10.31.2010

"Profiles in Courage" author passes

Theodore C. Sorensen, 82, Kennedy Counselor, Dies

Info on Profiles in Courage

Excerpts:

Profiles in Courage is a 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate's history. The book profiles senators who crossed party lines and/or defied the public opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. The book was widely celebrated and became a best seller. John F. Kennedy claimed to be its author, but there are credible allegations that most of it was the work of his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen.

...

Questions have been raised about how much of the book was actually written by Kennedy and how much by his research assistants. Some time after April 1957, journalist Drew Pearson appeared as a guest on the The Mike Wallace Interview and made the following claim live on air: "John F. Kennedy is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him." Wallace replied "You know for a fact, Drew, that the book Profiles in Courage was written for Senator Kennedy ... by someone else?" Pearson responded that he did, and that Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen actually wrote the book. Wallace responded: "And Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for it? And he never acknowledged the fact?" Pearson replied: "No, he has not. You know, there's a little wisecrack around the Senate about Jack ... some of his colleagues say, 'Jack, I wish you had a little less profile and more courage.'"

Joseph Kennedy saw the broadcast, then called his lawyer, Clark Clifford, yelling: "Sue the bastards for fifty million dollars!" Soon Clifford and Robert Kennedy showed up at ABC and told executives that the Kennedys would sue unless the network issued a full retraction and apology. Mike Wallace and Drew Pearson insisted that the story was true and refused to back off. Nevertheless, ABC made the retraction and apology, which made Wallace furious.

However, years later historian Herbert Parmet analyzed the text of Profiles in Courage and wrote in his book The Struggles of John F. Kennedy (1980) that although Kennedy did oversee the production and provided for the direction and message of the book, it was clearly Sorensen who provided most of the work that went into the end product.

In May 2008, Sorensen in his autobiography, Counselor, largely confirmed allegations that he had done much, if not most, of the writing. Sorensen wrote that he "did a first draft of most chapters," "helped choose the words of many of its sentences," and "privately boasted or indirectly hinted that [he] had written much of the book." Sorensen claimed that in May 1957, Kennedy "unexpectedly and generously offered, and I happily accepted, a sum" for his work on the book. The sum Kennedy paid to Sorensen exceeded half the book's royalties from its first five years of sales and led Sorensen to inform Kennedy that he was disinclined to push for recognition of his participation

Comment: Quotes I like: "John F. Kennedy is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him." and "there's a little wisecrack around the Senate about Jack ... some of his colleagues say, 'Jack, I wish you had a little less profile and more courage'"

I'm a Republican because I'm not always thinking clearly when I'm scared

Elitism: The Charge That Obama Can’t Shake

Excerpt:

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” he told a roomful of doctors who chipped in at least $15,200 each to Democratic coffers. “And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be.”

The notion that voters would reject Democrats only because they don’t understand the facts prompted a round of recriminations — “Obama the snob,” read the headline on a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — and fueled the underlying argument of the campaign that ends Tuesday. For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation’s debate this fall has been the battle of elitism.

Mr. Obama’s remark that autumn evening played into a perception promoted by his critics that he is a Harvard-educated millionaire elitist who is sure that he knows best and thinks that those who disagree just aren’t in their right minds. Never mind that Mr. Obama was raised in less exalted circumstances by a single mother who he said once needed food stamps. Or that although he went to private school, he took years to pay off his college loans. Something about Mr. Obama’s cerebral confidence has made him into a symbol of something he never used to be.

Comment: Yes that ... and I'm a capitalist .... and I'm a fiscal conservative .... and about a dozen other reasons!

Praying to Obama

A man gets on his knees next to a car carrying U.S. President Barack Obama

Excerpt:

A man gets on his knees next to a car carrying U.S. President Barack Obama as he pulls away from Valois restaurant in Chicago, October 31, 2010

Comment: Screenshot

10.30.2010

Happy Reformation Day!

Reformation Essentials - Five Pillars of the Reformation

Comment: Worthwhile read

Smart Giving

Writing Checks to Charities? Be Smart About It.

Excerpt:

With the holiday season approaching, prime time for charitable giving is almost here. But with a moribund economy and high unemployment everywhere, the need is probably far greater than many people's capacity to give.

If your money is tight this holiday season, that doesn't mean you have to back away from the charities you support. You can learn to give smarter this year, and stretch your charitable contributions. Here are six ways you can help meet this year's greater needs without throwing your own household economy into a recession:

  1. Do your research
  2. Avoid impulse giving
  3. Look for leverage
  4. Work your network
  5. Give gifts
  6. Give your time

Comment: Good read. Article fleshes out the 6 points.

Additional: Give to your church first! Our company matches gifts to educational institutions (we give to Faith Baptist Bible College)

Demos ad: "Our Children will Pay for It"



georgedemosforcongress.com

Comments:

10.29.2010

Upset in Iron Range? Chip Cravaack in Minnesota's 8th District

Neophyte Puts Veteran on the Defensive

Excerpt:

Chip Cravaack, 51, is a retired Navy helicopter pilot turned stay-at-home dadwho found himself simmering over the health-care bill last summer. He said he went to Mr. Oberstar's local Congressional office with 25 others and asked for a town-hall meeting on the topic.

When the group was rebuffed, Mr. Cravaack said he called his friend, the mayor of Lindstrom, the town of 3,000 where he lives, and asked: "I want to run for Congress. What do I do?"

Mr. Cravaack's campaign has since raised $600,000 and picked up some traction. Mr Cravaack released a poll this month showing that he trails his opponent by just three points.

Comment: This race will be close. I'm not in this district but Chip Cravaack is the man to vote for! Oberstar is too old and out of touch with the needs of this district. Chip Cravaack official site.

Dayton: Goodbye Grandma and Grandpa

Mark Dayton's Snowbird Tax

Excerpt:

It eliminates the "snowbird" tax loophole that allows people to live outside the state for six months, plus a day, and owe no state income tax. Dayton claims that closing the loophole, which would seem to be a delicate piece of legislation, would raise $500 million, though the Department of Revenue has no data to support that claim.

Comment: A direct quote from Dayton's website (PDF)
  1. Add a 4th Income Tax Bracket of 10.95% on taxable income above $130,000/year for individuals and above $150,000/year for married couples, filing jointly. Raises an additional $1.899 billion for the biennium, according to the Department of Revenue.
  2. Add a third Property Tax bracket of 2% on the value of homes over $1 million. Raises an additional $95.4 million for the biennium, according to the Department of Revenue.
  3. Eliminate the "Snowbird" tax loophole that allows people to live outside Minnesota for six months and one day of the year, and pay no personal income taxes in this state. Raises estimated revenues of $500 million for the biennium (not available from the Department of Revenue).

Final comment: Some states are tax friendly to retirees ... not Minnesota. And less so under Mark Dayton's plan

10.28.2010

NYTimes criticizes, Prosper responds

Consumer Protection Agency Adviser Had Role in Soured Loans

Excerpts:

Rajeev V. Date, a former banker who was hired this month as a senior adviser to Ms. Warren, was an active participant in the debate over the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial regulation bill that created the consumer bureau. During that time, he also served as a director of Prosper Marketplace Inc., a so-called peer-to-peer lender that operates an online market to match consumers seeking loans with lenders. In its first four years of operation, more than 25 percent of the loans it helped arrange went into default, according to the company’s financial statements.

