Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Wave Of Terrorism May Draw Russia & U.S. Closer Again

Interestingly, VOICE OF RUSSIA, the Russian news-service which is a virtual mouthpiece for the Putin regime and the Putin dominated United Russia political party seems to be taking a much less confrontational opinion of the U.S. in the last few days since the violence in Mumbai, India as well elsewhere in the world. Since the Russian military offensive in Georgia in August, American and Russian relations had been greatly strained, but now Russia views a recent uptick in international terrorism as evidence that the United States, Russia and the EU must work together as allies to prevent a spread of this epidemic of violence around the world.

Russia might also be realizing that with a fresh administration coming into power in Washington soon, that it might just be more pragmatic to paper-over the recent bad relations since Georgia, and work together for a better relationship with Washington. And the shared international fears of terrorism just might give both Washington as well as Moscow good enough of a reason to forget each nation's problems with the other somewhat, and work together to stem rising international terrorism.

Besides the terrorist violence in Mumbai, terrorism in Georgia claimed the life a pro-Moscow mayor, and a U.S. embassy in Kabul was attacked as well. VOICE OF RUSSIA notes that these actions came recently when Russian-Western relations have suffered in the wake of the Georgia conflict. Russia seems to be opening the door to improved relations with Washington and the EU by running such a feature on VOICE OF RUSSIA, where it appears that they are inviting an improvement in relations, perhaps viewing the incoming Obama Administration as less confrontational to Russia than the Bush administration.

Interestingly, the news coverage on VOICE OF RUSSIA appears to be far less anti-Washington in tone as well in recent days, a sharp contrast from the more heated opinions in Russia around the time of the August actions in Georgia.

Surprisingly, it appears as though Moscow might have blinked first here. And if anything, this is an important signal to the incoming Obama Administration that better relations with Russia built on common ground issues such as combating international terrorism are very possible.

An improvement in relations with Russia is very important because it is the only nation in the world with a nuclear weapons force large enough to battle the U.S. to draw or worse. The two world military superpowers. Russia and the U.S. need to work together on many issues, and not allow events like Georgia to put the two nations at dangerous odds with other, especially when world terrorism just might be on the rise once again, taking some advantage of the problems that Washington and Moscow have been having since the Georgia incident.

There is the saying that the, "Enemy of my enemy is my friend". And since Russia, the U.S. and the EU are all three disgusted with worldwide terrorist violence, then this may well provide the common ground required for better relations between the states.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Will Oregon Become The "New Detroit" Of The Electric Car?

Oregon's Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski is committed to working with Nissan Motors of Japan to dramatically increase the flow Nissan cars through the Port Of Portland, which is already a main shipping hub for Japanese cars and a plan to possibly use the former Freightliner truck assembly plant in Oregon as a main production site for Nissan to build electric cars in big numbers in the near future.

These plans could mean that Oregon could become the "New Detroit" of the electric car in the very near future, where most of the imports and domestic production of electric cars could be centered in Oregon for the entire U.S. market for Nissan. The Governor also has plans to build electric recharging stations throughout the state to allow for recharging of the batteries to encourage consumers to purchase electric cars. And while Oregon offers a $1500 tax credit to hybrid buyers, there are plans to allow a $5000 tax credit for buyers of all-electric cars.

The history of the electric car is actually far longer than most realize. Back as far back as 1832, there were some early German experiments in producing electric automobiles. But in the early 1900's some regular production electric cars such as the Baker Electric were available for sale. Even car collector Jay Leno owns a 100 year old example of a Baker Electric automobile in his collection of cars.

It is amazing to think that battery technology was actually good enough 100 years ago to make electric cars practical back in those days, but it was good enough that the Baker cars were reasonably good in that respect. It was however a fragile design where serious damage to the car's suspension would occur due to bad road conditions in those days that really killed off the Baker cars more than anything, and not the state of battery technology for that period. Certainly modern electric cars have advanced a great deal since then, as well as road conditions have greatly improved. Now Nissan has some advanced battery technology as well as other electronic advancements not available 100 years ago that make the modern electric car far more viable than in the past.

Detroit has had some modern experiments into electric cars, including Ford and GM, however it is Nissan that is ready to have a 2010 model year electric car ready for mass production. And Oregon's governor is banking on the notion that a revival of the electric car will also revive the Oregon economy and perhaps even make Oregon the "New Detroit" of the electric car. But despite some advantages, and some big disadvantages, the electric car has just never really caught on with consumers. And Nissan which is also part of Renault has never really been as big of a marketing success in the U.S. as Toyota or Honda have been. Toyota and Honda have been more associated with both quality and technical advancement than Nissan in the minds of many buyers, so Nissan would have to turn around the thinking of many buyers who have not as seriously considered their products as have the more loyal buyers of Toyota and Honda products.

There are so many marketing "ifs" involved if the modern electric car is to become a success in the future. Can Nissan improve it's marketing share in the U.S? Will the new electric cars have a long range and be reliable compared to hybrids like the Toyota Prius? Oregon's governor might believe that the electric car is the wave of the future, but still others like Toyota believe in extreme hybrid models or GM believes that a hydrogen fuel cell automobile may be the future wave. But the fact of history is that the electric car has never sold very well, and has remained for the most part just an automotive oddity. But both Nissan and Oregon hope that will all change. Maybe. Maybe not.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai Terrorists Likely Hoped To Inflame New India-Pakistan Tensions

The coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India likely were planned to help to inflame new tensions between largely Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan. Like most terrorist actions, small bands of political or religious extremists hope to cast a far larger shadow than what they can really achieve for themselves. This is the whole nature of their evil actions, creating a general sense of terror in the public far larger than their very limited means to create general mayhem.

Recent relations between India and Pakistan have been steadily improving, especially since the newer government has taken up power in Pakistan that replaced the Musharraf regime. It is hoped that most in India will really wait for more facts about who the terrorists really were and who funded them before many in India begin to blame Muslim Pakistan for involvement in these terrible acts of violence. Britain's MI5, which is roughly similar to the American FBI is also investigating the Mumbai terrorism for any signs that this terrorism was funded by the religiously radical and poorly culturally integrated large London and British Muslim community. The London bus and subway attacks came from this radicalized and poorly socially integrated community before, and it is a prime breeding ground for dangerous Muslim radicalism. Moderate British Muslims are alarmed at this home-bred extremism, but have had little success to stem it.

One unfortunate development is that India's Foreign Minister has already made a public statement that condemns Pakistan for involvement with the terrorism events, however the government of Pakistan has been quick to offer help with the use of one of their top terrorism experts to help India deal with the investigation matters.

The fact of the matter is that top security officials from Pakistan, Britain and the U.S. will all have to work together to find out who is really responsible for these acts of violence, and then will plan some military actions against those bases of support. But in the short term, while this investigation is advancing, residents in India cannot jump to conclusions and lay blame at Pakistan until answers emerge.

If the terrorists had really hoped to create some new tensions between India and Pakistan, then they might have partially succeeded in the shorter term. However, these small bands of radicals cannot be allowed to create dangerous new political tensions between India and Pakistan. The People of India have every right to be very angry at these actions, however they must realize that it was Americans, Jews and Britons who were targeted by these attacks and not really the people of India itself. The American FBI and other international anti-terrorist units really will need the cooperation of the government of India to get some answers about the attacks and to work to protect Americans abroad in the future.

After the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., an investigation of the attacks led to military action against the Taliban government of Afghanistan that gave the terrorist organization Al Qaeda a free hand to establish their terrorist camps to plan the attacks. The same thing needs to happen this time again, where India must allow international terrorism experts in to find out who is responsible for the attacks and take the fight back to them in response.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Washington Area Churches Offer Welcome Mat To Obama Family

Churches within just walking distance of the White House are offering a welcome mat to the new incoming presidential family. One of the closest is St. John's Church, an Episcopal church that is often referred to as as the "church of the presidents" because so many first families have chosen this church so close to the White House laying just over Lafayette Square right near the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home of the presidents. President James Madison was the first of a long line of presidents to choose this church to worship in and to seek guidance from God in governing the nation.

But also surprisingly, many presidents have also chosen not to attend regular church services as well for either personal or security reasons. Despite his appeal to many Christian conservatives, President George W. Bush is an infrequent churchgoer who has mostly not attended any church services in the eight years since he was president. However, Mr. Obama puts a high priority on his faith where regular church membership and attendance are highly likely. Even his book, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, there were so many references to the importance of faith in the life of Barack Obama, that it is really expected that he will choose to be an active church-member as president.

The Obama family could even choose the predominately African American, Metropolitan AME Church, which is very close to the White House as well. And there are many in the African American faith community that would like to see the Obama family continue their faith in a church with African American community roots.

But there are some such as Randall Balmer, who is a professor of American religious history, that doesn't believe that there is a single obvious church that the Obama family will attend as they seek a place for weekly worship and prayer. However with the strong family values of this incoming first family, this decision where to worship will likely be taken just as seriously as the decision for the school that the two Obama girls will attend, which will be a fine Washington area private school used to the tight security of educating presidential children for many years.

