Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Witch hunter Kenneth Starr Back On The Stage Again

Kenneth Starr, the right wing witch hunter who attempted to end the Clinton presidency over a silly oral sex indiscretion by the once president is back on the stage again with yet another Puritanical mission to rid the world of any hanky panky. This time Kenneth Starr has signed on to act as the lead lawyer for the "Yes On Proposition 8" forces when this ballot measure is debated by the California State Supreme Court over whether this ballot measure is indeed constitutional or not. But California's Attorney General, Jerry Brown, has his doubts about the validity of the measure, and may well up up arguing that the measure is unconstitutional in testimony in front of the California's highest court.

Normally, a state attorney general will go to court to defend the interest of the state in matters, however, the legal opinion of Attorney General Brown has recently found new reason to doubt the legal validity of the measure, while Kenneth Starr who is now the Dean of Pepperdine Law School is following his typical path of defending Puritanical sexual values.

Certainly Kenneth Starr will wrap up all of his Puritanicalism in some eloquent language of legalese to defend his very conservative views. But the bottom line is that it's still the same old guy who is out on mission to put anyone into the stocks that offends his uptight sense of sexual values.

Somewhere out there, Kenneth Starr isn't having sex. And he'll be damned if he can't prevent someone else out there from not having sex as well. Kenneth Starr's advocacy for Proposition 8 is simply more of his moral crusade masquerading as law. But whatever compels those like a Kenneth Starr to be so obsessed with what others are doing with their romantic lives behind their own closed doors continues to amaze me. I suppose the Kenneth Stars of America lost the power to put homosexuals in prison on sodomy charges, so now they're down to attempting to control their romance lives and ability to marry. But it was indeed very disappointing that a state like California signed on to such foolishness when it very narrowly passed Proposition 8.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hamas Offers Nonsensical Explanation For Rocket Attacks On Israel

By now you would really think that Hamas would only realize that continued rocket attacks on Israeli civilians would only provoke a violent Israeli military action at some point. But apparently Hamas is so radicalized that common sense just doesn't seem to abound in this organization's logic. And yesterday, a spokesman for Hamas had a decent opportunity to offer an opportunity to explain the continued rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, but instead used the opportunity to claim absurdly that "Israeli provocateurs" were somehow responsible for the rocket attacks that have taken place since December 19 that provoked the latest violent military response by Israel.

The fact of the matter is that Hamas won control of representation of the Palestinian people because of years of corruption among the rival Fatah leaders. And for a time Hamas did provide many essential social services to the Palestinian persons while many in the Hamas leadership simply pocketed any international relief funds or else skimmed their share into world bank accounts such as Yasser Arafat and his widow who had millions socked away into Swiss bank accounts rather than give it to the poor people they serve. By comparison, Hamas looked to be somewhat more honest by comparison. But it is the militant philosophy of this organization that always seems to want to provoke conflict with Israel, and only ends up bringing down Israeli military wrath that seems to bring nothing but bad on the Palestinian people.

Hamas lacks a constructive and pragmatic approach to power, and the latest military blows against this organization will once again cause the Palestinian people much suffering. Unlike other former radicals such as the Chinese or Vietnamese Communists who have largely become pragmatic businessmen rather than revolutionaries, Hamas continues to believe in extremist politics that are unrealistic in the modern world for any organization that really intends to form a government or lead.

It's certainly not much of a governing strategy for Hamas to provoke military conflict with the far more powerful Israeli military, get beaten up badly in war, but then appeal for sympathy among the Palestinians and the world community, but that's been their political strategy for many years and doesn't look about to change anytime soon.

Whoever knew that making yourself a "punching bag" and causing great destruction, poverty and suffering on your own people by your own irresponsible actions was a great way to rule? Other former radicals like the Chinese Communists moderated, invited investment in their nation, improved poverty and provided jobs, and really improved conditions in their nation, unlike Hamas which prides itself in ruling by making life only more difficult for the people they serve.

Now, there are some whispers that Fatah leadership is actively encouraging the Israeli military destruction of Hamas so that Fatah can return to power in Gaza. But in all their years of power, the corruption of Fatah always managed to keep this organization as poor representation for the poverty issues or the economic disadvantages among the Palestinians. Fatah may appear as far more moderate than Hamas. But it greatly needs to improve it's own house if it ever wants to considered as the best possible leadership for the serious problems of the Palestinian people. In the meantime, the Palestinian people only suffer between two poor political organizations that vie for their control and ill serve them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Global Tensions Could Raise Oil Prices Again Despite Lower Demand

While oil prices have witnessed a massive tumble in recent weeks in response to the lower demand impact because of the retreating global economy, new world tensions might act to send prices higher very soon. The first evidence of this came today when oil prices edged up slightly in the light of the new Gaza combat and the heightened India and Pakistan tensions.

The military activity by Israel in Gaza is some of the most violent in some time, and although this has no direct effect on oil shipments, it has nonetheless had some impact on global oil speculation that always is wary of a larger Mideast problem or of sympathy among Arab oil producing states for the Palestinian cause.

And the dangerous tensions between India and Pakistan are most worrisome because of the nuclear weapons that both states possess. In a worst case scenario, an actual war in which nuclear weapons might be used could really send oil prices reeling in response to such a dangerous and destructive conflict.

And another problem is that the lame duck Bush Administration has lost significant clout in acting as a world problem-solver because it only has days left in office, while President-elect Obama cannot really act with real authority to address these issues head-on short of offering some statements that appeal for peace or reason. All of this makes this a very dangerous period. World trouble spots are mostly on their own right now with the U.S. unable to use it's influence as well as it can during the more stable periods of leadership.

Whenever "horses are being changed in the middle of a stream" this is where a few dangerous international issues might spring up into a near crisis point. The rest of the world community as well as the UN need to do all that they can to control some world elements acting like children without an adult guardian until the U.S. is able to stabilize it's new leadership and then help to create more world stability with some like future Secretary Of State Clinton dispatched around the world in shuttle diplomacy.

But for now, world oil prices may act as the greatest barometer of how the world community actually feels about the current state of world affairs. And those tea leaves read anxiety about the world economy, coupled about anxiety about world peace in the wake of the two new international crisis points.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

India's Dangerous "Cold Start" Military Doctrine

For the time being it appears as if India may have backed down from expected surgical strikes at militant bases in Pakistan. It is highly likely that pressure from the U.S. and China as well as other Asian neighbor states may have managed to buy a temporary peace from an Indian response to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. However, an Indian military doctrine that has been in effect since 2004 could well threaten the fragile peace between India and Pakistan.

"Cold Start" is a military doctrine that would allow Indian rapid deployment special forces units to strike within "Pakistan within hours of any terrorist attack on Indian soil. Such a rapid response would not allow time for diplomacy and also assumes that militants from Pakistan, and not home grown Indian radicals are responsible for any actions. Such a military doctrine, as well the nuclear weapons of India and Pakistan, make this a serious new foreign policy worry for the U.S., China and other Asian nations.

Unfortunately, this "Cold Start" doctrine also relies on some dangerous assumptions by New Delhi that may might not achieve the desired goals with Islamabad. New Delhi assumes that it may be able to hold limited portions of Pakistan with it's military, and use this for political leverage against the government of Pakistan. However. the danger is whether such a serious provocation can well stop short of triggering a nuclear exchange or not. Pakistan might well consider any actions by India that involve holding their territory as beyond acceptable and this could trigger ground wars between the forces of both nations as well as a possible nuclear strike by Pakistan in response. The dangers here are very high.

"Cold Start" also has another serious danger in that it may actually greatly strengthen the hand of militants and terrorists, where all that have to do to create a crisis between the two nuclear powers is to create a terrorist incident large enough to provoke war. That's very dangerous.

India also has not helped themselves either by their continued control of the disputed Kashmir region. If India would only free themselves of this issue with Pakistan, then relations would be much improved and perhaps far less militant and terrorist actions might take place as a result. Yet India fails to step up and resolve this critical issue.

Kashmir has unfortunately become for India and Pakistan all too much like some of the friction points between better U.S. and Russian relations. Kosovo or states like Georgia, where the tearing political influences between the East and West sides only seem to breed endless tensions and new foreign policy conflicts. Someone in New Delhi needs to really step up and realize that this disputed region is simply not worth risking a possible nuclear war over.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

U.S. Needs To Pressure India & Pakistan To Cool Tensions

The U.S. finds itself in the difficult position this weekend of having two nations that it has constructive relations with on the verge of a possible military conflict with each other. In the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks most likely launched by militants from Pakistan bases, the public and voters in India are pressuring the government to take some sort of a military response against suspected militant bases that operate in border Pakistan that this government has so far done very little to control.

The stakes in this situation are tremendous. The Indian government would like to launch some limited surgical strikes into Pakistan attacking these militant bases, however the result could well mean a fourth war between the two nuclear powers. And the entire situation could also make Pakistan even less cooperative in regards to Afghanistan, only increasing the safe havens that Osama Bin Laden and his followers as well as other militants use in Pakistan to plan worldwide terrorist activities.

The Mumbai terrorist attacks were a huge success of terrorists forces to cast a shadow far larger than themselves. They have managed to put India and Pakistan in difficult straits right now, and have possibly put the two nations on the brink of open warfare. And when public anger built in India for the government to do something, then it only helps to inspire political demagoguery to take some action, even if that is entirely the wrong answer, merely to satisfy a growing mob mentality within the public. Cooler heads need to prevail.

