3.31.2008

Obama's obfuscation

Liberal views could haunt Obama

Excerpt:

When Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was seeking state office a dozen years ago, he took unabashedly liberal positions: flatly opposed to capital punishment, in support of a federal single-payer health plan, against any restrictions on abortion, and in support of state laws to ban the manufacture, sale and even possession of handguns.

Comment: Article has links to 2 PDF's of his '96 questionnaire. His campaign's response:

The campaign said his views have been consistent, and points out that his positions have always been more nuanced than can be conveyed in yes-or-no answers.

Comment: So why did he answer with yes-no responses?

3.30.2008

Hillary’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre

Hillary’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre



Excerpt:

So here is the one compelling mystery still unresolved about Hillary Clinton’s Bosnia fairy tale: Why did she keep repeating this whopper for nearly three months, well after it had been publicly debunked by journalists and eyewitnesses?

In January, after Senator Clinton first inserted the threat of “sniper fire” into her stump speech, Elizabeth Sullivan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the story couldn’t be true because by the time of the first lady’s visit in March 1996, “the war was over.” Meredith Vieira asked Mrs. Clinton on the “Today” show why, if she was on the front lines, she took along a U.S.O. performer like Sinbad. Earlier this month, a week before Mrs. Clinton fatefully rearmed those snipers one time too many, Sinbad himself spoke up to The Washington Post: “I think the only ‘red phone’ moment was: Do we eat here or at the next place?”

Comment: Couldn't resist. More from Peggy Noonan:




That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).

Comment: Does she lie by nature or for strategy? Doesn't matter ... she is toast!

3.28.2008

Dan Stahl blogging Men for Christ

Men for Christ 2008


Comment: Home for brief dinner break. Now leaving for evening.

Friday happenings

Today I am going to the Men for Christ event at Fourth Baptist. I've been looking forward to this for more than 6 months.

I am working from home until noon and then heading over to the church.

My prayer is that I would allow these speakers and the fellowship to strengthen me as a believer.

3.27.2008

Who needs the "Yellow Pages"?

Publishers say yellow pages still relevant

Excerpt:

Industry leaders assert that consumers use yellow pages at a higher rate than newspapers and radio for local business information. Shoppers who open yellow books intend to spend cash, they say, and businesses advertising in the national print yellow pages can expect a return of about 13-to-1, according to statistics from the nonprofit trade group Yellow Pages Association.

Yet even with some numbers in their favor, publishers acknowledge that often perception clouds reality, and many believe yellow books are going the way of newspapers. Their mission, publishers say, is to change that point of view.

Comment: I literally never use the yellow pages. I wish they would not deliver them to my door. I don't think I have used the yellow (or white) pages (printed editions) in 4-5 years. If you can't Google it, it ain't worth finding!

The $53 trillion asteroid

Glenn Beck: The $53 trillion asteroid

Excerpt:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tried to up the ante this week. "Without change," he said, "Rising costs will drive government spending to unprecedented levels, consume nearly all projected federal revenues, and threaten America's future prosperity."


Comment: Nobody's listening!

More invectives from Obama's Pastor



Comment: Here Wright speaks of Italians as ‘Garlic Noses’. I heard Hillary say, that Obama should have separated from his Church!

Egg McMuffin inventor dies

Egg McMuffin inventor Herb Peterson dies

Excerpt:

Peterson came up with idea for the signature McDonald's breakfast item in 1972. He "was very partial to eggs Benedict," Fraker said, and worked on creating something similar.

The egg sandwich consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, topped with a slice of cheese and grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin.

The Egg McMuffin made its debut at a restaurant in Santa Barbara that Peterson co-owned with his son, David Peterson.


Comment: I had my first Egg McMuffin while honeymooning in Florda (December 1974). I still like them! Wiki: Egg McMuffin

Photoshop Express

Adobe launches free, online version of Photoshop, hoping to draw new users

Excerpt:

While Photoshop is designed for trained professionals, Adobe says Photoshop Express, which it launched in a "beta" test version, is easier to learn. User comments will be taken into account for future upgrades.

Photoshop Express will be completely Web-based so consumers can use it with any type of computer, operating system and browser. And, once they register, users can get to their accounts from different computers.

Web-based software is increasingly popular, and Adobe knows it's got to get on that train, said Kathleen Maher, an analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

Many kinds of software are available for use online in a trend known as "software as a service," or "cloud computing." The earliest were e-mail programs, but they now include services to create and manage content and even whole operating systems. And they don't require time-consuming upgrades because they're maintained by the service provider.



Comment: Looks very promising. Join here: Adobe Photoshop Express

3.26.2008

Cohabitation = "marriage lite"

Marriage hits lowest rate since records began almost 150 years ago

Excerpt:

The number of Britons tying the knot has collapsed to a record low, it has emerged.

The proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago.

And the number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.

The evidence that marriage is withering away at an increasing pace was met with a furious response from critics of Labour's benefits system, which disregards the status of husbands and wives and pays parents extra to stay single.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis claimed the Government had "fuelled family breakdown" and researcher Patricia Morgan, who coined the phrase "marriage lite" to describe cohabitation, said Labour had succeeded in "eradicating" marriage.

"This is what they have tried to achieve and they should be congratulating themselves," she added.

"But it is a disaster for children, families and society."

Comment: Cohabitation is "a disaster for children, families and society".

More documented HATE from Obama's church

Obama Church Published ‘Ethnic Bomb’ Claim

Excerpt:

I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the White Supremacists of South Africa. In fact, South Africa allowed Israel to test its nuclear weapons in the ocean off South Africa. The Israelis were given a blank check: they could test whenever they desired and did not even have to ask permission. Both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs.

Arabs have always supported the dismantling of this racist government. In 1962, African-Arab Sudan granted Mandela a passport to travel with to gain international support in his struggle to free his people. Libya, among other Arab states, provided Mandela and other African liberation movements, political as well as material support. As a result, Libya was designated by the White House as a terrorist rogue state. What a great honor!


HT: WSJ: Best of the Web Today

More from the WSJ:

Baghdadi's "open letter" is an anti-Israel screed, in which he states, among other things, that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because . . . Jews should have learned from their tragic experience" (a sentiment he attributes to Arnold Toynbee) and that Israel and apartheid South Africa "both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs."

Comment: Hard to believe that Obama would attract the traditional Democratic Jewish voters! The WSJ link contains link to PDF with complete articles.

Going Green!


Kathee and I have had this "reusable bag" discussion and decided to give these a try.

