Friday, February 27, 2009

Let's Take the Weekend Off, Shall We?

With a big wedding in the family this weekend, there was much to do today and little time for posting coming up.

But I've got several interesting posts bubbling on the brain, so have a great weekend, take comfort in the fact that the stock market is closed, Congress won't be voting on Saturday or Sunday, and spring training games have begun. For a couple of days, at least, we can pretend that all is well.

See ya' Monday.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meanwhile, As You Were Bitching About the Budget ...

Just got in from a day that required six hours of travel. The upside is I got to listen to a good deal of talk radio. The downside is that I'm almost too tired to think.

The bloated budget proposal seems to be the big thing on everyone's mind today which is why, I suppose, the U.S. Senate took today as its opportunity to pass its version of a bill that would give the District of Columbia a full-fledged voting member in the House of Representatives. The vote was 61-37, with turncoat Senators Specter, Snowe and Collins voting for it, naturally, plus Orrin Hatch (Utah gets an additional congressman in this "compromise, at least until the new census overturns everything in 2010), George Voinovich (OH) and Richard Lugar (IN).

Hell, boys, as long as we are ignoring the Constitution, which limits representation in Congress to states only, why stop at the House? Why not give D.C. two senators as well?

The House will pass its version of the bill soon, and in conference committee you can expect to see a couple of poison pill amendments, one to permanently gut the so-called Fairness Doctrine, stripped out.

In the Era of Obama not even the poor conservative dogs get scraps from under the Master's table.

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Beware Talk of Universal Savings Accounts

As if we didn't have enough to worry about already, keep a sharp lookout for the phrase "universal savings account," which is progressive/liberal/socialist-speak for the next phase of the Social Security Ponzi scheme.

The phrase popped up again Wednesday in a White House release (courtesy CBS) discussing Mr. Obama's proposed budget plans:
And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.
The last we heard about this one, the plan was to take Americans' 401(k) plans, which individuals own and control in the free market, and convert them into savings accounts that are linked to one's Social Security "account." This account is, as most of us know quite well, a fictional device since there is no Social Security trust fund, unless you consider the countless IOUs a fund of some sort, since the federal government spends every stinkin' dollar that comes in through FICA withholdings.

I fear it is likely that the government is getting ready to annex private retirement accounts by claiming that they have been so decimated by stock market reversals that government must act to protect what you have left. Many will probably buy this rationale, sadly, and the government will have another huge pot of money that it will misappropriate for all sorts of pet social-engineering causes.

And Social Security will still be teetering on the brink.


Universal Health Care: 1st Installment

He may or may not be the American Machiavelli, but Barack Obama sure isn't afraid to toss around the big money numbers.
Obama Proposes $634 Billion Fund For Health Care
Aides Call Money a 'Down Payment' Toward Universal-Coverage Efforts

President Obama is proposing to begin a vast expansion of the U.S. health-care system by creating a $634 billion reserve fund over the next decade, launching an overhaul that most experts project will ultimately cost at least $1 trillion.
That giant sucking sound is the huge vacuum the government will use to extract your "excess" dollars. The giant clanking sound is the rumble of printing presses producing nearly worthless money.


First Post on a Busy Thursday

I'm filing this just after midnight for the first and perhaps only post of the day.

I've got a ton of stuff that needs doing, and almost none of it involves the computer.

It's at least 7 hours to breakfast and after fasting and abstaining Wednesday, I could cheerfully kill for a 3-egg Denver omelet. But that would be counter the Lenten goal, I suppose.


UPDATE -- Okay, so it wasn't the only post, and breakfast is in sight, so it's a good day.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surprise: AP Fact Checks Obama, Finds 'Errors'

I'm usually pretty critical of the Associated Press for its covered biased in favor of "progressives" in general and Mr. Obama in particular, but I have to commend this article for doing some fact checking!

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama knows Americans are unhappy that the government could rescue people who bought mansions beyond their means.

But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow.

Even officials in his administration, many supporters of the plan in Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman expect some of that money will go to people who used lousy judgment.

The president skipped over several complex economic circumstances in his speech to Congress - and may have started an international debate among trivia lovers and auto buffs over what country invented the car.

A look at some of his assertions:

OBAMA: "We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values."

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money only goes to those who got in honest trouble, it hasn't said so. [SNIP]

OBAMA: "And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

THE FACTS: Depends what your definition of automobiles, is. According to the Library of Congress, the inventor of the first true automobile was probably Germany's Karl Benz, who created the first auto powered by an internal combustion gasoline engine, in 1885 or 1886. In the U.S., Charles Duryea tested what library researchers called the first successful gas-powered car in 1893. Nobody disputes that Henry Ford created the first assembly line that made cars affordable.

OBAMA: "We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before."

THE FACTS: Oil imports peaked in 2005 at just over 5 billion barrels, and have been declining slightly since. The figure in 2007 was 4.9 billion barrels, or about 58 percent of total consumption. The nation is on pace this year to import 4.7 billion barrels, and government projections are for imports to hold steady or decrease a bit over the next two decades.

There are several more. If the AP starts fact checking again, perhaps the future won't be so dismal after all.

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With Over 8,500 Earmarks to Better Waste Your Tax $$$

They've done it again.

The House has just passed the "Omnibus bill" that includes over $407 billion in spending over and above the nearly $800 billion that passed just two weeks ago. The vote was 245 to 178. Sixteen free-spending Republicans were on board with the free-spending Democrats.

It now goes to the Senate for "consideration." I use quote marks because I'm not sure whether that process even takes place anymore.

Congress is spending money so fast now that even Matt Drudge can't keep up. Or he doesn't bother.

According to one analysis of the "Omni" there are 8,500 "earmarks" in the bill. This passes on the day after Mr. President vows that there will be no more earmarks. Heh.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, the tireless budget hawk, has outlined some of the interesting and deplorable aspects of the "Omni" on his twitter page. Among them:

-- $150,000 for lobster research.

-- At least $17 billion for NASA.

-- $250,000 for Bluefin Tuna tagging. (Well, there are an awful lot of tuna swimming around,and if you have to tag every one of them ...)

-- The Department of Justice gets $25 million for its "Weed & Seed" program. (I'm almost afraid to ask what this one covers. The senator said the program paid for a do-nut eating event in Ohio and dance instruction in Georgia. For federal agents?)

-- $10 million for Blue Crab disaster assistance in Maryland and Virginia.

Lots of other fish projects.

And this is just scratching the surface.

Do you feel like your government is out of control?

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Thank You, Sen. Robert Byrd

In the Dept. of Credit Where Credit is Due:

U.S. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, deserves praise.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the longest-serving Democratic senator, is criticizing President Obama’s appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a power grab by the executive branch.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”

While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House.
Byrd is right. If all the people who accused George W. Bush of trampling on the Constitution were consistent, they would be marching in the street against what is happening now. (And particularly during the end of his presidency, Bush made a mockery of several constitutional provisions).

Mr. Obama has thus far shown no sign of restoring Constitutional balance. He is not alone, however. Congress appears hell-bent on granting statehood privileges to the District of Columbia without amending the constitution. (See discussion of this HERE and HERE.)