And importantly, none of the churches close to the White House should invite very much controversy compared to some of statements made in the past year by retired Pastor Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church in Chicago that Barack Obama regularly attended for 20 years. Pastor Wright strangely made some very controversial and radical sermons in the last year, giving critics of Obama some political ammunition. Obama finally resigned from this church after some of the statements from his elderly former pastor only seemed to grow worse and worse. The last thing that the Obama family wants is to attend a church that invites controversy, although many churches do take a hard line on the subject of abortion and many other matters of strong moral importance to them.

However, presidents with strong religious faith like to seek some direction from God in their lives because some issues are so complex, and regular prayer and support from a loving congregation and a friendly pastor is an important issue for many presidents. With the Obama family, the public should often see reassuring scenes of this first family in regular church attendance in a local Washington house of worship.

Oregon Democrats Open Hearts & Wallets To Feed The Hungry For Thanksgiving

After huge successes in Oregon in the November general election that helped to elect Barack Obama president, Jeff Merkley to the U.S. Senate, and give super-majorities to Democrats in the state house and senate, Oregon Democrats opened their hearts and wallets towards helping with the suffering caused by the George Bush recession and donating thousands to Oregon's food banks in an emergency appeal. American liberalism has a strong tradition of offering compassion to the poor.

Other Portland, Oregon helping food agencies such as Loaves & Fishes(the name taken from the reported Biblical account of Jesus feeding the poor) has witnessed a recent 15% increase in persons requiring food aid, yet has witnessed a drop in donations as many families who used to offer help now have to cut back themselves in their charity donations, as Portland's African American community newspaper, THE PORTLAND OBSERVER, has noted in a fine article by writer Jake Thomas.

Loaves & Fishes operates 30 meal sites within the Portland area, and to continue to fund all of this requires extensive private donations as private charities such as this have no government funding except for the occasional grant that might come along. But helping agencies such as this pick up the important slack of persons without Food Stamps or other public assistance help. Much of the persons needing such food assistance help are actually seniors aged 62 or older where their meager Social Security checks just do not go far enough after they pay their rent and utility bills.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Republicans Consider Georgia Runoff Election As Vital To Their Plans To Obstruct Progress On The Economy & Other Matters

Sadly, many Republicans actually consider the Georgia runoff senatorial election which will take place next week as an important opportunity to obstruct the progress that a majority of Americans voted for in the November general election. Even Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss has said as much recently, unfortunately viewing his re-election as the last big hope of the GOP right wing to impede progress on the economy and other matters of serious importance. HUMAN EVENTS is urging it's readers to donate money to help impede progress as well by claiming that the funds are needed to stop some claimed "far left agenda" by the Democrats. Yet there has been mo evidence of any such an agenda from President-Elect Barack Obama, and instead he has struck a very moderate tone. HUMAN EVENTS failed to offer evidence of even one single example of any far left agenda that needs to be stopped. Not one single issue.

While Barack Obama has been getting very high positive reviews from both the voters as well as Wall Street professionals, the reality is that Saxby Chambliss is likely to win the senatorial runoff election in Georgia because voter turnout is generally much lower for such runoff contests than general elections. And in addition, Democrat Al Franken is also slightly behind in Minnesota's recount for that senate seat held by Republican incumbent Norm Coleman as well. In reality, the Democrats are more likely than not to lose both contests, which gives the GOP some hopes to filibuster any legislation that they do not approve of in the senate even though they will hold only 42 seats out of 100.

This "tyranny of the minority" is an unfortunate fact of the rules of senate. And even though the stakes are extremely high for the Democrats to show great progress on the economy, the Republicans could well pull the same old trick that they did during the early days of the Clinton Administration by filibustering legislation, preventing progress, and then claiming the Democrats were a "do nothing" congress and then winning the midterm election.

Unfortunately you would really certainly hope that the Republicans would rise above partisan politics at this time with the economy suffering so badly. However, many in GOP, especially the right wing, seem far more interesting in running candidates for election than really helping the country. And all of this really begs the basic patriotism of many politicians in the GOP. If they really loved their country, then why play politics at this terrible time for many Americans.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama Plans News Conference On Belt Tightening Today

President-Elect Obama plans another news conference on the subject of belt-tightening today, and how his new administration will look for areas of waste to cut to help pay for his economic stimulus plans. Obama will also reportedly announce a White House budget chief as well.

So far it has been the actions of President-Elect Obama that has reversed some huge Wall Street stock losses since Friday, through a variety of positive announcements of the immediate actions that he will take as president to help reverse the slide of the American economy into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930's. And Wall Street seems to be very positively responding to the actions of Obama where he seems to be very engaged on the economic crisis issue.

In other economic news related to Obama and the economy, the government of China has hailed the actions of Obama so far, and promises full cooperation with Mr. Obama as president to help stabilize the world economy. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang announced praise for the "far more aggressive" recovery plans announced by Obama, and viewed the United States as the largest and most important economy in the world where Qin believed that, "We hope that the U.S. economy can sustain development, which is good for China and the world. The Chinese side will continuously coordinate and cooperate with the U.S. side to deal with the current international financial crisis".

More and more China considers itself as the most important trading partner with the United States as well as the second most important economy in the world after the U.S. in many important ways.

The signs from China of encouragement for the actions of Obama are also an encouraging sign of U.S.-Sino relations that grow in positive ways and a good sign of foreign cooperation with the U.S. to improve and reverse the world financial crisis.

Monday, November 24, 2008

President-Elect's Press Conference Reassuring

President-Elect Obama's press conference on Monday established a reassuring tone that he will make every attempt to do whatever necessary to rescue the American economy and save as many jobs as possible, as well as to aid many troubled business sectors. The Dow Jones Average went up 396 points in response to the positive tone set by the President-Elect.

Despite the fact that George Bush will continue to be the president until well into January, the financial community really needed to hear this reassuring message that President-Elect Obama will make confronting the economy his absolute major priority coming into office, and the annoucement of his picks for top economic cabinet members and advisors also sent a assuring tone to the Wall Street community as well.

What the nation saw today in Obama was a very brilliant man who is very engaged and ready to move the country ahead with his feet running on the ground on day one of his presidency. It was a strong image of a leader with steely nerves ready to address any coming challenge and a perfect image of presidential strength as not witnessed in some years.

President-Elect Obama needed to switch from campaign mode to presidential mode today, and he did so perfectly. It was a perfect image of America in very capable hands and another sure sign that Main Street America made the right choice for president earlier month. Main Street America wisely chose the strongest leader and the best leader to address the serious economic problems confronting the nation and Wall Street sure liked what they heard today as well.

Maybe nothing really change with the economy today in all reality. But the tone set by President-Elect Obama indeed was what the nation really needed to hear today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Washington Power Vacuum

Right now there is a difficult vacuum of power period in Washington with the long wait between the November election and President Barack Obama actually being able to do something about the economy with a lame duck President Bush largely reduced down to a figure that shakes hands with a few world leaders such as President Hu Jintao of China before the new president can really take power in late January. More than ever in American history, this is a serious issue. The economy requires immediate steps to prevent further deterioration and disaster, where some segments such as the American auto industry may not be able to survive until January without some immediate help.

Strangely, right now it is only some weaknesses in the economy such as the huge deflation in oil prices that are almost acting on their own as a slight economic stimulus package on their own more than some new bold leadership from Washington that almost seem like the most engaged of economic actions. And the home foreclosure epidemic may be spurring some buying by opportunistic investors. It is indeed pathetic that some of the worst of economic signals are spurring a few economic bright spots compared to any true Washington leadership between the election and the inauguration.

And unfortunately, many of the actions of President Bush on the economy right before the election looked largely symbolic in nature intended more to help bolster John McCain and the Republican election hopes, and largely were simply media-circus press conferences to point out that the White House noticed that Wall Street took a huge loss of hundreds of points that day. But now after the election, those missing press conferences send a strong signal of more disengagement from the issues at hand and an early retirement for Mr. Bush.

Also unfortunate was a statement from Press Secretary Dana Perino critical of congress to put off the hard decision of how to best help Detroit, while the White House itself has proven little interest in any bailout plans for Detroit either, and would probably even veto such plans if congress even approved them, only leaving this critical mess up to President Obama to address. It is this continued time wasting, foot dragging, and goofy signals like this that are so maddening to many investors and those in the financial community while some segments of the American economy may be slipping far beyond hope. It is almost whether there is a debate whether to send a rope to a man hanging onto a cliff by his fingertips or not. It is simply an appalling display of preinauguration disengagement at the White House where any real actions on important issues stopped on election day, if not well before that date.