...

He became a Prosper Marketplace director in January 2009, and that year received stock-option awards valued at $114,322, according to company filings. On April 15, 2010, Mr. Date was one of six investors in a $14.7 million private placement of Prosper stock.

Prosper Marketplace, based in San Francisco, matches borrowers and lenders and charges both parties fees related to the loans. The S.E.C. imposed a cease-and-desist order on the company in November 2008, before Mr. Date joined the board, but the company has continued to settle cases with state regulators over the last two years.

While Mr. Date was on the board of the company, Prosper took an interest in the Dodd-Frank debate. It hired the well-connected Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta to try to shape the legislation so that peer-to-peer lenders like Prosper would be regulated as banks, and no longer under the purview of the S.E.C., which has maintained that the company’s packaging and sales of loans to investors constituted a securities offering.

The effort was unsuccessful; the S.E.C. still regulates the business though parts of it will also most likely fall under the new consumer bureau.

Prosper Response: New York Times Article October 27, 2010

Excerpt:

Today a highly misleading article appeared on the subject of one of our former board members, Raj Date. Raj has just been appointed by Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory post at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We are very proud of Raj’s track record of consumer advocacy and championing reform in the financial services industry.

The article made several erroneous statements about Prosper and Raj’s relationship with us, despite our having shared information with the reporter while he was writing the article that directly refuted his assertions. In fact, several of the assertions are patently incorrect based on a cursory review of our site. The reporter chose to ignore the facts and go ahead with the slanted perspective for reasons that are not clear.

The misstatements and misrepresentations include the following:

Comment: Interesting. Read the entire Prosper response for their points

Obama: a fiscal train wreck

A presidency heading for a fiscal train wreck

Excerpt:

The coming stalemate will only be made worse by the lack of a reason to act on the deficit. The bond vigilantes are asleep, while borrowing rates remain unusually low. Near zero rates will continue as long as growth and inflation are low (and getting lower) and repeated bouts of global risk aversion – as with this spring’s Greek crisis – will push more investors to safe dollars and US debt. China’s massive interventions to stop renminbi appreciation will mean purchasing yet more treasuries too. In short, kicking the can down the road will be the political path of least resistance.

The risk, however, is that something on the fiscal side will snap, and the bond vigilantes will wake up. The trigger could be a debt rollover crisis in a major US state government, or perhaps even the realisation that congressional gridlock means bipartisan solutions to our medium-term fiscal crisis is mission impossible. Only then will our politicians suddenly remember that, on top of our federal debt, the US suffers from unfunded social security and Medicare liabilities, state and local government debt, and public pension bills that add up to many multiples of US GDP.

Comment: Image: Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895

Pillsbury: Will it pass?





Pillsbury purchase price determined

Excerpt:

During a closed session on Monday, the school board unanimously approved a purchase amount of $4.876 million, pending the passage of the referendum questions on the November ballot.

Director of Operations and Finance Tom Sager said the tentative agreement also includes a period of 60 days, in which the district can continue site reviews and tests to validate previous inspections of the property.

Community members heard the announcement for the first time during a public forum held Tuesday night at Wilson Elementary School. The original asking price for the property was $6.9 million, and, according to the school district, the assessed value exceeded $7 million.

“That number we settled on was slightly below what we had projected on our budget,” said Superintendent Tom Tapper.

The purchase price was not the only information that came forward during the forum on Tuesday, however. Representatives of the district also brought clarity to the dependence of one ballot question on another and the issue of financing in the district.

The first question, which asks voters to revoke the existing levy and replace it at the same amount for five years would extend the obligation for taxpayers through the 2015-16 school year.

The second question asks voters to approve funds for all-day kindergarten for a period of five years.

The third question covers the $30 million price tag for the purchase of the Pillsbury campus as well as the repair and renovation of the Pillsbury buildings which will not be demolished. Sager said under the current formula, this represents a 20-year obligation for the school district.

Sager said after five years of funding for all-day kindergarten, the district would have to ask for the levy to be renewed or make other allowances within the district budget. The school district is also hoping to see an up tick in funding formulas from the state government in that time frame.


Pillsbury Campus Purchase Agreement Negotiated With Owatonna School District; Voter Approval Required

Excerpt:

On October 25th a purchase agreement was successfully negotiated with the Owatonna School District. Their acquisition of the campus will allow the local high school and grade schools to expand their schools onto the campus from their current locations. The public must approve the district’s purchase by a referendum on November 2nd. If they do, we will accomplish all the requirements in the purchase agreement and close on or before February 15. If they do not approve, the purchase agreement will be cancelled. Please pray the referendum will pass and the campus will be sold.

Dr. Robert J. Fuller, Jr., PBBC Board Chairman

Comment: Images from the Steele County Sample Ballot (PDF). Worth watching to see how this will go. Worth praying about it!

3M reports ... stock dives

MMM Q3 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

3M calls growth in US and Europe 'uninspiring'

3M Co. said Thursday that growth in the U.S. and Western Europe is "uninspiring," and it continues to shift more of its business to faster moving emerging markets.

3M also said it doesn't see signs of a broad double-dip recession.

"More than a year ago we forecast economic growth would slow in 2010 in some of our markets," CEO George Buckley said in a conference call. "Some folks disagreed with us, thinking that perhaps we were being too conservative. But I think things have played out largely the way we anticipated and the trend is no longer a surprise."

The St. Paul, Minn., manufacturer still predicts a long recovery for U.S. commercial construction, but it said automotive markets are getting stronger.

The company lowered the top end of its forecast for the year, citing the impact of several recent acquisitions. Shares lost $5.61, or 6.2 percent, at $84.76 in afternoon trading.

3M is considered a key indicator of broader economic health because it makes everything from Post-Its to respirators. 3M also produces over 1,000 products for cars and roads; including abrasives and paint finishings, all-weather pavement markings and sheeting for reflective signs.

Comments: MMM

  • Stock dives $ 6 today
  • I still regard MMM as a buy! A solid dividend stock
  • I'm still up by $ 6 over my purchase price of $ 78

One to watch: Kentucky 6th District

Kentucky 6th District

Comment: Just 5 days out ... check out the NYTimes profile and how close the polling is!

The Islamification of Britain

Mohammed is now the most popular name for baby boys ahead of Jack and Harry

Excerpt:

Mohammed has become the most popular name for newborn boys in Britain.

It shot up from third the previous year, overtaking Jack, which had topped the list for the past 14 years but was relegated to third spot.

...

A total of 7,549 newborns were given 12 variations of the Islamic prophet Mohammed’s name last year, such as Muhammad and Mohammad.

Comment: The future of America?

Al-Goprisy

Gore leaves car idling for one hour during speech; Opts for Swedish government jet over public transportation

Excerpt:

Recently, Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore toured again. Or maybe he does that all the time. This time, he turned up in Gothenburg (Sweden) for the usual alarmist talk. In advance, all distinguished guests were politely advised to – if possible – use any form of public transportation to go to the event, in order to minimize CO2 emissions.

Intriguingly, the Master of World Climate himself arrived in a rental car (with or without driver is unclear), from the airport, and subsequently left the engine running for the entire lecture. That is to say, about one hour. Incidentally, local legislation prohibits – for very good environmental reasons, i e pollution – any car engine running on empty for more than 60 seconds. Fines are severe. As far as I know, he was not fined.

