How old would you expect a couple of armed carjackers to be? Would you believe 7 and 11?

Amy Garrett didn’t expect to be robbed by armed children

A brazen carjacking attempt by two boys — ages 7 and 11 — in a Southeast Portland church parking lot, appeared to Amy Garrett, at first, to be a joke. She thought the kids were just “being tough guys.” She assumed their gun was fake.

Garrett said she was waiting in her pickup about noon Saturday for her parents outside Freedom Foursquare Church, browsing Facebook idly on her cellphone. Suddenly, from her passenger side came the profanity-laced prattling of the boys asking her what she was doing. They told her they had a gun.

“They were children,” Garrett said on Sunday. “I didn’t think they’d actually have a real gun.”

Across the street, a mother knew better. She was phoning police after her son ran home to tell her he’d seen the 11-year-old armed.

Meanwhile, Garrett said the two boys came around to the driver’s side of her pickup, showed her the silver handle of a .22 caliber handgun and continued to curse at her through the rolled-down window. They told her the piece was loaded, and the 7-year-old pulled a box of bullets from his backpack.

“My heart was racing,” Garrett said once she realized the firearm was real…

The 11-year-old grabbed Garrett by the arm. She rammed the truck into reverse and peeled out of the church parking lot just as the 11-year-old pulled the gun out and waved it in the air. Behind the boys, she saw police pull into the lot.

I literally thought I was going to die,” said Garrett. “If the cops hadn’t come right then, I’m sure he would’ve fired it.”

As Portland police officers Greg Baldwin and Scott Robertson approached the boys, the 11-year-old hid the gun, shoving his hands in his pockets. Police said the 11-year-old told the younger boy to run, but officers had both boys stopped at the south side of the church.

They told the 11-year-old to keep his hands in sight. But when the boy ignored them, they grabbed his arms and recovered the gun — cocked and loaded…

Both children are now in their parents’ custody…

The children couldn’t be booked at a juvenile detention facility because of their age, Simpson said. Multnomah County’s Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Home detains youths 12-17, according to its website. In fact, Simpson said, unless the children’s home environments appear acutely unsafe to police officers, authorities are required to return children to their parents.

Something wrong with that law, I’d say. Poisonally I’d have the parents spend the night in the slammer in a cell next to their charming kiddies while a thorough discussion on law and order ensued.

We know that ain’t about to happen.

Obama seeks $60 billion in aid for Superstorm Sandy devastation

superstorm damage

President Barack Obama’s proposal for $60.4 billion in federal aid for states hit by Superstorm Sandy adds a huge new item to an end-of-year congressional agenda already packed with controversy.

The president’s request to Congress on Friday followed weeks of discussions with lawmakers and officials from New York, New Jersey and other affected states who requested significantly more money, but generally praised the president’s request as they urged Congress to adopt it without delay…

Pushing the request through Congress in the few weeks left before lawmakers adjourn at the end of the year will be no easy task. Washington’s attention is focused on the looming fiscal cliff of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs set to begin at the end of the year. And tea party House Republicans are likely to press for budget cuts elsewhere to offset some or even all disaster costs…

It’s only been a century or so since our government concluded nationwide taxation is required for a whole nation to function safely and appropriately in time of disaster or war. How far back into the bowels of self-deceit will the Kool Aid Party crawl?

The massive request blends aid for homeowners, businesses, and state and local governments walloped by Sandy, a disaster whose cost is rivaled only by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The aid will help states rebuild public infrastructure like roads and tunnels and help thousands of people displaced from their homes. Most of the money — $47.4 billion — is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. Another $13 billion would be used for mitigation efforts to protect against future storms…

Obama’s request was met with praise from two governors who had traveled to Washington last week to press for as much help as possible: New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut together are seeking about $83 billion in aid.

As is traditional in natural disasters, the request was not accompanied by offsetting spending cuts to defray its cost…

Tradition means little or nothing to demagogues stuck into the presumption that disaster, death and despair is good for the soul. Still, in the history of modern nations, educated, with developed infrastructures, the economic and social benefit of coming to the aid of those whose lives and livelihood has been destroyed by natural disaster is considered to be in the national interest.

One can only hope that piss-ant beancounters who resist government being anything other than a manager of wars and a dispenser of subsidies to corporate managers – represent districts where citizens remember such behavior. Especially at election time.

There’s more to Messi than a new record for goals

The essence of Lionel Messi is not in the bare statistic that now makes him the most prolific scorer of goals in a single year in the history of the game.

It is in the way that he does it. It is the desire of the man who, at age 25 and possibly just reaching the middle of his career, makes every game seem like such a joy, for himself and others.

There is a child in Messi that will not grow up, thank goodness.

He was injured last Wednesday. His left knee took the weight of Benfica’s goalkeeper, Artur, in a challenge. As Messi was carted away by the medics, the distress of missing perhaps several months was writ large across his face. When tests proved nothing was broken, merely extensively bruised, Messi did as Messi invariably does. He demonstrated that impulse, that absolute determination, to play the next game.

