Monday, June 30, 2008

The Illogical Bush-McCain Policy Towards Iran

It's certainly disturbing news that Congress approved a $400 million dollar budget for the U.S. to pay for more covert action within Iran. And it's certainly disturbing news that the absurd shared foreign policy of Bush and McCain is built on conflict rather than diplomacy with Iehran. Just last week, the destruction of the nuclear plant silo by North Korea was ample evidence that diplomacy even with one of the world's worst regimes can yield some real results. Yet the shared Bush-McCain foreign policy towards Tehran continues to support stepped-up covert action against Iran, largely at the hands of extremely unreliable MEK(Mujahedin-e-Khalq) terrorists.

Both Congress and shared foreign policy vision of Bush-McCain somehow continues to hold faith that the extremist Marxist cult of terrorist leader Maryam Rajavi somehow has the power to destabilize the revolutionary Shiite religious government of Iran. However, this is very unlikely for many good reasons. The extremist Marxist cult terrorists associated with Maryam Rajavi were actually part of the revolutionaries who helped to overthrow the government of the Shah of Iran with the Islamic student revolution of 1979 and held Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy for 444 days. It was only over time that these radical Marxists politically broke with the revolutionary religious government of Iran, and began a terrorist campaign to install a revolutionary Marxist government in Iran. Why Congress and the shared Bush-McCain foreign policy supports Marxist terrorists who are hell-bent on establishing a radical Communist government in Iran is a good question. But it simply proves how directionless the shared Bush-McCain foreign policy towards Iran really is.

The fact of the matter is that both the Marxist cult of the MEK as well the Islamic religious government of Iran are probably so far out of step with most persons in Iran, that neither really has all that much deep public support. With the surging oil economy in Iran, a whole new class of wealthy Iranian oil economy billionaires are rising up. In fact a huge new Donald Trump condominium project that is being built in Dubai has already taken most reservations from either Russian or Iranian oil billionaires. This new class of wealthy Iranians are probably one of the strongest and most powerful forces to eventually establish some sort of political opposition party or force to challenge the religious government of Iran with some sort of self-serving capitalist political party similar in nature to the same sort party that represents Putin in Russia and holds a monopoly on power there. Putin's party stays in power because wealthy Russian business interests are behind it. A future Iranian political party built on the same economic power is more than likely at some point. If anything this only marks a return to old oligarchy system under the Shah of Iran, where the powerful hold the ultimate power in Iranian society.

The rise of Iranian oil capitalists are certainly the most powerful force within Iran, and almost certainly where true opposition to the current revolutionary Islamic government in Iran will come from. Iranian business with Iraq for example already tops $2 billion a year, and could climb to $10 billion a year within 10 years. Iran not only exports everything from food all the way to appliances into Iraq, but Iranian oil interests have already begun some work to develop more oil in Iraq from undiscovered oil fields of which Iraq holds up to 228 billion barrels of suspected undiscovered oil, perhaps the most of any nation in the world. Iranian business related visits into Iraq may already top over 100,000 cross border visits per year. Iran is Iraq's most important trade partner, not the U.S.

Instead of the the Bush-McCain foreign policy accepting the reality that the rise of oil capitalists and a powerful merchant class within Iran are beginning to wield some real economic power, the shared Bush-McCain policy towards Iran continues to support small bands of Marxist terrorists who have not proven any real political support among most persons in Iran. Other than providing some claimed "intelligence" information to the U.S. government about the Iranian nuclear program, the MEK terrorists haven't really had any real constructive contributions of any sort. Terrorism like bombings or assassinations of public officials within Iran certainly haven't helped to garner MEK more public support or sympathy within Iran. And no doubt the rising class of Iranian billionaires would crush MEK once they have any real political power to do so as well.

The Barack Obama approach to deal with the current government in Iran with diplomacy is far more realistic. And the American public also needs to understand that with a huge population of younger persons in Iran as well as the rising capitalist class, that there is a real desire for political and social change among many in Iran. Just like China, where capitalism is changing the system slowly but surely there, capitalism is changing Iran as long as the deeply misguided Bush-McCain war-mongering approach to Iran doesn't get in the way of internal change there. The U.S. can't really do anything constructive to change the government of Iran. Change will come from within.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The 2nd Amendment For Better & Worse

Like any orthodox defender of the Bill Of Rights, I have to support the Supreme Court decision from Thursday regarding the Second Amendment, despite the reality that it opens up some safety issues for American society. The D.C. local law banning handguns was an unconstitutional attempt by a local city government to illegally amend the U.S. Constitution and strike down one part of the Bill Of Rights without the benefit of a national constitutional convention or the approval by two thirds of states. The narrow 5 to 4 majority did leave the door open to some sensible regulations preventing criminals or the mentally ill from acquiring guns or perhaps those that would seek to own dangerous military type weapons. The Second Amendment allows for the ownership of guns by law abiding citizens, but probably there is room to ban those in the public who would argue that they should also have the right to own dangerous military weapons of mass death such as machine guns, bombs, hand grenades, flamethrowers or other military weapons, except in nonfunctional form as military history items.

What I'm very concerned about is the Supreme Court decision still hardly represents some new orthodox commitment by the court to fully honor the Bill Of Rights at face value, or to only allow for abridgements of portions of the Bill Of Rights once a constitutional convention or two thirds of states have approved some constitutional amendment. The best example of this is the wide number of unconstitutional local, state and federal laws that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to abridge the First Amendment when it allowed "local communities" to determine what sort of free expression should be tolerated. Certainly not everything said in the name of free speech is either attractive or even desirable, but on the face reading of the Bill Of Rights, government was never intended to act as final editor on what can be said in American society. The founding fathers would have never ever allowed such a slippery and dangerous standard as "local community standards" to abridge free expression. If the founding fathers ever even approved of any limitations on freedom of speech or religion, then it would have been reflected by an established single national standard and not some dangerous patchwork of local communities taking it on themselves to ban any speech that some local prosecutor has his own moral objections to.

Even though I recognize that the Bill Of Rights protects the right of law abiding citizens to own guns, the public still must understand that guns do cause problems in society. My grandmother's own 16 year old brother was killed by his gun when he fell during a hunting accident, and my sister's own husband has lifelong disabilities due to an accidental rifle accident as a child. For his entire life, he faces some physical limitations because of the serious amount of damage a gun can do to a child. And many other families will have suicides or domestic disputes complicated by guns. Guns will be stolen during home burglaries and used in armed robberies or other incidents. Guns are more likely to cause domestic household problems, rather than to prevent rare acts of crime such as home invasion robberies.

American society will certainly suffer more than benefit because of guns, however there is still a constitutional right to own them that I support. But I'm also concerned that some of the biggest supporters of gun rights sometimes have some serious mental health or anger management issues. Most of the men who purchased gun magazines or books in a general title bookstore business I once owned deeply disturbed me because you could tell that they had some real issues. Unfortunately, some very dangerous persons are sometimes attracted to guns. I know of a case where a mentally ill person twice lied on gun applications and acquired guns and opened fire on traffic for no good reason and was found not guilty due to mental defect twice by a jury. How society can address these issues are more complicated. "Gun morality" is a complicated issue for American society to keep the screwballs or children from hurting themselves or others, while allowing the real adults in society the right to own a gun for legal and legitimate reasons.

I'm certainly no big fan of guns, in fact I'm a big critic of guns. However the orthodox intent of the Bill Of Rights never allowed for any local government to enact a blanket ban on guns. The local D.C. law which stood for 32 years and was intended to help put some curbs on local violence was an imperfect attempt at keeping some semblance of order in a city with a very serious crime problem as well as an effort to offer better protection to the legislators and other who manage the federal government in that city.

The job of security for elected government officials in Washington may well become more complicated because of this imperfect, but correct ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. This court new decision hardly makes the job of police agencies to control screwballs or terrorists any easier, but the court made the right call on the unconstitutional D.C. law.