Or as I remember hearing from some movie or another, "The last vestiges of the old Republic have been swept away ..."

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Penitential Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

It is Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent, and as far as I'm concerned, it couldn't have come a moment too soon.


It gives me just that much more reason to intensify my personal prayer for conversion of heart. With everything going on in our society, I figure some of it is my responsibility, my fault, my own grievous fault.


I may be a Constitutional Conservative, politically, but I am first and foremost a Christian. While I believe in limited, divided, inefficient governance, I also understand that each of us is responsible within the context of our lives to personally consider ourselves the keeper of our brothers and sisters. Not only are we personally responsible for alleviating the misery of the afflicted in our midst, we are corporately responsible to combine our efforts.

But as Church, not as government. I do not have the moral right to abrogate your free will to refuse to do good. I cannot morally force you to participate in good works by supporting legislation to strip you of your personal property (money) so that government can do the good works.

Yet you cannot listen to President Obama's Fat Tuesday speech before Congress (it wasn't a State of the Union talk), or read the details of the Porkulus legislation, or listen to federal bureaucrats talk of rescuing banks and mortgages and automakers, or hear of the earmarks in the new federal spending bill (Son of Porkulus), without realizing that both constitutional conservative AND Christian principles are no longer being followed.

And some of this is my fault. I and others like me have done a poor job in making the case for private charity over public works, most likely because we have left so much potential good undone. We have been too much of the world, like our secular neighbors, and desired material comforts for ourselves ahead of allocating a percentage of resources for outreach. We have given false witness of our Christian values even as we proclaimed our conservative values.

What we did, in essence, was come across as selfish at the least, hypocrites at the worst.

Is it too late to change? No. Even when the reluctant Jonah finally reached wicked Ninevah to preach God's message of "repent or face doom in 40 days", the people of Ninevah recognized something important in Jonah's message. Even the King was affected, ordering a period of lamentation and contritition, a 40-day period of wearing sackcloth and ashes. Even the livestock wore sackcloth and ashes.

And God spared Ninevah (though Jonah - no big fan of Ninevites - was not pleased about it). This incident became a singular example of the power of repentance.

We are the Jonahs of today's world, the reluctant messengers of a divine message of "change your ways or face the consequences." Will we deliver that message? Will we ourselves live that message?

That's what I'm thinking about on this most Holy Ash Wednesday as I deprive myself of some of the food I ordinarily eat (fasting) and of meat (abstinence). These are symbolic things, meant to get me in a frame of mind suitable for God's molding. That molding, however, will be more extensive than merely a change in dietary habits. It means a change of thought stemming from a change of heart. It means refraining from actions that harm others; it means taking up new actions that benefit those who are suffering.

My deprivation this year goes one step further than before. In Tulsa I could get my ashes in the morning as a physical reminder to me of what this day symbolizes. Now I live in an area where there are fewer priests and parishes, and I must strive a bit harder to live my faith. Which means that the ashes will come tonight.

Still, I am happy that in spirit I feel the grimy weight of those ashes on my forehead already. I want to have a good Lent that leads to a glorious Easter.

May you have a good Lent as well.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Praise of Small Luxuries

How do you cope with bad economic times? Where is the joie de vivre?

Think smaller.
The ailing economy is threatening to permanently kill the national buzz. The hundreds of thousands who have been laid off of late certainly have no intention of living the high life, and neither do those clinging to employment with shredded fingernails. Second homes, exotic getaways and French Champagne seem at best imprudent, at worst vulgar. What to do?

Think small, like Casey Elliott.

She's here picking up a tin of gourmet hot chocolate mix for her kids, a small but welcome treat at a time when her husband is out of work. "We're trying to do simple things, like going for family walks and playing games," she says.

From food to fashion, potions to pets, entertainment to e-commerce, Americans are finding modest ways to both buoy their spirits and maintain, even in cut-rate form, a version of those old free-spending days.

Can't find any fault with that.


If the Swiss Run Out of Cash, What Then?

If the Swiss run out of money, heaven help us all!

Economist Artur Schmidt says Switzerland could go broke because Swiss banks extended billions in credit to Eastern European countries which now can't pay back the money.

“Switzerland, like Iceland, is threatened with a potential national bankruptcy,” Schmidt told the Swiss daily Tagesanzeige.

Loans made in Swiss francs stimulated rapid economic growth in many Eastern European countries, Schmidt says, making Swiss currency very important.

Swiss banks lent francs to local banks, which in turn lent them to their customers. Such loans were especially attractive because interest rates were much lower than required for loans in local currency.

The system worked as long as exchange rates between Swiss and Eastern European currencies remained reasonably stable.

Now Eastern European currencies are falling and more borrowers are having problems repaying their loans.

A reminder that this economic mess is not just America.

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Gay Civil Union Protests in Hawaii

The Culture War continues: This time the battle is in Hawaii.

Will the Obama weigh in on this one? It is his "home" state, or so it is alleged.


Franken-Corn Genes Go Astray?

A bit of worrisome news from South of the Border: Scientists in Mexico have found that genetic strains of modified corn are migrating to traditional seed crops in that country.
Genes from genetically-engineered corn have been found in traditional crop strains in Mexico, according to a new study likely to reignite a bitter controversy over biotech maize. [SNIP]

A team led by Elena Alvarez-Buylla of the National Autonomous University in Mexico City looked at nearly 2,000 samples from 100 fields in the region from 2001 and 2004, and found that around one percent of the samples had genes that had jumped from GM [genetically modified] varieties.

"We confirmed that there was contamination in 2001 and also found contamination in 2004, which means that it either persisted in the local maize that we sampled or that it was reintroduced, which is less likely," Alvarez-Buylla told AFP.

She said the difference between previous studies and her research lay in the samples chosen for gene sequencing and in the molecular technique for decrypting the DNA.

The investigators looked for two specific genes that had escaped from biotech corn, and found them in some fields but not in others.

Alvarez-Buylla said the evidence shed stark light on the failure of efforts to shield Mexico from unauthorised GM corn.

The Mexican government banned GM seeds in 1998 in order to protect about 60 varieties of "legacy" corn, but apparently it isn't working.

Transgenic seeds are entering the country, most probably from the United States, and getting mixed with local seeds in trade among small farmers, Alvarez-Buylla believed.

"It is very hard to avoid gene flow from transgenic maize to non-transgenic maize in Mexico, even though there has been a moratorium," she said.

"It is really worrying that the government of Mexico has not been efficient enough in biosecurity monitoring," she said, accusing watchdogs of failing to establish rigorous molecular monitoring that was independent of data provided by biotech giants.

Of course the big seed companies contend that there is no human health threat from GM seeds.

I don't find that very reassuring.

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Pelosi & The Pope Revisited

If the Pope meets with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and no video equipment or photographers are allowed, did the meeting really happen?

That's the humor behind a more serious analysis of why the Vatican prevented photo and video records of the recent meeting Benedict XVI had with Nancy Pelosi. This was an unusual restriction but apparently the pontiff thought it necessary so that Pelosi would not use such imagery to convey an image to American voters that she and the pope are buddies.

So why did Pelosi get the no-photos treatment?