“He doesn’t need this kind of effort to show how much he loves this sport,” Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova tried to tell us, and to tell him.

Messi wasn’t listening. He was focused on the flight to Seville and on showing his coach Saturday that he was good and ready to play against Betis.

This is a tough opponent. Physically and spiritually, Betis is a team that even Barça finds hard to beat, especially in its tightly packed, emotionally charged Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.

Messi, with another pair of goals Sunday, made sure that Barcelona won the game, 2-1…

If comparisons across different eras mean anything, we made them long ago. If proof were needed that soccer is a team game, the way that Iniesta and Sánchez passed and moved for Messi reiterated that.

One thing largely overlooked as people obsess about the statistics of Messi’s feat is that he is the very opposite of a one-man attack. He plays for others, and he exudes joy in setting up goals for his teammates. Attempts to count assists are irrelevant because his presence alone — wherever he is on the field, defenders will follow him — opens space for others.

I love watching Messi whether he and Barca are in a match with a team I support or someone I care nothing about. He has the ability to surprise a watching fan that must absolutely confound and drive his opponents into raving lunacy. All done with a grace and creative impulsiveness that few athletes in any sports ever demonstrate.

I hope he will be around for many, many more years.

Canada approves the CNOOC-Nexen and Petronas-Progress deals

The shape of ships to load in BC – before they’re likely to load in the GOUSA

Canada will no longer allow state-owned companies to takeover businesses in the nation’s oil sands and will toughen requirements in other industries…after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved CNOOC’s $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen and Petroliam Nasional $5.2 billion takeover of Progress Energy Resources.

The deal by Beijing-based CNOOC is the largest ever takeover by a Chinese company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It gives the state-owned company a stake in Canada’s largest oil-sands project and the biggest position in the Buzzard oil field in the U.K. North Sea…

“These were difficult decisions” that reflect “the broad views of Canadians,” Harper told reporters. Canada relies on exports for one-third of economic output and counts on energy products for almost one-quarter of those shipments…

The Cnooc-Nexen transaction is the biggest in Canada since Calgary-based Suncor Energy bought Petro-Canada in August 2009 for about $18 billion…

“We’re obviously quite pleased with the decision,” said Michael Culbert, chief executive officer of Calgary-based Progress, by phone. “We know that this has been a difficult decision to make and we don’t take that lightly…”

The acquisition of Progress by Petronas gives the Malaysian state-owned company gas reserves to build a liquefied natural gas export facility along the British Columbia coast at a cost of C$9 billion to C$11 billion, the companies said this week.

Petronas has the world’s largest LNG-producing site in Sarawak, Malaysia, according to its website, and also operates the world’s largest LNG carrier fleet.

All the parties with a stake in either enterprise have signed off – excepting of course the United States.

The Monday morning quarterbacks in Congress who waste endless time and space whining about the failure of Asian firms to invest in US corporations – will call press conferences to put their stamp of disapproval on the deal. The reasoning will run the whole gamut of Cold War crackpot concoctions. Hypocrisy will run rampant. Not so incidentally, that will probably include the White House.

The controversies about exploitation of the Alberta oil sands will be settled by Canadians, sooner or later. That’s the reason for complaints by American enviro groups that Congress doesn’t listen to, anyway.

I find the Petronas purchase and plans more interesting. This takes away the last bit of reliance Canadians had on American pipelines for transmission of their NatGas for eventual export. They’ll end up with a significant chunk of national income while American politicians sit around worrying about electoral politics vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than coal to run our power plants, vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than oil to run over-the-road trucking and maybe even something more than six NatGas Hondas in San Francisco – someday.

The folks in the Secret Service manage to lose a boatload of secrets — on a subway train in 2008

Advanced Secret Service technology

U.S. Secret Service investigative and personnel information was left on a Washington subway train in 2008 and is still missing…

Citing law enforcement and congressional sources, CNN reported Friday an unidentified contractor working for the agency left a pouch containing two computer backup tapes bearing the sensitive data on a train in Washington’s Metrorail subway system in February 2008. One source said the tapes have yet to be recovered despite a thorough search…

“Some of the information could cause lives to be at risk, if someone wanted to get at the families of a high-level government worker or someone they perceived as being someone who could work against, say, a terrorist cell,” said Eric O’Neill, a former FBI counterespionage agent.

The Secret Service, in a statement acknowledging the loss of the pouch, disagreed.

“These back-up tapes were not marked or identified in any way and were protected by multiple layers of security,” it said. “They could not be accessed without the proper equipment, applications and encoding…”

O’Neill, now a partner at the security firm The Georgetown Group, said even if encrypted, with new technology developed in the past five years, the tapes “could be cracked in moments.”

Kind of makes you feel all warm and secure inside, right? The folks protecting us against terrorist plots manage to leave other stuff they’re protecting on a subway train. Can’t find it or get it back for 4 years – and finally decided to let other folks know about it.