It starts to form a pattern.

After the ceremony in the Norwegian capital Oslo, it is customary that the laureate is invited to the Swedish capital Stockholm, for a cordial visit. The train ride, supposedly the environmental choice according to Mr. Gore, is approximately four hours. However, he opted for the cosier ride with one of the Swedish government aircrafts. As these can, according to the rules, only be used when a cabinet member is on board – and as the Swedish government after a short ceremonial visit – offered to fly him to Frankfurt (Germany) for his flight to the US, you can calculate both the manpower and the fuel used for this grand tour against man's destruction of the planet.

Obituary: Wilbur L. “Bill” Eidson


Wilbur L. “Bill” Eidson age 91 of St. Louis Park, passed away Oct. 26, 2010. Bill was a warm and engaging gentleman with a ready smile who made friends easily and was dedicated to his family. Bill was born July 23, 1919 in Ward, South Carolina to Arthur and Julia Eidson. He graduated from Clemson University and was commissioned as a Navy officer in the opening days of World Way Two. He served on the USS Texas throughout the war; participating in the Battle of the Atlantic, Iwo Jima, Normandy, North Africa and Okinawa. In 1944 he married Jane Wagener. As the president of Eidson Associates, Bill was involved in a variety of marketing ventures, including developing patents and designing private label veterinary applications for major pharmaceutical houses. He is survived by wife, Jane, children, Karen English (Ted), Nancy Arguedas (Mariano), Rita DeBoer (Larry), Tom Eidson (Janet) and Gary Eidson (Ann); 16 grandchildren; sister, Mary Kelly; other relatives and friends. Funeral 10:30 AM Friday at Cathedral Church of St. Mark, 519 Oak Grove St., MPLS. Visitation Thursday 5-8 PM at Gearty-Delmore Park Chapel, 3960 Wooddale Ave. S., St. Louis Park and 1 hour prior to service at church. Private interment Fort Snelling.

Comment: Wilbur L. “Bill” Eidson was the Father of my co-worker Nancy Arguedas. Our prayers are with the family.

More the USS Texas here

10.27.2010

Will the midterms be a rebuke to Democratic leadership?

Signs of the Democratic Apocalypse

Excerpt:

Next Tuesday Democrats will receive a crushing rebuke. More to the point, voters will be delivering a verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration.

Midterm elections are almost always unpleasant experiences for the White House, especially when the economy is weak. But key races that should have been safe for the party in power demonstrate the extent to which President Obama and his policies have nationalized the election.

In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a huge war chest in a state Mr. Obama won in 2008 by 12 points. Mr. Reid trails Sharron Angle by four points in the latest Rasmussen poll.

Comment: If Reid gets dumped and Pelosi is out as Speaker .... YES. Good read by Karl Rove

Condescending Katie

They Have Indoor Plumbing Too

Excerpt:

Howard Kurtz, who recently moved from the Washington Post to The Daily Beast, has a report on "CBS Evening News" anchorman Katie Couric, which includes this howler:

That's why Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls "this great unwashed middle of the country" in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.

"This great unwashed middle of the country"? Do you think you could be a little more condescending, Katie?

Comment: Image source.

Reigning in Debt Settlement Companies

New rule: No more up-front fees for debt fixers

Excerpt:

Companies that claim to settle your debts for less than you owe can no longer charge up-front fees for their services. Instead, they have to wait to collect from consumers until they actually deliver on the promise.

The new rule goes into effect Wednesday and is part of the Federal Trade Commission's effort to clamp down on deceptive debt-settlement practices.

"Consumers who are very deeply in debt and don't know how to pay it down are trying to do the right thing by signing up with these companies, and they end up paying thousands and thousands of dollars in fees and filing for bankruptcy anyway," said Lauren Bowne, a staff attorney at the Consumers Union. "Now, that shouldn't happen anymore."

Under the new rule, settlement companies are required to tell you how much debt will be reduced by presenting agreements from your creditors. Then they must receive your consent to move forward. Only then do you pay a fee for their services.

To ensure you actually have enough money to pay off your debt, you do make one payment toward what you owe at the beginning of the process.

Comment: More info here. Sound advice from this link:

If you are having problems paying your bills, go to a reputable credit counselor ONLY. They do exist. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can help you identify these firms at www.nfcc.org.

Wiki article on Debt Settlement

Gears



Clayton Boyer Clock Designs

Comment: HT: Makezine

ING Compare Me

ingcompareme.com


Comment: Nice (and fast and private) financial comparison tool.

953 millibars - Lowest Pressure On Record For The USA

"Land Hurricane": Record-Breaking Storm For Minnesota (and the USA)

Excerpts:

"Land Hurricane" Yes, our weather seems to be getting more extreme over time: 145 tornado reports this summer in Minnesota, the most in the nation. More frequent flash flooding events, annual flooding on the Red & Minnesota Rivers, more severe thunderstorms and hailstorms around the USA. Yesterday's "land hurricane" was an atmospheric explanation point coming at the end of what turned out to be a wild summer season.

...

October Superstorm. Lowest Pressure On Record For The USA. Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Weather Extremes. Yesterday a rapidly intensifying storm, a "bomb", spun up directly over the MN Arrowhead, around mid afternoon a central pressure of 953 millibars was observed near Orr. That's 28.14" of mercury. Bigfork, MN reported 955 mb, about 28.22" of mercury. The final (official) number may be closer to 28.20-28.22", but at some point the number becomes academic. What is pretty much certain is that Tuesday's incredible storm marks a new record for the lowest atmospheric pressure ever observed over the continental USA. That's a lower air pressure than most hurricanes, which is hard to fathom.

How did this happen, especially coming after 4 dry, mild, unusually sunny & quiet weeks/row? Generally speaking, the larger the "baroclinicity" (the north-south temperature contrats across N. America) the greater the potential for an epic storm to develop. Yesterday all the ingredients converged over Minnesota, an unusually powerful jet stream core (blowing at close to 200 mph 5-8 miles overhead). The approach of a "jet streak" aloft caused a partial vacuum to form over the MN Arrowhead, air rushing into this low pressure system accelerated to speeds as high as 60 mph, downing trees and powerlines, cutting off power to WeatherNation in Excelsior for a time during the evening hours.

Comment: The wind howled last night! The house seemed to shudder.

10.26.2010

NYTimes: House prediction 1 week out


Comment: Should be interesting

The Isaac Hayes Who Doesn't Sing

Young Boozer, Krystal Ball, Say 'Vote for Me' Despite Odd Names

Excerpt:
Isaac Hayes is a Republican minister and first-time candidate running for a congressional seat in Illinois. He's up against Jesse Jackson, Jr., the current Democratic congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Mr. Hayes, 36, is not the late singer-songwriter famed for the theme song from the 1970s cult film, "Shaft." The son of a minister, "my parents allegedly named me after Isaac in the Bible," he says. He didn't like that as a kid. Now, he says, "I think my mom and dad were geniuses."

Mr. Hayes, who is black, has themed his campaign, "Let's give Jesse the SHAFT."

He hasn't the money to conduct polls or use the Shaft riff for his radio advertisement, but Mr. Hayes says he is running a strong challenge to Mr. Jackson. The shared name, he believes, is an "icebreaker" among African-Americans suspicious of the politician's conservatism. Mr. Jackson's campaign says the congressman is still solidly in the lead.