The government of Pakistan really needs to persuade India that it will take action against radicals on it's own. However, this government seems to always act weakly against lawless terrorists out of fear and public support for these radicals, so any meaningful action by Pakistan is both unlikely and unlikely to satisfy India as well. If anything, the government of Pakistan is always good at caving-in to terrorists.

All of this only leaves these two nations in a difficult situation this weekend, where no one is happy,everyone nervous, and both countries have nuclear weapons and military strengths strong enough to do substantial damage to each other. The U.S. and China both need some quick diplomacy to keep the peace in this region before it all tips out of control.

Friday, December 26, 2008

China Sends Three Warships To Join International Effort To Battle Somalia Pirates

China's People's Liberation Army Navy is sending three powerful modern warships to join the international effort to battle pirates off the coast of Somalia which have attacked numerous ships and asked for $30 million in ransom so far this year. China had 1,265 commercial vessels pass through the gulf waters around Somalia so far this year, and seven ships were attacked by pirates and two crews are still being held by Somalian pirates for ransom. China received the support of the UN for this peacekeeping mission to keep international waters near Somalia safe for commercial shipping and for ocean cruise liners with vacationers.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy forces include two warships armed with missiles, cannons and helicopters as well as a supply ship. 800 sailors and 70 Chinese special forces troops are involved in this international peacekeeping mission and join a fleet of other forces including the U.S., Russia, Britain, Germany, France, India and Iran which have also deployed warships in the region as well. On Thursday, a German warship foiled a group of pirates involved in attacks on international shipping. But so far leaders of the pirates continue to threaten more attacks on international shipping despite a growing international force of peacekeepers that have been experiencing success attacking pirate vessels or capturing pirate crews. However, a number of ship crews of international ships still remain as hostage of pirates as they continue to demand ransom payments.

Part of the difficulty in dealing with Somalia is that it does not have a functioning government. Back in 1991, a coalition of warlords overthrew a dictator, and these warlords have been in control of sectors of this country in deep poverty of around 8 million persons ever since. And the warlords have done little to nothing to stop the pirate attacks, which in some cases may even have their support and blessing.

For the international community, dealing with a rogue state like this with no real government in charge and the lawless nature of the warlords and the pirates presents a major challenge. So far, the international community has largely operated at sea. But some ground forces may be needed in dangerous missions very soon to help free ground crews or to eventually place an operational government in place in Somalia to restore some sense of order.

Both Japan and South Korea, as well as the U.S. continue to be somewhat wary of the recent growth of the powerful Chinese blue-water capable naval ships and their powerful array of weapons. Such modern warships could even be equipped with nuclear warhead anti-ship missiles designed to completely destroy aircraft carriers from a rival navy in the event of a war between powerful naval forces. And this new international mission marks the first time that the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy has deployed these modern new warships so far from their waters in what is expected to be at least a three month deployment mission. However, the UN certainly welcomes any new deployment of warships to address this serious pirate threat to international shipping and to the cruise liner industry, many of which ships are of a Liberian registry.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Righteous Man

Recently, as I clicked through the channels on my TV, I've become more attracted to the old episodes of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW for what the series has to say about the character of a righteous man. The character of Sheriff Andy Taylor is a real community leader by using his wisdom, justice and sense of right and wrong to lift the lives of those around him by constant use of wisdom and encouragement. And although, Sheriff Andy sometimes has a little fun at the expense of Deputy Barney Fife, much of the time Sheriff Andy is lifting up the self-esteem of Deputy Barney by finding ways to make him the hero and give him the glory of the moment.

All of this set me to thinking about other examples of righteous men that can be admired on TV.

On CSI Miami, there's Detective Horatio Caine, who also comes to mind as a righteous man. He is deeply drawn to finding justice for victims, and alternates his tough guy Western style gunslinger personality between a deep sense of wisdom and inner personal warmth covered in a cold and hard exterior. On one hand, he's one of TVs toughest guys since Richard Boone in HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, but on the other hand he's nearly a Biblical example of everything that a righteous man should be. In fact, there was one Baptist minister who used to have a TV program, and he preached sermons about how much he loved the CSI MIAMI program. And my best analysis tells me that he was so impressed by the Horatio Caine character which is one of the best examples of a righteous man ever on the small screen.

Unfortunately, but for comic value, many TV shows often portray men that are so far from wisdom or righteousness.

The Al Bundy character on MARRIED WITH CHILDREN was a hilarious send-up of a head of household in about the most dysfunctional family ever to hit the small screen. He lacked basic honesty and integrity, yet looked nearly like a Biblical Job sort of character by comparison to the rest of his family for their far more serious sins and faults, and his eternally ongoing long-suffering nature.

Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS and Peter from FAMILY GUY are both familiar outrageous heads of households as well. Both are also complete fools. And neither has the wisdom or the moral compass to ever really size up as a righteous man by any means. And many other examples these days on TV often portray the head of the household as a flawed man, and a complete fool for comic value, where the righteous man character seems to be less and less popular these days.

In the movie, RADIO, which was inspired by the true story of a high school football coach in a small South Carolina town who befriends a severely retarded African American man and makes him part of the team as a cheerleader and mascot, is another rewarding glimpse into what should be expected of a righteous man. While the movie itself somewhat fails towards the greatness it really aspired for, still the tale of the righteous man coach seemed to suceed enough to be very inspiring.

All of this leads to what the role of a righteous man should be in leading this nation.

In a few days, Barack Obama will take the oath of office on the very same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used for his two inaugurations. In fact, this is the first time since Lincoln that this very same Bible will be used to swear in a president. And to step into the shoes of Lincoln will indeed be a very tall order.

Lincoln was as close to a righteous man and almost a Biblical figure himself for his deep sense of honesty, wisdom and the long suffering nature of the Biblical figure Job again as well. And like Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Obama is facing serious challenges and human suffering in the U.S. In fact human suffering not witnessed since at least the Great Depression. It will take a man of great wisdom and character to lead America out of these problems almost like some new political Moses.

During the campaign some ridiculed that many saw Obama as "The One" or a type of political messiah. Yet, this is exactly what will be needed for America to turn the corner; a righteous man of great wisdom, character and judgment if America is ever to be great again and not be on a steady decline as this recession wrecks so much of the economy and destroys the business and job structure of this nation.

Now more than ever is the time for a return to the righteous man.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Gifts:The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

This time of year, I need to take a little break from all of the politics or economic gloom and doom stories, and write a funny little Christmas piece. And I thought about all the sad guys who should have started earlier buying Christmas gifts, but didn't. So I looked for a few suggestions out there what would have made great Christmas gifts if only you had a little more time and it wasn't the eleventh hour.

As a true Christmasy cheer type of guy, I've carefully looked for some of the most outrageously good and sometimes out-rightly strange and bad weird Christmas gifts that maybe you should have considered, or then again maybe not, to have given this year. And I've found a few worthy contender items to mention here for your laughter and amusement.

A motorscooter wholesaler USA SCOOTERS WHOLESALE is offering this very bizarre one wheel scooter that looks like a real problem to drive and not have a terrible life-threatening accident. Yet the design is certainly interesting, and will probably provide more than a few great video moments for a FACES OF DEATH video. Heck, for a few thousand dollars, it looks like a very strange toy to own. But where do you put the license plate on with all the rotation. And, hey, is that thing even street legal? The design certainly raises a number of important life and death questions.

Maybe Piranha fish taxidermy is more your idea of a cheery Christmas gift. A seller on Ebay is offering this insane gift for $20. Who would want to be left out not owning these. Didn't Tiny Tim in that Christmas story want some of these as a dying wish as well?

On the more sane side, but very pricey, is the Ridley Motorcycles Auto-Glide Trike priced at a mere $26,000. Interestingly, this way cool trike features a hefty V-Twin 750cc engine and a rad custom body design with nice big fat rubber on the rear. This looks like an ultimate toy here. And because all Ridley Motorcycles feature automatic transmissions, anyone can easily learn to ride one of their bikes if you just have the cash required to purchase one.

As I combed through Ebay wondering what the weird and strange gifts are and to be found, a seller sells you one square foot of a Scottish golf estate for a mere $34.00. By Scottish law you can become known as Laird, which is the Scottish equivalent of Lord. Alright. You own a foot of a golf course and are now a Scottish land "lord". Splendid.

Hey guys. if you have a bad lady in your life, TOP DATING TIPS, has a nice selection of the worst possible Christmas gifts to give that special lady in your life that you want to disappear. Among the top worst possible Christmas gifts are: Electrical appliances, Cleaning equipment, cooking utensils, a gift for yourself that you pretend is for her, cheap perfume, clothes, cubic zirconium jewelry, flannel lingerie and some last minute gift vouchers. However if you really want to clear the house but fast, then some anti-wrinkle cream or a gift certificate for Weight Watchers ought to really drive the coffin nails in any relationship that you now have. However, if you value your relationship, then you might want to heed the warning about the toxic value of the above bad gifts.

I can't really figure out what this guy was selling on Ebay. But of all places, he lives in Utah and there were 10 bids on it. But it would indeed make a very creepy Christmas gift.

Since I'm a vegan, I'm always surfing the Web for new vegan businesses, and I ran across the strangest vegan business that I've ever seen in my whole life that would offer some very strange Christmas gifts. VeganErotica, offers a strange collection of bondage and S&M sex toy gifts for that special kinky vegan in your life who is into hurting their lover, but not animals. What kinky vegan wouldn't love to wear a dog collar knowing full well that no animals were harmed in it's making. Interesting philosophy there indeed.

But if you like your relationship on the soft and romantic side, Pajama Grams offers some great overnight gift delivery items that come with some cute packaging and cards that send a message that you really care and are a closet romantic devil.