I bought this set and then 4 more of the tan one on the right. We still need paper bags (Kathee uses them for cat litter and kitchen trash bags).

I also ordered a couple more stainless steel bottles. (I currently bring a 40 oz bottle of water to work every day. I think I will completely kick the pop habit and bring an extra 32 oz of water).

Bags available a ReusableBags.com

3.25.2008

Robert's Rules of Order

A Stamp of a Memorial, at Least
Author of 'Robert's Rules of Order' Is Celebrated Subtly


Excerpt:

He was an Army civil engineer who commanded a party exploring a military route from western Canada to Puget Sound, a brigadier general who built up the defenses of Washington and Philadelphia against Johnny Reb invaders and a member of the commission that designed the Galveston sea wall after the island city was swept away by a hurricane. He died in 1923.

This accomplished fellow, a West Point graduate, also had much to do with the shaping of Rock Creek Park, but none of his engineering exploits account for his fame, such as it is. An orderly sort himself, he not only wrested order out of nature's chaos, he also brought order to contentious human nature.

Robert is the man who, even today, keeps meetings of lawmakers, ladies clubs, school boards and corporate directorates from devolving into shouting matches or worse; who keeps PTA meetings and corporate board gatherings calm and orderly (most of the time). He's the man who keeps us mannerly. His rules of order, in DeFord's words, "allow us to make informed decisions but where everybody has equal rights to participate."

"Every parliamentarian has heard stories of meetings that blow up in an awful way," says his grandson, Henry Martyn Robert III of Annapolis. "But it need not be. The rules are the secret."

As Robert the grandson tells the story, the elder Robert was living in New Bedford, Mass., in 1863 and was asked to preside over a meeting to consider the defense of the city during the Civil War.

"He didn't know beans about it [presiding over a meeting], and he found it very embarrassing," Robert III said. "He made up his mind that if he got out of it alive, he would learn something about the subject."

Learning something about parliamentary procedure involved reading a few books and making some notes, which he carried in his wallet for about four years.

When he moved to San Francisco, he encountered a city where prostitution was rife and Chinese laborers brought in to build the railroad were exploited, even chased by dogs for sport. Robert, a Baptist lay leader, was offended.

He joined the YMCA and several newly formed religious groups dedicated to relieving the plight of exploited souls, but he found that the city's motley population had discordant notions about how to conduct meetings. San Francisco needed rules.

When Robert came out with the first version of his rules of order in 1876, he had trouble finding a publisher. Who'd want to read such a book? So he printed up 4,000 copies himself. Since then, Robert III says, it has sold 5 million copies. (He is listed as one of the five authors of the 10th edition.)


Comment: See also: Official site: Robert's Rules of Order

HT: Bikebubba

The Facebook song



Comment: I have a Facebook account! When I first set up my Facebook account, I thought I was checking a box indicating my gender (male) but actually checked the box indicating the kind of people I wanted to me. Greg Lincott contacted me and said that checked box indicated that I was not a heterosexual! I quickly fixed!

HT: Greg Linscott

Hillary Clinton: a Verdun-like pattern

The Long Defeat

Excerpt:

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.


Comment: Why does she go on like this? Read full article for Brook's view. For "Verdun" see Battle of Verdun

Is the Gospel preached in black churches?

In black churches, fiery sermons are the norm, not exception

Excerpt:

The Rev. Amos Brown's Easter sermon at the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco didn't have much to do with Jesus' crucifixion or resurrection from the dead and instead covered everything from skyrocketing gas prices and the subprime mortgage crisis to race relations in the United States and presidential politics.

Comment: I sure hope this is the exception and not the norm (but per this article not the case!).

More on liberation theology:

Excerpt:

... liberation theology [is] leftover Marxist theory baptized in the narrative of Scripture and applied to a set of political goals. The tenor of the Trinity United Church of Christ ministry is one that is defined by race and politics. The church is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," it says, and the language of black liberation theology is everywhere in the public presentation of the mission and identity of the church.

What is disturbing to me is that too many Christians have been diagnosing the particular political aims of Reverend Wright and his church as though this were the preeminent problem.

But what is the root? Liberation theology has been with us since the 1960s, in too many incarnations to count, always offering a version of the same message. The liberation theologians see the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected, the message of deliverance from the reign of sin and death through repentance and faith, as too "pie in the sky." In contrast, liberation theology offers economic and political salvation in the here-and-now, sometimes through pulpit rhetoric and sometimes at the point of a gun.

Liberation theology is seeker sensitive. The first waves of this movement, in Latin America, were designed to make Christianity appealing to the people by addressing their felt needs, the desire for armed revolution and Marxist economics. Liberation theology only works if one can connect with real or perceived oppression and then make the Scripture illustrative of how to navigate out of that situation. The Kingdom of God is a means to a social, economic, or political end.

This is not the Gospel as proclaimed by the prophets and apostles, a Gospel that centers on Jesus Christ and Him alone. We should be outraged by the clips of the Wright sermons. But we should be outraged first as Christians, not first as Americans. The most egregious aspect of the Wright sermons is not what he is saying about America, but what he is not saying about the Gospel.

But one does not have to be a political radical to bypass Jesus at church. And it is certainly not true that liberation theology is the exclusive domain of those who have suffered oppression. White, upwardly mobile, pro-American preachers do it all the time, preaching liberation theology with all the fervor of Jeremiah Wright, if not the anger.

Just take a look at the best-selling authors in evangelical Christian bookstores. Listen for a minute or two at the parade of preachers on Christian television and radio. What are they promising? Your best life now. What are they preaching about? How to be authentic. How to make good career choices. How Hillary Clinton fits in Bible prophecy.

How many times have we all heard from pulpits the Bible used in exactly the way that Jeremiah Wright uses it, except perhaps in reverse? Jeremiah Wright uses the Scripture as a background to get to what he thinks is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation from American oppression. Others use the Scripture as a background to get to what they think is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation through the American Dream. Either way, Jesus is a footnote to get to what the preacher deems really important, be it national health care or support for Israel. Either way, apart from the Gospel, the end result is hell for the hearer, regardless of whether God damns or blesses America.

This past Sunday, Easter Sunday, the new pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ preached from the biblical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but did so as illustrative of the controversy over Wright. In some other churches all over the country this past Sunday, the account of the crucifixion and resurrection was utilized as illustrative of finding hope when you're hopeless, of finding a light at the end of your tunnel. In both cases, the preacher is fitting Jesus into a preexisting storyline. He is not calling his hearers to find themselves in the storyline of a crucified, buried, resurrected Jesus. Jesus is a mascot, just for different agendas, none of which will last a minute past the Judgment Seat.

