Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Fence

Some in Congress are sure that a proposed 700 mile fence along the Mexican border is the solution to the nation's problems with illegal immigration. But while it may deter some, to others with a bolt cutter or a shovel, it only represents a few minutes of extra effort.

And since the days of "The Berlin Wall", security fences have taken on huge political meanings. President Fox of Mexico has voiced strong opposition to the security fence idea. And even the Bush Administration cut more than $280 million dollars in loan guarantees to Israel after they constructed a security wall. There is always a political cost to pay when a nation erects a security device along it's borders.

And security fences are never completely effective. A security fence in India has only slowed illegal immigration from Bangladesh from 65,000 to 10,000 a year. Security fences are easy victims of bolt cutters or shovels. Walls are more effective, but mask efforts to dig under the device and slip under and into the night on the other side.

Many from South America present no worse security threat than work as labor in the U.S. It is through Canada or by legal air travel that many who are security threats to the U.S. may be in America. As many as 17,000 persons from nations in which Al Qaeda are active are in the U.S. that is currently estimated.

But a more serious internal threat than Al Qaeda efforts within the U.S., are organized Iranian efforts. At least two Iranian embassy persons were removed for conducting surveillance for a suspected proIranian terrorist network that operates within the U.S. This could be Iran's secret weapon within the U.S., to hit soft civilian targets and monuments if tensions with Iran come to heads over their nuclear program.

In WWII, some German sailors entered the New Jersey coast on a raft from a U Boat to perform terrorist bombings of American civilians. They were captured, and all but one were executed for spy activity and terrorism by the U.S. goverment. State sponsored terrorism from Iran could well be a bigger threat than Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has not attacked in the U.S. for several reasons. After 9/11 there has been better security. Al Qaeda lacks the infrastructure and a large enough device to attack in the U.S. comparable to 9/11 in scope. But perhaps most importantly, their is little political objective to achieve in a U.S. attack at this time.

Attacks in London, Jordan , Iraq or other areas where Al Qaeda is active are largely against soft and poorly protected civilian targets meant to achieve a political objective such as separating support from the U.S. or to weaken the U.S. mission in Iraq. It would serve little political purpose at this time to further enrage Americans with an attack that could fuel stronger U.S. actions in more Islamic states. It is now the objective to attempt to remove American influence from those states, not to increase it.

There are legitimate security issues for the U.S. However the image of a security fence or wall running along 700 miles or more of the American border is a powerfully bad political symbol to many in the world. Some might even say, "Mr. Bush, tear down this wall".

Friday, December 30, 2005

Predictions For 2006

OPEC will hold a meeting in early January, and will cut oil production. With China and the U.S. competing for tight world oil supplies, the price of oil products including gasoline will increase. This could send gasoline to over $3.00 a gallon and hurt the U.S. economy, possiby creating a new recession as retail trade will suffer from a public hard pressed to afford gasoline and heating oil.

If Democratic Party Chairman, Howard Dean is unable to take full advantage of the building awful problems for Bush and the Republicans, adequately fund raise, direct winning issues for the party, present an image that inspires faith in the Democrats, and able to post substantial November 2006 gains in the House and Senate for the Democrats, then he will be quickly replaced. Some alternative leaders are already in waiting, more conventional and along the lines of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council. There are already organized fundraising committees for alternative candidates.

Those that overestimate Mr. Bush make a big mistake. Those that underestimate Bush make a bigger mistake. Mr. Bush has proven the ability to battle back with flimsy speeches to defend nearly indefensible problems, and it created a bounce back in the polls. Democrats may take this for granted too much, expecting the problems of Bush are so great, while being heavily disorganized themselves, and could likely fall far short of expected election gains in 2006.

An angry and divisive battle over the Alito nomination will occur. But Alito will be confirmed, with the Supreme Court drifting farther to the right and overturn Roe v. Wade, and creating a state by state battle over abortion.

The Republican Party will solidify support among the political right with an appeal to "antimmigrant" voters of the right. Attorney General Gonzales will shore up support among the far right for the Republicans by some high profile obscenity prosecutions of some adult entertainment Websites and businesses. These actions will alarm civil liberties conscious voters, but will help to appease the appetite of the far right to clamp down on civil liberties and to attack immigrants.

The influence of labor unions will continue to shrink, and wages continue to fall, as prices steadily increase. More unions will be pressured into pension or wage "givebacks", and more and more jobs will flow to labor cheap nations like China. Meanwhile profits for international and some domestic corporations will continue to increase as the working class become harder and harder pressed. With little sense of class conscious struggle among American workers, their position in the American economy will continue to weaken in 2006.

New restrictions on smoking will be introduced in some states and communities will be enacted in 2006. But the tobacco industry will still continue to thwart most of this legislation, and will continue to market and sell their very harmful products with little restrictions.

Lawsuits against drug companies that use chemicals that can be made into meth and a growing concern with this serious drug problem will create more sinus, cold and flu "over the counter" products based on safer drugs not able to be spun onto meth by drug addicts.

Problems in Iraq will actually worsen, but the number of U.S. dead will slip slightly as more poorly trained and equipped Iraqi troops are pushed into ground missions, and the U.S. relies more and more on air missions, that kill more innocent civilians with rocket attacks in crowded towns and cities. With a $8.1 trillion national debt, as opposed to just $2.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury income, creating a shortage of funds to sustain a Vietnam type war, and a shortage of military manpower, along with Republican political considerations, a partial drawdown of U.S. forces will occur in 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Careless Smokers Kill 5, Destroy 100 Homes And Historic Church In Texas And Oklahoma Fires

Public officials begged smokers not to smoke in areas of Texas and Oklahoma, suffering from severe drought conditions. But the lure to smoke the nicotine drug is just as strong as that of heroin. Smokers could not comply with the public ban on smoking in high risk areas.

Careless smoking in Texas and Oklahoma caused serious fires. In one town of just 1,000, Cross Plains, Texas, 2 elderly women were killed and 50 homes including a 120 year old historic United Methodist Church was going to celebrate the historic churches history with a Sunday celebration. It was a heartbreaking loss to Rev. Jim Senkel, whose stained glass windows broken from the heat. lay among the burned rubble on the ground. For 120 years, the church performed weddings and funerals and was an important part of the town's history. But because of smokers, the town now lacks a place of worship. God's very own house was destroyed by the selfish needs of drug needs of smokers, who placed their own need to satisfy their drug issues above the lives and safety of others.

But this far from uncommon. In 2001 for example, smokers caused 31,200 fires in the U.S., killing 830 persons including 60 children and causing more than $386 million in property damage in destruction of homes, apartment buildings and other structures.

In Oregon, Republican Speaker Of The House, Karen Minnis prevented the vote of a bill mandating the sale of self-extinguishing cigarettes in Oregon after big tobacco lobby efforts. That summer after the legislature closed session, careless smokers caused at least 890 grass and forest fires in Oregon alone.

Unlike other unsafe products which the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cracks down on, cigarettes continue to be sold and marketed that cause fires. The tobacco lobby which spends more than $2 million a year on legislative lobby efforts has blocked all states except New York from legally mandating self-extinguishing cigarettes. Electric heaters which kill far less persons at 300 per year, and cause far less fires than cigarettes at 31,200 face severe government regulation and safety features such as "tip over switches". Yet the big tobacco lobby has avoided CPSC regulation to build safety features into their cigarettes.

And when used in a proper manner, cigarettes are a leading cause of injury, health problems and death to smokers and nonsmokers alike. An estimated 440,000 smokers and nonsmokers die each year of tobacco related illness. 50 smokers or nonsmokers die each hour from cigarette injuries. And smokers tend to die 12 years earlier than nonsmokers.

By any normal definition, a product that injures or kills both users and nonusers alike would be pulled off the market by the CPSC. Baby strollers that have wheels fall off face regulation. Pajamas made of material that could burst into flames is banned. But the big tobacco lobby is able to keep an unsafe and defective product on the American market.

I strongly urge that all concerned persons contact the CPSC commission and argue for the national use of self-extinguishing cigarettes as well as the development of non-smoke cigarettes to cut the injury and damage to nonsmokers, as well as environmental damage by dumping tons and tons of tar, heavy metals such as nickel and cadmium and the 4,000 other poisoms into the breathing air used by children and those with health problems.

Cigarettes should face no special rights against other dangerous consumer products. Safety features such as self-extinguishing features and non-smoke features should be required by law. Too many deaths and needless fires result from cigarettes.

Despite laws against throwing cigarette butts from motor vehicles, burning cigarette butts remain the most common and dangerous form of litter along America's highways. Every cigarette pack should face a cigarette butt deposit of at least 10 cents per cigarette butt similar to bottle return bills that have cut litter. If stores do not want to bother with handling returned cigarette butts which may contain saliva with hepatitis, cold or flu germs, AIDS or other serious medical risks, then they should stop selling cigarettes. Homeowners and other are forced to pick up these dirty items. State workers have to clean them from beaches, highways and parks. And firemen risk their lives in the fires these cigarette butts cause. Why a reasonable cigarette butt deposit law to cut the number of fires and deaths cannot be implemented is a good question. But litter fines of hundreds of dollars have not worked so far. With bottle return laws, some poor persons collect bottles for spending money. A cigarette butt deposit law would clean up the environment.

The U.S. needs to address the huge safety costs of cigarettes sooner or later. The number of injuries, deaths or fires is simply too great to allow this unregulated defective consumer product to continue to be sold in their present unsafe form.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Katrina's Still A Disaster

Months later, the hurricane Katrina continues to be a disaster. Of the 400,000 population of New Oeleans before the hurricane, only 100,000 curently live in New Orleans. Some businesses such as bars claim to have only 10% of the business before the hurricane. There is a severe labor shortage due to a lack of housing in New Orleans.