Unfortunately the NRA is planning a number of lawsuits to attempt to remove some of the restrictions on mass killing weapons such as assault weapons in the wake of this new court ruling. However, it would certainly be in the best benefits of society not to increase the number weapons owned by the public, as almost certainly suicides, accidents, domestic problems and crime could certainly increase as a result. There is a need for real personal restraint here and not to worsen society just because the U.S. Supreme Court made a correct decision that one local government went to far in an attempt to assert some sort of public safety.

I'm very happy not to be a gun owner. I only hope those that choose to own a gun have the right mental health and anger management skills and personal responsibility not to injure themselves or others with the freedom they enjoy under the Bill Of Rights that the court affirmed on Thursday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The GOP Politics Of Fear

With John McCain trailing in every recent political poll, sometimes by as many as 12 to 15 points, and McCain gaining little traction on any important issue dealing with the economic mess or other important issues about all the GOP can do is to ramp up an artificial terrorism fear campaign to distract voters from $4 gas or other issues that favor change in Washington. It is only on the issue of national security in which John McCain and the Republican Party seem to hold some sway with voters. It is also very unfortunate that even the FBI, which should be an independent police agency, seems to be sometimes almost loaning some partisan support to this new GOP fear campaign, even if it comes inadvertently.

The FBI has issued a new bulletin to 18,000 law enforcement agencies claiming that Al Qaeda may be planning to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. targets. And for some reason, federal officials leaked information to ABC News ahead of time claiming that Al Qaeda will release a new video on Friday encouraging radical Jihadists to use weapons of mass destruction such as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to attack the West.

All of the absurdity of this should be quite apparent here. Al Qaeda is only a small organization worldwide, and it's main followers such as Osama Bin Laden are in hiding in caves or small villages, most likely in remote mountainous regions of Pakistan. Bin Laden lives under constant threat of death from remote controlled American drone Predator aircraft or other threats of death, and is hardly a free man by any means. At some point, this international criminal will be captured or most likely killed. It's only a matter of time. Other than some small conventional explosives attacks in Iraq with car bombs, etc., Al Qaeda has never proven that it has the technology for a widescale WMD biological, chemical or nuclear attack. Never. It's merely bluster for Al Qaeda to even claim such weapons technology nonsense.

Even states such as North Korea have proven just how difficult it is for an awful country to develop nuclear weapons, and that's even with having a number of active nuclear reactors. In fact, it is highly likely that the single claimed North Korean nuclear underground test was faked by the awful government of dictator Kim Jong Il by using a large conventional explosion of TNT because of very small seismic readings and a lack of nuclear tell-tale signs by western spy satellites. For Al Qaeda with no known nuclear reactors, etc. to even claim to threaten the West with some sort of nuclear menace is just pure and complete nonsense.

Biological weapons also involve a high level of technology, and it is mainly only states such as the U.S. and Russia that have the technology to experiment in such evil devices. The small bands of extremists who support Al Qaeda have never proven any technological means to be able to develop such weapons. Yet federal officials will chime in and seek to heighten American public fears about such a hollow nonsense threat because John McCain is way down in the polls.

And perhaps the most absurd of the three threats is that of chemical weapons. Chemical weapons can actually be no more technologically advanced than simple pesticides. That's right, ant or roach sprays. In fact, many of the WMDs that Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein might have once had were just large 55 gallon metal drums of pesticides. Chemical weapons are so low tech and such a poor weapons that they are usually only fatal to a handful of persons standing within just a few feet of the ground zero where the pesticide is released into the area. That's hardly a fearful weapon. Even the more advanced mustard gas that Saddam had used to kill Kurdish villagers is simply a low budget WWI type weapon that is bulky and very difficult to deliver in lethal doses. It is simply silly to fear that Al Qaeda would be able to launch some sort of a chemical attack in the U.S. because of the size and bulk of such an attack and the fact that it would only kill a handful of persons at it's very worst.

Certainly Al Qaeda has suffered huge losses and setbacks at the hands of American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is probably a sure sign that Al Qaeda has been substantially weakened that they make such nonsensical threats involving weapons technology that they have no means whatsoever to develop or possess. With the American July 4, coming up in a few days, you can almost expect Al Qaeda to spend a $1.59 to buy a VHS videotape to record some silly threats that they have no means whatsoever to carry out to hope to inspire some fear and wreck the picnics and fireworks celebrations of some Americans who actually might believe that Al Qaeda is going to target them eating hot dogs or drinking a beer with their relatives in some backyard fireworks celebration somewhere.

With the McCain campaign headed on near certain trainwreck path to defeat in November, the best hope of some in the GOP is to inspire some absurd Al Qaeda fear campaign, no matter how silly the claims of a WMD threat to Americans actually are. In fact, Al Qaeda never warns before it actually really attacks. It's always been a surprise attack such as 9/11 or in Iraqi towns and villages with a car bomb or suicide bomber. Whenever Al Qaeda makes a threat, then you know it isn't going to happen. It's just nonsense meant to scare a few folks and for Al Qaeda to act like they're still some deadly force to be feared. It's a sure sign of their weakness when they make threats and have no means whatsoever to make good on those threats.

Certainly every American needs to recognize that tighter security measures at airports and other areas is not only good enough to prevent most actions by any possible terrorists, but also most likely by most criminals as well who deal in drugs or illegal firearms, etc. Whatever serves to prevent crimes at airports or other public places is probably good enough to stop most likely terrorists as well. That part of national security is good and rational. But the fear of nonsensical WMD threats is not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Republican Senator Rides Obama's Coattails

Republican Senator Gordon Smith from Oregon is involved in a tough battle for re-election in 2008. And after looking at the big win by Obama in the Oregon primary by nearly 20 points over Hillary Clinton, as well as polls that put Obama well ahead of McCain to carry the state in November, Smith has decided to run TV ads that link him to a bipartisan relationship with Barack Obama on energy policy in an effort to win re-election. Smith must be expecting John McCain to tank in November, especially in blue state Oregon, and is hoping to remain as the only Republican Senator from any West Coast state after the November election.

Smith is an interesting sort of Republican senator. While some organizations rate Smith as a moderate, he is actually a religious conservative who has some compassionate leanings such as opposition to food stamp cuts, some questioning of the Iraq War, and other views more inspired by his sturdy Mormon faith as a church elder, rather than being a true moderate Republican. Yet his votes seem to reflect a voting record that is unlike other more orthodox conservatives because of the faith factor by Senator Smith.

Smith also remains one of the best Senators to take the time to respond to every individual letter with a thoughtful response, even if he disagrees with the position of the writer. Indeed, his seeming moderation as well as his excellent attempts to stay in touch with Oregon voters may just allow Smith to survive the November election with a narrow win over his Democratic opponent Jeff Merkley.

Strange stuff when a GOP senator hopes to ride the coattails of a Democratic candidate for president, but being one of the only GOP candidates to win a statewide election in a blue state like Oregon is a very lonely business.

Senator Lindsey Graham Was Against Oil Drilling Off The Coast Of South Carolina Before He Was In Favor Of It

Now that Senator Lindsey Graham is the national co-chairman for the John McCain presidential organization, he has taken a flip-flop on the issue of oil drilling. Lindsey Graham previously had spoken out against oil drilling off the coast of South Carolina which could result in possible environment damage to some scenic beaches, many owned by hotels or other private interests. But since he joined up with McCain, his positions are falling in line with both McCain and Bush on the oil drilling issue.

On Sunday's MEET THE PRESS program, temporary host, Brian Williams asked Graham about what changed that he now reverses himself and supports oil drilling off the South Carolina coast, and Graham responded, "$4.00 gas". And again today, Graham again voiced more support for oil drilling off the South Carolina coastline on CNN to Wolf Blitzer.

Graham was given just a 17% voting record on issues dealing with support for energy independence by CAF, but now is part of the McCain team pushing for the McCain campaign energy independence proposals that McCain is now promoting as a campaign issue, however it was CNN's Dana Bash that also questioned McCain on some serious incoherence on energy policy. McCain has previously opposed legislation supporting biofuels and solar power, but now talks like some sort of a born again environmentalist because he's running for president.