There is a liberation theology of the Left, of the kind of politicized movement we see right now in the newspapers and on our television screens. There is also a liberation theology of the Right, one represented by prosperity gospels and grinning consumer Christianity. Both are at heart Mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barrabas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Preachers will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That's why so many of our evangelical superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don't like to talk about sin. That's why other evangelical superstars are seen to be courageous for their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their congregations.

Where there is no Gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right, anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Isa 8:12-20). As long as the Serpent's voice is heard, "You shall not surely die," then the powers are comfortable.


HT: Denny Burk

3.24.2008

Greed!

My Take on Greed

Excerpt:

Lately, I've been thinking about greed. In our capitalist system, it does a lot of good by prodding us to become successful financially. But it can also do a lot of harm. People break laws under the influence of greed -- or they do only what's best for themselves, at the expense of everyone else.

Want some examples? Out of greed, mortgage bankers made home loans to people with poor credit histories, then immediately sold the loans. Now when borrowers default, it's somebody else's problem.

Out of greed, Wall Street's investment bankers packaged the same loans in ways that earned the securities undeserved investment-grade ratings, then sold them to eager clients. As those securities are now downgraded to junk, they become pretty close to worthless.

Four of the five biggest firms on the Street -- Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley -- recently took losses in the tens of billions of dollars for subprime skeletons in their own closets.

Comment: Another example of greed: embezzlement to murder to suicide

3.23.2008

Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God

Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God

Comment: HT: Dowblog: Philosophy of Religion

How to paint the MONA LISA with MS PAINT



Comment: A YouTube runner up. Very good!

Efficient church ushering



Comment: This is how the ushers 'stack' people at 4th Baptist! :) Note how efficiently people 'come forward'!

Really: "The Original Human TETRIS Performance by Guillaume Reymond". We saw this on CNN this morning. Selection from the 2007 Youtube awards. Link below:

3.22.2008

WSJ: Heller case

Guns and Legal Ammo

Excerpt:

District of Columbia v. Heller has become the test case for a question that has animated legal scholars, politicians and lower courts for much of our modern history: Is the Second Amendment guarantee a collective right, which is to say it is reserved only for state militias, or is it an individual right?

Judge Laurence Silberman's landmark opinion last year for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down D.C.'s ban on handguns, rejecting the militia argument and scouring the historical and legal record to show that the Founders clearly intended to protect an individual's right to defend himself and family. The District appealed, and so the Supremes will issue the most important Second Amendment ruling in decades.

Judging by Tuesday argument, the High Court has a majority in support of the circuit court opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Framers included the word "people" if the Amendment only applied to militias. Justice Antonin Scalia discussed the importance the Framers attached to providing citizens the means to protect against tyrannical government. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the Court's swing vote, informed all in attendance that "In my view, there's a general right to bear arms quite without reference to the militia either way."

Comment: Results in June

Snowy morning

We had 3-4" of snow yesterday and woke up today to another 3". I took these from my tractor.







Kathee on MacBook:




Brits more 'Debt-Gorged' than Yanks!

Debt-Gorged British Start to Worry That the Party Is Ending

Excerpt:

As the United States economy weakens, many Americans are being overwhelmed by personal debt, but Britons are even more profligate. For most of the last decade, consumers here went on a debt-financed spending spree that made them the most indebted rich nation in the world, racking up a record £1.4 trillion in debt ($2.8 trillion) — more than the country’s gross domestic product.

By comparison, personal debt in the United States is $13.8 trillion, including mortgage debt, slightly less than the country’s $14 trillion G.D.P.

And while the Federal Reserve in Washington has cut interest rates, in an effort to loosen lenders’ grip on credit, the Bank of England’s interest rate increases last year are trickling through to mortgages at the very time home values are dropping and banks are becoming more reluctant to lend.

Comment: Hard to believe another nation could be more addicted to debt than the U.S.!

The Democratic ticket?

Bill Richardson endorses

Excerpt:

Bill Richardson, the nation’s only Hispanic governor, backed Barack Obama for president Friday in Oregon, answering speculation over one of the most heavily sought endorsements this primary season.

The New Mexico governor, who dropped out of the Democratic race for president in January, in his endorsement showed great admiration for Obama’s speech on race delivered Tuesday in Philadelphia.

“Senator Obama reminded us that cynicism is not realism and that hope is not folly,” Richardson said Friday. “He appealed to the best in us … his words are one of a courageous, thoughtful leader who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Comment: I previously predicted Richardson as VP ... but on the Hillary ticket. Now predicting Obama / Richardson

Stake in the heart for Hillary


Story behind the story: The Clinton myth

Excerpt:

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

Comment: No revotes for Florida or Michigan!

Previous CFG horror-themed Hillary commentary:

"She's alive! Alive!"
Fall of the "House of Clinton"
NH on Clinton

3.20.2008

Why we cannot abandon Iraq

Purported bin Laden message: Iraq is 'perfect base'

Excerpt:

Al-Jazeera broadcast on Thursday an audiotape on which a voice identified as Osama bin Laden declares "Iraq is the perfect base to set up the jihad to liberate Palestine."

The voice calls on "Muslims in neighboring countries" to "do their best in supporting their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq."

"My speech to you is about the siege of Gaza and the way to liberate it," he said.

"The Gaza siege is a direct result of Annapolis," he adds, apparently referring to the site of November's summit in Annapolis, Maryland, where Israeli and Palestinian leadership agreed to work toward a two-state plan.

He accused Arabs who supported the plan of having become "partners in this horrendous crime."

And he predicted, "Palestine will be restored to us, with God's permission, when we wake up from our slumber and adhere to our faith and sacrifice our souls and belongings for it."

The speaker called for armed revolt in the Middle East.

Comment: What's Obama's ('get out of Iraq now!') response to this?

Sin as we view it

Has the 'notion of sin' been lost?

Excerpts:

Take it from the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who doesn't give a jelly bean for the modern version of Easter.

"All the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny are even more extraneous to the purpose of Easter than Santa is to Christmas," Mohler says. "At least Santa Claus was based on a saint. I wonder whether even some Christian churches are making the connection between Christ's death and resurrection and victory over sin — the linchpin doctrine of Christianity."
...
A new survey by Ellison Research in Phoenix finds 87% of U.S. adults believe in the existence of sin, which is defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective."

