Diego, California.

"Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident," a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday's crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego's University City community.

"He is one of our treasures for the country," Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

"I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could," said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego's Korean community, relatives and members from the family's church.

The Real Reason Rob Bell is a Heretic!

Some very good stuff on Rob Bell.  If you don't know who he is...time to find out!  He is very insightful, and of course attacked.

CRN.Info and Analysis » Blog Archive » The Real Reason Rob Bell is a Heretic!
Finally, someone has the courage to point out what we have all been wondering.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gay theology and Newsweek

Newsweek lets loose with a particularly inane article on the conservative Christian position concerning gay marriage.

Sola scriptura minus the scriptura » GetReligion
I knew we had to take a look at this week’s Newsweek’s cover story when I read the first line. It was just that bad. It was written by senior editor Lisa Miller who oversees all of the magazine’s religion coverage. Which is pretty shocking when you look at the unbelievable ignorance on display in her grossly unfair first paragraph:

Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

How many things are wrong with that opening line? (Beyond the junior high-worthy snarkiness of the “let’s try” opening, I mean.) How about that “religious conservatives” don’t argue that civil marriage should be defined “as the Bible does.” I mean, it would be nice if Newsweek or other mainstream outlets took the time to learn what religious conservatives have to say about marriage before they attack it. Is that so much to ask?

Chickens and US politics


Chickens and US politics |
Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure - right from Day One! - that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. T he chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here. DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken

China devalues the yuan

This will cause problems:

Chinese economy: 1930s beggar-thy-neighbour fears as China devalues - Telegraph
China has begun to devalue the yuan for the first time in over a decade, raising fears that it will set off a 1930s-style race to the bottom and tip the global economy into an even deeper slump.

The central bank has shifted the central peg of its dollar band twice this week in a calculated move that suggests Beijing aims to offset the precipitous slide in Chinese manufacturing by trying to gain further export share abroad.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Lion is a Lamb

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).

The message of Revelation is that the Lamb of God is more powerful than all the forces of evil the world can muster. The armies of the world are helpless against him.

The first lesson that we learn from this scripture is that: God’s power is displayed in weakness.

When God wanted to release his power into the world, he sent a baby. The world laughed, as it still does today, but through that baby God released the power of life into the world.

The world wanted power, and God sent a weak, little baby. They wanted a king and God sent a Savior. They wanted a lion and God sent a Lamb.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Orson Bean and God


Power Line - How Orson Bean found God
For most of my life I didn't believe in God. Who had time? I was too busy with things of this world: getting ahead, getting laid, becoming famous. For most of my adult life I've been at least somewhat famous. Not so famous that I had to wear dark glasses to walk down the street, but famous enough that head waiters would give me a good table.

I didn't want to be famous for its own sake. I wanted to be famous so as to be happy. My earliest memory, as a little kid, was deciding to be happy. I did my childhood in Cambridge Massachusetts in a rented apartment near Harvard Square. My father was a yard cop at the University. He was also a member of Mensa. An odd combination: an intellectual yard cop. My mother was a beautiful drunk. She was Calvin Coolidge's second cousin and spent some time in the White House when Cousin Cal was president. Her parents, staunch Vermont Republicans, were not thrilled when their daughter took up with a New Deal Democrat who barely made a living.

Life was chaotic in our apartment in Cambridge: fights and drinking and affairs. I'd been sent from Central Casting to play the small but important role of the only child. One day I will be happy, I told myself.

When I grew up, I did become famous: first as a stand-up comic on television, then as an actor on Broadway, then as a fine game show panelist: a modest skill, like being a virtuoso of the kazoo.

The fame made me happy. It got me laid and made me money and it was fun. I wanted more, so I graduated to drugs and booze. They worked, too, for a while (quite a long while, actually). But when they finally stopped working, when my wife left and the game shows stopped calling, I realized that it was time for a change. I enrolled in a twelve step program.

They kept talking about a Higher Power. It could be anything: a tree, the ocean, whatever. And you were supposed to turn your life over to it. It could be God, of course, but they didn't want to make you nervous. As long as it wasn't you, they said, it worked.

There were speakers at the meetings, former drunks who were supposed to explain it all. One guy impressed the hell out of me. I heard him a few times. Bobby was his name. That's how he always introduced himself and we'd yell back, "Hi, Bobby."

Bobby was one tough bugger. Scars and tattoos. He'd done time in the pen. Hard time. The last time he was arrested, he was taken off the roof of a building in downtown L.A. by a SWAT team: helicopters, the whole shebang. They sent him away for fifteen years for something pretty violent, I'm sure; he didn't say. It was his third conviction but this was before three strikes so he didn't get life.

Well, while he was up the river, he started going to meetings; to break up the monotony, I suppose. And somehow or other, he got the message and his whole life changed. While he was still there in the jug. He began helping other cons and staying out of trouble and they knocked some time off his sentence. By the time I ran across him, he was out, of course, working at a regular job and "sponsoring" a number of young guys. "My babies," he called them.

