Fix the USPS: 5 views

In Rain, in Snow, but Not on Saturdays?


  1. Eliminate Saturday delivery ... Better Than a Bailout: The Postal Service says it can save $3 billion by cutting Saturday delivery
  2. Other Alternatives: Instead of cutting service, Congress should fix the prefunding [of future retiree health benefits] problem. Then it should explore ways to free the Postal Service to provide a broader array of useful services to businesses and the public — including Oregon-style vote by mail, low-cost banking and remittance services in underserved areas, utility meter reading and computer recycling services — that will generate new revenue and preserve universal mail delivery.
  3. Privatize and Commercialize: Eliminating Saturdays may be a further blow to its competitiveness. So, the Postal Service needs fundamental reform and it needs to develop a business model that will help it address the competition it faces. Postal services in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Australia, for example, have had success moving in the direction of privatization and commercialization.
  4. Better Choices: A good first step would be examining the possibility of Congress changing the payment schedule it imposed several years ago for financing future retiree costs. Next, both the Postal Service and the employee unions should work together to seek agreement on modest changes to work rules and the wage and benefit structure. And finally, Congress should investigate the possibility of allowing the Postal Service to streamline its vast network of facilities, which could save billions if done correctly.
  5. A Thorough Review: The U.S. Postal Service is a national icon, part of the fabric of our society. By law, if the Postal Service proposes a change with nationwide service implications, it must request an advisory opinion from my organization, the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission then establishes a comprehensive, on-the-record review of the Postal Service’s plan. Through regional hearings, public forums, formal testimony and evidence, the commission would explore the merits and deficiencies of the proposal. What level of service does the public still expect? Which day of the week would be eliminated? What about long holiday weekends?

Comment: I would be fine with 3 day a week delivery. I would like to see a national secure clearing house for ebilling. I also would like to see some sort of way that one could easily opt out of junk mail (we throw away 80% of our mail!).

"He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money" and six more!

7 stories Barack Obama doesn't want told

The list:

  1. He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money
  2. Too much Leonard Nimoy
  3. That’s the Chicago Way
  4. He’s a pushover
  5. He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe
  6. President Pelosi
  7. He’s in love with the man in the mirror

Comment: Worthwhile read!


Taking the private jet to Copenhagen


Harrison Ford, who is vice-chairman on the board of Conservation International, voices public-service messages for an environmental federation called EarthShare, and once shaved his chest hair to illustrate the effects of deforestation, is another hobby pilot. He once owned a Gulfstream but now makes do with a smaller Cessna Citation Sovereign eight-seater jet, four propeller planes and a helicopter.

Oprah Winfrey, who preaches eco-virtue from her TV pulpit, travelled in a 13-seat Gulfstream IV private jet for years — the preferred model for celebrities and the super-rich. (She has replaced it with a faster Bombardier Global Express.) The public first became aware of her private-jet habit when her plane had to make a forced landing in California in 2005; it was reminded of it this year after one of her stewardesses was fired for allegedly having sex with the pilot while Oprah and other passengers were asleep.

Jennifer Aniston told reporters that to save the Earth’s precious water resources she brushes her teeth while in the shower. But she also flew a hairdresser to Europe to accompany her on a recent publicity tour for the film Marley & Me.

Comment: Good to know that Jennifer brushes her teeth in the shower!


Online Banking: “Zero liability is now an industry standard"

Don’t Take This Bait (but You’re Safe if You Do)


Law enforcement agencies that oversee computer security are well versed in the many permutations of “phishing,” the scam in which fraudsters try to lure people to a counterfeit replica of their bank’s Web site, for example, and have them part with their user names and passwords.

But even the professionally wary can be gulled — or close to it. Just ask Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Mueller recently received an e-mail message that seemed to be from his bank. He clicked on the link and began to follow the instructions to “verify” his account information. Before completing the procedure, however, he realized that he had been led to a counterfeit site — so he left.

It’s the aftermath that is of most interest. After Mr. Mueller told his wife about his close call, he said she drew this conclusion from the experience: simply having online access to bank accounts is unacceptably risky.

“No more Internet banking for you,” she told him.

The F.B.I. director related the story in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in October. “Too little attention has been paid to cyber threats — and their consequences,” Mr. Mueller said that day.

He offered his own experience as a cautionary tale from “someone who spends a good deal of his professional life warning others about the perils of cybercrime,” yet who still came close to falling for a scam and “barely caught himself in time.” (The story ends there, and an F.B.I. spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined my interview request.)

An audience of civilians would naturally wonder, “What chance do we have of keeping our pockets from being picked?”

I’m not convinced, however, that online banking carries the high risk that Mr. Mueller implies. I know that as ordinary computer users, we are offered unlimited bait from phishers. But I’m not particularly worried: I’m not on the hook for losses from fraud — my bank is.

I could not find any online financial service — and I checked brokerage firms as well as banks — that stops short of promising to make a victimized customer whole.

Mr. Mueller, encouraging his audience to invest in “cybersecurity,” raised a terrifying specter when he spoke of guarding “against losing everything.” But how could I suffer “losing everything” at the hands of online criminals when my bank has this policy posted on its Web site: “We guarantee that you will be covered for 100 percent of funds removed from your Wells Fargo accounts in the unlikely event that someone you haven’t authorized removes those funds through our Online Services.”

“Zero liability is now an industry standard,” said Doug Johnson, vice president for risk management at the American Bankers Association. Restitution is full, and customers do not even have the $50 of exposure that credit card holders risk from unauthorized use of their cards.

Banks, online brokerage firms and payment sites like PayPal, exposed as they all are, would like for us to use more sophisticated security than a password to protect our accounts. One way to combat the phishing threat is to require that online customers supply a second piece of information when they log in, a one-time-only numeric code that is either generated by a little gizmo built for this purpose or is sent to the customer’s cellphone.

Your password is “something you know,” as security experts describe it, and the temporary security code is “something you have” — and something that a phishing fraudster would not. Requiring two dissimilar things is the essence of “two-factor authentication.”

Such a system isn’t perfect, but one can see why financial institutions would like to have a better lock installed on their front door. These institutions must proceed cautiously, however, lest they scare customers into abandoning online banking. At the moment, banks seem to be offering the security key system principally to customers with business accounts.

Teddy De Rivera, executive vice president in the Internet services group at Wells Fargo, said his bank would roll out its security key system more broadly over the next two years. Wells Fargo plans to require a code not every time a customer logs in, but only when its software detects a suspicious “high-risk transaction.” His group had collected feedback from customers who made clear that they “don’t want to have to use it every time,” he said.