Yet the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin has done little to bring new housing units to storm damaged New Orleans. FEMA finally has come through with 125,000 trailers for use by disaster victims. Yet Mayor Nagin has failed to sign the needed papers that would allow those who lost their homes to live in these FEMA trailers. In other cities, victims of Katrina are housed in expensive cost hotel housing. Some have been moved to apartments, but many city managers and mayors have failed to sign the paperwork that would allow storm victims to move into the trailers that FEMA has that remain unoccupied.

Some cities cite "zoning" concerns or local concerns of crime from moving large groups of unemployed poor persons into areas and creating a "homeless camp" problem. One cannot help but feel that an element of racism may be a factor in some of this.

But regardless of the reasons that New Orleans Mayor Nagin has not signed the FEMA papers to allow for many of the storm victims to move into FEMA trailers, the Mayor has concerned a local judge for other reasons. The Katrina disaster has delayed the election for Mayor, and no eelections have been held, and a judge has promised to take over the election process and to declare a set election date. The current Mayor may not simply remain in office without standing for election.

Mayor Nagin seemed like an involved leader during the Katrina disaster, but his failure to sign needed paperwork for the FEMA trailers or to declare a new election, date are beginning to set a different standard of leadership. The Mayor may have his reasons, but both housing and elections need to be arranged in the long road toward returning his city back to normal.

In another Katrina related problem, 49 Red Cross subcontracted workers have been indicted for theft of Katrina relief funds.

It seems like months later, Katrina continues to be a disaster.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The U.S. Now In The Weakest Position Of Foreign Debt Since The 13 Colonies

Back when American Revolutionary war leader George Washington wanted to establish a government independent of British rule, the U.S. had no viable tax base to establish either a government or to fund a poorly equipped and organized 5,000 man American army. The 13 Colonies were a weak opponent to highly organized and better equipped British Army of the King of England.

Since George Washington had little real tax base to fund any viable military to defend the 13 Colonies against the British army he needed a source of funding. Jewish Prussian businessman, Haym Solomon was a friend of George Washington and offered to secure massive no-interest loans to the government and army of George Washington in exchange for religious freedom for Jews in America. Wealthy European families such as the Rothschilds and Sassoons loaned the U.S. money as well as hired a well equipped and trained 7,000 man mercenary army to win the Revolutionary War for the U.S. While the American army had suffered severe setbacks such as at Valley Forge, the professional army of mercenaries was able to create huge military defeats for the British. All these wealthy Jewish families who loaned money to the U.S. government wanted in return was religious freedom for Jews in America.

Toady the U.S. is in a similar weak condition. The war in Iraq is being fought with a military budget of $419 billion dollars, with 40% of the soldiers poorly trained and equipped National Guard members who have less combat skills than the U.S. Marines, and face severe equipment shortages of radios, body armor or even ammunition.

The U.S. Treasury will take in $2.2 trillion dollars, but this is dwarfed against a $8.1 trillion national debt. In order to help pay for the huge national debt created by this U.S. Treasury shortfall, the U.S. offers billions in bonds to sell at government auctions. Nearly 50% of these bonds are purchased by foreign interests or even official state banks. Japan holds $682 billion in U.S. bonds. China holds $248 billion. Other countries such as South Korea or state in the Carribean hold billions more.

Because of the high amount of foreign held bonds, these foreign powers have sought bills in Congress to gut antidumping laws and an end to laws against predatory trade practices. Unlike the early debtors to America who sough only religious freedom of expression and charged no interest, the current national debt and interest are very high. The national debt and interest per American citizen is now at $27,425.29 as of today.

In Iraq, the U.S. is fighting a war that has topped $229 billion in costs while the U.S. government lags far behind in U.S. Treasury revenues. The first Gulf War was heavily financed by the U.S. Government seeking financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and other states. In this latest war, the U.S. has sought foreign peacekeepers because it cannot alone afford the high costs of the war.

The U.S. finds itself in another war that it cannot afford with Iraq. And for the second time since the Revolutionary War a huge foreign debt looms over a weak American government. It took 42 American presidents 242 years to run up a $1.01 billion dollar national and foreign debt. In just five years, Mr. Bush has managed to run up a $1.09 national and foreign debt.

When a debtor such as a automobile or home purchaser cannot pay for the item, the keys often must be handed over and the item repossesseed. What will happen if the foreign debt to China or Japan continues to grow? Does that that mean that if the debt cannot be paid that the keys to America are simply handed over to states like Japan or China since they are debtor owning the bonds to America?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas In Baghdad

One cannot help but feel deeply sorry that so many American servicepersons had to spend Christmas in Iraq, rather than at home with their families. Many who signed up for national Guard service had no idea that they would face active duty in a dangerous combat situation. I've known many guard members,including at least one that is a close relative. You always pray for their safety and wellbeing. Christmas in Baghdad is the most ideal area to spend an important holiday.

But the situation has changed for the people of Iraq as well. The small Christian community feels free to celebrate Christmas openly in some neighborhoods, but in others, an open display of a Christmas tree could get one killed. While some attend Christian Church services openly in some areas, others must covertly claim to be Christian. Few actually know that the second in command under Saddam Hussein, Tarig Aziz, was a Christian. The old government of Iraq was far more secular in nature, while the new government is far more oreinted around the Shiiite version of the Muslim faith.

One unfortunate event that is very likely this year is that American dead may top the 3,000 mark. But this is despite increased Iraqi ground patrols and American missions that increasinngly avoid ground combat situations. Last month the American military flew thousands of air missions over Iraq. For now this offers increased safety for American forces, but it can lead to increased Iraqi civilian dead if missiles are used against insurgents as civilians get caught in the crossfire. But the insurgents could change tactics and again plan some way to target low flying helicopters, however the jet aircraft are very safe, yet the missiles can likely kill many unfortunate civilians.

There was many far better areas of the world to spend Christmas. For the American soldiers and Iraqi Christians, Iraq was certainly a very dangerous place. All pray for the safety of our soldiers as well as a hope that Iraq will be a tolerant society where Iraqi Christians can openly practice their faith in the future.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Very Merry Christmas And Happy Hanukkah

Today's twin Winter holidays, which have great a following among most in the Christian or Jewush communities are a very fine day to visit loved ones or to exchange gifts. Some may even spend the day serving meals at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.

While Christmas may lack the geniune historical roots to be considered a legitimate Christian holiday, and was only officially first recognized in the U.S. in 1890 in Alabama as a legitimate holiday, it has nonetheless become an important holiday to many in the mainstream Christian community. Although the pagan roots of the holiday were born in sun worship, where early pagans believed their prayers to the sun were honored as the days gradually grew longer after December 25, which was believed to mark the rebirth of the sun. In the third century, when Roman Emporer, Constatine become the first Roman ruler to become a Christian, he marched an army through a river and Baptized these soldiers as "Christians" although few were actually converts to the faith at the time. This gradually caused many pagan traditions to continue to be practiced, but with new Christian meanings added to continue the practices. Christmas grew from historical traditions of this sort.

But despite, these historical roots that lack a geniune history in the Christian faith. And the fact that Christmas was born in worship of the sun, not the "son". It is still an important holiday to renew friendships, be very kind to others, and share blessings or gifts with one another.

Hanukkah has a far stronger religious and historical background. The Hellenist Syrians had conquered the MidEast Jewish kingdom, and forced worship of the Greek gods. The main Jewish temple was defiled and turned into a house of Zeus worship. When some Greek soldiers attempted to force a Jewish High Priest, mattathias to eat pork, Mattathias turned a sword on the Greek soldiers and the roots of the Jewish rebellion to retake their empire from Greek rule and oppression against the practice of their faith. Mattathias died about one year into the Jewish rebellion, but after three years of combat, the son of Mattathias was able to lead far smaller and far less well equipped forces to defeat the farmore powerful Greek army.

When the main Jewish temple was returned to Jewish control, many of the sacred and holy temple objects were missing or damaged. Even the holy golden menorah was in bad condition, and only enough oil could be found to light the menorah for a single day, while a search for more was begun. It took 8 days to find more oil, yet a miracle occured where the menorah stayed lit for 8 days until more oil was found. It was seen as a great sign from Jehovah God that the smaller Jewish rebellion to defeat the powerful Greek army succeeded, and a powerful sign from God that the menorah did not not go out and stayed lit for 8 days. Maybe it was the faithfulness of Mattathias who refused to dishonor the laws of God and who refused to eat pork and led a religious rebellion so that the MidEast Jews had their own land to worship in. But the faithfulness of the Jewish people to God, not to compromise their faith, and the great signs from God of rewarding this faithful proved a great covenent between God and the Jewish people. Hannukah celebrates the eight day miracle of the menorah lighting and the close relationship of God and his Jewish faithful.

This morning, another religious leader, the Pope called for an end to the evils of terrorism, environmental damage, proliferation of world arms, poverty and pandemics. While the clear evils of terrorism or the evils of disease are clearly apparent, there is much foot dragging among the industrial nations not to take serious steps to stem the environment damage caused by development of booming economic conditions. Both the U.S. and China are huge offenders in this area. Serious attempts to clean up cities, improve water quality, lower pollution from industry and automobiles and to further restrict smoking need to undetaken with great seriousness. Poverty remains a great evil, not only in much of the developing world, but also in the U.S. where the Senate voted for social service cuts while offreing the wealthy $70 billion in new tax cuts. And the proliferation of world arms continues where the militaries of China, Russia and the U.S. continue to threaten world peace by growing militaries that threaten one another and world security. And the major world states continue to supply the military dictators of Africa with high priced arms while many live in poverty and creating endless cycles of war instead of producing mature political systems based on compromise.

