June 18, 2007

Charleston Tragedy

Prayers go out to the families and colleagues of these brave firefighters -- and to the people of Charleston.

At least nine firefighters re dead in a blaze that swept through a Charleston, S.C., furniture warehouse officials tell ABC News.

"There is the presumption they were tragically and heroically lost," Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley said early Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. "This is a tragic matter."

* * *

Witnesses said the store's roof collapsed, throwing debris over about two-dozen rescue workers. Onlookers were hit with flying ash.

"It was like a 30-foot tornado of flames," said Mark Hilton, who was struck in his eye.

No words can amplify the horror -- or the heroism.

Posted by: Greg at 11:56 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Toronto Government To Firefighters -- "Don't Support The Troops!"

When you can't even come up with a consistent explanation of why you want the magnets removed from the firetrucks, it is clear that catering to the anti-war/pro-terror extremists is the reason for the decision.

Our brave troops will still be fighting in Afghanistan this September even if the magnetic ribbon support decals on Toronto Fire trucks and ambulances won't be.

The city has ordered the Support Our Troop decals to be removed from all fire trucks and EMS vehicles on Sept. 4, the Sun has learned.

The reason? It depends on who you talk to. And there are lots of contradictions.

Some say it is because it was not brought to council for proper approval, others say protocol was not followed. Another reason given is it was a one-year project.

But many City Hall sources tell me it has everything to do with some complaints from a few anti-war citizens who have the ear of some leftist councillors -- and felt the ribbons were in support of the war in Afghanistan and not just in support of the troops.

I'm sure that there were a few folks in Toronto who sympathized with the Nazis during WWII and opposed the war as a result. Would their objections have stopped municipal efforts to support the troops in 1943? Why should their objections today stop efforts to support the troops now?

Posted by: Greg at 11:53 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Iranian Hypocrisy

The president of Iran and his senior ministers have long spoken openly about the impending destruction of Israel. So where do they get the moral authority to demand condemnation of Israel for statements about destroying Iran's illegal nuclear program?

The Iranian ambassador to the UN has complained that the UN Security Council has done nothing to stop Israel's ''unlawful and dangerous threats'' against Iran.

On Monday Javad Zarif protested a recent statement from Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz that Israel has not ruled out military action against Iran to disable its nuclear programme.

He also referred to a similar statement that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made in April.

Yiddish has a word for such an action -- chutzpah. Ironic, isn't it, that this Jewish dialect is the source of the only word that adequately describes this move by the terrorist state of Iran?

Posted by: Greg at 11:45 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Reno 911! Miami Unrated DVD

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Did you see Reno 911! Miami The Movie? Did you like it? Well, guess what -- the new UNRATED version of the film is out on DVD, and it is even more hilarious than the original!

In honor of the release of the DVD, the official website for the Reno 911! Miami The Movie DVD has added four new games that you can access by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the site. These four games are:

Game # 1 - Most Wanted
Game # 2 - Calling All Units
Game # 3 - Midnight Shootout
Game # 4 - PSA

Each of them is fun in its own way, but the one that I really struggled with is Calling All Units. I had to get my squad car to the corner of Wett & Panty to stop a crime, without destroying my car and too much civilian property along the way. Well, thank God I drive better in real life than I did in the game. I never did make it to the scene of teh crime, finally seeing my squad car explode just feet from teh marker. I'd managed to rack up $151,000.00 in costs to the city while earning a mere $1900.00, with no Bustin' Bonus for successfully fighting crime. I'm starting to think it is a good thing that I'm the teacher and my kid brother is the cop!

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Suicide Bombers Headed West

Good God! They even have a "graduation" of sorts for these barbarians!

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

The tape shows Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, whose brother was killed by the U.S. last month, introducing and congratulating each team as they stood.

"These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places," Dadullah says on the tape. "Why shouldn't we go after them?"

Which means, of course, that we ought to be paying extra attention to young Muslim men of Asian descent -- and that we will instead step up our searches of crippled nuns using walkers, active duty military personnel, and families with sippy cups and bottles for their young children.

Posted by: Greg at 11:37 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Asheville Architecture

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Did you know that Asheville, North Carolina is noted for its great architecture? Really, it is a hidden treasure at in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Not only is tehre the Biltmore estate, but there is a beautiful Art Deco City Hall, the Neo-Gothic Jackson Building, and the Arts and Crafts-style Grove Park Inn. Not only that, but there is a historical district chock-full of Victorian-style houses and other buildings. The Biltmore Village area, where many of the craftsmen responsible for constructing the Bitlmore Estate lived during their labors is also noted for unique architectural features that are not found outside of the Asheville area. There is even the Spanish Renaissance-style Basilica of St. Lawrence,

You can get your own little bit of architectural history in the Asheville area by purchasing Asheville Real Estate. Prices are good, values are appreciating, and the local beauty is astounding. There are even great rates on your Asheville mortgage. So come on! What are you waiting for?

Posted by: Greg at 11:28 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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DSL Becomes Affordable

You know, this development may make me give up my status as "the last dial-up customer in America".

Without any sort of fanfare, AT&T Inc. has started offering a broadband Internet service for $10 a month, cheaper than any advertised plan.

The DSL, or digital subscriber line, plan introduced Saturday is part of the concessions made by AT&T to the
Federal Communications Commission to get its $86 billion acquisition of BellSouth Corp. approved last December.

The $10 offer is available to customers in the 22-state AT&T service region, which includes former BellSouth areas, who have never had AT&T or BellSouth broadband, spokesman Michael Coe confirmed Monday. Local phone service and a one-year contract are required. The modem is free.

The plan was not mentioned in a Friday news release about AT&T's DSL plans, and is slightly hidden on the AT&T Web site. A page describing DSL options doesn't mention it, but clicking a link for "Term contract plans" reveals it. It's also presented to customers who go into the application process, Coe said.

The service provides download speeds of up to 768 kilobits per second and upload speeds of up to 128 kbps, matching the speeds of the cheapest advertised AT&T plan, which costs $19.95 per month in the nine-state former BellSouth area and $14.99 in the 13 states covered by AT&T before the acquisition.

I checked it out last night, and I am eligible. Since I'm paying $10 a month right now for dial-up connection that has been a little bit unsteady the last few days, I may just have to make the switch.

My question -- do other DSL providers start dropping their prices to match this AT&T offer? Will this set off a bidding war for customers?