"I'm not the musician, but I do have hot-buttered soul," says Mr. Hayes, referring to the artist's 1969 album, "Hot Buttered Soul."

Comment: Others: Young Boozer, "Dick" Swett, Krystal Ball, Rich Whitney (his surname was misspelled as "Whitey" on touch-screen voting machines in some mostly black wards)

At one point in his race, Mr. Boozer received a cryptic email. "I predict you are going to win your election," it read. It was sent by Krystal Ball.

How Allied mathletes helped win the war

How Allied Forces Used Tank Serial Numbers To Defeat The Germans

Excerpt:

During World War II, Allied forces readily admitted that German tanks were superior to their own. The big question for Allied forces, then, was how many tanks Germany was producing. Here's how they reverse-engineered serial numbers to find out.

To solve the problem of determining production numbers, the Allied forces initially tried conventional intelligence gathering: spying, intercepting and decoding transmissions and interrogating captured enemies.

Via this method, the Allies deduced that from June 1940 to September 1942, the German military industrial complex churned out around 1,400 tanks each month. That number just didn't seem right. To put that number in context, Axis forces used "only" 1,200 tanks during the Battle of Stalingrad, an eight month battle with a total of almost two million casualties. So that number of 1,400 was likely way too high.

Obviously skeptical of the above result, the Allies looked for other methods of estimation. And then they found a critical clue: serial numbers.

Allied intelligence noticed each captured German tank contained a serial number unique to the tank. With careful observation, the Allies were able to determine that the serial numbers had a pattern denoting the order of tank production.

Using this data, the Allies were able to create a mathematical model to determine the rate of German tank production, and estimated that, during the same summer 1940 to fall 1942 time period, the Germans produced 255 tanks per month — a fraction of the 1,400 estimate.

And it turns out, the serial number methodology was spot on: after the War, internal German data put der Fuhrer's production numbers at 256 tanks per month — one more than the estimate.

Comment: Didn't know that mathlete was a word! HT: wired.com/autopia

More problems for 2 1/2 men star

Sheen Hospitalized After Trashing Plaza Hotel Room

Excerpt:

Sources said an unidentified woman in the room claimed Sheen, 45, was acting irrationally and throwing furniture. Sheen reportedly told police he had been “out partying” and flew into a rage when noticed his wallet was missing after returning to his room.

Life & Style magazine reports the woman in Sheen’s hotel room was an escort. The magazine reports she was found naked and screaming inside a closet.

The Plaza Hotel is not filing any charges. Sheen was not arrested.

It was the latest in a series of troubles for Sheen, the star of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” who has had problems with alcohol and drugs in the past.

In August, he pleaded guilty in Aspen, Colo. to misdemeanor third-degree assault after a Christmas Day assault on his second wife, Brooke Mueller Sheen. Prosecutors dropped more serious charges and he avoided jail time and he was sentenced to 30 days in a rehabilitation center, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management.

In the 9-1-1 call, Mueller told the operator: “My husband had me, with a knife, and I’m scared for my life, and he threatened me.”

Comment: 2 1/2 men is probably the sleaziest show on network TV. Is it any wonder!

Blue Oval in the black!

Ford earns $1.7b in 3Q, pays down health care debt

Excerpt:

Ford Motor Co.'s third-quarter net income rose 68 percent as it grabbed a bigger share of the U.S. auto market and buyers paid more for its highly-rated cars and trucks.

It was Ford's sixth straight quarterly profit and the company's best third-quarter performance since at least 1990.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said popular new cars, such as the Ford Fiesta subcompact and Ford Edge wagon, and aggressive cost-cutting helped the company make money despite lower global sales.

The automaker said it expects to end the year with as much cash as it has debt, a year earlier than it had previously forecast.

Ford, which four years ago mortgaged its factories, blue oval logo and other assets to fund a huge restructuring, said it paid off $2 billion in debt in the third quarter and expects to pay off an additional $3.6 billion for retiree health care on Friday. Ford's debt will stand at $22.8 billion after those two actions. It has $20.3 billion in cash.

When Ford pays its debt to the United Auto Workers health care trust, it will no longer owe the trust any money. The UAW agreed to the trust in 2007, and it began paying health care benefits for 195,000 retirees and spouses in January. The automaker was paying a 9 percent annual interest rate on its obligation to the trust.

Ford also said it is launching an offer to convert $3.5 billion in debt to common stock. The offer closes Nov. 23.

Ford's earnings of $1.7 billion, or 43 cents per share, beat Wall Street estimates.


Comment: I've got some Ford shares so I am pleased. I would like to see it reach $ 20 and then I would sell. (Now at $ 14)

10.25.2010

Jimmy's Rose Colored Glasses

America hasn't improved much over past 3 decades, Jimmy Carter says

Excerpt:

America is no better off now than it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, says former President Jimmy Carter. From national politics to relationships with other nations, there is a lot of room for improvement.

"We had almost complete harmony with every nation on Earth," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said of his administration. "We not only preserved peace for our country, we never went to war. We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a missile."

Comment: The world improved immensely when the Gipper was elected!

"This is going to be a very tough election for the Blue Dogs"

Blue Dogs Face Sharp Losses in Midterms

Excerpt:

More than half the members of the Blue Dog Coalition—the organization of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House—are in peril in next week's election, a stark indicator of how the balloting could produce a Congress even more polarized than the current one.

The Blue Dogs are often seen as a kind of human bridge, connecting left and right in the House. But that bridge is imperiled by the coming Republican wave in midterm elections, the most stark example of how the midterms are likely to weaken Capitol Hill's political center.

Of 54 Blue Dogs in the House, six already have retired or decided to seek other offices. Of those trying to stay, 39 are in competitive races, according to the Cook Political Report, and 22 of those are in pure toss-ups.

Among those facing the toughest races are some of the Blue Dog Coalition's leaders. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, one of the co-chairs of the group, is locked in a contest with State Rep. Kristi Noem; in the most recent polling earlier this month, conducting by Rasmussen Reports, Ms. Herseth Sandlin trailed 47% to 43%.

Similarly, Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana, a fellow Blue Dog leader, is battling Republican attorney Todd Young in a deadlocked race both parties see as an indicator of the size of the GOP wave.

The bottom line is that the Blue Dog population could be cut significantly, conceivably by half, in next week's voting.

Blue Dogs tend to come from more conservative swing districts, where their hold on their seats is more tenuous in any case, and where voters are more likely to move right when the national winds push strongly in that direction.

"This is going to be a very tough election for the Blue Dogs, because many of them had success in districts where Democrats are always an endangered species," says Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a think tank promoting the ideas of moderate Democrats. "If they lose, some of them may come back in a future wave election, but those are never safe seats."


Comment: Image source. See earlier blog post How will the Blue Dogs fare?

Final comment: I tend to think of the Blue Dogs as the "good Democrats". But to the ones who vote for Obamacare .... I hope they lose!

