Wednesday, November 30, 2005

November Sweeps Programming Tactical Errors Leaves Some Casualties

As network November sweeps comes to a close, some clear winners and losers emerged. Most notably, CBS once again proved their strong position in decision making and good inclinations in programming and tended to improve their ratings position somewhat. However, NBC managed a number of tactical programming errors that put their network at a ratings disadvantage.

NBC aired a magic program with Penn & Teller and also a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE history of the 1980's program. Both were decent programs, yet both turned in dismal ratings, especially the Penn & Teller program. And a mostly unfufilling remake of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, with a host of has-been personalities who have recently found work in acting gigs hard to come by, were recruited for this movie remake misadventure. Steve Guttenberg, of POLICE ACADEMY films, Rutger Hauer, former action film star, Peter Weller, far better off in the first two ROBOCOP films, were used in this made for TV remake that despite a three hour TV running time, managed to leave so many holes in the story that one really had to see the Irwin Allen original big screen movie in order to draw much sense or meaning or some of the scenes. Every dramatic moment from the original film managed to lose something in this remake, including the heart attack death of the elderly Jewish widow who manages to establish an underwater safety route for the survivors. In the first film, this was an important scene of survival and the death a major character that was dramaticly developed in the film. In this version, the scene almost completely failed to leave much of an impression, although it should have been an important incident involving what should have been a major character, if the chatracter would have been as well developed as the orginal role by Shelley Winters in the original Irwin Allen film. And although Rutger Hauer is a very good actor, he managed to uninspire in Gene Hackman's role as a minister wrestling with issues of faith who became a Moseslike figure who would lead a group of survivors to rescue.

The lessons in these NBC failures is very clear. Magic shows, Penn & Teller, TV movies and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE specials are fine, but prempting good reliable ratings solid programming like LAW & ORDER CRIMINAL INTENT or CROSSING JORDAN for sweeps specials such as these only serve to take away ratings, not build them. And last night's premption of MY NAME IS EARL and THE OFFICE with a BIGGEST LOSER special probably was another ratings loser. "EARL" has become a reliable hit for NBC. It is the biggest comedy hit they have. Bumping it for a BIGGEST LOSER special probably drove a few viewers away. Healthy and fit persons have little or no interest in programs like BIGGEST LOSER. It drives away an entire audience of viewers. FEAR FACTOR, while often gross and downright disgusting, probably will pull in a bigger audience. But for the most part special movies, miniseries, specials, etc., may only serve to draw viewers away for reliably ratings strong series, and are not always the best programming strategy for networks. NBC needs to take a good look at this and not repeat the same mistakes in February when another ratings sweeps period comes.

What NBC got right was some excellent storylines on LAW & ORDER including last night's SVU which was maybe their best story ever. A special 3D version of MEDIUM was also a good ratings draw, although I've personally seen far better and less blurry 3D effects elsewhere. The MARRIED WITH CHILDREN and THE THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN 3D specials seemed to have been better executed.

FOX, ABC, UPN and WB offered good episodes of regular programming, although no real difference between regular season and sweeps month programming could be noticed by me. Of these four networks, FOX will have the biggest audience share increase in January when AMERICAN IDOL is back, giving FOX a huge ratings lift. Some very good ABC programs such as DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and COMMANDER IN CHIEF seemed to lose some audience interest some weeks according to a slight ratings erosion, but then seemed to regain some footing with better promoted stronger storylines recently.

CBS seemed to be the only clear winner. Ratings remained strong, and some series such as NCIS, CRIMINAL MINDS and GHOST WHISPERER have turned in probably better than expected ratings for CBS programming executives. CLOSE TO HOME, which has been a ratings disappointment on Tuesday at 10, turned in better ratings on Friday at 9. THRESHOLD seemed like a reasonably good SciFi drama from a former STAR TREK ENTERPRISE producer. But failed to gain a following on CBS at either 9PM on Friday, or in switching places with CLOSE TO HOME at 10 on Tuesday. Last week, THRESHOLD aired perhaps their best episode ever, just as former JAG star, Catherine Bell joined the team, and SAVED BY THE BELL and SHOWGIRL's, Elizabeth Berkley starred, yet ratings fell and CBS yanked the series. All that can be figured is that Threshold was on the wrong network, where CBS slightly older demographic of viewers were not accepting of this type of genre program. On the SciFi network or as a syndicated program, Threshold could still make it. Whether it gets this chance is to be seen. But Threshold was a good program that simply seemed the wrong genre for CBS. In truth, both THRESHOLD and CLOSE TO HOME lack a,little something that makes better programs megahits, yet both are good enough to deserve a longer run. THRESHOLD may be done for good now though. Former STAR TREK producers may try a different type of SciFi story and different marketing next time around.

Other series that hit the skids during November sweeps were REUNION, ABC's lackluster comedy, HOT PROPERTIES, and the long running ALIAS series. All will be cancelled. In the case of ALIAS, Jennifer Garner who appeared to be very pregnant seemed like an unlikely secret agent to send out on dangerous missions. It made the scenes done by a stunt double appear way too obvious. But the worst factor fro ALAIS was the ABC network move to 8PM on Thursday. Every ABC program since MORK & MINDY in 1983 has died in that time slot within the year of a ratings drought. Since 1983, NBC and then CBS have carved up Thursday as their strongest night of programming. ALIAS did fine last year on Wednesday after LOST. Why ABC decided to throw this award winning program to the lions by allowing CBS and NBC stronger Thursday ratings to eat it alive is a good question. But in May, ALIAS will bow out for good.

If November sweeps was a war, then the generals of programming at CBS got it right for the most part and clearly won the sweeps with a careful strategy to air excellent episodes, careful scheduling and other thoughtful planning and few high risk specials. NBC needs to look at what CBS did right, and follow this formula to the letter. NBC can improve their position to a solid number two behind CBS with this strategy, which is better than coming in number four in January when FOX gets American Idol back on the TV schedule and NBC will be in worse condition.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The "Culture Of Corruption" Continues In Washington

One of the most blatant warnings of outgoing President, and former decorated General, Dwight Eisenhower, was concern of the "military-industrial complex" to corrupt America. Another example of this corruption hit the fan yesterday, when former decoratedVietnam War Navy pilot, and current Congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican from California, pleaded guilty to public corruption charges of accepting bribes from a military contractor in exchange for steering contracts to this company.

Cunningham may have collected more than $2 million from at least one defense contractor, including a Rolls Royce, a mansion, a yacht, antiques and other collectables. In one case the CEO of a defense contractor company bought the old home of Cunningham, but then sold it for a $700,000 loss, it a form of scheme to funnel money to this Congressman.

Just like the warning of Eisenhower, this "culture of corruption" prevades some issues involving some defense contractors. One defense contractor once billed the Pentagon for hundreds of dollars for one inch pieces of metal with two holes drilled in it. A diesel engine glow plug wire that is absolutely the identical one that sells in auto parts stores for less than $20, was sold to the Pentagon for about $400 each. The Pentagon routinely offers so-called "surplus" military goods on Websites for pennies on the dollar to war surplus businesses, yet often reorders new identical equipment. And troops in the Iraq War, especially the 40% who are Natiional Guard members are sent to Iraq with severe shortages of radios, ammunition, armored Humvees, and other vital goods, which needlessly created many more American dead and wounded.

And much of the Bush military and foreign policy team was comprised of former defense contractor CEOs, paid consultants or major stockholders of defense contractor companies, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowityz, John Bolton and others who were members of the Project For The New American Century who since 1997 attempted to promote a new war in Iraq, largely for the purpose of benefitiing defense contractors with a huge financial windfall created by a new war. And the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force were each replaced with former defense contractor CEOS or major stockholders, for the first time in American history. Even the wife of Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney was a major holder of Lockheed Martin stock, and could stand to handsomely profit from the Iraq War before the war was started in dramaticly increased defense contracts to this company.

The guilty plea of Rep. Cunningham is no doubt only the tip of the iceberg. An entire "culture of corruption" prevades this Bush Administration which planned the Iraq War largely to profit big military contractors. In fact 33 major members of the Bush Administration have defense contractor ties, while 43 members of the Bush Administration have oil industry ties, including Dr. Condoleezza Rice a former Chevron Board Of Directors member.

Halliburton, the former company of which Dick Cheney was the CEO, was given billions of dollars in no-bid contracts by the Bush Administration. Yet much of these billions were yet to be spent on the Iraq War reconstruction projects, while Halliburton made excessively large charges to the federal government including large charges for cases of soda pop. Even a female ordained minister who was a Halliburton employee, has found absolutely no justification for some of the charges of Halliburton to the federal government. This minister was once a major defender of Halliburton, but now has become very concerned about these excessive charges.

It is not known how much of all of this is legal, but certainly much of it offends the ethics of what claims to be a "values" driven administration. But the case of Cunningham, as well as the questionable series of defense contractor intersts in propelling the Iraq War, as well as Pentagon mismanagement, defense contractor thefts, and other problems seems to indicate that a wide spread "culture of corruption" at worse or ineptness at least, prevades this morally horrid administration.

According to Seymour Hersch, from the New Yorker Magazine, Mr. Bush thinks that "God put him in office" to promote the Iraq War as a "war of liberation" for the people of Iraq. But there is absolutely no indication in any portion of the Old or New Testament that God raised up leaders to promote a "culture of corruption". Mr. Bush is either seriously mislead by many with a lack of honesty and candor, or else a manipulative politician who simply invokes the name of God to put a justification on one of the worst "cultures of corruption" yet seen in American politics. Time will decide which one is the truth.

Rev. Pat Robertson Changes The "Sabbath" to Sunday

In yet another odd twist, Rev. Pat Robertson on Monday claimed that he had a "sabbath rest" on Sunday rather than shop at malls or elsewhere. Taking a day off to respect God is absolutely in line with Old Testament customs and teachings, however there is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that the "Sabbath" has been changed to Sunday, the first day of the week.