Posted by: Greg at 11:17 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Lawnmower Parts

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You guys have probably figured out that I am not always the most together person in the world when it comes to some areas of my life (but then again, that is true of most folks). One area for me is yard maintenance -- especially mowing the law in our fire ant infested part of Texas. And because I strive to get teh job done as quickly as possible, I sometimes do some really stupid things.

Take last summer. Rushing around to beat the rain, I neglected to put the gas cap back on the mower after topping off my fuel supply. No big deal, just pick it up and replace it, right? Wrong -- I put it on top of the engine cover, and as we mowed it fell off. Again, no problem, except for the fact that I discovered my mistake when I was hit in the leg by a mangled plastic object that at one time had been sort of vaguely round with thread on the interior -- my gas cap.

For a while it seemed I might have to replace the entire mower, since I could not find a replacement cap for love or money. Nobody in the area had one -- not Walmart (where I had bought it several months earlier), not the hardware store, and not even the local lawnmower repair shop (well, that isn't quite true -- they wanted $35.00 for a replacement, which included a half-hour labor charge to find the right one). Where else could I find lawnmower parts?

Luckily, I did manage to find the part online through the engine manufacturer -- for $8 plus tax and shipping.

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SCOTUS Win For Common Sense

Imagine you are the passenger in an automobile pulled over by the cops. You open the door to get out of the car. What do you think will happen? We all know the answer to that question -- either via the speaker in the squad car, or at the point of a gun, you will be ordered to remain in the vehicle. It is standard police procedure.

So why on earth did the state of California think that the Supreme Court would hold any differently than they did in this case?

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled yesterday that passengers in vehicles pulled over by the police have the same rights as drivers to challenge the legality of the traffic stop when it results in an arrest.

The court said that passengers, like the driver, are "seized" by police when the vehicle they are traveling in is stopped and are thus covered by the Fourth Amendment and allowed to challenge unreasonable searches and seizures.

In the specific case before the court, a California passenger named Bruce Brendlin was charged with drug possession because of drug paraphernalia found in the car in which he was traveling. He argued that the discovery of the evidence was the result of an unconstitutional seizure because police lacked probable cause to make the traffic stop.

But the California Supreme Court said Brendlin had no grounds to make such a challenge because he had not been seized by the police and had given tacit approval to the search by staying in the car rather than leaving the scene.

The Supreme Court said that made no sense.

"We think that in these circumstances any reasonable passenger would have understood the police officers to be exercising control to the point that no one in the car was free to depart without police permission," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court. During the case's oral arguments, several justices expressed that opinion.

Now California was one of only three states to have a court precedent that held passengers were not seized in such a situation -- proving that most state and federal judges have, at one time or another, been involved in a traffic stop and are able to recognize from experience what the evidence presented to them shows. That the decision would be unanimous was hinted at back in oral arguments, as several justices hammered the lawyer for the state of California.

Not that Mr. Brendlin will walk away from this case a free man -- the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court in California to determine if there might be some other basis for allowing the evidence to be used -- such as the fact that as a felon on parole he had a more limited right against warrantless searches.

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Watcher's Council Results

The winning entries in the Watcher's Council vote for this week are Judging People By Their Friends and Their Enemies by Bookworm Room, and Death or Glory Part II of IV by Michael Yon.  Here is a link to the full results of the vote.

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Meet Your Dream

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There are lots of ways to meet the person you were meant to spend the rest of your life with. Maybe you meet them through at work or school. maybe you are introduced by friends. Perhaps you share some common activity. Or maybe you meet through some sort of match-making service. I'm not going to judge, because I've known folks who have met their perfect mate in all those ways.

And that leads me to this business that specializes helping to match men with Russian brides. LoversPlanet.com selects intelligent, attractive Russian and Eastern European women looking for love and marriage in Western Europe, Canada, and the United States and seeks to match them with men in those areas. Both the men and the women are screened before being admitted to the program, including personal interviews via telephone for men interested in their service. This match-making service claims to have high-quality female members who are generally educated, computer-literate, employed and have a good command of the English language. This does set them apart from other such services, which tend to be less selective.

Is this service for everyone? No, and the folks at LoversPlanet.com are among the first to admit that – hence their screening of their male clients. But if you are interested in establishing an intimate relationship with a woman from Eastern Europe, their service strikes me as a good place to start.

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Has Global Warming Ended?

Well, maybe.

But only if you take the word of the man-made global warming advocating IPCC -- or at least their data.

The salient facts are these. First, the accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998. Oddly, this eight-year-long temperature stasis has occurred despite an increase over the same period of 15 parts per million (or 4 per cent) in atmospheric CO2.

Second, lower atmosphere satellite-based temperature measurements, if corrected for non-greenhouse influences such as El Nino events and large volcanic eruptions, show little if any global warming since 1979, a period over which atmospheric CO2 has increased by 55 ppm (17 per cent).

Third, there are strong indications from solar studies that Earth's current temperature stasis will be followed by climatic cooling over the next few decades.

Of course, the scientific data and the political agenda of the man-made global warming advocates -- so they ignore the data while insisting that they are latter-day prophets. They are at least partially right -- they are latter-day false-prophets of doom, ignoring what their own evidence clearly shows.

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Ashville Real Estate

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I've got to tell you -- Asheville, North Carolina is a beautiful place. During the Great Teaching Job Hunt of 1997 (when I sent resumes to over 500 school districts around the United States), one of the areas where I concentrated my search was North Carolina. During that time, I became quite familiar with Asheville, because there were a number of openings in districts in that area. And since my wife and I had spent our honeymoon in the Smokey Mountains, this location was particularly attractive.

But it was more than that. The Asheville area was already growing, and seemed to be a dynamic place with lots of entertainment, recreation, and dining opportunities for a "relatively) young couple looking for a place to become an older, retired couple in 30 or so years. After all, there is a lot to do there -- but it still retains that small city charm that so many parts of the South have always had. In some ways, I remain disappointed I didn't end up teaching down there.

One other nice feature was the availability of homes at a reasonable price. And I mean href="http://www.redwolfrun.net/">Asheville Real Estate is reasonably priced and appreciating in value. There are many reasonably priced Asheville homes available, including luxury homes Asheville in and the neighboring communities. It was, and appears to remain, a good place to find a place to settle down in for life.