The Pope is indeed right. There are many evils that confront the world. But it also gives a legitimate challenge to the religious progressives to work towards a safer and cleaner new world. Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to all. May God offer his very best blessings to all and their loved ones.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Lump Of Coal For Christmas

This past week, 45 Democrats and only five Republicans voted against a bill in the Senate known as the "Budget Reconciliation". Proponents of this bill such as Bill Frist, who is the subject of ethics questions because of his "blind trust" stockholdings that may be a conflict of interest for him, who claimed that the "Budget Reconciliation" bill was needed to control "social spending", were very misleading in the real intent of the bill. The bill claimed to be a "deficit reduction" bill that trims social spending by $9 billion a year over a five year period, although it actually increases the federal budget deficit by offering a new round of tax cuts to the wealthy. The bill cuts social spending by $40 billion, but adds a $70 billion tax cut to benefit the wealthy, actually increasing the federal budget defit by $30 billion. Yet it was misleadingly represented as a "deficit reduction" bill.

A memo from the White House to Republican leadership in Congress claimed that the bill was needed to cut social spending make room for another tax cut. It was a "christmas gift" to the wealthy and powerful interests who puppeteer this administration. But the bill was a "lump of coal" to the poor who rely on food stamps, government health care or other programs due to poverty.

Some religious Republicans such as Oregon's Gordon Smith could not ethicly vote for the bill, and voted against it on moral grounds of injuring the poor. But others unfortunately supported the bill. The vote was expected to be so close that Dick Cheney flew back from Afghanistan to break the 50-50 tie vote.

Among other things, the bill forces the poor and elderly to pay fees for basic health services as part of Medicaid. It further reduces services, and takes away needed crutches, hearing aids and other vital items from poor or elderly who depend on government health care programs. It would cut student loans. It would remove child care services from 255,000 children. And it would cut enforcement of child support payments, where as much as $8.4 billion in child support payments may go uncollected. Poor people who can barely afford food have no Washington lobby. The rich and powerful, wine and dine at the White House, contribute millions to political campaigns and seem to receive huge benefits in return. Big oil interests have been invited to the White House and other huge interests.

After one meeting with big oil interests, gasoline prices did back down somewhat recently, but are back on the way up. Yet the power relationship between big business and this administration is not to be ignored.

Oregon's Gordon Smith, a Mormon Elder, who voted against the bill did so because the morality of the bill offended his religious standards. Another senator asked the other senators to vote no, because he argued that no religious values would find the bill moral.

One purpose of religion should be to stop people from doing bad or immoral things that harm others. Unfortunately in the millionaires club of the U.S. Senate, not enough senators are guided by these principles. For every religious Republican like Gordon Smith, or the Democrats who voted against the bill, just as many voted for the bill. More ethical men who value decency towards the poor are needed in the U.S. Senate. Taking what little that the poor receive in health benefits or other vital services to award a huge new tax cut to the wealthy makes no ethical sense.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Strange But True #4

Every year, especially at Christmas time, thousands of letters are sent to Israel addressed to Jesus. What happens to these? Many Rabbis and other Orthodox Jewish religious persons recognize that these are often prayer requests from children or others of a great need and these letters are hand delivered to the Wailing Wall so that the God may be able to hear these needs and read these letters.

In Portland, Oregon, the director of Portland's nonprofit Catholic Providence Hospitalwas paid a $1 million dollar salary for just two months of servive to the company before retiring with a $5.5 million dollar retirement plan. A spokesman for this hospital claimed that there was nothing "unusual" in this.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a clearly disturbed woman who imagined that David Letterman was communicating with her through "code words" such as "Oprah", and also claimed that Letterman wanted her to be his "co-host" was able to get a Santa Fe District Court Judge, David Sachez to grant a restraining order against David Letterman. Letterman has been forced to hire legal representation and attempt to get this restraining order overturned or dismissed. This same woman once made bizarre similar claims against Kelsey Grammer and Regis Philbin. There is further bad news in this. It appears even this disturbed woman is watching NBC less and like most of the viewing public has switched her viewing to CBS.

The origin of the Mr. Peanut figure logo from Planters started in 1916, when the young company held a contest to sketch a company mascot figure, and a 14 year old schoolboy won a $5 prize with the winning drawing of a peanut with arms and legs. Later a commercial artist added the now famous top hat, cane and monocle to the figure inspired by the 14 year old, so that the figure was more distinctive as well as a copyright protected mascot of the Planters company.

The origin of the Warner Bros. cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny started in the 1930's in tight depression era times in a small trailer on Warner Bros. lot called "Termite Studios". During the depression era, money was very tight, so the artists at Termite Studios had to draw up a strip on a celluloid panel, photograph the panel, then erase the panel so it could be reused because the office supply budget was so tight. Other companies with far larger budgets have been able to sell the old celluloid panels for as much as thousands of dollars as collectables.

Both the newsmedia and the White House made it seem as though the recent Iraqi election was a nearly trouble free and smooth event. Instead the truth is that more than 1,250 election complaints have been made. These include ballot box stuffing, fraud, intimidation so voters would not vote and even allegations that Iran sent in counterfeit ballots by the car or truckloads to bolster the votes of the Shiite religious coalition candidates who are aligned with the Iranian born cleric, Ali al-Sistani. Both the moderate secular Shiite candidates and the Sunni candidates are threatening to have no role in the Iraqi government unless these election abuse allegations are addressed.

They say that there is no such thing as a "free lunch". Wal-Mart has been forced to pay millions of dollars of dollars for denying a half hour paid lunch to some employees. Who knew that lunch could cost so much?

Few know about the true history of "infomercial king", Kevin Trudeau. According to the Wall Street Journal he served nearly two years in a federal prison for various crimes commited. In 1990, he pled guilty to larceny charges in Cambridge, MA. A year later he was convicted in Boston of credit card charges of misappropriating credit numbers from a memory improvement tape program that he was marketing. Later problems with the Federal Trade Commision banned him from selling products such as health supplements, so he has taken to marketing a "Natural Cures" book instead. However some complaints that the book is very general and the information is so incomplete that customers complain that this book is nearly useless have been made. Yet Trudeau heads a multimillion dollar empire that sells this book and signs buyers up to a subscribtion newsletter service for a monthly credit card charge. Trudeau has been able to live by his wits for years in a twisted "Horatio Alger" sort of way. The American dream?

Orange County Choppers, the company that is subject of the wildly popular cable TV show, AMERICAN CHOPPER is not a California company, but a Rock Tavern, New York company, located in Orange County, New York.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Will NBC's "Book Of Daniel" Continue Their Slide Into Low Ratings?

NBC has been plagued by rotten ratings this year. Bad management took the excellent THIRD WATCH and LAW AND ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY and replaced them with the syrupy shlock of Amy Grant's THREE WISHES, and the inconceivably bad, INCONCEIVABLE. The evening with topped off with a LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT rerun. The geniuses at NBC sure knew how to throw this evening away. CBS built a tight Friday night schedule, while NBC conspired against their own best interests to make their Friday a very weak night of programming.

NBC based their planning of Friday programming on some terriblely flawed notions. They decided that since CBS had JOAN OF ARCADIA, they needed a "Christian" oriented program, so former Christian singer Amy Grant was called into duty in a bit of reality programming that likely has weak appeal to most Christians as well as men. And INCONVEIVABLE was like putting a slab a kryptonite on Friday to keep male viewers away in droves. The problem with both THREE WISHES is that there was so little interest on a Christian program on network television, that the critically acclaimed CBS program was cancelled by CBS, wher the far darker GHOST WHISPER draws in far more milions of viewers. NBC decided to go after a market that does not really exist, attempting to capture the audience of a failed "Christian" oriented program. Viewers that want to see a Christian program stick with PAX or TBN, or compromise their values and watch what everyone else is watching on other networks.

That brings us to the latest lapse of judgement over at NBC. THE BOOK OF DANIEL certainly looks like it is funny in the low rent sense of MY NAME IS EARL. But what gives this turkey a near certain kiss of death, is the absolutely awful portrayal of Jesus that is sure to offend the public. The nonsense lives of the actors in the program are fine. But a terrible portrayal of Jesus will create a real firestorm and public anger.

Over at the far right, American Family Association, bad publicity is starting for THE BOOK OF DANIEL. But antisemite AMA, Rev. Donald Wildmon would have a G rated world of entertainment if given the opportunity to decide for everyone else. His organization is far all intents and purposes, the "American Taliban". But I fully expect even Christians who wouldn't give the AMA the time of day will join efforts to protest THE BOOK OF DANIEL.

What is NBC thinking? The American public doesn't want to see an absurd portrayal of Jesus each week. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST proved the very respectful portrayal of Jesus that the American public expects. On MY NAME IS EARL, the program is a hit because it is edgy and the characters are lowlifes and criminals that are hilarious. The viewing public will laugh at people like this. But any low rent Jesus character will not fly with the public.

Any low rent Jesus portrayal in a program with characters hardly better than the shirtless moron characters of EARL is a recipe for a showdown of public anger and backlash directed at NBC.

Jesus deserves a great deal of respect. The viewing public will roundly reject this BOOK OF DANIEL program. Why NBC ever decided to take down the excellent THIRD WATCH and LAW AND ORDER:TRIAL BY JURY, and walk down the path of INCONCEIVABLE, THREE WISHES and now, THE BOOK OF DANIEL is beyond normal human comprehension.

It seems the pathway to ratings hell for NBC is paved with good intentions gone bad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Strange But True #3

Peta has an awful truth that few know about. While this organization that is supposed to protect animals, and yearly rakes in $29 million in donations, and has many celebrity supporters, claims to look out for defenseless animals, a sinister truth has been suppressed by this organization.