Jesus always honored the weekly Sabbath, which ran from sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday. Many early Christians who settled America honored this Sabbath. Adventists celebrate their church services on Saturday. And members of Jewish Synagogues honor God on this day traditionally as well. And the Ten Commandments demands a Sabbath that is kept holy.

Yet many in the Christian community disregard this, and instead celebrate church services on Sunday, the first day of the week instead. But many Christian conservatives have a far worse agenda. It is a form of "cafeteria" Christianity, in which portions of the Bible are selectively used and abused to promote pet political issues such as discrimination against homosexuals in employment, private prayer in seculur public schools, opposition to sex education programs, and other right wing causes, but otherwise show a blantant disregard for the teachings of even the Ten Commandments, which are actually the first of ten laws of the 517 laws of the Jewish faith.

At times Rev. Pat Robertson can be charming and very nice. And he is a great humanitarian with his efforts to further the "One" campaign and millions and millions of dollars of aid from Operation Blessing including help for children with cleft palates with his Operation Smile efforts. But like many in the Christian community, Rev. Robertson is wrong to refer to the first day of the week, Sunday as the "Sabbbath". Sunday never was the "Sabbath" and never will be.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sacramento's "Bleeding Statue" Shrine

Many, mainly Roman Catholic faithful, are being drawn to a claimed "bleeding statue" of Virgin Mary outside of a Vietnamese Catholic church. A substance that is red, with a similar look to blood is running from an eye of the statue. Many faithful are praying outside of the statue seeing this as a miracle.

What's the harm in this? It is clear from lessons in the Scripture that worship of God only has to be incorrect to be wrong in the eyes of God. In the earliest example from the Old Testament, both Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God, however only Abel offered a blood sacrifice, while the "sacrifice" of Cain was a vegetable and not satisfactory in the eyes of God. In fact the heart of Cain was so far from that of God, that Cain committed the world's first documented murder of his brother, Abel.

In another example from the Old Testament, only a few specific Priests were allowed to handle the Ark Of The Covenant. This object was so holy, since it was the throne that God would use in the temple. In one example, a well intentioned man attempted to grab one of the four handles when a Priest tripped on a rock or some object. This well intentioned man was immediately struck dead by God according to the account in Scripture.

What can be drawn from both examples is that Cain offered a sacrifice, but it was not acceptable to God as it was not a blood sacrifice in accordance with God's requirements. So failure to to fully follow the requirements of God, puts one at odds with God. But in the second lesson involving the attempt by the well intentioned man to prevent the Ark Of The Covenant from falling to the ground, it is clear that only the absolute letter of the law requirement from God was acceptable. Good intentions do not count with God. Only absolute compliance with the letter of the law with God.

The lesson in all of this is that the "bleeding statue" in Sacramento lures faithful of God into incorrect or unScriptural worship. This clearly lures some of the most religious and strongest followers of God into forms of worship that are not acceptable to God or that are in conflict with traditional Scriptural examples of God speaking to his faithful.

It is clear from Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament that all worship is to be to God himself. Worship of any saint, including, Mary a very faithful and loyal servant of God who deserves all good respect of any good saint of God, is not Scriptural. The question is raised , why would God somehow speak to persons by not sending himself, but by using a saint from Scripture rather than a prophet as was done in all Old and New Testament examples. In fact, Jesus never sought praise or worship of himself, and always offered prayer to God as his father, and performed any miracles by calling on God, his father in all known examples in specified in Scripture.

Another major problem is that nearly all so-called miracle examples have a perfectly natural and not supernatural explanation, or in other cases may prove to be a mere hoax. And they encourage persons to violate the "graven image" worship prohibition in the Ten Commandments when they pray and worship at a shrine, or through a statue. Roman Catholics often use Mary statues for this purpose, while Protestants often misuse Ten Commandment monuments such as the 5,200 lb. one placed outside the Alabama Supreme Court building by Judge Roy Moore for the same shrine worship purposes. Yet from the clear and unchanging text of the Ten Commandments, such worship of a "graven image" or shrine is not acceptable to God.

Praying outside of shrines in common in some cultures. Many in the Mexican Catholic community have elaborate home shrines, and many stores including Safeway and others offer candles, glassworks items with Mary or Jesus illustrated, for home shrine use. Yet nowhere in Scripture did God or even Jesus change the requirement that specifically outlawed praying through a shrine. In the example of the Ark Of The Covenant, God himself would occupy this throne in the temple. The Ark itself was not prayed through.

Some of the most faithful of God need to carefully consider whether they could be led astray by a spiritual counterfeit. And on the face of it, praying through a statue as a shrine has many problems with it that seem to violate not only the traditional way in which God works by sending actual prophets to teach, but lures many of the best Christians into a form of idol worship that puts them at odds with the basic teachings of God. Most "bleeding statues" or other items can be a dangerous deception that encourages wrong or false worship that lures the faithful from God, rather than increases their relationship with God. And that's a clear spiritual danger to be considered in any shrine worship.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

General Motors: Asleep At The Wheel Or Not?

They used to say, that "so goes GM, so goes the nation". But as financial problems build at General Motors, CEO Richard "Rick" Wagner is preparing the company for not only a scaleback of 30,000 jobs and for plant closings but also an ambitious plan to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. But will this work? Can General Motors avoid going the way of American Motors, Studebaker, Packard, Essex, Hudson, Checker, and numerous other American car brands and corporations that have failed?

Many early American automobile companies grew up into major corporations from humble roots. In 1850, two blacksmiths set up Studebaker, that grew into a covered wagon manufacturer in the later 1800's. But as the horseless carriage became popular in the early 1900's, Studebaker entered this business as well. Rambler grew from a small bicycle company into the brands such as Rambler, Essex, Nash and others. In the 1950's when Hudson and Nash merged, it was at that time the world's largest corporate merger ever. Two other firms, Studebaker and Packard hoped to join this merger, but both suffered from high debts or financial weakness and were denied a place in this mega corporate merger. Packard and Studebaker merged together, but faced a slow financial bleeding death by the Mid 60's. AMC, the new name of the Hudson and Nash alliance also faced a financial bleeding after tight company finances were squandered into the AMC Pacer in 1975 which only sold well for about one year, but then sales quickly plummeted and started to sink the entire company. Rather than being the salvation of AMC, the controversial wide and glassy Pacer was met with buyer resistance only year after hot sales, but at the expense of all other AMC car lines which never recovered very well ever again. Slightly modernized Hornet and Gremlin replacements, the Concord and Spirit only sold well for a while as these aging models lacked the fuel economy of more modern models by other manifacturers. A later desperate alliance with French carmaker, Renault quickly failed, where little AMC lost more than $300 million in one 14 month period. Chrysler in a bid for the only lucrative AMC line, the Jeep models purchased what was left of the AMC assets, and some Renault designed models were marketed by Chrysler for a short time before being dropped. For many American automobile manufacturers, business is a very high risk game with far more stories of failure rather than success.

For many years, the more successful Ford and General Motors could buck the failure trend of the smaller American manufacturers by having more development money to spend. More money could be spent on top CEOs as well.When Richard Wagner took over the helm at General Motors in 2002, he had a salary raised to $8.5 million with all benefits included added compared to the previous salary of outgoing GM CEO, Charles E. Wilson. Yet today is asking 30,000 workers at General Motors to accept sacrifice that Wagner calls "tough medicine" to rescue the company from economic disaster like so many other American automobiles manufacturers have suffered in the last century. Indeed General Motors is locked into many expensive pension responsibilities for workers that may total about $7 billion dollars that Japanese automobile makers don't have, but like all American automobile manufacturers, GM has made it's own share of wrong marketing and product decisions.

In the 1970's Chrysler betted against the small car trend and continued to market larger cars, but when the Mid 70's fuel crisis hit, Chrysler had no small cars to market to compete with the foresight of other manufacturers and eventually faced bankruptcy and required a bailout from the federal government to stay in business. With this badly needed influx of cash, Chrysler finally offered small cars like the Omni, Horizon , and K Car vehicles and turned around the company financially. However today, the German company, Daimler is now the owner of Chrysler. But in 1970, both Ford and AMC marketed smaller cheaper cars with the Ford Maverick at $1,995 and the AMC Hornet at $1,994. Later in April 1970 came the subcompact AMC Gremlin at just $1,879. In September of 1970, as 1971 models came the Ford Pinto at $1,919 and the Chevrolet Vega at around $2,300. But Chrysler had no answer to these small cars for several years, betting against this trend, and it proved nearly fatal to the company as when the fuel crisis and gas lines hit. previously attractive models from Chrysler had little appeal because of poor mileage and large size.

The recent problems with high fuel prices have hurt the General Motors development and marketing of so many large and not very fuel efficient SUVs. Just like the fateful decision of Chrysler to offer too many too big, and not very fuel efficient vehicles, General Motors put themselves in a similar bad product marketing spot when gas soared close to $3.00 a gallon recently. While prices have backed down a little, buyers are tending to stick with more fuel efficient models where fewer large trucks or SUVs are likely to be sold than before. This put makers of smaller more fuel efficient vehicles like Toyota or Honda in far better product marketing position than GM. American manufacturers attempted to offer deep discount "employee prices" on vehicles rather than the type of vehicles that American car buyers really wanted. This cannot go on forever. You have to build the type of cars and trucks that people want, not simply lure them with a big price discounts on vehicles that people don't exactly desire.

In a similar questonable strategy, General Motors is betting against the heavy development of hybrid vehicles, of which Toyota strongly believes will be majoroty all of the vehicles on the road within 30 years, and attempting to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are becoming increasingly reliable, pollute somewhat less than standard vehicles, but only offer about a 25% improved mileage over existing highly efficient gasoline vehicles. But compared to hybrid vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have many technological hurdles that have not yet been solved so far in their development. Yet, GM will invest billions in this hydrogen fuel cell development question.

