Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bush's Union-Busting Revolving Door Problem

When Bush nominated labor law attorney Robert Battista to become the chairman of the NLRB(National Labor Relations Board)in 2002, Bush knew full well that Battista would help tip the NLRB against working people and the labor unions who support them in labor conflicts. Then in 2006, Democrats won back Senate control, and Senator Edward Kennedy opposed the renomination of Battista for second term after Battista took away union representation from some Supervisory workers(Oakwood Health Care), put restrictions on unions using Emails to communicate with their members in the workplace, made it very difficult for illegally-fired employees to receive their back pay, allowed employers to practice job discrimination against any person seeking employment who supports labor unions and made it more difficult to form unions through majority sign-up of workkers, and other antiworker and antiunion decisions.

When Battista realized that he was unlikely to win a second term after his four years of antiworker and antilabor union decisions, he withdrew from consideration for a second term. Now in typical Washington revolving door fashion, Battista has taken a job as an attorney at the antilabor union law firm of Littler Mendelson, and is now able to profit from his background of work at the NLRB and use his inside knowledge of loopholes in NLRB regulations to help employers destroy labor unions or prevent new unions from forming at their company.

The Battista tale involves all of the rotten aspects of Bush's Washington, a revolving door system where Bush Administration insiders are able to quit one job with the government, and turn right around and use their inside knowledge of the system to turn a profit with outside employers who hire them because of their background. And with so many workers hurting financially because of the poor economy, Battista is in a very good position to hurt the ability of workers to join labor unions and get better pay, health benefits. job security and retirement benefits, by being able to market his inside knowledge of the NLRB to union-busting clients.

The Washington revolving door system does indeed take a real human toll.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We've Been Here Before

In many remarkable ways, the ongoing battle of Hillary Clnton and Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination is way too similiar to the 1972 battle between George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey. In 1972, George McGovern was attracting the votes of young antiwar voters, while Humphrey's major base of support was the older, more traditional, if not more conservative Democrats.

McGovern was leading in delegates by 929 to 760 for Humphrey just before the pivotal June California winner-take-all primary, which had 271 delegates at stake. McGovern needed just over 1,500 delegates to capture the nomination. After losing the California primary to McGovern, Humphrey continued to press his case all the way to the Democratic convention's rules committee, hoping to change California's winner-take-all primary rule. Only after losing in the rules committee, did Humphrey withdraw from his run for the presidency, some of his delegates supporting the nominee McGovern, and others supporting an 11th hour failed effort by neoconservative Washington Senator Henry Jackson.

2008 is looking very similiar. Clinton has attracted largely the same sort of more traditional, if not more conservative Democrats that Humphrey once attracted. And Obama is creating the same sort of excitement among young voters, many antiwar, that George McGovern once attracted. And it was an accepted 2008 DNC rule to not seat the Michigan and Florida delegates as a penalty for holding their primary too early, although a Republican governor in Florida was responsible, just like the tough California winner-take-all rule. Since Clinton is behind in delegates she would like to have the DNC rules committee change the rules on Florida and Michigan, which would move up the number of required delegates needed to win the nomination from 2,026 to 2,210. If half of the delgates are seated, the number would move up to 2,118. This is very similiar to the Humphrey effort to change the California winner-take-all primary rule after the primary did not turn out in his favor.

Not only are there these similiar events to 1972 in 2008, but a divided Democratic Party had many more traditional Democrats refuse to support McGovern in the general election. Many Humphrey voters helped to re-elect Republican Richard Nixon who was offering a "stay the course" path on the Vietnam War.

McGovern was a change candidate, Nixon was the status quo candidate. McGovern was the end-the-war candidate, Nixon the stay-the-course candidate.

1972 has many lessons for 2008. A divided Democratic Party cannot win. Both major Democratic candidates need to come together with strong support or a divided party fails in the general election.

Discrimination Victims Giving Unwarranted Legitimacy To McCain's Awful Record On Discrimination Votes

Groups that have been the targets of the lifetime voting record of John McCain supporting racial and sexual orientation discrimination have been recently giving the senator some undeserved legitimacy. Last year, only Republican candidate, Tom Tancredo, bothered to attend last Summer's NACCP convention. Many conservative politicians like McCain probably viewed this as an important rebuff to the progressive platform of social reforms long advocated by the NAACP that McCain has long opposed both as a congressman and U.S. senator. Now that McCain is running for president, he plans to attend the NAACP convention this Summer to pander for votes, although there are no signs that McCain now supports most important social goals of the NAACP..