From 1998-2004, PETA took in 15,661 companion animals that were supposed to be adopted. However 79.6% of these animals were actually put to death by PETA members . Only a mere 18.5% of the dogs, cats and other companion animals were actually adopted. In one case, some PETA officials are charged with accepting animals from a vet office, and injecting them with toxic poisons in a van and dumping cats and dogs behind grocery store dropboxes. This vet was personally angered when a mother cat and babies he had just given PETA members were found dead, where only one baby kitten who was not given to PETA members survived and was adopted. In the Norfolk, Virginia chapter of PETA in one year period, only a single animal was actually adoped. By comparison, the local SPCA was able to adopt 73% of all animals taken in, where mainly only unhealthy or sickly animals were put to sleep.

Few know about the twisted personal life of Adolph Hitler. He was expelled from grade school at the age of 8 because he was a smoker. He later had drug and alcohol addiction problems. And his frantic speeches were believed to be from the use of "speed". But Hitler had another little known problem. Hitler used to find himself sexually aroused at the sound of his own voice delivering a frantic hateful speech. Hitler found this deeply embarrassing and even sought help from his personal physician to conceal this problem. After WWI, as a young soldier, Hitler developed syphilis, and suffered serious lifeloing health problems this illness. And very strangely to conceal the fact that Hitler was part Jewish on his father's side, had the cemetary destroyed by tank shells to prevent this truth from becoming public to the German people.

At first, under the mismanagement of FEMA director, Michael Brown, FEMA was slow to react to the Katrina disaster. But now FEMA currently has 125,000 unused trailers for the 300,000 citizens that are still homeless, but remain currently unused. Mayor Ray Nagin has failed to sign documents to allow the homeless of his city to use these trailers. And in other cities that have homeless from the Katrina disaster, local fears of increased crime, zoning violations, etc. have prevented city officials from accepting the FEMA trailers. Only in Houston, has the mayor accepted some of the FEMA trailers. Other cities are hosting the homeless of Katrina in hotels and other expensive housing options. Of the original 400,0000 population of New Orleans, only 100,000 currently live in the city. There is a real shortage of housing that remains in the city, with far more jobs than workers available due to the housing shortage.

Few people know that Secretary Of The Iraqi Communist Party, Hamid Musa, an economist, was appointed by the Bush Administration to be one of the original 25 hand chosen leaders of the original Iraqi Governing Council after the 2003 war. Yet in domestic spying activity, a college student who simply was working on a college class assigned paper about Communist China was questioned by Federal authorities for a three hour period. The Administration has no problem appointing a Communist to a leadership position, but it is considered to be a sign of subversion to write a homework assignment about Communists and a subject for domestic spying activity.

In referring to the comic performance in the annual holiday White House video by Chief Of Staff, Andrew Card, Lynne Cheney claimed that "Andy is a natural actor". However with Andrew Card's straight faced propaganda public relations statements for even the worst of White House policies, few would argue that Mr. Card has great acting abilities far beyond just the the annual White House holiday video.

Very few in the world know that the ancient Chinese "Cup Of Knowledge" was actually carved from the skull of Confucius. It was believed all who would drink from it would become wise.

In a very strange case, a railroad worker once accidently locked himself in a refrigerator boxcar . The man soon started to feel that he was freeezing to death, and after a while used a knife to carve a note to his wife that he was beginning to freeze to death and that he loved her very much. The next day his body was discovered, and all medical signs were that he froze to death, although it was also discovered the refrigerator portion was turned off and the car never dropped below 55 degrees overnight. The man had so strongly suggested to himself that he freezing, and like "self hypnosis" had managed to die from his self induced thoughts.

During WWII it was public information freely available at the shipping insurers when American merchant ships loaded with arms and other war supplies would depart port. German and Japanese agebts simply looked up the shipping schedule of the departing ships, and the Japanense Navy would seize ships departing on the West Coast, while German U-boats would sit just off the New Jersey coast and sink merchant ships with war supplies headed to England.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mr. Bush, Americans Will Be Forever In Your Debt.

By no conventional standards whatsoever can be Mr. Bush be considered to be a conventional "conservative". He has failed to veto even one single spending bill in his five years in office. He has consistently favored increased Federal Budget spending and increased deficits, unlike the past Administration of Democrat, Bill Clinton which actually balanced the Federal Budget.

And it took 42 American presidents a total of 242 years to build up a foreign held debt of $1.01 trillion dollars. In just five years, Mr. Bush has achieved a foreign held bond debt of $1.09 trillion. In auctions of Federal bonds, nearly half are now sold to foreign nations including the state run Central Bank of China. Total Chinese bonds held in the U.S. now total $248 billion. Japan holds $682 billion. The U.K holds $187 billion. A number of other states hold billions more including South Korea.

Under Bush, the debt limit has risen by $3 billion in just five years. And because foreign bond holdings are so strong, some provisions specifically benefitting both the Chinese and Japanese import trade deficit are included in what is supposed to be a Federal Budget Deficit Reduction" bill. There are specific provisions that gut "antidumping laws" that allow China and Japan to dump goods at less that fair prices to specifically target and destroy American industries so that these foreign powers can take over these markets. Other provisions strip away Federal assistance or support to American industry and workers victimized by "predatory trade practices", mainly from China, Japan or South Korea.

In a memo from the White House to the Republican leadership in Congress, it is claimed that the "deficit reduction" bill is needed to make cuts in social spending for the poor so that more tax cuts for the wealthy can be offered. The "Deficit Reduction" bill proposes $40 in cuts to Medicaid health care for the poor, cuts in heating assistance, cuts in food stamps, cuts in child support enforcement, which means that an estimated $2.9 billion in child support payments may go uncollected. In past years, some like millionaire basketball player, Larry Bird, was said to have owed unpaid child support payments, and without proper enforcement, many children will go without this vital financial support. But while the proposed "Deficit Reduction" bill claims that $40 billion is social cuts from vital health care, food or heat assistance are needed, the same bill actually offers $70 billion in tax cuts to mostly the wealthy. This is is one "Deficit Reduction"bill that actually increases the Federal Budget deficit, not reduces it. And the provisions to strip American industry and workers of vital trade protections, will only serve to benefit nations such as china or Japan who own extensive bonds in the Federal government.

Just like the old Johnny Cash song, "One Piece At A Time", America is being sold to foreign interests bit by bit as foreign interests purchase record dollar amounts of U.S. bonds to keep the American government solvent and from going bankrupt. Only in days of the 1776 Revolutionary War did America owe so much of it's debt to foreign interests, but that was before a U.S. government or tax system even existed. Mr. Bush has the American citizens in the worst debt problems of nearly any nation in the world which has a government or a tax collection system.

With record Federal Budget spending by Bush including the Iraq War, record trade deficits, and record national debt that is growing to over $11 trillion by time Bush leaves office, it is very honest to say: "Mr. Bush, we'll be forever be in your "debt".

Monday, December 19, 2005

Early Iraq Returns Give Shiite Coalition Big Lead

Despite a strong showing by Sunni voters who largely ignored the first elections in Iraq, it appears that the Shiite coalition of Iranian born cleric, Ali al-Sistani has about 58% of the vote. The Sunni candidates are a distant second place, with the moderate secular candidates associated with Ayad Allawi a very weak third place in the voting.

Whether the Sunni population will be satisfied with this level of representation in the permanent government of Iraq and whether they will lay down arms and cooperate peacefully in the democratic process in Iraq remains to be seen.

However if a sense of disappointment sets in, and the Sunni population feels they lack representation, then the path back to conflict could be renewed. But there is a hope that many Sunni citizens will feel that participation in the democratic process is the only proper path for Iraq.

I promise many more opinions on this when the election outcome in Iraq becomes more clear.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Amazing Similarities Between Nixon And Bush

A few years ago, a popular poster featured the amazing similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy, such as both had a Vice President named Johnson, both were succeeded by a Vice President Johnson after being assassinated. Lincoln was assassinated in a theatre. Kennedy's Assassin fled into a theatre, etc. Well it's happened again. There are new amazing similarites between both two Presidents and their Administrations:

Both the Nixon and Bush Administrations were accused in scandals that indicted White House staffers. Nixon had "Watergate". Bush has "Libbygate".

Both had highly partisan, ethically challenged, Vice Presidents who considered anyone who disagreed with Administration policy as a policial enemy and used "pitbill" type attacks to destroy these political opponents. Nixon had Spiro Agnew. Bush has Dick Cheney.

Both supported sweeping legislation to wash away civil liberties. Nixon supported Senate Bill 1. Bush supports the Patriot Act.

Both Nixon and Bush supported and used illegal domestic spying on American citizens.

Both the Nixon and Bush Administrations were involved in long running "no-win" guerilla wars abroad. Nixon in Vietnam. Bush in Iraq.

Both the Nixon and Bush Administrations illegally sought to expand these "no-win" wars behind the back of Congressal approval. Nixon illegally expanded the Vietnam War into both Laos and Cambodia. Bush has approved border clashes with Syrian soldiers and covert support for antiIranian government terrorists.

Both Nixon and Bush had a highly partisan Secretary Of State, who was used to misled the public on foreign policy issues. Nixon had Henry Kissenger. Bush has Condoleezza Rice.

Both the Nixon and Bush Adminstrations misled the public about the progress of their "no-win" wars in order to rally public support while the wars continued to drag on and on.

Both Nixon and Bush campaigns were responsible for illegal efforts to destroy their political opponents through "dirty tricks" organizations and committees. Officials who were involved with Nixon were involved in political sabotage against the George McGovern campaign. And a Bush campaign lawyer was involved with the "Swift Boats" dirty tricks committee to destroy John Kerry.

Both Nixon and Bush kept "enemy lists" of people who disagreed with their war or political policies. Nixon had an "enemy list" which even surprising included some who even voted for him. Bush allows military intelligence to maintain a list of church organizations and others who disagree with his Iraq War policy.

Both Nixon and Bush Administrations and their supporters have sought to label anyone who disagreed with their war policies as a "traitor" to the country.