I decided I would ask him for advice. He was standing on the sidewalk in front of the meeting where he'd spoken and some cute young thing was bending his ear. There were a few of us hanging around wanting to talk to him but of course we all understood that if a good looking girl was praising him, probably flirting with him, common sense and good manners dictated that we wait our turns.

The girl finished and started to leave, but before any of us could get a shot at him, something strange happened. An LAPD motorcycle cop sped by on his big, black Harley, spotted Bobby, jammed on the brakes, jumped off the bike, ran over and grabbed hold of him.

"Holy God," we all thought, "He's done something bad again and they've come to get him." But instead of arresting him, the cop gave him a big hug. Then he got back on the Harley and blasted off. Bobby turned to the little group of us there on the sidewalk.

"One of my babies," he explained, and started off down the street. I decided to be a pain in the neck and hustled on after him. I caught up and introduced myself. I told him about how I had a few months clean and sober and about my reluctance to think about my higher power as God. What advice did he have, I asked?

"Get down on your knees," he told me, " and thank God every morning. Then, do it again at night."

"But I don't think I believe in God."

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Just do it."

"Why do I have to get down on my knees?"

"He likes it," said Bobby. And that's all he said to me. He stood there looking at me for a minute and then I said OK and thanked him and he took off.

I was living, in those days, in a little joint in Venice with a Murphy bed. That night, when it was time for me to go to sleep, I got down on my knees beside the Murphy bed, feeling like a complete fool, and spoke out loud.

"If there's anybody there," I said, "thank you for the day." I had finally decided, I suppose, that since all else had failed, I would follow the instructions. That night, I slept like a log and in the morning I got down on my knees again and said, "If there's anybody there, thank you for my night's sleep."

I kept doing this, day after day, and without my even being aware of it, it stopped feeling foolish to me. It started to feel good, in fact. After a while, I began to sense that my prayers were being heard. I didn't know by who or what, but it was a good feeling. Then, before I knew it, I felt as if there was Something or Someone there who knew me and cared about me. Actually loved me.

"Alright," I told myself. "I'll call it God. Thank you, God" And I really meant it. That's how it began for me and my life has kept on getting better ever since. Truly better. So finally, I thought I'd write a little book about it, to tell people how simple it is.

I don't know anyone who doesn't have an empty spot at the center of him, which must be filled in order to be really happy. That spot, like it or not, is reserved for God, and if you decide you are going to be lastingly happy, M@IL FOR MIKEY, my little instruction manual, could give you a jump start.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Blackwater joins fight against sea piracy

This should be interesting:

Washington Times - Blackwater joins fight against sea piracy
Pirates beware -- Blackwater Worldwide may be looking for you, and soon. That prospect certainly would shiver Bartholomew Roberts, better known as "Black Bart," down to his timbers if the infamous pirate hadn't been dead for the past 285 years.

The North Carolina-based security firm, which came under fire from Congress over a shooting incident in Baghdad last year that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, announced in October that its 183-foot ship, the McArthur, stands ready to assist the shipping industry as it struggles with the increasing problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere.

China 'faces mass social unrest'

This is really not good.  An unstable China would cause all sorts of problems, just by its sheer size.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China 'faces mass social unrest'
Rising unemployment and the economic slowdown could cause massive social turmoil in China, a leading scholar in the Communist Party has said.

"The redistribution of wealth through theft and robbery could dramatically increase and menaces to social stability will grow," Zhou Tianyong, a researcher at the Central Party School in Beijing, wrote in the China Economic Times.

"This is extremely likely to create a reactive situation of mass-scale social turmoil," he wrote.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Treasury Department Considers Plan to Lower Mortgage Rates

Good news for those with good credit:

Treasury Department Considers Plan to Lower Mortgage Rates - Transition Tracker
Financial industry lobbyists are urging the Treasury Department to take steps to lower mortgage rates and help stabilize the battered U.S. housing market.

Under one proposal, Treasury would seek to lower the rate on a 30-year mortgage to 4.5 percent by purchasing mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist at the Financial Services Roundtable, said Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Self-Embedding Disorder: Teens Putting Nails, Paper Clips in Bodies, Study Finds

Disturbing: - Self-Embedding Disorder: Teens Putting Nails, Paper Clips in Bodies, Study Finds - Health News
Some troubled teens are embedding nails, paper clips, bits of rock, glass and even crayons in their bodies as a way to cope with disturbing thoughts and feelings, U.S. researchers said Wednesday.

They described cases in which teens had forced numerous objects into their arms, hands, feet, ankles and necks in a condition they are calling self-embedding disorder, a step beyond more common forms of self-mutilation.

"We identified a group of 10 patients over a three-year period of time that have this pattern of self-inflicted injury," said Dr. William Shiels, chief of radiology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He presented his findings at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

"It's cutting gone to the next level," Shiels said in a telephone interview.

Shiels, who is developing a minimally invasive surgical technique for removing objects accidentally embedded in the skin, saw his first case of what he called self-embedding in 2005, and recently has seen a cluster of cases.