President-elect Barack Obama did send some very encouraging signals to Wall Street on Friday when plans to nominate New York Federal Reserve Chairman Tim Geithner to be the next Treasury Secretary were leaked to the press sending Wall Street up well over 400 points after two days that witnesses nearly a 900 point market drop. And Obama's Saturday morning address sent more encouraging signs that Obama will do whatever it takes to improve the American economy. Some of the ideas included creating 2.5 million new jobs through a rebuilding of schools, roads, etc, that seemed very similar to a modernized version of the Roosevelt-era WPA and NRA projects and plans. The only problem is that Barack Obama is just the President-Elect at this point, and not really able to act until after his late January inauguration.

All of this only illustrates some of the shortcomings of the American political system. There is at least a year long campaign for president where the serious problems facing the country are debated over and over again while the current White House does little to act on the problems and remove them as an issue for their party to have to defend against, capped by a big election loss because of the Republican inaction, only followed by a long wait for the new president to take office after the election while the economy demands some immediate steps and actions that are still in very short supply indeed from the current lame duck presidency largely more concerned about leaving these problems up to the new guy, and their own retirement plans to hunt or fish than anything else at this point.

It is little wonder that during the Bush years there was a real problem teaching democracy to nations such as Iraq. The student needed a better teacher.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Iran Ramps Up Spy War With Hanging Of Telecom Salesman

Iran wants to prove to the world community that it is continuing to take a hard line on the nuclear issue with the reported Saturday hanging of a telecoms salesman Ali Ashtari, 45, who the state claims was paid $50,00USD by the Israeli Mossad to buy satellite phones and other communications items to intercept Iranian military communications, government officials and the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had previously used prison terms of 4 to 13 years in cases involving spying on their government or military, so the execution was a dramatic step in sending an angry message to the world community. The world community seeks both cooperation as well as transparency with Iran's nuclear program for it not to be used for military purposes, but the hanging is another example of how Iran feels about this nuclear issue.

The salesman who was hanged, reportedly used encrypted computer messages as well attempted to distribute satellite phones to other agents within Iran to spy on government officials, military leadership and Iran's nuclear program according to Iran's claims. And supposedly he confessed to such crimes the state claims. However their is no independent way to verify if Iran used torture or other means to get a confession or whether the salesman was really a spy at all. The main purpose of the Iranian announcement of the hanging seemed to be a blunt message to the world community to stay out of Iran's affairs and that Iran would not cooperate on the nuclear issue.

The problem with Iran taking such a hard position as this is that it actually increases the likelihood of Israel taking military action in the future if President Barack Obama is less willing to do more than negotiate with Iran or use sanctions. Iran and Israel could well find themselves pushed to the brink of war if the world community cannot get the cooperation of Iran for more openness with their nuclear program as well as safeguards that it not be used for military purposes.

But in the short run, Iran may use more "show executions" to send a climate of fear into the world spy community to stay out of their military affairs. But the reality is that that is unlikely to deter the West from preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, so Israel will most likely act at some point if they fear that their security is actually threatened.

President Barack Obama might well face a difficult challenge during his administration if Israel and Iran come to the brink of war over the nuclear issue and what the U.S. response should be. And the toughness of expected Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton might play a major role in attempting to prevent this major international incident.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eric Holder Frightens Civil Libertarians

Attorney General designate, Eric Holder, sends a cold chill up the spines of many civil libertarians and those that value separation of church state with a history of disturbing statements and pandering to religious right organizations such as Morality In Media. Indeed, civil libertarians are very disappointed in this choice to be next Attorney General of the United States.

While 57 year old attorney, Eric Holder, is expected to strongly enforce civil rights laws and to be tough on white collar crime, especially among Wall Street firms that helped to drive their up own companies financial problems while they pulled down salaries that reached into the heavens with multimillion dollar salaries, Holder's past statements and actions in regards to civil liberties only frighten civil libertarians.

The subject of freedom of speech on the Internet is an important issue to civil libertarians, yet in 1998 Holder issued a statement know as the "Holder Memo" which supported more government intervention into policing free speech on the Internet. Holder wrote,"Because of the nature of the Internet and availability of agents trained in conducting criminal investigations in cyberspace, investigation and prosecution of Intenet obscenity is particularly suitable to federal resources". This presents a chilling image of a Washington bureaucrat who doesn't view the Internet as a worldwide entity where a number of U.S. states as well as nations do not even recognize obscenity as crime, let alone a high priority to devote for federal resources.

Holder has also pandered to outrageous religious right organization, Morality In Media, in a disturbing 1998 letter in which Holder wrote, "I appreciated having the opportunity to meet with you recently to discuss the prosecution of obscenity cases". Led by religious right extremist, Robert Peters, this wacky religious right organization has even attacked store displays of popular magazines such COSMOPOLITAN and has badgered major supermarkets such as Kroger to stop selling or else cover up popular women's magazines or supermarket tabloids. And this same small group of religious screwballs regularly attacks shock jock radio and other shows with letter writing campaigns or endless exaggerated FCC complaints. The group even sent a screwball letter to President-Elect Obama claiming that vigorous prosecution of obscenity is needed because of things such as "sex with excrement", although the organization failed to prove that even one American website even features this sort of bizarre content. Like much of the propaganda from Morality In Media, it is likely another outright outrageous lie meant to pressure politicians in supporting the organization's screwball political agenda. The Bush Administration even blurred the line between separation of church and state by putting a retired police detective from Morality In Media on the government payroll to surf the Internet looking for offensive websites to possibly target for an obscenity prosecution.

The real problem with any obscenity prosecution is that the strict wording the 1st Amendment doesn't seem to support any role of government in regulation of speech for political, religious or even offensiveness reasons. And even after the controversial 1973 Supreme Court case that allowed for "local communities" to have power to regulate free speech, which a minority on the Supreme Court still believes is an unconstitutional standard, the federal government and some states as well have set up some obscenity laws, often even going as far to absurdly make offensive speech a felony or even a racketeering offense in some cases.

The real problem with federal prosecutions of obscene speech on the Internet is that since the Internet is a worldwide commodity, it becomes an example of one branch of government attempting to regulate what the rest of the world community may view even if the material is completely legal in most of those communities. Further, since a number of states don't even have any obscenity laws or don't enforce the laws on the books, the federal government must find a conservative community, often in the South, and attempt to build a federal obscenity case by claiming that some local ordinance was violated in some conservative Southern jurisdiction. This is an absurd legal standard, as all material available on the Internet is considered to be constitutionally protected free speech until some local community has a trial with a judge and jury to claim the content exceeded local community standards, then the individual, corporation or website is somehow guilty of a federal obscenity offense.

But what is so disturbing about Holder was that he supported multijurisdiction prosecutions of Internet websites and businesses on federal obscenity charges where material that may be completely legal has to be defended in courtroom after courtroom, community after community, just to drain a company's assets with legal bills and bankrupt completely legal businesses with up to millions of dollars in lawyer's fees by using endless amounts of taxpayer dollars for endless prosecutions. It is an outrageous form of dirty prosecution tactics to bankrupt controversial free speech even if they win every case in every courtroom and prove their material to not violate the community standard in every courtroom. And Holder not only supports the prosecution of major sellers but also smaller businesses as well, which will often unfortunately plead guilty to obscenity charges that they might not be guilty of simply because they lack the assets to defend themselves.

In Florida, a few years ago a small African-American owned record store had to spend vast amounts of money to successfully defend itself from obscenity charges for offering for sale a copy of a Two Live Crew rap album. Small businesses like this might win their case against obscenity charges, but are bankrupted by the legal costs. And if the business loses, then they face government seizure of the business, possible loss of their home and other property, bank accounts and huge fines and prison time and sometimes being branded for life as a convicted "racketeer. Racist Senator Jesse Helms added obscenity to the list of racketeering offenses in his late days in the Senate and elderly racist Strom Thurmond helped to write many of the federal obscenity laws. These two socially backward Southern racists are most responsible for some of the worst of federal obscenity laws that have often spurred racially motivated obscenity cases in Southern courtrooms. It is nothing short of laws being far worse than any tasteless or offensive form of free expression by far.

Jewish American comic Lenny Bruce was once targeted several times in court in New York with obscenity prosecutions, and these legal problems led to his suicide. Today, his same sort of comedy is common place on cable TV and in nightclubs. The City of New York made a posthumous apology to Lenny Bruce a few years ago for their zeal in driving him to his death. The problem is that standards for what constitutes obscenity changes over time. What might be considered a crime at one time, isn't a little later. And other "crimes" are not built on a matter of personal taste or opinion like obscenity prosecutions are. Murder is always murder, theft is always theft, but obscenity is not always a crime in every community or over time as public taste changes. Obscenity prosecution is an outrageous standard to base law on. There is no clear cut set of laws written anywhere what may or may not be considered obscenity and in every community. A Gay adult film might be considered legally acceptable in San Francisco or most big city communities, but in a conservative Bible Belt courtroom in Mississippi, be considered a crime there. There is also no indication that George Washington and the other founding fathers intended that each individual local community should be allowed to establish laws to regulate speech locally. The Supreme Court in 1973 recognized that the strict wording of the 1st Amendment doesn't leave any room for federal government to regulate speech, so let local communities do that instead, which is absurd, but then even allowed the federal government to act as well. It is clearly an unconstitutional standard for regulation of free speech.