It might sound real good to many voters to open more oil drilling, since a full 67% of the public support more oil drilling right now in a late Rasmussen poll. However, very few of these persons really realize that it may take up to 10-20 years to actually see any real oil from any of this drilling. In reality, there are few short term fixes to the oil price or supply crisis. And in 10-20 years, it may be possible that enough technology breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel cell or electric vehicles might make a need for expanded oil resources unnecessary. But for the short-term political consumption, it certainly sounds real good to some voters for John McCain and his campaign co-chairman to sound like they're actually talking about some serious proposals.

One of the best hopes for more oil supplies in the short-term is a new oil refinery that is being completed in India. Despite rising demand for oil in India as well as China, India only uses one barrel of oil per person per year, while China uses two barrels per person per year. The American average is the world's highest at 25 barrels a day.

Another huge problem related to the 42% price increase in oil since January is oil speculation. Obama favors a crackdown on some of these abuses of commodity trading that have made gasoline so expensive since just the beginning of the year. So far, McCain hasn't really addressed this important issue that has added so much to the price of oil and hurt the American consumer, and instead offered his own energy independence proposals that seem to often run inconsistently with his previous record in congress or the senate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Internet Freedom Hangs By A Thread

A shocking new poll published by Rasmussen this week finds that a plurality of 49% of respondents favor government regulation of the Internet just like that of radio and TV. If anything does, this must send a cold chill up the spines of any civil libertarians out there. And such shocking poll numbers only serve to justify the self-righteous attempts of the Bush Administration to impose it's own hypocritical and perverted sense of morality on the nation and strike away at as many civil liberties as possible on it's way out of office.

The Bush Administration has done all that it can to prove to the American public that it lied about Iraq in the run-up to the war, as well as allowed the torture and abuse of prisoners not hardly seen since some of the war abuses of WWII by the Nazis or the Japanese. Yet it is confounding that a plurality of Americans would want to hand over important press freedoms to perhaps the most morally challenged presidential administration in some years. By a small number, only men were wary of handing over freedom of the press of the Internet over to the Bush Administration.

There are certainly some areas where the government has a real concern and should step in to protect the public. When the Internet is used to create financial fraud or to harass or threaten persons, then these are all important areas for government to intervene. Regulating sexually oriented unwanted spam Emails is also another area where there is a legitimate role for government to act. But government should have no role in acting as editor or censor and deciding what can be ultimately published on the Internet. This is stepping all over the Bill Of Rights.

No doubt women may be supportive of government regulation of the Internet for several reasons. They may be the mother of small children and want their children to have a safe place where creepy guys will not attempt to contact or harm their children. That's perfectly reasonable. However, there are many important safeguards as well as programs and other safeguards that can achieve this without inviting in the government as final editor for all Internet content. Some women may also be offended by a large amount of sexual content available on the Internet as well. However, only a tiny portion of this content could conceivably be prosecuted under obscenity laws. Most material that only deals in nudity or even sexual intercourse is probably constitutionally protected under the standard of being sexually explicit, but not obscene, under the definitions of previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Only a few websites, mostly those coming out of Europe where there are no obscenity laws in many of these European states, have some of the extreme material that could conceivably be considered as obscene. In the U.S., a website would generally have to feature some bizarre and extreme activity such as severe S&M, rape, fisting, using animals in a sexual manner, urination, defecation or vomiting in some sexually offensive manner to be brought up on possible obscenity charges. Nonsexual violence of all types does not fall into area of government control except for sites that might advocate violence. But such outrageous websites are very rare, so even most sexually oriented websites cannot be shut down because they deal in far less extreme and much more mainstream sexually explicit, but not obscene content. The standard for indecent content is far lower, and can subject TV or radio to millions of dollars in fines simply for mildly offensive language.

Some in the public, as well in Washington were disgusted by the content that could be found on the Internet way back in 1998, and wrote a new law, COPA, the Child Online Protection Act, that would regulation the content of the Internet way down to standard of any content as being viewed as being potentially "harmful to a minor" to allow for fines of $50,000 a day and six months in prison. A website's content, in either language or graphics would not have to even rise to the radio or TV standard of indecent content to fall under possible prosecution under this much lower standard for allowable Internet content. And COPA was also written years before YouTube, chatrooms, or many other newer features of the Internet, making the new law an obsolete way to regulate the content of the growing medium of the Internet.

Recently, the Bush Administration has been attempting to get a U.S. Supreme Court imposed injunction against enforcement of COPA lifted. After a federal judge declared COPA as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this decision, COPA has been in legal limbo, hanging around out there, but not legally enforceable. Earlier this month, the ACLU had to act to defend the existing injunction against COPA from a new effort by the Bush Administration to get the injunction against COPA lifted by a federal court. If the U.S. Supreme Court becomes any more conservative such as the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, then the injunction on COPA could be lifted and enforcement would begin. Overnight this could result in the arrests of thousands of website operators for either language or graphic content that could loosely be considered as potentially being considered as "harmful to a minor" in some way.

A McCain victory in November would likely result in one or more conservative appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as many federal judges, and even the appointments by a Hillary Clinton could have been nearly as bad if she appointed some radical feminists who view web content in some radical terms of a class struggle of men vs. women. the big question will be what sort of federal judges or Supreme Court justices that the constitutional law professor Barack Obama will appoint. His background and respect for the constitution should make his appointments as perhaps the most wise of the three possible presidential hopefuls. At this point, the relative, but not absolute, freedom of speech and content that the Internet now enjoys hangs by a likely 5 to 4 thread by the current U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice John Paul Stevens may consider himself to be a conservative Republican, but he has been very good at supporting honest opinions that have maintained some sense of press freedom and is the only thread preventing a rampant government abuse of press freedoms and loss of civil liberties. When he chooses to retire, the next president must wisely choose his replacement. Internet press freedom is just one of many issues that hangs by this single thread.

Compounding Disaster

It was no doubt both unfortunate and upsetting that both presidential candidates decided to attempt to make the tragic Midwest flooding into some sort of a campaign issue over the weekend. The last thing that anyone wants when their family car is floating away is for some politician to attempt to put a political bumper sticker on the car. When tragedy strikes, the worst thing some politicians can do is to blame one another for opposing this bill or that bill, especially when it was a larger series of bad priorities and policies coming out of Washington at many agency levels that helped to create this major flooding disaster.

This Midwest flooding will have a major impact on food prices as a large share of soybeans, corn and many other crops have been destroyed. Every American will be impacted by this disaster in some way or another. Tens of thousands of persons are now left homeless, and billions in damage have taken place, all because of a failure of state and federal agencies to work effectively together to make strong and safe levees a major government priority.

Washington has most concerned itself with war and other botched priorities during the eight Bush years and largely ignored vital domestic infrastructure needs. Many Midwest levees were only built well enough to withstand a 100 year structural quality test standard in quality or lacked sufficient height if high waters would challenge the levee in strength. By comparison, in the Netherlands many of the levees meet with a 1,250 to 10,000 year construction quality standard. State and federal authorities allowed a patchwork of poorly constructed levees built by towns, agencies or even individual farmers to stand as the only line of defense against flooding destroying much of America's vital food supply. Many of these levees were hardly any better in quality than what would be expected to be found in parts of Africa, India or even remote cities in China. Now a city like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the second largest city in the state has 100 blocks of it's downtown area flooded as well as much of it's important farmlands.

Obama was critical of the opposition of John McCain to the Water Resource Development Act of 2007, and McCain was critical of Obama's vote against a McCain sponsored bill to make some levee construction a bigger government priority. However, both bills only offered a tiny fraction of the type of funding really required to really build decent quality levees beyond the Third World quality standards that many now meet. A whole new mindset from Washington to build world class quality levees has always been lacking. The current levees are poor American workmanship at it's very worst, but just about what you can expect if you don't have any real money to spend on the projects.