Both Nixon and Bush would fight legislation "tooth and nail", but then take credit for it once it passed. Nixon opposed a wide range of legislation passed by the Democratic Congress. Bush opposed policies of even his own party, including the antitorture legislation of John McCain, but then sought to take credit for it in a White House photo-opt session.

Both Nixon and Bush sought to portray themselves as moral men, although both have been widely accused of being liars who deliberately misled the public.

Both Nixon and Bush had Attorney Generals who opposed freedom of speech and supported censorship efforts against the press. Bush has John Mitchell. Bush has Alberto Gonzales.

Both Nixon and Bush use covert intelligence infiltration of the peace movement and left wing organiztions to invstigate those that oppose the policies of the two Administrations.

Both Nixon and Bush have sought to keep the minimum wage low. After a $1 million dollar campaign contribution by McDonalds Corporation to the Nixon campaign, an agreement to keep the minimum wage down to a $1.65 an hour was made. Bush received extensive campaign contribution from corporations,partially because he supports keeping the minimum wage low.

Both Nixon and Bush opened the doors to China. Nixon openned the door to China politically and diplomaticly. And Bush has kept the door open economically allowing millions of American factory jobs to flow to China.

Both Nixon and Bush had falling poll numbers as corruption allegations continied to build against both Administrations.

Both the Nixon and Bush Administration had heavy political support from military contractors and oil companies and tended towards policy that greatly benefitted these industries.

Both Nixon and Bush relied on outside support to bolster their policies. Nixon counted on right wing letter writers and editorialists to shout down and to mischaraterize and misrepresent those that disagreed with Nixon. Bush has the right wing political blogs and talk radio to mischaracterize and misrepresent the political opposition to his Administration's policies.

Both Nixon and Bush disgraced their Republican Party by bringing in so much scandal and controversy.

There you have it folks. History repeats itself with more amazing similarities between two American presidential administrations. If you can think of any more similarites, then please add them to the comments line here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush Plans Primetime Sunday Address To Self-Congratulate Himself About Iraq Before The Votes Are Even Counted

No one can accuse the Bush Administration of good judgement, and latest example of "Three Stooges" logic from this administration is a primetime Sunday address planned by Bush to self-congratulate himself about Iraq.

Normal person logic would expect that at least the votes would be counted in Iraq, and it would be seen what sort of new permanent government is in place, before offering any election "victory speech". Any declaration of victory before the votes are even counted implies that the administration knows the outcome before the votes are even counted. This is a terrible impression, especially when the last Iraqi election had a U.S. plan scuttled by Secretary Of State, Colin Powell's office by some in the State Department and military to "rig" the election by funneling covert funding to proU.S. occupation candidates. And while secular moderate, Ayad Allawi would certainly have been the best bet in the Iraqi elections, his slate of candidates only won a mere 14% of the vote, with candidates supported by Iranian Shiite religious cleric, Ali al-Sistani, garnering around 60% of the vote.

Bush may feel an overwelming compulsion to offer himself a pat on the back and self-congratulations, yet without the Iraqi votes actually counted, who really knows whether the new government will be a road to peace or not? A full vote count may take up to two weeks.

And it has traditionally been important for the U.S. as well as other nations not to take credit for the outcome of an election in a foreign nation. For example, if China or North Korea would take credit for an American election outcome, it would surely raise some suspicions. After the downfall of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. was very careful not to get involved in the transition towards semidemocratic elections in this nation. Yet despite this tradional role of foreign policy to avoid involvement in foreign elections, Mr. Bush feels the compulsion to take credit for a foreign election. Nothing could be more ill-advised.

The last election in Iraq produced a big majority for candidates affilated with Iranian cleric, Ali al-Sistani as well as brought Badr Brigade, Wolf Brigade and Mahdi Army Shiite militia members into power. Badr Brigade members won important positions, including six provincial Governorships as well as legislative victories. And in an armed coup, 120 armed members of the Badr Brigade replaced the elected secular Mayor of Baghdad with a Badr Brigade member. With the increased power of Shiite militias after the last election in Iraq, torture and abuse detainings of Sunni citizens increased. In fact the most popular program on Iraqi TV is a Wolf Brigade militia program that shows these militia members roughly dealing with Sunni citizens who are thought to support antigovernment activity. This program has a similar appeal to the American FOX TV program "Cops", in which shirtless drug morons are roughly treated by police.

While Sunni citizens did vote in large numbers, and hopefully voter fraud, including attempts by Iran to stuff ballot boxes with counterfeit ballots were hopefully thwarted, it is not known whether Sunni citizens will be satisfied with the makeup of the new government or not. The responsible role for Bush is to allow for the chips of the Iraqi election to fall where they will. The U.S. was careful to stay out of the election security. Iraqis went to the polls feeling that the election was their own. It's highly inappropriate for Bush to take any credit in his Sunday address for any U.S. role in the election. If Mr. Bush was wise he would not offer his self-congratulatory address on Sunday. But little this administration has done in regards to Iraq has been wise, so no better judgement can tell this administration when it is wise to stay out of Iraqi matters and allow them to decide their own government and for them to take credit for it as well as to live with the consequences.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Howard Stern Leaves America's Airwaves This Morning

America's top early morning radio personality, Howard Stern is leaving America's airwaves this morning. Despite 14 million listeners, Howard Stern's top rated radio program is being forced from American's airwaves in a repressive climate created by extremist pressure groups after the Superbowl incident a couple years ago involving Janet Jackson.

Howard Stern's program was an interesting mix of staff banter, interviews, wild stunts and games. Both fans and critics tended to listen for an average of two hours each day, often only "to see what Howard would do next".

Many top celebrities including New York Republican Governor, George Pataki, Donald Trump, David Letterman, Catherine Bell, Darva Conger, Gary Shandling, Gilbert Gottfried, Willie Nelson, Melissa Gilbert, Chris Rock, late Rodney Dangerfield were either fiends of the show or were interviewed by Howard Stern on his program.

Despite his long hair and interviews with so many top celebrities, Howard Stern could hardly be seen as any "Hollywood Liberal". Stern often supported Republican candidates for local or state elections, although he opposed Bush in 2004, largely because of his opposition to Michael Powell, the son of Colin Powell who was the FCC Chairman, and directly responsible for huge fines against the radio network that carried the Howard Stern program in a worsening climate of censorship slowly sweeping accross America. Stern was also a strong death penalty supporter as well. Yet, Stern managed to draw a huge audience, mainly comprised of young males 18-34 who were loyal fans of the program. It didn't matter whether one was liberal or conservative, Stern's program drew a wide cross section of listeners.

Stern will go to satellite radio in January. His public airwave broadcast will be taken over by Adam Carolla on the West Coast, and former Van Halen frontman, David Lee Roth, on the East Coast. Roth had been working as a rescue medic recently.

The Howard Stern program lasted 20 years on public airwaves. But with the repressive antifree speech climate slowly sweeping over America, Stern felt just too much restrictive pressure to continue. More and more seemingly harmless speech was edited out in various areas or by the staff censor that his parent radio network had closely watching the program. The staff censor was actually a seeming fair and even religious man, but his job was to protect the radio network from any more huge FCC fines.

Most disc jockeys played records. Stern discovered that very open interviews, outrageous stunts and oddball or unfortunate regulars such as the "Whack Pack" became big draws. One of these, a mentally handicapped midget, "Beetlejuice", became a major minor star and his segments on the program were a strange of funny, pathetic and exploitive.

Why the Stern program worked so well for 20 years is not really known. But for some strange reason it had an appeal. Whether millions of listeners will now pay a subscription fee as well as purchase expensive satellite radio equipment to follow the next generation of Howard Stern's radio program on satellite radio is a good question. But some in Congress, such as far right Alaska Senator Ted Stevens wants to expand censorship to satellite radio as well.

If Congress continues to box in Howard Stern's options to conduct a program as he sees fit, then at some point he'll no doubt leave radio for good. But Congress should realize that they're simply going to far in their repressive climate. Huge increases in indecency fines that could hit radio station and personality both, as well as chasing free speech, have taken much of the fun out of radio. The day of the "shock jock" may be limited.

Regardless of this increasingly repressive political climate, Howard Stern offered 20 years of outrageous fun. Thanks for that Howard. You were appreciated by millions with that fun ride.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Misspending Priorities And Fixing What Isn't Broke

In the last year, I became a little bit of a pain to some officials at the City Of Portland, when I complained of misspending priorities when a number of streets near my home become so grossly overregulated with "traffic calming" features such as traffic circles and speed bumps that it became so absurd it should have been a main 60 MINUTES investigation feature on misspending by government.

A whole number of streets in SouthEast Portland, Oregon have recent excessive speedbump and traffic circle costruction, that were installed in some misguided effort to supposedly "calm" traffic. Yet there was little real evidence that the streets suffered from either excessive traffic or excessive speeds that required the installation of such an expensive and potentially hazzardous speed bump project. Few residents were given a survey or any opportunity to voice their opinion on this matter before an unwanted speed bump was installed in the front of their home. In reality, a failed candidate for mayor had worked out a lucrative arrangement between the City Of Portland and a private business to sell other city governments speed bumps made from old recycled tires in which the City Of Portland received a percentage "royalty" on each sale. This arrangement more than any real need promoted spending millions of tax dollars to overregulate some SouthEast Portland streets.