Before Pelosi’s visit, false rumors had been swirling on the Internet that the pope was going to present her with an award. Instead, the pope told her that all Catholics, especially lawmakers, must work to protect life at every stage. The pope’s message to Pelosi, a Catholic Democrat, was clearly aimed at reversing her support for keeping abortion legal.

In not releasing photos, the Vatican minimized the encounter and at the same time carefully controlled perceptions of the meeting. A Vatican statement released after the meeting said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi. The statement said “His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”

While the Vatican’s statement focused on abortion, Pelosi’s statement after the meeting had a different take. She said that she praised “the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.”

Two very different views of the same meeting, each party carefully controlling the message.

Would a photo of Pelosi and the pope together change perceptions of their meeting?

On walls throughout the world hang countless images of individuals meeting the pope. The formula used in the photos is tried and true: A smiling pope and a smiling subject meeting each other and shaking hands. The images convey an implicit connection with the pope and imply a sense of the pontiff bestowing his favor on the subject.

For all their simplicity, these images are very powerful. For many they are treasured keepsakes, but they are also used by countless people to promote themselves and their causes.

In not allowing photos of Pelosi meeting the pope, the Vatican recognized the power of the still image and its ability to be interpreted and used in many ways. Unlike a written statement, a still image is much more open to having many different interpretations.

And who said the Vatican isn't media savvy?



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What Every Organ Donor Ought to Consider

If you have checked the box on your driver's license that declares you to be an "organ donor," or if a member of your family -- spouse, son or daughter -- has done so, you might want to read this article today.

It isn't an easy read, but I think you'll find that it bears the "ring of truth." No doubt some medical professionals will not be happy to have you read it, or me link to it, but even if you wind up disagreeing with it, you owe it to yourself to at least consider that there might be other points of view on the organ donation question.

I am not an organ donor, and never have been. I am not necessarily against the concept. Until the American Red Cross finally told me to quit, I was an active blood donor. (It turns out I have a strange genetic marker that indicates on modern tests that I have liver problems when, in fact, my liver is just fine, thank you very much. But it was enough to disqualify me after 3 or 4 gallons of participation.) I think personal sacrifice for the sake of others is a good thing.

But I've often wondered about the ethical standards of a system in which so many thousands of dollars can ride just on the contributions of one "brain dead" individual. Where there is big money there is big incentive to "nudge" the process along a little bit. And that's what the article discusses.

You may not realize this but unless your body is essentially alive, you cannot donate organs. That is why the "brain death" criteria was developed. It didn't come into play until the development of transplant procedures -- and a market for transplanted organs had developed.

The payoff point in the article is that some hospitals and/or medical professionals may actually induce brain death through a procedure called an "apnea test" that doesn't so much test as it produces the result by shutting off ventilators just long enough, about two minutes, to shut down the brain. Then ventilation is restored to keep the rest of the body alive during the time it takes, often many hours, to harvest the body's organs.

Now I'm not saying every hospital or medical professional would do this. But how would you know? How could you be sure, in an emergency situation, that the people "caring" for your loved ones would be motivated primarily to save their lives or to generate revenues through organ harvesting?

And with the advent of socialized medicine, where triage becomes the day-to-day reality and limited "government" resources are allocated to the young and to the strong, is the problem going to get better or worse?

Food for thought, unless you're brain dead already.

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How much ice did the satellites miss?

Oh, only a chunk the size of California!

Ok, so yeah, the ice caps expanded last year ...

And ... it appears they are expanding this year ...

But that doesn't change anything! The earth is still warming, and we have to stop our evil, human ways of subduing and having dominion over the earth!

*Note, this does not mean I advocate wasting the earth's resources. I just do not get behind mass hysteria. G.K. Chesterton said that we worry a lot about false idols, but almost as bad as false idols are false devils. Global warming, I gotta say, when looking at the evidence, is a false devil.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Massive Secret Spending Bill

First we had TARP. Then Son of TARP.

Then we had the huge Pork-a-Palooza, or Porkulus Bill.

Don't look now but Porkulus II is coming quickly.
As President Obama hosts a summit Monday on “fiscal responsibility,” Democratic leaders in Congress this week are preparing to ram through the House a massive spending bill that includes thousands of unscrutinized pork-barrel earmarks and the largest increase in discretionary spending since Jimmy Carter - a bill written in secret, which to date, no one in America other than the Democratic congressional leadership has read.
There's more here, and at Human Events, if you have the stomach for it.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

ACORN Claims Ownership of Foreclosed Home

Almost missed this one. Lawlessness predicated on perceived "friends in high places" has begun.

ACORN trains citizens to protest home foreclosures
BALTIMORE (WJZ) ―A community organization breaks into a foreclosed home in what they are calling an act of civil disobedience.
The group wants to train homeowners facing eviction on peaceful ways they can remain in their homes.

Derek Valcourt reports their actions are not without controversy.

Near Patterson Park, the padlock on the door and the sign in the window tell part of Donna Hanks foreclosure story.

"The mortgage went up $300 in one month," said Hanks, former homeowner.

She says the bank refused to modify her loan and foreclosed, kicking her out of the house in September.

The community group ACORN calls Hanks a victim of predatory lending.

"This is our house now," said Louis Beverly, ACORN.
There are a couple of sentences that reach out and slap you in the face. The first, perhaps the major understatement of the week, as the report says "their actions are not without controversy." I would hope someone would think it's controversial!

OUR house? Even assuming Ms. Hanks should still be in the home, since when did ACORN get any particle of title to the property?
And on Thursday afternoon, they literally broke the foreclosure padlock right off the front door and then broke into the house, letting Hanks back in for the first time in months.

"We are actually trespassing, and so this is a way of civil disobedience to try to stay in the house," said Beverly. "Legally it's wrong, but homesteading is the only means that she has left to stay in her house. And we feel as though this is the right thing to do at this particular time to save this family."
This is not training, and yes, it is illegal. You cannot abrogate contract law through civil disobedience. We have courts to determine such things, and if every special interest group like ACORN starts breaking into other people's property, don't expect peacefulness to last for very long.

But this is why ACORN - Barack Obama's old friends - and like-minded outfits are so dangerous, and why it is a national tragedy that they were given untold millions in funding through the porkulus legislation. This is the tip of the iceberg.

(Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin)

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Comrades, We Have Found the Other Shoe!

Where's that other shoe? We've got one, where's the other?

Oh, there it is, from the White House closet, dropping right now ...

The Washington Post confirms this morning that the Obama Budget will include tax hikes for businesses and "the rich," so that they may more patriotically fight for their country, I presume.

According to the WaPo, "the rich" is defined as anyone making over $250,000 -- whew, what a relief! I was afraid those "bastards" might be defined downward a bit further. That's right, Mr. President! Give 'em what for! No one ever cured a sick child without taxing the rich! No one ever fed a homeless mother without first taking the wallet from the Fat Cat! No one ever created a job without first soaking the undeserving rich and providing the unemployed with government-issue shovels for "ready" ditch projects.

More good news, comrades! Taxes on the evil businesses will be rising 33% as the capital gains rate is proposed to rise from 15% to 20%. That will teach those greedy rich people to be more patriotic and hire more folks and give them big raises!

