Thursday, December 29, 2005

You don't tug on Superman's cape ...

This is the kind of boasting that might get you more than you bargained for.

Dec 29, 2005 — DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda in Iraq said it had launched missiles at Israel from Lebanon as part of a "new attack" on the Jewish state, a statement posted on the Web said on Thursday.

"The lion sons of al Qaeda launched … a new attack on the Jewish state by launching 10 missiles … from the Muslims' lands in Lebanon on selected targets in the north of the Jewish state," said the statement, attributed to al Qaeda and posted on an Islamist Web site.

It appeared to be the first claim of responsibility from al Qaeda for an attack on Israel from Lebanon. The statement could not be authenticated, but was posted on a main Web site frequently used by Iraqi insurgent groups.

We know some of our friends joke that liberalism is a mental condition, and sometimes we wonder, but when people purportedly representing al Qaeda spout off how they've just "vented" 10 missiles at Israel, you REALLY have to question whether they know which side is up.

Combine this insanity with the egomaniacal ravings of Iran's president about Israel's non-right to exist and it's development of nuclear weapons, and a SANE person might start worrying that 2006 is going to be a very bad year.

Ocean-front property preview in Ethiopia

This story entertained us today on two levels.

Addis Ababa - A continental rifting process that normally takes millions of years to form has developed over a span of seven weeks in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia.

It was a close study, using radar interferometry, of an earth rupture developing into a rare axial rift zone -- a future possible ocean basin.

First, the idea that a process of continental rifting that should take "millions of years" is occuring in a matter of weeks is quite compelling. Who'd a thunk a thing like that was possible, except maybe those crazy Creationists out there who still believe the God could cook up an entire universe in less than a week.

But there is a second level.

The series of quakes was first recorded at the AAU on September 14 in Da'ure, an area in the lowlands of the Western Ethiopia Escarpment that stretches from the central part of the country to the Dahlak Islands of Eritrea in the Red Sea.

The volcanic activity, recorded at N 12.651 degrees longtitude and E 40.519 degrees latitude, spewed ash for three continuous days and eventually numerous cracks appeared in the ground, spreading fear among the pastoralist inhabitants.

Pastoralist inhabitants? You gotta love the word choice. Ghion Hagos, the author, surely must mean "farmers," right?

Bottom line, according to the scientist-priests, who are once again sure they know what is going on (?) is that a 60-kilometer stretch of Ethiopia now finds itself with a 8-meter (24 ft.) gap down the middle.

Not to worry, the scientist-priests reassure us. It'll still take millions of years before the rift grows to an ocean basin.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Satan, or one of his lesser imps, creating mischief in Oklahoma?

A very interesting photo from the Daily Oklahoman on Tuesday, showing one of the wildfires that is snarling highways and burning out an occasional subdivision. We almost missed this and then we noticed the raised arms and the (gasp!) undoubtedly bifurcated tail.

(The more we stare at the photo the less certain we become that we're joking around here.)

The fire danger in all parts of Oklahoma and Texas is extremely high. We're a dozen inches of rain or so underneath our annual average, and everything is dry, dry, dry. So concerned are we that we are watering front and back lawns today in the off chance that a fire might break out in the neighborhood. Whether it would actually help, who knows? If we get a hard freeze (also unlikely) the Oklahomilist is going to look very foolish - but it wouldn't be the first time.

You know how we like to connect the dots and see the big picture. This photo makes us wonder: maybe those natural gas geysers (ongoing) were the portal through which this busy yellow fellow passed to create a little hell on earth?

Or not.

'United States exporting its violence to Canada'

Damn. They're on to us.

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- Canadian officials, seeking to make sense of another fatal shooting in what has been a record year for gun-related deaths, said Tuesday that along with a host of social ills, part of the problem stemmed from what they said was the United States exporting its violence.

"I think it's a day that Toronto has finally lost its innocence," Det. Sgt. Savas Kyriacou said. "It was a tragic loss and tragic day."

While many Canadians take pride in Canadian cities being less violent than their American counterparts, Toronto has seen 78 murders this year, including a record 52 gun-related deaths -- almost twice as many as last year.

"What happened yesterday was appalling. You just don't expect it in a Canadian city," the mayor said.

"It's a sign that the lack of gun laws in the U.S. is allowing guns to flood across the border that are literally being used to kill people in the streets of Toronto," Miller said.

Miller said Toronto, a city of nearly three million, is still very safe compared to most American cities, but the illegal flow of weapons from the United States is causing the noticeable rise in gun violence.

"The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto," he said.

Pop quiz: When does a city "lose its innocence"? After the 77th homicide or only after the 51st gun-related homicide?

Last year, when there were half as many deaths, was Toronto still innocent?

And those nasty guns, they just keep crossing that border with Canada, probably looking for work so they can send back money to Mama 45 and all her little cap-pistol kids. A border that isn't being patroled by the evil George Bush and Karl Rove, a clear signal for Americans to send their guns northward.

Yeah, Paul. Exporting violence to Canada. That's the secret plan.

Getting serious for a moment, the real problem with this story is the writer for the Associated Press who is doing what we've come to expect: a clear number on the United States.

Notice that the opening paragraph talks of how officials are "seeking to make sense" of a fatal shooting. It involved a dispute in a group of 10-15 youths. Was it a gang? Nobody bothers to even mention the incident again.

There is a mention of a "host" - we presume that means a whole bunch - of societal ills, but the main focus of the story is Society Ill Numero Uno for official Canada, the Estados Unidos.

At last, way down toward the end of the story, when officials are finished whining about endemic barriers of discrimination and poverty, post-modern hopelessness and angst, the reporter decides to include a quote from one sensible Canadian:

John Thompson, a security analyst with the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute, says the number of guns smuggled from the United States is a problem, but that Canada has a gang problem -- not a gun problem -- and that Canada should stop pointing the finger at the United States.

"It's a cop out. It's an easy way of looking at one symptom rather than addressing a whole disease," Thompson said.

This year in Tulsa there have been something on the order of 60+ homicides, most of these involving guns. Based on everything we've heard and read, the overwhelming majority are gang-related or drug-related, or both. It's nothing to brag about, and each and every death is a tragedy to someone.

But realistically, Tulsa lost its innocence way back in the oil patch days about the time the first drunken rig worker tried to sweet talk some cowboy's gal in a local watering hole. You can find similar histories for every city and hamlet on the planet.

Innocence isn't something you achieve by burying the guns and locking away the sharp cutlery. It's something you reacquire when you purge your heart of the desire to serve yourself first, last and always, and then only with the help of God's grace.

Something to think about as we hear more and more liberals telling us how we ought to pass laws to force this, that and the other thing. But we have to keep our faith beliefs hidden.

OKLAHOMILIST NOTE: This is post No. 600.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Music for the Master, or the ego?

A post over at Batesline got me to thinking, again, about the fine line church musicians walk while attempting to lead congregations in song and worship, especially at the major liturgical holidays like Christmas and Easter. You want people to like what they hear. In fact, you want people to REALLY like what they hear. You should also want people to participate. The problem is that if you do the first part too well, people will clam up and act as if they've paid to come to a concert.