So far hydrogen vehicles use technology that would currently make the cost of each vehicle about $70,000 each. Some of the technology is fragile, where cold weather can damage some of the sensitive components. There is storage problems with the hydrogen that could present high cost or even safety problems. And numerous other technological and hydrogen fuel form problems in development remain. On one hand, there is a nearly unlimited sources of hydrogen available that can be converted from water or other sources, and the only exhaust product of hydrogen automobiles is harmless water vapor. Yet the track record at Toyota has been good so far and the caution that Toyota exhibits that hybrid and not hydrogen automobiles will be the cars of the future is worth pondering. Toyota has consistently had good business and marketing instincts, and whether General Motors is attempting the nearly impossible by development of a technology that is not viable is a very good question. Is GM going to commit billion towards a new type of vehicle that is not technologically viable?

Is Richard Wagner at GM a genius, betting against all odds that he is right and has the best good business instincts? Or is Wagner only following the fatal corporate mistakes that have collapsed many other American automobile manufacturers in the last century. Only time will tell. But any failure at GM would not be a good omen for the American economy. The future of the American economy as well clean automobiles with zero pollution are at stake. If GM succeeds, they will prosper, and the air and environment will become cleaner. But if GM fails, then .....well, you know how things went wrong for other American carmakers. Many American jobs depend on this.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

China's Lax Environmental Laws Take High Human Toll

In their mad dash to industrialize China, government, factory and corporate officials who are in charge of establishing the industrial factories in China have often cut corners in safety and environmental standards. Corporate officials from the U.S. who have built massive factories in Chinese cities to maximize profits, while exporting American jobs to China, have trained factory workers how to lie to government officials in China when government safety or wage inspections are conducted. The going minimim wage in China is susposed to be 40 cents an hour, but many workers are actually given closer to 24 cents an hour. And worker safety also suffers greatly in this dash to profit at the expense of American jobs as more and more of the U.S. economy is exported to China each day. Increasing numbers of Chinese workers are developing health problems such as "brown lung" from breathing toxic fumes on a daily basis that would not be tolerated in an American factory regulated by OSHA, state or federal regulations, or by a union worksite in which union workers either report or regulate such worker health threats.

This week, an even worse environmental disaster spread beyond the walls of a Chinese chemical factory and took away the drinking water supply from nearly 4 million Chinese in the Northern city of Harpin, China, close to the Russia border. An explosion in a petrochemical plant caused 100 tons of poisonous benzine to flow into the Songhua, River. For nearly ten days Chinese officials attemped to keep the chemical spill secret from the people of Harpin, instead of immediately informing them so they could store clean drinking water in bottles or jugs before the pollution arrived. Now there are severe shortages of clean drinking water, as government officials have informed the people in Harpin too late. A 50 mile long flow of colorless poison now floats on the Songhua River, defying the efforts of Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers to clean up the problem, now that the government finally acknowledges the problem.

It is no wonder that Chinese government officials attempted to keep quiet about this chemical disaster. With record exports to the U.S. of goods including toys, variety and even food products, the government does not want to acknowledge any problems that question the safety of export products from their nation. Yet the trend is clear, China often allows less than minimum wage jobs to cut labor costs and have lured away as many as an 30 million American factory jobs by some estimates. China has a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with the U.S.

China allows lax environmental standards that allow air pollution levels that are so bad that for a child to breathe in 500 Chinese cities means air that is so polluted from factory production as well as the epidemic of up to 90% of Chinese men smoking cigarettes, that it is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for these small children simply to breathe air. This is absolutely outrageous, and such dirty air pollution levels would face far stricter regulation in the U.S.

With a trend of cutting corners in labor, safety and envirnmental standards, China also has managed to undercut American jobs with an undervaluing of their currency, the yuen, by about 40% by valuing this currency against the American dollar rather allowing it to float against world currencies like other world currencies do. Only recently has China pledged to change this unfair competition that further cut into American jobs with this unfair currency evaluation tactic.

As the American industrial revolution rolls away from the U.S., and China becomes the major world industrial nation, a variety of greedy profiteering trends have allowed the people of China to be exploited by low wages, dangerous working conditions and subjected to terrible environmental standards. Greedy profiteering by ruthless capitalism simply benefits no one. Decent labor, safety and environmental standards are as vital to the people in China, as they are for the remaining factory jobs in the U.S. that have not yet been exported to China. Children in China deserve to breathe clean air, their parents paid fair wages in safe factories, and American consumers assured of safe product exports from China that are quickly filling more and more American store shelves as American made products slowly disappear.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving: Another Holiday That Divides Along Class Lines

Yesterday's holiday was another one that divides along class lines. A poor family on Food Stamps may have spent 8% or more of their monthly allowance just to provide enough to eat in a very spartan meal. Many other homeless poor were forced to seek either food bank or soup kitchen help. Many religious organizations, the same opposing the Food Stamp cuts in Congress, were also the ones offering feeding programs to the poor so that they could at least have a decent meal on this holiday.

There's no "honey baked hams" or other luxury items for the poor of America on a holiday like Thanksgiving. Just another tough day of survival.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Iraq Policy Is Quickly Being Torn To Tatters

While the Bush Administration is attempting to hold the line for a policy of "stay the course" in Iraq. Political realities are quickly leaving this policy in tatters.

Yesterday, at an reconciliation conference held in Cairo, Egypt, Iraqi Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders united on a proposal for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq on a timetable basis. Monday, Senator Joesph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced some hard political realities at an event hosted by the Council On Foreign Relations. NBC's Brian Williams was the moderator at this event, in which Biden pointed out that National Guard or other units soon will likely be recalled from Iraq because otherwise their tour of duties would have to extend beyond 12 months. This is likely to fuel an American withdrawal of some troops soon. NBC's Adrea Mitchell spoke at an event Sunday on her reasoned position that many troops may be withdrawn in 2006, that despite Bush Administration claims of "staying the course", the Pentagon is actually drawing up plans for some troop withdrawals in 2006.

Where does this leave Iraq? The security situation is actually that there is simply not enough U.S. trrops in Iraq to provide security. U.S. troops rid an area near Lebanon of insurgents who filter over the border from Syria into Iraq, and once U.S. troops leave the area, villages are again reclaimed by insurgent forces. Iraqi forces are unable to keep insurgents out of these areas, and U.S. trrops are spread to thin to keep these insurgent forces out.

Likely in Iraq, either a corrupt leader like Ahmed Chalabi, who has his own militia, or another militia such as the Badr or Wolf Brigade militia will either control Iraq, and will wage a civil wat against the Sunni population in Iraq. Biden asked at the CFR event whether there is any American support for U.S. troops fighting a civil war on behalf of a Shiite militia against the Sunni population. Biden also described Iraq as a like "Lebanon on steroids". Lebanon was an unrulable security mess in which Reagan found peacekeeping duty too challenging, and withdrew American peacekeepers after terrorist attacks on U.S. Marine and French peacekeepers. Syria soon invaded and occupied much of Lebanon. Similarly, Iran could likely occupy much of Iraq if the U.S should exit soon. Iran could even attempt to create a near satellite state in Iraq, extend more control over the world oil supply in the Strait Of Hormuz, while continuing work on nuclear weapons. Iran will be able to launch it's first satellite very soon. One Iranian satellite aboard a Russian vehicle has already been launched.

There are many problems at home in the U.S. There is no American will for a long conflict or peacekeeping anywhere in the world. Americans have no patience for such situations. Iraq has become destabilized in an ill conceived war. But Iraq will soon likely be left on it's own to become a critical piece in a future MidEast that will soon experience far more anarchy and chaos and far more danger will result as Iran becomes more powerful and dangerous.

The U.S. did just enough harm with the Iraq War, and the soon resulting MidEast destabilization and then the failure to properly resolve the problems created there to create far more world danger for the near future. What can I say about that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Strange But True.....

Sometimes the news is so weird that it's almost funny.....

General Motors CEO, Richard Wagner today announced that needed "strong medicine" to cut 30,000 jobs at G.M was vital to the company's future survival. But so far Wagner hasn't yet joined this sacrifice. In 2002, when Wagner took over from G.M. CEO, Charles E.Wilson, one of Wagner's priorities was to boost his salary to $8.5 million with benefits from the $652,156 that Wilson received.

In South Korea, executives nearly ruined Hyundai by using the company as their personal piggybank. In the U.S. some executives do nearly the same by excessive salaries and benefits that sap stockholder investment and profits and can cause the loss of jobs or hurt company finances.

The $8.5 million dollar salary of Wagner is $2.5 million dollars more than the entire production costs of developing the 1970 1/2 AMC Gremlin for example.

In Oregon's capitol city, Salem, Oregon, The American Nazi Party decided to make use of the "adopt a road" program to aid recruitment, and pledged to keep a highway clean of litter in exchange for a sign noting that they were the official patron's of that road. But last week, after failure to keep the road clean as promised, the state of Oregon removed the Nazi Party as the official patron's of the road.


In the most bizarre example of a state representative ever, 40 year old Kelley Wirth, the female legislator who had an alleged affair with a Oregon state capitol building janitor, who then sued Wirth for sexual harrassment, and was later run down by the jealous girlfriend of the janitor and nearly killed. Wirth was arrested a few days after her attempted murder for meth possession and forced to resign. But instead of resigning right away, she held onto the ofice for another month. Prior to resignation, Wirth dramaticly raised her mother's salary which she had put on a legislator expense payroll, but then finally backed down after public outrage. The latest word on the case, the janitor was paid a $27,0000 settlement because of Wirth abusing the power of her office to sexually harrass this state worker. You almost need a scorecard to keep track of this bizarre Jerry Springer soap opera.

Not too many legislators careers involve meth, attempted murder, placing family members on a payroll and dramaticly increasing their payrolls, having an affair with a capitol janitor and then being sued for sexual harrassment. But for sheer comedy value, Rep. Kelley Wirth will be missed.


