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."