That is bad.

Okay, you may say, why is it bad?

Because when people are gathered together in a church for worship, they come together as members of the mystical Body of Christ. They are not spectators, although they still see and hear. They are not passive receptors of sensory data. They are to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon their interior state of grace, members who should be complementing the worship and praise and feeling the joy of both giving and receiving.

Too often today, in too many churches the music ministry has become narcissistic. Protestants are becoming aware of the problem, particularly because of the rise of the large non-denominational and evangelical churches with their penchant for theatrics (which project well onto video displays and TV broadcasts). But to say that the problem is limited to large protestant churches would be unfair: a few discussions with people involved in music ministry in various denominations has shown us that the show-biz disease is widespread.

I know this to be true on a personal level. A few years ago I quit the choir at my parish in part because I felt my participation in the Mass had become distracted because of my desire to perform at 100%. Also, in part, I quit because I began to realize with no small degree of guilt, that I really like it when people paid attention to us. The occasional after Mass applause was wonderful, and totally contrary to a mind-set of humble servanthood.

And it all began when we moved into a large new church that featured a more auditorium-style seating with the choir situated near the front, just off the side of the altar and sanctuary. Until that time we had been in a choir loft where none could see. We were anonymous, mostly, and it was liberating.

Few churches hide their choirs, but I would highly recommend it. You might lose a few good cantors - at least those who like to be seen - but you'll gain something from it. More of a focus on Jesus Christ.

This year I volunteered to organize the small guitar group doing Midnight Mass. I drafted a son and daughter for respective guitar and vocal help. I kept two members of the regular choir that ordinarily would've done the service. We had one un-rehearsed regular choir member show up at the last minute, but rather insist on the legalities I merely stationed her one side and kept her mic level low.

It was important to schedule some congregational singing in among the songs we sung in the 30 minutes prior to the start of regular worship. But even before that, we prayed together that our effort would be 100% directed to the worship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for his glory and praise, and for the elevation of the minds and spirits of the congregation to God. We prayed that nothing we did would bring undue attention to ourselves, and that nothing would distract us from our own full participation in the worship of the Lord.

The prayer seemed to work. The music, although simple, was melodic and serene as befitting a Silent Night, and there were few miscues. And at the end of the service, when our pastor mentioned his thanks "to the musicians who provided such beautiful music for us," there was not the slightest hint of applause. Which is exactly how I had envisioned our participation. A total gift without human reward. (At our parish it is traditional that EVERY mention of a choir, even one that has performed poorly, ALWAYS gets a good round of applause. The absence of applause was a miracle in itself.)

Happy ending, right?

No. That fallen nature against which we all battle constantly, though redeemed by Christ's sacrifice and held at bay through various sacraments of the church, had arisen once again to torment me.

"No applause? Not even one pair of hands clapping?" The accusing voice inside my head would not let go as we packed up our gear. It was a voice from the past, a bit of the tempter himself, trying to deny me the measure of the miracle that had just occurred. A distressing, ugly little voice that might have or might not have been mine. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

It was a voice trying to turn God's triumph into my own little personal tragedy.

The average human need for recognition is so great, but what should be sufficient - after all, we are children of the Almighty God, what more recognition should you want - often is just whets the appetite for more. I thought about this a lot that night, as the effects of the flu worsened and I prepared myself for one of the sickest Christmas days I can ever recall.

And I'm cool with it now. But once again I am reminded of how easily swayed from true love of Christ we can be. Our little group, with its three guitars and three main voices, knowingly and actively fought against that urge. How much more difficult are conditions for those semi-professional choirs, with their horn and string sections, their soloists and featured cantors, where too often the emphasis is on the product, not the Creator.

The Psalms invite us to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." That "noise" bit always puzzled me, but maybe you have to look at it from God's point of view.

Perhaps it's not so much the noise He's looking for but the joy.

Just a thought on the day after the day after Christmas.

End of Year Bummer Quote List

Seeing as there are now less than five full days before 2006, all sorts of lists of bests and worsts of 2005 are appearing everywhere.

Drudge posted a link to the Media Research Center's "Best of Notable Quotes" which we repeat here. We checked them out initially thinking there was posting fodder there. There is, but the overall effect was enough to make us wish the doc hadn't ordered us to quit drinking strong beverages a couple of years ago.

So much elitist ignorance and BS, compacted and backed up with video and MP3 clips, is like a stealth weapon that backfires upon its makers. It drenches the soul, so recently lifted anew with Christmas cheer, with the written equivalent of the Skin of Evil that claimed Security Chief Lt. Tasha Yar (ST-TNG fans will remember).

Bottom line: There's just so much crap a rational human can absorb before they lose their joy. You have to protect yourself a bit.

So read the quotes if you want. You've been warned.

Sleeping anger portends no springtime of love

Today's report in the International Herald Tribune that the unrest in France is merely dormant and could erupt again contains information that may say more than the author's conclusions.

First, allow us a common sense observation. Most rioting takes place when the weather is still a bit warm. Once the real cool weather hits your average gasoline bomb thrower would rather be glowering at home before a more contained fire, no doubt plotting his next edgy protest of the repression of his civil rights. Efficient rioting requires light clothing so that one may travel quickly, unencumbered by bulky jackets that could snag or catch in narrow alleyways. Conclusion: well of course the restless Muslim youth of France are waiting on warmer weather.

Second, while there is a lot of talk about the jobless rate among the disaffected, the people quoted in the article keep coming back to the "promised money" to the NGOs -- the non-governmental organizations -- that apparently are giving direct subsidies to these same people.
" ... the government announced a raft of measures aimed at fighting joblessness and discrimination, and declared 2006 the year of "equal opportunity." Businesses will be offered tax breaks for setting up shop in difficult suburbs, local schools will receive more attention, a new apprenticeship program for teenagers is being drawn up, and state funds for nongovernmental organizations that were canceled three years ago will be restored.
President Jacques Chirac, clearly shaken by the riots, has urged French media and businesses to reflect the country's diverse population. The minister for equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, is pondering ways of measuring diversity in order to provide companies with a benchmark.
But in suburbs like Bondy and Clichy-sous-Bois, the buzz and debate sparked by the riots are dismissed by many as little more than political posturing.
"Right now they're afraid of us, so they're making a lot of promises," said a friend of Balastik's, Ker, 23, whose parents are from Cambodia and who sings in the same band. "What we need is concrete action that is felt, here, on the ground."
According to Marilou Jampolsky, a spokeswoman for SOS Racisme, an organization fighting discrimination, no NGO has seen its funds restored yet, though that, she said, would have been one of the quickest ways for the government to make a "tangible" difference in people's lives.
Outside the Clichy-sous-Bois city hall, Mehdi, 24, who also works for an NGO for disadvantaged youth, confirmed that he had not seen any of the new funds promised by the government.
More private sector jobs is an excellent idea, but it won't take place overnight. So what you see is one or two steps forward, but at least one full step backward if what the rioters really want is the French equivalent of Uncle Sugar, the meaning which can be summed up as, "Feed me, clothe me and let me sit on my ass for another seven years while I get my rap band together."