It might seem that some Presidents were known for being less than honest. Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson are two of the most notable. But in reality, only George Bush was a convicted criminal. While in college he was arrested and convicted for theft as he stole a wreath from a hotel.


During the Katrina crisis, FEMA Director Michael Brown let it be known in an Email that he was "a fashion God". I'm sure those that lost homes or went days without food or vital services find that information reassuring. What disaster victim wouldn't want their FEMA director to be a "fashion God" and look smartly dressed.


There you have it kids, the first installment of Strange But True. All True, All Strange. Strange But True......

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mindnumbingly Stupid Debate On Iraq Hardly Secures The Mess There

An increasingly shrill, yet mindnumbling stupid debate on Iraq, has captured the nation's political attention the last few days. The political right's arguments have intellectually eroded from any reasoned arguments why "stay the course" is the proper path in Iraq, instead taking on braindead Joe McCartylike insults like referring to Democrats or war opponents as "cowards", "Traitors", or "cut and run" artists. Equally some in the Democratic party invited this mindless debate with Republican partisans when Democratic Rep. John Murtha, a 37 year military veteran made major news by calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq due to numerous ground strategy, equipment, security, Iraqi unemployment and government corruption problems, and U.S. troop strength problems there.

Any reductions in U.S. troop strength after the December 15, Iraqi elections there will be due to U.S. troop levels stretched very thin worldwide. It is simply that the U.S cannot afford to maintain more than 150,000 troops in Iraq for an extended period. Insurgent attacks have actually increased from 150 a week a year ago to 700 a week now, and take an average of 68 Iraqi lives per day, and as many as 5 U.S. troop lives per day. U.S. Army and Marine regular soldiers are stretched so thin with the all volunteer army, that a full 40% of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are lightly armed and equipped, National Guard units. Often enough ammunition, or radios, nightvision equipment or armored Humvees are in severe shortage in these units. Bullets have to be carefully rationed in engagements so as not to run low for future emergency situations in which this protection would be a soldier's best friend in an emergency situation.

Prior to this, another nearly pointless debate raged on for days on the bad reasons that America entered Iraq, where both parties voted overwelmingly to allow Bush to go to war there if he felt necessary. And of course, war not diplomacy was always the goal of Bush in Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld, danced around this isue in an unconvincing manner on Sunday's This Week With George Stephanopoulous. Some Democrats charged that "intelligence was manipulated", including Democratic Party head, Howard Dean. Yet no one offered any proof of this. It was merely assumed as a theory. But the truth is that little real intelligence existed from Iraq, instead Ahmed Chalabi, a criminal convicted in Jordan's worst banking scandal was paid monthly payments for supposed "intelligence information", but instead this convicted criminal was merely shaking down both American and Iranian intelligence agencies for payments in a scheme to profit. In Iraq, Chalabi, who is a leader of an armed militia knew that stretching the truth could result in American military involvement in Iraq and serve his needs to grab power there.

And equally bad was the White House political offensive by some like Dick Cheney who sought 5 draft deferments during the Vietnam War, and whose formner company, Halliburton stood to handsomely profit from billions of dollars of no-bid contracts shoveled their way by the Pentagon for Iraq War reconstruction projects. Cheney was very shrill in painting any Democratic claims brought up in the "intelligence manipulation' question. None of the problems in Iraq were addresed. Just a silly partisan shouting match.

Has any of this silly debate improved the failing war strategy in Iraq. Probably not. Is the situation in Iraq likely to become more stable or will American troops now become more safe or be now provided short supply needed equipment. Probably not. Likely all that was achieved was some silly loud partisanship, with virtually no logic behind either side's arguments. And the U.S. is still saddled with a failing policy in Iraq, where ignorance of MidEast history contributed to a war that could drag out for generations if allowed to. The U.S. has now made Iraq very unstable, where making the best of the situation is now very difficult.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Adrian Rodgers

This past week, a great American religious leader passed away. Adrian Rodgers was the three time elected head of the Southern Baptists.

While Adrian Rodgers did bring some politics to the Southern Baptist faith as major areas of church concerns, he still should be remembered best for his calm and warm style of speaking that will be greatly missed.

His excellent sermons with his warm style that were carried weekly on TBN and other religious channels will be hard to replace with another religious leader of equal value.

John Rice

Within the last few days John Rice, the 2 foot 10inch dwarf twin, who along with his brother, Greg became millionaire moltivational speakers and offered real estate wealth workshops, died from injuries after breaking his leg in a fall.

John was 53, and at birth his own real parents were so disappointed the their two newborn baby sons were dwarfs that they simply walked away and abadoned them at the hospital. Two janitors who were married at the hospital took them home and loved them as their own sons. They bought the boys cute matching sailor suits and other clothes. They loved the two boys and let them know thay might not be as tall as other boys, but they were just as good as anyone else.

Raised in this loving home, the two boys starred in films, gave moltivational speeches, appeared at religious programs such as Robert Schuller's Hour Of Power three times. Recently the two brothers shared secrets to making fortunes in real estate with others. The accident that resulted in death for John was sudden and unexpected.

John Rice proved that anyone can make as much of themself as they want. He was a great inspiration. He was greatly loved and admired. He'll be greatly missed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Will Iraq Policy Improve Because Of The Debate?

War hero, Representative John Murtha hoped to elevate a debate about Iraq with his call to withdraw troops unless either conditions for the American soldiers improve or else they should be withdrawn to safer positions outside of Iraq. The first premise is excellent. But the second position to place U.S. troops outside of Iraq is unworkable for Iraqi security reasons and for any efforts to train Iraqi troops.

But the first premise deserves some immediate action by the White House, the Pentagon and other Iraq War planners.

According to the American military officer in charge of overseeing electrical energy production, this has actually fallen below the levels of prewar production. Oil production is also below prewar production. Security problems have left many reconstruction projects unfinished, where only $9 billion of the planned $18 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects have been finished. Unemployment in Iraq is at 60%. As many as 2 million Iraqis in Baghdad were recently without clean water, where only $500 million of the planned $2.2 billion meanyt to be spent on clean water projects has been spent. Insurgent attacks have increased from 150 a week a year ago to 700 per week now. An average of 68 Iraqi citizens lose their lives to such attacks each and everyday. And yesterday, peaceful mosque worshippers were murdered by two suicide attacks aimed at Shiite mosques. And many Western journalists narrowly escaped death in another attack.

40% of all American troops in Iraq are National Guard members. And the experience of Oregon National Guard members is typical. They were sent to Iraq with woefully insufficient equipment such as underprotected Humvees that were prone to needless deaths from roadside bombs. Oregon National Guard members used pieces of plywood and sandbags to reinforce their vehicles against bullets and roadside bombs. But National Guardsmen suffered needless deaths from roadside bombs and bullets that better armor could have kept out of their Humvee. Now unfortunately, Hezbollah has brought even dealier bombs to Iraq, where even tanks weighing as much as 13 tons can be penetrated or tipped over by the blast.

Oregon citizens even contributed vital equipment to the Guard members such as radios and night vision equipment. But even ammunition was in short supply to many National Guard units, who had to sparingly use ammunition to defend themselves not knowing when new supplies would be forthcoming, and not wanting to be without bullets for possible future engagements.

And the training of the Iraqi military and police are largely failures because so little equipment has come their way. The best trained Iraqi soldiers have only 10 old Soviet T55 tanks left from Saddam's army and 4 old armored personnel carriers. Iraqi police have little more than an American issued shirt and pants and pistol. Police cars are virtually nonexistent.

Rep. Murtha wanted conditions for the American troops to improve, and real efforts to improve Iraq to be progressing. But likely little will change, some Republican blogs are arguing silly and juvenile arguments with childish name calling or using Michael Moore images to tar Murtha, rather than a serious discussion of what is wrong with the Iraq War policy to show improvement so that the situation becomes more stable and safer for our soldiers. And the Republican effort to force an up or down vote on troop withdrawal for purely temporary political reasons. While American troops and Iraqi citizens continue to die daily in the unstable situation in Iraq, Republicans failed to commit themselves to improvements in policy to save lives there and stabilize the situation. And this is deeply unfortunate.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The U.S. Cannot Withdrawal From Iraq At This Time

Representative John Murtha, a 37 year military veteran and highly decorated soldier deserves much respect. But any plan to withdrawal before the situation is stabilized in Iraq is completely unacceptable.

Mr. Bush may have gotten the U.S. into a deeply troublesome quagmire in Iraq. But this created so much instability in this nation that the U.S. cannot withdrawal without stabilizing some critical situations in Iraq.

The government in Iraq is flimsy and riddled with corruption. Democratic institutions and the legal system must be greatly improved in Iraq before any American exit if the country is to stand on it's own.

Militias such as the Badr Brigade or the Wolf Brigade would likely attempt to overthrow the government in Iraq if the U.S. should leave too early. This could create a state of civil war between Shiite groups and Sunni radicals who support the insurgents. Cruel ethnic warfare between Shiite and Sunni ethnic groups could create "ethnic cleansing" problems that could rival Bosnia and Kosovo for sheer brutality. A new prisoner abuse scandal just this week involved a militia run jail that tortured suspects with drills and acid.

The military of Iraq is very weak, undermanned, undertrained, unequipped and underfunded. Only one army battalion of 750 soldiers is considered to be "combat ready" to stand on their own without American military support. For 60,000 other Iraqi soldiers of various training levels only 10 old Soviet T55 tanks and 4 old Soviet armored personnel carriers exist. estimates that this military needs at least 1200 tanks, 50 attack helicopters, and several thousand assorted artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers, trucks and other heavy equipment. So far the U.S. has provide not a single heavy equipment item.

Iran could invade Iraq and either annex it or turn it into a satellite state. With their new satellite program and nuclear enrichment of fuel, Iran could soon become a nuclear threat to both the U.S. and Israel. And Iran could seek to shut off the American supply of oil from the Strait Of Hormuz. A power vaccum in Iraq could invite such a situation.