But speed bumps and traffic circles are not a good ideal. Instead of a motorist keeping their eyes on the sides of the road looking out for pedestrians, their vision is often distracted away from the sides of the road, looking into the street ahead for each obstacle in the street. Some pedestrians could face increased death or injury from these road distractions as motorists may not see them in time to stop. Oregon also has a pedestrian "right of way" law that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians, who often fail to fail to look for traffic and step right out in front of cars or walk against "walk" signals at corners with such signals. This law creates poor lessons for children who often walk out into traffic expecting cars to suddenly be able to stop for them at any point. Also SouthEast Portland has more bicycle traffic than some cities in Asia seem to have, and these bicyclists often fail to obey street signs such as "stop" signs. In the last year, I recall only two bicyclists obeying "stop" signs that I personally witnessed out of thousands of bikes on the road, far less than a 1% compliance with traffic rules. A motorist in SouthEast Portland is very busy watching for constant things while traveling some streets with excessive traffic "calming" devices, and careless pedestrians and bicyclists to watch. At some point some needless traffic deaths will occur from this excessive burden on motorists, instead of shared responsibility of pedestrians and bicylists to also look out for their own safety as well. This is a recipe for eventual disaster.

Emergency vehicles such as Fire and Ambulance services are sometimes seen practicing their navigation around all these newly constructed traffic "calming" obstacles. While a victim suffers from irrepairable damage or death from a heart attack or stroke, a greatly increased response time from emergency services is squandered away while a victim suffers from severe brain or heart cell death. Spending extra minutes for emergency services to navigate around traffic obstacles created by speed bumps and "traffic calming" circles will create human vegetables as some suffer partial brain death waiting for increased emergency response time. Some will needlessly die. Some will choke to death on food or some object, such as children who put a toy in their mouth, as emergency services speed a few extra minutes navigating around traffic "calming" street obstacles. And while a home burns away from fire, a large fire truck wastes important minutes navigating around the traffic obstacles.

Traffic circles with greenry require maintenance crews to trim greenry, creating hundreds of extra thousands of dollars in yearly needless tax expenses to maintain their appearance. In the meantime, they present a daily accident hazzard unless one is Clark Kent and has xray vision and can see through them for some pedestrian or automobile that is lurking behind them because of their height that blocks normal automobile height level vision of the road ahead.

Another traffic obstacle was not seen seen by a drunk couple one early one morning a while ago. And when they hit the object their car was thrown out of control into a tree and torn in half and the couple instantly. Otherwise the worse that would have happened was either a possible drunken driving ticket if they had encountered a police officer on their way home. Instead the unknown traffic obstacle caused the death for two persons, and the destruction of a neighbor's tree.

Other traffic obstacles in past years involved minimizing traffic accidents. These recent obstacles only increase the possibility of traffic accidents.

A few years ago, a retired couple had problems with motorists that went out of control and hit their home. A motorcyclist was killed when his bike crashed into the living room one time. A safety fence was built to slow any vehicle and prevent these accidents. This at least served a worthwhile purpose.

Speed bumps have been proven to increase vehicle maintenance costs by a full extra 50% by increased wear and damage to automobile parts such as shock absorbers and suspension components such as lower control arms which may crack from increased stress over time. Older tires may suffer from cracked sidewalls and fail. And proven increasesin both noise levels and in air pollution have been recorded in neighborhoods with speed bumps with extra braking and acceleration noise and emissions levels, as well as abestos dust from brake systems of vehicles is required rather than a smooth constant travel over the street like other normal streets.

Real estate experts note that neighborhoods with speed bumps have homes with their values often decreased by thousands of dollars, as well as are more difficult to sell. A home with a speed bump in front of is seen as a "problem" neighborhood by buyers, and ignored by many customers who search for a "better" neighborhood to purchase a home.

Many persons with neck injuries or even arthritis suffer from increased pain or injury aggrevation in some cases, traveling over speed bumps.

And the cost of traffic circles and speed bumbs projects can run into the millions of dollars. But now the City Of Portland, claims that serious pothole problems cannot be fixed on many streets because funds are not available from a $8 million shortfall in gas tax revenues. Many misspending priorites had a lot to do with this.

Sometimes government spends millions to fix what isn't broke and creates more problems, and then does not have the funds to fix what is broke. Oh, the joys of government bureaucrasy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Military Intelligence Infliltration Aimed At Destroying The Peace Movement

You heard it here first several days ago when I speculated that the Pentagon would soon involve itself in military intelligence infiltration of the peace movement similar to the covert military intelligence activities of the Nixon era. Well, today NBC has confirmed that indeed that military intelligence agents are keeping close track of peace movement persons and meeings. And these have included military intelligence data about peaceful church meetings, such as the Quakers who are called to peacefully resolve conflicts by their faith.

One peaceful meeting of Quakers was deemed a "threat" according to military intelligence data, yet there was absolutely no real threat to any military effort by this small meeting of churchmembers who were simply exercizing the beliefs of their faith.

But the Bush Adminstration is not stopping at allowing the military intelligence data collection of peaceful churchmembers. Even though Mr. Bush is an Episcopal Church member, he is allowing a covert program to financially destroy theologically "liberal" churches who are using sermons to undermine his Iraq policy. In California, West Wing cast member, Bradley Whitford is a member of a theologically "liberal" Episcopal church, and the Bush Administration has been keeping track of the sermons of this, and no doubt many more, churches to look at what options can be used to silence this opposition to the Administration. When the Senior Episcoplal Priest gave a sermon highly critical of the Administration's Iraq policy in late October 2004, right before the election, then an investigation of this church began with a current attempt to use the IRS to remove the tax exempt status of this church. Where military or other government infiltration or subversion of a church fails to silence this religious opposition to the Iraq War, then other means such as stripping the tax exempt status may serve to close the church doors.

It was only a month ago Bush attempted to appear as a champon of religious freedom while in China. But just like China, the Bush Administration uses covert government and military intelligence activity to shut down America churches that it disagrees with over the Iraq War.

Other secular peace organizations are also subject to military monitoring and infiltration as well, even though no real activity has harmed any military property that has been recently documented. Yet these organizations and members are listed as having a "threat" status by the military, even though freedom of expression and assembly are supposed to protect political disagreements over policy.

But while peaceful political and religious opposition is the subject of covert Bush Administration and military intelligence activity, other leftist organizations who have crossed over the line and commited morally unacceptable acts of violence are facing far worse fates.

Last weeek in coast to coast arrests, 7 ecoterrorists were rounded up by the government and arrested in raids. Under domestic terrorism laws, these persons may face life in prison for activity such as arson of government property or toppling of Bureau Of Land Management communications tower.

What is fascinating is that government agents have infiltrated these organizations, and using bodywires and other activity often used against mobsters, the government was able to build evidence to bring down these persons who commited serious politically moltivated crimes that are absolutely unacceptable.

But what is clear, is that in level not seen since the days of Nixon, the Bush Administration is using intense covert spying on legal political and religious activity to eliminate political opposition to the Iraq War or other Administration policy goals. With the exception of the arrest of domestic ecoterrorists, this war on free political and religious expression is a frightening scenario. Given this information, and the arrest of "Scooter" Libby, this Administration is beginning to look more and more just like the corrupt Nixon Watergate Administration.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Proof National Guard Forces Were Completely Unprepared To Fight Long Vietnam-type Conflicts

More proof today came that Donald Rumsfeld's 2003 war plans to use National Guard forces as a main force in Iraq were utterly without any real planning. 40% of the forces in Iraq are National Guard forces and the experience of the Oregon National Guard is typical.

The remaining 2,000 Oregon National Guard members are being sent to Afghanistan while some forces have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. Howver there is such an acute equipment shortage, that all equipment, guns, radios, Humvees and helicopters will remain in either Iraq or Afghanistan until the equipment is depleted or lost in combat. With the help of Oregon citizens and efforts of Oregon Governor, Democrat, Ted Kulongoski, vital equipment such as radios and other vital materials were provided by Oregon citizens to protect their state's fighting men and women. One Oregon newscast showed Oregon National Guardsmen using sandbags and pieces of plywood to help protect their Humvees and creating something they called "plywood coffins".

But with all vital equipment including helicopters being left in Iraq or Afghanistan, Oregon National Guardsmen who have preformed important air rescues including on Mt. Hood, will be unable to respond to hiker or skier accidents and injuries very soon now. And if any state dam or levee break or similar flooding should occur in Oregon, then National Guardsmen will be unable to perform vital rescue duties. In a normal month, Oregon National Guardsmen will perform several helicopter rescues. But this abilituy will soon disappear because of the poor war planning of Donald Rumsfeld. Even Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, has been appropriated billions in no bid contracts by the Pentagon to buy cases of soda pop and bill the government at exaggerated rates per case, while poorly equipped National Guardsmen were sent into combat situations with a severe shortage of guns, radios, body armor, and heavy goods such as helicopters. This created many unnecessary and needless deaths of National Guard members.

And because so few National Guardsmen had the necessary combat experience that normal soldiers have, so far only one has been decorated with the Silver Star for combat heroism, a guard at Wal-Mart, who acted bravely during an ambush and saved many lives of fellow National Guardsmen.

Since Iraq was created in 1922, after the first World War, by British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in a hotel room, with Winston Churchill combining three ethic groups with nothing in common by drawing up a map creating the artificial state of Iraq, Iraq has been nothing but trouble. From 1922 to 1958, British troops fought unsuccessfully to control insurgent activity. British troops used aircraft bombings, mustard gas attacks, armored vehicle and other attacks to destroy entire Iraqi villages, yet could not control the insuregent activity in Iraq. Britain and the allies could defeat Hitler's Germany and Japan, but not the insurgent activity in Iraq. In a bloody 1958 rebellion, with the influence of Gamel Nasser's Egyptian Arab Socialism Movement, Iraqi insurgents forced British forces to leave Iraq. From 1922 until the present day, Iraq has ben little more than a cesspool of violent ethnic tensions.