Comment: I'm a big fan (Wells Fargo, and ING Direct)

An "unsustainable fiscal future" for US

Damn the deficit: Full speed ahead on health care


Apologists for the Obama administration argue that some 2009 spending, like that on financial bailouts, is nonrecurring. True, but as the Congressional Budget Office has reported, the trajectory of administration spending and revenue is pushing the annual deficit toward $1,000,000,000,000 -- that's $1 trillion -- for the next decade.

Congressional Democrats' health care bills threaten to add to that. The bill currently before the Senate is advertised as costing less than $1 trillion. But significant spending doesn't kick in till 2014 and over the ensuing 10 years adds up to $1.8 trillion, nearly double that.

Thanks to current low interest rates, servicing the debt costs the government only $200 billion this year. But the White House estimates that debt service will exceed $700 billion in 2019. "In a few years," the Economist editorializes, "the AAA rating of Treasury bonds, the world's most important security, could be in jeopardy."

It's not only Republicans who decry this prospect. Examining the Democrats' health care proposals, William Galston, domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, writes, "We're already facing an unsustainable fiscal future."

Looking further ahead, Scott Winship notes in the Progressive Policy Institute's progressivefix.com blog that federal spending is on course to exceed 40 percent of GDP because of scheduled spending on entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- within the lifetime of today's children.

Yet the congressional Democrats who are pressing to expand federal health care spending do not seem much fazed by the prospect that, as Winship writes, "the level of taxation it would require to meet projected spending needs is far higher than anything the country has ever seen-slash-tolerated."

That suggests that, at least for some Democrats, huge looming budget deficits are not a bug but a feature. Just as Ronald Reagan hoped that cutting taxes would force politicians to cut spending, these Democrats hope that increasing spending will force politicians to increase taxes to levels common in Western Europe. Never mind that those economies have proved more sluggish and less creative than ours over the long haul.

Comment: Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are destroying our country!

John Stumpf: no more acquistions for now

Big 3 won’t buy failed banks


In an interview with Atlanta Business Chronicle, John Stumpf, president and CEO of Wells Fargo, said the San Francisco-based financial services conglomerate would likely not be an acquirer in a regulator-assisted deal in Georgia or anywhere else.

“To the extent we participate in the consolidation of [the banking industry], our No. 1 job, No. 2 job and No. 3 job is getting Wells Fargo and Wachovia merged and do it exceedingly well,” Stumpf said Nov. 19 following meetings in Atlanta with top clients and regional management. (See Stumpf interview, Page 4A.)

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) acquired Wachovia in October 2008 and is grappling with the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank’s challenged loan portfolio. Industry watchers said the $1.3 trillion-in-assets mega-bank has its hands full, integrating Wachovia’s 3,300 branches, extensive business lines and dealing with legacy Wachovia’s rocky loan portfolio.

“We’re not going to play in the consolidation of the market unless it is very late in [traditional] merger activity, or if we are invited in some way [by regulators],” Stumpf said. “Otherwise, we’re saying grace over all the things we can say grace over right now.”

Wells Fargo/Wachovia is the second-largest bank in metro Atlanta.

Comment: Several more years before Wachovia completely merged!

Reinhold Niebuhr and the Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer Skeptic Now Credits Niebuhr


A Yale librarian who cast doubt last year on the origins of the Serenity Prayer, adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and reprinted on countless knickknacks, says new evidence has persuaded him to retain the famed Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr as the author in the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations.

The provenance of the prayer, which begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” became a subject of controversy last year with the publication of an article by the librarian, Fred R. Shapiro, who is also the editor of the book of quotations. Mr. Shapiro had found archival materials that led him to express doubt that Niebuhr was the author.

But now another researcher trawling the Internet has discovered evidence that attributes the prayer to Niebuhr. The researcher, Stephen Goranson, works in the circulation department at the Duke University library, has a doctorate from Duke in the history of religion and, as a sideline, searches for the origins of words and sayings and publishes his findings in etymology journals. This month he found a Christian student newsletter written in 1937 that cites Niebuhr as the prayer’s author.

The prayer in the newsletter is slightly different from the contemporary one often printed on mugs and wall plaques. It reads, “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”

The contemporary version puts the phrase about serenity before the one about courage, but Mr. Goranson said in an interview, “I think the 1937 document very much strengthens the probability that Niebuhr wrote it.”

Comment: Earlier post. Wiki. Final comment: The Christ-less prayer used by A.A.


Dubai's lesson

Dubai Debt Woes Raise Fear of Wider Problem


In a worst-case contagion, Bank of America analysts wrote Friday, “One cannot rule out — as a tail-risk — a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets in the same way that Argentina did in the early 2000s or Russia in the late 1990s.”

And not just emerging markets. “Dubai shows us that what we are now facing is a solvency issue, not a liquidity issue,” said Jonathan Tepper, a partner at Variant Perception, a research house in London that has been outspoken on the debt problems facing European economies.

On Wednesday, Dubai requested that Dubai World be allowed to skip six months of interest payments on its debt. Before then, Dubai World, the corporate face of the emirate, had commissioned the city state’s flashiest buildings, managed ports around the world and reached far overseas to invest in properties like Barneys in New York.

Now, just as Bear Stearns was a harbinger of a string of failures of overly leveraged investment banks, the concern is that Dubai could be the canary in the coal mine for heavily indebted countries. The debts of everyone, including Japan and the United States, not to mention emerging markets, have risen greatly as the countries have fought the ravages of the global recession.

Whether you are Dubai, Greece, Spain, Ireland or the U.K., you can print as much money as you want, but at the end of the day you have to pay the interest on your debt,” Mr. Tepper said.

Dubai is one of the few member states of the United Arab Emirates that has little oil wealth of its own. It acts as the trading, tourist and financial hub of the emirates. But it was assumed that the U.A.E.’s richest oil state, Abu Dhabi, would always bail out its free-spending neighbor.

Comment: If you've been following this blog, consider the errors of Iceland, Zimbabwe, and now Dubai. Also consider this blog post.

The Salahis: "were on the guest list"


A White House spokesman said the couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi of Virginia, met the president and first lady in a receiving line at their first state dinner, honoring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. That disclosure coincided with a statement in which the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, said his agency was “deeply concerned and embarrassed” by the events at the dinner Tuesday night.

“The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely,” Mr. Sullivan said. “That failing is ours.”

Comment: Snap shot from the NY Times article

Trusting this administration for security

Would-be reality TV stars crash Obama party


A couple of aspiring reality-TV stars from Northern Virginia appear to have crashed the White House’s state dinner Tuesday night, penetrating layers of security with no invitation to mingle with the likes of Vice President Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi — polo-playing socialites known for a bitter family feud over a Fauquier County winery and their possible roles in the forthcoming “The Real Housewives of Washington” — were seen arriving at the White House and later posted on Facebook photos of themselves with VIPs at the elite gathering.

“Honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honor of India with President Obama and our First Lady!” one of them wrote on their joint Facebook page at 9:08 p.m.

Comment: Good to know that US security is in the hands of this administration!

No white enough to be civil rights hero?!

From Footnote to Fame in Civil Rights History


“Young people think Rosa Parks just sat down on a bus and ended segregation, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Ms. Colvin said in an animated interview at a diner near her apartment in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. “Maybe by telling my story — something I was afraid to do for a long time — kids will have a better understanding about what the civil rights movement was about.”

Ms. Colvin made her stand on March 2, 1955, and Mrs. Parks made hers on Dec. 1 that same year. Somehow, as Mrs. Parks became one of Time Magazine’s 100 most important people of the 20th century, and streets and schools were named after her, Ms. Colvin managed to let go of any bitterness. After Ms. Colvin was arrested, Mrs. Parks, a seasoned N.A.A.C.P. official, sometimes let her spend the night at her apartment. Ms. Colvin remembers her as a reserved but kindly woman who fixed her snacks of peanut butter on Ritz crackers.

“My mother told me to be quiet about what I did,” Ms. Colvin recalled. “She told me: ‘Let Rosa be the one. White people aren’t going to bother Rosa — her skin is lighter than yours and they like her.’ ”

Comment: Where's Jesse Jackson when you need him!



WSJ: The impression left by the Climategate emails is that the global warming game has been rigged from the start


According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges that critics have lobbed at climatologists from outside this clique are routinely dismissed and disparaged.

Comment: Creation science is also suppressed: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Obama addicted to the “unprecedented”

The White House's unprecedented use of 'unprecedented'


The White House’s announcement of its unprecedented — “a first by an American president visiting China” — town hall meeting with students in Beijing, for instance, drew a collective eye roll in certain circles back home, namely among former aides to President George W. Bush, who had already been grumbling about Obama’s carefree application of “unprecedented.”

“I think I attended a town hall with President Bush in China,” former Bush adviser Karen Hughes quipped with a laugh, recalling a 2002 Bush speech in Beijing at which he took questions from the audience. “I thought: Were they asleep? Or were they dreaming? I remember standing and watching President Bush engage in a town hall that I believe was televised.”

President Bill Clinton also took questions from Chinese students at an event during a trip to the country in 1998, then did a radio call-in show in Shanghai the next day.

The White House’s characterization of Obama’s Beijing town hall mirrored the description staff gave Obama’s address to students on the first day of school, which the Education Department called “historic.” Yet President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to students, as did President Ronald Reagan. Maybe it was the streaming online video of Obama’s speech to students that was unprecedented?

Comment: Less impressed with President golden tongue every day!


The quiet eloquence of Calvin Coolidge

Not-So-Silent Cal Wrote With Eloquence


The near reverential devotion to thrift: "There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means."


The abhorrence of waste: "Wealth comes from industry and from the hard experience of human toil. To dissipate it in waste and extravagance is disloyalty to humanity."


As to leading the nation, he asserts "all situations that arise are likely to be simplified, and many of them completely solved, by an application of the Constitution and the law."


And on presidential hubris, he warns: "It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions."

Comment: Interesting!

Modernizing flu vaccine production

Vaccine Makers Struggle to Speed Output


... the U.S. is still struggling to modernize and speed up production of vaccinations against deadly pandemics like swine flu. The system is undermined by a lack of manufacturing plants and by decades-old technology that takes six to nine months to make flu vaccine.

The new Novartis plant, heavily financed by the U.S. government, represents one of the biggest steps in 60 years toward modernizing flu-vaccine manufacturing in the U.S. It uses new technology to grow flu viruses in vats of cells derived from dog kidneys, and uses these viruses to make vaccine. The decades-old process involves growing the virus in chicken eggs.

Novartis says the new approach could shave four to six weeks off the time needed to make each shot. The plant has other advantages: If a deadly avian-flu virus hit, it could kill scores of chickens and endanger the supply of eggs needed to make vaccine the old-fashioned way. Cell-culture technology removes that risk.

Comment: Interesting because explains cell-culture technology (select article for nice graphic). Democrats want to impose higher taxes on vaccine producers (below):

Reform tax would hit H1N1 vaccine manufacturers


Carter's fecklessness .... Obama's inheritance

The Carter Ricochet Effect


Mr. Carter had set out to make America as inoffensive as possible. Two weeks before Juhayman seized the Grand Mosque, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage. They did so after Mr. Carter had refused to bail out the Shah, as the Eisenhower administration had in 1953, and after Andrew Young, Mr. Carter's U.N. ambassador, had described the Ayatollah Khomeini as "somewhat of a saint."


President Obama likes to bemoan the "mess" he inherited overseas, the finger pointed squarely at President Bush. But the real mess he inherited comes straight out of 1979, the serial debacles of which define American challenges in the Middle East just as surely as the triumphs of 1989 define our opportunities in Europe. True, the furies that were unleashed that year in Mecca, Tehran and elsewhere in the Muslim world were not of America's making. But absence of guilt is no excuse for innocence of policy.

Pretty soon, Mr. Obama will have his own Meccas and Tehrans to deal with, perhaps in Jerusalem and Cairo. He would do well to cast a backward glance at the tenure of his fellow Nobel peace laureate, as an object lesson in how even the purest of motives can lead to the most disastrous results.

Comment: In contrast with Joe L .... a guy I really don't like (but I was foolish enough to vote for him!)

Democrats don't "mind if it costs too much or has some bad consequences"

Joe Lieberman: The Other Senate Maverick


For Democrats, getting a big health-care bill to Barack Obama's desk is akin to FDR's signing the Social Security Act.

Never mind if it costs too much or has some bad consequences. Ask yourself this: Whether it's Social Security or public education, when have Democrats ever cared whether government programs are meeting their goals? The important thing is that massive health-care spending shows they care.

So when Mr. Lieberman says he's going to filibuster, he's not just working against a piece of legislation. He's taking on an almost religious faith—and the opportunity to push through something Democrats believe will secure their place in history.

Comment: I'm a Joe fan!

Plane Stupid ad


Comment: Provocative, graphic, stupid! See comments here

The Fonz is Vindicated


National Debt:: a trifecta of headaches

Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government


Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.

Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.

With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.

In concrete terms, an additional $500 billion a year in interest expense would total more than the combined federal budgets this year for education, energy, homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Comment: Wait til this bill comes due!


Etrade Baby -Outtakes

Comment: His view on the economy!

On Picky Eaters

Complaint Box | Picky Eaters


having a simple dinner with the people I love now requires a nutritionist, an Excel spreadsheet and considerably more patience and culinary skill than I possess.