"We had never seen this prior to 2005." he said.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Survey Finds Growing Deceit Among Teens

The fascinating part is that the educators try and come up with excuses:

Survey of Students Suggests Americans Are Apathetic About Ethical Standards -
In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards.

Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.

"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have [to cheat]. The temptation is greater."

Activists Seek Revocation of Tax Exempt Status of Churches That Supported Prop 8


TaxProf Blog: Activists Seek Revocation of Tax Exempt Status of Churches That Supported Prop 8
In the wake of Proposition 8's passage, opponents are railing that churches that supported the ballot measure violated their tax-exempt status.

It's a common accusation at the now-weekly protests, gaining enough traction that Geoff Kors, a member of the No on 8 executive committee, said lawyers are investigating the issue. "The Mormon church overstepped its boundaries by being a tax-exempt organization," said Sharone Negev, 54, of San Francisco, who has gone to protests in San Francisco and the Mormon temple in Oakland. "They clearly are not supposed to be involved in political activities."

But interviews with experts and activists on the issue say Prop. 8 opponents should look elsewhere for reasons to criticize the measure's supporters. "They almost certainly have not violated their tax exemption," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the leading advocacy organization on the issue. "While the tax code has a zero tolerance for endorsements of candidates, the tax code gives wide latitude for churches to engage in discussions of policy matters and moral questions, including when posed as initiatives."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to be thankful

A few suggestions:

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you want. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something, this gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow and gain the ability to appreciate the good times.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you're tired and weary, because it means you've made a difference.

Doctors shocked at hostages's torture

How absolutely horrific:

Doctors shocked at hostages's torture
The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

Corroborating the doctors' claims about torture was the information that the Intelligence Bureau had about the terror plan. "During his interrogation, Ajmal Kamal said they were specifically asked to target the foreigners, especially the Israelis," an IB source said.

It is also said that the Israeli hostages were killed on the first day as keeping them hostage for too long would have focused too much international attention. "They also might have feared the chances of Israeli security agencies taking over the operations at the Nariman House," he reasoned.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How Your Audience's Brain Works

For those who speak in front of an audience (or congregation).  Things we need to know...

How Your Audience's Brain Works - BusinessWeek
Your brain has a tendency to tune out after 10 minutes, ignore "boring" subjects, and require a lot of pictures to retain information. Those are three of the discoveries detailed in John Medina's new book, Brain Rules. I recently spoke to Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and teacher at the University of Washington School of Medicine to get a sense of how business leaders can apply his findings when making presentations to audiences large and small.

1. The brain tunes out after 10 minutes. Your audience might be with you at "Hello," but in most cases, listeners stop paying attention within 10 minutes. Since Medina began teaching in 1993, he has continually asked his students: "Given a class of medium interest, not too boring and not too exciting, when do you start glancing at the clock, wondering when the class will be over?" The answer is always 10 minutes. According to Medina, peer-reviewed studies confirm his observation. "Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out," says Medina.

The 10-minute rule is an important finding for anyone who delivers information to any sort of audience. If you want to hold people's attention, I recommend you introduce some sort of engaging device at or shortly before each 10-minute increment of your presentation. This device doesn't have to be complicated. A simple story will suffice, as will a review of the past 10 minutes. In my presentations, I often tell a relevant story, or better yet, show a video clip that is relevant to the previous discussion. If you're presenting via Webinar software (BusinessWeek, 4/18/08), you can use a tool to push a poll or a question to your audience. Again, be sure to plan these exercises at 10-minute intervals.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Legislating Immorality

Read the whole thing:

Legislating Immorality by The Editors on National Review Online
Last week in a Denver suburb, someone lit a Book of Mormon on fire and dropped it on the doorstep of a Mormon temple, presumably as a statement about the church’s support of Proposition 8 in California, an initiative that amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In a move that may make gay-rights supporters’ heads spin, the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

'A Day of Thanksgiving'

The origins of Thanksgiving:  Have a happy Thanksgiving!

'A Day of Thanksgiving' -
When was the first Thanksgiving? Most of us think of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. But if the question is about the first national Thanksgiving holiday, the answer is that the tradition began at a lesser-known moment in 1777 in York, Pa.

In July 1776, the American colonists declared independence from Britain. The months that followed were so bleak that there was not much to give thanks for. The Journals of the Continental Congress record no Thanksgiving in that year, only two days of "solemn fasting" and prayer.

For much of 1777, the situation was not much better. British troops controlled New York City. The Americans lost the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, in upstate New York, to the British in July. In Delaware, on Sept. 11, troops led by Gen. George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, in which 200 Americans were killed, 500 wounded and 400 captured. In Pennsylvania, early in the morning of Sept. 21, another 300 American soldiers were killed or wounded and 100 captured in a British surprise attack that became known as the Paoli Massacre.

Philadelphia, America's largest city, fell on Sept. 26. Congress, which had been meeting there, fled briefly to Lancaster, Pa., and then to York, a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. One delegate to Congress, John Adams of Massachusetts, wrote in his diary, "The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting."