There are no end to serious problems why the U.S. cannot leave Iraq until the situation is stabilized. Any early exit will only invite serious problems that will destabilize the entire MidEast, create more world terrorism or even at worst invite a serious war with Iran that could even involve nuclear weapons if they continue to develop this threat and invade Iraq, or cut off the American oil supply.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Why Iraqi Self-Defense May Fail

Yesterday's overwelming Senate vote, by a 79-19 vote is meant to put pressure on the government and people of Iraq to prepare for their own self-defense in 2006. But for a variety of reasons this could very well fail. Iraq's intentions for self-defense are America's ticket out of Iraq, yet for reasons not entirely the fault of Iraq, Iraqi self-defense plans could fail far worse than the failed "Vietnamization " of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War's "Vietnamization" of the war had an important factor going for it. That was some level of trust in the South Vietnamese intentions to defend themselves. And America trusted South Vietnamese troops with tanks and other heavy equipment. But the situation in Iraq is far different, as so far not one single piece of heavy equipment has been forthcoming for Iraqi self-defense efforts, only uniforms, helmuts, boots, and small arms such as pistols or rifles. It is nearly as demeaning for Iraqi soldiers as some of the all Black WWII army units who had only broom handles to practice with in all segregated all Black bootcamps. Prior to the 2003 war in Iraq, Saddam's Republican Guard had an estimated 2,200 Soviet tanks. Today only 10 old Soviet T55 tanks remain for the current Iraqi self-defense forces. All the other tanks were destroyed in the "shock and awe " campaign that completely destroyed the military infrastructure of Iraq's Saddam-era Republican Guard. In addition, more than 2,500 artillery pieces were destroyed as well. The current Iraqi military has only 4 old armored personnel carriers left as well and lack decent transportation to potential engagement areas with insurgent forces. With virtually no tanks or artillery pieces, Iraqi soldiers are forced into high mortality combat situations with insurgents, while American soldiers can often fight from a safe distance with long range weapons like aircraft, or high power artillery or tank shells.

According to a reputable military evaluation source,, the Iraqi self-defense forces would need at least 1,250 tanks and 2,500 armored personnel carriers, as well several thousand towed and other artillery pieces, to successfully defend their own county. Yet not a single one of these heavy equipment pieces has yet been provided by the U.S. to the Iraqi military. Only the United Arab Emirates has promised to ship 134 old 1960's vintage Vietnam-era M113 GAVIN armored personnel carriers to Iraqi homeland security forces. But these are very old, have extreme wear, and are no longer of any good use to the UAE now that far newer U.S. supplied vehicles have been shipped to most MidEastern ally states.

There are several important facts to note. The "fathers" of the Iraq War were mainly all either former CEOs, major stockholders or paid consultants to military contractors such as Halliburton's Dick Cheney(Cheney's wife, also held a substantial amount of public stock in Lockheed Martin and stood to profit from increased military spending from a new war) , Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz , John Bolton and others. This new Irag war was wanted by defense contractors partly to profit from the increased military spending that would come their way, and the 2003 war was deliberately "overplanned" to use far more firepower than needed solely to burn up billions in arms and to create billions in new military contractor arms replacement demand production and new contracts. Because of this, way more of the Iraqi Republican Guard was destroyed than was necessary. This meant than all but 10 of the estimated 2,200 Iraqi battle tanks were destroyed and most likely all of the estimated 2,050 artillery pieces. The American cost to replace 1,200 tanks estimated to be required for the Iraqi homeland defense forces would be at least $4.5 million each. And with $1 million dollar American cruise missiles destroyed way more Iraqi tanks and military infrastructure than needed during the 2003 war, the entire Iraqi Republican Guard Army of an estimated 245,000 soldiers including their commanders was heavily decimated as well. There was more destruction than needed of the Iraqi military solely to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons from power, because this war was planned by persons way too closely aligned with American military contractor interests with huge military profits a main component of the war planning. Instead this war, if actually necessary should have been independently planned by military experts. But in fact, the Bush Administration has replaced all the Secretaries of Army, Navy and Air Force agencies with former executives or others associated with military contractors for the very first time in American history. In fact 33 former defense contractor associates have been appointed by Bush to foreign or military policy positions. Even former Republican President, and General, Dwight Eisenhower warned of the power of the "military-industrial complex" to create serious problems for the United States. By contrast the military and foreign policy of this administration is controlled by this "military industrial" complex.

Without any high level Iraqi military commanders or major arms left, it is very difficult to build a new Iraqi military from the ground up. And because of fear that families or others may be endangered, many Iraqi soldiers or police serve with a mask on to hide their identity. The new Iraq has tremendous ethnic hatred, and many Shiite police or military volunteers hide their faces for personal and family safety reasons from the Sunni elements they police. American forces are actually fearful to supply heavy weapons to Iraqi soldiers for fear that they may be misused in ethnic warfare, abuse of civilians, or even in civil war. On one hand, for American political consumption, stock footage of Iraqi soldiers in combat are used to inspire U.S. public confidence that the Iraqi military is coming together. But the reality is that few highly trained Iraqi soldiers actually exist. In fact only one Iraqi combat battalion of 750 soldiers is considered to be "combat ready" to fight on their own without American military backup. During the summer, two more underequipped Iraqi battalion units were knocked down from "combat ready" status, to "not combat ready" status due to engagements with insurgents costing enough of their troops and supplies to lower their fighting ability status.

It is estimated that in engagements with guerilla elements that at least a 10 to 1 advantage must be had by government forces combatting insurgents. But with undertrained and underequipped Iraqi troops, the death toll is far higher than American troops with the advantages of air cover and other high tech weapons that the Iraqi soldiers lack. Because of this, during the summer there were three Iraqi combat battalions comprising more than 2,000 soldiers that were "combat ready". Now just one Iraqi battalion of 750 troops remains "combat ready" without American military support.

It is also known that the U.S. still has numerous troops stationed in both Germany and Japan, long after the end of the 1945 war. It is also known that the U.S. still has a large number of troops in Korea, after the start of that 1950 war. Congress also recently added $500 million for permanent American military base construction to an Iraq War funding bill. Whether the U.S. seriously wants to build an Iraqi self-defense force, trusts the mainly Shiite military volunteers not to misuse the arms for ethnic or civil warfare, or even genocide against Sunni citizens is a very good question.

Hopefully the vote in the Senate will push both the Iraqi and American governments to answer the important question in 2006 whether a real Iraqi self-defense force is really intended in Iraq, or is simply just another White House "smoke and mirrors" for what will continue for years as a virtually solo American effort in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Senate Gets It Right

While the Senate rejected by a 40-57 vote on an amendment to a $491 billion dollar Pentagon spending that would have set a timetable of wihdrawal on American forces from Iraq, they passed a far better amendment by a bipartisan vote of 79-19 that sets quarterly reports on the Iraq effort from the Administrsation, as well goals for Iraq to substantially improve and takeover as much of their own defense as posible during 2006.

These are sensible goals amid an increasingly silly debate between Bush and some opponents how America became entangled in Iraq. Indeed it is important that lessons are learned so that military and spy intelligence are tightened up, and gross misjudgements or even hyping of intelligence are not used in future conflicts to justify American involvement if the situation does not warrant the use of American troops. Only situation in which American interests are threatened or serious regional instability will result should the U.S. seek to act. Because of the lack of Iraqi WMDs, lack of missile delivery systems to attack with WMDs, and the greatly weakened state of Iraq after the 1990-91 Gulf War in which much of the Republican Guard was destroyed, UNSCOM arms inspections and weapons destruction, 12 years of UN sanctions, strict enforcement of "no-fly" zones in Southern and Northern Iraq, Saddam Hussein had little ability to present any military threat to any neighboring state. Indeed, he even presented some loss of control ove portions of his nations including areas contrlled by the Kurds in the North. Iraq hardly met the standards of being a threat to U.S. interests, U.S. allies, or the ability to threaten regional security. Instead the U.S. actions in Iraq have presented a threat to regional security as insurgent forces from Iraq even attacked in Jordan last week, carrying their terrorism outside of Iraq.

The U.S. certainly cannot "cut and run" from Iraq at this time. The mission requires that Iraq be left in stable condition where terrorism does not threaten other states spilling over from Iraq, and the nation choose a stable government that is able to unite the nation, not further the ethnic tensions between the Sunni and Shiite community.

According to Pentagon sources, only one Iraqi battalion is able to stand on it's own without American military support, down from three a few months ago. And an Iraqi army of volunteers that ranks somewhere over 100,000 members, has members of various levels of training, no air force or navy like other states in the region. By comparison, Iran has a six million man army of regular soldiers and conscripts, as well as a navy and airforce.

Both the government of Iraq, and the people of Iraq must step up during 2006 to provide a decent democracy in which all ethnic groups are equal members, and the military must be able to provide for their own security in a increasing manner. Unlike the failed "Vietnamization" of the Vietnam War, Iraq's own national security efforts cannot fail and leave a power vacuum in the MidEast in which either terrorists or Iran attempts to fill this vacuum.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Cycle Of Violence In Iraq

While Bush wears the military flight jacket and talks tough about Iraq, which is interesting considering that he spent his military service in the National Guard at home drinking and running around with girls while other men risked their lives on the battlefields of Vietnam, promoting his policy in Iraq, everyday is a new cycle of violence in the region.

It was learned today that the failed suicide bomber from the Jordan attack may have had three brothers killed by U.S. forces. If this is true, then it is just more proof of an endless cycle of violence. In the minds of MidEast extremists, attacking a peaceful wedding party in neighboring Jordan is an acceptable response to the U.S. actions in Iraq.