The very last straw was a friend who called before her family came for dinner and — without a hint of shame — presented me with a detailed list of their food requirements: Her husband doesn’t care for shrimp, her son requires a pasta side dish with every meal, and none of them eat the dark meat of chicken, which she dismissed savagely as “dreck.”

I have had enough with people who want to have it their way, and I am done catering to the quirks of food-obsessed numskulls. If you eat in my home, I will grudgingly respect medically diagnosed allergies, since it puts a pall on conversation when a guest goes into anaphylactic shock at the dinner table. But beyond that, I expect you to eat what you can, ignore the rest and not make trouble. On Thursday, 15 people are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and with God as my witness, I promise you this: There will be dark meat.

Comment: My Father in Law would not eat fish of any kind. He also did not want any foods on his plate to touch other foods (vegetables must not touch mashed potatoes!). I have a relative who announced that he would not eat ham ... but then had three helpings of the same at a dinner. Or another ... only free range chicken. On the other hand I will not eat squash.

Hurrah for Catholic backbone!

Kennedy: Barred from Communion


Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has forbidden Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy to receive the Roman Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion because of his advocacy of abortion rights, the Rhode Island Democrat said Friday.

“The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s injunction.

Comment: Previous post

"a streetcar named Opportunism'

Sweeteners for the South


Staffers on Capitol Hill were calling it the Louisiana Purchase.

On the eve of Saturday's showdown in the Senate over health-care reform, Democratic leaders still hadn't secured the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 60 votes needed to keep the legislation alive. The wavering lawmaker was offered a sweetener: at least $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.

And so it came to pass that Landrieu walked onto the Senate floor midafternoon Saturday to announce her aye vote -- and to trumpet the financial "fix" she had arranged for Louisiana. "I am not going to be defensive," she declared. "And it's not a $100 million fix. It's a $300 million fix."

It was an awkward moment (not least because her figure is 20 times the original Louisiana Purchase price). But it was fairly representative of a Senate debate that seems to be scripted in the Southern Gothic style. The plot was gripping -- the bill survived Saturday's procedural test without a single vote to spare -- and it brought out the rank partisanship, the self-absorption and all the other pathologies of modern politics. If that wasn't enough of a Tennessee Williams story line, the debate even had, playing the lead role, a Southerner named Blanche with a flair for the dramatic.

After Landrieu threw in her support (she asserted that the extra Medicaid funds were "not the reason" for her vote), the lone holdout in the 60-member Democratic caucus was Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Like other Democratic moderates who knew a single vote could kill the bill, she took a streetcar named Opportunism, transferred to one called Wavering and made off with concessions of her own. Indeed, the all-Saturday debate, which ended with an 8 p.m. vote, occurred only because Democratic leaders had yielded to her request for more time.

Comment: Previous post (how it was done)


Too many "apps for that"?

Comment: Humorous but somewhat adult (one minor section)

Martin Luther: On wine and women

Martin Luther: On wine and women


Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?

Comment: From the Puritan Board


Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed

Idle Hands: Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed


More than just an annual turkey fest, the Puritans gave America a pedagogy of work and an attitude toward life that upsets the modern notion that a person's occupation equals his value. A man's worth, the Puritans might advise the unemployed Steve Lee, lay in his service to God and to his fellow man, not in titles or financial portfolios. Rather than seeing life as a series of random events, the Puritan's belief in Providence imputed a profound sense of a loving God's purpose for him, a purpose that left very little room for despair.

Comment: Worthwhile from the Wall Street Journal

Buying off Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu

The $100 Million Health Care Vote?


On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster.”

The section spends two pages defining which “states” would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that “during the preceding 7 fiscal years” have been declared a “major disaster area.”

I am told the section applies to exactly one state: Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world: Louisiana. (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost? According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.

Comment: Read the entire article for the legalese!

Oops (updated )

Comment: I hate it when that happens. (Note the guy in the stern! (middle photo))

Source: Oops--$500,000 Yacht Gets Dropped

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. -- Officials are trying to figure out how a cabin cruiser worth half a million dollars was dropped while being unloaded from a freighter.

The yacht was being hoisted off the freighter and into the water at Port Everglades Wednesday afternoon when it suddenly fell, landing on a dock.

Investigators are trying to determine if the incident was caused by operator error or a mechanical malfunction in the crane.

The damage to the 50-foot cabin cruiser is still being determined. There is no word yet on who the yacht belongs to.

Investigators did say that there was no evidence of any criminal intent in the incident. No injuries were reported.

Pics source

Update: The article is not the correct one .... seems this happens more than one would think!


Snopes "Failure to Launch" (True!)

Riding Down The Marquis (Event Date: March 7 2007 - At Port Jebel Ali) (scroll down for photos)

Read the 2074 page bill in the Senate!

Health bill could get 34-hour reading in Senate


The 2,074-page Senate health care bill would take 34 hours to read cover to cover -- and that's just what Sen. Tom Coburn wants done on the Senate floor.

The Oklahoma Republican has threatened to invoke parliamentary rules to force the Senate clerk (or more likely, a team of clerks) to read the massive bill before the full Senate begins formal debate on the legislation.

The move is strictly according to Senate rules, which say any senator can demand a bill be read in its entirety before debate begins. While Democrats could, if they wish, repeatedly make motions to end the soliloquy, Republicans on the floor could object, and the reading would continue.

What's even more interesting is that Senate Rule XIV (paragraph 2) states that every bill and joint resolution "shall receive three readings prior to its passage."

Comment: Read it three times!

The constitution and health care reform

Unlawful health reform?


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says Congress can tax — i.e., punish — people who do not buy insurance because the Constitution empowers Congress to tax for "the general welfare." So, could Congress tax persons who do not exercise or eat their spinach?

When asked whether any compulsory insurance purchases are constitutional, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was genuinely astonished: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" In 1803, in Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, "The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the Constitution is written." He was serious.

Comment: "the Constitution ... what's the Constitution?!"

Jesse Jackson at it again!

Jesse Jackson: 'You can't vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man'


The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats’ signature healthcare bill.

“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

Comment: No comment other than the title!

Lewis Millet: from Army deserter to colonel

Col. Lewis Millett, Who Led ‘Bayonet Hill’ Charge, Dies at 88


During the fighting near Osan, South Korea, Captain Millett’s unit encountered Communist troops atop a spot called Hill 180.

It would be remembered as Bayonet Hill for what the military historian Brig. Gen. S. L. A. Marshall would call “the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor,” a reference to the carnage at an 1864 Civil War battle in Virginia.

After ordering his men to fix bayonets, Captain Millett charged up the hill in front of them in the face of heavy fire, blasting away with his carbine, throwing grenades and, most spectacularly, wielding his bayonet when he encountered three enemy soldiers in a V-shaped gun position.

“I assaulted an antitank rifle crew,” he told Military History magazine in 2002. “The man at the point was the gunner. I bayoneted him. The next man reached for something, I think it was a machine pistol, but I bayoneted him — got him in the throat.”