John McCain has had one of the most consistent records in Congress and the U.S. Senator of opposing job discrimination bills and other civil rights legislation. He even opposed establishing any holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. Then McCain made an appeal to the African American community earlier this year offering an apology for voting against the Dr. King holiday legislation in Selma, Alabama on Dr. King's birthday, but offered no apology for a lifetime of opposition to civil rights legislation, or any new commitment to now support civil rights legislation as president. McCain would be far more likely to veto civil rights legislation as president than any president in modern American history. Periodically some civil rights legislation needs to be renewed by congress, and McCain has had one of the worst records of support for any civil rights legislation of any type of anyone in either the Congress or the U.S. Senate.

And the McCain record on protection of rights for the Gay community is much worse. McCain at first accepted the support of radical antGay community Pastor John Hagee, who often refers to the Gay community as "degenerates". McCain wanted the votes of right wing bigots who hate the Gay community. McCain even opposed hate crimes legislation to protect the Gay community from violence. McCain is strongly opposed to any notion of legal Gay marriage. Then last week, John McCain shows up on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW, the openly Gay comic host who intends to make use of the California Supreme Court decision that allows for legal Gay marriages. Maybe Ellen Degeneres simply viewed McCain as only another celebrity guest, but bringing him on her TV show only gave more unwarranted legitimacy to the awful McCain record on discrimination issues and made McCain appear acceptable to some of her viewers.

Both the NAACP and Ellen Degeneres have unfortunately given John McCain too much "cheap grace" recently. Allowing someone with such a terrible record on discrimination issues a platform to speak only offers a politician with one of the most bigoted records in Congress or the U.S. Senate some measure of acceptance with voters that he has not earned and does not deserve. McCain claim's to be a "Barry Goldwater" type conservative. But even Barry Goldwater offered a far higher degree of at least some support for both civil rights legislation as well as a more tolerant view towards the Gay community. McCain's record is simply one of hard core right wing bigotry, and so far McCain has offered nothing to prove that this will change. Aad McCain intends to choose Supreme Court judges based on right wing ideology, not their qualifications, which will also have serious ramifications for many issues dealing with discrimination.

Unlike George Bush who doesn't seem to have any racist instincts, despite his very conservative political ideology, McCain's voting record in Congress can be summed up as being very racist and even worse on Gay community issues. Neither group has a thing to gain if McCain is elected president. McCain is nothing but trouble for social advancement in America. A lifetime of bigotry doesn't warrant awarding the presidency as a prize.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How The Nomination Was Lost

While Clinton's unfortunate remark invoking the RFK nightmare has become the major talk of the Sunday talk programs, it was probably only likely that at some point Clinton would make such an unfortunate remark in her grasp for justifications of why she's even still in the race with Obama, who is now just a bit short of 50+ delegates from the nomination. The real problem with the Clinton campaign is that she fully expected to have the nomination wrapped up by as early as February 5 or by Super Tuesday and never really had a plan to compete well enough in the 18 caucus events to give her campaign the chance to acquire a majority of delegates.

It was a deeply flawed campaign effort that left little room for error if either John Edwards or Barack Obama made a strong showing in the early contests and built momentum. This is exactly what the Obama campaign did, and went on an 11 contest primary and caucus roll after Super Tuesday, with the Clinton campaign helplessly disorganized enough to effectively build campaign organizations to compete until the Pennsylvania primary, which was by then too late. The idea of a Pennsylvania "firewall" was no better than the failed effort of Giuliani to build a Florida "firewall". Too little, too late.

When the Clinton campaign came in third place in the Iowa caucus contest, it should have been a wake-up call to toolup efforts in the next 17 caucus contests. Instead, the Clinton campaign ended up losing all but the Nevada caucus contest to the better organized Obama campaign. And with primary contest wins in just 19 states compared to 17 primary contest wins for Obama, Clinton has managed to win no better than just 20 total contests to at least 30 wins by the Obama campaign so far, with a handful more contests still out there, but will not change the fact of an eventual Obama victory.

Clinton is now grasping for justifications why she is still in the race. And the fact may be that she is a good enough candidate that she could have won the general election, and even runs better than Obama against McCain in some November matchup polls. But where an election is won or lost is at the campaign level, and Clinton clearly proved that she cannot put together as good of a campaign organization as Obama has done.

There are many good men like Hubert Humphrey and Edward Kennedy who narrowly lost campaigns to be president, but instead became effective Senate figures. This is unfortunately the reality that Clinton will have to accept. Her campaign simply made way too many errors to win her the nomination, so she now must accept the reality that she may never be president. It is cruel that she will be probably be forced to accept a lifetime of "what of's", but that's the cruel nature of politics. In politics there are at least as many losers as winners. Clinton's best hope at this point is continue to be an effective senator from New York state and gain respect from that role, or at least until 2012 comes around.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Russian Government Quickly Moving To Build Anti-U.S. And Western Alliances

(Photo courtesy of China's Xinhua News Service, used under fair use terms for illustration purposes)
Foreign policy is certainly one of the weakest areas of the Bush Administration leadership, and the new Russian government of President Dmitry Medvedev has been taking full advantage of this weakness to agressively court antiAmerican, antiWestern and nonaligned states into a number of new treaties and partnerships within just the last few days, while the Bush Administration has completely failed to attempt to warm relations with the new Russian government and head off this new movement against U.S. influence. And while the economies of Russia and China are booming, the lack of economic leadership from the Bush Administration has also lowered the ability of the U.S. to use more leverage on foreign policy with other nations as the U.S. is being increasingly isolated from many world state foreign policy arrangements.