Then there is point number 3:
"The faster some of the promises are transformed into action the better," said Mehdi, a Frenchman of Algerian-Moroccan origin who grew up in Clichy. "We are taking the temperature with people every day. They are waiting for changes that they feel in everyday life - and they are also waiting for justice for the two dead teenagers."
The trigger for the November violence was the accidental electrocution of two teenagers of African origin who hid in a power substation. A third teenager, who survived the incident, says the three friends were being pursued by police, a claim officers deny. The outcome of an investigation is keenly awaited in the suburbs. If the police are exonerated, it could trigger new unrest, said Mehdi, who, like others interviewed for this article, did not give his last name.
What does "justice" mean when two young men climbed into an electrical substation and fried themselves? If the police were not chasing them, it was their own misjudgment and bad luck. If the police were chasing them, for whatever reason: a) they had nothing to fear and should have talked to the police, thus they suffered from a second misjudgment and bad luck, or b) they had every reason to flee the police, but made a misjudgment as to an appropriate hiding place and had a quick, fatal run of bad luck.

Does justice mean that the policemen doing the alleged chasing or non-chasing should be fried as well?

That is not sane, at least by western standards. Perhaps it fits Muslim codes of jurisprudence - we do not claim expertise in such matters - but it is not rational. You cannot have a modern, civilized society with such rules.

Hmmm. Perhaps that's the idea.
Back in the parking lot in Bondy, Balastik mimes lighting a lighter, his eyes glimmering in the harsh neon light. One of his friends is wearing a red T-shirt with a big caption that reads "Rakaille" - a rap spelling of "racaille," or "thugs," which is what Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called the rioters at one point, fueling their anger.
"We're thugs and we're proud," Balastik quipped, adding that music was "one way of dealing with the frustration of never getting a reply to your job application."
Others channel their anger differently. Cars have continued to burn every night since the riots ended, including more than 100 across France on Christmas Eve.
Some NGOs have launched a campaign with minority celebrities like the rap singer Joey Starr and the comedian Jamel Debbouze to get suburban youths to register for the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections. Only 7,000 of the 28,000 inhabitants of Clichy-sous-Bois are registered voters, according to a local official.
"One thing the riots have shown is that these kids are desperate for attention," said Samir Mihi, a social worker in Clichy-sous-Bois. "We're trying to tell them that you matter most when you vote, that's when politicians have to start listening to you."
Yes, sir! Expand the voter base to the very people who want to torch your civilization back to the stone age without first attempting to educate them to the responsibilities of citizenship. If all that voting means is that "You and I vote together and we get ours" there will never again by liberty, justice and equality for all in France.

Or anywhere else.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas, one and all

As you may surmise we've been taking a bit of time away from the keyboard, what with Christmas and the sudden onset of the flu.

The result is that we're totally out of the loop on what's happening, and that's kind of nice for a change.

For Christmas, one of the sons of the Oklahomilist presented him with the Simon & Garfunkle "Old Friends" DVD, which we watched this afternoon. A masterpiece of mixing old and new. The arrangements on the songs were creative, and pumped new life into good material. For a couple of guys in their mid-60s Paul and Art are kicking butt. A special treat was seeing their tribute to Phil and Don Everly, and watching the Everlys, who are just a tad older than S&G, do some serious butt-kicking of their own.

We'd feel a bit guilty about wallowing in musical nostalgia, except that Paul Simon's music is timeless. He has a philosopher's eye and the soul of a poet, and a great singing partner, now that the egos have been satiated.

It's good to see old friends.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Enough is enough - the opportunists on the left know no shame

If you were searching for a nuclear bomb that might go off at any time, would you bother getting a search warrant?

If you got a search warrant but the action tipped off the would-be terrorists so that they either hid the bomb or detonated it prematurely, would anyone have the right to be mad at you for taking too long?

The breathless media reported today that the Bush administration - gasp, shock - used detectors to see if radiation was leaking from mosques and the homes of certain Islamic individuals in the United States, and did so without - gasp, shudder - search warrants!

First, it's not entirely clear if a search warrant is needed for this kind of detection.

Second, is the left seriously trying to convince us that the Constitution gives us the right to keep dangerous radioactive materials around the house (or the mosque)?

As Abe Lincoln once reportedly said, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." Most Americans seem to understand this. In a time of war there are certain niceties that have to be stressed a bit.

The debate is whether we are in such a time. The events of 9/11 should be a sufficient answer to the negative side of the debate, but in fact there are large numbers of people who consider 9/11 an anomalous event, thus they conclude we are at no great risk, thus we are not really at war. The irony is that it is the success of the administration's efforts to prevent another 9/11 that has led to this conclusion.

The burden of proof lies with those who believe the president and his administration have hurt the country by their actions. Most of the allegations made in the last week or so have been answered: there is clear statuatory and judicial authority for most of what has been done as surveillance against perceived foreign enemies, including some on American soil. The Democrats are trying most heartily to swallow a camel and strain at a gnat as they compromise the nation's security in order to score political points in advance of the 2006 congressional elections.

And yet they have yet to make a convincing case that Americans have been harmed through the stepped up monitoring of international traffic, including traffic that originating domestically. They are now yelling about investigators checking for radiation on the property of certain groups and individuals without a court order. But they'd yell even louder if someone detonated a nuclear device and it was shown that the government failed to act in time - for whatever reason.

It is a good thing to be concerned about civil liberties. Abuses by agencies like the IRS, or the Social Security administration are to be frowned upon. They have duties that clearly should not put them into the spying or the information sharing business.

But intelligence, whether it's foreign or domestic, is the necessary activity of any government (and its citizens) who wish to remain safe and viable.

We see nothing to convince us that the Bush Administration (and the Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan and Carter administrations before it) have exceeded the boundaries of what is necessary and proper.

We have much more to fear from a national health care database, or even from automated "gotcha" traffic cameras in our cities, than from what the Bush people have done.

Further, if the Democrats succeed in turning our intelligence gathering of the last four years into a political fiasco, the real losers are the citizens of this nation. The enemies of freedom are watching to see if we will completely disarm ourselves. If the Democrats have their way we will have no effective intelligence operations at home and not much better overseas. Whether they realize it or not they are aiding and abetting our enemies at a time when most of us realize we are in an asymetric war, the stakes of which are nothing less than our western way of life.

This is serious. Enough is enough.

And it's time that the people let these quisling political opportunists masquerading as patriots know it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This gal may need protection now

This little lady is Osama bin Laden's niece, Miss Wafah Dufour. That she is a relative is a footnote of history that she apparently would like to forget and probably hopes you would too.

A singer and model who will appear in the January issue of GQ magazine, she's never even met America's Worst Nightmare No.1. You can tell by her expression in the picture, however, that she is very concerned that Uncle Osama will try to undermine and destroy the economy of the West, which would put a serious crimp in her plans to be a star.

Regular readers know that we would never stoop to posting cheesecake pictures and headlines of OSAMA'S KNOCKOUT SCANTILY CLAD NIECE in an obvious bid to drive up our Google ratings.

This is merely a public service asking you, the alert citizen, to keep a sharp eye out for Osama and his evil henchmen who do not share the finer things of civilization like the appreciation of beauty for beauty's sake. And if you should see Miss Wafah, give her our best regards.