Such events prove what a disturbed logic prevades the radicals of the region. A deep cycle of hate exists, and a cultural dispute between some in Islam and Western culture exists. This conflict cannot be easily won. Unlike Bush who talks of "winning the war on terrorism", no easy victory can be won on a battlefield where deep cultural divides fuel this conflict. Britain entered Iraq shortly after the WWI, and remained in a conflict in this state until the 1958 rebellion that forced British troops to leave. When America decided to enter Iraq, we have entered into a military situation that will consume America troops and cash for generations. America still has troops in Japan and Germany, years after the end of the 1945 war. And troops still remain Korea more than 50 years since the end of that conflict. The MidEast is far more unforgiving region of conflict and could well consume America lives and dollars for far more years than these other conflicts. It could become a cycle of violence with no easy end. A war without end that could make the "Hundred Years War" look short by comparison.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Was Prewar Intelligence Manipulated?

A renewed national debate is once again raging on whether prewar intelligence was manipulated. Despite the claims of both sides on this issue, it's far better to examine the facts.

Unlike all other nations that the CIA or military intelligence would use reliable spy plane or satellite evidence to evaluate any threat, there was really very little CIA or satellite evidence to support any belief that Iraq presented a serious WMD or nuclear threat after the first Gulf War destroyed most of the Iraqi military and UNSCOM inspectors survised the destruction of many more missiles that may have a longer than 150 mile range.

Ahmed Chalabi, who was convicted in Jordan in the nation's worst bank fraud scheme was paid regular CIA funds to an organization that he and and is brother operated. In exchange, this convicted major criminal offered the basis of most claims of Iraqi WMDs such as a nuclear program or chemical or biological weapons.

But compared to even the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which highly reputable spy plane photos existed, any evidence that 2003 Iraq presented any serious military threat after the dearming by the first Gulf War or by UNSCOM destruction was extremely thin. Very little evidence outside of the claims of convicted criminal Ahmed Chalabi existed. And Chalabi was so unethical that American authorities have also now claimed that he also sold "information" to Iran. Little doubt he probably did. For a con man like Chalabi, to profit by "inventing" evidence for profit seems highly likely. He no doubt had little real information and padded any claimed information with many more madeup fabrications solely to receive monthly CIA intelligence payments that totalled thousands a month.

What is known is that during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's, that the Reagan Administration secretly used Agriculture Department CCC funds that were supposed to be used for disaster relief food aid to poor nations to assist Iraq to free up billions of dollars to purchase arms for this conflict, and many of the arms came from states like Brazil or France, as the Soviet Union declared a regional arms embargo intended to dry up the supply of arms and restore peace to this area. At the time, the Reagan Administration did look the other way at any attempt by Saddam Hussein to acquire any conventional weapons as well as any attempts to acquire some mustard gas, biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

While mustard gas was heavily used during the Iran-Iraq War, attempts to acquire other chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons were far more limited. What did exist was a large stock of pesticides that could have a limited chemical weapon use, but only for lack of better technology. Organophosphate pesticides such Tabun(developed by Germans in 1936) or even Sarin(Germany 1938) or Soman(Germany 1944) all have a legimate agricultural use in small quanity, but have the same lethal nerve agent effect on humans as insects when used in larger quantity. All these agents kill by shutting down the nervous system and causing suffocation. But as far as weapons, these are only somewhat more lethal than the accidental home laundryroom mixing of bleach with a laundry detergent with ammonia, that can create harmful or even toxic fumes.

Conservative William Kristol represented a group of proIsrael Jewish Americans who like Morton Krandrake and others looked for a way to to force American military action against Iraq in 1997 when he formed the Project For The New American Century. The intent was to build a case to use the American military to remove any potential military threat to Israel. But with 12 years of U.N. sanctions, little evidence existed that Iraq had the potential to offer much of a threat to nuclear armed Israel. Even at the height of military strength in the 1990-91 Gulf War, the scud missiles with conventional warheads only caused damage to a bathroom and a few broken windows to a home of a Israeli friend of mine when one landed in his backyard early one morning. And in another case, only one elderly man in Israel died of a heart atteck from the noise from another. Only one scud attack was really deadly, where an American military barracks in Saudi Arabia was struck killing 28 soldiers and 98 injured. Of the 88 scud missiles launched, only 46 managed to go beyond Iraq. These scud missiles were a very dangerous weapon when outfitted with a nuclear warhead like they were in Eastern Europe, but sharply limited by Iraq's conventional-only warheads, were a somewhat useless weapon not really worth the costof Iraq to purchase. According to the Jewish Institute for Military Affairs, a high potency chemical warhead on a scud missile weighing one ton, could kill 200-3,000 and injure an equal number of persons if fired into crowded Tel Aviv. However to extend range, the only warheads used were a maximum of 1,100 lbs in the 83 Al Hussein model scuds launched to extend the range to 373 miles. 5 Al Hijarah models were launched with a claimed range of 466 miles, but the warhea weight was further reduced to just 373 lbs. At a minimum the worst case scenario was only 100 could killed by one of these if outfitted with severe chemical weapon agents. And in the 373 lb. warhead model, the deaths could be only around 40 or so.

Despite the fact that nearly every Iraqi long range missile over a 150 mile range was destroyed by the war or by the UNSCOM arms inspectors, and Iraq faced a world arms embargo and 12 years of sanctions, William Kristol's Project For The New American Century attempted to make a very thin case of a serious threat to regional security in the MidEast from Iraq's greatly depleted military. Military contractors were quick to support Kristol's organization because a renewed Iraq War was thought to be highly profitable and a easy military victory for America over a very weak military opponent. And Donald Rumsfeld, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Jeb Bush and others joined the William Kristol organization that sought to restart the old Gulf War, and some of them signed a letter to Bill Clinton in 1998 urging a restart to the war.

In the January 26,1998 letter to President Clinton, rather than being able to prove that Iraq had possesed even a single chemical or biological weapon, Rumsfeld and other PNAC members actually were highly unsure whether Iraq possessed or was even was attempting to acquire such weapons. In the letter signed by Donald Rumsfeld, it stated that "We will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether iraq does or does not possess such weapons". Yet the letter somehow encouraged the restart of he war on this extremely thin premise.

Given all the facts that the scud missile supply was pretty much depleted during the first Gulf War, and the warhead payload was sharply limited by attempts to extend the missile range. And the fact that Iraq only possessed mustard gas supplies earlier in the old Iran-Iraq War, and did not use any of these weapons in 1990-91 war or biological or other chemical weapons including a warhead even loaded with organophosphate insect killers. And 12 years of an arms embargo and U.N. sanctions prevented Iraq from acquiring new arms, then why did Bush, Rice or others make public statements that Iraq may pose a threat to the U.S. or U.S. "interests" and used terms like a "mushroom cloud" to promote public fear and promote the path to war?

If the Bush Administration is looking for real solid evidence of a military threat from Iraq to justify the 2003 war, then there really was no such good evidence based even on the worst false statements of Ahmed Chalabi to justify such fears to promote the war. Some proIsrael agents such as William Kristol wanted this war. Some military contractors wanted this war. But the normal proof of a military threat to the U.S. simply not did not exist to justify the war. And unlike WWII in which the U.S. was attacked by Japan, the ability of Iraq to kill more than just a few persons in Israel with pesticides used as a crude chemical weapon if any scud missiles with this range even existed in their military arms inventory was the only threat that Iraq could possiby in a very worse case scenario attempt to pull off. There absolutely was no evidence that Iraq was anywhere advanced in missile technology, missile range, chemical, biological or nuclear ability to have any missile system capable to carry a warhead to kill a single individual in Israel, let alone the U.S. in 2003 when Bush, Rice and others claimed a possible threat to the U.S. The "mushroom cloud" claims by this administration was pure fearmongering with no real good military capability evidence to support the claim whatsoever.

Current conditions in Iraq point out what a poor nation Iraq is. And the military threat from a nation such as this is hardly worse than any low level African state with a small conventional inventory of arms or small short range missiles. Certainly any real threat from Iraq was greatly hyped by the Bush Administration to promote public fear in the U.S. to promote the 2003 war. That's the only conclusion that a reasonable person can draw based on the facts. And facts are what should count in the evaluation of whether prewar intelligence was manipulated. Was the intelligence manipulated. Not likely based on the facts. But what little evidence of Iraq presenting any military threat was indeed hyped to a near hysterical level by the Bush Administration to justify the path to war though.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sony As Big Brother

As both an artist as well as a music lover, I was horrified at the braindead series of events at Sony recently. Sony is not only a major producer of blank media thatt profits handsomely from, including blank DVDs, CDs, blank video and audiotapes. And Sony has a long history of production of electronics designed to copy TV shows with VCRS and DVD recorders, or with audio tape recorders or CD recorders designed for users to selectively copy select songs on tape for personal use in their home, automobile or Walkman. But Sony is also a major producer of music CDs.

The geniuses at Sony decided that some sort of complex software "antipiracy" system was needed to prevent those that purchase Sony music CDs from being able to transfer the purchased CD songs to an Apple iPod music player, limit the number of copies that an user can make at home with a Windows based computer or CD recorder. This "XCP" system forced the music buyer to install computer software to even be able to play the purchased disc on Windows based computer. This software was a form of Spyware where Sony would keep track of users in a big brother manner, and hackers soon found a way to exploit this system and gain access to the computers of others by planting viruses in the program. Sony dropped the system this week. Even a senior Homeland Security official was concerned about the threat to computers created by Sony in their overzealous scheme to "copy protect" their music CDs.

With a Supreme Court decision that found companies such as Grokster liable for damages for transfer of intellectual property without permission, and existing laws that protect intellectual property for profit, why did Sony feel the need to limit the purchasers of their music CDs rights to use their purchase as people have done in the past. Not every song is good on most albums, and many like to make a personal use tape or CD copies for their car, Walkman or other use to carry with them of the best songs. And Sony has long profitted from the blank media to do such. TEAC is even marketing a new machine to transfer old vinyl albums to CDs in an easy step. Double cassette recorders have existed for years, with Sony the producer of many. But suddenly Sony has decided this should all change?