So take a look around – Asheville might just be calling you home. Posted by: Greg at 12:45 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Criminalizing The Practice Of Medicine

I've written on this subject before, so won't go into great details on my wife's health issues. Suffice it to say that she is able to function because of her pain management physician.

Not to worry, though -- the government is committed to make sure she is bedridden and in constant agony.

Ronald McIver is a prisoner in a medium-security federal compound in Butner, N.C. He is 63 years old, of medium height and overweight, with a white Santa Claus beard, white hair and a calm, direct and intelligent manner. He is serving 30 years for drug trafficking, and so will likely live there the rest of his life. McIver (pronounced mi-KEE-ver) has not been convicted of drug trafficking in the classic sense. He is a doctor who for years treated patients suffering from chronic pain. At the Pain Therapy Center, his small storefront office not far from Main Street in Greenwood, S.C., he cracked backs, gave trigger-point injections and put patients through physical therapy. He administered ultrasound and gravity-inversion therapy and devised exercise regimens. And he wrote prescriptions for high doses of opioid drugs like OxyContin.

McIver was a particularly aggressive pain doctor. Pain can be measured only by how patients say they feel: on a scale from 0 to 10, a report of 0 signifies the absence of pain; 10 is unbearable pain. Many pain doctors will try to reduce a patient’s pain to the level of 5. McIver tried for a 2. He prescribed more, and sooner, than most doctors.

Some of his patients sold their pills. Some abused them. One man, Larry Shealy, died with high doses of opioids that McIver had prescribed him in his bloodstream. In April 2005, McIver was convicted in federal court of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and eight counts of distribution. (He was also acquitted of six counts of distribution.) The jury also found that Shealy was killed by the drugs McIver prescribed. McIver is serving concurrent sentences of 20 years for distribution and 30 years for dispensing drugs that resulted in Shealy’s death. His appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court were rejected.

McIver’s case is not simply the story of a narcotics conviction. It has enormous relevance to the lives of the one in five adult Americans who, according to a 2005 survey by Stanford University Medical Center, ABC News and USA Today, reported they suffered from chronic pain — pain lasting for several months or longer. According to a 2003 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, pain costs American workers more than $61 billion a year in lost productive time — and that doesn’t include medical bills.

Contrary to the old saw, pain kills. A body in pain produces high levels of hormones that cause stress to the heart and lungs. Pain can cause blood pressure to spike, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Pain can also consume so much of the body’s energy that the immune system degrades. Severe chronic pain sometimes leads to suicide. There are, of course, many ways to treat pain: some pain sufferers respond well to surgery, physical therapy, ultrasound, acupuncture, trigger-point injections, meditation or over-the-counter painkillers like Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). But for many people in severe chronic pain, an opioid (an opiumlike compound) like OxyContin, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone, methadone or morphine is the only thing that allows them to get out of bed. Yet most doctors prescribe opioids conservatively, and many patients and their families are just as cautious as their doctors. Men, especially, will simply tough it out, reasoning that pain is better than addiction.

Are there unethical doctors who over-prescribe medication? Certainly. Are there patients who abuse and/or sell their medication? Without a doubt. However, most severe patients take their medication in accordance with their prescribed dosages, so that they can continue to have a life. But what that also means is that my wife and I are on a 30-day leash -- during certain times of the month we cannot leave town or make plans because the doctor will not give refills without an office visit. She once had to go to the office with pneumonia because she was nearly out of her pain medication and was told that she would get no more unless she was seen by the doctor -- despite a phone call from our family practice physician's office confirming her condition. Why? Because the pain management doctor, following the latest regulations from the state and the latest court decisions will not open himself up to any more legal jeopardy than necessary by giving refills without actually seeing the patient, even if their condition is irreversible and unchanged.

Posted by: Greg at 12:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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June 17, 2007

USA Network's Burn Notice

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“The director himself warned you not to date the Bush twins, Mr. Weston! By order of the President, you are hereby terminated – with extreme prejudice.”

Those were the last words Michael Weston heard over his headset before the cruise missile on his radar screen turned towards his position in the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan rather than continuing on towards the mountain lair he had laser targeted. There were supposed to be al-Qaeda bigs in the cave, maybe even THE big target – bin Laden himself. Now he knew it was all a set-up – of him.

As he knocked aside the laser, the beam stayed in place – he was, in fact, the target, as another team had sited his observation post. No way could he survive – unless he could deflect the beam. Breaking the ancient mirror in the filthy hotel, Weston skillfully redirected the beam to a hillside several miles away. He heard the “whoosh” of the cruise missile’s engines as they shattered the windows for blocks around before slamming into the pasture. He only hoped that those goats never knew what hit them.

OK, so I have absolutely no idea how USA Network's Burn Notice actually begins. I don’t really know how or why Michael Weston gets fired by the CIA, so my speculation above is as good as anything until I watch Burn Notice when it premieres on June 28 (you can find our yourself by clicking here -- I don't want to spoil the fun).

Posted by: Greg at 06:41 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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The Democrat Tax Plan

Here's what you get if the Democrats control Congress and the White House after the election of 2008.

If Democrats follow through on their budget promises, the American people will face the following:
• A $500 per child tax increase.
• A 55 percent Death Tax.
• A 13 percent tax increase for many small businesses.
• A 33 percent tax increase on capital gains.
• A 164 percent tax increase on dividends.

Indeed, it is worse than that. The $400 billion dollar increase in taxes supported by every Democrat running for President will impact 100% of Americans. Take a look at the impact in one Michigan Congressman's district.

A recent Heritage Foundation study revealed the Democratic plan would raise taxes by $3,019 for each person in my south-central Michigan district. Also, the Heritage study revealed this tax increase would cause 2,272 job losses in south-central Michigan and cost my district's economy $207 million.

Why don't we hear about this planned tax increase? Because they don't call it a tax increase -- instead the refer to it as "ending the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthy" by allowing them to expire. You know, tax cuts that reduced the tax rate of every single American who paid income taxes, and which freed millions of Americans from paying any income taxes at all.

Let me leave you with the words of a great American, speaking about tax cuts and their impact on the American economy.

"Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased -- not a reduced -- flow of revenues to the federal government."

And no, that is not Ronald Reagan -- it is John F. Kennedy, whose words nearly a half century ago accurately predicted what the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 have done for our economy and government revenues.