Under the misguided conservative ideology of the Bush Administration along with Reagan and Bush 1, a steady dismantling of safety and quality regulations have left the Midwest with a poorly constructed patchwork of mostly poorly constructed levees. Conservatives have helped to turn America into a near Third World nation in which these poorly constructed levees were only bound to fail once challenged by any significant water strength, as the nation shoveled billions and even trillions into military hardware and wars, more concerned about small bands of international terrorists than the far more likely threats from natural disasters.

It is not only with sky high energy prices, rapid food price inflation, a home foreclosure crisis and rising unemployment and other areas that the Bush Administration has helped to make this nation into a near Third World state, but it is also by allowing a poor infrastructure of levees and other critical flood barriers to destroy first New Orleans and now the Midwest. And with a shortage of many food crops that will result from this flooding, the nation will now pay dearly. Even billions of dollars in disaster aid to tens of thousands of flood victims is hardly enough to resolve and repair all the harm of this human tragedy created by a misguided Washington under Bush's leadership hell-bent on deregulation of every vital public safety line of defense in sight.

The Bush Administration came into office with just two main misguided priorities. The first was giving into nearly every demand of the oil industry, and now gas and oil prices have skyrocketed from $28 a barrel when Bush was elected to about $138 a barrel now. Gas has gone from around $1.80 a gallon up to $4.07 a gallon or more now. And war with Iraq was the other main misguided priority, sucking away vital funds from such domestic needs as providing safe levees in the Midwest so that America's food supply would be safe from assaults from natural disasters. Because America has spent so much for bombs and wars for overseas, the nation has become weak and vulnerable at home. Natural disasters will always injure and kill many more Americans than any small bands of international terrorists ever will, and the nation needs to be wise enough to realize that fact. The Bush concept of national security is a simplistic and one dimensional one in which the nation was allowed to become very vulnerable at home to almost any serious weather related challenge to a patchwork of poor construction quality, cheaply built, aging series of weak levees and dams that would be certain to break down at some point. Much human misery is now the price we all pay.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Campaign Public Financing Noncontroversy

The John McCain campaign continues to bemoan the fact that his opponent, Senator Barack Obama has once again stated that he doe not intend to use public financing for his campaign, and instead is relying on the more than 69,056 mostly smaller donors, many of which have donated $100 or less to his campaign so far. It is sort of strange that John McCain's campaign makes such a big issue of this now considering the fact that Obama first made the announcement way back about February 17, that he would not use public financing and instead rely on a more grassroots efforts of mainly smaller contributions and mostly not take big donations from many corporate or other special interests by some rules that the campaign established. This week the Obama campaign only reaffirmed that this policy will continue, yet immediately the McCain political machine went on the attack and accused Obama of breaking his word from some very early statement from Obama that he accept public financing even before the 2008 presidential campaign really even started.

There are many issues here to look at. One being that the McCain campaign has done very poorly in regards to fundraising compared to the Obama campaign, although many of McCain's fundraising events have been closed door events, sometimes with President Bush at his side, where McCain sought minimum donations of $1,000 to $10,000 dollars at a pop, while the Obama campaign has raised a lot more money through mostly smaller donations and a more grassroots largely Internet based effort. Despite tapping into many larger GOP donors, McCain has only raised a total of just $96.6 million dollars so far this election cycle, and after spending $72.6 million on the primaries and general election so far, only has just $23.9 million dollars left with an additional nearly $1 million in unpaid campaign debts. McCain really needs the public financing money because his campaign is doing so poorly in fundraising efforts compared to Obama's far better organized campaign. Obama's campaign has raised about $265.4 million dollars so far this election cycle, and spent $218.8 in his primary season battle with Senator Clinton as well as some early advertising efforts for the general election. The Obama campaign has $46.5 million dollars left and a little over $2 in yet unpaid debts.

The real truth is that John McCain only became a more recent convert to campaign finance reform any time that he ran into political trouble. In the 1980's when McCain ran into political problems as being one of the leading figures in the Keating Five Scandal, McCain underwent the first political makeover and sought to create a new public image for himself as some sort of "reformer", from the previous reputation he sought as being a "Barry Goldwater Conservative". Then in 2000, after losing the GOP nomination for president to George Bush, heavily due to the influence of soft money paid for negative advertising that destroyed McCain's chances in the South Carolina primary, McCain responded with the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill to somewhat limit the influence of soft money. However, there is still little real limitations on the power of the independent 527 organizations who will certainly mount major TV attacks on both Obama and McCain during the 2008 main election event.

The Obama campaign fully understands that it will need a large war chest to counter some outrageous and false independent 527 ads by some shadowy organizations within the next few months. is such a shadowy 527 and is currently raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to air some TV ads meant to set up a false impression in the minds of voters that Obama was somehow once a Muslim as a grade school student while attending elementary school in Indonesia as a child. The fact of the matter was that there wasn't always a Christin or public school available in some parts of Indonesia, so sometimes only Muslim run schools were the only available schools in some areas. Obama's stepfather worked for an oil company and sent the young Obama to both Catholic and public schools when they were available, and young Obama made it known in his book, "DREAMS OF MY FATHER", that his teacher sent home a note that he made faces during the required Koranic studies when he had to attend a Muslim run school for two years, because he found the religious teachings contrary to his own Christian beliefs. Yet will spend a great deal of money along with other outrageous 527 groups to try to SWIFTBOAT Obama much like they did to John Kerry in 2004, where sailors who never even served with John Kerry made some outrageous statements and others contradicted themselves from previous public statements about the heroism of Kerry during the rescue of some soldiers under gunfire during the Vietnam War. Even John McCain will be victimized by some outrageous independent 527 ads. One currently airing shows a mother and her baby, and stretches McCain's statement about "one hundred years in Iraq" to absurd levels. First, McCain never meant that the U.S. would be at war in Iraq for 100 years, but that he could imagine peacekeeping efforts similar to that of American soldiers in Germany or South Korea lasting in Iraq for that amount of time. Secondly, there is an all-volunteer army at this point, so no child would be forced into military service unless congress should approve a draft.

The fact of the matter is the political system is still broken when shadowy 527 organizations often with only a handful of large donors can perform outrageous hit and run attacks on the reputations of the men running for president. During 2004, one 527 that attacked John Kerry was almost fully funded by just the WalMart heir, Alice Walton, and just two other large donors. The 527s can spend unlimited amounts of money running outrageous ads to smear and destroy the candidates, and Obama knows that he will need to spend millions of dollars to fight off these sort of attacks. It is only pragmatic to have the funds available to combat these 527s.

Despite the fact that so far John McCain has been unable to manage a campaign anywhere near the level of the Obama organization in either ability or management skills, McCain continues to make the case that he should somehow be the manager of the entire country as president. That's a big pill to swallow from someone who never even managed a business or anything any larger than just some political office in Washington. Obama is facing political reality that the current system of financing a run for public office is broken, while McCain is not. The public financing of campaigns is a broken system where the independent 527s still rule the airwaves. Obama has little choice but to oppose public financing and run his campaign under his own set of reforms until congress seriously repairs the political system.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Worst James Bond Movies Ever Made

There has always been a little grey area and a little difficulty under copyright laws and previous court decisions to fully protect all fictional characters as a work of the original owner since the fictional characters become a part of the culture and the fictional characters often take on a "life of their own" in the minds of the public and in some courts. For example, the detective character Sam Spade from THE MALTESE FALCON was not allowed copyright protection in a classic court decision, only opening the doors a little to allowing some use by others of this fictional character. All of this strange grey area and court decision quirks in copyright laws has allowed a few smaller filmmakers to develop some very bizarre James Bond character movie ripoffs in foreign lands where additional local laws on copyrights for fictional characters have produced some often laughable and sometimes amazing in outrageous concept films. It is simply amazing that these films were ever allowed to even see the light of day.

Of course the better known, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN from 1983 was the finest nonEON Productions version of any James Bond movie ever made based on the Ian Fleming character, and the 1967 satire comedy version of CASINO ROYALE starring David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen had a few good moments as well as well a great soundtrack by Herb Alpert as another nonEON Productions film using the Ian Fleming James Bond character, but few know of some far less noble efforts using the famous fictional spy from the classic Ian Fleming novels that sometimes tested the ability of the courts to protect the James Bond character from infringement or damage to the reputation of the official enterprise.