Holder is a very disappointing choice for Attorney General. He just doesn't seem to share any modern sense that the worldwide nature of the Internet should not be subject to local community laws. And the notion of judge shopping, courtroom shopping, to find the most conservative possible community in some Southern jurisdiction in a Bible Belt community to decide what persons in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco may view is outrageous. Holder just doesn't seem to value the separation of church and state any higher than the current religious right wackos who are plentiful in the Bush Justice Department is appalling. The religious right has used the Bush Justice Department to advance it's radical social and cultural agenda, and Eric Holder holds little promise of reversing this abuse of government power and spending of taxpayer money to advance a religious agenda.

Civil liberties supporters have every right to be very disappointed in this awful choice for Attorney General. Government has no legitimate role in using taxpayer dollars to promote a religious agenda. And most existing obscenity laws that involve the distribution of sometimes outrageous material between consenting adults is clearly unconstitutional and often just an attempt by religion to enforce their views of culture on the society at large. And ironically, Blacks, Gays, Jews and other groups have often been disportionately made the subject of obscenity cases when comics, rap albums, or others have been hauled into court to defend themselves from serious obscenity charges that may be construed as a "crime" in one conservative community, but not even considered a crime almost everywhere else. It is a shame that Eric Holder doesn't seem to see this historic racist application of law here. Eric Holder just doesn't get it. Unless Eric Holder has proven substantial change since his backward thinking views from 1998, then he should not become the next U.S. Attorney General.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama a Fellow Jeep Owner

Barack Obama is part of the brotherhood of Jeep drivers across the U.S., and was known for driving himself to many of his early campaign events in his own Jeep. While fellow Jeep drivers hardly have same brotherhood as motorcyclists and scooterists who often give one another a nod or peace signs on the road, still the long running Jeep brand brings together freedom loving Americans who love this great all-American four wheel drive classic.

And Jeep is just one good reason why the American automobile industry should survive. This vehicle helped to win WWII and has survived from a number of American owners including Willys Overland, Kaiser, American Motors and now Chrysler.

Like Mr. Obama, I own one of the station wagon-like models, a 1998 Cherokee Sport. Mr. Obama has owned a 2000 Grand Cherokee model. The Cherokee line is a great line of trucks, very durable, able to carry not only packages but persons in great style, and able to handle the worst of weather. When it snows, you know that a Jeep can get through most of time, or that a Jeep is always ready for off-road fun as well with their big tires and high ground clearance. You can't beat Jeeps for fun and style.

From it's early days as a small truck that saw military service during WWII, where a Jeep once pulled a train over 20 miles after the train broke down, the Jeep line has always maintained it's distinctive appearance even while growing in size and creature comforts, but never losing it's durable truck design. Who knew that the Willys models of WWII would someday grow into beautiful larger Grand Wagoneer or Grand Cherokee models of today? And with many modern models powered by a dependable drivetrain using an inline 6 cylinder engine or even V8, many Jeeps are long running for sure.

I think that many Americans just might have a four letter word for those in congress who aren't sure if they want the American auto industry to survive; Jeep.

Missouri Finally Called For John McCain

As was expected, John McCain was finally declared the winner in Missouri by CNN, although the final vote count has not been made official by the Secretary Of State of Missouri. McCain leads with 1,445,812 votes or 50% of the vote to Obama's 1,442,180 votes or 49% of the vote. But the truly interesting fact here is that Barack Obama has become the first Democrat in American history ever elected president who did not win Missouri.

Missouri is also the only "red" state that the Obama Campaign made a very serious effort to win that fell a little short. In all the "red" states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, Nevada and Florida, the Obama Campaign succeeded in their efforts to rewrite the political map and to appeal to both strong Democratic turnout, new voter registration as well as Republican swing voters who desired change. In recent years, most Democratic campaigns have only made concentrated efforts to appeal to their core of states that Al Gore won in 2000, as well as Ohio and Florida, which was a very narrow electoral strategy. In 2004, John Kerry lost the election with such a narrowly focused electoral strategy where Kerry had hoped to win the election by winning Ohio, even while narrowly losing the popular vote as well as swing states of Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada.

In some years such as 1988, the losing electoral map of the Democrats looked much like a few broken pieces of a disjointed electoral strategy, that Democrat Bill Clinton's masterful campaign organization was able to reverse twice with big wins in 1992 and 1996, but could not deliver for Al Gore in 2000. Gore also became the first Democrat in U.S. history to win the popular vote but lost the election by failing to win his home state of Tennessee as much as most like to blame Florida instead.

For many years, Democrats had hopes of a breakthrough in Colorado, and finally in 2008, they were able to get a handsome win that state with the superior sort of organization and planning that was really required to turn this "red" state in their direction.

But the biggest surprise in recent years has to be that the socially conservative Democrats in West Virginia now seem to be so solidly behind the GOP despite serious poverty and low wages in the state. Despite some of the worst of living conditions in the entire United States, where Christian feeding organizations such as Feed The Children find that some of the poor of West Virginia even trap and eat rats for food, many of these voters seem to be firmly behind the GOP since the 2000 election and this state has drifted far from past Democratic hopes. This is very surprising because this state even supported Democrat Michael Dukakis' losing effort in 1988, and used to be one of the most dependable of Democratic states.

But one big shift in alliances is the big turnout of Hispanics for the Democrats in 2008, and if the Democrats can hold onto this big majority in the near future, then they should be able to expect to keep some states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and maybe even Florida in their column for many elections to come.

The political map was indeed rewritten in 2008. And the masterful Obama Campaign led by brilliant strategists like David Axelrod have proven themselves to even outdo past efforts Karl Rove, the brilliant Republican strategist so responsible for two wins by George Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Serious Government Dashes Comic Hopes

Apparently the voters simply thought that the problems with the economy and other issues were simply too serious and voted for one of the most serious governments that we've had in some years. And while serious legislators may be good at tackling serious problems such as the recession, a real depression of comedy might come from such a serious government in which comics aren't able to make easy fun of the politicians.

Even Conan O'Brien recognized this fact in a comedy bit where he attempted to make jokes about Barack Obama not liking beets for dinner. Of course this wasn't even funny, which was exactly the point. Compared to the endless gift of pants-down humor that could be made about Bill Clinton or the endless mentally challenged jokes about George Bush, Barack Obama is a serious man who is serious about being a great president who wants to achieve real results and there just isn't all that much funny about that. And Barack Obama has few distinctive bad traits that loan themselves to humor like even Reagan or Bush 1 had as well. Comics must be beside themselves with panic for the coming recession of laughs with the election of the first serious president in quite some time. Comics will have to look to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Madonna or Amy Winehouse to screw up big time or something if they can't count on the White House to provide them endless sources of new comedy material.

Comics had some faint hope that John McCain might be elected. John McCain's age would have provided plenty of laughs for the comics to exploit, but the voters instead decided to break the hearts of the comics when they elected the most serious man in years when they selected the professorly Barack Obama instead. It is also as though the country has finally realized that a government by Gilligan needs to be replaced by a government by the Professor instead. And it marks the third attempt by Democrats since 2000 to elect a stiff intellectual as president, and the country finally found one they like for a change compared to the colorless Al Gore or John Kerry. Al Gore was so stiff, he seems like he was made from wood. And Kerry seemed less appealing despite great intellectual talent as well. For a while the public simply found the goofy George Bush as more to their liking even if nearly everything he did turned into a Three Stooges mess.

And nearly as bad, the best hopes of electing a goofy senate seems to be dashed as well. Alaska's convicted felon Senator Ted Stevens has lost his bid for re-election, which will kill endless jokes as goofy personality Sarah Palin might have appointed herself to this position and provided a real wealth of comedy material. Just like that, one of the best hopes of the comics turned to dust when the convicted 85 year old felon with a wife nearly young enough to be his grand daughter, who looks like one of the WIZARD OF OZ Munchkins, lost to Democrat Begich when the count of 24,000 absentee ballots continued. There had to be tears throughout the comic community.

Now the last hopes of comics is pinned on the uphill fight of screwy former SNL funnyman Al Franken who is trailing in the Minnesota recount. And once again, hope is again fading that Franken can will his recount unless some disputed absentee ballots are included in the recount. But the fact of the matter is that if Al Franken had been a more serious man, and not so related to humor, he would have probably have been elected to the senate in such a strong year for Democrats. Voters in Minnesota have long trended Democratic and voted heavily for Barack Obama, but Al Franken was probably simply too funny to win even with so much wind in the sails of Democrats this year. And the voter probably decided reluctantly to stick with more serious Republican Senator Norm Coleman.