Topping the list are adultery (81%) and racism (74%).

But other sins no longer draw majority condemnation. Premarital sex? Only 45% call it sin. Gambling? Just 30% say it's sinful.

"A lot of this is relative. We tend to view sin not as God views it, but how we view it," says Ellison president Ron Sellers.

Comment: It is a grievous, self-deluding mistake to discount our sinfulness!

More from Albert Mohler: Sin by Survey? Americans Say What they Think

For Christians, a few observations are in order.

First, we do not find out what acts are sinful by asking our neighbors. Christians believe that God alone has the right to determine sin, and that the ultimate authority for determining sin is the Bible -- not a poll.

Second, these data seem to indicate that Americans think of sin only in terms of what we do, not in terms of who we are. The Bible reveals sin to be what we are as fallen humanity, not merely the acts we commit or fail to commit.

Third, Christians understand that sin is, most importantly, an act of rebellion and disobedience against God himself. Surveys like this point to the fact that most Americans think of sin as acts against other humans or acts against the self (as in gluttony). When sin is seen only in this perspective, all that remains is a negotiable social etiquette.

Fourth, this report reminds us of the evangelistic challenge we now face. The loss of a deeper sense of sin means that many (if not most) Americans see themselves in no need of salvation. As a previous generation of Christians knew so well, we have to communicate the "sin word" before we can explain the "grace word" in evangelism.

Motley Fool: A Farewell to ARMs?

Motley Fool: A Farewell to ARMs?

Excerpt:

One reason why adjustable-rate mortgage rates haven't dropped is that lenders are more risk-averse than ever. Falling home prices are already sapping liquidity from mortgage-lending institutions, requiring cash infusions at Countrywide Financial (NYSE: CFC - News) and other mortgage lenders.

In addition, lenders are understandably reluctant to offer adjustable-rate mortgages. With the threat of federal legislation freezing rates at artificially low levels, borrower financing through ARMs is an extremely risky proposition. Furthermore, because the market for mortgage-backed securities has experienced severe problems lately, lenders have to plan for the possibility that any loan they make will have to remain on their books for the long term.

In response to this additional risk, lenders are demanding higher spreads over prevailing Treasury rates. As a result, borrowers may see less benefit from lower rates than they have during similar periods of low rates in the past.

Whether the mortgage market starts to function normally again remains to be seen. For now, however, most borrowers still have every incentive to choose fixed-rate mortgages over ARMs.


Comment: Good riddance to ARMs!

If Ann Coulter had liveblogged the Gettysburg Address

If Ann Coulter had liveblogged the Gettysburg Address

Comment: I'm not an Ann Coulter fan.

Osama bin Laden accuses the Pope

Bin Laden: Pope Helps Anti-Islam Crusade

Excerpt:

Bin Laden's audiotape was posted late Wednesday on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaida statements in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing Al-Sahab.

"The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," said a voice believed to be bin Laden's, without specifying what action would be taken.

He said the cartoons "came in the framework of a new Crusade in which the Pope of the Vatican has played a large, lengthy role," according to a transcript released by the SITE Institute, a U.S. group that monitors terror messages.

"You went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings," he said. "This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe."


Comment: Pope Benedict XVI has nothing to fear - His Swiss guard will protect him!

Why does Barack Obama send his daughters to a church whose pastor preaches an ugly and bigoted theology?


Pulpit Bullies

Intro:

When Barack Obama yesterday condemned the most invidious remarks of his "spiritual mentor," Jeremiah Wright, National Review's Byron York was there. The auditorium at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, York reports, "was filled mostly with guests invited by the Obama campaign." Unsurprisingly, they "thought he delivered a great speech."

Comment: Jeremiah Wright quotes (below) from bumpshack.com:

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)

“In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.” (magazine article)

“Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.” (sermon)

“Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”

“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.” (sermon)

“The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”


Comment: The liberals did not excuse the anti-American comments of Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell in the aftermath of 9/11!

The Crowd Was NOT Fickle!

The Crowd Was NOT Fickle!


Comment: Good read. Made me reevaluate my views.

3.19.2008

MacArthur: Earth "not a permanent planet"



John MacArthur: Christians and the Environment

Comment: Worthwhile read!

Excerpt:

We are charged to treat responsibly all the wonderful resources God has given us. But that, in fact, has very little to do with the environmental movement. The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever. But we know that isn’t in God’s plan.

The earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet. It is, frankly, a disposable planet—it is going to have a very short life. It’s been around six thousand years or so—that’s all—and it may last a few thousand more. And then the Lord is going to destroy it.

I’ve told environmentalists that if they think humanity is wrecking the planet, wait until they see what Jesus does to it. Peter says God is going to literally turn it in on itself in an atomic implosion so that the whole universe goes out of existence (2 Peter 3:7-13).

This earth was never ever intended to be a permanent planet—it is not eternal. We do not have to worry about it being around tens of thousands, or millions, of years from now because God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. Understanding those things is important to holding in balance our freedom to use, and responsibility to maintain, the earth.

Just a footnote. Though this earth is our temporary home, do take time to enjoy God’s beauty. Take care of your yard. Stop to smell the flowers. Enjoy the forests. God placed those rich resources on this planet for our comfort and His enjoyment. Let us be thankful to Him for that.


Comment: Image from spacetoday.org. Note that John MacArthur is a "young earth" creationist (as am I!).

Bubbles lead to busts. Busts lead to panics!


Can’t Grasp Credit Crisis? Join the Club

Excerpts:

Raise your hand if you don’t quite understand this whole financial crisis.

...
I’m here to urge you not to feel sheepish. This may not be entirely comforting, but your confusion is shared by many people who are in the middle of the crisis.

“We’re exposing parts of the capital markets that most of us had never heard of,” Ethan Harris, a top Lehman Brothers economist, said last week. Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary and current Citigroup executive, has said that he hadn’t heard of “liquidity puts,” an obscure kind of financial contract, until they started causing big problems for Citigroup.

I spent a good part of the last few days calling people on Wall Street and in the government to ask one question, “Can you try to explain this to me?” When they finished, I often had a highly sophisticated follow-up question: “Can you try again?”

...
It really started in 1998, when large numbers of people decided that real estate, which still hadn’t recovered from the early 1990s slump, had become a bargain. At the same time, Wall Street was making it easier for buyers to get loans. It was transforming the mortgage business from a local one, centered around banks, to a global one, in which investors from almost anywhere could pool money to lend.