U.S. should quit meddling in the world baseball classic

Major League Baseball wants Cuba's national team in the 16-team World Baseball Classic next March.

The U.S. Dept. of Treasury, for whatever stupid reason, does not.

The ante has been raised. Puerto Rico, showing uncommonly good sense and timing, has vowed to pull out as a host country unless Cuba is allowed in. This isn't because they like Castro or his brain-dead and incentive-deprived socialist paradise. It's because they love baseball and they know that, even after 65-plus years of communist idiocy and tyranny, the people of Cuba still know how to play ball.

Oh, yes. They can play ball, Ray!

And that's why Cuba should be in this upcoming world showcase. It's baseball, for crying out loud. C'mon, Bush Administration. Take a cue from Richard Nixon, among whose successes was ping-pong diplomacy with China. The more Cuban players see of the rest of the world (especially if we treat them with the respect due all baseball players) the more they will tell the good folks back home and the more pressure on Castro.

Not to mention the fact that we've seen several good players from Cuba come into the major leagues through defections. Might as well make it convenient for 'em. We could use a few more good arms.

For another view on the Cuban crisis, HERE.

Medical coverage in the People's Republic

Liberals like to toss out Cuba as a fine example of compassionate centrally-planned government-run health care, usually by citing some bogus Castro stat about infant mortality.

While we haven't heard any moonbats proclaiming China's health care system to be the 8th wonder of the world, at least not yet, we do have some interesting information at our disposal on the rate of China's health care coverage and the average person's outlook when they are ill, courtesy of the China Daily.

About 65.7 percent of China's population have no medical insurance, according to a blue paper here Wednesday.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) issued a blue paper, titled "Analysis and predictions of China's social situation 2006".

A recent CASS survey shows approximately a quarter of those asked gave up medical insurance because they could not afford the premiums, the paper said.

Ordinary Chinese people find it too expensive to go to hospital and about 48.9 percent choose not to seek medical attention when they have an illness, according to China's third survey of health care services earlier this month.

A medical bill scandal involving treatment costs as high as 10 million yuan (1.23 million US dollars) for a patient in a northeast China's Harbin hospital has drawn a lot of attention and criticism from the public recently.

In 1985, China launched reforms of its public health care system which expanded the decision-making power of hospitals. Government investment in this area has been gradually reduced.

Currently, governments contribute only 15 percent of total health care costs while patient fees make up 60 percent, sources with the Chinese Ministry of Health said.
So there you have it. China essentially gave up on its single-payer system about 20 years ago, and apparently no one else has stepped up to the plate to fill the void. (Or been allowed to.)

You have to give the Chinese points for honesty. The Soviets maintained, 'til the very last tank was removed from outside the Duma at the time of the great collapse, that their health care system was the very model of perfection. We've since learned that, like many boasts of the communist era, it was just another piece of propaganda to be picked up and repeated by the useful idiots overseas, many of whom are still clinging to their collective worship of hoary nostrums deader than Lenin's well-kept cadaver.

The Chinese people cannot afford health care because they do not make enough money, despite the fact that the Chinese are posting $100 billion annual trade surpluses with the United States. The Chinese government long ago decided it wouldn't subsidize health care very much, and that's that.

Do we really want to go down the road of single-payer, government-run, centrally-planned and managed health care?

Listen to the guy with the bigger pile

Back in the days when we were licensed and happily marketing insurance and investments, a great premium was placed on continuing education of various kinds, especially in leadership skills and developing the ability to recognize trends. Our mantra was simple: when in doubt as to whose voice one should pay attention, choose the guy with the bigger pile. Pile of earnings and assets, legitimately self-made. (Inherited wealth, on the other hand, was a worthless indicator.)

We are just as happy today being out of the marketing of investment advice, but that does not mean that we do not pay careful attention to the voices around us. We are interested in a good spiritual life, a good family life (which usually but not necessarily follows with it), and the ability to keep these two wonderful things intact no matter what else happens in the world.

Some of the voices of the past no longer sound credible. The people who are preaching the ever-upward spiral of stock investments have got a six-year "blip" to contend with. At this point the blip is becoming a blob that is not easily explained by conventional economic theory. The dot-com collapse caught people by surprise (in retrospect should not have) but 9/11 really kicked a hole in the bucket since an event of that type cannot be predicted in advance, and its effects are also not foreseeable. This year we've seen the tsunami and fleet (or is it flock) of damaging hurricanes that have ongoing effects, mostly negative.

Markets revolve around supply and demand, currency values (such things as inflation and deflation, interest rates and currency-to-currency ratios) and, not the least of things, consumer or citizen confidence.

It is the last item, confidence, that is the wild card in trying to determine where things are heading. Loss of confidence can kill an economic recovery. What causes loss of confidence? Bad news. But sometimes it's just the thought, expressed by many people, that bad news is coming. In other words, mere forboding can create a lack of confidence. Maybe it's better not to mention some of the trends that are taking place. It could make things worse.

On the other hand, people deserve an opportunity to anticipate and prepare for bad things. Even bad things that might NOT take place. In other words, people should be encouraged to prepare for the worst, and always hope for the best.

It's a little easier if you are a person of faith: that is, you have a belief system that encourages hope no matter how bad things get in your life. We can't begin to imagine how sad it would be to have no strong faith life, considering the political, geological and economic portents of the times.

Which gets us, finally, to what we wanted to recommend to you today. An article on a billionaire who quite frankly is a member of the "doom and gloom" club. Whether he has a good faith life or not we cannot say, for the article doesn't really get into that aspect of his life. But what he's worried about, we believe, has ramifications that ought to interest you as well.

And he certainly is one of those with a bigger pile.

His name is Richard Rainwater, and the article is at And without wishing him any ill will whatsoever, we hope his investments this next year go totally awry. That will mean that his pessimism is misplaced, at least for the moment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Sign of the End Times: North Division

Canadians can have group sex in clubs: top court
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Group sex between consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday, dismissing arguments that the sometimes raucous activities of so-called "swingers" clubs were dangerous.

"Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

The decision does not affect existing laws against prostitution because no money changed hands between the adults having sex.

The court was reviewing an appeal by Jean-Paul Labaye, who ran the L'Orage (Thunderstorm) club. He had been convicted of running a "bawdy house" -- defined as a place where prostitution or acts of public indecency could take place.

Lawyers for Labaye and James Kouri, the owner of another swingers' club in Montreal, had argued that consensual sex between groups of adults behind closed doors was neither indecent or a risk to society.

The Supreme Court judges agreed.

Guess who have new lifetime memberships?

But seriously, folks, group sex is not a risk to society? Forget basic morality - which the Canadian justices obviously have. In the days of rampant STDs, especially AIDS, there is no risk?

Which is why we could never quite cross the threshhold of full-blown libertarianism. We can't quite bridge the gap in our conscience that wonders whether a responsible society can co-exist with a "let it all hang out" amorality that sees the fulfillment of every personal lust as the be-all and end-all of existence.

If bargain-basement group sex is your thing, fine. Our friends in the Great White North are going to have a lot of it to offer very shortly. Knock yourself out. Or up.