Today's election violence was typical. Sunni participation is very important to any peace in Iraq. Yet today masked gunmen, probably part of Badr Brigade militia killed a Sunni candidate. And Shiite cleric, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council For The Islamic Revolution In Iraq has stated "I declare that the Badr organization is ready to mobilize 200,000 of it's men in all parts of Iraq so they can play a role in defending Iraq and Iraqis". Apparently murder of Sunni candidates is part of this "protection" plan. In other areas such as Sunni majority, Ramadi, masked armed Sunni militia members hold up posters for Sunni candidates for the election. And Ahmed Chalabi, head of another militia, fugitive from justice and convicted in Jordan for his role in masterminding the nation's worst banking scandal, campaigns for elective office as well. One of the few candidates, Ayad Allawi a moderate Western style democrat, not affilated with criminal militia organizations, or a convicted criminal, is not expectedto do well in Iraq's election. Last election his candidates only garnered just 14% of the vote. Shiite members with close ties to Iran's Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani gained a massive landslide in these past elections.

National Guardsmen who are poorly equipped had no business being placed by Donald Rumsfeld in the middle of all this insurgent and militia violence. It is little wonder that 2,149 American servicepersons have lost their lives. Iraq has been a wild west place, similar to the chaos of Lebanon. In the words of Senator Joesph Biden, "Lebanon on steroids". How poor war planners such as Donald Rumsfeld, or George Bush who has a "Dukes Of Hazzard" intellect level ever expected success in Iraq is a huge question for more rational minds to consider. But sending poorly equipped American National Guard forces into a serious combat situation created high combat deaths. A background of work at Wal-Mart with poor equipment was a recipe for disaster for many National Guardsmen in Iraq.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The George Bush - Condoleezza Rice Torture Lie

Like a mantra, both George Bush and Condoleezza Rice almost daily proclaim that "we do not torture". If this was true it would be a responsible, respectable and morally decent form of respect for international law. But the problem is that this is an outright lie. The U.S. does use torture both towards terrorists and prisoners of war and set up a prison system in Iraq and other areas that allows it including secret prisons or allowing foreign guards to use abuse to achieve U.S. intelligence goals.

General Janis Karpinski, a private business consultant, military intelligence officer, and operations reserve officer formerly a Special Forces commander was put in charge of three large jails. And the abuses at Abu Gharib that were allowed under her command to"break" prisoners were the rule of law. Now it is easy to make some mentally challenged persons such as Lyndie England a scapecoat. But the system under Karpinski allowed for the widespread use of American torture against both suspected terrorists as well as prisoners of war.

Under Karpinski, several thousand Iraqi civilians including many teenagers and women were picked up in routine "military sweeps" and subjected to torture methods so that the U.S. could seek out the invisible support for the insurgency or against the U.S. occupation.

Karpinski allowed prisoner and interrogation abuses without the benefit of a trial or lawyer of Iraqi citizens that included such things as broomhandle beatings, broomhandle rapes or rape threats, breaking chemical lights and torturing prisoners with phosphoric chemicals, using military dogs to bite, opening wounds and then allowing the military interrogators to stitch the wound without any painkillers so the abuse and beatings can continue and other abuses. In addition, photographic evidence of abuses at Abu Ghraib under Karpinski proved a widespread pattern of abuses of Iraqi citizens simply picked up off the streets to force information from them about the invisible Irraqi insurgency. Despite this scandal, other abuses such as forced sleep deprivation, loud music that could ear damage, "waterboarding" a form of mock execution, and other torture methods still continue despite the outright lies of both Bush and Rice who boldly prpclaim that the U.S. "does not torture".

But even in Bush's own party, there is little support for torture. Senator John McCain is pushing for antitorture bill that Mr. Bush threatens to veto. And even from very conservative South Carolina, with many military families living in the state, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham strongly opposes torture as unacceptable for the U.S. to practice.

During World War II, my own grandfather, Captain John Einarson, was a merchant marine captain of a large ship that transported equipment and arms to American, British and Australian troops in the pacific. His ship, the Ipswitch was captured by the Japanese Navy and he was made a prisoner of war by the Japanese and brutally tortured and abused including flogged in efforts to pry information from him. After the war, many Japanese commanders were tried and some were even hung as war criminals for authorizing such abuses of prisoners, who were often civilians. But no such harsh sense of justice will meet Americans soldiers who similarly abuse citizen detainees, prisoners of war or terrorist suspects. Instead a few scapegoats such as mentally challenged military reservist soldier Lyndie England, will be jailed for a few years while the military leaders who authorized these antiGevena Convention abuses are allowed to continue the abuse policy.

And the President who lies to allow a system that promotes these abuses is given a complete free pass from the American media, Congress and the American public to be questioned about support for allowing a system of abuses and torture to continue. There is a hidden code that allows a "understanding" that allowing abuses of some prisoners may help to pry information from some prisoners, and allows Bush, Rice and some military leaders to publicly claim such abuses do not exist, while strongly endorsing a system that allows these abuses to continue in the name of claimed "national security" goals. Soldiers such as the "trailer park torturer" Lyndie England who are caught in such abuses face jail. Lyndie England has already claimed that military leaders encouraged her abuses of prisoners. But the military leaders who authorize this system are above any legal reproach, sanctions or questions. No major military commander will face military trial for approving the abuses, only the soldiers who claimed they were "only following orders". This entire system greatly angers Senator John McCain, who faced five years of torture and abuse from his Vietnamese captors. His captors all escaped justice as well. In World War II, the world was disgusted with the abuses from Germany and Japan during the war. But now this moral standard seems to no longer hold true for the present day U.S.

Mr. Bush wants things two ways. He publicly claims that torture does not exist, but then claims he will veto any bill that Sentor McCain promotes that specifically bans torture. And Bush wants exceptions put into any bill that allows any "intelligence" oriented personnel to use torture or abuse methods to pry information. But John McCain is right. He wants to bring morality to a system that should be respectable for the U.S.

Terrorism is absolutely awful, as well are terrorists. But under torture, a prisoner will often give false information simply to stop the pain. In Egypt, a prisoner falsely claimed a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, which the Bush Administration used to promote the 2003 war in Iraq. But the information was wrong and worthless. Torture only gathers wrong and false information and lowers the moral standing of the U.S. It has no place under American standards of decency or under international law.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What's Wrong With Current Intelligence?

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, excellent intelligence existed. Spy plane overflights clearly photographed missile silo construction in San Crystalbal, Cuba. During the Cold War, excellent intelligence existed on both the Soviet Union and highly secretive China and their military capabilities. So why is current intelligence on terrorism and Iraq nearly a theatre of the absurd by comparison?

Much of the "intelligence" that provided the gist for Bush's war in Iraq came from Ahmed Chalabi, who runs a private militia in Iraq. Chalabi was paid as much as $330,000 a month to an organization that he and and his brother operated by the CIA for "intelligence information, despite the fact that Chalabi had been convicted in Jordan in the nation's worst bank fraud scandal, and is a fugitive from justice. Now Chalabi is under U.S. investigation for also selling information to Iran as well. Thequestion is did Chalabi simply invent information simply to cash in from the U.S., or did he deliberately falsify information so that theU.S. would act and help to put him into power? Regardless, his claims of Iraqi WMDs under Saddam Hussein proved outrightly false and unreliable compared to even 1962 standards that accurately had details correct of Cuban construction of missile silos that were carefully disgused by dummy houses to conceal these deadly silos only 90 miles from the U.S. shores.

Beside the "intelligence" testimony of Chalabi that has been proven to be outrightly false, two more absurd intelligence information bits came out this week that further question the current intelligence ability under the Bush Administration.

This week any connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda was dealt a serious blow when the New York Times ran a feature that claimed this information was solely based on a prisoner who was tortured and abused by Egyptian guards, and made up this information to stop his abuse. It proves that torture of terrorists does not work. They simply make information up to stop the pain or bad treatment. This is hardly a sound information gathering technique.

And in an absolutely absurd second embarrassment to the current state that the intelligence community has sunk to under the Bush Administration, this week intelligence sources have decided not to list a miniture golf course, Golfland in San Jose California, as a terrorist target. Other than few small structures such as a windmill that a golfer must hit the ball between the blades turning, Golfland really has no draw. It is a low capacity business, that hardly draws major numbers of persons such as stadiums or other large capacity locations. Maybe the Bush Administration believes some plan to hijack a radio controlled plane exists and to crash it into the windmill at Golfland and cause also a $1.50 in damage exists. But to any rational person, it seems absurd intelligence information to consider Golfland to be any terrorist target.

The Bush Administration wants the American public to believe that they can best defend the public from terrorism. Yet compared to even 1962 standards that were dead on accurate during the Cuban Missile Crisis, today's intelligence despite high tech electronic advances, new techniques and highly advanced satellites that can read a license plate number from outer space seem to be so far from accurate during the Bush Administration. The safety and security of every American citizen is at stake, and a serious debate on why this intelligence is continually worsening under the Bush Administration deserves a careful review.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Is Bush Rebounding?

In a new CBS poll, Bush has bounced up to 40% approval from the previous low of 35%. And in a special election this week, held in very conservative Orange County, where Democrats traditionally run poorly, the Democrat only managed to garner 28% of the vote in loss to the Republican who won with 45%. A third party challenge by the antiimmigrant founder of the Minutemen Project, managed to get 25% of the vote. In a recent off-year election, Democrats only managed to win two governorships they already had, in NJ and Virginia. What's going on?

Bush is definately weakened by Iraq, yet a lowering of fuel prices and some good economic news has put back some support. Conservative voters are still a powerful voting block. All the bad news of Iraq has failed to shake much of their support. But Democrats are still largely disorganized and not able to take advantage of any Bush disarray over Iraq over anger over high fuel prices.

Democrats have a confused message over Iraq with voters. Voters are unhappy with Iraq, but some Democrats who call for troops to withdrawal now frighten some voters as not being able to follow through on a foreign policy where the word of America remains constant, even if a situation such as Iraq is a clear mistake. And a Democrat who takes a more hawkish position such as Joe Lieberman is being used by the Bush Administration in a phony attempt to appear bipartisan by allowing false rumors that he may replace Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary soon.