Comics including the late night comics must be beside themselves with fear and panic where their next joke will be coming from. Where do you find laughs when the voters won't elect ridiculous personalities and instead opt for serious politicians because the current state of problems are so serious? When conditions aren't that funny, then neither are the politicians it seems.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama's Cabinet Might More Resemble Lincoln Than Kennedy For Sound Cognitive Reasons

So far it seems as though President-Elect Barack Obama's cabinet selections may include a diversity in opinions that far more resembles Abraham Lincoln's sense of inclusiveness than the "groupthink" and yesman" mentality of the Kennedy cabinet. And this might be a very good thing for sound historical, cognitive and psychological reasons.

When the Kennedy Administration was hit with the Bay Of Pigs disaster aftermath in Cuba in 1961 in which an army of antiCastro forces sought to overthrow the government of the Cuban dictator, and were killed or captured because American forces failed to back them up as was expected, the fiasco was blamed on a cognitive reasoning problem known as "groupthink" that pervaded the Kennedy Administration.

President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General, tended to dominate a cabinet comprised of loyal supporters who often failed to question their premises on issues, evaluate or critically test all evidence or analyze all of the available information. And this led to the Bay Of Pigs fiasco because there was a quick consensus reached due to the dominance of the Kennedy brothers as well as the nearly submissive sense of loyalty among the cabinet to merely accept their opinions.

The aftermath of the Bay Of Pigs fiasco led John Kennedy to address the nation and accept full responsibility for the mess. But it also became an important learning experience for this administration to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 with far better results. But the fact of the matter is that if Castro had been removed in 1961 with the U.S. Marines backing up the Cuban antiCastro forces, then the world would not have been pushed to the brink of nuclear war in the first place. Properly dealing with an important early crisis in an administration can avoid larger problems later. And this appears to be an important part of the reasoning that the diverse Obama cabinet may be seeking to avoid.

So far it appears as though Barack Obama wants to be much more like Abraham Lincoln who included some of his opponents and others of the opposition party in his administration in order to reflect a diversity of opinions in which options will be tested, analyzed and evaluated before a consensus is reached. If anything, this displays a much more mature way of arriving at a consensus than the flawed "groupthink" analytic line of reasoning where dominant personalities set the tone for the group's conclusions.

Perhaps the Obama Administration is not only looking to the best minds to improve the economy, where solutions can be very complex, and some programs may not work as intended and need to be modified such as in the early years of failed attempts of FDR to deal with resolving the issues of the Great Depression. And avoiding groupthink might also either head off or else help to resolve any potential foreign policy crisis issues as well.

What is so encouraging is that Barack Obama has the self-confidence to find strong personalities such as Hillary Clinton to possibly become Secretary Of State, which is a very important position, as well as to reach out to his election opponent, John McCain as well. All of this proves that Mr. Obama is a very smart man who will rule wisely and make every attempt to succeed at goals. This demonstrates a real maturity of reasoning and cognitive skills that was sorely missing in some presidents such as Richard Nixon where his own lack of self-confidence and insecurities became his ultimate undoing.

Barack Obama wants to achieve results. And he wants to put together an administration using the best possible minds and rule in a centrist manner that gets real results and a real change of direction from what hasn't worked before. There is good reason to trust in this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vietnam's Growing Economy Bucks World Recession Trends

The developing economy of Vietnam seems to be so far defying the worldwide recession trend that is sweeping through much of the industrialized world including Asia. Just today, in Japan there is the official recognition that that economy is indeed in it's second recession since 2001, when the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. also harmed the Japanese economy as well.

The Communist government of Vietnam is much like that of the pragmatic Communist leadership of China in that it recognizes that it must create an economic climate that is favorable to foreign investment and transparency and openness are essential to enticing new investment in the nation. Vietnam has even joined the growing number of world stock trading markets when it opened the Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center in 2000, which has been growing and creating more links to other Asian stock exchanges such as those in South Korea among other nations. However, banks in Vietnam have yet to move into higher public confidence and better management, and still lag and are considered to be one of the most important areas where Vietnam can make substantial improvements.

Another serious problem for Vietnam's economy is erratic rates of inflation. During the first half of 2008, Vietnam suffered from an inflation rate in excess of 20% due to higher worldwide commodity and food prices. While 20$ inflation sounds disastrous, it is still far better than the simply awful 160% inflation rate recorded during 1988 by comparison, which did slow to a little over 3$ during the year 2000. But Vietnam's economy is largely agricultural in nature, and some prices of goods such as rice or soybeans have had a huge impact on the inflation rate of Vietnam.

What Vietnam also has to export is guest workers. And just recently new guest workers from Vietnam have started work in Russia and other nations. And many major companies such as Canon have used Vietnam to produce some of their electronic products such as computer printers because of the low cost of labor, stable electricity supply in major cities and other attractive draws for foreign investment.

The fact of the matter is that the economy of Vietnam has tremendous areas for growth, and the large and growing tourist industry which accounts for as much as 38% of the gross domestic product, have only contributed to more growth of investment in Vietnam. Over 8% of the tourists now tend to be from the United States, as both nations seek to put more distance between the long war that divided the two nations for many years.

Vietnam will need to continue trends towards openness and an environment that is more encouraging towards outside investment, but it seems that the nation has been making some progress there and working hard to become like a successful smaller version of the economic transformation of China where capitalism coexists in a country that is officially Communist. So far only North Korea, and to a far lesser extent, Laos, are the only remaining Asian Communist states to sadly lag in real economic integration into the larger world economy. But Vietnam seems to sincerely seek a major role as an Asian force in the world economy and to vie with China for it's fair share of prosperity.

The Beatles' Rarity, CARNIVAL OF LIGHT, Might Be Released

One of the rarest tracks ever recorded by The Beatles was a 1967 14 minute psychedelic experimental piece called CARNIVAL OF LIGHT, and now Paul McCartney is considering the release of this very rare track which was originally slated for release on the ANTHOLOGY 2, but McCartney considered it to be a waste of space because of the length of the song.

A 4 minute sound sample floating around on YouTube of the song seems to put it in a similar nature to some of the stranger moments of THE WHITE ALBUM in some ways such as REVOLUTION #9, however since the track appears to be largely just experimental instrumentation rather than a vocal track, it lacks the commercial appeal to be launched as a single and will probably find it's way onto a larger Cd of other rarity material as well since there are still a large number of Beatles' recordings that have not been used in the ANTHOLOGY series or on bootleg recordings of the legendary band.

The 14 minute avant garde Beatles piece seems to remind some music critics of THE RETURN OF MONSTER MAGNET from the Frank Zappa album FREAK OUT in many ways. And while this interesting Beatles' musical experiment really lacks both rhythm as well as melody, it still seems to be an early bridge to the later more advanced experiments in breaking new ground musically that were so highly successful on THE WHITE ALBUM. The track is so rare that it is like the Holy Grail of lost Beatles songs, despite it's lack of a more commercial nature.

There is still a wealth of Beatles' material that hasn't been issued either on the ANTHOLOGY series or on bootleg recordings of the band, so there is certainly enough great material out there still for the surviving Beatles to issue another pretty good album of rarities and outtakes.

Another lengthy rarity is the 1967, ANYTHING, which is a 22 minute long experimental piece recorded during the 1967 SGT PEPPER sessions, and features a drum beat with conga and tambourine accents. And while ANTHOLOGY 3 featured a greatly shortened version of HELTER SKELTER 3, which is a bluesy and far different sounding version of the song than the more popularly released frantic classic, this rarity actually goes on for 27 minutes in unedited form and is unavailable on any bootleg recording to date.

Fans of THE BEATLES who thirst for more of their music have also taken some satisfaction in some bootlegs that purport themselves to be remasters of the band's original complete catalog of albums. And some 24bit mono and stereo remasters issued by shadowy bootleggers such as Mirror Spock and Dr. Ebbetts are known to exist in the collector's market. These "remasters" have typically been from vinyl sources and digitised with pretty awesome sound quality in many cases, but with results still below what would be expected if the original master tapes owned by The Beatles were used in a true remastering process.

The fact of the matter is that The Beatles have not released the last of their rarities or possible albums to the public. There is enough more material of recorded rarities or possible remasters out there that new releases should surface for quite some time. And since The Beatles and their record companies own the original master tapes to any of these rarities, then they are in the driver's seat to issue some stunning official releases that bootleggers and rarity collector's would not be able to match. It's only a matter of time when more of such rarities such as CARNIVAL OF LIGHT will officially surface as a release.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Proposition 8 Aftermath: Does The Mormon Faith Court Controversy?

On one hand, the Mormon faith is known for a deep sense of family values, with a great sense of members helping each other when in need. And many Mormon members are known for their kindness as well as good works. Outgoing Oregon Senator Gordon Smith was known for his support for Food Stamps for the poor and other compassion in the U.s. Senate. And Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, is known for his support for many compassionate programs. And likely the two Udalls, both Democrats who have been elected to the Senate will continue in the same sense of compassion.