They have time to snow ski?

We found the news item on the Osteens getting kicked off a Continental Airlines flight somewhat amusing. Kind of like a throwback to the days of Jimmy and Tammy Faye, except the Osteens are better looking.
The wife of the pastor of the nation's largest church was asked to leave a plane after she failed to comply with a flight attendant's instructions, the FBI said Tuesday. Houston Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, his wife, Victoria, and their two children boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Vail, Colo., Monday. The plane's door had been closed when Victoria Osteen and a flight attendant had a disagreement.

"She failed to comply with the flight attendant' instructions, and they were asked to leave the flight," FBI spokeswoman Luz Garcia said without elaborating on the disagreement.

Naturally a spokesman for the ministry says it was a mutually-agreed upon retreat to a later flight.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect, from our perspective, and absolutely ignored by the AP reporter, is the fact that the Osteens are going snow skiing in Vail just before Christmas. You'd think this would be the busy season. Our pastor is meeting himself coming and going taking care of all the details that make Advent and Christmas such a beautiful season. This is the time of year when people who've left the Church come back seeking reconciliation and a second chance. They need attention. It's also a peak time for the less fortunate to seek direct aid; that takes time too.

Granted, our parish does not fill a 30,000 seat arena, but it's still hard to see that as a justification for a ski trip at the peak of this yuletide. Of course, our priest manages on a somewhat more modest budget than the Rev. Osteen. A Vail, Colo., ski trip could easily use up a month's salary. Still, even if we had the money to give him the trip, we doubt we could make him leave. Especially right now.

We also doubt he'd get into a row with a flight attendant.

Different strokes, we suppose, for different folks. If it's prosperity religion you're looking for, you can easily find it. But understand that people will definitely be watching to see how well you handle that prosperity.

Found: a lawyer who uses the truth as a defense

It must be read to be believed.

Jihad is 'Muslim obligation'

A lawyer defending al Qaida-linked suspects standing trial for the 2003 suicide bombings in Istanbul told a court that jihad, or holy war, was an obligation for Muslims and his clients should not be prosecuted.

"If you punish them for this, tomorrow, will you punish them for fasting or for praying?" Osman Karahan -- a lawyer representing 14 of the 72 suspects -- asked during a nearly four-hour speech in which he read religious texts from an encyclopedia of Islam.

The November 2003 blasts targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank, killing 58 people.

"If non-Muslims go into Muslim lands, it is every Muslim's obligation to fight them," Karahan said.

This story in The Scotsman did not get a lot of international attention. It barely rates a blip on a Google search, particularly among American newspapers.

But it ought to.

This is how it starts: The oohs and the ahhs ...

Dr. Ian Malcolm would be warning us to get the hell out of Dodge right about now, but let's see what you think. Is this a recipe for a bad 2006 or what?

Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch.

We can see it now. "Oh, lookee! What a cute little microbe! What does he eat? Just about anything, you say? How efficient. And how does he reproduce? By fission? That's sweet. My goodness! Look, he's dividing right now. Let me look at him a little closer. Closer."


"I seem to have broken his containment cannister."

"I just feel terrible about my clumsiness. I'll clean up the mess."

"You know ... I'm feeling so terrible, I'm actually getting sick. The room is spinning."

"You don't suppose I'm infected with this little guy, do you? Did you hear me? What, you're sick too?"

"I'm so dreadfully ...."

The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000.

Dr. Venter, 59, has since shifted his focus from determining the chemical sequences that encode life to trying to design and build it: "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code," he said in an interview.

Yes, indeed. Let's find an appropriate educational metaphor for playing God.

Several scientific groups are trying to make genes that do not exist in nature, in hopes of constructing microbes that perform useful tasks, such as producing industrial chemicals, clean energy or drugs. Dr. Venter and his colleagues are pushing the technology to its limits by trying to put together an entirely synthetic genome.
Ethicists have raised concerns about humans altering the "nature of nature."

But proponents feel the many benefits of redesigning micro-organisms to do human bidding far outweigh the risks.

Far outweigh the risks? The risks include the accidental or intentional creation and release of the pathogen of no return. There is no benefit equal to that risk.

In such case, resistance is not only futile but impossible.

New Addition to the Blog Roll

In a week and a half we will all encounter 2006 A.D., which is as good a time as any to do a little more house-keeping around the OTB (Oklahomily The Blog) command center.

One of the changes will be to add a second voice to supplement the productivity of OTB. To tell ya the truth, the Oklahomilist is stretched rather thin these days, although you certainly could not tell it by his profile in the weak rays of the winter solstice. There are the classes we teach, the new website to shepherd, a couple of musical projects in the works, and the bump and grind of daily life. That has meant some light posting days (LPDs) and we loathe LPDs.

Another overdue change is our Blog Roll. While we have some of the big boys and girls listed, as they are on many a site, we're starting to develop a more eclectic, secondary tier of blog listings where the voices are distinctive and interesting. We figure if we like 'em, maybe you'll like 'em too.

One of the first to be added is The View from 103, where The Phantom keeps vigil over New York City. His is a voice of reason in a city of over 7 million souls; he also makes sure to regularly keep his guests apprised of good pizza spots and changes in the local architecture. Foremost among his qualifications is a conscience and personality tempered by a good education in the art and science of baseball. That alone would qualify him for blogroll consideration.

For the record, the Phantom discovered us first. We wish you to know, however, that we are not reciprocating his listing in gratitude. He has talent. Real talent. Make him one of your virtual destinations on a frequent basis. You'll be a better person for it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Historical seismicity nowhere to be seen

A small earthquake (3.0) hits between Baton Rouge and New Orleans about 7 minutes to 7 p.m. last night.

Problem: it's not far enough up the Mississippi valley to be part of what is considered the New Madrid fault zone. The USGS site shows no fault lines or subduction zones. That doesn't mean they aren't there, just that they aren't known.

Combine the quake with an unusual boom heard from Pascagoula, Ms., to Florida a day or so earlier and you have a deepening mystery.

Combine that with the gas geysers in Oklahoma (where unusually high well pressures are being observed) to the massive underground gas explosion allegedly sparked by a drilling rig in northeast Texas (that left a 250 yard crater between 30 and 60 ft. deep!), and you have enough unusual behavior to tantalize any X-file types.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Now there is outrage!

Calling the Holocaust a myth didn't get much attention.

Telling the European Union that they should relocate the entire nation of Israel to a province of Germany or France didn't get that much attention.

But now Iranian pre
sident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being called "hard line" by the Associated Press after he declared Monday that western music must be banned from Iranian TV and radio.

Songs such as George Michael's "Careless Whisper," Eric Clapton's "Rush" and the Eagles'"Hotel California" have regularly accompanied Iranian broadcasts, as do tunes by saxophonist Kenny G.

But the official IRAN Persian daily reported Monday that Ahmadinejad, as head of Iran's Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban Western music.

"Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required," according to a statement on the council's official Web site.

Ahmadinejad's order means the IRIB must execute the decree and prepare a report on its implementation within six months, according to the newspaper.