1966 brought on the weird and strange, JAMES BATMAN, from the Philippines in which a thinly disguised James Bondtype character with a slightly changed name teams up with Batman of all people. Amazingly, this mess of a film gets a 5.4 out of 10 rating on one movie review website. 1967 also spurred OPERATION KID BROTHER in which Neil Connery played spy when his older brother, James, just wasn't available for duty at the time for some odd reason.

By 1971, an ultracheap low budget Indian film company produced what had to the Citizen Kane of bad James Bond movies. JAMES BOND 777, featured an Indian actor in a pompadour with a mustache. The film mixed in some of the worst poor quality B&W footage ever filmed passed off as James Bondtype action scenes and even included an Indian song and dance number. Compared to even the very weakest film in the official James Bond franchise series, this is a sheer laughfest and amateur filmmaking at it's very worst. There is even an interesting JAMES BOND 777 theme song included in the movie making for even more curiosity about this strange James Bond character ripoff. Even Ed Wood himself couldn't have done the James Bond character any worst than this simply awful film.

1975 brought on yet another James Bond ripoff, this time called BON BAISERS DE HONG KONG, but also named FROM HONG KONG WITH LOVE. This French film starred among others, Mickey Rooney. M and Moneypenny need to recruit a new spy to replace James Bond after he's killed by gunfire. Yet, it's just hard to imagine Mickey Rooney in a James Bondtype film of any type. This just isn't a real great film effort here.

In 1977, the Indian filmmakers were back at it again with another James Bond ripoff with AGENT VONOD, however this film was far better quality than the nonBollywood JAMES BOND 777 film from 1971. This film involved the kidnapping of a scientist and James Bond, again played by some Indian actor, is involved in the rescue. This film is almost watchable.

In 1978, there was a Bruce Lee inspired martial arts fantasy film named, THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN, in which Bruce Lee(played by a Hong Kong actor since Bruce Lee was dead by this time) wakes up in the underworld and meets up with James Bond among others. Truly real strange stuff here.

The Italians decided to get into the act and produce a James Bond ripoff in 1981 in TAIS TOI QUAND TU PARLES in which an Italian man, Giacomo(James)imagines that he is James Bond and lives out the action and romances of this spy in his mental fantasies.

Very strangely, 1984's MAD MISSION 3: Our MAN FROM BOND STREET included many realistic James Bond series elements including Richard Kiel who played Jaws in the actual EON Production series as well as a character much like Oddjob. Even the actor who played James Bond in the movie looked quite similiar to Sean Connery in many ways. And even more strangely, one scene was so similiar to a scene from the official EON Productions A VIEW TO A KILL that you cannot help but be convinced that this strange movie helped to inspire some parts of an official James Bond film.

In 1986, Indian filmmakers brought the world yet another terrible James Bond ripoff film, BOND 303, in which a much less than good looking James Bond doesn't give audiences any "license to thrill" at all. This Indian James Bond certainly doesn't meet up with your expectations of the handsome leading man of action and romance on any level.

In 1992, yet another Indian James Bond ripoff reared it's ugly head as MR. BOND, in which India's greatest detective combats the evil villain, Dragon, who is out kidnapping children. One reviewer claims that this film involves more musical song and dance numbers, and judging from many Indian films, that sounds like it may real be reasonable to assume.

In 1994, the last well known James Bond ripoff film was produced in Hong Kong named FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE, which involved some aspects of comedy and satire along with a keen sense of martial arts cinema. A retired James Bond comes out of retirement and battles a villain, Golden Gun, while another character very similiar to Jaws also stars in this strange premised bit of Hong Kong shlock cinema. This film actually grossed a huge $37 million dollars in Hong Kong box office receipts, and would have probably made a lot more money if it had not been banned in mainland China because it featured a plotline involving corruption of some police officials.

It is a strange quirk of copyright laws involving characters that so many ripoffs of the highly successful James Bond franchise have been produced so far. News of this sort probably keeps lawyers employed by the official HARRY POTTER enterprise and other large fictional character franchises awake at night concerned about protection of their characters from possible infringement. In fact, a legal effort to quash an independently produced HARRY POTTER reference book was recently challenged in court by the official HARRY POTTER Enterprise. Yet all of this brings up the question of how much are fictional characters part of the public culture and how much are they property of the creator. Fictional character copyright law is indeed far more complicated than meets the eye and less clearly drawn than other copyright law. It is not completely out of the question that some simply awful book or movie sequels without the quality of the original works may actually be legal in a few cases. But the question for the consuming public is whether this ruins the reputation of the original works of the original producers or whether these must be laughably viewed as paying some great respect to the original works. Strange stuff this legal world.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Motor Scooter Sales Surge By 24% Due To Fuel Price Crisis

Sales of high mileage motor scooters have been surging by at least 24% nationally over last year, with some dealers reporting 60% or more sales increases over last year. And even the number of drivers over 50 who are turning to scooters has surged as well. Traditionally, many who rode mopeds and motor scooters have been younger counter culture members in their 20's or early 30's. Now many older drivers seek out the high mileage two-wheelers which can usually range from 70miles per gallon on the lower side up to 141mpg in some extreme high mileage mopeds.

And the cost of scooters varies greatly. There are a number of low cost Chinese imports of varying quality available in the $800 price range online all the way up to awesome models like the nearly $9000 three wheeled Piaggo MP3 at quality dealerships which has a huge 500cc engine and looks much like the sort of bike that Batman would be driving. In between the ultra cheap and very expensive scooters are some very good quality models like the CPI Oliver Sport series at $1799 or the Euro designed Benelli scooters at about $2500 on up. Sym has gained a solid reputation for quality as well, challenging longtime durable favorites such as Vespa in terms of both more modern design as well as quality worksmanship.

There are many scooter manufacturers from both Taiwan and mainland China that have had many years experience building some very good quality scooters. Surprisingly enough, even some lower priced Chinese scooter actually use the Honda styled very dependable GY6 engine, which is a high mileage four stroke design that burns very clean and runs very quiet. However some brands like CPI use the two stroke design in their 50cc models because it puts out very good power, and there are automatic oil feeding systems in them that avoids the user having to mix gas and oil on their own. The biggest drawback to two stroke engines is that they nearly always put out more noise and pollution than the four stroke designs do, and the two stroke engines may require more repairs in the long run than some four stroke engine designs. However, under modification, some like the 50cc two stroke CPI GTR, which looks far more like a sport motorcycle than any scooter have been able to boost the top speed to as high as 70mph from the more usual 29-45mph range of many 50cc machines. The larger engined 150cc model scooters can often top out at around 65mph, but require the added expense and hassle of a gaining a motorcycle endorsement. And the bigger 250cc units can sometimes go as fast as 85-95mph, and still offer gas mileage in the 50-60mpg range in many cases.

While motor scooters seem like real gas savers as well as being fun transportation, there are still some serious safety concerns for riders to think about. No two-wheeler is as safe or as stable as an automobile. Full face helmets as well as body armor are extremely wise if you intend to drive in heavy 30mph city traffic. And the smaller 10-13inch tires on many scooters are far more prone to potholes on city streets that could throw a rider off. Any bike takes a longer distance to brake than cars as a whole, so the rider needs to pay real attention to conditions ahead of them and absolutely avoid panic braking as much as possible. And wet or poor weather presents some real traction dangers. I'm personally still recovering from some injuries sustained when I got caught in a sudden hailstorm in late April far from my home and skidded when I attempted to brake for a yellow light at a busy intersection when the street suddenly became like a sheet of glass. You want to wear good safety equipment always on a scooter because they can almost be more prone to accidents than the heavier and bigger motorcycles which have safer and more superior tires and tread designs, brakes and frames. Some cheaper scooters are offering controversial cheap "ABS braking systems", which are nothing like the expensive ABS systems found to top quality motorcycles or on automobiles. Often the cheap version of "ABS" is little more than some sort of brake fuild pressure diverter valve that at least one Vespa dealer website claims can be extremely dangerous and actually result in wheel lockup in a hard emergency braking circumstance. So you might want to be careful about this and use wise braking skills if you own such a scooter. Due to their lighter weight, many scooters are much more of dry road vehicle and less safe during any type of rainfall than a more stable form of transportation like a car or truck. But with some real care, as well as a responsible driver, most scooters can be a fun sort of economical transportation and reasonably safe.