Protect yourself from manipulation

Comment: Interesting read to protect self from manipulation. More comments below

How to Manipulate People

  • Emotion vs. Logic: The easiest way to manipulate people—especially Americans—is by playing on their emotions. If you let people think too much they're more likely to make a logical choice. If you can guide them to feel a certain way—a way that benefits you—you'll have a much easier time getting what you want. This is what emotional manipulation is all about.
  • Master Your Own Emotions: Ideally your target won't have an exceptional amount of control over their emotions, but that doesn't mean you get to be lazy. A master manipulator needs to be able to act. Shedding a tear when it suits your needs or losing yourself in a fit of rage are both important skills you'll want to master. Whether you want to incite fear, sympathy, or anything else will depend on the situation, so it's important to master your own emotions so you'll have the proper tools for the task at hand.
  • Be Charming and Flirt Often: But you can't just cry and throw tantrums whenever you want something—people have to like you. Charm is an important part of manipulating people. If you're ridiculously likable most of the time, when you react with extreme emotion it'll have a greater impact. Having control over your emotions also involves keeping them in check most of the time and not just being able to act.

    Charm is great, but when you can flirt you should. Because manipulation generally makes the target feel poorly, whether they understand that they're being manipulated or not, the more they like you the better. Disregard the boundaries of your own sexuality and throw in some suggestive touches when you think they'll be effective. This tactic is especially effective with people who are lonely and have low self-esteem.
  • Overcome Trust Issues and Heal Doubt: People who've been manipulated a number of times before are generally on the lookout for this kind of behavior and don't trust people easily, so you need to watch for signs. If you believe trust is an issue, the quickest way around that problem is to share something very personal and very private with the target. It's always best if it's relevant to them, or if they feel you trust them enough to confide something so personal. It's not important that your story is true, but that they believe it. Again, acting is key.
  • Conceal Evil in Altruism: You have to seem like a good person, even if you're not. If you ever need to take a negative action like criticizing behavior, blaming another person (whether it's their fault or yours), or even yelling at the target, you should always find a way to wrap it in altruism. It can be very hard to hate an altruist and so it's very effective to paint yourself as one. For example, if you yell at your target for not doing something you wanted, it's better to frame the outburst as a means of helping them. You can apologize for the outburst and tell them you felt they weren't acting in their best interest. You're sorry you got so emotional, but you care about them and want the best for them and it scares you to think that they don't have their best interests at heart. On the other side of the coin, when criticizing someone else's behavior, remind the target that you're there for them no matter what horrible thing someone else does. Always ask how you can help rather than simply criticize what others do.

Comments:
  • Sounds like the author has been scammed before and has learned a few things
  • My own "on guard" techniques:
    • As a Christian the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I'm not a scholar but I am a student. I've learned to test all things!
    • I do not make spur of the moment financial decisions.
    • I do not welcome door to door or phone solicitations (see My no soliciting sign.) Comments:
      • If it is the little girl or boy from up the street raising money for the Scouts ... I'm good with that (and help them out)
      • A certain Bible college that I give to annually calls me annually. I'm good with that too!
    • I am leery of preachers who use emotional appeals. I've never seen this at my current church!
    • Before I give money I check the organization out. If they haven't filed a 990 with the IRS and are not found on guidestar.org I won't give to that organization. (My church is exempt from this rule!) For an organization that meets that requirement and that we've given to this year consider Baptists for Haiti or Metro Womens Center. Both may be found on guidestar.org and both have filed 990's (you need to register for Guidestar (which is free) to view this data)
    • Before I buy (major purchases) I research, research, research. And price shop.
    • Investing. I check out the stock on finance.yahoo.com. I track in a watch list there (many other sites have the same functionality). Right now I am tracking about 100 dividend paying stocks (that are potential targets). I will never buy all of them but am tracking them all. Right now I have 6 stocks that are on my to-buy list. Top of that list right now is DuPont. I'm saving up to buy 100 shares. But that stock has been on my watch list for all of 2010.
    • I've learned to say "no" and be emphatic about it.
  • Three stories
    • Helping a widow buy a car. This goes way back to when I was in college. A widow woman needed a new car and enlisted my help. She wanted a 1971 Pontiac Ventura. I was living in Cincinnati at the time. I called every Pontiac dealership and basically negotiated the best price I could over the phone. I went with her to a dealership in Northern Kentucky and sealed the deal between them. I saved her well over a thousand dollars. This is much easier today with the Internet. I bought my last car from a dealership in Rice Lake Wisconsin. I had researched and price searched for several months. When I reached the deal, I put $ 100 down on my Visa, drove over on a Saturday and picked it up.
    • The vacuum cleaner salesman: (never let these guys in the door! (Do they even still do this?)). My wife had a vacuum cleaner salesman come to the house. I really wasn't that interested but we did need a new vacuum cleaner. I let the guy go through his whole song and dance. Kathee wanted it. I just flat out said "no" and he left. I called around using the Yellow Pages and found the same thing (same brand and model) at 50% of what the door to door guy wanted. Kathee was happy and I saved some money!
    • We were in Branson, Missouri for a week. Kathee was at the grocery store and bought some cheap show tickets (I think to Andy Williams). The hitch was that we had to sit through a 45 min time share presentation. I wasn't pleased by this but went along to what she had agreed to. I told the salesman right up front that there was no way I would buy a time share. I kept that up for the whole 45 minutes. He was red faced and angry at me but no means no. (I told Kathee ... never again will we go to a time share presentation ... I don't care what they are giving us!)

I'm with the guy from Bemidji

Minnesota Poll: Most oppose new Vikings stadium

Excerpt:

As the Minnesota Vikings push state officials for a new stadium in what many describe as a make-or-break year, two-thirds of Minnesotans say the team should stay in the Metrodome and 75 percent oppose public subsidies for the project, a new Minnesota Poll shows.

Yet the poll, which surveyed 1,206 adults, indicates a shift of opinion on the public money spent on the Minnesota Twins' new baseball stadium. While 40 percent still say the subsidy was not worth it, the poll shows that the level of approval for the public subsidy for Target Field has risen to 48 percent, up from 29 percent four years ago, before construction had started.

...

"They [the Vikings] can play in South America for all I care," said Marlin Waldvogel, a retired railroad worker from Bemidji. "If they want to have a stadium, let them pay for their own. If I want to build a swimming pool, you think the taxpayers [should] pay for it?"

Comment: The Dome has a lot of years left. Use the Dome!

10.24.2010

NAACP: Doesn't the organization have better things to worry about?

The NAACP's Unhealthy Tea Party Obsession

Excerpts:

The nation's unemployment rate is 9.6%, but it is 16.1% for blacks and an unconscionable 41% for black teens. Politicians continue to promote minimum-wage hikes that harm the job prospects of younger and less-skilled individuals, a disproportionate number of whom are black. Wal-Mart's attempts to open a store that would bring jobs and low-price goods to a depressed neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been thwarted repeatedly by labor unions. And the NAACP is issuing studies on the tea party movement?

...

Prisons are teeming with black men, a problem not unrelated to the dearth of decent educational choices for black families. In the current issue of National Affairs, David Kirp writes that "among 16- to 24-year-old black men not enrolled in school, fewer than half have jobs; about a third are in prison or jail, or on probation or parole." Blacks are 13% of the population but comprise 38% of prison or jail inmates in the U.S., and black-on-black violent crime is the norm. Blacks commit 52% of all murders and make up 49% of all murder victims—90% of them are killed by other blacks. Is this problem perhaps a little more pressing than supposed racial overtones in Michele Bachmann speeches?

Of course, the breakdown of the black family, 40 years in the making, goes a long way toward explaining all of the above. More than 70% of black children are born to single women. Compared with those born to married couples, out-of-wedlock children are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, commit crimes and abuse drugs. So long as only 35% of black children are living with two parents, it will be difficult to change the culture and values that predominate in the ghetto and produce these tragic outcomes.