"This is terrible," said Iranian guitarist Babak Riahipour, whose music was played occasionally on state radio and TV. "The decision shows a lack of knowledge and experience."

Outrageous. Preposterous. What a dumb-ass!

The AP report devotes at least twice as much ink to this boorish behavior as it did to the reports earlier of Ahmadinejad's comments about Israel, and with a lot less equivocating between the lines about whether the Iranian strongman was being misunderstood.

Apparently it's okay to threaten to exterminate Israel, and to shout bullying words at the world community while concurrently developing a nuclear weapons program.

But attack America's secular culture by banning our rock 'n roll culture and our movies, and even the moonbat left shows it has some vestigial American pride left after all.

The giant 'huh?' heard round the world

Is there anybody else as under-whelmed by Time's choice of "Persons of the Year" as we?

In a year of amazing events and interesting personalities, this is the best they could do?

The MSM is in worse shape than we thought.

New global conspiracy theory emerges

Bono, shrugging off decades of struggle for the little people of the world, says, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and joins Bill and Melinda Gates in a brain-storming session to decide who gets what piece of the world once Microsoft's New World Order is achieved. Sadly Kofi Annan was unable to attend.

A Letter to Our Dear Friends Up North

Dear Canada:

We do not want your stinking Northwest Passage.

If we did want it, we would have annexed it by now and there's little you could've done except raise a brewski and toast your good fortune.

So relax. Kick back with another cool one as you wait another three months for your appointment with the dentist on your government-run health care system. The beer will help numb the pain of that infected molar.

That is all.

Friday, December 16, 2005

No No No No No! You've got it backwards again

Quit thinking like liberals!

A Republican sponsored bill in the House of Representatives would require businesses TO VERIFY that all their employees are inside the United States legally.

Wrong! No wonder the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is upset with the GOP over this. The bill is just another example of muddy Potomac thinking.

What the Congress needs to do is to increase penalties for businesses who do a poor job of verifying that their employees are legal, and to put teeth into enforcement.

Paperwork alone does nothing to curb illegal immigration, not to mention that any business that would knowingly hire an illegal worker would probably not be above faking the paperwork anyway. If Congressmen think that keeping better records is going to take the place of immigration sweeps and deportations, then they are out of touch with reality and need to be replaced next November.

We don't need another layer of government bureaucracy. We need better enforcement of existing laws. We need to bust the chops of employers who are "careless" of immigration laws. After all, if they won't hire an ineligible worker, the word will spread. When the United States quits becoming a land of milk and honey for those who willingly violate the law (a curtailing of the demand side), then the supply side will adjust itself.

By the way, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce probably won't like enhanced enforcement of existing immigration and hiring laws any better than the proposed verification bill, and that's just too bad. We weep for them. Not.

Does this mean we are for closing the borders to all? No. The country needs some immigration and some temporary workers. But for the sake of controlling the influx of bad guys and protecting our culture, our language and our laws, we must have legal immigration, not a free for all.

Expanding the power of government (Verse 33)

Comes a report in the Washington Times today about anti-smoking zealots who are now pushing for government regulation of tobacco use IN PRIVATE HOMES. (You're damn right we are shouting!)

Satan masquerades as an angel of light and of course the new campaign is directed at protecting "the children."

Their efforts so far have contributed to regulations in three states -- Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont -- forbidding foster parents from smoking around children. Parental smoking also has become a critical point in some child-custody cases, including ones in Virginia and Maryland.

In a highly publicized Virginia case, a judge barred Caroline County resident Tamara Silvius from smoking around her children as a condition for child visitation.
No, sirree, we wouldn't want her children to stay in touch with the real mom, would we?
An appeals court upheld the ruling, but not before one judge raised questions about the extent to which a court should become involved in parental rights and whether certain behavior is harmful or simply not in a child's best interest.

Mrs. Silvius says she complied with the decision by altering her smoking habits. "My children know not to come around when I'm on the front porch with my morning coffee, tending to my cows or out in my garden, because I'm having a cigarette," she said.

Still, she thinks this was not a matter for the courts because it was not proven that she posed a risk to her children's health.
The issue is not health. It's not about smoking. It's about how far the "protective" reach of the law will eventually extend into our private lives.
The smoking-at-home issue also sparked debate about whether such rulings will lead courts to become involved in such matters as parents' making poor TV programming choices for their children.
The point exactly. Why should the government become the super-parent of every family, able to rescind privileges, monitor behavior patterns and exact punishments for non-compliance?
The nonprofit group Action on Smoking and Health is among the most outspoken on stopping parents from smoking around children.

"Children are the most vulnerable and the most defenseless victims of tobacco smoke,"Executive Director John F. Banzhaf III said. "They should be entitled to the same protection as adults."
Shouldn't that protection also include the right as free individuals to have a home independent of governmental intrusion at every level?

Ah, America! We hardly knew ye.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

This won't help image of America in Middle East

Still, you have to admire the profile ... the snazzy uniform.

And at least he's a patriot! There are a lot of other pigs we could mention who aren't.

Ah, Science: Making Life Bearable

Scott Pinnizotto of San Francisco has come up with the next great evolutionary leap in toilet seatery:
Introduced nearly a year ago, the Swash is designed to transform a run-of-the-mill toilet into a bidet - a device that cleanses with a spray of warm water, relieving people from the hassles of toilet paper. The Swash features heated seats, too, and its top-of-line model also comes with a warm-air dryer and a remote control.
Apparently Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has thrown in on the throne as an investor.

The article concludes that both men are "flush" with money. If Pinnozotto's name isn't immediately familiar, he was the creator of Spinner.Com, an internet music service he dumped on AOL for $320 million six years ago.

Want Mistletoe? We got it

Mistletoe is being over-harvested in Great Britain. We didn't even know it was possible.

LONDON (Reuters) - An outbreak of opportunistic mistletoe rustling is threatening a Christmas kissing crisis, British environmental experts said Wednesday.

The Wildlife Trusts said over-harvesting of the plant that only grows in the wild and is mainly found on old apple trees meant it was becoming increasingly rare.

"Mistletoe is being taken in increasingly large quantities from orchards, hedgerows and ancient trees to be sold at markets to Christmas shoppers," said The Wildlife Trusts -- a partnership of 47 British wildlife organizations.

"There are cases of mistletoe rustling, and once the whole plant has been removed from its host tree it won't grow back."

There are dozens of trees infested with mistletoe, a parasitic plant, in our otherwise fair Oklahoma city and there are many homeowners who would be grateful for mistletoe rustlers to clean them out.

Apparently it's one of those British perceptions of value that Americans just don't get. Sure we like mistletoe around the holidays, but lack of it never stopped anyone from stealing a Christmas kiss.

Fight AIDS through more effective whoring

Came across this bit of news buried in a story of a prostitute-turned-author in India:

Commercial sex is one of the main drivers of the spread of HIV/AIDS and India has more than 5 million reported cases of people living with the virus, rivalling South Africa as the worst hit nation.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates more than 20 million people could be infected with HIV in India by 2010 and economists warn it could undermine India's rise to economic superpower status.

Alarmed by the rising numbers, the government's Planning Commission has recommended prostitution be legalized to help fight AIDS.