Posted by: Greg at 04:36 AM | Comments (44) | Add Comment
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The Blog Revolution

Let’s talk about other blogs for just a minute. I do like to surf around and look at the work of other bloggers, and sometimes find a real good one. And by “good”, I don’t necessarily mean “agrees with me”.

For example, there is a site operating out of the San Antonio area called The Blog Revolution, run by a fellow named Mike who is studying to be a history teacher. Now that sounds like a blog right up my alley, right – a guy headed into the same field in which I toil over here in Houston.

And I’ll be honest – I don’t know how much Mike and I would see eye-to-eye on things. Take this recent post on Government Run Gas Stations and Refineries. Anyone who knows me or has read my stuff for any length of time knows that my initial reaction to what I read was to clutch at my chest gasping "communism" as I dialed 911 to get an ambulance. Well, maybe I wasn't quite that outraged, but I did look askance at his position.

What is the basis of his argument? Well, Mike is arguing that since oil companies are making record profits (at least in terms of net dollars, not return per share or return on dollars spent), there is no need for subsidies for building oil refineries. Unfortunately, I can't check out his statistics on profits or his claims about oil company demands for higher subsidies to build new refineries because he fails to link back to any of the articles he references. I think he should make a point of linking back to his sources in the future, just like he will one day expect his students to cite their sources.

What Mike proposes instead is that the government build refineries and gas stations, with the profits "going to a good cause, the money would be indirectly going back to the citizens of this country whereas the money at a commercial gas station goes to the pockets of the shareholders." Of course he overlooks the fact that many of those shareholders are, in fact, citizens of this country -- and that public employee (and private) pension funds are among the largest investors in the oil companies. What he is effectively suggesting, therefore, is a cut in his own future pension, because it is (in part) the return on investment in petrochemical stocks that will fund the Teacher Retirement System he will be depending on in a few decades.

And therein lies the problem -- it isn't the position he takes, but a failure to give his position a deeper analysis. He has a very idealistic solution (hey, I remember being a Communist for a few weeks when I was 16) that overlooks the greater problems his solution would bring about. He fails to recognize that government entry into a field almost invariably results in either the destruction of competition or the inflation of prices, all without doing anything to improve service to the consumer.

What I am really trying to say is that there is room for improvement in how he blogs and in the positions he takes. Still, I will be back over to The Blog Revolution in the future. I see a spark of something intriguing in what he writes, and want to watch him grow as a blogger and as an intellect -- not to mention as a peer. Who knows, maybe he is going to be in a classroom down the hall from me one of these years.

Posted by: Greg at 03:45 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Two-Second Spots

What next -- subliminal ads?

It goes by so quickly -- sneeze and you'll miss it -- that it's almost not there at all. Just as one song on the radio fades away and another begins, a ghostly voice intones: "Iced coffee at McDonald's."

No elaboration, no product superiority claims, no "tastes great!" braggadocio. Just four words. And gone.

Way back when, radio commercials were 60 seconds long. Eventually, the :60 begat the 30-second ad, which begat the :15. More recently, some spots have shrunk to just five seconds. Now, "Iced coffee at McDonald's" is part of the vanguard of radio commercials that take this trend to its obvious next diminution: the two-second ad.

Two-second ads have been popping up anew -- briefly, of course -- on stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, the radio leviathan that developed the concept and began selling it to marketers last year. Listen closely, and quickly, and you'll hear the McDonald's adlet between spins of, say, "Spirit in the Sky" and "Another Brick in the Wall" on local oldies station WBIG-FM. Or you might hear the fast-food chain's jingle -- Bah-dah-bam-bam-BAH! -- between Billy Joel and Elton John tunes on WASH-FM, Clear Channel's soft-rock station.

The two-second spots may have an advantage, though -- longer commercials are just plain annoying, and listeners often change stations. these little blips are over before you know it -- if we start seeing more of these, perhaps it is because stations discover that it keeps the listeners tuned in.

But still, i sort of wonder if we are not reaching back into the age of subliminal seduction.

Posted by: Greg at 03:13 AM | Comments (56) | Add Comment
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Brownback Staffer Appeals To Anti-Mormon Bigotry

It is time for Sam Brownback to step up to the plate and fire this individual. Indeed, it is time for each and every presidential candidate to forthrightly denounce this sort of bigotry, or explain why a candidate’s religion should disqualify him from office – and which ones they believe ought to be disqualifying. You know – in the interest of letting us know which Americans will be second-class citizens under their respective administrations.

Mitt Romney's Mormonism isn't something his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination talk much about in public, but his faith appears to have stoked a whisper campaign, engineered by an Iowa staffer for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

In an e-mail obtained by The Fix, former state representative Emma Nemecek, the southeastern Iowa field director for Brownback's presidential campaign, asked a group of Iowa Republican leaders to help her fact-check a series of statements about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including one that says: "Theologically, the only thing Christianity and the LDS church has in common is the name of Jesus Christ, and the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith."

The e-mail appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to push negative talking points on Mormonism to influence power brokers in Iowa, where Brownback and Romney are engaged in a struggle for socially conservative voters in advance of the state's Jan. 14, 2008, caucuses.

Now let me reiterate something I’ve said a number of times – I have some grave doubts and hearty disagreements with Mormon theology. I don’t believe Joseph Smith to have been a prophet any more than I believe Muhammad to have been one, and I reject as spurious the revelations both of them claim to have received. But just because I do not accept the theology of the LDS Church (or of Islam, for that matter) does not mean I believe the faith should be a disqualifying factor for any candidate for office.

I’m particularly disturbed by the weak-kneed response of the Brownback campaign to this incident.

When informed of the existence of the e-mail, Brownback Iowa communications director John Rankin disavowed the tactic. "Although the forwarded e-mail did not originate from campaign staff and was not sent from a campaign account or on behalf of the campaign, it is unfortunate and regrettable that this e-mail was forwarded by someone working for the campaign, even if for fact-checking purposes on behalf of a publication," Rankin said. "This was against stated campaign policy, this will not happen again, and the staff member responsible has apologized for doing so and has been reprimanded."

So all that happens here is a reprimand? Really? Would the Brownback campaign have been so soft on an email that was clearly anti-Semitic? I think we all know the answer there. Also, why is a Brownback campaign staffer doing fact-checking on Romney’s religion on behalf of some publication? This seems rather odd to me. And given the history of the religious issue in presidential politics, shouldn’t Brownback, a Catholic, be especially sensitive to such bigotry? Frankly, this reflects poorly on Brownback.