In only the last few days, the new Russian government has aggressively courted China in a number of critical areas including signing a joint statement on a number of key issues including international matters. On Friday, both Russia and China issued a joint statement obviosly aimed at the Bush Administration opposing any military against Iran. And Russia and China also pladged to work closely together to have a united voice when dealing with the G8 and to have more cooperation with nonaligned states. And Russia and China forged their own new alliance to combat world terrorism, work towards more balanced economic globalization and to promote more cultural cooperation. In recent days, the Bush Administration has managed to find the time to nominate an old time Republican Party insider, John Beyrle,54, who is the current Ambassador to Bulgaria as the new Ambassador to Russia once Congress approves his nomination. So far Beyrle hasn't offered any new vision for new relations with the new Russian government of President Medvedev, despite rapidly changing conditions.

Russia has also created a new antiWestern alliance in recent days called BRIC, which includes Brazil, India and China, although the full extent of this new alliance is not really yet known at this time, it may well evolve into a counter power to the U.S. backed NATO organization since the issue of opposition to Kosovo independence is a central issue tying these four nations together in this new arrangement. And while Russia and China have both pledged to work beyond the old "Cold War" mentality, the new Russian government is again starting military flights of strategic nuclear bombers near Alaska to challenge American territorial integrity. Using the huge oil economy of Russia to bolster an arms buildup, Moscow staged one of the largest military parades in recent days as seen since the old Soviet Union Cold War days.

With a rapidly declining economy here at home in the U.S., the Bush Adminstration has certainly proven itself to increasingly become a weaker and weaker world player in international foreign policy arrangements, while rival states of the U.S., especially Russia and China are proving great international strengths in economics, and other critical areas. The Chinese government has even been able to better insulate it's growing economy from oil market generated inflation by keeping a lid on oil price inflation down to just 9% since 2007. At the same the helplessly disengaged Bush Administration has allowed a gallon of gas to increase in price by at least 72cents since just between just January and May, creating a tidal wave of inflation in all areas of the economy including groceries depressing the American consumer economy and only allowing a growing state of economic recession.

With a weak economy, the Bush Administration is quickly finding itself an irrelevent international player when many other nations consider international treaties and joint arrangements. Even Saudi Arabia was hardly impresed by the recent MidEast visit of Bush when he begged them to significantly increase oil production and only offered smaller token increases because their economy is booming with the higher oil prices while the American economy is sliding downward. If anything, the Bush Administration's mismanagement of the American economy and misdirected foreign policy built on the disasterous war in Iraq have only dramaticly reduced the world power and influence of the United States from a superpower status down to just some also-ran status, where the participation of the the United States in treaty or other international arrangements is no longer considered essential by many states.

Bush-McCain have lowered American prestige and sheer strength down to a mere level of some flag waving and dirt-dumb macho jingoisms, while the real world areas of strength such as a strong American economy slip away as nations outside of the U.S. such as Russia experiernce booming economic strength based on their oil based economy and record oil prices, and thus become dominant players in foreign relations with other states. The U.S. has less and less to offer other world states. Russia has plenty of oil. That makes all the difference.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Israel Involved In Talks With Both Hamas & Syria

Depite official Israeli government resolutions not to negotiate with either terrorists or rival states that support terrorism, the government of Israel has now officially acknowledged that it is actively involved in talks with both Hamas and Syria and is seeking possible peace deals with both parties. Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon has confirmed that the Jewish state is involved in such talks with Hamas. And Israel pledged to resume fuel exports to the Gaza Strip on Monday as a possible move to help encourage Hamas to work towards both a ceasefire and a resolution of the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shilit. United pressure on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel from the United Nations, EU, the U.S. and Russia may also have influenced Hamas to accept political reality if in intends to remain in pollitical control of the Gaza Strip and represent a portion of the Palestinian people. The political rival of Hamas, Fatah represents another portion of the Palestinian people and Fatah continues to have more politically realistic and productive relations with Israel.

Egypt has been playing a helpful role in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas in recent days. And the NATO state of Turkey has been involved in the possible peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, which might work towards more normalized relations relations between the two longtime political and military rivals.