For all of Bush's problems, Democrats need to offer a consistent and trustworthy foreign policy that can be counted on like in days of FDR and Kennedy. Today Democrats seem too willing to give up on foreign policy hotspots, even when they are a clear mistake, rather than make policy corrections to the mistakes to fix the problem. Iraq is a terrible mistake. And even if miscalculations or even outright falsehoods and deceptions got us there, the MidEast would become too unstable if American troops would leave Iraq, and the government would quickly fall to a militia or to some insurgent forces. Kurds in the North may want to form their own state of Kurdistan, and could even involve Turkey in problems as Kurds in Turkey have been involved in recent incidents as well.

Democrats lose out with voters on foreign policy, national security and terrorism issues. And on economic issues which should be their strongest area, they have yet to define a consistent message. Republicans should be in terrible position, but the disarray among Democrats allows them to continue to take advantage and win elections.

You can't tell many Democrats this. They don't want to hear it. But they need to clear up their message and offer a constructive alternative to the Republicans. If Democrats want to win some elections by 2006, then they'll clear up their mesage and offer voters a constructive alternative to failed Republican proposals. If Democrats want to continue losing ground, they'll continue to offer a weak foreign policy that frightens many voters, and fail offer a keen and finely honed economic message.

For all his terrible faults, Mr. Bush is able to take some advantage of the disorganization of his opponents. That's very unsettling to me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It Was 25 Years Ago Today....

Just like the lyrics of the famous Beatles classic, it was 25 years ago today that John Lennon was sadly murdered. It was the end of the career of one of the greatest modern songwriters ever.

Everything seemed controversial about John Lennon's life. The pain of the early loss of his mother was reflected his song "Mother". And even his death was a strange end to an amazing talent.

Why the world was robbed of the talents of one of the greatest entertainers ever by a madman is a mystery for for the ages. But the world never quite seemed the same the day the music died. It ended all hope of A Beatles reunion for good. Some groups such as The Rolling Stones continue to produce music, yet the world never was able to enjoy more years of Beatles classics. It is hard to "Imagine" how many great Lennon-McCartney collaborations would never see the light of day when John Lennon suffered his deeply tragic murder. But in the hearts of fans, John Lennon will always be remembered. Great men live in the hearts of their fans forever. And John Lennon left a fantastic legacy of songs behind for his fans to love and embrace. His loss will never be forgotten. His memory will never die.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

THE NATIONAL REVIEW Offers A Flimsy Defense Of Wal-Mart

When William F. Buckley was the Editor of THE NATIONAL REVIEW, he was able to pen some editorials of great eloquence that masked a flat logic that defended antilabor and antiunion positions that lacked sound reason or morality. With far less eloquence, current NATIONAL REVIEW Editor, Rich Lowry has offered a morally flat defense of the business practices of Wal-Mart while slamming the film, WAL-MART:THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICES.

It is by no coincidence that the documentary about Wal-Mart is being viewed in many churches accross the U.S., as there are many moral issues involved in the business practices of Wal-Mart.

The antiunion and antilabor viewpoints of the far right, and their mouthpiece publication, THE NATIONAL REVIEW, object to many of the moral and ethical labor reforms and improvements that American labor and unions have achieved, often with the strong support of progressive churches in America.

The American labor movement and labor unions have succeeded in laws against child labor, as well as either laws or labor contracts with individual companies that have achieved a eight hour work day, health insurance, pensions, paid sick leave, fair treatment for women, racial and ethnic minorities and for persons with disabilities, higher wages, overtime pay, job safety, paid holidays, job security, severance pay, paid vacations as well as family and medical leave. By contrast the antilabor and antiunion editoral by Rich Lowry, "Fear And Loathing At Wal-Mart" on December 6, 2005, offered justification for the largely nonunion, low wage efforts of Wal-Mart by justifying the ethics of the low prices they offer against the morality of the social harm that is caused by low paying jobs that often fail to provide decent living wages or provide basic benfits such as health care to their employees.

In the editoral, Rich Lowry claimed that only 5% of Wal-Mart employees receive Medicaid public health benefits. Yet in order to qualify for this very low income public health insurance, in Florida for example, a worker at WAl-Mart would have to have a income less than $1,737 per year with only less than $2,000 in titotal personal assets including their automobile, clothes or other personal items. The fact that even 5% of Wal-Mart employees receive this very low income public health insurance is proof of at least 5% of Wal-Mart employees living at a low income level barely above that of homeless persons. In total, 52% of all Wal-Mart employees do not have Wal-Mart provided health care benefits. And many of these persons rely on other state public health programs for persons with low incomes other than Medicaid. Those that can afford it with the low Wal-Mart wages, attempt to purchase private health insurance if they can afford. But other Wal-Mart employees go without any health insurance, either privately purchased or publicly funded. Yet the NATIONAL REVIEW editorial denigrates any critical or moral basis by the Wal-Mart film to falsely portray Wal-Mart as a "welfare queen".

And in it's defense of of Wal-Mart, Lowry seems to rely almost solely on the "benefits" to American consumers of low Wal-Mart prices. Yet the high moral and social cost of these low prices is ignored in the NATIONAL REVIEW's weak defense of Wal-Mart.

Lowry is willing to offer that "Wal-Mart jobs are poorly paid compared to unionized jobs", yet no mention that retailers such as Wal-Mart whose shelves are filled with high profit, low priced items often produced in China have come at the expense of up to 30 million higher paying often unionized jobs in America. In China, the official minimum wage is supposed to be 40 cents an hour. But many factories, including those owned by American entrepreneurs or contractors are often well known to instruct company managers on ways to avoid paying this wage, and many Chinese are actually paid as little as 24cents an hour in Chinese factories.

But many Chinese workers daily work in factory or workplace safety conditions that even India finds deplorable. The air is so polluted in 500 Chinese cities from lax air pollution laws regarding factories, that for children, simply breathing air has the same health damage consequences as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Many Chinese factory workers develop health conditions such as "brown lung" by breathing so many poorly contolled toxins that would be sharply limited in American workplaces. A toxic chemical spill in a Northern Chines city has left 2 million residents of this city without any source of clean running drinking water for two weeks now. And to fuel the energy and raw material needs of China's massive cheap export machine to flood the shelves of Wal-Mart and other American retailers with the low cost goods that the NATION REVIEW is quick to defend, China has the world's most dangerous mines. Last week 161 Chinese miners, with 42 still missing lost their lives in a coalmine collapse. One estimate is that as many as 20,000 miners lose their lives in China each year.

In some countries, the cost of low cost goods to supply WAl-Mart or other major American retailers is even higher. In some countries such as Vietnam, many children live in factories producing high profit low priced goods.

In some cases, the consumer does not even save money. Only corporate profits are enhanced by child labor. Nike was famous for charging $90 or more dollars for some shoes, produced in Vietnamese factories by children for pennies a day who were hit and beaten by company managers when they failed to produce or made production quality mistakes. While paying these low wages, NIKE paid millions of dollars to company CEOs and management and to sports figures such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods to promote these high profit, cheaply produced goods made by Vietnamese child labor. It was only after some very negative reporting by some of the moral wrong of child labor abuses that NIKE felt public pressure to reform these high profit abuses of child labor that some labor reforms by NIKE were finally made. But many other goods still flow onto American store shelves produced by child labor, or even by forced labor, by lesser known but equally terrible exploiters of child or forced labor from many foreign lands.

THE NATIONAL REVIEW editoral ignored all of these issues, instead looking to justify the practices of large high profit retailers such as Wal-Mart almost solely claiming a benefit to American consumers of low prices. Last year the U.S. trade deficit totalled more than $666 billion dollars. It is a full 54% higher than the total of U.S. exports, which means that more and more of American finances flow overseas each day. And China was able to take full economic advantage by undervaluing their currency, the yuen, by valuing this currency against the American dollar, which undervalues their products by a full 40% against competing American produced goods. Other responsible world nations value their currency by floating it on world currency markets. But the Chinese method of currency valuation was solely intended to help flood the American marketplace with their high profit goods made with terrible workplace safety and lax water and air pollution standards. Such unfair currency, wage, workplace safety and pollution standards have allowed China such a clear advantage that virtually every major American textile manufacturer has been driven to financial bankruptcy or to moving their operations to China in what is known as job "outsourcing".

The short sighted logic of THE NATIONAL REVIEW to cite low priced products as an advantage to American consumers has overlooked the high cost to exploited Chinese and foreign workers as well ignored the seeds of economic destruction for the wellbeing of the American standard of living as low wage service jobs quickly replace more and more former high paying American factory and labor jobs.

The NATIONAL REVIEW has failed to recognize that the argument is not entirely with Wal-Mart itself. It is the deep problems of globalization that is undermining the American standard of living, in which megacorporations such as Wal-Mart become vendors for cheaply produced goods that undermine America in a manner that is highly destructive and morally objectionable on many grounds.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tom Delay And Saddam Hussein Get Their Day In Court

Today, two of the world's most ruthless politicians got their day in court. Both were the perfect portrait of total arrogance when faced with serious charges. For Delay, it was more of the samesmiling and smirking while facing felony charges. In the case of Saddam Hussein, it was a futher display of more arrogance when victims testified about the terrible human rights abuses of this ruthless dictator.

Regardless of the validity of the specific charges against both, the testimony of the witnesses, or other specifics, the lesson should still be clear. Both are arrogant men who abused the privilege to rule only to behave above the law, rather than respect the law, to destroy political opponents rather than gain their respect. This is not the very first time either has been accused of ruthless political dealings. Both have been the subject of concerns again, again and again.

Far more decent men gain the respect of others, including those who sometimes disagree with them on some matters. But men who behave in a awful manner and abuse the privilege to rule end up having a day in court.