And the questions I want answered – what publication was Emma Nemecek doing research for? Why were they seeking comments from a political activist -- rather than an expert on religion -- regarding Mormon beliefs and practices? And why did she turn to fellow political activists for answers? Frankly, the explanation does not wash.

Posted by: Greg at 03:02 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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June 16, 2007

Hotline For Troubled Teens

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I work with teenagers. I know what sort of trouble they can get into. And let's be honest -- teens can make a real hash out of their lives very quickly if they make the wrong choices.

Fortunately, most teens are able to be redirected pretty easily when they get into trouble. Unfortunately, there are some who can't, and who need much stronger intervention. Where do you turn when that troubled kid is YOUR kid? Do you know where to turn or what to do when your best efforts to help you kid have been unsuccessful?

That is why a service like Help My Teen - Teen Help Options is so very important for parents of troubled teens. This is not a fly-by-night Johnny-come-lately company which has just sprung up out of nowhere. For over two decades, Help My Teen has been involved in counseling and connecting families with appropriate situations for their troubled teen. During that time they have been recognized for their success in dealing with troubled teens by the most important group out there -- the parents who have turned to them, who over the years have given them a 96% satisfaction rating, which should tell you they are doing something right.

Help my Teen offers a number of residential programs for troubled young people. Hopefully you will never need their services – but if you do, they are available to you 24/7 to help you do right by your child.

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Arafat Home Ransacked

It warms my heart that the home of arch-terrorist Yassir Arafat has been attacked and looted.

Enraged Fatah leaders on Saturday accused Hamas militiamen of looting the home of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza City.

"They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal," said Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "Hamas militiamen and gangsters blew up the main entrance to the house before storming it. They stole many of Arafat's documents and files, gifts he had received from world leaders and even his military outfits."

Too bad that they didn't dig up his rotting corpse and drag it through the streets in disgrace.

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Shipwreck Booty Recovered

Sorry about that title -- I've just wanted an excuse to use the word "booty" on the site.

But the related story is fascinating.

Salvagers discovered thousands of pearls Friday in a small, lead box they said they found while searching for the wreckage of the 17th-century Spanish galleon Santa Margarita.

Divers from Blue Water Ventures of Key West said they found the sealed box, measuring 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches, along with a gold bar, eight gold chains and hundreds of other artifacts earlier this week.

They were apparently buried beneath the ocean floor in approximately 18 feet of water about 40 miles west of Key West.

``There are several thousand pearls starting from an eighth of an inch to three-quarters of an inch,'' said Duncan Mathewson, marine archaeologist and partner in Blue Water Ventures.

James Sinclair, archaeologist and conservator consulting with Mel Fisher's Treasures, Blue Water's joint-venture partners, said the pearls are very rare because of their antiquity and condition.

Sinclair said pearls don't normally survive the ocean water once they are out of the oyster that makes them.

``In this instance, we had a lead box and the silt that had sifted into the box from the site of the Margarita, which preserved the pearls in a fairly pristine state,'' he said.

Four century old pearls preserved on the sea bed. That is amazing. And to find them loose, not in a setting, is even more amazing.

And to think they were found in a box smaller than a Kleenex box -- that is just stunning.

I wonder how much they will go for on the open market when the company starts selling to collectors?

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Nifong Going Down

First he quits.

Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, announced Friday that he would resign, as he faces disciplinary charges for his handling of a sexual assault prosecution against three former Duke University lacrosse players who were later declared innocent.

Speaking in a barely audible voice in testimony before a disciplinary hearing panel, Mr. Nifong apologized to the players, their families and the North Carolina justice system.

His resignation came as a surprise on the fourth day of a hearing by the North Carolina State Bar, which has charged him with “systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion” for withholding evidence and making improper pretrial statements.

“It has become increasingly apparent, during the course of this week, in some ways that it might not have been before, that my presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice,” Mr. Nifong said.

Joseph B. Cheshire, a lawyer for one of the three former players, said of Mr. Nifong’s promise to resign: “I believe it is a cynical political attempt to save his law license. His apology is far too late.”

Not only did Nifong not further the cause of Justice, he actually ripped off her blindfold, forced her onto her knees and sodomized her on the steps of the courthouse in Durham on a regular basis last year. Cheshire is correct -- this apology is far too late, as well as woefully inadequate.

And now Nifong waits for justice.

UPDATE: Nifong found guilty by bar panel. JUSTICE SERVED!

Mike Nifong broke several rules of professional conduct during his disastrous prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, committing "deceit and misrepresentations," a disciplinary committee ruled today.

The committee must now decide if the longtime prosecutor in Durham County, who has already pledged to resign his post as district attorney, should be stripped of his law license.

The North Carolina State Bar charged Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys.

Let's see -- guilty of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." But then again, we already knew that.

Here's hoping that the penalty s disbarment -- followed by a criminal prosecution for the violation of the civil rights of these three young men.

UPDATE II: NIFONG DISBARRED IN NORTH CAROLINA!

In a case that has brought one surprise after another, a disciplinary hearing panel found Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, guilty today of ethical violations while pressing a false accusation of sexual assault against three former Duke University lacrosse players. The panel then ruled that Mr. Nifong should be disbarred.

But the ruling was almost an anticlimax to the case because in the penalty phase of the five-day ethics hearing, David Freedman, one of Mr. Nifong’s lawyers, told the panel that Mr. Nifong believed that disbarment was “the appropriate punishment in this case.” The state also said it felt disbarment was appropriate.

After deliberating for less than an hour, the panel stated that any punishment short of disbarment would not be appropriate in the case.

In a lengthy statement, F. Lane Williamson, chairman of the disciplinary committee, said that Mr. Nifong had received due process, “and that’s what was nearly hijacked in the case of the Duke lacrosse defendants.”

Six of the charges against Mr. Nifong involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” the most serious of the accusations against Mr. Nifong.

SOme questions remain:

1) When will the criminal charges for civil rights violations be brought against Nifong?

2) When will Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the other professional racists who presumed guilt on the part of the falsely accused young men offer their apologies?