But the controversy over many Mormon conservatives supporting California's Proposition 8 with $22 million dollars in donations has shined an unwelcome spotlight on the right wing extremism of many members of the Mormon faith, as well as their controversial church teachings.

The fact of the matter is that during the early 1970's there were some experiments at Brigham Young University that sought homosexual volunteers to see if electroshock therapy could "cure" homosexuals of their sexual orientation, while others such as Kinsey and others had long accepted homosexuality as a common human sexual variation and most in the psychiatric community had abandoned beliefs that such behavior was a sign of mental illness.

There is also some criticism that the LDS faith seems to have a very repressed view of sexuality in general, that teaches among other things that normal adolescent behavior such as masturbation is sinful, and thereby may even encourage excessive guilt or even suicide among some members. Even in marriage, some LDS teachings believe that even oral sex among married persons is morally wrong, although there is no evidence from the Bible itself that married persons can sin by varied activity in their marriage bed. However there some others that will point out that the Roman Catholic faith as well as Islam, and a few other faiths often have embraced similar views on sexuality issues as well. What no doubt angered many in the Gay community was the efforts by some conservative Mormons to impose their own views on sexuality that are shaped by their religion on the general public by their support for opposition to Gay marriage, as officially the LDS church condemns all homosexual acts as sinful.

But while the Mormon faith has managed to anger those in the Gay community as well as their supporters for civil rights and civil liberties, it has most often been the strange teachings of the Mormon faith that have inspired attacks by others within the mainstream of the Christian faith.

Not everyone in the public understands that some strange and controversial teachings separate the Mormon faith from the mainstream of other Christian churches who generally share far more aspects in common. Most churches in Christendom share beliefs in a Trinity of God, or Baptism, or other aspects. However even in these areas the Mormon faiths takes on some strange departures from the mainstream of Christian beliefs.

While most Christians believe in the Bible only as the main authority for their faith, the Mormon faith believes in something known as THE BOOK OF MORMON, which it claims to be another testament of Jesus Christ. And it is here that some strange departures from mainstream Christian thought seem to develop.

The book of Mormon claims to be a history of some people from the Middle East that were of Hebrew background that emigrated to the United States region during a period of 2500BC until 600BC, despite a lack of archaeological evidence that Native American Indian tribes showed any evidence of such a Hebrew background or influence. If anything Native American religion had little in common with religion that developed in either the Mideast or Europe that believed in a God that resided from Heaven and acted as a creator. Native American religion tended to view the Earth as a creator of life, where there was a cycle of life, where even the dead complete the cycle of life because either their remains or ashes will eventually grow new life from the Earth. And there is not good evidence that Jesus Christ ever visited the Native Americans in the pre United States either as the Mormon faith also teaches.

Mormon teachings that Native american Indians were descendants of Hebrews from Jerusalem is also another unfounded Mormon belief. The fact of the matter is that the genetics of Native American Indians proves they are of an Asian background, and not Mideastern. Genetics is a definite science, and clearly disproves Mormon teachings such as this, while the Bible hasn't been proven to have scientific or archaeological mistakes by comparison. In fact the Bible gave a history of certain tribes from the Mideast that some in archaeology at one time doubted the existence of, however during Mid East excavations since the 1900's some of the most controversial histories of Mid Eastern tribes existence has been proven in the Mideast by archaeologists, while more and more evidence disproves more and more of the Mormon teachings by comparison.

Even those from the science of linguistics have discounted THE BOOK OF MORMON as merely a spiritual counterfeit document written by church founder Joseph Smith rather than being divinely inspired due to hundreds of grammatical errors that had to be corrected by later church scholars. Compared to the far better authority of the Bible which has held up to centuries of Jewish and Christian scholars scrutiny, THE BOOK OF MORMON, is a faulty document that seems to borrow heavily from two other books written by other authors in 1823 and 1925, before the 1830 publication of THE BOOK OF MORMON by Joseph Smith. Rather than being divinely inspired and copied from the Golden Plates as Joseph Smith claims, real proof is that THE BOOK OF MORMON was heavily plagiarized from the 1823 book, VIEW OF THE HEBREWS, by author Ethan Smith, and the 1825 book, THE WONDERS OF NATURE, by Josiah Priest.

There is also heavily criticism that the founder of the Mormon faith, Joesph Smith, merely invented the faith for reasons of personal enrichment or to get women. His teachings that supported polygamy are good examples of this. Further Smith was known for using his church publications to attack the character of women who refused to become one of his wives, as well allowing abortions among his multiple wives.

And unlike books of the Bible such as the Old testament prophet Ezekiel, who wrote what would become the complete and so far fully accurate history of the Jewish people of the Mideast, accurately predicting the destruction and loss of a Jewish state in the MidEast such as Judea and Samaria, and then the 1948 reestablishment of a Jewish Mideast state, the claimed prophecies of Joseph Smith simply have not turned out in most cases.

Mormonism even departs from the established mysterious Trinity of God concept that most Christians share in that Mormonism views God, the Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate persons, while mainstream Christian thought views the Trinity of God being in one personage. God is even viewed as being a former man who became God according to Mormonism, and at one time later Mormon church leader Brigham Young even taught that Adam and God were the same, however the church did not adopt this strange teaching officially.

In recent years the Jewish community has become angered at a strange Mormon ritual in which thousands of Holocaust victims were baptised in a strange ritual known as Baptism Of The Dead. As late as just this year, Jewish faith leaders were still having conflict with the LDS church for continued Baptisms Of The Dead of more Jews, despite a 1995 agreement with Jewish leaders to stop this practice. There is no sign that thousands of Jewish victims of the Holocaust wanted to convert to either Mormonism or Christian religion, yet strangely the LDS has done this against the will of the Jewish community.

There are also some strange Mormon rituals that seem to be founded in Freemasonry such as secret handshakes that must be known so that members can get into heaven. And strangely there is a belief practiced by some Mormons that wearing a "sacred garment" that has been called Mormon underwear by critics must be worn to a temple rituals known as the Endowment Ceremony. While the Mormon faith is known to actively seek out new members, there is a high level of secrecy held by most members of the faith of their strange beliefs and rituals, as when members become fully part of the faith, then more is revealed to them.

Other strange Mormon teachings of multiple Heavens, that one will not see their Earthly parents in Heaven, or that forgiveness of sin has limits, also do not follow mainstream Christian thinking either. And some LDS legislators such as Orrin Hatch of Utah is known for writing some extreme political views on topics in the Moonie cult owned right wing WASHINGTON TIMES newspaper. Hatch has been disappointed not to be named to the U.S. Supreme Court as a justice by Republican administrations going back to Ronald Reagan.

While most Mormons are indeed very nice people and good neighbors by all means, it is the new controversy by many of them getting so actively involved in the effort to bankroll Proposition 8 in California that has only helped to focus some new attention on this church as being cultist in nature and holding some strange beliefs and rituals that are far from mainstream Christian thinking. In fact, Catholics and Protestants can find far more common ground on many issues of faith than either can with Mormons. And the very weird conduct of some breakaway Mormons such as the cult of Warren Jeffs has only recently given the public a bad taste of some religious extremism and cultist behavior among some of this controversial religious community as well.

If anything, it seems that when members of a religion that is held suspect by many in the public gets involved in controversial political matters, then it only opens up a new public critique of that faith. If anything, this might prove to be another valuable lesson why politics and religion should never meet in the public arena. The Roman Catholic church also suffered some backlash over the years for their teachings and beliefs when they entered the public arena in some attempts to force non-Catholics to abide by some of their beliefs. And likewise when some Mormons seek to impose their views on the general public, then their church teachings come into public examination as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

GOP Should Prepare For A Long Wander In The Wilderness

In the wreckage of the second failed Bush presidency as well another clear electoral loss after a Bush presidency, the GOP is scrambling to figure what went wrong and how to revive themselves for 2012. But the reality is that they are not so much in the driver's seat of their own destiny as are the Democrats whose success or failure is more likely than anything the GOP can do at this point to revive their political fortunes.

It will be up to President Obama and the Democratic majority in congress to deliver on a revival of the American economy and a big improvement in society and other important issues. More than anything, this alone will determine whether the voting public will turn out some Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections or not. But I think it is highly unlikely that President Obama will make the same mistakes like a Jimmy Carter, or appoint ineffective persons to deal with the economy and other important issues. If anything, Obama will carefully choose the best minds to deal with important issues, so the GOP can't really count on failure here. The biggest question is will the new solutions will work and whether they will they work before the 2010 midterm elections take place. The economy will be a stubborn problem to deal with for sure, and there certainly will be more major failures of major segments of the American economy before things begin to improve. That can't be avoided. Major economic cycles cannot be reversed overnight. But the GOP can't count on much help from Democratic failures here because the Obama Administration will make every effort to succeed.

During the 2008 election while Barack Obama talked about the economy, John McCain wanted to talk about Bill Ayers and other fringe issues that the public wasn't really interested in. And now the GOP finds their political base largely reduced down to just parts of the old Confederacy and some parts of the West. The GOP has to prove that they are a party that can manage a government again in the future, and move beyond a fringe issue party. And no, political lightweight Sarah Palin is not the future of their party either.