Most scooters under 50cc can be registered as a moped in many states, and driven only with just a driver's license. However, the larger and faster machines generally require the more expensive and time consuming route for a rider to get a motorcyle endorsement. Generally most 50cc units are great for little neighborhood commutes, but the larger 150cc on up units are great for cross town commutes to school or work or shopping. The 250cc units are fine for extended freeway commutes. Compared to the cost of a new car, motor scooters are a real bargain. But they have more limited use in less than perfect weather since there is no heater for Winter driving, or rain protection. Whether a motor scooter is right for you depends on many questions that you need to ask yourself.

High Gas Prices Fuel New Crimes

As many Americans try to cope with the reality of gasoline remaining at over $4 a gallon, more and more persons opt for public transportation. At the same time, crime at or near public transportation sites is on the increase as criminals seek out new victims. Assaults, shootings, fights, stabbings, robbery and other violence is now becoming more common both at bus stops and even on public transportation itself.

Robberies of gas staions are becoming more common, as are new forms of gasoline theft. In a small Oregon town, there was even a recent case of a home invasion robbery where an elderly man was forced at gunpoint to give some gas in a cans in his garage to his attackers. Gasoline was the item that was stolen by the thieves. No money or other valuables were targeted. 300 gallons of gas owned by the City Of Portland at a golf course were stolen this week in a daring burglary by thieves.

The MAD MAX science fiction movie series dealt with a futuristic society in which gasoline was such a valuable commodity that it helped to spur violent gangs and other violence. While American society hasn't slipped anywhere this far into violence and mayhem so far, the fact of the matter is that the high gasoline prices are starting to spur some serious crimes and violence that is only expected to worsen as prices rise.

A paraphrase of a famous quote by a criminal of why he robbed banks was because, "That's where the money is". Now, today it might be said that crime is following the fuel price crisis because of the high prices that have made it a valuable commodity, which is something that would have been unthinkable back in the 1960's and early 70's with cheap 33cents a gallon gas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why Obama Will Likely Win In 2008

Right after wrapping up the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama started running with both feet on the ground his November effort with hardly a moment's rest. So far all signs are that Obama will manage a campaign far superior to that of John McCain, that should prove successful and win the presidency in 2008.

Obama certainly had to prove to be one of the greatest surprises of this year as this young senator was able to manage such a smoothly and effectively run campaign that he was able to topple the odds on favorite to capture the nomination, Senator Clinton. Despite only a short political career, Obama has well proven himself to be a very formidable political force, one part a young fast rising star political phenomenon, and another part, an effective manager who delegates responsibility to the right experts to achieve results. This ability to well manage and effectively delegate responsibility speaks very well for Obama to run an effective White House able to achieve real results as well.

Yesterday, even right wing writer, Ann Coulter, lamented how the Obama campaign is now collecting massive political donations from figures familiar to Wall Street compared to the cash strapped McCain effort. Despite a long history in congress, McCain is simply viewed as too eratic by some corporate leaders, with too few answers or little knowledge of economics by others, unable to offer sound enough solutions to inspire many on Wall Street to want to throw good money after bad and waste donations on what is likely to be a losing effort by McCain. Holding some clout with Obama, or banking on him to both win the election, as well as to improve the economy, seems like a more pragmatic move. Most on Wall Street got where they are by good instincts, and the instinct to bank on a winner like Obama certainly seems like a far better bet at this point.

McCain's campaign has far less cash to spend, and the Obama campaign is taking full advantage of this challenging McCain in vulnerable "red states" such as Colorado, where McCain may not even be able to hold onto the base of "red states" that elected George Bush twice. If Obama holds onto all the states that both Gore and Kerry won, besides winning in some vulnerable "red states", the McCain campaign will face an impossible task to win enough electoral votes in November.

Right after capturing the majority of Democratic delegates, Obama began a two-week campaign to address economic issues and to shore up support with voters by offering some real constructive solutions to some of current problems facing millions of Americans as energy prices undergo hyberinflation, food prices go up, homes are foreclosed and jobs are outsourced to labor cheap nations. Labor unions are quickly moving to educate their members that Obama is far and away the very best bet for working people to better themselves and hold onto their jobs and middle class lifestyle and not watch the American dream slip through their fingers.

John McCain has a deep well of public respect due to his story of heroism during the Vietnam War. However, with the American public hurting so badly with worsening energy prices, a sluggish economy, home foreclosures and other problems, voters are far more likely to elect a president concerned with solutions to the here and now problems, and not treat the presidency as some sort of lifetime achievement prize. John McCain has had an amazing history, but it is the future of the voters that really matters most. This election isn't all about John McCain's history. It's all about the voters. And so far the Barack Obama campaign is doing everything right to convince the voters that he is the better of the two candodates. That should be more than enough to elect him in November.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Dangerous Bush-McCain October Surprise

Republican strategists are certainly expecting a very tough political environment to retain the White House in 2008, and the Bush Administration is gearing up for a huge new military effort staged from Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin Laden and announce his capture right before the election in an effort to boost John McCain. The hope is create a public euphoria in which many voters will ignore the meterioric rise in gas and oil prices, the bad economy, home foreclosures, joblessness, poor consumer protection leading to an unending series of contaminated food scares, defective imports, and many other problems. It is almost as if the Bush White House has been asleep at the switch for the last 8 years, and now plans to use the U.S. military in a blatantly political way to stage some grand last ditch event to ecilpse all the bad memory of everything else that has gone wrong since Bush accidently became President due to the electoral college glitch of 2000.

Bush is pulling out all the stops for his final grand effort to capture Osama bin Laden before he leaves office. Both his legacy as well as party position for the elections are at stake. Bush would desperately love to capture Bin Laden before he leaves office.

Today, public television aired a press statement from both Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has promised more British troops for Afghanistan. And the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, laid out new grounds for justification of military missions into neighboring Pakistan, by declaring that Afghanistan is being attacked by Taliban and Al Qaeda radicals operating in cross border missions. Karzai's statement sets up an important standard that allows American forces to operate in military missions in Pakistan, and puts the government of Pakistan in a very difficult position. On one hand, the government of Pakistan has done a very poor job controlling extremists operating in the mountainous areas and villages near the border of Afghanistan. On the other hand, the government in Pakistan operates with little real public support, and has even made a truce with some radicals that they could not control. But allowing cross border missions by American military forces into Pakistan could also create public anger in Pakistan and destablize and collapse that government. There is some real risk in all of this, and the Bush Administration's instincts about Iraq, the MidEast, and other regional issues has certainly not been very good so far.

There is certainly great potential danger that the government of Pakistan could possiby become very unstable with too much American military involvement there, creating angry mob protests and other dangers. During the Vietnam War, American efforts to attack Communist bases in Laos and Cambodia only served to destabilize and collapse both governments. This last big push for some pre-election political theatre by the Bush Administration could be setting up a major crisis for the next president of the U.S. who could be facing a nuclear weapons armed Pakistan controlled by radicals friendly to Al Qaeda. This would certainly be a real crisis for the U.S.