The new competition brought down mortgage fees and spurred some useful innovation. Why, after all, should someone who knows that she’s going to move after just a few years have no choice but to take out a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage?

As is often the case with innovations, though, there was soon too much of a good thing. Those same global investors, flush with cash from Asia’s boom or rising oil prices, demanded good returns. Wall Street had an answer: subprime mortgages.

Because these loans go to people stretching to afford a house, they come with higher interest rates — even if they’re disguised by low initial rates — and thus higher returns. The mortgages were then sliced into pieces and bundled into investments, often known as collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s (a term that appeared in this newspaper only three times before 2005, but almost every week since last summer). Once bundled, different types of mortgages could be sold to different groups of investors.

Investors then goosed their returns through leverage, the oldest strategy around. They made $100 million bets with only $1 million of their own money and $99 million in debt. If the value of the investment rose to just $101 million, the investors would double their money. Home buyers did the same thing, by putting little money down on new houses, notes Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com. The Fed under Alan Greenspan helped make it all possible, sharply reducing interest rates, to prevent a double-dip recession after the technology bust of 2000, and then keeping them low for several years.

All these investments, of course, were highly risky. Higher returns almost always come with greater risk. But people — by “people,” I’m referring here to Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Bernanke, the top executives of almost every Wall Street firm and a majority of American homeowners — decided that the usual rules didn’t apply because home prices nationwide had never fallen before. Based on that idea, prices rose ever higher — so high, says Robert Barbera of ITG, an investment firm, that they were destined to fall. It was a self-defeating prophecy.
...
Bubbles lead to busts. Busts lead to panics. And panics can lead to long, deep economic downturns, which is why the Fed has been taking unprecedented actions to restore confidence.


Comment: I'm in that club (of not fully understanding the credit crisis)! What I am doing is avoiding my own personal credit crisis. I have seriously cut back on the use of my credit cards and I pay them off every month. I'm not sure where all of this will shake out (at the National and global level) but I'm trying to keep my own house in order.

3.18.2008

A plea for a stable dollar

WSJ: Dollar Bears

Excerpt:

Whereas we can have as many mediums of exchange as we want, we must price goods and services, and get into longer term contractual agreements, to ensure stable capital flows. But should we price in euros or in U.S. dollars? Or, as has been done for centuries, in terms of gold?

What matters is to have an agreed-upon unit of account in terms of which trading partners could price every contractual agreement, preferably having the medium of exchange serve as the unit of account, too. This anchor is missing in the international monetary system today, and is one reason for the financial havoc surrounding us. The volatility around a downward trend of the U.S. dollar -- which was closest to playing the unit of account/exchange double role for half a century -- has diminished its efficiency for these uses. As a result, contracts are shorter. Companies pay substantial insurance fees (and derivative contracts are in the trillions) to stay in their line of business and not get into exchange-rate trouble. Resource-rich countries keep their resources in the ground longer, rather than selling them for papers with uncertain values. And some investors have been loosing substantial amounts by holding bonds of devaluing currencies. Now people are deciding not to invest in U.S. dollar-denominated assets.

The issue isn't that "we will never have a perfect model of risk," as Mr. Greenspan appears to think. What we need is accountability, not perfection. With the proper anchor, central banks can sustain a stable value for their currency, and that is what they must be held accountable for. If they do that, even if financial institutions experiment with a wide range of innovations they cannot expand credit too much.

Crises bring us back to the basics. There is prosperity when talent is matched with capital and everyone can measure in a predictable unit of account. Stable currencies bring about long-lasting, wealth-creating employment. The destruction of wealth by debasing currencies occasionally "creates" employment (with people being forced to accept lower-paying second and third jobs) but it signals poverty, not prosperity.



Comment: Interesting that the "gold" base issue was raised. Summary: The Fed's moves (Bear Stearns & lowered rates) cheapens the dollar.

Layman's guide to "Heller v. District of Columbia"

WSJ: Gun-Rights Showdown

Summary:


  1. Heller will be decided on originalist grounds not the doctrine of stare decisis.
  2. Heller is a federal case. Because the District of Columbia is a federal entity, Heller provides a clean application of the Second Amendment which, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, originally applied only to the federal government. Before a state or municipal gun law can be challenged, the Supreme Court will have to decide that the right to keep and bear arms is also protected by the 14th Amendment, which limits state powers.
  3. Heller involves a complete ban on operable firearms in the home. No state has a comparable law. And under current Supreme Court doctrine, even the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly are subject to reasonable time, place, and manner regulations. So too would be gun rights.



Conclusion:

But although the implications of striking down the D.C. gun ban are limited, a decision upholding an unqualified individual right in Heller would still be a significant victory for individual rights and constitutionalism. To shrink from enforcing a clear mandate of the Constitution -- as, sadly, the Supreme Court has often done in the past -- would create a new precedent that would be far more dangerous to liberty than any weapon in the hands of a citizen.

Umbrella Coverage

Umbrella Coverage for Preventing Your Ruin

Excerpt:

But many people with major assets either do not buy the extra coverage or do not buy enough. Some do not know about umbrella coverage, which also pays for lawyers and other legal expenses. Others have heard of it but do not understand it. Still others decide that they do not want to pay for it, even though the cost is usually a fraction of the price of a typical package of home and auto insurance.

Comment: We find this protection valuable.

Transcript: Heller SCOTUS case

Transcript: Heller SCOTUS case (PDF)

Excerpts:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: If you're right, Mr. Dellinger, it's certainly an odd way in the Second Amendment to phrase the operative provision. If it is limited to State militias, why would they say "the right of the people"? In other words, why wouldn't they say "state militias have the right to keep arms"? (p 4)

JUSTICE KENNEDY: One of the concerns, Mr. Dellinger, of the framers, was not to establish a practice of amending the Constitution and its important provisions, and it seems to me that there is an interpretation of the Second Amendment differing from that of the district court and in Miller and not advanced particularly in the red brief, but that conforms the two clauses and in effect delinks them. The first clause I submit can be read consistently with the purpose I've indicated of simply reaffirming the existence and the importance of the militia clause. Those were very important clauses. As you've indicated, they're in Article I and Article II. And so in effect the amendment says we reaffirm the right to have a militia, we've established it, but in addition, there is a right to bear arms. (pp 5-6)