It's hard to understand how an organization that says it's devoted to "end[ing] racial disparities" finds the time to rail against tea-party populism until you grasp that the NAACP is, first and foremost, a Democratic Party organ. The NAACP is pretending that the tea party threatens the interests of blacks because the tea party in fact threatens the interests of the Democratic left.

Comment: I confess that I do not completely understand the Tea Parties. Is this the official site? Is there an official organization / site? www.teapartypatriots.org. Regardless, the NAACP is out of touch with the real needs of the black community!

Noah knew about Verizon 3G

Another Look: The Advance Team Is Spreading the Word!

Excerpt:

... the convoluted prognostications of Harold Camping, who is behind this ad campaign. Since we are only a little more than a half a year away from the Rapture (May 21, 2011) and exactly a year away from the end of the world (Oct 21, 2011), ...

Comment: Camping is to warned about! Avoid this guy! Date setting is folly!

Thoughts on the ADF "Pulpit Freedom Sunday"

Comments: Related articles first

Iowa pastor preaches politics to oust 3 justices who backed gay marriage

Excerpt:

The Rev. Cary K. Gordon has a prayer he recites as he campaigns against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are up for retention in next month's election.

"Dear God," he says, "please allow the IRS to attack my church, so I can take them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Gordon, an associate pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, says he will defy federal law this month when he urges the congregation to vote to not retain the three justices, who participated in a unanimous ruling that allowed same-sex couples to wed. His mass mailing to 1,000 church leaders in September prompted one national religious liberty group to file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

Advocates of the separation of church and state and some religious leaders say Gordon's plan is illegal, immoral and an attempt to falsely frame his dispute as a freedom-of-speech violation. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., called Gordon's actions one of the most outrageous attempts to politicize a church that he has ever seen.

Others, such as Jeff Mullen, senior pastor of Point of Grace Church in Waukee, are urging Iowa pastors to communicate to their congregations the "biblical mandate for involvement in local and national elections."

Religious leaders on both sides of the gay marriage debate voiced strong opinions after last year's Iowa Supreme Court ruling. But on the Nov. 2 ballot question of whether to retain the three justices, many say they plan to stay silent.

The push by some churches comes in the heat of what could become the tightest retention election in history. A recent Iowa Poll found that 44% of Iowans who plan to cast a ballot in the retention election say they will vote to retain all three justices. Forty percent will vote to remove all three, and 16% say they want to retain some.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment.

Political campaign ban stems from '54 measure

Gordon's campaign, "Project Jeremiah 2010," is named for the Old Testament prophet who rails against forces that "defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination," and those who "handle the law."

Gordon said he has recruited leaders at more than 100 churches, which he declined to name, who will speak against Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit on the three consecutive Sundays before Election Day. The Liberty Institute, a socially conservative nonprofit group in Texas, has promised free legal protection to any church that joins the campaign.

The ban stems from a 1954 congressional amendment offered by then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, which prohibited churches and charities from engaging in political campaign activity. Churches cannot advocate for or against a specific candidate, but are free to lobby for or against ballot measures or speak about political issues.

Churches that violate the law can be warned, fined, or — in extreme cases — have their tax-exempt status revoked.

Gordon's plan is one of several efforts by conservative churches to challenge the IRS on a law they view as unconstitutional. The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona organization that promotes conservative biblical values, has sponsored a "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" in recent years, a day when pastors speak specifically about candidates for office.

Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, which supports gay marriage, said several church leaders contacted her when they received Gordon's letter. The alliance, working in conjunction with the "Justice, Not Politics" campaign to promote impartial courts, has not taken a stand on the retention vote.

"What the Cornerstone Church is doing is simply illegal and, in a lot of people's estimations, immoral," Terrell said. "Synagogues, churches and clergy can talk about the issue. They can talk about how their faith informs the issue. But they cannot cross that line and tell people how to vote."

Pastor: 'We are the authority' on marriage'

Pastors to defy IRS with endorsements

Excerpt:

Two Minnesota clergymen plan to thumb their noses at the federal government Sunday by endorsing political candidates from their pulpits.

In doing so, they hope the IRS will come after them, allowing them to wage a legal fight asserting their First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

"I'm going to violate the law and challenge it because I believe it to be entirely unconstitutional," said the Rev. Brad Brandon, pastor of the Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings. "I'd like to see something happen so I can get my free speech rights restored."


Hastings Pastor Defends Endorsing Candidates

Excerpt:

Brandon says the Johnson amendment of 1954 is what prohibits clergy from endorsing candidates. He wants it overturned.

"I'd love to see the IRS do something. I'd love to fight this in court and I would love to see a judge look me in the eye and say that the Johnson Amendment is constitutional," said Brandon.

Brandon says he did this to draw attention to a system he believes is taking away the freedoms of U.S. citizens.

Americans United files IRS complaint against church that endorsed Emmer

Excerpt:

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service Monday against Hastings’ Berean Bible Baptist Church and its pastor, Brad Brandon, for violating the ban on tax-exempt churches endorsing candidates. Brandon endorsed a slate of conservative candidates during his Sunday sermon after challenging the “liberal media” to report on his activities. AU urged the IRS to “investigate this matter and fully enforce our laws.”

AU cited the Minnesota Independent’s reporting on Brandon’s threats to endorse and his actual endorsement on Sunday.

“I believe this evidence indicates that the church violated federal law — and did so knowingly,” wrote the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of AU. “In fact, Pastor Brandon — the top official at the church — does not deny this and seems eager to be investigated by the IRS.”

On Sunday, Brandon endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Republican Dan Severson for Secretary of State, Republican Chris Barden for Attorney General and Republican Pat Anderson for State Auditor. He also endorsed Republican Randy Demmer in Minnesota’s First Congressional District, Rep. John Kline in Minnesota’s Second, Republican Teresa Collett in the Fourth, Rep. Michele Bachmann in the Sixth, and Lee Byberg in the Seventh. His two non-GOP nods went to independent Lynne Torgerson in the Fifth Congressional District and Constitution Party candidate Richard “George” Burton in the Eighth.

Brandon had been threatening the endorsements for a week on his radio program. To the “liberal media” he said, “Little immature human beings that are so wrapped up in your emotions that you couldn’t make a rational decision if it killed you, so please make this one decision for me — do it based on emotion. Do it out of hatred for me. File a complaint against mean old Pastor Brandon who is going to come out and endorse candidates.”

According to Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for AU, there’s a wide range of consequences that can occur when a non-profit endorses a candidate.

“All non-profit groups holding the 501(c)(3) designation — which includes houses of worship — may not intervene in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office,” he said. “Those who violate the law can lose their tax exemption, be audited, be fined or suffer lesser penalties, such as warnings from the IRS.”


Wayne Grudem: Pastors, not the government, should decide when they can speak about candidates from the pulpit

Excerpt:

ADF hopes that the IRS will follow through and try to revoke the tax-exempt status of one of these churches. If the IRS does so, ADF will immediately file a lawsuit to test the constitutionality of the Johnson amendment. If this ever comes to trial, ADF attorneys are confident that the amendment will be struck down as unconstitutional.