In short, there is a real wealth of gifts out there that you could have given if you started earlier that range from the real good to real bad. And if you didn't pick up something decent by now. then you're really in trouble if you think that 7-11 or the gas station store is going to have that special gift in stock for that special person in your life. God help you if you're in that sorry of shape. However, if you already picked out a great gift, and your Christmas shopping is all done, then you have nothing to fear, guys. All is well. You can rest easy.

Merry Christmas

Hallelujah, Praise The Lord, I Have Heat For Christmas

For those of you following my no heat in this near record cold and snowfall here in Portland, Oregon saga, I managed to walk to a neighborhood hardware store in the 14.5 inches of snow and buy tubing and gas cans and rig up a safe temporary fuel system for the furnace, and can get up to five hours at a time of continuous heat.

I know that this sounds like something that people in Iraq have to rig up. It is commonplace for many storefronts in Iraq to be powered by little gas generators because of only a few hours a day of electrical service, or many other huge shortcomings. But regardless of the hassle of having to refuel the furnace fuel supply after five hours of continuous use. which one might come close to in this bad weather, but it's better than no heat for Christmas in bone jarring cold.

I humorously added the religious reference to this piece because after I installed a new furnace myself and it did not function properly, I called in an expert at $180 dollars an hour who drove in the ice and cold and charged me $180 only to find out that the tank and fuel lines were bad. I knew that this guy had a great reputation for being quite religious. And when the poor fellow was so perplexed with the problem, he prayed for guidance from God. I was so desperate for heat that I actually found myself joining in as well. It seems that in war or in the cold, everyone suddenly has a strong faith in God.

Maybe some kids or even adults want some big things for Christmas. But I don't care. I'm just happy to have heat for Christmas as a new blast of Winter snow is scheduled to hit Portland again tomorrow. Well, at least I'll be a little warmer. And for that I'm very grateful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Al Frankenstein?

"It's not the people who vote that counts. It's the people who count the votes that count". ---Josef Stalin

CNN reports that Democrat Al Franken may have as much as a 250 vote lead currently in the Minnesota senate seat hand recount. However, Republican Norm Coleman is preparing a lawsuit to present to the state supreme court to challenge some of the included votes that have been counted.

Every election is voted in all by sorts of adults, of all ages, and of varying levels of education, intelligence, etc. But strangely, some voters cast some bizarre votes that seemed to befuddle the hand vote counters. For example, at least one vote was cast for someone called "Al Frankenstein". Did they mean Al Franken? Or were they being belittling of Al Franken? In the end, the hand re-counters decided that what this voter meant was a vote for Al Franken. But it is also assumptions like this that are angering the Norm Coleman Campaign and helping to fuel the lawsuit to disqualify some votes.

The hand re-counters have probably used pretty good individual judgment in deciding the intention of every controversial vote, however the Coleman Campaign is wary of this and intends to use the courts to limit the number of votes counted that might be viewed as controversial in nature.

But to me it seems that the real problem is not so much that there were a tiny number of controversial votes of questionable intention, but the problem is that the election was so close that it highlights shortcomings in the vote counting process. Vote counting is not an exact science, but merely an approximate science. When millions of ballots are cast, human error programming equipment or machine error missing votes allows some votes to slip by uncounted. And compounding this problem are some persons who do not follow or understand the voting instructions. The fact of the matter is that in very close elections it is very difficult to get an exact count. With millions of votes cast in some states, there will likely be a slightly different outcome each time the ballots are cast by eith machine or by hand.

In 2004, shortcomings in the Washington state vote counting system were made very apparent in the very close governor's race which originally had Republican Dino Rossi narrowly ahead of Democrat Christine Gregoire by a few votes. Republican Secretary Of State Sam Reed received a great deal of anger from many fellow Republicans when he discovered that one box of votes from the Seattle area which was also a largely Democratic district were not not counted in the first machine count due to human error, and then these votes were added to the hand recount. Somehow many Republicans believed that this box of legally cast votes should not be counted in the total, even though it was a pure human error that failed to count this box of ballots on election day like any other ballot the first time. The fact of the matter was that both Republican Dino Rossi as well as Democrat Christine Gregoire had some votes that were not counted in the first machine count due to this error. Republicans were livid when Democrat Gregoire pulled slighyly ahead by a few votes in the hand recount because of this previously uncounted box of ballots from a Seattle neighborhood, and some Republicans even falsely claimed that the Democrats "manufactured" enough votes to win, which was of course untrue. If the uncounted box of ballots from one Seattle neighborhood had been from a rural area in Washington state instead, then Rossi's lead would have in fact been higher.

If anything, both the Washington state and the Minnesota mess as as well the 2000 presidential vote in Florida all only highlighted that the average vote counting system in many states is simply not accurate enough to determine a winner in very close races. A candidate must win by a big enough of a margin that it is beyond the limits of simple machine error or human error limits, or else there will be up to several recounts, including by hand, and lawsuits over which votes should be counted and which should not will only certainly result. And unfortunately urban myths will live on past every close election as well, that somehow someone was robbed of an office despite the best efforts of election officials to resolve a difficult mess impartially.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blogging In The Snow

Today is another real interesting day for my blogging at both Progressive Values and at Wizbang Blue where I'm also an editor. The Christmas holiday is fast approaching, it's only 21 degrees here in Portland, Oregon, and there's as much as 11 inches of snow in the city. And, oh yeah, I have no heat. And I'm very cold.

It turns out that the fuel line and oil tank decided to wait until the holidays and the worst Arctic cold storm in years to give one big lump of coal for Christmas.

I installed my own new oil furnace a few days ago when I knew that the motor failed in the old one because of the terrible noises it was making and lack of heat. But when the new one sounded good, but was still cutting out before offering any real heat to speak of to this very cold guy, I knew that I had some other real problems and should perhaps consult a real furnace professional.

I found a company that was willing for a mere $180 an hour(extra pay for Sunday service as well as an extra charge for the weather) to look at the furnace, and come to find out I have problems with the fuel line and tank. So for a mere few hundred dollars in service fees, I'm still here in the cold. And it turns out that the fuel line problems usually aren't something that fuel line companies work on this time of year, because they involve lots of digging in the ground and tearing up concrete basements. So I'm highly likely to be spending both Christmas as well as New Year's Day in the cold with only some woefully inadequate electric heaters to put up a losing effort to keep me warm. And this is after I made a little cash gift to a poor family as well as wrote a check to the Salvation Army so that other less fortunate persons might have a nice Christmas.

Sometimes it seems that no good deed goes unpunished.

Well, I'll continue to blog despite these Siberian prison type cold conditions. Or at least until my toes fall off from frostbite. Even my pets think that I suck as an owner because of the cold in the house for a few days while I figure what to do next. Happy Holidays.

When 33% More Product Content Really Isn't

The other day I purchased a fresh bottle of White Rain Shampoo from Walgreen's. Certainly at just $1 it has to be one of the best bargains around. Walgreen's always has plenty of $1 merchandise specials. However, I thought that the design of the new bottle that White Rain was using looked a little strange. It was more upright, yet strangely narrow. Yet the bottle promised "33% More" besides selling for just a mere $1 as well.

Well, when I got the bottle home and compared against the last bottle of White Rain I noticed rather than "33% More" shampoo as the bottle stated that there was actually only 18 oz. compared to 19.95oz. in the older bottle. So the question is "33% More" compared to what? Certainly not the last bottle of White Rain. This is nearly a 2oz. size reduction for the same price, not "33% More" for the same price as the bottle might seem to suggest to the consumer.

If White Rain is reducing the product size yet charging the same amount as before then why even claim that the consumer is actually getting more product? Or could "33% More" actually mean "more" than some competing mystery brand?

But with inflation chipping into the profits of some companies, more and more products are undergoing "downsizing" rather than raising prices. But it's really a form of hidden inflation. Another fine blog that deals with some of these downsizing issues is and this website noted some incredible shrinkage of a certain toilet tissue brand compared to most competitors. And some cereal boxes are getting thinner as well. But unless a consumer looks closely at just what they are getting for the price, then much of this hidden inflation goes unnoticed.

Sometimes the real devil is in the details.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Will Iraq Need A Multi-Billion Dollar Bailout From The U.S. Soon?

One frightening untold story is that nearly 13 years of UN sanctions as well as serious damage done to Iraq's economy during both the 1991 and 2003 wars has left Iraq's economy almost 90% dependant on oil revenues. There are few good prospects for foreign investment or major new Iraqi business start-ups due to continued violence or fears of violence in Iraq. And the threat of murder, violence, kidnapping or other fears will keep most foreign investors out of the country for the time being. Iran becomes a major trader with Iraq, but mainly to sell goods to Iraq that it's decimated economy cannot produce itself.

But very soon Iraq could ask the U.S. for an economic bailout if the huge drop in world oil prices continues much longer. Iraq was slowly building an oil export business of 2 million barrels a day, but now with falling world oil demand due to the global economic crisis, this has fallen off by 25% down to just about 1.65 million barrels a day. And even worse, the commodity price of oil has slipped from a high near $140 a barrel only a few months ago to a close around $34 a barrel yesterday. With Iraq's economy almost entirely based on this oil revenue, this is a pure looming economic disaster compounded upon all the financial disaster caused by both wars in Iraq.

The U.S. has already spent $117 billion in aid to Iraq that included proposed massive new building projects, however a major portion of these funds were swallowed up in either Iraqi government official corruption or American contractor abuse and corruption, so little real economic development has been realized in Iraq so far. In fact, even in Baghdad, electricity service still averages less than 8 hours a day. In the more autonomous Kurdish region with less violence and slightly more economic development and investment, full time electrical service still really only means about 14 hours a day of service. It is impossible for many businesses to function under such problems as a lack of electrical service most of the time. many businesses must use gas powered generators to provide their own power to stay open or to keep food from spoiling.