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don't see how there's any, any, any contradiction between reading the second clause as a -- as a personal guarantee and reading the first one as assuring the existence of a militia, not necessarily a State-managed militia because the militia that resisted the British was not State- managed. But why isn't it perfectly plausible, indeed reasonable, to assume that since the framers knew that the way militias were destroyed by tyrants in the past was not by passing a law against militias, but by taking away the people's weapons -- that was the way militias were destroyed. The two clauses go together beautifully: Since we need a militia, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (p 7)

JUSTICE SCALIA: Blackstone thought it was important. Blackstone thought it was important. He thought the right of self-defense was inherent, and the framers were devoted to Blackstone. Joseph Story, the first commentator on the Constitution and a member of this Court, thought it was a personal guarantee. (p 8-9)

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, there's no question that the English struggled with how to work this. You couldn't conceal a gun and you also couldn't carry it, but yet you had a right to have it. Do you think the Second Amendment is more restrictive or more expansive of the right than the English Bill of Rights in 1689? (p 16)

JUSTICE SCALIA: Doesn't "well regulated" mean "well trained"? It doesn't mean -- it doesn't mean "massively regulated." It means "well trained." (p 26)


Comment: 108 pages!

NYTimes: Supreme Court Hears Gun-Control Case

Gambling: The house always wins

CT: Gambling Opponents Say Moral Argument No Longer a Trump

Excerpt:

"The church's opposition to gambling has not been widely effective," said the Rev. Tom Grey, spokesman for the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, "because (the church is) not relevant in an irreverent age."

Grey, who fought gambling for years from the pulpit as a United Methodist pastor, said the moral argument that gambling is a sin is too easily swept aside as impeding the personal freedom of others.

As a result, Grey's anti-gambling coalition avoids explicit mentions of religion, and presents more economically grounded arguments that center around addiction, bankruptcy and crime, Grey said.

"There's a cost when people lose — they chase the loss," Grey said. "It's the government's dirty little secret. The house always wins."

Comment: I see gambling as a regressive tax on the ignorant.

How far can the Fed go?

Bernanke May Run Low on `Ammunition' for Loans, Rates

Excerpts:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may be running out of room to pump money into the financial markets and cut interest rates to rescue the economy.

The Fed has committed as much as 60 percent of the $709 billion in Treasury securities on its balance sheet to providing liquidity and opened the door to more with yesterday's decision to become a lender of last resort for the biggest Wall Street dealers. The central bank has cut short-term rates by 2.25 percentage points since September and will probably reduce them again tomorrow.

``They're using up their ammunition on the liquidity and overnight interest-rate fronts,'' said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Jersey City, New Jersey-based Wrightson ICAP LLC, a unit of ICAP Plc, the world's largest broker for banks and other financial institutions.

...

Opening up lending to firms other than commercial banks represents a shift in the Fed's 94-year history. The so-called primary dealers include firms that are units of commercial banks and several that aren't, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch & Co.

Bernanke is likely to find new ways to do whatever it takes to keep markets running and revive economic growth, Pardee said.

Regarding the Fed's moves so far, ``that shows you how bad the market situation is, and it also raises the question of whether the Fed needs help from Congress or the administration,'' Sack said.


Comment: I have a degree in economics and I don't completely understand how this works (perhaps better to say I have a partial understanding).

191 tons

Doomed bridge’s weakest areas carried 191 tons: Investigators highlight heavy load piled on Minn. crossing before collapse

Excerpt:

MINNEAPOLIS - More than 191 tons of construction material had been piled over the weakest areas of an interstate bridge that collapsed last August, according to federal investigators.

In a followup to a preliminary report released in January, the National Transportation Safety Board report that the piles of rock and sand were placed over steel plates that were thinner than they should have been.

Calculations by the agency have determined that the bridge in Minneapolis was carrying a 630-ton load at the time it fell into the Mississippi River. About half of that load was sitting on the center span.

The Aug. 1 collapse killed 13 people and injured 145.

The NTSB had previously cited the too-thin gusset plates and construction project weights as factors in the collapse, but Monday's update included drawings and tables that pinpointed the locations of those heavy loads on the structure.


Comment: See earlier CFG post: The straw that broke

Updated: NYTimes: Mounds of Sand Stressed Minnesota Bridge, Report Says

The World From Our Window: Rick Phillips on Church Visions and Strategies

The World From Our Window: Rick Phillips on Church Visions and Strategies


Comment: Worthwhile read. I have not drawn conclusions yet, but thought provoking!

The economy: How bad is it?

Beware the Bailout: In rushing to fix one problem, has the Fed created others?


Excerpts:

It's said that we're in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Maybe. But remember the S&L crisis of the early 1980s? Or the commercial banking crisis of the late 1980s (from 1988 to 1992, 905 banks failed). Or the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, which sent South Korea, Indonesia and other countries on a boom-bust roller coaster? All were frightening. But what distinguishes this crisis—which brought down Bear Stearns over the weekend—is that it involves the entire financial system, not just depository institutions, and it's more mystifying than any of its predecessors.

...
At the epicenter of the crisis are the now-notorious "subprime" mortgages made to weaker borrowers and subsequently "securitized." On paper the financial system seems to have ample resources to absorb losses. Commercial banks have $1.3 trillion in capital; U.S. investment banks in 2006 had an estimated $280 billion in capital—and other investors, including foreigners, may hold half or more of subprime loans. But no one knows who or how much. Recent estimates of subprime losses range from $285 billion to $400 billion or even higher. Such guesstimates, and outright ignorance, breed caution and fear.


Comment: How bad is it? Seems that no one knows. See underlined sections above.

Will SCOTUS decide "the individual-versus-collective argument"?

Court decision on gun-control is personal for 2 women

Excerpt:

"In the event that someone does get in my home, I would have no defense, except maybe throw my paper towels at them," she said. But Parker lives in the nation's capital, which does not allow its residents to possess handguns.

Elilta "Lily" Habtu thinks that is how it should be. She knows about gun violence firsthand, surviving bullets to the head and arm fired by the Virginia Tech University shooter nearly a year ago.



Comment: Is personal protection guaranteed? Previous CFG post

More: Supreme Court considers 'right to bear arms'

Excerpt:

The court has not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment in the 216 years since its ratification. The basic issue for the justices is whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

The City Council that adopted the ban said it was justified because "handguns have no legitimate use in the purely urban environment of the District of Columbia."

But Dick Anthony Heller, 65, sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home for self-defense. His lawyers say the amendment plainly protects an individual's right.

The court's ruling, expected by the end of June, could have a far-reaching impact on gun-control laws in the United States and could become an issue in the November election.