3) What sanction will Duke administrators and professors whose words and deeds explicitly and implicitly damned the falsely accused young men face? This especially applies to the Duke 88, who have expressed no remorse for their condemnation of the innocent students (and their teammates) before any evidence was in the public domain?

4) When will the false accuser face some sort of justice?

Justice was done today in Durham -- but there is still a long way to go.

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The End Of An Institution

This is sad -- not unexpected, but still sad.

For more than a century, Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary has prepared teenage boys for the priesthood, largely unchanged as the city transformed around it from gritty industrial center to modern metropolis.

But another kind of change finally caught up with Quigley.

The 102-year-old seminary -- a Gothic-style building in a tony Chicago shopping district -- closed Friday because of a shrinking student body that has seen just one graduate ordained in the last 17 years.

It's the latest reminder that Roman Catholic preparatory seminaries have all but vanished in the United States, and highlights the church's struggle to find men willing to dedicate themselves to the priesthood.

I've got a couple of comments to make on this one.

First, I question the statistic at the end of the article. There was, for a time, Quigley South, before it was merged back into what was then known as Quigley North -- and when I studied for the priesthood in the early 1990s I had a number of friends and classmates who were graduates of that school and who were ordained during the early-to-mid-1990s. The single graduate statistic therefore ignores a large number of priests who were a part of the Quigley Preparatory Seminary system.

Second, I owe a great debt to Quigley. I studied for the priesthood at St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein for several years, though I left before ordination. For those who don't know, that is the major seminary run by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Many of my professors and my spiritual director were Quigley products, and for them I am thankful for the contribution of that seminary to my life and education.

Lastly, I think about how close i came to attending Quigley myself. As a ninth grader, I was taken on a tour of the two Quigleys by Father Gene Keusel during his tenure as archdiocesan vocation director. I found myself impressed by the school and the program -- but would have either needed to commute over an hour each way or live in a dormitory setting. At 15, I was not particularly excited in either option and my parents quickly rejected both options when we talked about them, so I stayed at the high school I was already attending (right across the street from the major seminary, as it happened). I've often wondered, though, how a different decision would have changed my life.

But I do agree with the assessments in the article. The closure of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary does mark the end of an era -- both because of a change in when men join the priesthood and a change in our society. It is, however, a change for the better in my book, one in which men approach the priesthood with experience of the world rather than having been set apart for a dozen years before their ordination.

And to any Quigley alums reading this, may I offer you a hearty Ad Multos Annos!

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The Problem Was, They Didn't Want To Know

The recent publication of the Reagan Diaries has led columnist Helen Thomas to reflect on the man she covered for eight years when he was in the White House.

Read the newly published The Reagan Diaries if you want a true insight into the mind of the nation's 40th president.

The diaries — written daily from 1981 until President Ronald Reagan left office in 1989 — reveal him to be much more involved in the nitty gritty of national and world affairs than many White House reporters thought. He had often been portrayed as a detached "chairman of the board" kind of president.

The diaries show that Reagan had something to say about everything and everybody; his thoughts were often summarized in one handwritten sentence. His notations mixed the profound with the trivial.

Historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited the publication of the diaries, had to toss out chunks to boil the entries down to a 696-page memoir. But no one is short-changed.

Reagan comes across as deeper, funnier, more religious and more humble than he seemed when he was striding across the world stage. He is true to his public persona — foe of communism, tax increases and organized labor — and often the news media.

Now that shocks Thomas, who never took Reagan particularly seriously during his time in the White House. She, like much of the White House press corps, seem to have thought that Reagan was either simple-minded or playing to his audience, not necessarily someone who believed in what he was doing (or, at least, not someone who had given much thought to what he was doing). These diaries dispel that point of view. That leads Thomas to make this obesrvation.

As a reporter having covered him for eight years in the White House, I am sure the press could have done a better job if we had known the real Ronald Reagan.

But that is precisely the problem -- Reagan was right there for the press to see, his public persona very much an expression of the real man. They just didn't want to see, much less know, the real man. That is enough to make one question their coverage of the current president -- and any other leader, especially those of a conservative bent.

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What Happened To Separation Of Church And School?

Oh, that's right -- it only applies if something Christian is brought into a public school setting. Non-Christian practices and indoctrination may be done in public schools with taxpayer dollars without any challenge at all.

With the sound of their new school bell, the fifth graders at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School here closed their eyes and focused on their breathing, as they tried to imagine “loving kindness” on the playground.

“I was losing at baseball and I was about to throw a bat,” Alex Menton, 11, reported to his classmates the next day. “The mindfulness really helped.”

As summer looms, students at dozens of schools across the country are trying hard to be in the present moment. This is what is known as mindfulness training, in which stress-reducing techniques drawn from Buddhist meditation are wedged between reading and spelling tests.

Mindfulness, while common in hospitals, corporations, professional sports and even prisons, is relatively new in the education of squirming children. But a small but growing number of schools in places like Oakland and Lancaster, Pa., are slowly embracing the concept — as they did yoga five years ago — and institutions, like the psychology department at Stanford University and the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, are trying to measure the effects.

Now would the New York Times be writing an article like this if we were talking about a program that brought the meditative techniques of Trappist monks into the public schools as a way of helping students focus, concentrate, and learn? No, we wouldn't -- we would instead get a blistering editorial denouncing the use of public schools for proselytizing. Left-wing groups would be up in arms, issuing blistering press releases about impending theocracy. And the ACLU would have a lawsuit in the works, complete with a gay, transgendered, atheist, illegal immigrant girl in a wheelchair who claims to feel oppressed as the lead plaintiff.

But since this is Buddhism, those same separationist folks are more than willing to pronounce it secular and let the program continue. After all, the Left likes Buddhism -- you know, the Dalai Lama is sort of cool,Richard Gere is a Buddhist, and Paris Hilton even took some Buddhist books with her to jail. it is only those awful Christians we have to watch out for.

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June 15, 2007

Planned Parenthood Milks Taxpayers

These numbers are shocking.

During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America performed a record 264,943 abortions, attained a record profit of $55.8 million and received record taxpayer funding of $305.3 million.

According to its annual report, income is divided roughly into three major categories: clinic income (fees charged to customers at clinics); donations (gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals); and taxpayer money (grants and contracts from federal, state and local government).