For so many years Sony offered some of most innovative products. In the late 50's they introduced the first transistor television, while the last American TV that used tubes left the marketplace in 1978. But I've been increasingly unhappy at the quality of some of their products in the last few years, many cheaply made Chinese import VCRs or radio cassette recorders or other items, some hardly worthy of bearing the trusted the Sony name. Many excellent products still exist with the Sony name. But some other products certainly are a letdown. Sony's overzealous attempt to "copy protect" their music violates what consumers like about music. They like it to be portable. And iPod and Walkman type units are an important consumer item for music lovers to take music where they want. And every CD will eventually end up used, in a Goodwill store, or even thrown out. Why Sony had a plan to zealously protect these recordings for generations from complete consumer freedom of use after purchase raises some good questions. All Sony did was to create more unhappy consumers this week, as well as concern computer experts and those at Homeland Security. Who would have thought that music CD purchase entitled a company like Sony into snooping into your computer or leaving the backdoor open to hackers or crooks.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Closer Look At The 2005 Election

Like many I at first became intoxicated at the mainstream media and other analysis of the 2005 election. But now that the dust has settled and better statistics and information is available for anaylsis, my view has sobered considerably. Rather than an earthshaking change of landslide proportions, in Virginia for example, some normally Republican voters in key Republican stronghood areas such as Virgina Beach merely failed to turnout and vote in their normally high numbers.

Many Democrats felt a false but renewed sense of energy, falsely sensing that the declining popular support for George Bush, anger over Iraq, and distrust generated by questions of Bush character and honesty, as well as lingering questions due to issues with White House scandal, Harriet Miersgate, Tom Delay and Bill Frist was all that was needed for a wholesale political change in America from the Republicans to the Democrats. But of course, this did not really happen.

All races were pretty much decided by local politics and political figures. And while some negative shadows from the national Republican leadership did taint the local Republicans somewhat, those that failed managed to bring the problems on themselves by inviting White House support as though this "kiss of death" was really needed, or by appearing unduly nasty, inviting voters to make an unfortunate comparison with the worst vindicitive factors associated with Karl Rove, Dick Cheney or "Scooter" Libbygate.

An honest evaluation of Virginia really pointed out that the Republicans were actually able to win two of three statewide offices, although by frailer margins than normal mainly due to low Republican voter turnout. And taken with the results in the New Jersey Governor's race, the net sum of Tuesday's vote was that Democrats actually did not lose any further ground, and merely were only able to maintain their status quo. And Republicans suffered some voter erosion, but solely because normally Republican voters felt less moltivated to vote for a wide range of reasons.

Will 2006 be a bad year for Republicans? That's not a given as well. Republicans and conservatives have well proven several things, that they are far better organized with "conservative" talk radio, political Blogs and with "get out the vote efforts". Democrats need to drasticly improve all three factors, especially the critical "get out the vote" efforts to hold a real opportunity in 2006.

Incumbency is always an advantage. If many Republican candidates are incumbents, then they are in good position like most incumbents. Local issues generally trump national ones for local races, being an incumbent is generally a good thing.

There is always the "X" factor that could benefit Republican chances. By any honest calculation, worldwide terrorism is worsening. And this is still the one issue that Republicans are able to maintain strong command over. In Britain, Winston Churchill was widely viewed as absolutely rotten for the interests of working people, yet was able to capture election of his party year after year, propelled by external threat to England fears from voters. Likewise Republicans are viewed by many as generally rotten for the interests of working people, yet are seen as far more rotten against any threat to America with a "shoot first, ask questions later" manner of dealing with terrorism. With all likelyhood of increased terrorism in 2006, with most events in the MidEast, any major event against a major U.S. ally or more directly affecting American interests could create a fear related rally to once again boost GOP chances in 2006. To be seen as a "hanging judge" does not benefit Bush if local issues are the main campaign issues in 2006. But if America or key allies are seen as terrorism targets in 2006, then to be seen as a "hanging judge" does benefit Bush for sure. Insensitivity is only a political asset if a nation is under perceived attack, and a key asset in that instance.

Is 2006 going to be a rough year for Republicans? Maybe not. Democrats need far better organization and "get out the vote efforts". Many religious persons have aligned their votes with Republicans with no counter religious movement to get religion out of politics and back to faith and directly church-related activity. And worldwide terrorism is a mystery "X" factor that makes even the most unsavory politician suddenly palatable if they are seen as tough in responding to terrorism while their opponent is seen as weaker in their response. 2006 will be an interesting year, but my personal fear is that the "X" factor may negate many issues and become a dominate election deciding factor. Terrorists often tend to time their attacks to undermine political or other efforts far more than is realized. Al Qaeda, while a small organization is certainly self-absorbed in their own power to force a shocked reaction from larger government targets and opponents. And this makes any major election an attractive target to Al Qaeda to create a shock reaction potential. This could easily toss all political issues out the window and dominate an election very easily.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Depleted Uranium Threat To Veterans And Their Families

On this Veteran's Day, it is very good to give respectful thought to the sacrifice that America's veterans have given in war. But it is also a very good day to show concern for the serious dangers created by modern warfare that will last far beyond the battlefield that are endangering the lives of our current soldiers and our future veterans.

In Vietnam it was Agent Orange that created problems far from the battlefield. Today it is depleted uranium weapons.

In both Iraq wars, the heavy use of depleted uranium weapons has seen wide use. These shells can create a superhot piercing of deep metal and concrete objects. In battle tanks this type of shell has seen heavy use, and some American arms contractors have made huge profits from the heavy marketing and sale of these type of shells to the Pentagon. Alliant Techsystems, a Minnesota company, has a $38 million dollar contract to sell tank shells to the Pentagon, and only recently removed any company reference to the depleted uranium shells from their Website as these shells become more scientifically controversial and a subject of deep medical concern.

The problem with depleted uranium shells is that the radioactive particles that are created after use have a life of 4.5 billion years. And these weapons create a cloud of radioactive microscopic particles that can spread a long distance. Because these dangerous radioactive particles hang in the atmosphere and travel with wind currents, they are inhaled by anyone in range, including civilians or American soldiers. Once inhaled a series of medically complex physiological metastitizing changes and damages to the human body occur. With the extremely long radioactive life of 4.5 billion years, serious injury to persons for generation after generation may occur long after the military conflict has concluded. It should be a given fact that many Iraqi civilians and American service persons will be injured by these weapons for years and and years after their first combat use.

Not only are Iraqi civilians developing odd tumors, but serious birth defects are beginning to show up, which are highly likely caused by exposure to the depleted uranium particles. Some children have been born with serious facial or bone defects. In some cases children have been born with giant enlarged heads due to a genetic damage condition known as hydrocephalus. In other cases some children's faces contained no recognizable human face features, no eyes, one eye growing from a child's forehead, internal organs growing outside of the body, and other extremely serious conditions that are usually highly indicitive of genetic damage caused by high radioactive substance exposure.

And returning Americcan servicepersons are returning from Iraq with high levels of radioactive exposure to depleted uranium weapons indicated. In one case, American serviceman, Gerard Matthews had medical tests to find out why his daughter was born missing fingers. The medical tests indicated that high contamination from the radioactive byproducts of depeleted uranium shells was present. Unknowingly, Matthews likely had his gene pool damaged by the depleted uranuim shell use in the 2003 war, and is highly likely the cause of the significant injury to his future unborn daughter.

This is the high cost that this war is creating among infants and children. Their parents, both Iraqi civilians and returning American servicepersons are having their gene pool damaged by these radioactive substance weapons, and are bringing home a future of many children that will born with significant and serious birth defects. And the cancer and tumor rate for returning veterans may well soar as well. Many returning veterans may develop fatal cancers within just a few short years of return from war duty in Iraq, and die from the effects of exposure to the these weapons. Of course the Pentagon will attempt to deny that such weapons cause damage, but in the case of Agent Orange, this was common Pentagon stonewalling to prevent health lawsuit claims despite excellent scientific evidence of the dangers of Agent Orange.

And the use of such depleted uranium in any combat role was a highly controversial decision by American military officials to begin with because U.N. Treaties limiting the use of certain weapons that violate several criteria are banned by international treaties. Yet the U.S. continues to defy international standards by use of weapons such as the depleted uranium and the use of napalm type fuel gel weapons such as Mark 77 bombs. The Mark 77 bombs weigh 750lbs., and burn a huge area by dispersing a burning fuel gel. Between the two Iraq wars, the U.S. has used 530 of these fuel gel bombs. Only the U.S. and Russia stockpile fuel gel weapons in their military inventories, all other of the 193 world states do not use these these type of weapons.

Under U.N. Treaty requirements, weapons may not have adverse effects beyond the legal battlefield area, weapons are only to be used during the duration of the military conflict and are not to have effects that continue after the conflict, and weapons are not to be unduly inhumane or have continued adverse environmental effects. Depleted uranium weapoins certainly violate these standards, and other weapons such as land mines or fuel gel weapons violate other provisions of U.N. treaty standards that attempt to control the serious aftereffects of weapons that create damage far beyond the accepted battelefield area.

It certainly violates serious morality standards to use such weapons in combat when more humane weapons certainly exist. And it is deeply sad that the use of such weapons will actually make many American war veterans a battlefield statistic, who will subcumb to illness and death from depleted uranium weapon exposure or bring serious birth defects to their family whose gene pool was destroyed by such weapons.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Notes From The GOP Playbook: How To Lose An Election

In Virginia and New Jersey, Republican candidates for Governor seemed to be carefully following a carefully scripted GOP playbook plans for instructions on "How To Lose An Election".