Part of the problem is also that the GOP has substantially reduced it's base of support by the divisive issue of illegal immigration which managed to turn out big Hispanic margins of around 70% for the Democrats in 2008, and helped to cost the Republicans Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, as well as the election. The GOP is now faced with proving that there is not substantial racism against the Hispanic community within their party if they want to have any real hopes in the future of winning national elections, otherwise they start out at an electoral disadvantage. And the GOP cannot win elections by only being the party of White people. It needs to win substantial numbers of persons of color and ethnic groups in the future, as White voters are declining numbers of all voters.

And another big problem is that the GOP seems to find the wrong issues to focus on, like for example right now. They are more interested in running more candidates for public office, when the public really wants to hear solutions to the current economic mess, not more about elections or running more candidates. If anything points to a GOP that doesn't get, it is issues such as this. The GOP had eight years under Bush to produce results, but instead left the country with nothing but problems, and now only wants to talk about running more candidates for office. It is absurd.

But the biggest problem for the GOP is that President Obama is unlikely to tank or disappoint the public. He is a highly competent politician who is willing to do whatever it takes to get results. This virtually ensures that he will win re-election in 2012, and probably by a bigger margin than in 2008. Likely the voters will give him at least eight years to try to change the country. And if he is highly successful, then another strong Democrat could even succeed him in 2016. Likely in 2012, the strongest GOP candidates will avoid this year, leaving a weaker tier of candidates to go through the motions of a losing effort to a big re-election win by Obama.

The fact of the matter is that the GOP needed to have more success in governing during the Bush years, but instead allowed huge problems such as Iraq, the economy, Katrina, and a drip-drip of other problems to only build. Now it will be difficult for this party to regain substantial power for quite some time. When you lose power, it's hard to come back again.

The GOP needs to brace themselves for a long period of wandering in the wilderness.

About the only real hope that the GOP can have is that some voters might become complacent or ungrateful if the Democrats restore wealth and prosperity to the nation. And indeed sometimes the voters do have short memories. In 2000, voters let some anger over Bill Clinton's Oval Office antics harm Al Gore, forgetting about the larger issue of the stronger economy under much of the Clinton years. Sometimes in anger a person does stupid things, including voters.

Voters with a short memory remind me of the joke about the little boy who was playing in the sand down at the beach, but then suddenly a big tide swept him out to sea, and his mother cried out, "God, God. If you bring back my son, I'll never ask for anything ever again. I'd be so grateful". Suddenly a miracle tide emerged and swept the little boy back to safety on the beach. At first the mother hugged the boy, but then looked to Heaven and proclaimed, "Yeah, but he had a hat!". Voters are unfortunately the very same way. They go in and out like tides, and often forget who brought them prosperity. About the best future hope of the GOP after 2012 might be that voters will remain this same way if the Democrats succeed in making the economy strong again. Otherwise the problems for the GOP might be generational.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gay Community Hopes To Rock The Nation With Massive Saturday Protests

As an angry response to the narrow victory by the antiGay marriage forces in California with Proposition 8, the nation's Gay community is planning to rock the nation with massive Saturday protests. Progressive organizations such as MoveOn.Org which contributed $300,000 towards defeating the measure are urging their 4.2 million contributing members to support efforts to reverse the measure in California, most likely by the state Supreme Court. A number of citizens are complaining that the wording of the measure was confusing, and when some voted "yes" they thought they were voting in favor of Gay marriage and not against it. But it is unclear whether this will be enough to rule the vote invalid or not. Many ballot measures often use confusing language, but have been ruled as valid or constitutional in the past.

The Mormon Church which was actively involved in the "yes" on Proposition 8 campaign, putting around $22 million dollars into the effort is likely to face many of the Saturday protests both in California and nationally. Interestingly, while the Mormon Church did very little to denounce breakaway cult member Warren Jeffs and his illegal polygamy or child marriage, the Mormon Church instead put a huge effort into the antiGay measure claiming that it was important to the defense of traditional marriage, even though polygamy was once an official church teaching. All of this serious hypocrisy as well as so much Mormon money going into funding the antiGay measure has only galvanised support to hurt the Mormon Church with protests or financially to punish their hypocrisy on the marriage issue.

But a major problem for the Gay community in California was that despite a huge 61% vote win by Barack Obama recently, perhaps as much as 70% of both African American and Hispanic voters might have voted for the antiGay measure. The problem is that these ethic communities simply do not view their own civil rights struggles as comparable to the civil rights struggle of the Gay community. So far, the level of acceptance for the Gay community has been far stronger among the White community, where even many Republicans voted against Proposition 8 in California.

The real problem for America's Gay community is that they haven't really sold their case to many Americans yet. With weak support in ethnic communities such as among the African American as well as Hispanic communities, it is really up to the Gay community to better sell their struggle issues to these communities as well as the larger population. And any protests planned for Saturday need to be absolutely peaceful and legal, as any illegal or violent activity will only hurt the cause of the Gay community to sell their case to America as well.

The fact of the matter is that the nation's Gay community really need more time to sell their case to America. Younger voters tend to be far more supportive than older voters as a rule. However. the real hopeful sign is that most antiGay elections tend to trending more closely divided and less lopsided than only a few years ago. If anything that is sign that at least some progress is being made in the efforts of America's Gay community to make their case for equality to mainstream America. But whether Saturday's planned protests will really help to advance the Gay community cause is still a question to be asked.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can Detroit Really Be Saved? History Isn't Good

As Detroit continues to beg Washington for immediate financial aid to avoid financial collapse, and both Nancy Pelosi and President-Elect Barack Obama seem very willing to offer this aid, the fact of the matter is that the history of rescuing ailing American automakers has never been very good.

At one time many American states produced an automobile brand by at least 1930, but with the huge 1929 crash on Wall Street, many american automobile brands faced their biggest financial survival challenges since their upstart history during the boom years of the American automobile industry of the early 1900's.

When Henry Ford was able to mass produce the Model T, he was able to drop the price to a mere $300 for these simple one door automobiles by 1920, while other car brands might have sold for an average near $3,000 only a few years earlier. Ford was even able to make additional profits by recycling the wood shipping crates that suppliers shipped the parts to his assembly factory in, creating the Kingsford charcoal brand. Henry Ford was a real master at low cost production and profit maximization. But since this time few ailing automobile brands have been nearly as fortunate.

During the Great Depression, the excellent car brand company of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg was only able to survive for a while financed by a rescue plan from the Roosevelt Administration that had the company building kitchen cabinets for homes that the Roosevelt Administration was helping to be built under part of their NRA programs and other programs to build homes and get Americans home ownership. Despite building some very fine automobiles, this company just could financially survive the economic tailspin that it ran into after the start of the Great Depression, where celebrities such as Clark Gable and other customers simply did not purchase enough of their fine cars to keep them in business.

American steel tycoon, Henry J Kaiser, had failed in his bid to build small inexpensive automobiles known as the Henry J in the early 1950's despite a sales agreement with Sears to also market the cars under the Sears brand name, Allstate, that were sold in Sears stores. But in 1950, few American car buyers were all that interested in a $1,300 car with no glovebox, spartan interior, and just a 68hp 4 cylinder engine. The competing Chevrolet model 150 was unfortunately available for not much more money, which made it even more difficult for the ultracheap, but durable little Henry J cars to compete as well. By 1954, the little cars were gone, when Henry Kaiser had formed a merger with the Wills-Overland Company to build the Jeep models, and created the Kaiser Jeep Corporation. It was one of the first of several desperate modern attempts for American brands to survive by merger. But by 1970, little American Motors Corporation had purchased the Jeep brand. Eventually, Chrysler purchased AMC by 1987. Jeep is the only example of an American automobile brand that has outlived several owners and manufacturers in American history that still survives today. The Jeep product turned out to be a product so good that it remains around today while the manufacturers of the brand have struggled since the 1950's to actually make enough money with the product to survive in business. It is an amazing story of the difficulties of the American automobile brands to survive in business, even with a great product.

American Motors, which purchased Jeep, is also another important story of the sheer struggle of some American automobile brands to remain in business. During the early 1950's despite postwar auto sales where Americans were buying cars, smaller American car brands struggled to compete with larger companies such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and the four remaining smaller car companies, Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and Packard entered into negotiations to merge to not only survive financially, but also have the capital available in order to keep developing new brands in order to keep up with the rapid product development over at Chevrolet and Ford for example. However, the very sick financial state of Packard, as well as the financial weakness of Studebaker, it really was a real concern of Hudson and Nash, and instead only these companies formed what was at the time the largest corporate merger in American history, although it only involved just $188 million in capital in January 1954.