Does anyone care to explain how legalizing prostitution will help fight AIDS? How about enforcing the laws against it?

Beware the fly-by-night exorcist

An advanced tutorial in who not to consult when you feel spiritually plagued.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German woman lost more than 5,000 euros ($6,000) after a would-be soothsayer convinced her she was possessed by evil spirits and prescribed an expensive exorcism as a remedy, authorities said Wednesday.

Police in the central town of Northeim said the 44-year-old was told she was possessed by a young woman who read her palm at a Christmas market.

The victim became agitated and agreed to an exorcism at her home the following day, for which she paid the 'seer' more than 5,000 euros in cash and jewelry.

With that bill, who wouldn't be agitated? Or perhaps suspicious.

The exorcist then gave her more bad news -- there were other spirits that needed casting out.

"That's when a bad feeling crept over the victim," the police said in a statement. "She informed the police forthwith."

Police have arrested a 17-year-old woman from former Yugoslavia. The victim's money and jewelry have been returned.

We presume the evil spirits remain.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bust the Bad Guys (But Let the Innocent Breathe in Peace)

The House of Representatives has finished tucking an "anti-meth" provision into the Patriot Act that would follow the lead of states like Oklahoma on requiring pharmacies to document who buys what and how much of certain over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies.

As an allergy-afflicted Okie who has had first hand experience with a similar law, the Oklahomilist has something to say:

Go ahead and diminish the freedom of millions of allergy sufferers in this once great country while you pat yourselves on the back for your crime-busting savvy. You are so busy making us safe from every conceivable danger that you have forgotten the real meaning of freedom.

In Oklahoma each purchaser of legal OTC meds containing pseudophedrine must now show our drivers licenses and sign that we have made the purchase. Computer records allow the state to limit our consumption of these meds. Unhappily for yours truly, the amount the state "allows" me to purchase (out of the kindness of the Legislature's metaphorical black heart) is usually just enough to get through about 60% of the month. That means trying to get by on lesser legal products. (Not all allergy related products work on all people.)

This is Outrage No.1.

Outrage No.2 is that a purchaser of an otherwise legal product is made to feel like an outlaw. We wouldn't know the first thing about brewing meth -- hell, we barely made it through basic college chemistry -- and if we did know we wouldn't do it. Meth is an abomination, a sure fire ticket to hell on earth and early death.

But better to embarrass and humiliate millions of innocents on the off-chance that an illegal meth maker might be stopped from buy a couple boxes of Actifed from the pharmacist. Oh, but guess what: they still can. At least they aren't walking out of the store with them. All you had to do was move the goods behind the counter where the sticky fingered thieves couldn't get to it.

The American Pharmacy Association has raised serious doubts about the efficacy of the Oklahoma law (and others like it). The APA contends that the sheer quantity of pseudophedrine necessary to run a profitable meth operation generally argues against using legal purchases as a means of obtaining it.

But what the hey! What do pharmacists know about drugs and the people who buy them? Only a hell of a lot more than your Fred and Barney types who get elected to the state or federal legislatures.

Have evil meth labs decreased in Oklahoma? Probably, but remember that the drugs in question were put behind the counter at the same time the purchase limits and record keeping provisions were enforced. Theft by shop-lifting was the primary means of obtaining pseudophedrine before the new law. At least judging by the TV shots of the meth chefs who were busted in state, these were not people rolling in spare change. (Since many of them sampled their own cooking, they also could not be considered particularly bright.)

Putting a government-imposed limit on a citizen's purchase (hence usage) of allergy meds, just because there are a small number of allergy med abusers in the population, is about as sensible as requiring hardware dealers limit the sale and require registration of purchase of box cutters. Hey, box cutters were used by Islamic terrorists to hijack airliners on 9/11. We sure as hell don't want that to happen again. Let's make every Tim "the Toolman" Taylor feel like a criminal for even asking about a box knife.

Come on, guys! Freedom at its best is messy. A free people have the right to make good decisions AND bad decisions. The only way to keep people from hurting themselves is to put all the dangerous stuff behind bullet proof glass under lock and key, and to limit the freedom of choice to individuals so as to remove all dangerous choices. Freedom means that people are occasionally going to hurt themselves, and others. That's why we have paramedics and ambulances, and police and fire departments. We charge people with violating the law AFTER we catch them violating the law.

In a free society we consider people innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law. We do not consider everyone potentially guilty of criminal behavior and assume that restraints are necessary to prevent the lawbreaking.

Outrage No. 3 is that retailers are making adjustments to their marketing strategy. Wal Mart, for instance, changed its generic Actifed product, Anihist, by switching to another active ingredient so that it could put it back on the floor. We tried a box. Maybe it works for someone else, but it didn't work for us. (The pharmacist just shook his head when we told him about it. "That's what we get when bureaucrats and marketing people put their heads together without bothering to ask us whether it's a good idea," he said.)

Is there an Outrage No. 4? You bet. It's simply this: The Patriot Act is no place for a law like this to be tucked away. What in Sam Hill does the desire to cut down on meth production have to do with protecting the United States from foreign Islamic terrorists? Are they trying to tell us that there are domestic Islamic terrorists mixing meth in an attempt to destroy the American people?

If, on the other hand, you are using the Patriot Act as a tool to progressively lessen the freedoms of Americans to make decisions for themselves, like the liberals are always squawking, then it makes perfect sense.

And it would make us perfectly angry. Cause we would sure hate to have to agree with the liberals on anything, but going for days at a time without adequate allergy medication is starting to wear down our resistance to the idea.

A Lake Leaks in the Ozarks

It's just a lake that leaks, no story here.

LESTERVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Water poured through a breach at a hydroelectric plant's rural reservoir in southeast Missouri on Wednesday morning, washing away homes and vehicles, authorities said.

A family of five was rescued after the breach about 5:30 a.m. at AmerenUE's Taum Sauk Lake Hydroelectric Plant, the Reynolds County Sheriff's Department said.

One person had been feared missing, but was later accounted for, sheriff's dispatcher Ginger Bell told CNN.

Conditions along the Black River, where the plant is situated, were considered dangerous, the National Weather Service said.

The AP story isn't very clear about the nature of the "water escape," as one engineer phrased it.

Weather wasn't a factor, and the company that operates the hydro-electric facility there says equipment failure also was ruled out.

So where did the water come from? You'd think someone would know. Another little mystery to add to a growing collection.

Although CNN and Fox News carried the story, it wasn't even mentioned on radio news feeds or Drudge.

When it comes to flooding, between the tsunami and katrina, the threshold of interest level seems to have been reset to a higher level.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A possible explanation for the geysers

Officials with Chesapeake Energy Corp. say it is possible that the natural gas geysers that are occuring in Kingfisher County are linked to a well where last week they discovered abnormally high pressures about two miles below the surface.

“We have drilled thousands of wells in Oklahoma and have never had an occurrence like this before,” said Tom Price, Chesapeake’s executive vice president of corporate development. “We cannot rule it out as the cause, but we certainly are not prepared to say that manifestations of gas located as near as one and a half miles away or as far as 12 miles away have come from that well in Kingfisher County.”