The third soldier had a submachine gun.

“I guess the sight of me, red-faced and screaming, made him freeze,” he recalled. “Otherwise he would have killed me. I lunged forward and the bayonet went into his forehead. With the adrenaline flowing you’re strong as a bull. It was like going into a watermelon.”

Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments, but his men took the hill. President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor in July 1951. As the citation put it, “His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder.”

Comment: Celebrating an American hero! More info below:


Pontiac Silverdome sells for .... $583,000

Silverdome sells for ... less than a house


An unidentified Canadian real estate company was the winning bidder for the Silverdome, snatching it up for a mere fraction of its original value.

A Toronto-based family-owned company bid $583,000 for the under-used stadium on Monday, which is currently owned by the City of Pontiac, Mich., according to auctioneer Williams & Williams.

The company plans to refurbish the Silverdome into a stadium for men's Major League Soccer and women's professional soccer teams, said the auctioneer. While the stadium was the former home of the National Football League's Detroit Lions, it also played host to some of the World Cup games in 1994. Brazil's victory over Italy occurred elsewhere, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Comment: Kathee and I went to Lions / Bears game on Thanksgiving Day in 1979 (I think it was '79. Lions beat the Bears. What a fine venue!

Church w Elder looking for a Pastor

Vacant Pulpit

We are still looking for a new pastor. Does anyone know of a Reformed man looking for a call to a church??
Please PM me!


Comment: What's wrong with this picture? (I captured it today off from a Christian forum). An Elder is a Pastor. An Elder should be apt to teach. Proof: 1 Timothy 3 w. 1 Peter 5:1-4

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

"Falling Soldier" and the nature of Truth

George Will: An image evaporates


In 1995, the controversy seemed to have been settled in Capa's favor when the fallen soldier supposedly was identified as Federico Borrell Garcia, an anarchist militiaman. But a 2007 Spanish documentary included a written eyewitness account of Borrell dying many miles away, behind a tree. There are no trees in the many pictures Capa took when he took "Falling Soldier."

The coolly analytic professionals at the International Center of Photography in Midtown Manhattan, which has the Capa archives, are commendably dispassionate about the "Falling Soldier" controversy. They also avoid postmodern mush, such as: All photographs are manipulative fabrications because the photographer chooses to point the camera here and not there, and, anyway, "Falling Soldier" is "basically" truthful because it illustrates the "essential truth" about war.

Capa was a man of the left, and "Falling Soldier" helped to alarm the world about fascism rampant. But noble purposes do not validate misrepresentations. Richard Whelan, Capa's biographer, calls it "trivializing" to insist on knowing whether this photo actually shows a soldier mortally wounded. Whelan says that "the picture's greatness actually lies in its symbolic implications, not in its literal accuracy."

Rubbish. The picture's greatness evaporates if its veracity is fictitious. To argue otherwise is to endorse high-minded duplicity — and to trivialize Capa, who saw a surfeit of 20th-century war and neither flinched from its horrors nor retreated into an "I am a camera" detachment. As a warning about well-meaning falsifications of history, "Falling Soldier" matters because Capa probably fabricated reality to serve what he called "concerned photography." But this, too, matters:

There was the integrity of constant bravery in Capa's life, which was a headlong rush toward danger. He arrived on Omaha Beach with the first soldiers early on June 6, 1944, and was only 40 in 1954 when, on the move with French troops in Vietnam, he stepped on a land mine

Resources (Wiki): Robert Capa and Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936

Comment: It's like those who claim to be Christian but disbelieve His resurrection. If He rose from the dead, He demonstrated His Messiahship. If he did not ... he is NOT the Christ!

Advice on Fifth Third (FITB)

Award Winning Banking Analyst From FBR Capital Markets Picks Financial Sector Investment Winners


You've got to invest in certain balance sheets that are beaten up. You've got to be careful to stay away from the rich stocks like the Wells Fargos, USBs (USB), BB&Ts (BBT) and focus on those companies that are trading at book or below book, like a Fifth Third (FITB), like a KeyCorp (KEY), which is trading a little bit above book. That's where you want to focus on now, on companies that don't make money. It seems kind of odd to be recommending stocks that don't make money, but they are trading at book or right around book whereas some of these other banks, like Wells Fargo (WFC), are trading close to three times book. We think there is very little upside in owning Wells Fargo at these levels.

Comment: I sold all our Wells Fargo. Still have 1000 shares of FITB that I bought for a buck back in February. (In all of my years of investing, Fifth Third, is the only stock that I have bought that has done so well in such a short amount of time. I wish I would have bought 20,000 shares!)


Trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Is America at war, or not?


For if we are at war, why is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed headed for trial in federal court in the Southern District of New York? Why is he entitled to a presumption of innocence and all of the constitutional protections of a U.S. citizen?

Is it possible we have done an injustice to this man by keeping him locked up all these years without trial? For that is what this trial implies – that he may not be guilty.

And if we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that KSM was complicit in mass murder, by what right do we send Predators and Special Forces to kill his al-Qaida comrades wherever we find them? For none of them has been granted a fair trial.

When the Justice Department sets up a task force to wage war on a crime organization like the Mafia or MS-13, no U.S. official has a right to shoot Mafia or gang members on sight. No one has a right to bomb their homes. No one has a right to regard the possible death of their wives and children in an attack as acceptable collateral damage.


What do we do if the case against KSM is thrown out because the government refuses to reveal sources or methods, or if he gets a hung jury, or is acquitted, or has his conviction overturned?

Comment: Worthwhile read. Trying him in a civil court is a giant mistake!

Paris theoretically stricter than hardline Sudan?

Women banned from wearing trousers in Paris


The rule banning women from dressing like men – namely by wearing trousers - was first introduced in 1800 by Paris' police chief and has survived repeated attempts to repeal it.

The 1800 rule stipulated than any Parisienne wishing to dress like a man "must present herself to Paris' main police station to obtain authorisation".

In 1892 it was slightly relaxed thanks to an amendment which said trousers were permitted "as long as the woman is holding the reins of a horse".

Then in 1909, the decree was further watered down when an extra clause was added to allow women in trousers on condition they were "on a bicycle or holding it by the handlebars".

In 1969, amid a global movement towards gender equality, the Paris council asked the city's police chief to bin the decree. His response was: "It is unwise to change texts which foreseen or unforeseen variations in fashion can return to the fore."

The latest attempt to remove the outmoded rule was in 2003, when a Right-wing MP from President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party wrote to the minister in charge of gender equality. The minister's response was: "Disuse is sometimes more efficient than (state) intervention in adapting the law to changing morays."