Capturing Osama Bin Laden right after the 9/11 attacks would have been the very best thing. However, any current new drive to capture Osama Bin Laden, must involve the full cooperation of the government of Pakistan, and that government also needs to be able to stay in full control of the country as well. For the most part, Bin Laden is largely an irrelevant figure within Al Qaeda right now, and his capture would only be largely symbolic for American domestic political consumption. Other less known Al Qaeda leadership is more likely far more dangerous as they are the ones actually responsible for violence in Iraq and elsewhere. This new 11th hour drive to capture Bin Laden years after 9/11 is hardly much more than political theatre for the most part, however virtually every American would certainly be more than happy to see him brought to justice and captured. But it certainly will cast a huge new shadow over the election if it becomes a late October surprise. Even in the worst of times, the White House still holds certain advantages to manipulate events to boost their party right before the election. Such is the nature of October surprises.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sock Obama Doll Short Lived

A small Utah based toy company today quickly pulled the controversial Sock Obama doll from production after a tidal wave of public anger that the doll was racist in nature and a terrible blow-back to the old days of "Jim Crow" racism. There was however absolutely nothing posted on the company's website that indicated that the Sock Obama doll was intended to be racist or even antiObama in nature. In fact, if anything, the site seemed to view their toy as merely an affectionate and new variation on the classic sock monkey toys. It was merely bad judgement on the part of the company that created the entire controversy it seems.

Bad taste aside, I'm a avid toy collector, and this terrible idea for a political novelty toy will no doubt make it a highly sought out collectible for whatever few actually exist before the product was pulled from production, and any existing models will certainly be highly sought after by toy collectors. Most other political toys are far less controversial. A GI JOE type action figure of John McCain has been on the market for a while, and some new bobble head and soft knit McCain figures also exist. On the Web, a far more respectful Barack Obama 6inch tall PVC action figure doll is taking orders at for Mid-July shipment.

Not all political toys are entirely affectionate. A talking figure of a pandering bear in a suit with a Bill Clinton-style Southern voice was once marketed for a short while during the Clinton years. The item was certainly antiClinton in nature, yet sort of funny and lovable in other ways, and not really intended for children, but more as a adult collectable.

2008 will certainly see far more political toys and collectibles to marketed before the year is out. Not all of them will be a good idea either. But to political junkies, some of these items will become highly sought out collectibles that will almost certainly pick up value over the years, especially toys or collectibles of the winning 2008 presidential candidate.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tomato Safety Only The Latest Product Safety Crisis For The Bush Administration

The potentionally fatal salmonella outbreak among some types of tomatoes that has sickened hundreds and left some hospitalized across the U.S. is only the latest consumer product safety crisis to hit the nation since the Bush Administration has sought to weaken consumer product safety and protections. The Bush Administration has most often appointed former lobbyists or executives of various industry groups to head consumer safety positions and posts, or sought to weaken product safety or consumer protection in many areas to cut regulation costs for some business groups, espicially those with strong lobby efforts or that were large political donation contributors.

The latest public health crisis with tomatoes has been complicated by agriculture industry lobbyists who opposed mandatory point of origin food labels on products like tomatoes, instead relying on a sometimes voluntary sticker labeling of some tomatoes. All of this has greatly complicated the Bush Administration's proindustry and consumer safety weakend FDA to find the specific farm, brand or nation from which the salmonella contaminated tomatoes originated. In fact, the FDA now claims that it may never know the source of the contaminated tomatoes, because the important consumer safety agency has become so weakened during the Bush years. Many important consumer safety agencies can now be better characterized as advocates for industry than for the safety of the consumer during the Bush Administration years.

And unfortunately this is not the first time that American consumers have been injured or killed during the Bush Administration agenda of weakening product inspections, safety or consumer protections. The federal CPSC has but one toy safety inspector for the entire nation, which has contributed to lead contaminated paint problems with some imported toys. Thousands of consumers have sent reports to the CPSC that they were either injured or sometimes killed by some unsafe products, however the Bush Administration appointed, Nancy Nord, a former executive of the Eastman Kodak Company, one of the nation's very worst corporate polluters, to head the CPSC, and under Nord's leadership, few consumer complaint's of product injuries are investigated or followed up. Nord has had a long record of undermining consumer safety regulations both as a corporate attorney and as a lobbyist or spokesperson for some of the nation's worst corporate polluter industry groups and as the Director For Consumer Affairs for the antiregulation U.S. Chamber Of Commerce.

Last year, there were many deaths of pets due to contaminated pet food that contained a plastic-type additive that originated from some Chinese producers. And there were other serious health problems when E coli contaminated lettuce and spinach sickened many Americans across the nation. In fact, during the Bush Administration years, far more Americans have been sickened, injured or killed by unsafe products and bacteria contaminated food than during the administration of any president in recent history since consumer safety and product protections became an important government priority.

The Bush Administration has concerned itself with cutting government regulations and the thin line of safety that keeps the American food supply safe. The result has been a harvest of consumer injuries and deaths.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jurors In Florida Sell Their Votes For A Book Deal

TAMPA TRIBUNE writer Daniel Ruth noted one of the most corrupt jury trial cases ever held in Florida last week on his newspaper's blog when juror's returned all guilty verdicts and badgered other jurors who supported acquital into supporting all guilty verdicts so that they could profit from a business arrangement to write a book about the trial. By returning all guilty verdicts, the book deal would have more value. If there was an acquital, then the book deal would be nearly worthless, hurting the business arrangement prospects by the enterprising jurors who sought to turn their jury experience into a lucrative business venture.

All of this has happened with the backdrop of the Bush Administration's very own Justice Department preparing a number of election year politically moltivated court cases dealing with hot button issues close to the heart of Christian right voters, including followers of Rev. John Hagee and other John McCain supporters that include issues dealing with obscenity, abortion and Gay rights. In the Tampa, Florida case, an California adult filmmaker, Paul Little, was put on trial for supposedly sending five allegedly obscene DVDs into the conservative Florida community and violating their local community standards. Apparently jurors in Tampa object to dirty movies, but have no ethical problems with selling their vote on a jury for the sake of a book deal.

Paul Little's films are mostly real low budget films, many shot at his own home with Little playing a middle aged man wearing a cowboy hat who plays a character, Max Hardcore, who has brutish wild sex with hardened female porn actresses. But with a huge number of adult websites on the Internet, the federal obscenity trial of this single trashy filmmaker at random appears to be an attempt by the Bush Administration to hang some head on a wall as a trophy to brag about to social conservative voters.

Little was simply selectively prosecuted at random. And further, the misconduct of the jurors have made this trial a complete mockery of justice. However, the judge in the case, another Bush Administration appointee, allowed Little to be charged for mailing obscenity into Florida, even though Little only produced the films, although it was actually a third party distributor who was granted immunity from prosecution to testify that actually shipped the five DVD films to Tampa. Further, a major important standard of the established Supreme Court "Miller Test" that something can only be found obscene when "taken as a whole" was not followed, and the Bush Administration's own handpicked federal prosecutors were allowed by the presiding judge to only play a few select portions of Little's films in court, not allowing the defense team to prove that as a whole the films do not meet obscenity standards by playing each film in question in it's entirety to the jury.

After the trial, a crying woman juror, asked to hug Little, and stated that she supported acquital on all charges as did the Jury foreman and some other jury members, but that they were pressured by the other jury members who supported the guilty verdicts so that they could profit from their book deal business arrangement. As one small concession, the jury did not allow the government to seize Little's home, which is the only property he is likely to have left after the government takes everything he owns under federal forfeiture laws. The jurors who supported acquital all stated that they didn't much care for Little's films, but he has the right to produce poor quality movies with offensive content in a supposedly free country with a Bill Of Rights.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is back hard at work, daily working to undermine the nation's Constitution and the Bill Of Rights before the upcoming election, working to fire up right wing Christian conservative voters by using the nation's courts for kangarooo court show trials on hot button religious right issues to fire up their voter base to maximize November election turnout. In a normal year, a controversial trashy filmmaker like Paul Little would probably simply be ignored. In an election year, the poor fellow faces 50 years in prison, $5 million in fines, and forfeiture of any business property to the government. Such is the state of justice in America with Bush at the helm. And corrupt juries seek to make money by making business arangements to write books about trials that they are supposed to independently judge and use pressure against ethical jurors concerned with preservation of the Bill Of Rights and concern for not sending an innocent man to prison.