I agree with this effort and support ADF and these pastors in this challenge. The government should not be dictating to pastors and churches what they can and cannot preach about. Because of the Johnson amendment and an entire atmosphere of fear and excessive caution that have surrounded it, the crucial voice of the church in society has been muzzled for too long. It is time for the courts to overturn this law in accordance with the ringing declaration of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”


Comments: In response to Grudem
  • It is illegal: "in 1954, Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code to restrict the speech of non-profit organizations." Response: We agree that it is illegal. I grant his point that it has not been tested and not been reviewed by the SCOTUS. Nevertheless it is illegal. That alone should give one pause
  • It's unnecessary:
    • Pastors are clearly free to address moral issues. It has happened and continues to happen from pulpits in America. Issues such as same sex marriage, the evils of abortion etc are clearly permitted and has not been challenged
    • People are smart enough to connect the dots: Abortion is murder, candidate A supports choice, I am accountable for my vote, a vote for candidate A is to support abortion rights, etc.
  • Political activism is unedifying. People are bombarded with political speech (TV ads, media, mailings, etc) daily and especially in the lead up to election day. The great truths of the Bible and the message of our glorious Savior are much more edifying than political speech!
  • It''s not really a free speech issue. Outside of the pulpit the Pastor is free to speak as much as he wants about politics. He can blog about it (personal blog), put a bumper sticker on his car, put signs in his yard, personally support or campaign for any cause or candidate, etc.
  • It's a 501(c)(3) issue. The government provides some pretty amazing benefits to churches: no income tax, no property tax, a major portion of ordained Pastors' salary is exempt from income tax, freedom from sales tax, tax deductibility of donations, etc. If a church wants to enjoy those benefits, follow the rules for 501(c)(3). If a church elects to reject those restrictions, forfeit the 501(c)(3) protections.

More on the Alliance Defense Fund here

Tim Pawlenty: "A" grade in fiscal responsibility

A blue-state governor with red-state qualities

Excerpt:

In the four decades before Pawlenty was elected governor in 2002, the average two-year increase in state spending was 21 percent. During his tenure, the average annual increase has been 2 percent. He says that the current two-year budget cycle will be the first in 150 years in which spending will be cut in real, constant dollars.

It took, he said, "World War III" with the teachers unions to make Minnesota the first state to offer performance pay for teachers statewide. The state is second in the nation in health savings accounts: Approximately 10 percent of privately insured Minnesotans have these tax-preferred savings accounts that enable them to shop for routine health needs not covered by high-deductible insurance plans.

Pawlenty has benefited from an affliction -- Minnesota's Legislature. Currently, Republicans are outnumbered 47 to 87 in the House and 21 to 46 in the Senate. As a result, he has had, and has seized, ample opportunities to veto things, including increases in taxes on incomes, gasoline, beer and wine. He holds the Minnesota record for most vetoes cast in a single legislative session. The Cato Institute murmurs, "Be still my heart!"

A libertarian think tank ardent for government both limited and frugal, Cato gives A grades for fiscal responsibility to only four governors -- Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Bobby Jindal (R-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Pawlenty, the only one governing a blue state.

Comment: I don't know why governments need to grow at greater the rate of inflation! Pawlenty get's an A in my book too.

The Fall of the House of Glass


Comments: Not much time to comment on this but these articles with quoted sections basically say it all. Summary from me: prosperity gospel is false gospel!

Crystal Cathedral megachurch files for bankruptcy

Excerpt:

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, an Orange County landmark and megachurch founded by television evangelist Robert H. Schuller, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday morning.

The cathedral owes about about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors. The bankruptcy filing seeks court protection from its creditors.

In a statement issued Monday, Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said the bankruptcy filing was a necessity because a "small number of creditors chose to file lawsuits and obtained writ of attachment."

She said the cathedral also had no choice because a committee of creditors decided not to extend a moratorium to allow continued talks about a payment plan.

"For these reasons, the Ministry now finds it necessary to seek the protection of a Chapter 11," she said.

The Cathedral, which has been a landmark and a tourist attraction with its glistening glass tower, is now faced with $55 million in debt because of the economy and dwindling contributions.

Wall Street Journal: Crystal Cathedral's Cracks Show in Bankruptcy Filing

Excerpts:

The church's debt underscores the elaborate style that came to define the Crystal Cathedral, often cited as progenitor of the American mega church. For example, holiday pageants featured live animals, hundreds of performers and live music.

"They had the top choreographers come in and work with the dancers, the top make-up artists too," said Joe Branam, owner of Branam Enterprises in Compton, Calif., which builds stages for rock concerts and movies and did work for the church. "I'd say the Christmas show in many ways could be more elaborate than a KISS concert."

...

In 2009, Crystal Cathedral saw its revenue fall 29% to $18.8 million from $26.6 million in 2008, according to court documents. Church leaders note that giving has increased in 2010, but expenses still exceed revenue.

NY Times: Dispute Over Succession Clouds Megachurch

Excerpts:

Mr. Schuller [son of the founder] said that when he came on board, a meticulous effort to straighten out the membership rolls found only 900 to 1,100 regular congregants at Crystal Cathedral — which would mean that it was about 1,500 people short of even qualifying as a megachurch.

...

Things fell apart when the younger Mr. Schuller tried to institute basic good governance rules used by many nonprofit organizations. He wanted to remove anyone with a conflict of interest from the board. That meant unseating some of his sisters and their husbands as well as his parents, who were also employees.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.: Bankruptcy in the Cathedral

Excerpts:

Though ordained in the Reformed Church in America, Schuller minimized historic Christian orthodoxy and stressed instead the message of positive thinking. In his 1982 book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Schuller explicitly replaced the message of salvation from sin with a message of rescue from low self-esteem. In his 2001 autobiography, My Journey, Schuller told of the massive influence of Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale on his thinking and theology. He told of his decision early in his ministry to replace theology with therapy. “I realized that every sermon I preached (whether formally from the pulpit or casually at a coffee shop) should be designed, not to ‘teach’ or ‘convert’ people, but rather to encourage them, to give them a lift. I decided to adopt the spirit, style, strategy, and substance of a ‘therapist’ in the pulpit.”

...

In his 1986 book, Your Church Has a Fantastic Future, Schuller provided what he called “A Possibility Thinker’s Guide to a Successful Church.” The book is a manual for a ministry built on pure pragmatism, sensationalistic promotion, a therapeutic message, and a constant and incessant focus on thinking positively.

His message about money was simple: “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems,” he asserted.

In an odd and upside-down way, the news of bankruptcy at the Crystal Cathedral makes that point emphatically. The most significant problem at the Crystal Cathedral is not financial, but theological. The issue is not money, but this ministry’s message. The “gospel of success” is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, therapy is no substitute for theology, and “Possibility Thinking” is not the message of the Bible.

It turns out that Robert Schuller offers the best analysis of this crisis with his own words. “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems.” The theological crisis in Garden Grove is far more significant than the financial crisis.

List: Crystal Cathedral vendors and what they're owed

Final comments: This story has it all: poor governance, sloppy membership, ministry excesses, debt, false gospel, etc. Lessons abound even for the smallest church!

10.23.2010

T-Paw Welcomes Obama to Minnesota



Comment: www.timpawlenty.com

We do not need a US Pravda!

The Real Case for Defunding NPR

Excerpts:

My quarrel with government subsidies to NPR—via grants from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting—is that they cast a chill over the markets in which private entrepreneurs seek to raise capital for what might be called highbrow journalism.