As Evelyne Pisier, a law professor whose book Le Droit des Femmes (The Rights of Women) unearthed the curious decree points out, given that trousers are compulsory for Parisian policewoman, they are all breaking the law.

Comment: Humorous!

Health care deform: "bending the curve the wrong way"

China questions costs of U.S. healthcare reform


... the Chinese are kind of curious about how President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plans would impact America’s huge fiscal deficit. Government officials are using his Asian trip as an opportunity to ask the White House questions. Detailed questions.

Boilerplate assurances that America won’t default on its debt or inflate the shortfall away are apparently not cutting it. Nor should they, when one owns nearly $2 trillion in assets denominated in the currency of a country about to double its national debt over the next decade.

Nothing happening in Washington today should give Beijing any comfort or confidence about what may happen tomorrow. Healthcare reform was originally promoted as a way to “bend the curve” on escalating entitlement costs, the major part of which is financing Medicare and Medicaid. That is looking more and more like an overpromised deliverable.

For instance, a new study from the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that the healthcare reform bill recently passed in the House of Representatives would increase healthcare spending to 21.3 percent of GDP by 2019 compared with 20.8 percent under current law. That’s bending the curve the wrong way. The study also questions the “long-term viability” of the $500 billion in Medicare cuts meant to help pay for expanded insurance coverage.

Comment: Gotta love it when the communists question the wisdom of our health care reform. Their worry? They have upwards of a $ Trillion in US Treasuries. And they are watching the buck decline!

More job losses?

The worst is yet to come: Unemployed Americans should hunker down for more job losses


Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening. While the official unemployment rate is already 10.2% and another 200,000 jobs were lost in October, when you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers the figure is a whopping 17.5%.

While losing 200,000 jobs per month is better than the 700,000 jobs lost in January, current job losses still average more than the per month rate of 150,000 during the last recession.

Also, remember: The last recession ended in November 2001, but job losses continued for more than a year and half until June of 2003; ditto for the 1990-91 recession.

So we can expect that job losses will continue until the end of 2010 at the earliest. In other words, if you are unemployed and looking for work and just waiting for the economy to turn the corner, you had better hunker down. All the economic numbers suggest this will take a while.

Comment: Hiring always lags bottoming out of recession.


Bernanke's "delicate dance"

Fed Will Keep Eye on Sliding Dollar


Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday said the central bank will keep a close eye on the sliding U.S. dollar even as he pledged anew to keep interest rates at record-lows to nurture the economic recovery.

In remarks to the Economic Club of New York, Bernanke engaged in a delicate dance.

He made clear Fed policymakers will keep rates at super-low levels. Yet through his words, Bernanke is also trying to bolster confidence in the dollar without actually raising rates, a move that could short-circuit the fragile recovery.

Economists say a free-fall in the value of the dollar is remote but can't be entirely dismissed.

Although low interest rates can put additional downward pressure on the dollar, they are needed to encourage American consumers and businesses to spend more and fuel the economic turnaround.

Comment: If he holds interest rates low to stimulate the economy, the dollar will continue to drop (or at least be suppressed). Raise interest rates (savers would rejoice!) would prop the dollar but hurt the recovery.


Raising the debt ceiling (again)

U.S. Treasury Confident Congress Will Increase Debt Ceiling


The Obama administration is confident Congress will raise the country’s debt limit by year end to avert a showdown similar to the one that shuttered parts of the government in 1995, administration officials said.

The White House wants an increase of at least $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion, according to a person familiar with the deliberations between lawmakers and the administration. Record budget deficits are pushing the national debt closer to the $12.1 trillion statutory limit.

Comment: Kinda like owing Bank of America $ 14,000 and asking them to raise your credit limit to $ 15,000.

Bernie's IT guys and "House 17"


Two former employees for Bernard Madoff programmed an old IBM computer to generate false records that concealed the money manager's massive Ponzi scheme and were given hush money when they threatened to stop lying, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Madoff gave orders to pay the pair "whatever they wanted to keep them happy," a criminal complaint said.

The computer programmers, Jerome O'Hara, of Malverne, N.Y., and George Perez, of East Brunswick, N.J., were arrested Friday at their homes. They were to appear in a Manhattan court to face conspiracy, falsifying records and other charges.

"Without the help of O'Hara and Perez, the Madoff fraud would not have been possible," George S. Canellos, director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's New York Regional Office, said in a statement.

Their attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.

Prosecutors alleged that O'Hara and Perez were hired by Madoff's firm in the early 1990s to develop and maintain programs using a computer known as "House 17." The programs allowed Madoff to generate account statements for thousands of clients "that purported to confirm the purchases of securities that, in fact, had not been purchased," the complaint said.

Madoff and his chief financial officer, Frank DiPascali, directed the defendants to use their computer skills to produce other false documents designed to deceive the SEC. The agency brought similar charges against the men on Friday in a parallel civil complaint.

In what the SEC called "a crisis of conscience" in 2006, O'Hara and Perez deleted 218 of the 225 special programs from the House 17 computer, and withdrew thousands of dollars from their own accounts with the firm, authorities said.

Comment: You know that IT guys had to be behind perpetuating the fraud. Jail time needed for those guys. By the way ... where was the audit department? Risk management? Etc.

Sarah Palin: "Going Whiner"!

Palin: McCain aides kept me ‘bottled up’


The rumors are true, according to Sarah Palin. The McCain-Palin campaign was not a happy family.

In Palin's "Going Rogue," Palin confirms reports of tension between her aides and those of the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain. The vice presidential candidate confirms that she had wanted to speak on election night, but was denied the chance and says she was kept "bottled up" from reporters during the campaign.

Palin also writes harshly of CBS anchor Katie Couric, whom she describes as "badgering" and biased.

Comment: Sarah was a disasterous pick for VP. She is NOT the future of the Repubican party.


Wells Fargo: Signage change in Colorado for Wachovia

Hey, Colorado, welcome aboard the stagecoach!


It's official: Most Wachovia customers in Colorado are now Wells Fargo customers, following the weekend's state-wide conversion! (Those who aren't yet, don't worry — you'll convert at a later time. We're being very deliberate in order to provide you with best customer experience possible.)

Comment: with before and after at the Boulder location.

Overdraft fees: A common sense ruling

Fed Bans Mandatory Overdraft Protection


The Federal Reserve announced new rules on Thursday that will prohibit banks from automatically enrolling customers in so-called overdraft protection programs, which charge high fees for exceeding the balance in an account.

The programs have been a large source of revenue for banks and apply to consumers using debit cards or ATMs. Typically, the programs have been pitched to bank customers as a useful service. Under them, institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup approve transactions, even if a customer has insufficient funds in his account. The banks then levy fees of $25 to $40 per transaction.