His cousin, Samuel Adams, gave the other delegates -- their number had dwindled to a mere 20 from the 56 who had signed the Declaration of Independence -- a talk of encouragement. He predicted, "Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection."

He turned out to have been correct, at least about the good tidings. On Oct. 31, a messenger arrived with news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The American general, Horatio Gates, had accepted the surrender of 5,800 British soldiers, and with them 27 pieces of artillery and thousands of pieces of small arms and ammunition.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Earth at the heart of a giant cosmic void?

The philosophical (and theological) ramifications are astounding.  Read the whole thing.

Is Earth at the heart of a giant cosmic void? - space - 12 November 2008 - New Scientist
IT WAS the evolutionary theory of its age. A revolutionary hypothesis that undermined the cherished notion that we humans are somehow special, driving a deep wedge between science and religion. The philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for espousing it; Galileo Galilei, the most brilliant scientist of his age, was silenced. But Nicolaus Copernicus's idea that Earth was just one of many planets orbiting the sun - and so occupied no exceptional position in the cosmos - has endured and become a foundation stone of our understanding of the universe.

Could it actually be wrong, though? At first glance, that question might seem heretical, or downright silly. But as our cosmic horizons have expanded over the centuries so too has the scope of Copernicus's idea. It has morphed into the Copernican, or cosmological, principle: that nothing distinguishes the position of Earth's galaxy from any other place in the entire universe. And that idea, some cosmologists point out, has not been tested beyond all doubt - yet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

De-sanitizing Christmas

The cultural background of the birth narrative is amazingly complex...but also very interesting.

CRN.Info and Analysis » Blog Archive » De-sanitizing Christmas #3: Meet the Parents (2008 Update)
Mother Mary

All cultural indications from the Jewish culture and the Galilee region would suggest that Mary was 12-13 years of age at the time of her betrothal. Also, considering that most betrothal periods would last from 6 months to two years (at most), these cultural indicators would suggest that Mary was 12 - 14 years old when she received the visit from the angel Gabriel.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18)

How often do we see Christmas reenactments on TV or at our churches in which Mary is a young twentysomething girl, as opposed to a 6th-, 7th- or 8th-grade girl? Not only that, but she’s 9 months pregnant!


If we only know a little bit about Mary, we know even less about Joseph.

Once again, if we follow Galilean Jewish tradition, Joseph would have been at least 13, though it is possible he was a few years older, since he is identified with a profession, which he would typically have learned from his father between the ages of 12 and 16.

There are a number of religious traditions which have suggested that Joseph was significantly older and a widower when he was betrothed to Mary. However, this came from the Catholic tradition which insisted this had to have been the case, specifically because of the belief that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth (a mistaken interpretation of Matthew 1:25). Thus, since Jesus had at least 4 brothers and 2 or more sisters (see Mark 6:3), many Catholics will argue that these siblings had to have come from Joseph via a prior marriage. However, this is highly unlikely and not supported by scripture.

The cost of the bailout compared to other expenditures

Puts things in perspective:

Ben Smith's Blog: How big? -

The sum of this fall's bailouts — $4.6165 trillion
Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Marine Makes Insurgents Pay the Price

It would seem that it is dangerous for your health to mess with the Marines!

Marine Makes Insurgents Pay the Price
In the city of Shewan, approximately 250 insurgents ambushed 30 Marines and paid a heavy price for it.

Shewan has historically been a safe haven for insurgents, who used to plan and stage attacks against Coalition Forces in the Bala Baluk district.

The city is home to several major insurgent leaders. Reports indicate that more than 250 full time fighters reside in the city and in the surrounding villages.

Shewan had been a thorn in the side of Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan throughout the Marines’ deployment here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, because it controls an important supply route into the Bala Baluk district. Opening the route was key to continuing combat operations in the area.

“The day started out with a 10-kilometer patrol with elements mounted and dismounted, so by the time we got to Shewan, we were pretty beat,” said a designated marksman who requested to remain unidentified. “Our vehicles came under a barrage of enemy RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and machine gun fire. One of our ‘humvees’ was disabled from RPG fire, and the Marines inside dismounted and laid down suppression fire so they could evacuate a Marine who was knocked unconscious from the blast.”
During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t miss any shots, despite the enemies’ rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.

...We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

U.S. Pledges Top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit

Wow, how can it keep going on like this? Exclusive
The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

Venezuelan Opposition Gains in Vote


Venezuelan Opposition Gains in Vote -
President Hugo Chávez’s supporters suffered a stinging defeat in several state and municipal races on Sunday, with the opposition retaining power in oil-rich Zulia, the country’s most populous state, and winning crucial races here in the capital.

The losses were Mr. Chávez’s second setback at the polls in the past year, after the defeat of a proposed constitutional overhaul last December that would have enhanced his powers. The results will put opponents of Mr. Chávez in charge of areas with about a third of Venezuela’s 26 million people.

“These victories came in the economic and political centers of the country,” said Luis Vicente León, director of Datánalisis, a polling firm here. “They represent the most important symbols in terms of cities and population.”