And if that weren't enough to get you excited enough to march on a Sunday morning, the WaPo reports that
Obama's budget request would create "running room for health reform," the official said, by reducing spending on some health programs so the administration would have money to devote to initiatives to expand coverage. The biggest target is bonus payments to insurance companies that run managed-care programs under Medicare, known as Medicare Advantage. [SNIP]

Officials also are debating whether to permit people as young as 55 to purchase coverage through Medicare. That age group is particularly vulnerable in today's weakened economy, as many have lost jobs or seen insurance premiums rise rapidly. The cost would depend on whether recipients received a discount or were required to pay the full price.
By lowering Medicare age and raising the SCHIP age to 26, that leaves only 29 years that an American would have to be worried about actually holding a job and paying their own damn health insurance premiums!

Hurrah! It won't be anytime at all before the economy turns around and we all reap the benefits of enlightened government planning. Let's not wear these shoes! Let's throw 'em!

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

China Reduces its CO2 emissions

Algore is undoubtedly pleased.

China has cut its CO2 emissions.

But the 20 million Chinese laborers who have lost their jobs and their incomes may not be as thrilled.

In the past months, about 70,000 factories nationwide have closed. Beijing official Chen Xiwen estimates about 20 million migrant workers have lost jobs. Tens of thousands of villages in the countryside depend on migrant workers' income.

China analysts say the spike in unemployment has caught China off guard. "The central government is now telling local governments to provide help and job training, re-employment," says Wenran Jiang, a political science professor and China expert at Canada's University of Alberta. [SNIP]

"Many migrant workers have lived a very hard and simple life," he says. "They have some savings for a rainy day like this, so in the short-term they may be able to cope -- but if eight or 12 months later things continue to deteriorate, it could turn volatile."

Most farmers like the Tangs do not get social security. So villagers who lost factory jobs have few choices except go back to farming. But it is not easy.

Farming feeds people but brings little cash. Millions of the jobless are second-generation migrant workers, young people who grew up in cities.

"It would be very hard," says Tang Hui. "I have never farmed. I don't know how to do it."

Just a reminder to all those CO2 reduction fanatics that there is a human cost to green progress. Hopefully this is not a preview of what could happen in America if our government keeps rushing headlong into socialist economic policies.


How About Accuracy AND Consistency?

Did you know that when it comes to monitoring the polar ice caps that being accurate at any given moment is secondary to being consistent in your data collection methods over long periods?

That's the excuse used by the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for the faulty satellite data that has for several weeks now under-reported a California-sized amount of Arctic sea ice.

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- A glitch in satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of Arctic sea ice by 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), a California- size area, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

The error, due to a problem called “sensor drift,” began in early January and caused a slowly growing underestimation of sea ice extent until mid-February. That’s when “puzzled readers” alerted the NSIDC about data showing ice-covered areas as stretches of open ocean, the Boulder, Colorado-based group said on its Web site. [SNIP]

The extent of Arctic sea ice is seen as a key measure of how rising temperatures are affecting the Earth. [SNIP]

The NSIDC uses Department of Defense satellites to obtain its Arctic sea ice data rather than more accurate National Aeronautics and Space Administration equipment. That’s because the defense satellites have a longer period of historical data, enabling scientists to draw conclusions about long-term ice melt, the center said.

“There is a balance between being as accurate as possible at any given moment and being as consistent as possible through long time-periods,” NSIDC said.
NSIDC is one of the organizations that is still contending that ice levels are retreating, even though actual visual examinations are showing that sea ice has returned to levels not seen in several decades.

You don't suppose there's an agenda involved?

I'd have a great deal more confidence in NSIDC is they'd be a little more concerned about "sensor drift" and accurate readings at any specific given time.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Americans are Skeptical of Obama-Nomics

The Associated Press can't figure out why people are so skeptical of President Obama's Pork-a-Palooza stimulus efforts.
WASHINGTON (AP) - In sheer size, the economic measures announced by President Barack Obama to address "a crisis unlike we've ever known" are remarkable, rivaling and in many cases dwarfing the New Deal programs that Franklin D. Roosevelt famously created to battle the Great Depression.

Winning approval was a political tour-de-force for the new administration.

Yet gloom and uncertainty persist about the plan's ability to deliver a cure for the economy's severe ailments.

Stocks plunged to six-year lows after the burst of bill signings, bailout announcements and presidential pledges.

And polls show Americans are increasingly worried about losing jobs and not having enough money to pay their bills.

AP writer Tom Raum tries to spin the negative mood of the public as the result of just too much bad news coming too quickly. Sorry, Tom, but the American people aren't completely stupid. Some of us actually have read a little history and understand economics and the historical strength of the American economic system a lot better than apparently you do.

Maybe the mood is sour because the Dow Jones Industrials have dropped more since The One's election than they did during the September-October when Democrats used the bad economic news to bash John McCain and the Republicans.
On Election Day 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,625.

On Inauguration Day 2009, the DJIA closed at 7,949.09.
The Dow was down just over 100 points today to close at 7,365.67. Total losses since Election Day: 2,260, or 23%. Seven percent of that in the 28 days since Obama was sworn in.

Truly an achievement of FDR proportions, if you understand how Roosevelt put the word "Great" in front of the Depression of the '30s.

There is little investor confidence in the markets because there is great uncertainty. In recent years a majority of Americans became investors, some directly and others indirectly through retirement plans. These people who now find their 401(k) has turned into a 201(k) -- yes, it's a stolen joke -- are not happy about it, but they no exactly why it has happened.

The idea that we have to "do something" even if it means reversing course every few weeks, no matter which stock gets rocked, is anathema to sound economic growth.

Today bank stocks were rocked (again) when U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the same Chris Dodd of the favorite son Countrywide sweetheart loan scandal, gave a TV interview and said it might be necessary to "temporarily" nationalize a few big banks. Citigroup and Bank of America promptly dropped to new lows, and there is speculation that neither bank will now live to see May. Thanks for being responsible, Sen. Dodd. Let's not even begin to examine the non sequitor of temporary nationalization.

The Associated Press, being the shills that they are for a happy Obama presidency, want us to believe that all we have to fear is fear itself, when the truth is that the American people are waking up to the truth that we should fear progressive lawmakers and executives who want to expand government at the expense of the free market system.

On a related note, our East Texas comrade George Ure ( points out that if you factor in for inflation, we have just crossed the threshold of a 50 percent drop of the DJIA since its peak of 14,066.01 on October 1, 2007.

Happy roller coaster ride! Oh, and Happy Birthday, George!


Chicago, City of Broad Surveillance

The Honorable Richard Daley, Hizzoner of Chicago, says he'll keep his city safe during the (sought) 2016 Olympics (until then, you're on your own).
Mayor Daley has argued that security and terrorism won’t be an issue if his Olympic dreams come true because, by 2016, there will be a surveillance camera on every street corner in Chicago.
Who's supposed to be happy about that?
But even before that blanket coverage begins, the “Big Brother’’ network is being put to better use.