Raw sewage still openly flows into the streets of Baghdad because neither the U.S. nor Iraq have managed to improve this system beyond a system that was designed only to serve 750,000 residents at most, and not 5 million residents.

There is also a serious lack of clean drinking water in Iraq. At least one third of the water is absolutely unhealthy or unfit for human consumption as well, where neither the U.S. or Iraq have substantially improved this serious public health issue.

Many in Iraq are thought to be living on less than $1 dollar a day. Unemployment may be officially noted as 17.6 percent, however as high as over 38% are actually underemployed. 17 million Iraqi families, which are larger than American families at 6 or 7 persons, live on about $210 a month. And because Iraq lacks food stamps or similar programs like the U.S., an Iraqi food assistance program known as PDS(Public Distribution System) only offers poor families a small amount of rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour and milk powder per month to help prevent as many as more than 6 million persons from dying of starvation in Iraq. But earlier this year, when oil revenues were much higher this program was substantially cut back with less persons receiving help and less food available as the government of Iraq spent the money on other needs, or waste and corruption among public officials has squandered away billions of oil revenue dollars.

The two U.S. wars in Iraq have also managed to cut the average life expectancy from 66.5 years in 1990 before the first war in Iraq down just 57 years for men and 59 years for women. And more and more Iraqi children are experiencing stunted growth due to the serious malnutrition problems that the two U.S. wars in Iraq have caused. Infant mortality has also soared from 50 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1990 in the Saddam Hussein rule days, to 120 infant deaths today under American and Iraqi rule.

In nearly every index of human suffering, two U.S. wars in Iraq have only caused serious ruination to this society and cast people into deep poverty, hunger and sectarian violence. In fact, those that support the claimed "surge" and claim that it is working often fail to note that the U.S. is making payments in Iraq to 80,000 armed militia members not to be terrorists or blow things up, and to instead focus their energy on any known or suspected Al Qaeda activity. However. paying 80,000 radical militia members a salary to be their own judge, jury and executioner for Al Qaeda suspects is certainly not without it's share of abuses or wrongful deaths of innocent citizens by any means. It would almost be like taking a group of street thugs in the U.S., and the U.S. government paying them money to fight suspected crimes through street executions, shootings or other violent means. Such a system only promotes lawlessness, but the crime situation in Iraq is so out of control, this very dysfunctional approach to crime fighting and terrorism has actually cut crime and violence somewhat.

The fact of the matter is that Iraq may well soon need American foreign aid that will be huge compared to the auto bailout as oil revenues sink to levels that the government of Iraq had never expected. Maintaining some basic sense of public services and government operations was figured on an economic model of Iraqi oil revenues at about $80 a barrel, and not oil closing well below $40 a barrel on world commodity markets.

This deep poverty mess in Iraq, as well as the dramatic fall in oil revenues needed by this government which is propped up by the United States, are all serious problems that President Obama will soon inherit from the failed Bush Administration. And the heartstrings of Mr. Obama will be torn between his obligations to address rising poverty, hunger and unemployment in the the U.S., and even far worse conditions in Iraq as oil prices deteriorate.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chinese Government Celebrates 30 Years Of Reforms

The Chinese Communist Party which controls the government of China since the 1949 revolution celebrated 30 years of economic growth and progress by opening up the nation to the world and allowing mostly free trade with other states. The result is that China is now the fourth largest economy in the world, and has gone from a nation in deep poverty to a nation that has undergone dramatic economic, technological and social process.

In December 1978, moderates and reformers within China's Communist Party won support for the launch of a new tidal wave shift from the radical policies that left China in chaos that focused on class struggle, and instead decided to open up the nation to the world and improve the economy. Part of this opening up brought in huge foreign investment. And nations such as the United States that formerly boycotted goods from Communist states opened up trade to China.

Chinese leader Deng Xiaping, who was a loyal sidekick to Communist leader Mao Tse Tung, became the first pragmatic Chinese Communist leader and gave his full approval to the goals of seeking truth by looking at the real facts at hand and not the government propaganda machine generated facts, which was a new level of pragmatism not witnessed since the 1949 revolution that brought the Communists to power.

China's foreign policy also tilted more towards the United States as well during the 1970's as well, as China and Russia grew more distrustful of each other. There was also a sense in the Nixon Administration that China wanted closer relations with the U.S. that was continued under both Presidents Ford and Carter to continue these foreign policy breakthroughs with China pioneered by the Nixon Administration's change of foreign policy.

China's economic growth has also seen China grow in respect as a world community member that contributes to economic growth in less developed areas such as Africa as well as contributing peace keeping troops to the many UN peacekeeping missions around the world. In fact, China announced that it will actually increase aid to Africa to a total of 5 billion U.S. dollars in both loans and other economic assistance in 2009 despite the world economic crisis that is certain to slow the Chinese economy as well.

China also pledged continued full support for the more fully capitalist economy organized economies of both Hong Kong and Macao. Hong Kong is China's important financial center while Macao continues as a resort type region with massive hotels and casino gambling allowed.

Such reforms are far from the revolutionary thinking of the 1949 leaders such as Chairman Mao, but the pragmatic thinking has allowed China great progress as well as world respect. And Chinese President Hu Jintao seems to be getting great respect and popularity from his own people for his moderate rule in many areas. Despite a lack of full political or social freedom, the dramatic improvement in life in China has given the government more leeway with the Chinese public and helped to dampen those who might have sought to overthrow the Communist system much as the Soviet system was swept aside by the popular uprising there.

China is still a long ways from a democratic state by any means. And some freedoms are still in very short supply in this nation. But an employed population with a full stomach and decent clothes to wear is a big improvement from the China of 30 years ago that was a very backward and very poor nation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Woolworth Stores Decline Again

The declining world economy and changing markets is proving fatal to yet another relic of old fashioned retailing, Woolworth stores. Woolworth was once one of the original five-and-dime retailers in the world will be closing all 80 stores in the UK on January 5, 2009. 27,000 workers will be losing their jobs.

The F.W. Woolworth stores actually date back to 1878, when founder Frank Winfred Woolworth started the stores with a mere $300 loan. This only proved that five-and-dime retailers were actually financed with five-and-dime investment capital as well. And over the years, the importance of this discounter only grew, where lunch counters were added in some stores. But in 1960 the company got a bad reputation when four African American college students in a Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth store were refused service, signaling another pivotal event that helped to launch the 1960's push for civil rights and hurting the Woolworth image even more as a racist business, besides being an incredibly cheap business. But in other parts of the nation that year, Woolworth continued to expand into a major 1960's retailer among those who loved bargains.

In Portland, Oregon a Woolworth store was a key tenant in the newly built Lloyd Center shopping mall that opened on August 1,1960. Lloyd Center became one of the first shopping malls in America, but was actually originally conceived as a new marketing idea as far back as 1923. Amazingly, it actually took all of 37 years before the modern Lloyd Center shopping mall opened it's doors to the public. And long before Tonya Harding became a co-conspirator in knee banging her rival skater, she learned to skate as a little girl at the Lloyd Center ice rink which was a popular attraction of the mall.

But despite being a new tenant in the modern shopping mall, like the new Lloyd Center complex, the Woolworth stores began to see a steady decline and only lasted at Lloyd Center until 1997. It was replaced with a Marshall's store. And even the Lloyd Center shopping mall had to modernize and catch up with the enclosed shopping malls that were popping up in America, and in 1991 enclosed the mall, adding a food court and other modernizing renovations, in an attempt to remain relevant as a retailer and to slow the decline of customers to other competing malls.

Part of what undermined the old fashioned five-and-dime retailers like Woolworth and the competing J.J. Newberry company, was the rise of much larger discount retailers such as Kmart and Walmart that were not only much bigger, but offered even better prices and constantly rotated stock. However, the old fashioned five and dime stores had a unique personality and were a place where stock would sometimes sit on the shelves unsold for years and grow old and very shopworn. Stock rotation was a foreign concept to some retailers like Woolworth or Newberry stores.

Sometimes in the toy departments you could still find an old AMT 3 in 1 model car kit years old still sitting on the shelf unsold. And especially after some no account shoplifters opened the packages and stole some parts, these items would sit there until someone would buy the item in as-is condition for was left and not stolen once the item was almost a Smithsonian vintage artifact. But the ability to find items nearly as old as carbon itself at Woolworth's was kind of cool.

Some of the toy sections even featured some very poorly made cast metal cars made out of lead that were called "penny cars" that actually sold for just one cent in the early 1960's as well. Certainly these toys were dangerous. But they were cool in their own way because they were so cheap and still fun for a kid with not much money to play with. Outside of buying a more pricey dollar bag of MPC corporation molded plastic crudely made toy soldiers, these penny cars would a great toy for the price as long as a kid didn't put them in his mouth and get lead poisoning.

But aging stock on the shelves, and clerks that were not all the best and didn't really care all that much about their jobs, and many other third rate things about both Woolworth and Newberry stores made them into seedy and aged retailers that were actually sort of fun to go to compared to so many better quality retailers. But heck, to save a little money, these stores were sort of chic in many ways. But the seedy and aging nature of these poorly managed businesses only helped them to go into an eventual financial decline and the closing of their American stores. Now the closing of all of the 80 UK Woolworth stores is another sign of the decline of this once interesting cut rate retailer.