Sadly, Packard and Studebaker were forced to create their own troubled merger for survival sake in 1954. While Studebaker was financially the stronger of the two companies, it was the real financial problems of the very troubled Packard company that would help to doom this company in the long run. These two companies were even compared to two drunks attempting to hold each other up, because of the sheer weakness of both companies. Although the beautiful 1953 Studebaker models were greatly admired, by 1958, the large luxury Packard brand was simply doomed by poor sales. The 1958 Packard models were no longer a large car body of their own, but merely a dressed up version of the 1953-era Studebaker models. It was the last of the Packard brand ever. And Studebaker struggled along to survive into the 1960's with declining car sales with attractive car models still based off the 1953 design, along with the compact Lark models, and the beautiful Avanti sportscar brand. The problem with the Avanti was that it was another beautiful Studebaker design that was greatly admired, but once again sold poorly. Ironically, Studebaker purchased the Chemical Compounds Company in 1960, and the STP brand engine additive was to become what was left of the Studebaker company after the company ceased automobile production in 1966. Studebaker went from a blacksmith business formed in 1952 to becoming an automobile manufacturing company, to becoming merely a company that produced an additive for automobiles. It was a classic nearly Shakespearean tale of the tragic rise and fall of an great American automobile company.

Meanwhile, American Motors Corporation struggled on to survive years after Studebaker despite tightening finances as well. The early 1960's Rambler models were a huge success, but the desire of little AMC to compete model for model with larger American companies such as GM really strained the finances of little AMC. And although they built some durable cars that sold for lower prices than most comparable models from the larger brands, the sales at AMC continued to weaken after the early 60's sales success of the small Rambler models. AMC hoped to recapture some of it's early success with the introduction of the 1970 Hornet models which were tooled for just $40 million in production costs, and for only a mere $6 million more, the little subcompact Gremlin models were introduced in April 1970. But little AMC never realized that the 1970 Hornet, which was based off a 1966 design prototype car called the Cavalier, would become it's longest running car platform ever. From the 1970 model year until 1987, American Motors produced some sort of car based off the 1970 Hornet in some way, including four wheel drive models. This long model run for a platform ever exceeded the long run of the failed Checker Motors which produced cars from 1958 until 1974. Checker also proved that even though an American car company could build cars capable of running up to a million miles, it simply wasn't enough to stay in business.

Little AMC was acquired by Chrysler in 1987, but only because Chrysler really wanted to own the Jeep brand, and certainly wasn't interested in owning the AMC cars. The last AMC cars were part of a failed attempt by French automaker Renault to have a 49% ownership in AMC in order for the company to survive. However, few of the Renault designed cars ever sold, and most of the Renault designed Eagle models were actually produced by Chrysler as their own products before very poor sales forced Chrysler to drop the Eagle brand cars from the Jeep dealers they owned.

But Chrysler has had it's own difficult history. By the late 70's, Chrysler's sales were terrible due to Chrysler's failure to offer smaller cars to deal with the gas crisis of the 70's, and the company needed it's own federal government bailout by 1979 in the form of $1.5 billion loan guarantee to avoid bankruptcy. Chrysler's easrly history as an industry innovator that once created new ideas such as the automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, was so challenged that French carmaker Peugeot helped to design the subcompact Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni models, and numerous models based of the K-car design that was produced after the loan guarantee, helped Chrysler to limp along until German auto brand Daimler purchased Chrysler, but even with the introduction of numerous new innovative models, Daimler sold to American investors only in recent years.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how important it may be to make the American automobile industry survive, the real history is that nothing has really worked to ensure their long-term survival. Most every attempt at mergers, foreign investors or government loans has only bought American car brands a little more time, and only delayed the inevitable collapse of these American brands.

The American television industry ran into similar problems as well with better and stronger and more innovative foreign competition from Japan, where American brands like Magnavox, Emerson, General Electric, RCA, Quasar and Zenith all failed. While RCA was purchased by an European company, Zenith continued as the final holdout in the American television industry until they owed so much money to a South Korean bank to finance their losses in business that they were taken over by the bank and became a South Korean brand, and no American television brands exist today.

Detroit may also be on the same bad side of history as well. It is highly likely that nothing, not even a large multibillion dollar bailout of the American automobile industry will guarantee the survival of General Motors, Ford or Chrysler for too many more years. The financial stresses of this huge recession, a lack of technology as modern as Toyota or Honda, and huge financial losses might mean the eventual loss of at least American car maker, where only Ford might be the most likely to survive of the three remaining American auto brands. The reality here is certainly frightening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sarah Palin Doesn't Know When To Leave The Stage

During her failed campaign to become the first female vice president in American history, you couldn't hardly get Sarah Palin to do an interview. Now that she should be an irrelevant newsstory and should simply go home to Alaska and leave the spotlight and let the Obama Administration jell together and figure ways to solve the nation's serious problems with the economy and other matters, you can't keep Palin off the stage. She's doing interviews all over the place. She was on THE TODAY SHOW yesterday, more of her was on CNN with Wolf Blitzer today, and she's doing LARRY KING tonight. Like the bad act that refuses to leave the stage where the guy with a hook has to pull them off the stage, Sarah Palin just doesn't know when to get off the stage.

Andy Warhol once surmissed that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Well, Sarah Palin's "15 minutes" have long since come and gone. Yet, now she's doing more interviews than ever, and hogging as much of the post-election spotlight as she possiby can. She's certainly not a "pitbull in lipstick", as much as she's just a pure "publicity hound". It's nearly as pathetic as when Britney Spears would do absolutely anything just in order to get her daily publicity in the last couple of years before she hit the skids.

Palin is like an ongoing train wreck. One that just keeps on happening. It's no concern of hers that she lost the election and badly so. Palin is in the business of giving advice on Wednesday on CNN. Advice to President Bush, advice to President-Elect Obama, advice to anyone who will waste time listening to her. It's simply pathetic that she just doesn't know when to go away and go back to Alaska.

Please, please, please, someone find that stage hook guy now. Right now.

Great TEN YEARS AFTER Rarities Emerge Again

One of the greatest live blues rock acts of the late 1960's through mid70's was of course TEN YEARS AFTER. Led by guitar superman, Alvin Lee, this great band managed 11 original albums between 1967's TEN YEARS AFTER debut album and their 1974 POSITIVE VIBRATIONS album recorded shortly before their breakup as a group. But in 1989, the group recorded a little less than great attempt to bring the legendary sound back, but that certainly missed the real magic of past efforts. In 2001, a far better live album recorded at Fillmore East in 1970 was released that really was very satisfying to fans. And in 2004 and 2005, the band released two reasonably good albums without guitar front-man Alvin Lee, that were reasonable enough efforts. But it has always been the great live performances of this band that has made them great, and their Woodstock performance always quickly comes to mind here.

Fortunately, with only three original live albums featuring Alvin Lee, the group's second album, UNDEAD, from 1968, RECORDED LIVE, from 1973, and the great 2001, LIVE AT THE FILLMORE EAST 1970, to satisfy TEN YEARS AFTER fans, some great unauthorized bootleg Cd's including two titles with DVD material are now emerging on Ebay and elsewhere for fans of this group to enjoy. And although the sound quality can be at times not nearly as good as the better authorized recordings, still these great bootlegs are very satisfying to fans of this great blues rock supergroup and well sought after collector's items. Perhaps only the rare Mobile Fidelity Labs gold CD of the remastered versions of SSSSH and CRICKLEWOOD GREEN is a more sought out Holy Grail of this great band.

LIVE AT THE FILLMORE WEST from June 28, 1968 is perhaps one of their finest bootleg Cds, and includes favorites like Help Me, Spoonful, Woodchopper's Ball and other early classics, all played very well.

TEXAS INTERNATIONAL POP FESTIVAL 1969, is another excellent TYA bootleg recently re-emerging on EBay and elsewhere with a great live version of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes that goes into an 18 minute intense jam piece, with Hobbitt and more classics.

TOP GEAR is a great 16 track collection of early TYA classics performed on European television and even includes The Sounds, Portable People and Rock Your Mama which were included in the Chrysalis Records compilation album ALVIN LEE & Co. comprised of tracks not found on other early albums and the few singles TEN YEARS AFTER ever issued. TEN YEARS AFTER never was much of a singles band, instead their sound was best characterized by their album sound as well as live performances.

IN THE STUDIO 1969 and WINTERLAND 1975, are very similar items in that both include both a live performance Cd as well as a great DVD capturing Alvin Lee's frantic guitarsmanship energy. But it also become quickly apparent that all the other members of the band, including bass player, Leo Lyons, keyboardist, Chick Churchill and drummer, Ric Lee, are all top flight musicians in their own right. And even their efforts to carry on after the departure of Alvin Lee on the Cd's NOW and ROADWORKS are both very good efforts.

Besides the awesome TYA performance in the movie WOODSTOCK, it is sure nice to find more video footage of this band now available on DVD form, even if it's on second rate bootlegs. But TYA fans could care less, and are just grateful that someone caught the performances on film that will live on forever. Rock on.