Particularly here in Caracas, the results were rooted in festering discontent over the government’s inability to lower violent crime as homicides and kidnappings have surged over the past decade, making it one of the world’s deadliest cities. In the early hours of Monday, celebratory fireworks went off over parts of the city after the results were announced.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Halperin at Politico/USC conf.: 'extreme pro-Obama' press bias

Ya think?

Halperin at Politico/USC conf.: 'extreme pro-Obama' press bias - Alexander Burns -
Media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said Friday at the Politico/USC conference on the 2008 election.

"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."

Halperin, who maintains Time's political site "The Page," cited two New York Times articles as examples of the divergent coverage of the two candidates.

"The example that I use, at the end of the campaign, was the two profiles that The New York Times ran of the potential first ladies," Halperin said. "The story about Cindy McCain was vicious. It looked for every negative thing they could find about her and it case her in an extraordinarily negative light. It didn't talk about her work, for instance, as a mother for her children, and they cherry-picked every negative thing that's ever been written about her."

The story about Michelle Obama, by contrast, was "like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is," according to Halperin.

Friday, November 21, 2008

5 Reasons Why America's Largest Car Company Teeters on the Edge


GM in Crisis—5 Reasons Why America's Largest Car Company Teeters on the Edge - Popular Mechanics
Strapped for cash, GM is on the brink of bankruptcy. It's a dramatic shift for a car company that had begun to right itself after decades of trouble. So what happened? We turned to PM Advisory Board Member and Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, David Cole, for his take. Ironically, GM's perfect storm of troubles hit just as the company seemed to be making progress on a number of fronts: The company is producing its most competitive cars and trucks in decades, and the upcoming 2011 Chevy Volt has generated more excitement for GM than any product in recent memory. On the cost side, the market slowdown has closed factories, which has removed most if not all of the industry's overcapacity of cars and trucks. And when a new labor agreement kicks in, GM's cost to produce a car will fall to a point where it can once again be profitable. That's the good news. The question is, will GM be around to benefit once the economy improves? The troubles at GM are vast and complex, but Cole summarized what he sees as the immediate and long-range factors that have brought the once dominant automaker to its knees.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Global warming bad news: Continued cooling.

Bummer for Gore.

.: U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works :: Minority Page :.
The bad news for global warming alarmists just keeps rolling in. Below is a very small sampling of very inconvenient developments for Gore, the United Nations, and the mainstream media. Peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and prominent scientists continue to speak out to refute climate fears. The majority of data presented below is from just the past few weeks. Also see: U.S. Senate Minority Report: “Over 400 Prominent Scientists (and rapidly growing) Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007” & ‘Consensus’ On Man-Made Global Warming Collapses in 2008 - July 18, 2008 & An August 2007 report detailed how proponents of man-made global warming fears enjoy a monumental funding advantage over skeptical scientists. LINK

Obama and the Progressive Base

It appears they may not be all that happy with him.

Obama Throws No Bones to Progressive Base
When is Obama going to appoint someone who reflects the progressive base that brought him to the White House?

He won the crucial Iowa caucuses on the strength of his anti-Iraq War stance, and many progressive peace and justice activists worked hard for him against John McCain.

So why in the world is he choosing Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State when she was one of the loudest hawks on Iraq and threatened to obliterate 75 million Iranians?

And it’s not just Hillary.

Obama’s OMB pick, Peter Orzag, is a Clintonite disciple of Robert Rubin.

Obama’s AG pick, Eric Holder, is a Clintonite who represented Chiquita Bananas.

And Larry Summers’s name is still being bandied about for Treasury, even though Summers, while Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, forced the deregulation of our financial markets and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mammoth's genome pieced together

Looks like you can't easily make a clone, but, still very interesting.

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Mammoth's genome pieced together
A US-Russian team of researchers has pieced together most of the genome of a woolly mammoth, Nature journal reports.

The experts extracted DNA from samples of mammoth hair to reconstruct the genetic sequence of this Ice Age beast.

Though some stretches are missing, the researchers estimate that the genome is roughly 80% complete.

The work could provide insights into the extinction of the mammoth and also resurrects questions about the viability of cloning long-dead species.

The scientists were aided in their task by the fact that several deep-frozen carcasses of woolly mammoths have been dug out of the permafrost in Siberia.

These conditions are ideal for the preservation of hair, which is a preferred source for the extraction of ancient DNA.

Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt

I believe that this position takes it too far, Mohammad did indeed exist.  He did get the heretic part correct.

Islamic Theologian Says Prophet Muhammad Likely Never Existed -
Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany's first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn't like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.

So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.

Muslims, not surprisingly, are outraged. Even Danish cartoonists who triggered global protests a couple of years ago didn't portray the Prophet as fictional. German police, worried about a violent backlash, told the professor to move his religious-studies center to more-secure premises.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jim Jones: Evangelical Communist?

The tragedy was thirty years ago.  I never realized that Jones was a radical leftist.  My how the narrative has changed.