Interestingly, what now remains of the old business assets of the Woolworth company actually grew into the modern Footlocker stores, specializing in shoes and related goods. But it is a far cry from these old fashioned stores that attempted to appeal to nearly everyone while really being a master of none. But the closing of the UK Woolworth stores is yet another sad chapter in the rise and fall of this old fashioned retailer. The Woolworth stores will be sorely missed by me despite all their faults.

When my parents flew to London a few years ago, a Woolworth store in London really made my mother's day. My mother missed Woolworth as well, and seemed to really enjoy that she could fly all the way to London and still find these stores open for business.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Right Wing Domestic Terrorist Suspect Arraigned For Deadly Woodburn Bank Bombing

Joshua Abraham Turnidge, 32, of Salem, Oregon was arraigned on charges related to the deadly Woodburn bank bombing. Most noticeable on the suspect's right arm was a huge Nazi-era German iron cross tattoo during the arraignment. It was a disturbing image of a suspect who cast a creepy and dark, demonic image, that one person on the KGW website commented, that all he needed was a "pitchfork and cape".

There are also some disturbing photos of Turnidge with a girlfriend posted on the Internet with the woman in a sexy pose with a military type assault weapon as well as the suspect drinking in another photo. These all were more unsettling images of a person so interested in guns and explosives as well as Nazi-era things. It was another disturbing image of a right wing domestic terrorist.

Far right persons who have an interest in explosives and domestic terrorism often learn how to build bombs by attending gun shows in which extremist militia groups sell extremist paranoid political literature and books and instruct extremists in bomb making and how to conduct domestic terrorism. It is a lethal combination of selling dangerous information to persons who are mentally unstable and emotionally immature and not able to handle such dangerous things.

It is also very sad that two policemen were killed, and that the Woodburn police chief is in very bad condition, having lost a leg and with other serious injuries from the bomb blast. But an interest in explosives and extremist politics is a lethal brew, and now has destroyed many lives, including that of the suspect.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Internal Data Indicates That Al Franken leads By Just 4 Votes In Minnesota Recount

The Al Franken Campaign is claiming that internal data from the Minnesota senate recount has given him a scant 4 vote lead. However, it is nearly certain that incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman will sue and challenge some of the ballots in an attempt to overturn the election.

This recount has been controversial because some ballots were missing, and disputed ballots were counted according to a judge's ruling which could be subject to an overturn if another court is given the case and should rule differently that they should not be counted.

Already some conservative writers such as Ann Coulter are crying foul, and recently wrote a piece referring to Minnesota as the "land of a thousand fakes", somehow suggesting that many of the now counted Al Franken ballots are not really legitimate votes.

In a strongly Democratic year, Al Franken lagged strongly behind Barack Obama partly because of his controversial nature as a comic, where so many voters just could not take him completely seriously as well as his sometimes meanspirited nature. Norm Coleman also lost respect among many voters as well. Essentially the race came down to a choice of who voters hated less. And a third party candidate made a strong statement as well as a home for the "none of the above" voters.

While the Al Franken side may be claiming a cautious victory, this thing is far from done. Likely far more lawsuits and legal wrangling will result, and it will likely be up to judges and the courts to decide which votes will actually be counted in the end.

Film Details Possible American & Northern Alliance Massacre Of Thousands Of POWs

A film produced and directed by former BBC producer Jamie Doran, who is Irish, gives pretty compelling evidence of a massive massacre of thousands of Taliban prisoners by American soldiers and their Northern Alliance Afghan fighter allies. 8,000 Taliban prisoners surrendered to American and Northern Alliance forces. But perhaps as many as 3,000 were killed and buried in mass graves by American forces and their Afghan allies.

A religious organization, Believers Against The War is helping to distribute the film and to make every member of congress aware of this serious incident of Geneva Convention rules for humane prisoner treatment being violated.

The full 50 minute film may be viewed at

Thousands of Taliban prisoners were loaded into sealed containers and many were shot to death when they screamed for air to breathe during what is known as the "Convey Of Death".

Certainly the U.S. is at war with the Taliban. And certainly these religious extremist fighters aided Al Qaeda in their 9/11 attack on the U.S. However, it is the moral duty of the U.S. military to always behave in a lawful and honorable manner. And this film raises disturbing questions about the U.S. role in this massive massacre of thousands of POWS.

Monday, December 15, 2008

China And Taiwan Take Giant Steps Towards Better Relations

During this past presidential campaign, the McCain Campaign continued to attack Barack Obama for a pledge towards working for more constructive relations, even with political rival states of the U.S. Well, China and Taiwan have just taken such a bold step forward with more constructive relations. For the first time in 59 years there will be direct airflights of passengers between the two rival Chinese powers, postal services, and China will open 59 ports to ships from Taiwan, while Taiwan will open 11 ports to mainland ships.

Not that long ago, both the U.S. and Taiwan feared that the People's Liberation Navy was modernizing for a potential invasion of Taiwan by building a variety of modern warships and landing crafts. However it appears that President Hu of China is a pragmatic leader who realizes that military options are not acceptable means to achieve foreign policy goals, even with an arch rival like Taiwan. This pragmatic approach to foreign policy is quite different than the gunboat diplomacy that so characterized the Bush Administration years and that John McCain may have even racheted up to an even higher level.

Hu has also proven himself to be an international peacemaker as well by offering help of Chinese troops to act as UN peacekeepers around the world in troublespots. So it hardly seemed surprising that Hu would not find some sort of common ground with Taiwan to build better relations on. It is also proof that the government of China is working to establish a moderate world image as the world's most responsible state with a Communist form of government.

China and Taiwan's peaceful agreements towards cooperation are an important lesson that rival states can indeed find common ground and not threaten each other with warfare. Iran needs to take a clue from this and not pursue nuclear weapons, and give some positive signals that it wants more constructive relations with rival nations like the U.S. And in turn, the new Obama Administration can send some new signals to Iran, that better relations are indeed possible once any nuclear threat is removed. If Iran would get the bomb, then other Mideast states would want it as well, triggering an arms race in the region beyond just Israel's own program. And this arms race potential is indeed dangerous. However, better relations would open trade between Tehran and Washington, and more trade would foster more mutual respect between the two rivals.

But for today, both mainland China and Taiwan deserve praise for their important lesson to the world community that rival powers can find common ground and build constructive relations. And it is mighty nice to hear some good news for a change.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How A Stock Was Lost With Endless Litigation Battles

Not all innovative electronics makers go on to fame and wealth despite some great products. A story of endless lawsuits and legal hassles has helped to push innovative chip maker Sonicblue into bankruptcy. The stock value of a share of Sonicblue stock has fallen from from a high of $6 a share down to just 6cents a share, ruining the portfolios of many investors who thought that this company might well have a bright future, but that future was only filled with lawsuits, and only dashed.

Sonicblue's GoVideo division has been a story of many legal problems over it's dual recording deck designs. While music has always allowed portability with cassette recorders and Cd recorders that allow users to record mixes of their favorite songs to take with them to play in their car or on the go, the movie industry has fanatically begun a series of copy protection schemes starting back with videotapes. For some odd reason, Hollywood wants to limit the use of their videotapes and DVDs even once purchased and owned by the consumer, unlike the music industry, and has unfortunately found many allies in congress to pass special rights legislation which seemed solely aimed at just GoVideo.

GoVideo's dual VHS deck recorders of the early 1980's once allowed consumers the freedom to make a copy of any videotape that they owned, whether it was a home movie of their own kid's birthday party or some commercial movie video owned by them. Hollywood was outraged and used lawyers and eventually a high priced lobby of congress to force videotape recorders makers to put an anticopy chip into any new VCR sold. This was a windfall for a company called Macrovision, but only hurt the unique marketing advantage of GoVideo in the marketplace.

Certainly any commercial counterfeiting of videos in which the copyright is not held by the maker are illegal to sell. There are existing laws to deal with that problem. But that was never the intent of GoVideo to allow for any commercial counterfeiting. GoVideo simply allowed the common home user the same market freedom to make a copy of any videotape or favorite scenes that they owned just like any music album, tape or Cd. But Hollywood just didn't see it that way and insisted on special copyright rights and protections for their works from congress. No other copyright holders are given such fanatical special rights by congress to protect their products as is the movie industry.

The strange thing is that Hollywood is built around making money in two short marketing campaigns. The first campaign comes when a movie is new and featured at movie theatres and the second is for a few weeks after the movie is released on DVD to videostores and retailers. Despite the fact that Hollywood mainly intends to make money in just these two short marketing bursts, it demands the right to claim ownership control of their product once owned by the consumer unlike the music industry does. Unfortunately all of this legal go round with the motion picture business only hurt the finances of GoVideo. But then GoVideo even started it's own lawsuit against the parent company of Panasonic, Matsushita and other companies when they offered some dual deck units such as those that included both a DVD recorder and a VHS recorder as well as antitrust issues.

But it was not only the story of lawsuits that hurt SonicBlue's GoVideo. SonicBlue faced lawsuit problems from no less than 28 companies including NBC, CBS, ABC, Disney and others when they offered a chip in their VHS or DVD recorders that allowed a consumer to watch a TV show without having to watch all the commercials. These plaintiffs claimed that their revenue would be hurt if consumers don't have to watch commercials in a TV show that they record for later time shifting playback. Now many TV and cable networks have taken this even further, where some networks are using a new copy protection scheme so you can't record their TV shows for later playback at all, preventing time shifting which the Supreme Court had previously ruled is an entirely legal practice for home consumers. This makes no sense whatsoever, and is probably based merely on greed that if consumers can't record their favorite TV, then they will eventually buy it on DVD when released. But it is greedy nonsense like this that has only tired out many consumers. If TV networks don't want you to watch their shows, then why even broadcast them in the first place. With hundreds of TV and cable networks out there, and a person's need to work and earn a living, they can't always be home to watch a show, so time shifting has long been a popular thing to do for TV consumers with their home VCR, TIVO, DVD recorder or even home computer with a TV tuner.