Paul Little is certainly no Mother Teresa. He is an opportunist with perhaps very little personal dignity or ethics on how to make a buck. But then again, his jurors were little more than ruthless opportunists as well, making business plans to profit from their jury trial experience. You might even be inclined to say that Little was judged by a true "jury of his own peers", in the words of TAMPA TRIBUNE writer, Daniel Ruth.

Little certainly has some good grounds to appeal his convictions, but with many courts presided over by more Bush appointed judges, Little's prospects to overturn his guilty verdicts are virtually impossible unless the jury corruption and other issues meet with the ears of a sympathetic judge who actually independently judges a case and is not just some religious right sock puppet of George Bush.

If you have no values whatsoever, and are only looking to earn a little extra summer income, then you just might consider becoming a juror, and then profiting from writing a book about the trial like the corrupt jurors in Tampa. But ethical citizens should be rightly disgusted at this justice for sale and a blow to freedom of expression and the Bill Of Rights.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rasmussen Notes Increase In Number Of Liberal Voters

One big political shift among voters this year is a new trend noted by Rasmussen that finds the percentage of liberals has increased from 17% up to 25% this year, while the percentage of conservative voters has roughly remained constant at 36%, with another 37% who view themselves as political moderates. All of this leaves the moderate voters as the voters who will decide the 2008 election, and will certainly shape up as areas where both Barack Obama and John McCain will attempt to frame issues to appeal to this voter block as well as to frame issues to hold their own philosophical allies.

John McCain can be expected to highlight his antiabortion views when it benefits him among conservative audiences, while Barack Obama will find issues to solifify his liberal support such as opposition to the Iraq War Both candidates will almost certainly seek to find economic issues that transcend political philosophy to lure in voters such as moderates as well.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Some Conservatives Blaming Minimum Wage Earners For Biggest Unemployment Increase In 22 Years

Some conservatives are now advancing what has to be the most absurd and worst possible explanation of the root causes for the huge unemployment uptick that was the worst in 22 years. They are unbelievably actually blaming minimum wage earners of all people, and totally ignoring the huge hyperinflation in fuel prices that has completely destabilized the econmy, creating unemployment as sales drop in retailers as a response to a huge shift in the economy towards buying power directed at affording gas and heating oil.

This is absolutely the very worst explanation I've ever heard for the sudden increase in unemployment related to the economic slowdown hitting the United States which is entirely related to the 40% price increase in oil since just Jan 1, 2008. First of all, even the economic stimulus tax rebate checks program is based on the idea that if the consumer public has more money to spend, then it will filter all through the economy and eventually filter back to Washington. Even Senator Obama is proposing a $1,000 middle class tax cut to boost the economy back towards recovery. And increases in the minimum wage also helps to increase consumer buying power, however the rapid hyperinflation in oil prices has taken many lower wage income earners out of the market economy who are now spending far less at neighborhood businesses and instead using the money to purchase gas or heating oil.

Too much of the economy is becoming centralized in the energy segment, which has rapidly taken capital for all other segments of the economy resulting in slower sales and hence job layoffs. I've owned enough businesses in my lifetime to have seen this cycle played out several times with recessions, however this oil based recession is an entirely a new variation on recessions. This recession is characterized by hyperinflation in energy prices, a ripple effect of inflation in food and all other products that require truck transport. A gallon of diesel fuel is now at the $5 level in the United States, compared to Mexico where the government subsidizes the diesel to a $2 a gallon price. In fact, many world economies subsidize oil prices to create economic stability and growth, unlike the U.S.

China for example is experiencing some of the world's fastest economic growth while the American economy is rolling backwards. The government keeps price controls on oil, and instead offers a subsidy to the oil producers to help them cope with raw oil commodity price increases. In April, for example, CHINA PETROLEUM AND CHEMICAL CORPORATION received a $1 billion dollar($7.1 billion yuan) government subsidy.

Better wages in the U.S. have nothing to do with big uptick in unemployment. The huge inflation in oil prices in the United States diverting billions and billions of dollars from all other segments of the ecomony in lost consumer spending has everything to do with big jump in unemployment as slower sales in many businesses result in job layoffs creating a cycle of recession that only feeds on itself.

Conservatives like to oppose things like decent wages or government price controls. Fair enough. But the U.S. is now suffering a great economic slowdown due to this directionless political philosophy that ignores the necessary reality of at least some government planning and direction of the economy in order to promote stability. Like an ostrich with it's head stuck in the sand, some just can't seem to comprehend that part of the role of government is to help offer at least some management to the economy and prevent crisis situations. Even the average housewife manages her family budget or economy, unlike the government. And further, pathetic conservative explanations blaming small minimum wage increases for increased unemployment will certainly play very poorly with most November voters, only driving millions towards voting for change of the White House and some in Congress. John McCain certainly won't win election if he advances such outrageous explanations. Lower wage earners are a victim of the huge hyperinflation in oil prices, not a cause of any unemployment uptick.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

There's No Ford In The Future For American Labor

At one time the United States had a great many automobile makes including Essex, Packard, Desoto, Franklin, Durant, DuPont and hundreds more brands. But even steel industry tycoon Henry J Kaiser proved with the failure of his Kaiser brand of automobiles that only lasted from 1947-1955, even a great deal of money was no guarantee success in the automobile business. By the mid-1960's, only General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors, Checker and Studebaker survived. After 1988, only General Motors, Ford and Chrysler survived, and Chrysler soon became a German owned firm for a number of years, leaving only two surviving American firms, GM and Ford. More and more the surviving American automobile brands are outsourcing production to labor cheap nations such as Mexico to cut costs and to phase out high paying American union wage and benefit jobs.

Being a surviving player in the automobile industry involves ever-increasing huge costs to meet consumer and government demands for high mileage, safety, design and quality. As late as 1970, a small firm like American Motors was able to design and build the Gremlin for a mere $6 milllion dollars by using much of the existing tooling technology from the $40 million dollar Hornet project. Today, totally new cars can run $1 billion dollars on up in tooling and production costs. And new technology such as hybrid or fuel cell technology has swallowed-up billions in corporate costs, sometimes with few good resulta to show for the high research costs.

While Japanese carmakers like Toyota and Honda, and South Korean brand, Hyundai have been able to make a decent profit by building automobiles generally in right-to-work states in the U.S. with few members of the UAW employed, GM and Ford have been seeking to layoff or buyout the contracts of American union workers to avoid higher labor union wage jobs, health or retirement benefits. Ford is planning to build a new small car, the Fiesta in Mexico in order to cut American labor costs. The car is already being produced by Ford in China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Venezuela in order to cut labor costs. More and more, the management vision of American automobile companies does not include using American labor. American automobile company executives tend to earn 50 times the wages of their Japanse or South Korean counterparts. Japanese and South Korean automobile CEOs are concerned about selling a lot of cars. American automobile executives are concerned with making a lot of money for themselves.

Despite a great deal of personal faults, Henry Ford Sr. built his Ford Motor Company on a vision of hiring many African Americans who moved North to avoid the even worst segregation and racism found in the South. Ford even build schools to teach these African American how to read and write, in order to create an educated workforce. Ford was instrumental in moving many Michigan area African Americans into an educated middle class, moving them up significantly from their often lower income and economic discrimination roots. And although, Henry Ford was very antiunion, and even hired thugs to physically assault those who were part of any early unionizing attempts, the Ford Motor Company did manage to create a huge class economic advancement for many. But the modern vision for American automobile companies doesn't seem to include anyone beyond a few CEOs earning a huge salary, while supposedly saving the company from economic destruction, while foreign competitors seem to prosper with far lower CEO salaries.

It seems the American automobile management vision of economic survival is now often based more and more on outsourcing of jobs to labor cheap nations, while expecting the American public to still buy the products. The Henry Ford vision to create an educated and highly paid American middle class able to afford the products it sells has given way it seems to a "Nero" complex by some automobile executives to get whatever they can before the whole thing burns down. The future of the surviving American automobile brands seems less and less to include American workers.