3.17.2008

The coward John Wilkes Booth



Comment: Lincoln Museum, Springfield, IL, 3/8/08

Newt Q&A on 9/11 and more

Newt Gingrich Answers Your Questions

Comment: A really excellent read. I only excerpt a brief portion.

Excerpt:

In the American conception, as stated powerfully by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, all are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. This proposition was among the most radical in history and it turned on its head the way in which people were governed. We no longer conceived of individual rights as coming from a king or monarch or dictator. In 1776, we asserted the self-evident truth that rights came from God to the individual, and that collectively, the people loaned power to their elected leaders. It is this self-evident truth that is the key to any sustainable democracy — the individual is sovereign and primary, while the state is servant and secondary.

What we face worldwide in the aftermath of 9/11 isn’t a conflict between different models of government; it’s a conflict between the civilized world — which respects the rights of men and women and includes people of all countries and all faiths, including Islam — and the irreconcilable wing of Islam, which is so totally at odds with the civilized world’s views of the rights of the individual that there is no way to reconcile the two world views. Conflict is unavoidable. Certainly, the promotion of democracy is a strategy that should be employed, but it has to include property rights, equality for women and people of other faiths, and the other bulwarks of successful democracies that protect the individual from the power of the state.

3.16.2008

Obama's Pastor



Comment: Outright racism!

HT: A Little Leaven

Obama's church accuses media of character assassination

Obama distances himself from Wright

Caller: "the less black kids out there the better."



Response to caller 'a serious mistake,' says Planned Parenthood of Idaho

Comment: Tragic! Of course all abortion is murder!

So send in the Swiss Guard!


Pope: Enough With Slaughters in Iraq

Excerpt:

The pope also denounced the 5-year-long Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life. "Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Comment: The Swiss Guard

The Conservative Case for McCain

The Conservative Case for McCain

Excerpt:

There is a yawning gulf between the viewpoints of Mr. McCain and those of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Nowhere is this more evident than on the critical issue of the steady collapse of our government's financial house.

Since 2000, the federal budget has increased 72%, to $3.1 trillion from $1.8 trillion. The national debt is now $9 trillion -- more than the combined GDP of China, Japan and Canada. Add in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security commitments, and as a nation we are staring at more than a $50 trillion hole -- an invisible mortgage of $450,000 for every American family.

Hope alone won't carry us through the valley of the shadow of debt. The fact that neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama has made cost-cutting a part of their political vocabulary is a clear indication that they would increase spending. In fact, Mrs. Clinton has already proven skillful at snagging pork. Over the past few years alone, she has attached some $2.2 billion in earmarks to federal spending bills. Mr. McCain has asked for exactly $0 in earmarks.

And while Mr. Obama's oratorical skills have been inspiring, his proposals would entail roughly the same $800 billion in new government spending that Mrs. Clinton proposes. To his credit, Mr. Obama admits that his spending proposals will take more than three clicks of his heels to fund. He would pay for his priorities with a bevy of tax increases which he hopes taxpayers won't notice.

But taxpayers will notice. Mr. Obama plans to raise taxes on capital gains, dividends and corporate profits. He wants to hike estate taxes by 50%. And he wants to eliminate the cap on payroll taxes. These tax hikes would increase the burden borne by individuals and decrease the competitiveness of our economy.

Comment: Sanford (Gov S.C.) is a potential VP

Avoiding "the global equivalent of a store clerk seizing your credit card and cutting it up"


A Proposed Diet for the U.S. Budget

Excerpt:

On paper, the government’s total assets, including facilities and inventory, are valued by the authors at about $1.4 trillion. If the government had to submit a standard financial statement of the type required of the average home buyer, it would show a negative net worth of $7.6 trillion.

Mr. Bittle and Ms. Johnson predict that even with continued foreign investment and financial forbearance, the nation may soon find it impossible to fulfill its existing and future commitments to its own citizens in the form of Social Security and Medicare payments. In 2006, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consumed 39.7 percent of the federal budget of $2.6 trillion, compared with 19.7 percent for defense.

In the future, the cost of entitlement programs will balloon as 78 million baby boomers age. In 2006, there were fewer than 50 million Social Security recipients; 12 years from now, there will be nearly 70 million. With health care costs rising faster than inflation, the part of Medicare that covers hospital costs for the elderly is already paying out more than it takes in from payroll taxes.

“Unless something changes, we could see a time (around 2040, if nothing is done) when nearly every tax dollar collected will be needed to pay for retirement and health care for the elderly and interest on the debt,” the authors warn. “There will be almost no money for anything else, except maybe a basic national defense.”

Comment: Sobering fiscal reality!

3.14.2008

Ephesians 2:14, "the middle wall of partition"

Ephesians 2:14, "the middle wall of partition"

Blogging beats Prozac

Can you blog away the blues?



Excerpt:

Viewed in this light, blogging could be prescribed as a potentially cheaper (and drugs-free) way to help people overcome a feeling of isolation.

That bloggers derive an elevated sense of self-worth comes as little surprise to this blogger. Blogging has been dismissed as a narcissistic pursuit, the equivalent of giving a megaphone to the most opinionated person in the room. But it can also be a tremendously beneficial pursuit -- for both the blogger and his or her readers. Most of the time, anyhow.

Comment: This explains it!

Such a plonker

Honey, will you marry... Oh. Never mind...

Excerpt:

The luckless 28 year-old's dreams of giving his sweetheart, Leanne, 26, the ultimate proposal have literally vanished into thin air.

Hajji, of Hackney, east London, had concealed a $12,000 engagement ring inside a helium balloon. The idea was that she would pop the balloon as he popped the question.

But as he left the shop, a gust of wind pulled the balloon from his hand and he watched the ring -- and quite possibly the affections of his girlfriend -- sailing away over the rooftops.


Comment: I'm not sure what a "plonker" is ... but that's what the man called himself! (His fiance will give him a "blonker"!)

What do Christians and Legos have in common?

What do Christians and Legos have in common?

Britain is Repossessing the U.S.A.

A Message from John Cleese

To the citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation ofyour independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.


  1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
  2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up
    'vocabulary').
  3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save the Queen.
  4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
  5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
  6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
  7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.
  8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
  9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline)-roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.
  10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
  11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of British Commonwealth - see what it did for them.
  12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie McDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
  13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try Rugby - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.
  14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
  15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
  16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
  17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

God Save the Queen.

Only He can.

John Cleese and Rich Miles



Comment: Sent to me by my daughter. The way the dollar is sinking versus the pound, this could be close to the truth!