Flynn Files -- Don't Drink the Kool-Aid on Jonestown
On November 17, 1978, Jim Jones was a hero to American leftists. On November 18, 1978, Jones orchestrated the killings of 918 people and strangely morphed in the eyes of American leftists into an evangelical Christian fanatic. An unfortunately well-worn narrative, playing out contemporaneously in Pol Pot's Cambodia, of socialist dreams ending in ghoulish nightmares, then, conveniently shifted to one about the dangers of organized religion. But as The Nation magazine reported at the time, "The temple was as much a left-wing political crusade as a church. In the course of the 1970s, its social program grew steadily more disaffiliated from what Jim Jones came to regard as 'Fascist America' and drifted rapidly toward outspoken Communist sympathies." So much so that the last will and testament of the Peoples Temple, and its individual members who left notes, bequeathed millions of dollars in assets to the Soviet Union. As Jones expressed to a Soviet diplomat upon upon his visit to Jonestown the month before the smiling suicides took place, "For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Poor Obama Supporters

Say a little prayer for these empty souls:

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Hillary Clinton to accept Obama's offer of secretary of state job?

I wonder...

Hillary Clinton to accept Barack Obama's offer of secretary of state job | World news |
Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama's advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton's foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country's dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

The sad, sad state of college English

It's surprising not that writing not able to read cause of schooling when younger could be better.  Got? >> Michael Olesker
Some people collect sports memorabilia, or rare coins, or sea shells from the beach at Ocean City. Wilson Watson collects sentences.

He taught local community college students for 35 years and has now slipped gently into retirement. But his students’ sentences trail behind him like ship’s anchors, evidence of the sinking of American writing skills.

Or, as one of Watson’s scholars wrote so succinctly: “Some people use bad language and is not even aware of the fact.”

Or, another: “It’s good I’m doing something with my self; Therefore, I can do better in the foochure.”

Or, “People who murder a lot of people are called masked murderers.”

Some of this feels like masked murder of the English language — such as the student who explained in a note, “I was absent on Monday because I was stopped on the Beltway for erotic driving.”You want more examples? How about these beauties:
• “The person was an innocent by standard, who just happened to be the victim of your friend’s careless responsibility.”
• “Society has moved toward cereal killers.”
• “Romeo and Juliet exchanged their vowels.”
• “Willie Loman put Biff on a petal stool.”
• “Another effect of smoking is it may give you cancer of the thought.”
• “The children of lesbian couples receive as much neutering as those of other couples."

Or, when asked to use the past tense of “fly” in a sentence: “I flought to Chicago.”

Some sentences reflect a lack not only of basic thought, but also of historical awareness. Such as:
• “Benjamin Franklin discovered America while fling a kite.”
• “Christopher Columbus sailed all over the world until he found Ohio.”
• “Many attempt to blame Kurt Schmoke for the decline in the population, yet Donald Schaefer suffered the same oral deal.”
• “Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sixteenth Chapel.”

“All these sentences,” Watson says, “were written by college students who were not intending to be funny. But they don’t read much any more, and they haven’t had much exposure to language. And it’s gotten worse over the years.

“The thing that’s really concerned many of us is the inability of many students to think clearly. It’s reflected in their writing. Some of it’s just gibberish. It reads as if written by someone for whom English is a second language, with mixed-up phrases and ideas. You ask them what they mean, and they can’t tell you verbally, either.”

What You Can’t Win in Court (PC in the classroom)

Apparently you can mention anything while teaching in a College unless the students don't like it.

What You Can't Win in Court :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs
After you’ve been called racist by some students, can you sue to get your reputation back?

Richard J. Peltz, who teaches law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, tried. The idea of suing students intrigued and worried many observers of the professoriate, and Peltz’s case prompted much discussion about free speech and the respect that should be accorded both professors and students. Peltz has now dropped his suit — but he did so only after the law school agreed to fully investigate the charges against him and after he received a letter affirming that, based on that investigation, he had done nothing racist or inappropriate.

The university has also agreed to discuss allowing Peltz to again teach required courses, which he was barred from offering once the complaints against him were filed.

Amid the demands of some black students that he be punished, and his lawsuit against them, Peltz revealed few details about the incidents that led to the controversy. But with the suit dropped and with a university investigation backing him, Peltz shared various documents about the case, and agreed to talk about it.

Venezuela's Chavez spies on rivals in election game

If you thought the US tramples on rights, how about using the telephone and having that conversation in a political ad?  Chavez, man of the people, as long as you vote for him.

Venezuela's Chavez spies on rivals in election game - Yahoo! News
Government wire-tapping of opposition leaders may conjure up images of Soviet-bloc police states, but in the Venezuela of President Hugo Chavez it's the stuff of state TV commercials.

The Chavez government has turned a barrage of tapped conversations into tongue-in-cheek advertisements slamming the leftist leader's rivals before tough regional elections on Sunday in which a handful of his allies are likely to lose governorships.