For the year July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, Planned Parenthood received $345.1 million in clinic income, $305.3 million in taxpayer funding and $212.2 million in donations. Total income reached $902.8 million while total expenses came to $847.0 million, leaving a profit of $55.8 million.

Over 1/3 of the organization's budget is coming from the pockets of the American taxpayer. This organization, which performs some 20% of all American abortions annually is pocketing over $300 MILLION in government funds each year.

Are you shocked, offended, and disgusted? So am I. Now let's go out and do something about it. And it starts with letting our fellow Americans know the degree to which their tax dollars are subsidizing abortion.

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Nifong: I Was Too Busy Running For Office

Why the grave miscarriage of justice against the three innocent Duke lacrosse players? Because Mike Nifong had an election to win.

The district attorney in charge of the Duke University lacrosse rape case told the North Carolina State Bar he failed to turn over evidence favoring the defense because he was busy campaigning for office, a disciplinary panel was told Thursday.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong told bar investigators that as he faced "an unprecedented number of challengers" in his first election campaign, "I was not always able to give the case my full attention."

Nifong cited his campaign in a letter to the bar as one of several reasons that "may possibly have contributed to my inadvertent failure to provide the evidence in question." Portions of the letter were read aloud at the third day of a trial in Raleigh that will determine if Nifong will lose his license to practice law.

Unfit.

Unprofessional.

Unethical.

Mike Nifong needs to be disbarred, and then tried for civil rights violations against these three young men.

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The Case Against Ron Paul

John Hawkins of Right Wing News and Conservative Grapevine makes his case against the Ron Paul candidacy in this week's column over at Townhall.com.

After noting Paul's flirtations with Trutherism, NAU conspiracism, and isolationism (among other things), He really gets to the heart of the matter in the final point of his column.

#9) Ron Paul is the single, least electable major candidate running for the presidency in either party: Libertarianism simply is not considered to be a mainstream political philosophy in the United States by most Americans. That's why the Libertarian candidate in 2004, Michael Badnarik, only pulled .3% of the vote. Even more notably, Ron Paul only pulled .47% of the vote when he ran at the top of the Libertarian ticket in 1988. Granted, Paul would do considerably better than that if he ran at the top of the Republican Party ticket, but it's hard to imagine his winning more than, say 35%, of the national vote and a state or two -- even if he were very lucky. In other words, having Ron Paul as the GOP nominee would absolutely guarantee the Democratic nominee a Reaganesque sweep in the election.

Now I don't know that I entirely agree with the assessment that he is the least electable major candidate -- I think that the American people would be more inclined to send Dennis Kucinich back to keep billy goats from crossing his bridge -- but Hawkins is correct in pointing out that the American people would not accept much of what Ron Paul stands for. Even in his district, he maintains his hold less because his constituents are in lockstep with him than because he is an incumbent with a war chest drawn from a national base who is therefore able to discourage primary challenges.

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When Harry Met Tony

Potter and Soprano, that is.

Bravo to Slate’s Dan Kois for his “Sopranoized” final chapter of the upcoming Harry Potter book.

Harry walked into the Three Broomsticks and took a seat in a booth near the back. Who were all the people in here tonight? They looked familiar, but Harry didn't know any of them. Was that Dolores Umbridge? No, just some woman in a hideous cardigan.

None of these diners knew yet that Voldemort was dead—not by Harry's hand, but killed instead by Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan, who'd happened upon He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named outside of London. They'd cursed him from behind and watched as the Knight Bus ran over his head with a horrible crunching sound.

Harry flipped through the channels on the wizarding wireless until he found a song that reminded him of the old days, "Do the Hippogriff" by the Weird Sisters. He remembered the crowds dancing to this song at the Yule Ball, years before; so many of those friends were long gone now, dead or in Azkaban. As the song began, Harry heard the tinkle of the bell above the front door as Ginny came in. She hurried to his booth and sat down.

"It's Percy," he told her, taking a swig of butterbeer. "He's testifying."

Let’s hope that JK Rowling has written a more conclusive ending to the series than th Sopranos received.

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Acknowledging Reality

I think this is less a case of Terrorstinian Anarchy President Mahmoud Abbas/terrorist leader Abu Mazen dissolving the government than it is of recognizing that the government had dissolved all by itself.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian government Thursday and declared a state of emergency after rival Hamas forces took complete control of the Gaza Strip in what the Islamic movement called the territory's "liberation."

In a presidential decree, Abbas fired Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and suggested that new national elections would occur soon. Abbas's decision ends the three-month-old power-sharing arrangement between his Fatah movement and Hamas, the two main Palestinian political parties.

Haniyeh, in a response delivered early Friday, said Abbas had not considered the "consequences" of his decision and pledged to continue to work with his Fatah "brothers." Other Hamas officials said Abbas's ruling had no legal effect.

Consequences? What consequences? What is going to happen because of this – will Hamas start attacking Fatah facilities and killing Fatah leaders? Oh, yeah – that is already going on!

Best outcome of each this scenario – strangling the last Hamas terrorist with the intestines of the last Fatah terrorist.

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A Court Order Too Far?

What next? Court-ordered divorces? Court-ordered abortions?

A judge has ruled that a 24-year-old man is not allowed to have a girlfriend for the next three years.

The ruling came after Steven Cranley pleaded guilty on Tuesday to several charges stemming from an assault on an ex-girlfriend.

His lawyer says the no-girlfriend order is the first of its kind that he has encountered.

Cranley is probably a scumbag, based upon the charges he pled guilty to – and no woman with a lick of sense should go near him. But at what point do we say “WHOA!” to a judge’s power to impose unusual conditions in a sentence – especially when they impact intimate personal relationships?

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June 14, 2007

Happy Flag Day From The Democrats

Demflagday.jpg

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First New US Refinery In Three Decades?

Well, it could be, if they can jump through the hoops.

Little-known, privately held Hyperion Resources Inc. said on Wednesday it plans to build an $8 billion oil refinery, the first in the United States since 1976, at one of several sites under consideration in the U.S. Midwest.

Dallas-based Hyperion plans a 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery as part of “the most environmentally sound energy center in the United States” that will include a power plant fueled by petroleum coke, a refining byproduct.

The plant will refine crude from the Canadian oil sands in Alberta to feed the U.S. market, the company said.

Hyperion officials were in Elk Point, South Dakota, on Wednesday to announce they were considering the small town on the Missouri River as a possible site for the energy center.