3.13.2008

Will Wells acquire NCC?

Wells Fargo likely to consider buying struggling Cleveland bank

Excerpts:

Wells Fargo is expected to be on a short list of potential suitors for Cleveland-based National City, which is looking for a buyer as it struggles with bad loans.

Wells (NYSE: WFC), on the other hand, is weathering the financial storm relatively well. The San Francisco bank's leadership has expressed interest in recent weeks in stepping up its pace of acquisition activity. In January, Wells agreed to buy five banks in Wyoming and Idaho from United Bancorp. of Wyoming Inc., of Jackson, Wyo. The bank is still integrating its recent purchase of Greater Bay Banks, which was based in East Palo Alto.

National City's (NYSE: NCC) investment bankers are shopping the troubled bank, according to a Wall Street Journal report Thursday.

Whenever a major bank comes on the market, Wells is often mentioned as a potential suitor given its deep pockets as the nation's fifth-largest bank. But National City's depressed share price and the troubled Midwestern markets it serves might be too appealing for a disciplined buyer like Wells Fargo to pass up.

...

National City's branch network includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania. The Cleveland bank's branch territory would fit well with National City's dominance in the Midwest.


Comment: I hope Wells Fargo passes on this!

CFG: Biographical information




Where I went to school!

Work today: I reimaged my Thinkpad and am now loading on Acrobat Pro, SQL Server 2005 Management Studio, etc. My boss was giving me grief (about being a slow learner) and I told him that it was the fault of my schooling! Image is © the Far Side

Buffett, WaMu & WFC

Buffett, WaMu & WFC

Excerpt:

Some are speculating that Warren Buffett has already begun building a stake in the company and plans to eventually merge it with his other large holding - Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC). The idea may seem nothing more than a dream to some, but any such move could result in substantial value being unlocked for shareholders. WaMu shareholders would receive an ample buyout premium while Wells Fargo would get a cheap acquisition in today’s markets. Clearly, if the economy turns, this could become a great deal.

In the end, this is nothing more than a far-fetched rumor, but it is one that is definitely worth watching.

Comment: My take = "far-fetched rumor"

Cramer on Spitzer

"one of the best jobs I’ve ever had”

Do as He Said

Excerpt:

Studies suggest that up to two-thirds of prostitutes have been sexually abused as girls, a majority have drug dependencies or mental illnesses, one-third have been threatened with death by pimps, and almost half have attempted suicide.

Melissa Farley, a psychologist who has written extensively about the subject, says that girls typically become prostitutes at age 13 or 14. She conducted a study finding that 89 percent of prostitutes urgently wanted to escape the work, and that two-thirds have post-traumatic stress disorder — not a problem for even the most frustrated burger-flipper.

The mortality data for prostitutes is staggering. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a meticulous study finding that the “workplace homicide rate for prostitutes” is 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women, working in a liquor store. The average age of death of the prostitutes in the study was 34.


Comment: Quote in title is one former prostitute's opinion.

3.12.2008

The rise of modern convervatism

Goldwater, the John Birch Society and Me

Excerpt:

... it seemed inconceivable that an antiestablishment gadfly like Goldwater could be nominated as the spokesman-head of a political party. And it was embarrassing that the only political organization in town that dared suggest this radical proposal--the GOP's nominating Goldwater for president--was the John Birch Society.

The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy," and that the government of the United States was "under operational control of the Communist party." It was, he said in the summer of 1961, "50-70 percent" Communist-controlled.


Comment: First they had to slay the dragon of the lunatic fringe (The John Birch Society).

Eliot Spitzer: Flashback 2004

18 Arrested in Lucrative Prostitution Ring Out of Staten Island

Excerpt:

Prosecutors from the State Organized Crime Task Force, working with the New York Police Department and the F.B.I., charged 16 people with enterprise corruption and two others with falsifying business records and promoting prostitution and money laundering.

About eight midlevel managers ran the ring, which operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using about 15 to 20 drivers to dispatch 30 to 40 prostitutes each day, officials said. In most instances, customers paid $250 for sex, sometimes using credit cards. The transactions, officials said, were processed through merchant accounts held by escort services or limousine companies, and in one instance a company that hired musical bands for weddings.

''This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,'' the state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, who oversees the task force, said in a statement. ''It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring, and now its owners and operators will be held accountable.''


Comment: This post and the previous ("renting out" an organ for 10 minutes) underline the wrongness of Spitzer's behavior.

“renting” out an organ for 10 minutes

The Myth of the Victimless Crime

Excerpt:

“I’m here for a purpose,” she said in a conversation with her booking agent after meeting with Governor Spitzer, according to the affidavit of the F.B.I agent who investigated the prostitution ring. “I know what my purpose is. I’m not a ... moron, you know what I mean.”

Her purpose, as a man who knew patiently explained, is “renting” out an organ for 10 minutes. Men rent women through the Internet or by cellphone as if they were renting a car. And now, in response to the news about Governor Spitzer, pundits are wading into the age-old debates over whether prostitution is a victimless crime or whether women are badly hurt in prostitution no matter what they’re paid.

Whose theory is it that prostitution is victimless? It’s the men who buy prostitutes who spew the myths that women choose prostitution, that they get rich, that it’s glamorous and that it turns women on.

But most women in prostitution, including those working for escort services, have been sexually abused as children, studies show. Incest sets young women up for prostitution — by letting them know what they’re worth and what’s expected of them. Other forces that channel women into escort prostitution are economic hardship and racism.

The Emperor’s Club presented itself as an elite escort service. But aside from charging more, it worked like any other prostitution business. The pimps took their 50 percent cut. The Emperor’s Club often required that the women provide sex twice an hour. One woman who was wiretapped indicated that she couldn’t handle that pressure. The ring operated throughout the United States and Europe. The transport of women for prostitution was masked by its description as “travel dates.”


Comment: Good article on the victims of prostitution.

Updated: Woman at the Center of Governor’s Downfall

Excerpt:

On MySpace, it says: “I am all about my music and my music is all about me. It flows from what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and how I feel.”

She left “a broken family” at age 17, having been abused, according to the MySpace page, and has used drugs, “been broke and homeless.”

“Learned what it was like to have everything and lose it, again and again,” she wrote. “Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone.

“But I made it,” she continues. “I’m still here and I love who I am. If I never went through the hard times, I would not be able to appreciate the good ones. Cliché, yes, but I know it’s true.”


Comment: She is younger than my daughter (my youngest child)