In Virginia, Rev. Pat Robertson, offered some thoughts on just how miserable the campaign of Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore was. Robertson lamented that in the Republican stronghold, Virginia Beach, where the Pat Robertson Christian Broadcast Network with it's 700 Club Program, Regency University has it's organization headquarters, many Republican voters failed to even vote, and the Democratic vote was far larger than usual. Kilgore managed to attach his name to ads absolutely obsessed with the death penalty issue, as though this is the only issue for the Governor of Virginia to rule for. And Kilgore made a special effort to attach his political fortunes to George Bush, whose Iraq War, record high oil prices, Katrina response, White House scandal and other problems made Bush a political liability.

The lesson in this: If you're a Republican be sure to come across as nasty and negative, and be sure to attach your political fortunes to the sinking poll numbers of a fast sinking president. Two other statewide Republicans did narrowly win both the Lt. Governorship and the Attorney General post, but these wins were extremely narrow. In a strongly "red" state these wins by Republicans should have been far wider. It does show some significant GOP erosion on one hand. But on the other hand a win is a win. Democrats still need to field better candidates with stronger campaigns.

In New Jersey, Doug Forrester decided that a very negative campaign, even using the exwife of Jon Corzine was the proper way to run a campaign. Women especially hated this nasty sort of campaigning and it created a 20 point gender gap among women voters.

In both states, Republican candidates have decided that a campaign that should appeal to many voters concerned about "values" should involve extreme nastiness and negativity, and managed to help suppress many of their own voters. Democrats are certainly not out of the woods either. They still have much work to do. And pretty much just managed to hold onto the status quo rather than lose more ground yesterday. But coming across as more positive with values more in support of working families, as opposed to the GOP embrace of big corporations by some of their candidates can certainly be helpful. Some in the hard right are especially nasty and even threatening. Some of the right wing Blogs reflect this political thuggery. But Democrats have to offer a reasonable alternative for more moderate and progressive voters. This is a key to more Democratic wins.

How To Hold A Phony Hearing On Record Oil Industry Profits

It was supposed to be a serious hearing on the record $100 billion profits recently claimed by the big oil industry, but Alaska Republican Senator, Ted Stevens, chairman of the committee managed to turn the hearings into an empty public relations farce.

Ted Stevens is notorious for wanting to use Congress for an FCC crackdown on shock disc jockeys like Howard Stern on one hand, and favors record fines that could run into the millions, but when it comes down to the actual harm done to a public who cannot afford to heat their homes or afford gas to put in their cars to drive to work, then every attempt to water down the work of the committee was done by Stevens today.

Every Senator involved in the committee today has received big oil campaign donations, including Stevens who has received $132,000 during the past five years. And Stevens refused to swear in the testimony of the oil executives, so any falsehoods or outright lies could not be charged with crimes such as contempt of Congress or purjury. And when some Sentors such as Barbra Boxer or other Democrats sought to have the oil executives answer some serious questions, Stevens cut them off, and told them that their time was up.

There was absolutely no intent by Stevens for the major oil executives to give America honest answers on why Americans are facing record prices. The entire hearing was an absolute farce. Ted Stevens is one of the worst Senators ever elected to office. Alaska voters and the American public stuck with record oil prices deserved a fair hearing today, not a Ted Stevens public relations farce to claim that he "held hearings on oil prices". Congress should hold some serious hearings and Ted Stevens should not chair these hearings.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Methinks The Rumor Of My Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Since the very narrow 51% November 2004 win by Bush, right wing blogs have been blindly hammering a message to their faithful that the conservative philosophy and the very conservative republican candidates they support have achieved some sort of permanent electoral majority status. Yesterday's election put a huge crink in that armor.

In recent times democratic governors and senators in the South have become an endangered species, so the victory of democrat Tim Kaine in Virginia as governor was indeed welcome news for the democrats. It at least shows a slowdown of republican control of major Southern offices, and that some sort of democrats can still win in the South. These Southern democrats may not be quite as liberal as democrats in other areas of America, yet it still proves the party can field successful candidates in all regions if they can find the right candidates that appear to be centrist in philosophy. And a last minute bid by Bush to promote the republican candidate was the final political kiss of death. With high gas prices, Iraq, Katrina response questions, White House corruption, and 58% of Americans not trusting the honesty of Bush, the visit by Bush did no good at all for the republican candidate, and only helped to further seal his defeat.

In New Jersey, two multimillionaires spared with one another, but democrat Jon Corzine appeared to be have much better personal connection qualities with the public, while republican Doug Forrester painted himself in a corner with his mean and negative campaigning that reminded some voters of the mean nonsense that is at the heart of the Karl Rove-Dick Cheney-"Scooter" Libby's vindicitive efforts to get even with an ambassador by exposing his wife as a CIA officerbecause of his Iraq War opposition. Nothing could possiby be politically worse than for a republican to paint themselves as the same sort of mean and rotten vindicitve type of personality that characterizes some in the current White House who are under question, yet Forrester thought this was the way to go and sunk his political fortunes with it.

In New York City, millionaire democrat turned republican, Mike Bloomberg was able to claim a win. But most democrats don't really view Bloomberg as a true republican, so the tag didn't hurt in a very poor year to be a republican.

In California, every single statewide ballot measure failed, including the four promoted by the "Governator". Even one very partisan one to prevent union dues from flowing to democratic candidates was voted down. Another ballot measure requiring the pemission of parents for a minor to seek an abortion was also voted down, which must prove that American public opinion is not yet in a position to want to overturn Roe v. Wade quite yet. Even for minor restrictions on abortion, public support is thin. Bans on late term abortions have more support though.

In Texas a constitutional amendment made it more difficult for Texas to ever approve the right of Gay community members to marry. Action from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning such laws would be necessary. But that the antiGay amendment pased by such a huge margin is not surprising. Texas has a very conservative and sexist sentiment on laws dealing with the individual's right to sexual self-expression even in their own home. A woman was recently charged with a felony crime for possession of five adult novelties in her car trunk. Another woman was charged with a crime for offering "tupperware" style parties involving vibrators and similar items for personal use by women. And many adult video and DVD shops have been shut down in Texas with felony obscenity laws. And some in the state still lament that homosexuals cannot be arrested for private conduct in their own home. Anything dealing with private sexual expression is not popular in Texas. Married persons used to face felony charges for "sodomy" in their own home. But then again there's still many in the state that probably think that Bush is a brilliant president and would support a third term for him if given half the chance. In Maine, more tolerant voters rejected a bid to repeal Gay marriage.

In Washington state, a ballot measure sharply limiting public smoking won by a landslide and will no doubt promote similar such laws nationwide. Many of persons most likely to feel compelled to smoke in crowded public places such as drug addicts, homeless people, mentally ill, criminal personalities and others are notorious for not voting, so the vote against this ballot measure was expected to be weak. And the public smoking of many "undesirables" in highly inappropriate locations is further proof of their terrible lack of judgement. Public smokers are often viewed as "immoral" by many nowadays, and besides significant health damage to some nonsmokers and children from secondhand smoke that elevate public anger against smokers, many Americans are fed up with increased air pollution and are increasingly turning to healthy living styles such as expensive organic foods. Many who are health conscious absolutely do not want the 4,000 poisons from secondhand smoke forced on them and defeating all their healty living efforts. And despite high gas prices, an attempt to roll back the state gas tax and cut back on highway repairs may be turned back. Paying over $20,000 for a car only to tearup the front end because of bad roads doesn't appeal to many persons. Many prefer to pay a few cents more per gallon for good roads rather than some repair shop for worn out front ends.

Overall, voters have proven themselves not to be conservative like the political right like to proclaim. They are not entirely liberal either. But there is roughly a 39% core for liberals and conservatives in most places with a solid 20% of moderate swing voters who hold the balance. If democrats can carefully hold to moderate and populist policies they can manage more wins in 2006 and 2008. If democrats can borrow any popular phrase, it must be that the "rumor of my demise are greatly exaggerated".

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Democrats Win In NJ And VA. Washington Smoking Restrictions Passing By Nearly 2 To 1 Margin. More Results And Commentary Later

Monday, November 07, 2005

France's Right Wing Government May Have To Turn To "War On Poverty" Solutions To Stem Rioting

Many countries have attracted large groups of immigrants to work as cheap labor by the industrialists who own the corporations. And France has increasingly become this pool of immigrants. The Muslim population of France now numbers 5 million, the largest of any European democracy. But at the same time that so many immigrants settled in France, the conservative government of Chirac has cut back on social programs, in an example of typical right wing pandering to the class interests of the wealthy class who often puppeteer right wing political parties. And with the high unemployment that is runnning rampant in France, the discontent brewing from 30-40% poverty among young Muslims is spreading violence across France.

Former French President, Socialist Francois Mitterrand has been a heavy critic of the conservative policies of Chirac that has helped to create the high unemployment in France. Now France may have to turn to policies similar to the LBJ-era "War On Poverty" to help stem the social unrest in France. Some "urban renewal" policies are being promoted, but whether these will be enough to help with the frustrations of the Muslim community are good questions.

The right wing government of Chirac cut the social welfare spending by about $310 million Euros(about $370 million American dollars) just this year alone.

In the 1960's with many American cities ablaze with race riots, Lyndon Johnson appointed Attorney General Ramsey Clark to study the cause of urban violence and the solutions became known as the "War On Poverty" programs. Like the Blacks of 1960's America racism was rampant in America, and in France many of the Muslim immigrants feel poorly integrated into French society and discriminated against.

Certainly lawless conduct such as setting fires must be cracked down on. Burning 1,200 or !,400 automobiles a night as well as many businesses is not productive for anyone. It solves nothing. This lawlessness must be stopped. But constructive steps to repair the social problems such as the high unemployment and povery need to be addressed. The conservative government is not the best government to enact this change. But the farther it moves down the path to enact policies that remedy poverty and work similar to the American affirmative action and other racial or ethnic equalizing efforts will tell whether the ethnic divides of France can be healed. If the conservative government is too timid in it's efforts, then the ethnic divides that are tearing France apart will only worsen the problem rather than heal it.