In recent days, Bush-McCain have both recently sought to make a major campaign issue of the fact that Democratic candidate Barack Obama would at least like to open some channel of communication with Iran to help resolve some of the many serious issues between the U.S. and Iran. Bush-McCain have attempted to make this into another phony issue questioning the national security and foreign policy insights of Senator Obama. However, as the new revelations of Israel actively seeking to negotiate peace with both Hamas and Syria prove, it is absolutely important to open some line of communication with rivals to prevent serious conflicts. Colin Powell, James Baker and many others with strong foreign policy credentials all accept the political reality of at least having some line of communication with Iran, while the Bush-McCain policy of not at least holding some talks with your rivals seems to fly against political reality.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Oregon Primary Aftermath

A Progressive Values reader Emailed me a link to this funny commentary on the ongoing problems of GOP 5th Congressional District winner, Mike Erickson, and I'm sharing this illustration here with other readers under the broadly accepted terms of fair use of an illustration since it is what is under discussion here. I don't know where this illustration originated, but it does make a serious commentary on the fact that Mike Erickson did very narrowly manage to win the GOP nomination over perrenial candidate for public office, Kevin Mannix, but is certainly damaged goods in any general election run. The 5th Congressional District is considered to be only one of 15 districts in play in 2008, where either Democrats or Republicans could win. In fact, a GOP Congressional Committee organization is now seeking $1,000 donations from donors with the assumption that they will lose the U.S. Senate again and possiby the presidency, but a handful of seats in Congress are the only real battleground for the GOP to obstruct a Democratic controlled Senate and White House and produce more Washington Gridlock.

The GOP Congressional organization is unfortunately promotiong some outright falsehoods to possible donors in order to secure funds including claims that Barack Obama presents a national security threat to the U.S., would negotiate with terrorists, and that the Democrats are seeking huge tax increases on the average family. The real truth is that Obama has only advocated having some dialogue with Iran similar to the dialogue between the old Cold War-era Soviet Union and the U.S, and has advocated a $1,000 middle class tax cut. However, this hardly the first time that intellectually dishonest arguments have been made by a political campaign seeking donors.

Barack Obama did very well in Oregon, and even Jay Leno had a great joke about that saying that Obama did very well among the more educated and affluent while Clinton won Kentucky. Clever joke or not, it does underlie a weakness among Obama to appeal to more rural voters and more White working class voters who have been traditional strengths for any successful Democrat to the White House. Yesterday's mixed election results with a broad Clinton win in Kentucky and many voters who could possiby defect to McCain in November indicates a serious challenge to Obama who is now around just 73 delegates short of capturing the nomination. If anything, it might have proven a major mistake on the part of the Obama campaign to not spend some money and effort in both West Virginia and Kentucky to not only garner a few more delegates, but also to attract more White working class and rural voters for at least the general election. Normally, the Obama campaign has made few mistakes during this campaign season compared to the Clinton campaign. Where Clinton really lost the nomination this year was in failure to better organize her state caucus efforts. After Clinton came in third place in Iowa, her campaign failed to better organize for the upcoming caucus events and won only the Nevada caucus, losing all the other state caucus events to the Obama campaign. Clinton had no good reason to expect to become the Democratic nominee after losing all but one caucus event. This was nothing short of an electoral disaster for her campaign.

I had also expected Jeff Merkley to slightly upend Steve Novick after his campaign made a good effort in the later weeks before election day to portray himself as a safe and reliable candidate and Novick as a slightly unpredictable loose cannon. Like many early voters who were impressed by Novick's excellent KGW debate performance over the more flat performance of Merkley, I voted for Novick. But then his campaign failed to run as many ads as Merkley, and even Gordon Smith's attack ads may have backfired by singling out only Merkley, making him appear as the likely nominee when he was actually trailing Novick at least earlier in the month. Novick may be brilliant, but his campaign lacked enough leadership that it really threw away the early lead they once enjoyed and only allowed Merkley to sqeeze by. Merkley is a decent enough guy that he has potential to be an effective senator and represent Oregon well. The battle with Gordon Smith will be a difficult battle and too close to call at this time, although you have to assume that Smith may have a slight advantage at this point, although the coattails of a successful Obama run or even failure may spell out the actual senate winner in November.

The race for Attorney General probably turned against candidate Greg Macpherson whose ads were styled after the MAC computer ads, but made his well-qualified former prosecutor opponent, John Kroger, look downright silly. There was likely a backlash by many voters who hated these intellectually insulting attack ads. Macpherson was certainly qualified enough to better represent himself than his ads may have done. By comparison, Kroger appeared to be a more ethical and serious candidate for a serious job such as Attorney General and voters rewarded that with a solid win.