Hyperion is in a race to build the first U.S. refinery in 30 years with Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma, which has been struggling for years to obtain funding for its nearly $3 billion refinery plan that has so far secured about $35 million.

So, we may have two coming on line in the next few years.

Any chance of Big Oil stepping up to the plate?

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Ruth Graham Dies

And yet we who believe know that this is not the end, but rather a glorious beginning.

Ruth Graham, who surrendered dreams of missionary work in Tibet to marry a suitor who became the world's most renowned evangelist, died Thursday. She was 87.

The wife of Billy Graham died at 5:05 p.m. at her home at Little Piney Cove, surrounded by her husband and all five of their children, said a statement released by family spokesman Larry Ross.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in a statement. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."

Ruth Graham has been bedridden for months with degenerative osteoarthritis of the back and neck and underwent treatment for pneumonia two weeks ago. At her request, and in consultation with her family, she had stopped receiving nutrients through a feeding tube for the last few days, Ross said.

Prayers for the Graham family in this time of loss -- and great joy that this night she is in Heaven with her Savior!

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Jefferson Loan Incriminates Him Further

The FBI gave him $100,000. They found $90,000 in his freezer a short time later. I think we just found out where the missing $10,000 went.

Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) notified the House ethics committee weeks ago of a two-year-old loan he made to Vernon Jackson, the Kentucky businessman now in prison for bribing him, according to financial disclosures released on Thursday.

The late disclosure of the $10,000 loan could further hobble Jefferson’s defense when his case goes to trial in January and embolden the members of both parties calling for his resignation. According to media reports in Kentucky, Jackson reported the loan to the FBI soon after he agreed to cooperate with the Jefferson inquiry in August 2005.

The $10,000 loan, which is still outstanding on Jefferson’s 2006 financial statement, may play a more infamous role in the government’s case against the embattled Louisianan. The $90,000 found in Jefferson’s freezer came from $100,000 offered him by government informant Lori Mody in July 2005, but little is known of the remaining $10,000 — other than its FBI status as accounted-for.

When will the DemocRATS start abandoning the sinking ship?

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SCOTUS Rules Against Union Efforts To Compel Political Speech

Non-union members may be protected from compelled political speech at the hands of the organization of which they do not wish to be a member. Unfortunately, Washington state has already stripped these workers of their protection by changing the law in question.

States may force public sector labor unions to get consent from workers before using their fees for political activities, the Supreme Court said Thursday.

The court unanimously upheld a Washington state law that applied to public employees who choose not to join the union that represents them in contract talks with state and local governments. The workers are compelled to pay the equivalent of union dues, a portion of which the union uses for political activities.

ustice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said the law does not violate the union's First Amendment rights.

But the state's Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled legislature recently changed the law to eliminate the provision that was upheld Thursday, blunting the impact of the court ruling.

The narrow issue before the justices was whether, as the law formerly prescribed, employees must opt in, or affirmatively consent, to having some of their money used in election campaigns.

The justices said that a state could indeed require such consent. But there also is nothing to bar the state from putting the onus on nonmember workers to opt out, or seek a refund of a portion of their fees.

That, in effect, is what Washington law now requires after the recent change.

Shame on the Washington politicians who stripped workers of the right not to be forced to give money for political causes they reject. For that matter, shame on any politician who does not support giving workers freedom from compulsory unionism.

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Suicide Mamas

More Jew-killing terrorist scum stopped -- one of them eight months pregnant.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Wednesday that it thwarted a double suicide attack set for Tel Aviv and Netanya last month, orchestrated by Islamic Jihad and meant to be carried out by two Palestinian women, one of them pregnant.

One of the women, Fatma Zak, 39, a mother of eight in her ninth month of pregnancy, has been director of Islamic Jihad's women labor department in Gaza City for the past four years. As part of her job, she was in direct contact with senior terrorists and served as a go-between for women interested in becoming suicide bombers.

The second suspect is Zak's 30-year-old niece, Ruda Habib, a mother of four. Both were arrested by the Shin Bet at the Erez Crossing on May 20, moments before entering Israel.

The two women admitted the plot and confessed to being Islamic Jihad operatives. They said they had used Israel's humanitarian policy to acquire entrance permits on a false medical pretext.

The women said they had planned to blow themselves up in Netanya and Tel Aviv, respectively, in a restaurant or a wedding hall. They said they were instructed to cross into Israel and then contact Islamic Jihad members from Ramallah, who were supposed to guide them to their targets and supply them with explosive belts.

Notice, please, that they were after civilian targets -- and admit to aiding in previous terrorist attacks. And the abuse of Israel's humanitarian policies to engage in terrorism makes it understandable why Israel sometimes looks askance at ambulances and other alleged Palestinian emergency vehicles.

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Alito Advocates For Free Speech

If this speech is any indicator, it is likely that the Supreme Court's newest justice will be a great advocate for freedom of speech -- especially on the internet.

"I'm a very strong believer in the First Amendment and the right of people to speak and to write," Alito said in response to a question of "where's the line" on what can be posted on the Internet. "I would be reluctant to support restrictions on what people could say."

The newest justice, who was protective of speech rights as an appellate judge, added that "some restrictions have been held to be consistent with the First Amendment, but it's very dangerous for the government to restrict speech."

If his statement here is any indication, then expect him to support those seeking protection for their speech in the Court's two remaining First Amendment cases -- and for him to look askance at any government attempt to regulate internet political speech.

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Hospital Horror

As bad as my wife's last hospital stay in March was, at least we didn't have to deal with anything like this.

A woman who lay bleeding on the emergency room floor of a troubled inner-city hospital died after 911 dispatchers refused to contact paramedics or an ambulance to take her to another facility, newly released tapes of the emergency calls reveal.

Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel on May 9 at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital. Her death was ruled accidental by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Relatives said Rodriguez was bleeding from the mouth and writhing in pain for 45 minutes while she was at a hospital waiting area. Experts have said she could have survived had she been treated early enough.

And I know just how bad any sort of bleed in the gastric system can be. Paula had one back in November, and received excellent care from the medical staff when we arrived at the ER on Thanksgiving morning. Indeed, it was a very close thing, with them telling me that even an hour's delay would have been fatal. That is why we have both shuddered as we have viewed news coverage of this horror -- Rodriguez could have and should have survived this emergency.

Posted by: Greg at 01:25 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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