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission agreed the connection would be unusual.

The gas tests as mostly methane, the component in most natural gas. Oklahoma officials hope that by pulling natural gas from the well, Chesapeake will eliminate the problem.

Chesapeake said there is no indication the gas traveled beyond the well bore, but the company acknowledged the possibility that its drilling activity could have contributed or caused the natural gas leak.

While it is unusual for oil or natural gas to travel long distances underground, it has happened before. In 1982, for example, oil burst to the surface up to 10 miles away from a well drilled in Caddo County.

If pumping doesn't work, then it's back to square one. There is a chance that the abnormally high pressures that were detected in the new well are being felt all across the area, from some unseen event below.

Previous Post: Erupting natural gas geysers in Oklahoma?

Lost at sea: cruise control issues

Enough smoke generated to appear above the government and media radar:
Lawmakers are set this morning to investigate the potential dangers to vacationers cruising the high seas. Two congressional committees will hold a joint hearing focusing on cruise-ship disappearances and crimes. The hearing comes on the heels of another cruise-ship disappearance in recent months, this one aboard Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Sea, which returned to Florida on Sunday with one less passenger than when it departed.

Canadian Jill Begora, 59, was last seen by her husband on Saturday morning as the ship approached the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. A search by a U.S. Coast Guard ship and the Bahamian Navy found no trace of her.

"It's just too much to comprehend," said Thomas Begora, a relative. "I hope everything's all right, but you know how these things are some times."

It is estimated that in the past two years, about a dozen people have disappeared while aboard cruise ships.

In another high-profile case, George Smith disappeared while on his honeymoon in the Mediterranean last July aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. His family is convinced that Smith was killed because witnesses heard screaming and there was blood on the ship's deck. Smith has not been found. Now his family is planning to sue Royal Caribbean, accusing the cruise line of hindering the investigation.

"We can't hold a funeral, and, you know, as far as Royal Caribbean is concerned, they would merely have another drunk falling into the water, nothing we could do about it," said Bree Smith, George's sister. "That's not good enough and we're going to make changes so this does not happen to another family."

This should serve as a friendly reminder to all those contemplating a vacation cruise. More often that not you are not on an American ship, and you visit places that care not a whit about American rights. Should anything happen, you are often on your own.

Statistically speaking, the number of the disappeared is minutely low compared to the numbers who return all smiles with sunburns, bellyaches and empty wallets.

But there is danger. That might even add spice to your trip.

The (Hollywood) Empire Strikes Back

The first salvo is fired.
The cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain" positioned itself as a key Oscar competitor Tuesday, roping in seven Golden Globe nominations, including best dramatic picture and honors for actor Heath Ledger and director Ang Lee.
The Globes were the latest recognition for "Brokeback Mountain," a critical darling that has received top honors from critics groups in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.
In case anyone is interested, the movie, featuring an explicit gay cowboy love affair, opened in just five theatres over the weekend. Those theatres were in San Francisco (natch), LA and New York. In the same opening weekend the "Chronicles of Narnia, Episode One" (or officially "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe") sold $65 million tickets.

Who got the biggest Variety headlines?

The gay cowboy movie, of course. Setting "new box office records." Seriously, that's what they said. It seems that for an opener in only five theatres, they made more money than anyone before them.

Which means, of course, that the gay political machine was ginned up to get as many butts in the seats as possible in order to use this limited release as a springboard into the cineplexes in the great fruited plains.

No doubt Ang Lee, the director, has pulled all the stops with his movie-making prowess. For Hollywood agenda makers, there's a lot riding on this film. Nearly two years after "Passion of the Christ" demonstrated that millions of people across this land will support movies about Christian themes, and as the Narnia movie prepares to share the domination of the Christmas movie season, there is nothing the amoral elitists would like better than to have a gay "hit."

They need a special platform. A movie that sucks in heterosexual viewers and manipulates their emotions effectively enough to short-circuit their natural recoil reflex. By most accounts, this movie is the vehicle they've been waiting for, the springboard for the next level of intrusion of gay subculture into mainstream America.

Since there are no longer any moral standards to which moviemakers and film companies must adhere, it is certainly their legal right to do this. That a movie is legal is not equivalent to saying that a movie is moral, not that the "Brokeback Mountain" people would care.

But you might.

Here is the sure-fire antidote for "Brokeback Mountain" and other flicks of questionable morality: Don't go see it. Don't spend your hard-earned money on it.

Hollywood loves money more than it loves a good crusade against traditional values. If this cowboy movie doesn't make a full eight count out of chute, and the studio loses money, they will think twice about another just like it.

Sure, you will be called narrow-minded for your refusal to expose yourself to this sensitive story of gay cowboy love. Sometimes heroic gestures go unappreciated.

But in the end it's your money and your choice. Your conscience and your culture. If you won't defend it by refusing to fund its destruction, then don't look around and expect others to do so.

Collapse of the monolith: eating their own

Newsweek's Howard Fineman on famed Watergate and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward:

"... An official court stenographer of the Bush administration."


You can and probably should read the whole story, but most of what Fineman says is MSM spin, and we know what that's worth these days.

King Kong premier an earthshaking event

Peter Jackson has all the luck. An earthquake strikes the Wellington, New Zealand, theatre where he's an hour into the premiere of his new blockbuster, King Kong, and the 4.5 shaker reinforces the action on the screen.

No one is hurt. Everyone has a good nervous laugh, and the show goes on.

This movie could be big, baby.

Erupting natural gas geysers in Oklahoma?

If erupting natural gas and mud geysers don't get your curiosity up, nothing will.

Especially when there are several scattered square miles of Kingfisher County out to the west of Guthrie thus afflicted.

So far there are few details and no one seems to know much.

A good reporter would ask, "What could be happening underground that would cause natural gas to vent and muddy water to boil up?"

He (or she, we're not that old-fashioned) would also ask, "How many times in the state's history has something like this happened? Has it ever happened when someone was drilling a gas well?"

The good reporter would ponder a bit and ask, "Is this in any way related to the large chasm in the earth that opened up last summer in the Texas Panhandle? If it isn't related, then what is causing the Texas event?"

But apparently there are a dearth of good reporters on the story.

Seriously we hope someone smart is checking out the geysers with scientific equipment.

What a day!

It was not the greatest of starts for a week.

Every project, every timetable, was pretty much lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine before Monday ever got started.

But a lot of other stuff -- not of it visible as yet -- was accomplished.

Tuesday should be better. In fact, Tuesday already is here.

Remember it's election day if you live in Tulsa County.

If you don't know which way to vote, don't inflict your ignorance on those of us who do. We mean it ever so kindly. If you need to be told, then vote no. It's usually a safe bet.

The 4 to Fix the County is unnecessary and wasteful.

The "9-1-1" 50-cent per month surcharge on cell phones is going to raise a lot of money and as yet we have been told zilch, zero, nada about what the program will cost, who's handling the money, and how long the charge will continue to be assessed. Of course it sounds like a good idea, but the details are non-existent.

Please vote no. If they explain it to us later and ask us to vote again, we can always change our minds, but a tax once enacted is rarely ever repealed.