In my own State House District 42, at least three of the four candidates were very well qualified and any of which would have made an excellent member of the legislature. Regan Grey was an aide to Diane Rosenbaum, and had an excellent grasp of the issues and would have worked towards encouraging DMV reform towards encouraging more fuel efficient vehicles. Teddy Keizer ran a clever campaign and was another quality candidate, but the winner, Jules Kopel-Bailey is a brilliant candidate who probably ran the best campaign by far of the three main candidates, personalizing his message to each individual voter and starting very early. He is young enough and smart enough to become a major rising star in Oregon State Democratic Party politics. It's deeeply sad that all three major candidates could not serve because they are each so talented. It was the most difficult choice in years for me as a voter.

The big losers: The Oregon State GOP organization which failed to even field candidates for some statewide offices and getting stuck with damaged candidate Mike Erickson in a race for Congress Republicans might have won with even a half decent candidate. Kevin Mannix also has kept his record of one electoral failure upon another intact, almost making himself into a political joke in the state. At some point you would expect Mannix to realize that it's all over and let others take a run at offices with some chance of actually winning instead.

If there was any surprise to me, it was that Mike Erickson survived enough to limp to a narrow victory over Mannix. As woefully bad as a candidate as Mannix really is, you would think he could at least beat a guy weakened by a terrible abortion scandal in a race smaller than statewide. But Mannix simply proved that he is no longer even a candidate of this standing any longer. This has to be considered the end of the political road for this former liberal George McGovern delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention and state legislator turned archconservative social issues Republican politician. Mannix is now no longer a serious candidate for any public office in Oregon. He's now just another perrenial "Harold Stassen" joke candidate. Stassen ran unsuccessfully for president at least nine times, and Mannix is fast closing in on similiar absurd numbers for his unsuccessful runs for office in Oregon.

There you have it kids, my take on Oregon primary 2008. Let's get a few comments and thoughts here, heh?

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bush-McCain Appeasement Doctrine

George Bush, has apparently decided to self-appoint himself as the official "Campaigner-In-Chief" for a third term of a nearly identical foreign policy as his own in the guise of John McCain. And McCain has so far done very little to disprove that his foreign policy will in any way way offer any real substantial differences from the Bush foreign policy in any constructive way, including a laundry list of serious MidEast failures.

Last week, in some highly inappropriate politically moltivated comments in his address to the Israeli Knesset, Mr. Bush kicked opened the door to some genuine hypocrisy criticism over who really practices "appeasement" in their foreign policy. Historically, many Republican politicians simply love to wrap themselves in the American flag and portray everyone outside of themself as something less of a patriot than themselves. To many Republican politicians, the term "appeasement" conjures up dirty images of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who had hoped to somehow construct a foreign policy of coexistence between a democratic Europe and a fascist Germany. Yet, during the Cold War years, and even now in the post-Cold War modern world with most nations still not democratic in nature, Republican presidential administrations including the Bush White House have simply practiced "appeasement" with undemocratic nations or leaders in some form or other.

If anything, North Korean Communist dictator Kim Jong-Il has simply proven that if you can create a serious enough nuclear weapons scare, than you can extort massive funds and other gifts from the American government. On the same day that Mr. Bush made his politically pointed "appeasement" comments in Israel, his administration was actually giving final agreement to giving the Communist Kim Jong-Il government 500,000 tons of food to distribute just at a time that American citizens are being forced to pay substantially inflated food prices here at home. Unfortunately this 500,000 tons of food was not even directly linked to any real nuclear weapons production halt treaty. In true Neville Chamberlain form, the Bush Administration merely hopes that the massive food gifts will somehow promote a "climate" more conducive to nuclear peace with North Korea. About all that the Bush Administration could really secure with their negotiations with the very hardline North Korea government was some agreement to keep most of the food from ending up in the hands of the North Korean military, the fourth largest army in the world. And while it is certainly known that North Korea has nuclear reactors, it is still a matter of some debate whether they really possess true nuclear weapons technology. One underground test gave seismographic readings to American investigators that strongly suggested that the blast was actually conducted with a large conventional explosives TNT blast, and was not nuclear in nature. If the test was simply a ruse, then the North Koreans have proven that if you can promote enough of a climate of nuclear fear from the Americans, than they will give you massive gifts. North Korea will also receive massive oil shipments from the U.S. as well, just at a time when Americans are paying nearly $4.00 a gallon for gas. If this isn't a foreign policy that's built entirely on "appeasement" with a seemingly potentially dangerous nation, than the term "appeasement" really means nothing.

And it is also the same Bush Administration that also gives massive American financial support to the corrupt Fatah government of the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to promote "peace" with Israel despite the fact that most Palestinian people never really see any of the funds, with massive unchecked corruption within the Fatah government still more common than not. Theft of the funds which often end up in their own pockets or Swiss bank accounts is still common conduct, and was a major issue with their Hamas opposition. Fatah has really reformed very little from the days of corrupt leadership under Yasser Arafat, who left his widow millions upon millions of American dollars that he socked away in Swiss bank accounts almost as fast as Americans could give his government money. Despite years and years of American gifts to the corrupt Fatah government, "peace" with Israel remains as elusive as ever. And if anything, Mr. Bush has made "peace" even farther away from reality by pushing for democratic elections in a MidEast not yet ready for democracy, only allowing Hamas to win partial control of the Palestinian people, leaving Fatah greatly reduced in power. Democratic elections in Iraq and Iran were also disasterous, and in moderate nations such as Egypt or Jordan, would only bring radical governments into power.