One set of state TV spots features recordings of opposition leader Manuel Rosales discussing campaign finance or the purchase of expensive jewelry along with slapstick sound effects and pictures of rings and a Cartier watch.

Another state TV ad replays a conversation of Rosales negotiating the purchase of cattle to a backdrop of mooing sounds and cartoon pictures of coins.

"They use shameful systems to get information, but that's their problem -- I'm relaxed," said Rosales.

Despite the strangely playful twist on spying, Chavez's latest tactic is in keeping with his intimidation of opponents and helps fire up his support base among the majority poor.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization

Hmm...religion and large building programs before permanent settlements. - Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News
It's more than twice as old as the Pyramids, or even the written word. When it was built, saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths still roamed, and the Ice Age had just ended.

The elaborate temple at Gobelki Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals.

According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.

"This is the first human-built holy place," Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute says in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Schmidt and his colleagues say no evidence of permanent settlement has been found at the site, although there are remains of butchered animals and edible plants.

However, all of the bones are from wild animals, and all the vegetation from wild plants. That means the massive structure was built by a hunter-gatherer society, not a settled agricultural one.

Yet the three dozen T-shaped standing limestone monoliths arranged around the site are 10 feet high, weigh several tons each and bear detailed, stylized carvings of foxes, scorpions, lions, boars and birds. The builders may not have been farmers, but they weren't primitive.

Massive amounts of manpower would have been needed to build the site, a logistical problem that may have spurred the builders to begin planting grain and herding wild sheep, Schmidt thinks.

Obama and the Chicago Machine

It will be interesting to see how clean he is:

Connections could touch every somebody --

One of the few who isn't connected to Cellini is the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

The Combine wants Fitzgerald promoted out of town. But President-elect Barack Obama has promised newspaper editorial boards he would keep Fitzgerald in Chicago to fight political corruption.

That's the same President-elect Obama with Mayor Daley's guy Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, and another Daley guy, David Axelrod, as Obama's chief strategist. The mayor's brother Billy is one of Obama's chief economic advisers. Whew!

Some political analysts become quite upset when "Daley machine" and "Obama" are mentioned in my column. They feel compelled to give me a vigorous corrective. But this same Flat Earth society denied the existence of a Combine for years, then shut up for a while when Obama's real estate fairy Tony Rezko was convicted in the federal government's Operation Board Games probe.

Stimulate Car Buyers, Not Car Makers

I personally am against a bailout, the car manufacturers are inefficient. (the big 3 pay $75 an hour, including benefits, as opposed to $40 for the non union plants)  If there is going to be some sort of help this seems to be the lesser of two evils.

Stimulate Car Buyers, Not Car Makers -
Should Uncle Sam save General Motors, Ford and Chrysler from bankruptcy? In normal times, most mainstream economists (and many mainstream legislators) would probably say no. But with financial markets in turmoil and the economy on the cusp of a nasty recession, these are hardly normal times. In any event, Congress and President-elect Barack Obama are committed to spending billions to keep the Big Three afloat.

What's not been decided, however, is how that money should be spent. A radical change in perspective could spare the nation a lot of grief down the road. Rather than subsidizing the auto makers directly (and almost certainly sucking Washington into their management), why not give Americans the financial incentive to accelerate purchases of cars and light trucks? The consumer-subsidy approach would be a less wasteful route to the desired end, as well as one that would leave a less toxic legacy of market intervention once the economy has recovered.

Freezing Heat

Amazing how climate change always seems to...change. 

The world has never seen such freezing heat - Telegraph
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama’s Very Bad Start

Just remember, he's inexperienced but has good judgment. (sarcasm for those who didn't catch it)

Pajamas Media » Obama’s Very Bad Start
It seems like our president-elect is keeping himself busy picking unnecessary fights. Is this the way Obama will conduct business with Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, or is it just a case of a new president finding his footing?

Obama vs. Pelosi/Green Machine vs. Jobs

On the Detroit bailout, Obama has hinted that he wants to make sure the money goes to retooling for clean, fuel efficient cars. Just like the original $25 billion Department of Energy bill was supposed to do. Nancy Pelosi is most worried about the UAW and jobs and would probably pump fresh blood into an entire city of the dead to save a single union job. So it looks like Obama and Pelosi are going to clash — and soon. Some reports indicate that GM will be down to its minimum operating cash before the end of the year — and that would make Chapter 11 all but a foregone conclusion. Detroit needs cash, but for what? The Obama Plan or the Pelosi Plan?

Obama vs. Southern Democrats on Guns

Obama is also gearing up for a fight with southern Democrats. After being mostly silent on guns during the campaign, Obama’s Web site has recently added or restored language indicating the return of the “assault weapons ban” on scary-looking rifles. Southern Democrats paid with their jobs for Clinton’s ban back in 1994. You might expect the new Blue Dog Dems to join hands and sing Kumbaya with House and Senate Republicans to block a new Scary Looking Rifles Law.

The bookie's bet on God

The Brits will bet on anything.  Seems like the bookmakers are a little concerned about someone finding God.