Call takers and dispatchers now see real-time video if there is a surveillance cameras within 150 feet of a 911 call, thanks to a $6 million upgrade to the city’s “computer-aided dispatch” system.

When live video appears, call takers can pan, tilt and zoom those cameras to get the best possible view of a crime or disaster scene.

Uh, maybe Chicago should concentrate on prevention of terrorist crimes rather than just prettier pictures of their aftermath.


Let's Kill This Proposal Right Now

There is no way in hell the American people will stand still for Federal odometer checks.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn — an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.
This has to be one of those proposals designed to get us looking the other direction while they pick our pockets elsewhere. Can you imagine the anger this would provoke? Even the lefty-biased AP picks up on this undercurrent in its report.
Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.
The idea also is gaining ground in several states. Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island are talking about such programs, and a North Carolina panel suggested in December the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it's an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens. Other motorists say it eliminates an incentive to drive more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.
While a quarter-cent per mile isn't a huge tax, there's no guarantee a federal tax would not be higher. Also, I don't see anyone proposing we get rid of the fuel tax if the VMT is implemented.

As George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) said in Easy Rider (1969), "This used to be a damn fine country."


What Are We Looking At

This video purportedly was shot in Russia. There's a lot of speculation as to whether it is a hoax or an elaborate attempt by scientists to influence public opinion.

Other than to say that there are prophecies that describe a coming series of "signs in the heavens" attesting to the truth of Jesus and His eventual return, I have no idea whether it's faked or not.

But it is interesting.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

That Sign of Trouble in OKC

The motorist who was detained in Oklahoma City for displaying a sign that read: "Abort Obama, Not the Unborn" has garnered national attention, especially since he also was paid a visit by the Secret Service.

I don't think there's much doubt that the officers who stopped Chip Harrison were over-reacting. It's interesting that the officers' story changed somewhat from this morning to tonight, as they are now claiming that they were just trying to protect Harrison from trouble with the president's protective detail. Since Harrison is talking "attorney" it's CYA time. No surprise there.

I have no idea how many people are displaying identically-worded signs, but I've seen one such vehicle a few days ago, and I have to tell you, reading it made me very uncomfortable.

Now I am as pro-life as I feel a man can be, but I do not like the wording of the sign. I also acknowledge that no one needs my approval as this should be easily covered under the First Amendment. What I am saying, I suppose, is that I can see how a peace officer might "interpret" the word abort to mean exactly what it means in the context of abortion, to end a life. However, Harrison
told the officers that in his opinion the words "Abort Obama" meant to impeach him. He told the officers he does not believe in abortion because he is a Christian.
I doubt many people would equate abort with impeach. This response is too clever.

Which brings me to my point. Stick to your convictions, and if you must make bold statements, by all means stand by them. But a pro-life advocate should try to steer clear of statements that might provoke a violent reaction. That is not the way to changing hearts and minds, and it's a potential betrayal of the cause itself.

Would Jesus say, "Abort Obama." Not likely. No doubt He'd have plenty to say, and I would imagine there would be a call to repent involved at some point. But it would be done with love out of true concern for the spiritual welfare of the president.

How extremely difficult it is to follow the footsteps of the Christ, and how often I fail to do so, and thus give false witness of my own Christian faith.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pelosi Loses Plausible Deniability

Thanks to Pope Benedict, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can no longer claim that she understands all the nuances of the Roman Catholic Church's view on abortion. She's heard the truth from its highest authority, and that truth is a smack down of all her previous weasel words.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, underscoring the Vatican's ruling on an issue that divides Americans, told U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday that Catholic politicians and legislators cannot back abortion rights.

Pelosi, a powerful U.S. politician who is Catholic and pro-choice, has been accused by U.S. bishops in the past of misrepresenting Church teachings on abortion.

"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural and moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death ..." a Vatican statement said.

It said such teaching "enjoins all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men of goodwill in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development," it said.

Pelosi has tried to argue that theologians in the Church have never been able to agree on when life begins. Any mediocre student of Catholic teaching knows that this is not true. But it is the rare mediocre student who has such a vested interest in clinging to an immoral position for political gain.

The pope has informed her conscience for her, and now it is her free will to follow it or ignore it. I don't expect Pelosi to change her story, which is very sad. The consequences, for her and for the country, will be quite tragic.

UPDATE - George Weigel has much the same take as I do, only he says it so much better HERE.

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Obama's EPA to America: Don't Breathe

This should come as no surprise to anyone.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.

The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power.
The environmental agency is under order from the Supreme Court to make a determination whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers public health and welfare, an order that the Bush administration essentially ignored despite near-unanimous belief among agency experts that research points inexorably to such a finding.
... she said that the agency would reconsider a Bush administration decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-burning power plants. In announcing the reversal, Ms. Jackson suggested that the E.P.A. was considering additional measures to regulate heat-trapping gases. The White House signaled that it fully supported Ms. Jackson’s approach ...
Nevermind that CO2 is the natural exhalation of all animal life on planet Earth, and the natural byproduct of all combustion that involves oxygen. Candidate Obama said that he was planning on bankrupting the coal-fired generating plants of America. President Obama's administration seems to be poised to do just that.

We are now ruled by ideologues and mental children. So unless you've got a nuclear generating plant hidden in your basement, or plan on getting a $50,000 federal grant to install solar panels on your home, plan on reducing your standard of living big time and soon.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oklahoma Lawmakers Wasting Time?

The NRO-based blog "Bench Memos" has a post by Matthew J. Franck mildly taking Oklahoma legislators to task for House Joint Resolution 1003 which asserts, he says, that the federal government is passing laws in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That's the amendment that says that all powers not reserved to the federal government or prohibited to the states, are reserved to the people and to the states.

Franck says the Oklahomans are right but ... so what?
But this resolution isn't much more useful than a handful of angry letters to the Tulsa newspaper. Once upon a time a state's legislature could go into high dudgeon and really affect politics in the nation's capital—as with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts (though it's widely forgotten that more states publicly disagreed with these two than agreed with them). But those were the days when state legislators chose U.S. senators, when legislatures still controlled or strongly influenced the choice of presidential electors, and when state governments in general were in a position to give national politics a hard shove just by announcing where they stood. Not so any longer. In D.C., this will hardly even be noticed.

That fact may be a result of exactly the federal depredations that Oklahoma rightly but bootlessly complains about. But the energy expended on thumping the table about the Tenth Amendment might be better spent on recruiting small-government conservatives, in Oklahoma and nationwide, to run for Congress and change things where change is possible. You say both of Oklahoma's senators and four out of its five representatives are Republicans who voted against the stimulus? That's a good start.

Actually, Matthew, conceded that you are right in every other respect, sending angry letters to the Tulsa daily newspaper is the greatest of all exercises in futility. I'm just sayin' ... At least the legislature can be reasonably sure their resolution will appear in print as they actually pass it.

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A Big Black Hole One Way or Another

If the world didn't already have enough to worry about, BBC News (online) has this headline:
Race for 'God particle' heats up

Europe's particle physics lab, Cern, is losing ground rapidly in the race to discover the elusive Higgs boson, or "God particle", its US rival claims.

The particle, whose existence has been predicted by theoreticians, would help to explain why matter has mass.