Consumers have blasted banks for imposing multiple overdraft fees when customers exceed balances by as little as 50 cents. Starting next July, banks will have to convince get customers’ consent to opting into overdraft programs, rather than automatically enrolling them.

"The final overdraft rules represent an important step forward in consumer protection," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in a statement. "Both new and existing account holders will be able to make informed decisions about whether to sign up for an overdraft service."

Comment: No more mandatory "Opt In". Of course for those that Opt Out .... they may swipe a debit card for a purchase and be declined. By the way Wells Fargo has something called Text Banking that is free to Wells Fargo customers. More information here: Text Banking. I don't have a fancy web enabled phone so I cannot use their Mobile Banking at wf.com service. But the text banking is pretty cool and even an old guy like me could figure it out.

Felony for Balloon-boy Dad

Lawyer: Colo. balloon boy parents to plead guilty


The Colorado parents who reported their 6-year-old son floated away aboard a helium balloon will plead guilty to some charges and serve probation so that the family can stay together, the attorney for the boy's father said Thursday.

Richard Heene will plead guilty in the alleged Oct. 15 hoax to attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, his attorney David Lane said. Mayumi Heene—a Japanese citizen who could have been deported if convicted of more serious charges—will plead guilty to false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor, he said.

Comment: If I ever hear about Richard Heene after today .... GONNA GAG!

Bishop: Pro-abortion Kennedy's "false advertising"

Rep. Kennedy and Bishop in Bitter Rift on Abortion


Bishop Tobin stepped up his public rebuke of Mr. Kennedy, accusing him Wednesday of “false advertising” for describing himself as a Catholic and saying he should not receive holy communion because he supports using taxpayer money for abortions.

“If you freely choose to be a Catholic, it means you believe certain things, you do certain things,” Bishop Tobin said on WPRO, a Providence radio station. “If you cannot do all that in conscience, then you should perhaps feel free to go somewhere else.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has lobbied forcefully against including federal financing for abortion in the health care legislation, and Bishop Tobin, who has led the Catholic Church in Rhode Island since 2005, has been a vocal participant.

His conflict with Mr. Kennedy — an unusually personal example of the pressure Catholic bishops are bringing to bear on the health care debate — started last month, when Mr. Kennedy, a Democrat in his eighth term, questioned why the church had vowed to fight any health care bill that did not explicitly ban the use of public money for abortions.

In an interview with Cybercast News Service on Oct. 21, Mr. Kennedy said he could not understand “how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time,” adding that its stance was fanning “flames of dissent and discord.”

The next day, Bishop Tobin called the comments “irresponsible and ignorant of the facts” and Mr. Kennedy “a disappointment” to the church.

Comment: The pro-abortion (they call themselves' "pro-life") Catholic congressmen should just be honest and quit the Catholic church. Or perhaps the Catholic church should excommunicate them!


Jimmy Carter all over again?

Fred Barnes: It's like Jimmy Carter never left town


Today's struggles between conservatives and moderates are mere skirmishes compared with the titanic intraparty battle touched off by Ronald Reagan's challenge of President Ford for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. Ford's dreamy Democratic successor, Jimmy Carter, brought matters to a head. He proved incompetent in foreign policy and a bumbler on anything to do with the economy.

The result was a Republican bull market. In 1978, Republicans gained 15 House seats and 3 senators. That was a preview of 1980, when they netted 35 House seats and captured control of the Senate with a 12-seat pickup. And, oh, yes, there was another victory. Reagan won the presidency in a landslide.

The resemblance between the 1970s and today isn't exact. Political analogies never are. But there's enough to hearten Republicans. As we saw in the election of Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey last week, the political energy and ardor are on the center-right. Just as they were 30 years ago.

A coalition of Republicans, independents, and tea party populists is beginning to take shape. How come? Because they again have a common foe. In the 1970s, it was Carter's feeble leadership in the face of stagflation and the collapse of U.S. interests abroad.

Today's it's the hyper-liberal policies of Obama and Pelosi that are for fostering rampant spending, surging deficits, ruinous debt, higher taxes, growing unemployment and unlimited government in Washington. On top of all that, Obama's foreign policy of "engaging" adversaries and hammering allies is a dangerous flop.

Comment: Ashamed to say ... I voted for Carter. My wife reminds me of this often.

The Vatican's wrong turn or origins

Vatican looks to heavens for signs of alien life


Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.

"The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration," said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory.

Funes, a Jesuit priest, presented the results Tuesday of a five-day conference that gathered astronomers, physicists, biologists and other experts to discuss the budding field of astrobiology — the study of the origin of life and its existence elsewhere in the cosmos.

Funes said the possibility of alien life raises "many philosophical and theological implications" but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue.

Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, said it was appropriate that the Vatican would host such a meeting.

"Both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe," he told a news conference Tuesday. "There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe."

Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the U.S., France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues "whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds."

Funes set the stage for the conference a year ago when he discussed the possibility of alien life in an interview given prominence in the Vatican's daily newspaper.

The Church of Rome's views have shifted radically through the centuries since Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600 for speculating, among other ideas, that other worlds could be inhabited.

Scientists have discovered hundreds of planets outside our solar system — including 32 new ones announced recently by the European Space Agency. Impey said the discovery of alien life may be only a few years away.

"If biology is not unique to the Earth, or life elsewhere differs bio-chemically from our version, or we ever make contact with an intelligent species in the vastness of space, the implications for our self-image will be profound," he said.

This is not the first time the Vatican has explored the issue of extraterrestrials: In 2005, its observatory brought together top researchers in the field for similar discussions.

In the interview last year, Funes told Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that believing the universe may host aliens, even intelligent ones, does not contradict a faith in God.

"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?" Funes said in that interview.

"Just as there is a multitude of creatures on Earth, there could be other beings, even intelligent ones, created by God. This does not contradict our faith, because we cannot put limits on God's creative freedom."

Funes maintained that if intelligent beings were discovered, they would also be considered "part of creation."

The Roman Catholic Church's relationship with science has come a long way since Galileo was tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant his finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

Today top clergy, including Funes, openly endorse scientific ideas like the Big Bang theory as a reasonable explanation for the creation of the universe. The theory says the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter.

Earlier this year, the Vatican also sponsored a conference on evolution to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species."

The event snubbed proponents of alternative theories, like creationism and intelligent design, which see a higher being rather than the undirected process of natural selection behind the evolution of species.

Still, there are divisions on the issues within the Catholic Church and within other religions, with some favoring creationism or intelligent design that could make it difficult to accept the concept of alien life

Comment: Not the first wrong turn .... not the last!


Dr. Phil and the Fort Hood terrorist

Dr. Phil and the Fort Hood Killer - His terrorist motive is obvious to everyone but the press and the Army brass.