Mr. Bush has simply practiced "appeasement" with bad governments in his foreign policy as much as he blames others for it. His calls for democracy in the MidEast have only brought radicals or rotten governments into power. And Mr. Bush's apparent successor, John McCain, has only proven very little willingness to substantially change any portion of this greatly flawed foreign policy which really hasn't worked very well at all so far. Foreign policy is one of the most critical areas for substantial change towards policies that actually work and really cement longterm peace goals with responsible governments.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Abortion Hypocrite?

Wealthy Republican businessman Mike Erickson has had great success as a college football player, holding the record for field goals at 32 for Portland State University, and in business has also proven very successful. But a new bombshell may once again dash Erickson's hopes for winning any elective office. Oregon's tossup 5th Congressional District seat to replace longtime Democratic Congresswoman Darlene Hooley who is retiring is one of the best hopes of the GOP to pickup a seat in Congress this year. Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats in this district. Erickson hoped a massive carpetbombing of the airwaves with paid TV ad after ad to unfairly destroy his Republican opponent, former state legislator, Kevin Mannix, over a number of 83 tax issues he supported while in legislature would be enough to help him capture the nomination over Mannix. Erickson never expected that Mannix to also fight dirty and drop the abortion bomb on him. Mannix has produced a woman who claims that Erickson got her pregnant and gave her money for an abortion and dropped ger off at an abortion clinic and left her there. Not the type of conduct you would normally expect from someone like Erickson who is running on a prolife, profamily campaign platform.

This latest bombshell should be yet another wakeup call to voters in this battleground Congressional district that cabdidate Mike Erickson seems more than willing to tell conservative GOP primary voters absolutely anything to get elected, even if the reality is sometimes far different. Erickson would no doubt be highly likely to vote for many tax issues while in Congress. He is strongly promilitary, and has shown no willingness to want to save $500 billion tax dollars by supporting defunding the Iraq War for example. Erickson is far more likely to support smaller million dollar cuts in human services programs for food stamps like most Republican tax and spenders in Congress do. Yesterday, in West Virginia where Hillary Clinton won the votes among poorer White voters, 1/6 of the residents of this poorer state collect food stamps due to extreme poverty. And Erickson is running on a strong anti-illegal immigrant platform as well, that offends many Hispanics as being highly racially moltivated in nature.

The Erickson abortion bombshell story is yet another example of GOP candidates for office attempting to paint themselves as "profamily" to conservative voters, even if the truth may be far from the reality. During the 2000 election campaign, HUSTLER Magazine publisher Larry Flynt hit candidate George Bush with allegations that he got a 15 year old girl pregnant in 1971 while serving in the National Guard in Texas, and that his father's Congressional office might even have been used to help arrange an abortion which was illegal under Texas law back in 1971, prior to the 1973Roe v. Wade decision. The Bush family may have acted to quiet down any family scandal that might hurt the father's standing among voters in his Texas Congressional district according to the story. Howevever in the case of the Bush abortion story, while the woman denies the story, in the Erickson case, the woman involved now confirms the story to two major Oregon newspapers, THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE and THE OREGONIAN.

If anything, Erickson now finds himself typecast as the latest example of a Larry Craig Republican "family values" morality hypocrisy, where conservative GOP candidates for office and politicians paint themselves as moral pillars of society, but then are brought back down to Earth like a Senator David Vitter)R-LA) when a different reality is found out. Running for office as a "Ronald Reagan" type Republican is certainly far better than having to run as a "Larry Craig" type Republican.

Erickson has spent a great deal of money to paint one image of himself to conservative GOP voters in his district. In his fairytale image of himself to the voters, no one pays taxes, or at least any tax increases, illegal immigrants aren't pouring over the borders, and Erickson isn't driving pregnant girlfriends to abortion clinics. Such are the things of some GOP fairytales.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Constructive View On Russia Required From The Candidates

The remaining presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain will need to offer some sort of constructive foreign policy to deal with the new Russian government of President Dmitry Medvedev at some point. Medvedev has never held elective office before, and is the hand picked political successor to President Putin who will become the nation's Prime Minister. It is unclear how much power Medvedev will really have or whether he is simply a political puppet of Vladimir Putin, but regardless Russia is an energy and military superpower and a rising world economic force due the strong oil based economy and economic recovery under Putin. And while Russia has the most billionaires of any nation in the world, and is involved in heavy investment abroad, including in the U.S., Russia remains a military rival of the U.S. with a more active space program and other technological progress than the U.S.