SonicBlue's future should have been also been bright after they swooped to purchase the innovative MP3 units that Diamond Rio won the right to continue to produce after some legal problems of their own from the music industry. But now SonicBlue has racked up some huge financial losses and is in bankruptcy.

SonicBlue's history of financial ruin is the history of endless meddling by other companies in their affairs, as well as some companies fanatical concerns for protecting the profits of their TV or movie products, even when those products were not even seriously threatened. By comparison the clearly illegal file sharing services hurt both the music and movie industry, and rightfully when copyright holders are hurt, they have the right to legal action. But SonicBlue or GoVideo never were in such a league of rogues. They merely sought to offer the home consumer the same freedoms as have been allowed those who record a music cassette of their favorite songs to play in their car or on a picnic to record a TV show or a video they own in their collection.

SonicBlue is a sad story of a promising electronics company that once thought that innovative products would sell in a free market economy. However, all of the endless lawsuits by other companies only proves that the marketplace is hardly as free as one would ever think. Even Mattel that owns Barbie dolls won a recent successful lawsuit against the Bratz dolls which will be soon going off the market in a few days.

Unfortunately it sometimes seems that as much business environment energy is spent in lawsuits and courtrooms as it is in product development at times in the United States. It is also funny that some business organizations such as the Chamber Of Commerce argue for new laws to limit consumer lawsuits over defective products that injure and kill, but many member companies of the Chamber Of Commerce routinely sue each other over endless product development lawsuits.

As the American economy sinks into serious recession, few have raised the issue that many companies have sued each other and wasted so many millions of dollars in courtroom battles that the bottom line has been hurt and consumers forced to pay higher prices. SonicBlue is a pretty good exhibit A for a company sued into ruination by other companies, even if they really failed to prove themselves to be victims.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Police Killed In Domestic Terrorist Bank Bombing

In an apparent outrageous and criminal act of domestic terrorism at a bank in Woodburn, Oregon two policemen were killed and the police chief seriously wounded in a bombing. Such attacks at banks including robberies are often part of right wing extremist terrorist attacks. In Washington state, right wing terrorists once attacked an armored car in an attempt to but more arms to create a race war in America. Programs such as AMERICA'S MOST WANTED have sometimes featured stories about such deadly acts of right wing terrorism in the U.S. that are every bit as deadly as Al Qaeda violence.

In the Woodburn, Oregon bombing, a shadowy caller apparently lured police first to a Wells Fargo Bank to investigate a device found to be harmless, but then made a second call to West Coast Bank. While attempting to investigate this second device, it blew up killing a Woodburn police office and an Oregon state bomb detail expert. The police chief of Woodburn remains in critical condition. In many ways this disgusting act of violence is so similar to Al Qaeda ambushes of police officers in Iraq that it should be taken very seriously as an act of domestic terrorism. The ATF is investigating this act of cowardly violence and a $35,000 dollar reward has been offered.

Right wing political extremists are freely allowed to distribute books and literature at gun shows such as those held at the Expo Center in North Portland that only encourage bomb making and domestic terrorist activities. Yet the managers of the Expo Center fail to act to stop this dangerous potential to instruct political extremists or the mentally ill in violence such as bomb making skills. And for legitimate gun collectors or dealers, such political extremists only undermine the quality of events meant for law abiding gun collectors or hunters.

Friends of the police victims of this violence have praised the officers for their wonderful character, sense of community and selfless roles of public safety promotion. It is very sad that such an act of violence was planned by a criminal in this holiday season when so many in the police and fire community are involved in programs to help the less fortunate. A female bank worker also suffered some injuries from this deliberate act of violence meant to kill persons ambush style.

State and federal authorities need to crack down hard on the persons responsible for this violence before they are allowed to create more acts of mayhem. Such lawless violence is not acceptable in a free and orderly society. And political violence undermines democracy as well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blagojevich Missed His True Calling

With his big puffy overdone hair style and his naked appeals for cash, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich seems to have missed his true calling as a sleazy televangelist. On networks like TBN this bum would be right at home with outrageous appeals to send in money for a "blessing" or to feed the less fortunate, while much of it actually ends in some multimillion dollar salary in his pocket or a huge ranch home.

Rod Blagojevich could have become the next John Hagee or James Dobson, and made up absurd appeals to gullible listeners for some poor widow to send on their last cent to them so that they could live millionaire lifestyles. John Hagge for example is one of the highest paid televangelists by far, despite the fact that many of his own church members are Mexican Americans of only modest means. Hagee was once an Assembly Of God minister, but then was defrocked by this church in an infidelity scandal, so now runs his own megachurch free of oversight from any official church which allows Hagee massive freedom to set his own salary and ethics free of supervision. Hagee has also put some of his own family members on the payroll as well, allowing the family to take even more yet from the ministry. Hagee actually gives himself the title of CEO of John Hagge Ministries as he seems to believe that it is a business.

In 2001 for example, Hagee's "business" drew in $18.3 in revenues including donations or orders for tapes, books, etc. And Hagee collected a salary of $1.25 million dollars. This is the kind of money that Blagojevich loves. He missed his true calling here.

And James Dobson is another good televangelist example. Dobson who is a psychologist could simply open an office and charge fees and pay taxes like any other psychologist, but instead organized his practice into a $6 million dollar a year televangelist organization, Focus On The Family, allowing tax breaks for a
"nobprofit" religious organization. About the only religious thing about Dobson is how religious he is about lining his own pockets with a high salary. Blagojevich would love this rich and famous lifestyle.

Or take the case of Larry Lea. who was once a popular figure over at TBN until he put out an appeal to viewers to send him money because he claimed that he had a housefire. Rather than really being homeless, as many were led to believe, it was actually a vacation home of Lea's that caught fire. Lea might have been vacation homeless, but certainly not homeless. But the resulting scandal destroyed Lea's reputation. Oh, Blagojevich would be so proud.

Maybe Blagojevich would make a great fake faith healer. Some televangelists specialize in fake healings with staged events, where the perfectly able walk, and those with perfect eyesight now see. Staged healings always impress the gullible to give.

In the words of John Hagee, "If you're not prospering, it's because you're not giving". Okay. Governor Blagojevich take note of that. With your big hair and public speaking potential, you really missed your calling to shake down the masses, not just a few hopefuls who wanted a senate seat in Illinois.

Dish Network & Identity Theft

The illegal telemarketing practices of Dish Network hit a new low this week with some new automated phone ads from Dish Network that mask the identity of Dish Network, it's phone number, or any information traceable to Dish Network, and instead hijack a resident's own name and phone number on the caller ID readout. This is an outrageous attempt by Dish Network to force people to pick up the phone and listen to their unwanted sales calls, because it is so bizarre for a caller ID to have your own identity on it. It's also probably illegal identity theft as well that violates federal communications laws.

Dish Network also routinely violates some state laws by refusing to put persons on "do not call" lists or by refusing to allow persons an "opt out" option opportunity to be free of their telemarketing calls. And it appears that phone operators with Dish Network have been trained to break the law by refusing requests from the public to put them on "do not call" lists.

If Dish Network wants to buy advertising on TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet, etc. then fine. These are legal outlets for this sleazy company to peddle their wares. But it is their illegal telemarketing practices in direct violation of the laws of some states as well as this latest attempt to hijack the identity of their telemarketing victims that probably violate federal telecommunications laws.

You can write Dish Network angry letters or Emails asking them to leave you alone. But they simply ignore you and continue to call you sometimes twice a day to become a customer of their company when you are not at all interested. They train their employees to routinely deny complaint's about their continued illegal telemarketing practices.

It's time for state and federal authorities to step in and hit Dish Network with some huge fines and nearly bankrupt this company to get their attention. This company is simply too ruthless and aggressive in it's telemarketing approach and arrogantly only angers satisfied customers of other cable or satellite services who are perfectly happy with their current service and have no desire whatsoever to switch to Dish Network.

I'd strongly recommend that angry victims of Dish Network's aggressive and illegal telemarketing practices take the following actions: 1. Send Dish Network a $35.00 service charge bill for every time you have to spend time running to the phone to answer one of their telemarketing calls. And when they refuse to pay this bill, then hand it over to a collection agency. 2. File official complaints with your state's attorney general office that handles consumer and criminal complaints. If Dish Network is violating "opt out" or "do not call" list rules, then raise this issue with your attorney general in a formal complaint. If Dish Network has hijacked your identity with their latest scheme to mask their identity, then make this a complaint issue as well. 3. Write your senators and members of congress about Dish Network and inform them about their illegal practices. 4. Contact the Federal Communications Commission about Dish Network's new telemarketing ads that hijack your own name and phone number and mask their own identity. Tell the FCC you consider this to be a form of identity theft.

The management of Dish Network just doesn't appear to be intelligent enough to stop their illegal telemarketing practices. So it is up to citizens to make civil and criminal complaints to clean up this company's sleazy business practices. Dish Network has far exceeded even the worst conduct of any spammer that I've ever seen with their ruthless and illegal telemarketing practices. It's time to put the brakes on this company. Good companies just don't behave like this. Good companies market themselves in a responsible manner to the public and don't routinely violate laws.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ted Nugent Becomes The New Voice Of Conservatives

Conservatives strangely have found two wacky personalities as the new voices that have become the intellectual drive of the Republican party. Wacky personality Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has captured a large number of conservative followers, and now raw meat rocker Ted Nugent is also fast emerging as the latest conservative voice. Today, Ted Nugent "the motorcity madman" is offering some tough love logic on the prospect of a GM bankruptcy.