Finding the Higgs is a major goal of Cern's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

But the US Fermilab says the odds of its Tevatron accelerator detecting the famed particle first are now 50-50 at worst, and up to 96% at best.

Both machines hope to see evidence of the Higgs by colliding sub-atomic matter at very high speeds. If it exists, the Higgs should emerge from the debris.

Unless a small black hole is formed instead, which is the fear a very small minority of critics, a smaller few with actual science credentials.

Still, the fact that scientists are calling this the "God particle" is just inviting trouble, don'tcha think?

The U.S. lab is located near Chicago, itself sort of a black hole where political ethics are sucked in and disappear. So why not just add the rest of the planet and be done with it.

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Lindsey Graham, Senator from Sweden?

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, aka Grahamnesty, has fully succumbed to Potomac Fever.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, says that many of his colleagues, including John McCain, the defeated presidential candidate, agree with his view that nationalisation of some banks should be “on the table”.

“You should not get caught up on a word [nationalisation],” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “I would argue that we cannot be ideologically a little bit pregnant. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we can’t keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control]. That’s what the Japanese did.”

Barack Obama, the president, who has tried to avoid panicking lawmakers and markets by entertaining the idea, has moved more towards what he calls the “Swedish model” – an approach backed strongly by Mr Graham. In the early 1990s Sweden nationalised its banking sector then auctioned banks having cleaned up balance sheets. “In limited circumstances the Swedish model makes sense for the US,” says Mr Graham.

Yah, suure ...

Since when did real Americans advocate any Swedish public policy?

And, senator, we are not just "a little bit pregnant." Another report says that 400 banks, including the Top 20 in the U.S., in 47 states have accepted federal "help." Which means federal strings. Like the new requirement that banks accepting federal money cannot raise their singular or collective voices against pending legislation like the "card check" that would empower labor unions by eliminating the secret ballot to determine whether employees unionize a particular firm.

But Lindsey Graham wants to be loved. He trots after John McCain like a faithful collie, and he can warp the space/time continuum to position himself in front of TV cameras and microphones. Pathetic.

The country pays the price.

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The Weekend was not Lost, But Memories Could be

Spent the weekend in north central Texas visiting my daughter, mostly watching her and Mrs. Oklahomilist make plans for a June wedding. And yeah, Stephen the Fiance hung out with me. Both of us on the edge of terminal boredom. Had it not been for a Valentine's movie (the excellent "Taken"), and meals at Red Lobster and P.F. Chang's, who knows what would have become of me.

Fortunately I took a bit of light reading along, Michael Crichton's "Next," which was published in 2006. It deals with genetic research and the various misadventures which could (and do) take place as new therapies and medications are developed through them, as well as the evils surrounding the commercialization of gene patents. Suffice it to say that by the time I'd finished the book, I was ready to get back to God's country and never, ever again give any doctor or hospital a blood or tissue sample.

So what greets me on Drudge this morning? "Pill to Erase Bad Memories: Ethical furore over drugs that threaten human identity."
British experts said the breakthrough raises disturbing ethical questions about what makes us human.

They also warned it could have damaging psychological consequences, preventing those who take it from learning from their mistakes.


Beta blockers appear to work because each time someone recalls a powerful emotional memory the memory is 'remade' by the brain. The drug interferes with this re-creation of the stressful memory - and prevents the brain renewing it.

While not technically genetic research, the study involves a medication using beta-adrenergic receptor blockers that affect the brain.

Sometime in the future you could have someone commit a murder, erase the memory of the murder, as well as other incriminating evidence, and be able to pass a polygraph exam since the memory would no longer be the same.


Do we really want to go down this path? Medications and procedures that change who we are physically and psychologically?

Crichton's book revolved around transgenic animals and chimeras and a lot of attorney chicanery. I highly recommend it as an entertaining read. Be warned, however, that it spotlights a future that you most likely will not want to inhabit, and just another set of reasons why I think God is about ready to allow a major cleansing of our modern order.


The Future of Food: A Numbers Game

I read today a blog post from Britain about a farm that is trying to wean itself from oil -- petroleum -- as a sign to other world farmers that it can be done, though not easily.

Which is nice, I suppose. Go for it. Humankind was farming long before Jed's bubbling crude came along.

But what really struck me in the entry was this statement:
A return to manual labour on farms seems unlikely. Most British farmers don't have the physical strength for one simple reason - their average age is 60. And there are only 150,000 left. As an industry, British farming has effectively been left to die.
If this is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, the lovers of eating in Great Britain had better hope that we are not at peak oil and that someone comes along to replace those 150,000 farmers. That is a very fragile thread upon which to dangle the food supply of a nation. Any major disruption in shipping (which could come with diminished oil supplies, war, or natural disaster) would leave people scrambling for sharply reduced inventories.

It gets me to thinking about the FFA creed I recited, lo those many years ago, that began, "I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words but of deeds ..." Except that I left the farm as fast as I could right out of high school, as did most of my FFA-trained schoolmates. Words, not deeds. Now I believe that there needs to be a future for farming, and it had better not just be words.

Things may not be quite as dire here in America, but not by much.

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A 'Heads up' for Pope Benedict

Deal Hudson has a few words of friendly warning for Pope Benedict before Nancy Pelosi shows up at the front steps of the Vatican.
With the debilitating illness of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Pelosi has become the de facto leader of dissident Catholic members of Congress.

It's only appropriate that Pelosi should take Kennedy's place. When she became Speaker in January 2006, she chose Rev. Robert Drinan, S.J., as the celebrant of the Mass held in her honor. The late Father Drinan, a longtime professor of law at Georgetown University, had been the architect of the arguments now used as cover by Catholic politicians who wish to dodge the abortion issue. This effort began in 1964, when Father Drinan was among a small group of theologians who visited Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, to school the Kennedy clan on how to finesse the abortion issue in politics.

Pelosi's 100 percent voting record on abortion, according to NARAL, is commonplace among Catholic Democrats in the House, but Pelosi is, perhaps, the most vocal among them. For example, millions of dollars for contraceptives were cut from the first version of the stimulus package; 0nly Pelosi, rather incoherently, defended the funding.

In August, she made such outrageous comments about the Church on Meet the Press that she single-handedly endangered President Barack Obama's outreach to Catholic voters. When, to support her pro-abortion stance on when life begins, she asserted, "Over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition," Pelosi elicited a rebuke not only from her ordinary, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, but also from dozens of other bishops.
Hudson thinks it's a good idea for Pope Benedict to meet with Speaker Pelosi because "one can never underestimate the impact of being in his presence." (In other words, a miracle might take place.) He also holds out hope that the pope might offer reporters remarks critical of Pelosi's legislative accomplishments, perhaps admonishing President Obama "for ending the Mexico City Policy and warning the new Congress against passing the Freedom of Choice Act."

I think this is the correct way to view the situation although I, like many Catholics, are very unhappy that this dissident woman thinks she represents us!