Medvedev is a young and attractive public relations image for the Russian presidency. He is an avid fan of Western hard rock bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin on one hand, while being a shrewd, but pragmatic tough bureaucrat able to effectively manage complex affairs. An Obama presidency could go a long way towards promotion of world safety by drawing down the new "Cold War" tensions with Russia and the type of dangerous arms that both nations continue to develop to threaten one another with. Russia developed a hypersonic super speed cruise missle under Putin that can evade American antimissile defenses with it's extreme speed. And both countries continue to work on space weapons development while officially maintaining a cooperative joint-nation space program and international space station. Russia is currently able to manage more space launches each year than the American NASA is able to manage. In fact, even the emerging Chinese space program may be able to manage a manned Moon landing before the U.S. can manage a return effort program due to funding limitations. China may even beat the U.S. with a manned landing on Mars as well. The U.S. may still have the strongest and most technological military in a great many areas, however in the critical and highly controversial new area of militarizing space, both Russia and China are making great efforts. Officially the Rusian government denies any space weapons programs, although U.S. experts point to anti-satellite weapons designed to kill military, spy and communications satellites. How far the leading nations of the world such as the United States, Russia and China go into this dangerous new area of space weapons development will be a big challenge for the next president. On one hand, the United States cannot be left vulnerable to a possible new military threat, but on the other hand some drawing down of the new "Cold War" type tensions to reduce the possibility of a future war are absolutely vital.

In a great many areas, both Russia and the United States will continue to remain at some odds with one another. And under Putin, the serious rollback of press freedoms and real democratic reforms will likely remain a serious concern for any new American government. How to constructively challenge this assault on basic freedoms in Russia, while preventing the expansion of the new "Cold War" into space, placement of antimissiles in Europe, bringing former Warsaw Pact states into NATO, frictions over possible Kosovo independence and other issues will all be areas in which a constructive foreign policy with Russia will be required. At some point during the campaign, both candidates Obama and McCain will face questions about where their White House would stand on some of these issues. Whether the "Cold Peace" with Russia thaws somewhat is certainly dependent on some movement back towards civil liberties in Russia as well as reduced military tensions between the two leading world military superpowers as well.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hard Times For American Zombies

Job outsourcing is not only a serious threat to the living American worker, but now has even hit the undead. Recently, more and more American film companies are cutting production costs by going overseas to some former Eastern Bloc Communist states such as Bulgaria and Romania to film their latest zombie epics. In Bulgaria, the average monthly wage is around $300 a month, one of the very lowest of wages earned in Europe. In Romania, it averages around $600-800 a month. The average American yearly wage is around $32,000, but dropping somewhat as higher paid jobs are being outsourced and replaced with more and more lower wage service jobs.

It wasn't that long ago that many American film companies were filming in Canada to cut production costs. During the 1980-1990's there was sometimes as much as a 25% savings due to the exchange rate. But as the American dollar fell in value compared to the Canadian currency, any exchange advantage soon fizzled away. This left American filmmakers seeking new locations to cut production costs. More recently, Bulgaria became the location for a new version of DAY OF THE DEAD, and Romania was used for two RETURN OF THE DEAD sequels, including the more recent RETURN OF THE DEAD: RAVE TO THE GRAVE. The funny thing about former Communist states such as Romania was that there used to be heavy government censorship of the press during the Communist years, where even importing a book as harmless as the Bible would result in imprisonment. Now violence, sex and drug dripping horror flicks like RAVE TO THE GRAVE are freely filmed with absolutely no censorship concerns by the government.

Although Zombie movies have been around since at least the early 1940's in the United States, with the 1940, THE GHOST BREAKERS, 1941's KING OF THE ZOMBIES and the 1943, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, it was the low budget 1968 George Romero classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that really gave this horror fim genre brand new life. Since the 1990's there has been a explosion of new zombie flicks, many produced since the year 2000. Some of the most popular were even comedy zombie flicks such as the British import, SHAUN OF THE DEAD or MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK.

It is indeed a very strange twist of fate that the old time American tradition of zombie horror films is now becoming the latest job outsourcing frictionpoint, where even the "undead" find that their job is no longer safe to lower wage foreign competition. It's almost enough to make the dead want to rise up and scream.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Religious Personality Cult Problem

The Rev. Wright blowup which is beginning to show a heavy impact on late polling numbers for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama is unfortunately yet another sign of the type of extremism that is often passed off as religion in many Pentecostal and independent Baptist churches which often become personality cults organized around one single charismatic founder and leader. Church members who attend these personality cult churches usually are seeking two things; a sense of social identification and a need to seek God or spiritual fulfillment in their lives. Yet members of these churches often tend to overlook some extremist political or social views that the charimatic leader often espouses that substitute for the traditional preaching about religious issues presented in more established churches..