While proving himself a loyal lover of this Detroit city home, Nugent does offer a relatively strong case for support for a GM bankruptcy. Nugent views this as the best opportunity for GM to restructure and get rid of unprofitable divisions or subdivisions and to reemerge as a leaner company. Nugent views GM as perhaps too big to be rescued on it's current form.

However, what I find troubling is that Nugent views the $700 billion dollar bailout of the financial institutions as an acceptable policy, he doesn't view that GM or other American automobile companies or private companies should share in this. This I don't quite understand. In my view, it was some of these financial institutions that might have had the strongest history of political donations to both political parties, only giving them more clout over asking Washington for financial help compared to the auto industry. This is unfortunately the only big difference that I see. But I would welcome any comments here that would like to argue this case any different.

But in many other ways, Nugent does display a far deeper, although sometimes simplistic sense of business, that is surprising to me. He's a little deeper thinker than I had previously realized, although I hardly agree with his philosophy. But surprisingly to me, Nugent does write fairly well, although I still doubt that traditional conservative intellectuals like the George Will's of America have little to fear that their jobs as conservative opinion leaders will be lost. But surprisingly, the rise of Sarah Palin and now Ted Nugent seem to indicate that conservatism is fast becoming a new phenomenon that appeals to working class reactionaries and is quickly losing support from among Wall Street types who are now finding enough common ground with Obama and the Democrats to make this the new party of many in the big business community. Republicans might not be able to win many future elections with such a new base. But it may represent a new political realignment.

But it is certainly a strange world when a rocker like a Ted Nugent has become the voice of conservatives. And it is also strange world when another old rocker like myself has also become one of the voices of liberals on the other side. Who knew that the world of rock music would someday provide the breeding grounds for today's political thinkers when our parents thought that we were just screwing our lives away with music as kids?

The Human Face Of The Home Foreclosure Crisis

In Vancouver, Washington home foreclosures are up 80% over last year, with 311 homes currently in foreclosure. Now, one out of every 501 homes are currently in foreclosure in this Washington city that is just North of the Oregon border. It is an alarming situation where the foreclosure rate in this community is now twice the state average.

At the same time some conservatives just don't seem to recognize the seriousness of this recession and continue to mobilize support to oppose either Democratic efforts in congress or proposals by President-Elect Obama to stabilize the economy. This certainly is not in the best interest of this nation. And Democratic lawmakers are perfectly willing to accommodate any serious Republican concerns in seeking a bipartisan consensus on many issues such as the auto industry bailout legislation. There have been substantial compromises to par the proposal down to just $15 billion, far lower than the more than $30 billion that the auto industry sought at one point just a few days ago, and appoint an "auto czar" to oversee the industry progress towards a lasting industry revival.

Today, HUMAN EVENTS, the conservative publication is sending out a new Email to mobilize a quarter million readers to resist the incoming political agenda of President-Elect Obama claiming it is somehow "radical liberal" in nature. But the truth is that Obama has made many centrist choices in cabinet picks and believes that his 53% win in November requires him to be inclusive of the 47% of votes for other candidates including John McCain. This is a far different philosophy than President Bush who considered his 51% of the vote win over John Kerry in 2004 as a clear mandate and that he somehow had great "political capital" from this narrow win to spend.

It may be nearly impossible to satisfy the far right even though the serious recession and economic damage they have done to this nation have so discredited their shortsighted political philosophy which at times seems very short on both human compassion as well as common sense. So much of their philosophy is so antiunion and antiworker, and now so many don't even have jobs now as a disastrous consequence of their failed economics. The fact is that the auto unions have been working with the auto industry in close cooperation to help to save this industry. Workers don't want to bankrupt their place of work. They just want a fair wage and good working conditions. And now that the economy is in such serious condition, workers just want a job. They are more than willing to compromise to save their workplace.

Voters clearly voted for a change in November. And a bipartisan majority of both Democrats and mainstream Republican legislators now must work together to reverse serious human tragedies such as the home foreclosure crisis in Vancouver, Washington. With the economy standing right on the brink of possibly slipping into another Great Depression without strong bipartisan direction from Washington, it is a good time to ask those strong partisans over at HUMAN EVENTS to think about the good of their country and to show some sense of compromise to work to prevent this serious economic crisis from only worsening.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blagojevich Becomes The Latest Illinois Governor To Face Legal Problems

The very disappointing revelations today of the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich read like a final chapter in some Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde drama. As a congressman, Blagojevich established a reasonable reputation as an effective legislator, but as the first Democratic governor of Illinois in 30 years, Blagojevich began to self-destruct before the public eye into his second term in office where his popularity began a rapid tumble after question after question about his character began to publicly surface.

From his Serbian immigrant father's Chicago working class background, Blogojevich who once worked as a dishwasher, a shoe shine boy and a pizza delivery boy, seemed like he truly was a man of the people. And voters as well as labor unions became so impressed by his life story where Blagojevich who was once a prosecutor with a good reputation for fighting domestic abuse cases that they elected him to congress where he racked up a very good record of being a friend of the working man. But as governor the wheels just plain fell off it seems.

After winning re-election in 2006, despite some 2005 scandals that started to emerge to taint Blagojevich, things only got worse where by 2008 his popularity hit the real skids where by October his approval rating stood at a mere 4%, and THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE and many others had called on Blagojevich to resign his office, but doubted that he would. Blagojevich would have been wise to heed this advice.

The 6AM home arrest of Governor Blagojevich was an embarrassing chapter to a political career which is rapidly coming to an end. Prosecutor Patrick Kennedy, who has to be one of the most honest and trustworthy of any prosecutor in the U.S.,who also successfully went after the criminal conduct of White House staffer "Scooter" Libby, was apparently the lead prosecutor in this case of corruption coming from a governor who appeared to be in the business of attempting to sell Barack Obama's old senate seat rather than quickly appoint someone to fill this post based on their talents. In fact, some of Obama's favorite candidates for this senate seat had to recently take themselves out of contention because of all the scandal surrounding the Illinois governor.

And there is that matter of the wiretap that has Governor Blagojevich sounding much more like some hardened organized crime figure rather than a public servant are indeed some of the most disturbing in American political history, and are on a par that almost seems worst than some of the most disturbing revelations that forced President Richard Nixon from office. But prosecutor Patrick Kennedy made it abundantly clear that President-Elect Obama has no role at all in Blagojevich's own problems. In fact, Obama has been something of a victim where his top suggested picks to replace him in the senate have been put on hold and their nominations clouded over by Blagojevich's own actions.

Oh, the late night comics will have a lot of fun with Governor Blagojevich's problems. And you only know that these will include more than a few toupee or Hair Club For Men jokes as well. For a gag, some jokester has even put up a phony ad on Ebay offering to sell the Illinois senate seat. But one thing is for certain, Abraham Lincoln, which had a saintly reputation for honesty would be very disappointed at the Blagojevich affair, and President-Elect Obama doesn't appreciate this distraction as he seeks to shore up hope on Wall Street to trust in his political agenda to rescue the American economy.

The serious problems of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich should stand solely on his own shoulders. Mr. Obama has no part in these serous problems. Mr. Obama is concerned with how to best rebuild the American economy and restore America's place in the world. Blagojevich by comparison was apparently only concerned with what he could accomplish for himself, which is the direct opposite of any true public servant.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ford Probe.....A Recession Horror Tale!

As a sign of the terrible bad times in the American automobile industry, a new Ford dealership in Gladstone, Oregon suddenly shut it's doors on Monday and hired a security guard to kick angry customers off the lot who had complaints about service, contracts, unhonored warranties and other serious product issues. The Oregon State Attorney General's Office has opened a legal probe into this car dealership that suddenly shut it's doors, leaving many angry customers who now claim the dealer started to fail to honor new car warranties and other important services recently as auto sales tumbled nationwide. It hardly inspires much confidence among many potential new car buyers for a dealership like Joe's Ford to suddenly close it's doors and leave customers in the lurch, but this is exactly what many customers are claiming happened at this new Ford dealership.

What happened at Joe's Ford on Monday had an eerie similarity to the sudden bank closings during the Great Depression, where customers had a huge financial stake at the banks, but doors were suddenly closed and hired security guards held off angry customers. It is a disturbing scene so identical to so many terrible dramas during the Great Depression.

It also appears that the new car inventory at Joe's Ford will likely be taken over by the Ford Motor Company's credit division as well. This local dealership is apparently simply giving back the new car inventory to the car company rather than pay for this stock that was offered on credit to the dealer.

While new car dealerships have become virtual ghost-towns recently despite some terrific sales deals and bargains that abound, the shocking story of the sudden close of Joe's Ford in Gladstone should send a cold chill up the spines of what few new car customers there may be out there. Some car buyers used to wonder whether a car would last until it's paid for. Now you have to wonder whether the car dealer will last until tomorrow to honor the warranty. It's all very disturbing.

It's yet another recession horror story.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Where "The Surge" Isn't Working

Defenders of the Bush Administration continue to claim "success" for "the surge". Yet they continue to gloss over some terrible events that only continue in Iraq in which the Islamic majority continues a genocidal wave of violence to rid Iraq of it's small Christian community. In 2003, there were at least 1 million Christians of various sects who lived in Iraq, and despite all his very serious faults, Saddam Hussein even hand picked Christian Tariq Aziz as his vice president. Aziz even used his position of importance among Iraq's Christian commnunity, as a Chaldean Catholic, to meet with the Pope on February 14, 2003 to promise that Iraq would fully cooperate on any international community disarmament mandates, but the Bush Administration wanted to hear no part of this from this leader from Iraq's Christian community, and was instead bent on war.