The bookie's bet on God -Times Online
Odds on the existence of God have shortened from 33-1 to a mere 4-1 since news emerged of atheist Richard Dawkins' forthcoming bendy bus advertising campaign with the slogan: "There probably is no God."

Irish bookmakers Paddy Power have already taken £5,000 on scientific proof emerging for the existence of God after the book opened at 20-1 earlier this year to coincide with the switching on of the world's biggest hadron collider in Geneva. When scientists were forced to delay the £14 billion project for six months, odds on the existence of God lengthened to 33-1.

But the bendy bus campaign, to be launched on buses in the Westminster district of London in January, has led to a spate of betting that proof will emerge for God's existence after all, forcing Paddy Power to shorten the odds to a mere 4-1.

Top 10 New Eco and Exotic Car Companies

I don't think they could do worse than the big three.

Top 10 New Eco and Exotic Car Companies - Koenigsegg, Aptera, SSC, Hybrid Technologies, Tesla Motors - Popular Mechanics
Can fresh startups weather today's economic perfect storm? The car industry is certainly in trouble, but these ambitious little companies intend to buck the trend. Some have arisen to take advantage of low labor costs in China or Eastern Europe. Some are determined to be the company that revolutionizes transportation by reinventing the automobile with some new technology or alternative fuel. History makes it plain that most of these companies are bound to fail without leaving behind much evidence that they ever existed—Bricklin and DeLorean come to mind. But radical change often comes from people who dream audaciously and act boldly. Here are ten new car companies that may (or may not) change the world.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Some good advice: » Blog Archive   » OBAMA & THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Some Christians are convulsing as if the end of the world has come now that Obama is our president elect. Although I am not suggesting Christians should stick their heads in the sand, I do encourage us to implement the 10 biblical guidelines that I wrote during the presidential campaign, but are just as relevant for us after the election.

1 - Don’t equate the biblical Kingdom of God with any human political party or nation. We must maintain the distinctiveness between God’s Kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. We must never fuse the two. (John 18:36; Matthew 6:33).

2 - Don’t elevate a politician to a messianic status. Because of our celebrity and entertainment culture, people often falsely think a politician can single-handedly produce supernatural social results. We have one Lord, and we must resist any attempt to exalt politicians to unrealisitic heights. (Matthew 7:15; 1 Peter 3:15).

3 - Don’t just vote, but pray for the leaders of all political parties. Christians can be tempted to bless the politician of their choice, and curse his or her opponent. Remember, we must pray even for our enemies. (1 Timothy 2:1-2; Matthew 5:44).

4 - Don’t forget your ultimate security is in the unshakeable kingdom of God. Many Christians often elevate the outcome of presidential elections to an apocalyptic status. If our presidential candidate does not win, we begin to see it as if the world will end. In so doing, we express an unbelief in the active sovereignty of God over human affairs. (Hebrews 12:26-29).

From Tiny Sect, a Weighty Issue for the Justices


Tiny sect believes God gave Moses Seven Aphorisms before giving the Ten Commandments
Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.

In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments...

Followers of Summum believe that Moses received two sets of tablets on Mount Sinai and that the Ten Commandments were on the second set. The aphorisms were on the first one.

“When Moses came down from the mountain the first time, he brought the principles of creation,” Mr. Temu said. “But he saw the people weren’t ready for them, so he threw them on the ground and destroyed them.”

Summum’s founder, Corky Ra, says he learned the aphorisms during a series of telepathic encounters with divine beings he called Summa Individuals.

Mr. Barnard has represented the Summum church for many years. “They’re odd,” he said of his clients, with an affectionate smile. “They’re strange. They’re different.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cell phones as bugging tools

This is old but I never new this:

FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool | Tech News on ZDNet
The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations

The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.
Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."...

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially
vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson,
a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with
government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to
transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without
having physical access to the phone."

Strange Zogby Poll

The interesting thing would be, who commissioned this poll?  If it was the Obama campaign that would not be good news.  Are they testing the waters?

Clayton Cramer's BLOG
A reader is part of the Zogby International polling group--and tells me that he just received this list of questions from Zogby. Note that this was after the election. One possibility is that Obama's staff is trying to figure out which measures they can propose without impairing Obama's popularity. If these are actually measures that Obama is considering, then an awful lot of Americans were indeed profoundly misled about what Obama stands for during the campaign. The 75% excise tax on firearms in particular would devastate the industry, and strongly discourage new firearms purchases.

The other possibility is that Republicans are trying to figure out which issues to use against Obama--but some of these proposals are so extreme and specific that it seems to suggest the first possibility. On the other hand, some of the questions almost read like Republican push polling:

If you knew Barack Obama supported a plan to place a 75% excise tax on the sale of firearms - where a $500 rifle would now cost $875 with tax, would that have made you...

More likely to vote for Obama
Less likely to vote for Obama
No difference
Not sure

If you knew about Barack Obama's support for national legislation that would overturn concealed carry handgun laws in 40 states, would that have made you...
More likely to vote for Obama
Less likely to vote for Obama
No difference
Not sure