Will Pelosi receive communion in Rome? Probably. To her own eventual detriment, unless she repents.
You can be sure that Pelosi will choreograph her visit to get maximum exposure of her Catholic identity -- down to a photograph of her entering St. Peter's Basilica in a veil, no doubt. Pelosi, of course, should be denied communion, but it is unlikely to happen. Any priest who celebrates Mass with Pelosi present will be carefully chosen beforehand in order to avoid embarrassment to the Speaker and her entourage.
One final quote is in order. You may recognize it:

"Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!" (Mt. 18:7)

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Big OOPS! for Catholic Higher Ed in OK

Last weekend was the Oklahoma Catholic College student convention, attended by Catholic students from UCO, OCU, TU, OU, OSU, TCC, and St. Gregory's University.

There is a traveling Fatima statue that goes to the University that wins the Catholic Trivia quiz bowl.

The winners this year of the Fatima statue were the Catholic students from the University of Tulsa.

Coming in second was UCO in Edmond.

Then OU.

Then OSU.

Then OCU.

And coming in dead last was St. Gregory's University, the only attending University that is a Catholic University.


UPDATE: I was told that TCC was very lightly represented, and therefore joined TU during the trivia game. I have corrected this! Point being, SGU still came in last, and that is most certainly sad.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The Only Oklahoma Congressman Who Voted for Porkulus

Dan Boren must be a speed reader, huh?

He voted "yes" on the Porkulus Bill.

Guess the Second District congressman is in favor of socialized health care, billions of dollars for ACORN, is willing to risk a global trade war, and thinks big government is better than lean government. What else can we conclude?

File this and remember it.


A Bright Spot on a Black Friday

One of the unheralded consequences of Judd Gregg staying in the U.S. Senate is that it preserves one of the vital pro-life votes for the next couple of years. It was going to be difficult enough to fight what promises to be a continual onslaught against life issues with Gregg gone, since his replacement was known to have pro-choice leanings.

Always looking for the bright side. (Just not always finding one.)


Not Just Another Domestic Homicide

Sadly it's not all that rare for violence to occur when husbands and wives divorce.

But it is rare that a husband beheads his wife.

Welcome to the new cultural paradigm in Buffalo, N.Y. where The Buffalo News reports that a prominent Muslim is now facing second degree murder charges for beheading his estranged wife.

Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband -- an influential member of the local Muslim community -- reported her death to police Thursday.

Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder.

"He came to the police station at 6:20 p.m. [Thursday] and told us that she was dead," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said late this morning.

Muzzammil Hassan told police that his wife was at his business, Bridges TV, on Thorn Avenue in the village. Officers went to that location and discovered her body.

Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.

Not sure how that "positive light" thing is working out.

The killing apparently occurred some time late Thursday afternoon. Detectives still are looking for the murder weapon.

"Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible," Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said today.

Authorities say Aasiya Hassan recently had filed for divorce from her husband.

How long will it be before the hue and cry arises from the Islamic excuse lobby (and its progressive friends in the cultural sensitivity crowd) that Mr. Hassan should be judged by Shari'a standards and not those of the State of New York?


Hypocrisy at the Highest Levels

Where could you read these words?
End the Practice of Writing Legislation Behind Closed Doors: As president, Barack Obama will restore the American people's trust in their government by making government more open and transparent. Obama will work to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees, to be conducted in public.
You will find this paragraph at President Obama's website, or at least until it becomes too embarrassing for his people and they take it down.

Try to square this with the push to pass the Porkulus (Stimulus) Bill in which no lawmaker in either House or Senate actually had time to read the 1,071 page document. Copies of the bill were not made available until 7 p.m. EST last night. It's estimated that it would take over 36 non-stop hours of normal reading (without questions, dinner breaks, or trips to the john) to read the entire thing.

By the bye, the House voted a bit ago to pass the bill, 246-183. There was a rush on so that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could make her flight on an 8-day trip to Italy. That was more important than actually reading the bill.

Seven Democrats voted against it. Good for them.

One Democrat voted present. At least that's honest.

All but two Republicans voted "no" and the two in question did not vote.

Now it goes to the Senate where it may get a vote tonight, virtually sight unseen.

This is a sad day for America, chiefly because this bill will cause great harm, but also in some measure because there no longer is any pretense of the ruling powers paying any attention to the common sense legislative process of proposal and debate. The Congress is no longer a deliberative body, it's merely a place of power politics where the "winners" craft laws behind closed doors and ignore the voice (and desires) of We the People.

Pray for the survival of the Republic.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coming: Big Brother Health Care

I've been quiet about the portions of the Porkulus package that lay the groundwork for the coming Federal Colossus of Health Care, mostly because I've been hoping that some miracle would prevent it from becoming law.

But I think we have to prepare ourselves for the worst, which means two years of fighting a rearguard action against Big Government Medicine until voters with common sense can take back Congress in 2010.

Sen. Tom Coburn is already laying the groundwork for us in his denunciations of the portions of the bill that would create a new Office of Comparative Effectiveness. Rather than bore you with my inexactitudes, here is some what he said today:
“The practice of medicine is about 40 percent art and 60 percent science. A so-called ‘comparative effectiveness’ formula will replace the professional judgment of doctors and nurses, which is developed over many years, with the political judgments of politicians and bureaucrats. A comparative effectiveness formula will only save money by rationing care and ending lives. Congress is on the verge of enacting the same policy that Great Britain has used to decide, for example, that extending a patient’s life for a year isn’t worth more than $45,000.

“Trusting the government to ration care will take away choices and life-saving treatments from sick patients and deny families more time with their loved ones. Doctors and patients should be making decisions based on individual patient conditions and needs. Allowing government to make these decisions would set us on a dangerous path. The unelected staff and career politicians who are negotiating these details have almost zero real world experience in the health care sector. Congress should confess its limited capabilities in this area and debate this issue in the open, not rush through massive policy changes in secret.”

A full text of his remarks can be found here. It is not yet on his senate website.


What Will You Do With Your Extra $13?

The Pork-a-Palooza math just got a bit more interesting as Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has decided NOT to take the job as Secretary of Commerce in the Obama cabinet, which means he will be available to vote on the cloture motion for the final passage of the bill.

With Uncle Teddy back in Florida, that means one of the three GOP quislings - Snowe, Collins and Specter - will have to cast the 60th and deciding vote, and all three will have to stay on board.

It's hard to know exactly what's in the conference report and what isn't, since Reid & Pelosi seem reluctant to let anyone actually see the printed document (although lobbyists on Washington's famed K street are brandishing huge chucks of it, it is reported). We know that several of the items the trio of Republican "moderates" negotiated are no longer in the bill, so it will be interesting to see if all stay "stuck."

Assuming it passes, one disappointment for many people I know is that the "tax relief" for 95 percent of Americans is going to be far, far less than they had hoped. It isn't going to be a big rebate check. For another thing, you have to be working to get the "relief" from your FICA withholding, the extra money doesn't hit your paycheck until June, and even then it amounts of about $13 per week. The total per worker is $400.

Next year, since the program starts in January, the amount will actually dip to about $8 per week. (Eight dollars times 50 weeks is $400.)

Don't spend it all in one place. Spread it around. The economy needs your money, honey.