Now since the beginning of the 2003 American war in Iraq, at least 50% of Iraqi Christians have left their homes in Iraq due to relentless persecution and violence from the Islamic majority as well as Muslim extremists who have shown little tolerance at all towards this Christian minority in Iraq.

As late as February of this year, a major Christian leader, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was abducted and his abused body turned up dead in the city of Mosul. Peaceful Christian leaders like this routinely face violence and death in the "new Iraq" which Bush Administration supporters continue to claim is now so "peaceful" since "the surge" went into effect. Christian churches that freely worshipped during the Saddam Hussein years are now closed, burnt down or destroyed by violence. Christians must worship underground or hide their faith in the "new Iraq". And life for missionaries in Iraq remains very dangerous, where kidnappings or death are commonplace, even for medical aid workers who belong to some Christian sponsored agency.

The Shiite dominated government of Iraq, that Bush Administration supporters continue to claim as some great story of the "success" of democracy has begun a process of repealing sections of the nation's constitution allowing for the free exercise of religion. During just September and October of this year, 2,000 Christian families had to flee their homes in Mosul after a new wave of anti-Christian violence by the Muslim majority while the government of Iraq worked to repeal Article 50 of the nation's constitution that allowed for the Christian minority to have at least some tiny proportional representation in the parliament of Iraq. Just this Fall, since some Christians held a small demonstration opposing the repeal of this important religious freedom section of the Iraqi constitution, Muslim radicals stepped up a new violence wave against the Christian community in Mosul where now only about 1/3 of Christian families have even returned to their homes. The terrible new sharp uptick in violence against Iraq's small Christian faith community has only worsened during the September to November American election race, yet candidate John McCain only continued to claim how well "the surge" was supposedly working in Iraq as campaign political propaganda while Christians in Iraq were being murdered or forced from their homes in huge numbers.

Further Christians in Mosul Iraq are being forced to pay a special "jizya tax", which allows them to live in a Muslim nation or else face death. And so far the U.S. has done nothing to prevent this discriminatory tax based on a person's faith or do much to stop these death threats. Often the local government is as nearly as bad as the local extremists, and sometimes almost the same elements where the local police often carry out the religious discrimination dirty work of the most radical Muslim clerics.

Supporters of the Bush Administration and "the surge" won't tell you all of this. Their narrow political propaganda looks for any "good news" to spread even if it's just some half truth that masks most the bad. The fact of the matter is that it's very dangerous to a Christian in the "new Iraq". And one of the main reasons that violence is even down in Iraq somewhat is because at least 80,000 violent militia members are being paid a monthly salary by the United States not to kill people or blow things up or to become terrorists. However these bribe payments haven't done very much at all to protect the small Christian community of Iraq.

Being a Christian in Iraq is indeed a very dangerous faith to practice. Being a Christian in Iraq is practically a death sentence. But supporters of "the surge" just won't tell you this fact.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Cottonseed Oil Industry Responds To "The Awful Truth About Cottonseed Oil"

Back on January 26, 2008 I ran a feature posted both on Progressive Values and on Wizbang Blue dealing with the increased use of cottonseed oil in many food products as many companies seek nontransfat alternatives. My main interest was in addressing the severe food allergy problems it causes me and some other persons. Some comments from others such as Christine, Patrick Bannerman, Steve M and RS Martin described claimed cottonseed allergy symptoms including "hives" and "closing of the air passage". And further a Google search turns up more examples of some in the public who suffer from claimed cottonseed allergy symptoms including allergy skin tests that raised a welt in response to cottonseed oil. Some medical information websites such as also deal with the issue of cottonseed allergies. It should be understood that many different products may trigger food allergies in some persons in the public. Some may be allergic to soy, others peanuts, some shellfish, wheat, etc, my only interest in addressing the cottonseed issue was an educational discussion of food allergies.

Recently however, Ronnie Gilbert who is the Vice President-Oil Sales of Pyco Industries which is the largest of cottonseed oil producers in the United States which operates in both Lubbock, Texas as well as Greenwood, Mississippi, had some serious concerns about my past feature on cottonseed oil that was run on the two websites. I asked him to provide me with any industry information and I would be happy to offer the industry side of this issue discussion as well.

In one letter dealing with allergens that Vice President Gilbert wrote that, "Currently there are no known allergens in cottonseed oil, based on scientific studies. During the extraction process from the whole cottonseed, the oil does not come into contact with any of the eight major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans". This is of course absolutely true. However some in science will argue that the protein structure of cottonseed oil itself, although not a tree nut, has many protein structure similarities to some tree nuts or even peanuts, and can act as a trigger to many who suffer from allergies to tree nuts and peanuts, and may also suffer a common allergy to cottonseed oil as well due to these protein structure similarities. For this reason, it would seem wise for the food industry to consider to voluntarily label any product containing cottonseed oil as among the group of known allergens for some persons.

Vice President Gilbert also sent me some detailed industry information dealing with issues such as transfats and heart health. And in this regard, as long as cottonseed oil is not hydrogenated it can be considered to be heart healthy to this extent. However, Wikipedia cautioned that cottonseed oil "does contain over 50% Omega-6 fatty acids and only trace amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, and the imbalance is considered unhealthy if not used in moderation or balanced elsewhere in the diet". The fact of the matter is that many stores that deal exclusively in health foods will not carry any food products containing cottonseed oil for a variety of health issue reasons unlike other vegetable based oils with less controversy.

Vice President Gilbert also was concerned about how my original piece on cottonseed oil dealt with the issue of a toxic substance known as gossypol which must be either removed or rendered harmless from cottonseed oil during processing to make it nontoxic for human consumption. Gossypol may be used as a pesticide due it's toxic nature to insects. While it is unclear to me what form of cottonseed is actually being used by Pyco in their production of cottonseed oil, research at Texas A&M University has created a genetically engineered variety of cotton plant that will provide against insect damage by merely shutting down the genes in just the cotton plant seeds, but leaving the genes producing gossypol intact in the rest of the plant.

However, gossypol in normal and common cotton plants has been known to have some significant effects on reproduction in both animal and human species. In China, it has been the subject of human reproduction research as it appears to cut down the amount of sperm. And in Bulletin 760-20 from Ohio State University, it was warned that in horse feed, while "Cottonseed oil meal contains about 39% protein on an as-fed basis and is second to soybean oil in quality. If it is available and cost effective, it may be used for horses. Cottonseed oil contains a substance called gossypol that interferes with digestion and is particularly unsuitable for feeding foals. Adult horses can tolerate the gossypol. Research in other species has shown cottonseed oil meal to decrease sperm production in males, and this effect is thought to occur in stallions as well". But some early research on gossypol has been conducted to see if the substance has any purpose as a cancer fighting agent as well, so gossypol is considered an important area of ongoing research.

Certainly the cotton industry has been very resourceful to use science to find new uses for the little cottonseed, which was previously discarded while the rest of the plant found it's way into clothing. However with some who suffer from serious food allergies due to cottonseed allergies, health food stores refusal to sell products with cottonseed oil content, as well as some questions about whether cottonseed oil contains any gossypol or not, and whether or not the cottonseed is from a genetically modified variety or not, and questions about gossypol on reproduction in the male species, cottonseed oil still remains a controversial product although companies such as Pyco had done exhaustive research since 1936 on the little cottonseed.

Cottonseed oil, especially in the nonhydrogenated variety will continue to find itself into more and more food products that seek to get rid of transfats, especially snacks like potato chips and cookies as many companies search for a low cost nonhydrogenated oil to use. However, the strong food allergy potential of the product to some persons who experience tongue swelling, throat tightness, hives or other symptoms which are very similar to peanut allergies will continue to make cottonseed oil a controversial choice for use in some food products for some in the public.

Pyco and other major cottonseed oil producers are very likely to see continued sales growth for their product as a low cost alternative to hydrogenated oils or to transfats. However any industry that uses cottonseed oil in products should also be concerned that some persons do experience serious allergies to cottonseed oil, just as some may suffer from allergies to tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, latex, or a number of other potential allergen products. The food industry should really consider adding a voluntary food allergy warning to packages just like they would soy, wheat, eggs, milk, or other potential allergens to warn some persons who may possibly have a known allergy to cottonseed oil.

Vice President Gilbert has also reported to me that Pyco continues to have research done at the respected Texas Women's University on Cottonseed oil. And Gilbert intends to ask this research department about any information about allergy reactions to cottonseed oil and whether more research needs to be done in this area, which proves a commitment of this company to make cottonseed oil as healthy as possible for use with the public as the food industry demand for oils with no tranfat content grows.

I have every reason to believe that a company like Pyco is concerned with offering a high quality and safe product to the American consumer. And it is very encouraging that Pyco works closely with a respected university in research studies regarding both the safety and for new uses of cottonseed products. Perhaps, new research could even lead to a genetic modification of the cottonseed to remove the allergic component someday, but this is still an important health issue for some like me today in foods, where I have to read every food ingredients label to avoid an allergy reaction to foods containing cottonseed oil like some others do as well.

I would also like to thank Vice President Gilbert for being very helpful in providing me a wide variety of company information and studies dealing with cottonseed oil. It is very encouraging to find companies so cooperative and concerned with the public good as this who rely on independent university research to verify the safety of their products for human consumption.