...

It's been nearly two generations now since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. It's not clear to me, incidentally, what constitutionally enumerated power Congress was relying on to pass such an act

...

[There is a] school of economics known as public choice theory, which views the government as having its own economic interests and the state as not a protector but a competitor of private enterprise.

Comments:
  • In my mind it is simple. Why have the government do what the private sector already does efficiently!
  • Secondly, where is the true journalistic integrity of a news source partially funded by the government? Think of the old USSR and Pravda
  • It's difficult for private industry to complete against the 800 lb monopolistic Gorilla of the US Government. This has impact in many areas:
  • There is a Defund the NPR Facebook page for those interested


Races I'll be watching and why

In the past I've actually stayed up all night watching election returns, sometimes even taking the next day off to fully digest the returns. Two of the elections of my youth were of particular interest:


I won't be staying up all night this year (I'll be traveling to Charlotte on business that week), but these are the races I'll be following and why they interest me.

  • The Minnesota races in which I've already voted. Predictions: Mark Dayton (DFL) for Governor, Erik Paulsen (R) for Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, Terri E. Bonoff (DFL) for Minnesota Senate District 43, and Sarah Anderson (R) Minnesota State Representative - 43A
  • The other Minnesota congressional races interest me as well. Three in particular: Minnesota 8th (Prediction James Oberstar (DFL) but I sense that Chip Cravaack is closing); Minnesota 6th (Prediction Michele Bachmann (R). Interesting because of the big money in the race!
  • The Owatonna school district proposal to purchase Pillsbury is also of interest. There is scant polling to indicate how this may go but I predict it will fail because of general anti-tax sentiment. "Businesses are generally supportive of the Owatonna school district’s plan to purchase the former Pillsbury Baptist College campus in the heart of Owatonna. When the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism recently asked its members how they feel about the school district’s proposed acquisition of the Pillsbury College Campus, 41 percent said they favor the acquisition. In addition, 30 percent of respondents said they were still undecided about the proposal and 24 percent opposed."
  • Gubernatorial races of interest with predictions:
    • California: Prediction: Jerry Brown (D). I'm pulling for Meg Whitman but don't see it going that way. Brown will win and California will continue to remain ungovernable (see the Race to Save California)!
    • Pennsylvania: Prediction: Tom Corbett (R)
    • Wisconsin: Prediction: Scott Walker (R)
    • Texas: Of interest: Polls indicate and anti-incumbent sentiment. Prediction: Rick Perry (R)
    • Florida: Of interest because of the ways the polls have fluctuated. Prediction: None but hoping for Rick Scott R.
  • Senate races with predictions. (Comment: All are important and of interest but I highlight a handful)
    • Nevada: Prediction: Reid defeated! Yeah!!! (Republican pickup)
    • Illinois: Prediction: Kirk (Republican pickup)
    • Kentucky: Prediction: Rand Paul (R)
    • Florida: Prediction: Marco Rubio (R). Interesting because looks like Crist is not a factor.
    • Wisconin: Prediction: Feingold defeated (Republican pickup)
    • Alaska: Prediction: Joe Miller (R). Interesting because of the Murkowski write-in campaign. I don't think results will be known for several days or more! If Murkowski and Miller split, Scott McAdams could win and it would be a Democrat pickup.
    • Pennsylvania: Prediction: very close. Polls are closing. I'm hoping for a Republican pickup here
    • California: Prediction: Carly Fiorina won't win but a Boxer defeat would be huge!
    • West Virginia: Prediction: Unclear but the polls are very close. A Republican win would be a pickup.
    • Arkansas: Prediction: Republican pickup
    • Senate balance after elections: 52 Democrats / 48 Republicans. Pickups in California, Washington state, and West Virginia would be huge and tip the balance for the Republicans.
  • House of Representatives:

Way out on the line for 2012:
  • I think that the Republican ticket could be Mitt Romney (for President) paired with Tim Pawlenty. Evangelicals are skeptical of Mitt because of his Mormon faith. Pawlenty has strong Evangelical credentials and could balance "the faith" of the ticket and placate the social conservatives (who are largely Evangelical Christians). Both Romney and Pawlenty are well-qualified to have the highest office!
  • I personally think that Sarah Palin would be a disasterous pick for the Presidential ticket!
  • I think that it is probable that President Obama will be a one-term President.


Image Source: flickr

We are not exempt: "crippled by borrowing, by interest payments, by debt"

America at Debt's Door: A Primer

Excerpt:

Almost every year, the American federal government spends more money than it collects in taxes. For the just-finished 2010 budget year, it spent roughly $1.3 trillion more than it collected. That's the second-largest deficit in American history. The largest was the $1.4-trillion deficit in 2009. Both occurred during the Obama administration.

The largest deficit prior to the Obama administration was $455 billion in 2008 -- less than a third of the $1.4-trillion record set in 2009.

The sum of all the deficits the federal government has accumulated year after year is the federal debt, which is currently $13.6 trillion. Of that figure, $9 trillion is debt held by the public. The rest is money that one part of the federal government owes to another part. Most economists agree that the debt held by the public is what really affects the economy, and so that's the figure they focus on.

Except during World War II, the federal debt held by the public has never exceeded 50 percent of the nation's annual economic output. Not even during the Civil War, World War I, or any other war. Never.

That is, until now.

The federal debt held by the public currently represents 62 percent of the nation's annual economic output. And it's headed even higher.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the debt will reach 80 percent by 2035 if current laws prevail. However, if widely expected changes to current law are made, it will reach 90 percent by 2020, 110 percent by 2025, and 180 percent by 2035.

Under either scenario, the federal debt held by the public will grow faster than the nation's annual economic output.

The more it grows, the more the government will have to borrow. Of course, the government has to pay interest on what it borrows. This added interest will make the debt even larger.

According to the CBO, growing levels of debt relative to output increases the probability of a "sudden fiscal crisis."

If such a crisis occurred, lenders -- like China, which is the largest foreign lender to America -- would lose confidence in the American federal government's ability to pay them back. As a result, they would sharply raise the interest rates on the debt. This would lead to spiraling interest payments that would consume a rising proportion of tax revenue and rapidly raise the debt to unsustainable levels.

To lower the interest rates to affordable levels, policymakers would have to restore lenders' confidence by increasing taxes, cutting spending, or both.

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, recently said that the single biggest threat to national security is the federal debt.

The estimated $600 billion in interest on the federal debt in 2012 is "one year's worth of defense budget," Mullin said. He predicted that the defense budget will eventually be cut to accommodate the "wave of debt."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said, "We can't have a strong military if we have a weak economy."

The weakening of American military power would affect not just America. It would also affect those nations that rely on America for their security. What will happen to them when America is forced to reduce overseas military operations?

A large body of historical evidence supports the concept that empires rise or fall based on their economies. Take the British Empire, for example. Over a century ago, it expanded from economic to military to political power. At its height, the British Empire controlled roughly a quarter of the world's land surface. However, Britain's global dominance ended when its economy deteriorated.

During a speech at the Brookings Institution, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, "Spain under the Habsburgs, France under Louis XVI, the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, the British Empire in the 20th -- all of them were crippled by borrowing, by interest payments, by debt. We are not exempt. In every era, these fiscal issues are questions of national security and national success."

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