The problem with many Pentecostal or independent Baptist churches compared to the more structured and traditional churches such as the Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants or Jewish synagogues, is that often no real formal religious studies education is required for leaders of many Pentecostal or independent Baptist churches, creating an environment where a charimatic leader establishes a personality cult and dictates the beliefs of the church, which often may involve more politics or a social gospel than any genuine religious message. One good example was Southern tobacco and cotton farm interests who had a financial interest in preserving slavery as a means of cheap labor, and were instrumental in establishing the Southern Baptist faith in the South before the outbreak of the Civil War as a means to justify slavery and act as a counter to the longtime Baptist faiths which had long established historical roots in European history.

And while it is Senator Obama who is currently suffering from a backlash from many voters unhappy about the political extremism espoused by his longtime former pastor, it is usually the Republicans and their ties to the "Religious Right" which have often concerned many voters. For example, John McCain has had a long history of consistent votes against civil rights and hate crimes legislation while as a member of Congress and as a U.S. Senator and this voting pattern seems consistent with some of the radical language and social views espoused in many "Religious Right" churches. McCain has attracted the support of two extremist personality cult religious leaders, Rev. John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and Rod Parsley, an evangelist from Ohio.

Rev. Hagee has a background as a defrocked pastor in the Assemblies Of God faith and was removed from the pulpit by this church and his first marriage disolved as a result of what Hagee described as "immoral" conduct in his personal life. But none of this has prevented Hagee from returning to the pulpit and establishing a new personality cult church in San Antonio, Texas called Cornerstone Church and peppering his fire and brimstone sermons with language calling homosexuals "degenerates" or attacking the long established Roman Catholic faith. According to Hagee's convoluted sense of spiritual reasoning, a long established faith like the Roman Catholics are a false religion, while a new church, set up almost overnight by a defrocked pastor who admittedly engaged in "immoral" personal conduct is somehow a true path to God. Somehow thousands of members of Cornerstone Church have no problem with all of this, and politically right leaning politician John McCain welcomes the support of John Hagee and other "Religious Right" political leaders.

Even in death, followers of personality cults tend to continue to worship and glorify their leaders. Dr. D. James Kennedy, a former dance instructor turned minister in the smaller Presbyterian Church In America faith, which has far fewer members than the larger and better known Presbyterian Church USA organization, still has his family and followers air his far right wing politically leaning sermons each week on religious networks long after his August 2007 death from complications of a heart attack. While more intellectual and more educated compared to many Pentecostal and independent Baptist leaders, Kennedy still espoused some very wacky and extreme views such as setting up quarantine camps for victims of AIDS. Kennedy was also a leader of the radical religious-political movement known as Christian Reconstructionism which has earned him some serious concerns from leaders in the Jewish faith community. Kennedy's views that America is a historically "Christian" nation simply do not match up with the historic fact that Jewish American immigrant Hyam Salomon not only funded George Washington's revolutionary army to establish the United States as a nation free of official English government and state church rule, but Hyam Salomon also may have penned important portions of the U.S. Constitution dealing with freedom of worship as well. The role of American and European Jews in the establishment of the early United States is a historic fact and is a serious rebuff to the historical revisionism of Dr. D. James Kennedy and other Christian Reconstructionists.

There is no doubt a strong primary instinct drive in most humans to belong to something, as well as a spiritual hunger in many persons. However, the personality cult does not always inspire the best of citizenship in many persons and sometimes provokes hateful and extremist social or political views. Mr. Obama has done his best this week to distance himself from some of the extreme opinions of his longtime former pastor, however a serious seed of doubt and distrust has been planted in the minds of many voters. Whether this will ultimately cost Mr. Obama the nomination or simply leaves him as a badly damaged leader for the Democrats to limp into the Novemver election with remains to be seen. As personality cult churches began to flourish during the later 1970's Jimmy Carter years, sometimes as a response to his more socially tolerant sense of faith, they have tended to create some serious social frictions such as antihomosexual "defense of marriage" legislation and other divisive social battles. While church attendance has tended to drop over the last few decades for the general population, the political community represents a far higher level of church attendance than the general poulation as a whole and has also brought many members of personality cult faiths into political office, often driving some politically extreme and divisive social legislation. Mr. Obama's membership in a personality cult faith church is unfortunately not all that uncommon in modern American politics, however it is far common for Republican officeholders to be members in such personality cult churches.

Many Americans expect for their political leaders to be church members. But this also invites many who belong to some sort of personality cult faith to enter public office and sometimes drives politically extreme social legislation. It was only a few months ago that the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney became another debate on religious cults in American politics. Before this election season is over there will no doubt be many more public debates about faith, religion and the role of personality cult religious leaders.