Also, if you were one of those people counting on the $15,000 tax credit for a first-time home purchase (on a principal residence), you just got screwed out of it in the conference committee. The credit, which was a Republican proposal added in House voting, got tossed.

Maybe you can get a good job consulting on Harry Reid's new multi-billion dollar mag-lev bullet train from LA to Vegas. Somehow or other it magically appeared.


Things That Go Bump in the Sky

Accidents happen. For instance, legend has it that the first couple of automobiles ever built in Detroit managed to collide with each other. Considering how many satellites are in Earth orbit, I guess this was bound to happen sooner or later:

Satellites Destroyed in Orbital Collision

A commercial satellite owned by a U.S. company was destroyed in a collision with a defunct Russian military satellite in what NASA said was the first such accident in orbit, raising new concerns about the dangers of space debris.

The crash, which happened Tuesday in low-earth orbit, involved one of the satellites owned by closely held Iridium Satellite LLC and a crippled Russian military satellite that apparently stopped functioning years ago, according to U.S. government and satellite-industry officials.

The collision created two large clouds of debris floating roughly 480 miles above Siberia, and prompted space scientists and engineers to assess the likelihood of further collisions.

There have been other collisions of defunct satellites with pieces of space debris, and the space shuttle nearly collided with space junk in 1991, but this is the first time that two completely whole satellites smashed together.

Maybe everyone ought to get together to build a net work of large geo-synch satellites that would carry signals for everybody - friend and foe - and that way no one would risk an accidental or intentional mishap. Of course that would require a degree of cooperation that isn't likely to happen any day soon.

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Obama's Olive Branch to Syria

The U.S. Dept. of Commerce has loosened sanctions on Syria (this too within the first two weeks of the Obama administration). Boeing is being allowed to do jetliner maintenance on Syrian aircraft.

Admittedly it's a small thing now, but what does it portend and how far will we go to "make friends"?

Claudia Rosett, writing at Forbes, is not optimistic:
There is talk that Obama will soon be sending an ambassador to Syria to fill the spot left empty since George W. Bush pulled out the previous ambassador in 2005.

The dream scenario is that with the Bush presidency out of the way and Obama flashing a smile, Syria's President Bashar Assad will break off his romance with Tehran and partner with Washington in bringing peace to the region.

The realistic scenario is that Obama, hand extended to Damascus, is setting himself up for a sucker punch--potentially at great cost not only to America and Israel but to other democratic states and any democratic dissidents inside Syria who have not yet vanished into the care of Assad's secret police.


The fundamental problem with Syria is the terror-based character of the Syrian regime. Assad runs a dynastic, tyrannical system, which has survived for decades not by making peace, but by making big trouble--punctuated by deals in which Syria practices its own variation on North Korea's rich repertoire of threats, talks and extortion.

We will "extend the hand of friendship" even before you unclench your fist?


Three Weeks of Undivided Liberalism

With the Pork-a-Palooza in the final stages of passage before it is sent to His holiness, President Obama for the blessing ceremony, let us review, courtesy of Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation, what unified liberalism hath wrought:
Under the guise of stimulating the economy, this one bill contains a generation’s worth of liberal policymaking, an entire Great Society-scale agenda, one that advances the liberals’ view of man and his relationship to government enough to cause LBJ himself to turn red with envy.

The pork and the overall spending are every bit as bad as the critics say, but in the long run, they are mere distractions. The real damage comes from other, less noticed provisions in the bills.

The House and/or Senate stimulus bills would undo the 1996 welfare reforms, explode entitlement spending by a cool quarter trillion dollars, lay the groundwork for the federal government’s takeover of our health care system, double Uncle Sam’s already overbearing role in education, require taxpayers to pick up the bail tab for potentially dangerous felons, allow unemployed Wall Street executives to qualify for Medicaid, and reignite the fires of trade protectionism, thereby risking a global trade war.

Not bad for the first month of unified liberal rule in Washington, eh?

There's more, if you have the stomach for it.


Seeing Something Positive in the Stimulus

Now that we're putting science back into its rightful place, it's good to see progress being made:



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Rating Congress Truly Deserves

According to Rasmussen, Congress has lost a couple of percentage points of popularity in the last two weeks.

Just two points? That doesn't sound so bad, considering how unpopular the Porkulus Bill is with the general public.

But consider that Congress' approval rating is only at 12 percent now.

In other words, given that there are always some of the people who can be fooled all of the time, you can't get much lower than 12 percent. It is, indeed, just about the snake's belly in a wagon wheel rut.

It's been a long time - eight years - since Congress had a 35% approval rate.

Where Will All This Money Come From?

I suppose the title should be phrased, "From Whence Shall Come All This Money?" but I'm not in the mood to be elegant today.

We - you and I and everybody else - are getting ready to spend nearly a trillion dollars on a stimulus package, this on top of $700 billion in TARP money, plus somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the "Son of TARP" bailout program announced yesterday by Tax Cheat, er, Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner; plus Social Security for Baby Boomers during the next 30-40 years ...

... get the point?

How much is a trillion dollars? If you spent a million bucks a day, every day, it would take you over 2,070 years to finish spending it. Stacked in neatly pressed, out of the ATM $1,000 bills, it would be 67 miles high, assuming the wind didn't blow and no one tried to sneak any out of it.

So where is this money coming from? Technically speaking, we are borrowing it.

How will we pay it back? There are four basic options, and I must give credit to Jim Manzi of National Review Online for laying these out in a great article about the Constanza-Hoover Principle.

1. Rollover the Debt. Just keep re-borrowing it from overseas creditors as long as they will put up with your deadbeat ways. Manzi says it's just like people who use one credit card to pay off another. In theory, it works, but you pay interest charges forever. At some point, however, the bill will come due.

2. Higher Taxes. Our children and children's children will undoubtedly pay higher taxes and get nothing from them other than the satisfaction of knowing that they are paying for the debts we racked up. Some estimate that tax rates for future generations will hit 70 to 80 percent of their income. Sounds like hell to me. It also seems very immoral for one generation to enslave the next handful.

3. Default on the Debt. An interesting idea. If we still have a potent military we can flip off the rest of the world when they try to collect, and then hope like hell we can grow all our food, make all our clothes, and provide for everything else that a modern nation requires because no one is going to take any more IOUs (which means no one is going to honor our money, since it is in essence a green IOU).

4. Devalue the Currency. Print lots and lots of money and use it to pay off your debts. Of course, the money will devalue, inflation will skyrocket as in Weimar/Zimbabwe style, and you essentially stiff your creditors anyway. You may still need a strong military, and everyone will need wheelbarrows or pickup trucks to haul the stacks of cash necessary to buy gasoline or bread.

There is another option which, sadly, we're probably unable to choose at this point: Shrink government spending, encourage private thrift and the pay-down of all debts, public and private, and learn to live within our means.

However, just because our government can't do it, doesn't mean that it still isn't a good idea for you and me. In fact, the Oklahomilist Household Budget priorities for 2009 involve an accelerated "get out of debt completely" plan. Don't talk to me of how un-American I am for not buying that big screen, high def TV that I kept hoping someone else would get me for my birthday.

Now if Mr. Obama and his spending pals in Congress don't crash the economy too quickly ...

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