It can by now come as no surprise that the Fort Hood massacre yielded an instant flow of exculpatory media meditations on the stresses that must have weighed on the killer who mowed down 13 Americans and wounded 29 others. Still, the intense drive to wrap this clear case in a fog of mystery is eminently worthy of notice.

The tide of pronouncements and ruminations pointing to every cause for this event other than the one obvious to everyone in the rational world continues apace. Commentators, reporters, psychologists and, indeed, army spokesmen continue to warn portentously, "We don't yet know the motive for the shootings."

What a puzzle this piece of vacuity must be to audiences hearing it, some, no doubt, with outrage. To those not terrorized by fear of offending Muslim sensitivities, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's motive was instantly clear: It was an act of terrorism by a man with a record of expressing virulent, anti-American, pro-jihadist sentiments. All were conspicuous signs of danger his Army superiors chose to ignore.

What is hard to ignore, now, is the growing derangement on all matters involving terrorism and Muslim sensitivities. Its chief symptoms: a palpitating fear of discomfiting facts and a willingness to discard those facts and embrace the richest possible variety of ludicrous theories as to the motives behind an act of Islamic terrorism. All this we have seen before but never in such naked form. The days following the Fort Hood rampage have told us more than we want to know, perhaps, about the depth and reach of this epidemic.

One of the first outbreaks of these fevers, the night of the shootings, featured television's star psychologist, Dr. Phil, who was outraged when fellow panelist and former JAG officer Tom Kenniff observed that he had been listening to a lot of psychobabble and evasions about Maj. Hasan's motives.

A shocked Dr. Phil, appalled that the guest had publicly mentioned Maj. Hasan's Islamic identity, went on to present what was, in essence, the case for Maj. Hasan as victim. Victim of deployment, of the Army, of the stresses of a new kind of terrible war unlike any other we have known. Unlike, can he have meant, the kind endured by those lucky Americans who fought and died at Iwo Jima, say, or the Ardennes?

Comment: Read it all!

Fort Hood shooter: Blame the gun?

Chicago Mayor Daley blamed the Ft. Hood Jihad Massacre on America’s love of guns!


“Unfortunately, America loves Guns. We love guns to a point where that uh we see devastation on a daily basis. You don’t blame a group.”

Comment: See earlier post.


Mayor Daley, and other politicians, like to blame gun violence on the guns themselves because that is so much easier than admitting any inconvenient (politically incorrect) truths which might be revealed if they were to place blame where it belongs.

Kids murdering each other in the inner city? That’s because of guns, not the War On Drugs which turns poor children into black market drug distributing gang members.

Islamists murdering people while shouting Allah Akbar? That’s because of guns, not the Jihad being perpetrated globally against all so called “infidels”.

They blame guns because guns don’t vote.

Taking Mayor Daley at face value for a moment, is he seriously arguing for increased gun control on a military base? If there had been more guns around, this ticking Jihad bomb could have been put down a lot faster than he was.

Some valid questions:

  • Why didn't the military (or the FBI / CIA) zero in on this guy since they were aware of his radical muslim leanings? (see below)
  • Why was he permitted to bring loaded weapons into an area like this?

Officials: U.S. Army Told of Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda

U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with an individual associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

According to the officials, the Army was informed of Hasan's contact, but it is unclear what, if anything, the Army did in response.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said that he requested the CIA and other intelligence agencies brief the committee on what was known, if anything, about Hasan by the U.S. intelligence community, only to be refused.

Check out this article: in 2007 Hasan Warned Army of "Adverse Events" if Muslims Not Released. View his 50 page presentation!

On a page of "comments" in the presentation, Hasan wrote "We love life death more then (sic) you love life!"

He warned that "If Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against injustices of the "infidels"; i.e. enemies of Islam, then Muslims can become a potent adversary i.e.: suicide bombing etc."


Pentagon Didn't Learn About Alleged Fort Hood Shooter's Ties to Extremist

The Pentagon said it wasn't notified that U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted emails between suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan and an extremist imam until after last week's bloody assault, fueling new questions about whether the government missed warning signs that could have helped prevent the incident.

A senior defense official said that federal investigators didn't tell the Pentagon that they were investigating months of communication between Maj. Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, who knew three of the Sept. 11 hijackers and hailed Maj. Hasan as a "hero" after the Army officer allegedly killed 13 people and wounded 29 others at Fort Hood.

"Based on what we know now, neither the United States Army nor any other organization within the Department of Defense knew of Maj. Hasan's contacts with any Muslim extremists," the official said. "Not until after the tragic shooting at Fort Hood last week were Maj. Hasan's email communications first brought to our attention by federal investigators."

New York State: "[will] run out of cash in four and a half weeks"

Paterson: NYS Will Be Broke Before Christmas - Delivers Scary News To Legislature


Governor David Paterson called an unusual joint session of the Legislature Monday to implore recalcitrant lawmakers to close the state's huge budget gap before New York runs out of money.

To some lawmakers it's nothing more than a photo op to help Paterson get re-elected. But the governor is dead serious. He said if the Legislature doesn't cut the budget now the state could run out of money by next month.

"We're going to run out of cash in four and a half weeks. We are going to run out of money. Unless we do something about it, (it will) threaten generations," Paterson said.

And so began what is turning out to be a tense tug of war between Gov. Paterson and the Legislature.

The governor says $3.2 billion in cuts must be enacted how -- or else. The cuts range from $500 million in agency spending to over $1 billion in already committed in aid to school districts and hospitals.

"I will mortgage my political career, but I will not mortgage the fate of the State of New York," Paterson said.

Comment: Yet another Democrat controlled state out of control.

What does a "win" look like in Afghanistan?

Gorbachev Says Obama Should Start Afghan Withdrawal


President Mikhail Gorbachev, drawing on his experience of military failure in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said the U.S. can’t win the conflict there and should begin pulling out its soldiers.

Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO forces are battling a Taliban-led insurgency, is too fragmented between clans to be controlled militarily, Gorbachev, 78, said in an interview today in Berlin. While he said President Barack Obama would be unlikely to take his advice, Gorbachev said he saw no chance of success even with more U.S. troops.

“I believe that there is no prospect of a military solution,” Gorbachev said in Russian through a translator. “What we need is the reconciliation of Afghan society -- and they should be preparing the ground for withdrawal rather than additional troops.”

Comment: It seems that (and I am not blaming President Obama for this!) that whenever leadership uses the military option, that there is rarely a definition of what "success" looks like. And rarely a plan to get out. Our middle son served 6 years in the Marines and now is in the Army National guard. I am encouraging him to get out before his unit is deployed to Afghanistan.

The Texas-sized Pacific garbage patch

Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash


Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.

Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.

Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.

But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world’s trash-filled gyres

Comments: More in Wiki; Just makes one want to cry! I'm awaiting the New Heavens and the New Earth! (2 Peter 3:13)