Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chinese Leader Believes That Worldwide Recession Has Not Hit Bottom Yet

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addressed his nation's concerns about the worldwide recession's impact with an Internet chat this Saturday afternoon in an attempt to reassure Chinese citizens about the economy much as President Obama did this past week. While Premier Wen Jiabao was upfront with his view that the worldwide recession had not yet hit bottom, he did offer Chinese citizens some positive steps such as self employment to ease unemployment and other serious problems. The Internet conversation with Chinese citizens appeared to have some elements of democracy involved, which marks some further progress in the one party government's attempts to be more responsible to the public concerns.

However, it waa fascinating to see so much focus on Premier Wen JiaBao on official Chinese news websites such as Xinhua, compared to President Hu. This probably does not indicate any sort of power struggle of the Chinese leadership as much as another Chinese leader being delegated responsibility to focus on the economy and other matters. But it was still curious to see so much news suddenly generated by Premier Wen Jiabao himself, and not president Hu which has been the public image of the Chinese government in most matters.

Wen also seemed to strongly support more private enterprise attempts on the part of the Chinese people as an important factor in rebuilding the Chinese economy from the effects of this global recession. One caller with the net conversation was grieving over large Chinese stock market losses, and Wen attempted to offer some reassurance.

But Wen Jiabao also made some interesting news in some statements on foreign policy, including a call for more cooperation with Taiwan to help to address the worldwide recession. And there were significant signs that China wants continued positive growing relations with the United States despite some barbs set off this week by a U.S. State Department document blasting China's human rights record, and a response document by China blasting human rights within the United States.

This first ever Internet conversation with the Chinese citizens is probably a pretty good indicator of the seriousness of the global recession on China, as well as a baby step towards more democracy in this Communist one party state.

Some further news was generated when the Chinese government announced some new food safety rules as well as a crackdown on meat contamination, which should help to shore domestic confidence in food safety as well as aid the export market to the United States and other nations.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama's Iraq Plan Not Likely To Satisfy The Left, But Is Pragmatic

President Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq over a 19 month period down to a residual force of 50,000 U.S. forces in permanent bases in Iraq isn't very likely to satisfy the American left, including many Democrats that oppose this war, however it may be a realistic, if not overly cautious plan.

The reality is that whenever the U.S. has engaged in a war somewhere, it has usually left U.S. forces behind in permanent bases such as Japan and Germany after WWII, and in Korea after that conflict, so realistically the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is not much different than previous U.S. military experiences in many ways. Another reality is that Iran would like to expand it's role in Iraq, and would only further step pressure up to more heavily influence the Shiite dominated government of Iraq. Without some strong continued U.S. presence in Iraq, Iran is only very likely to pick up the pieces of the fractured and uneasy peace in Iraq.

The continued U.S. role in Iraq in the future might be satisfactory to many voters as long as U.S. combat deaths remain very low. However, any spikes in U.S. combat deaths could lead to more opposition to such a future role for U.S. forces. But many Americans might just accept that the U.S. cannot really completely leave Iraq due to the uneasy peace there.

On another hand, the government of Iraq could feel more stable with a continued U.S. role to some extent, but this could also lead to more Iraqi resentment about a continued U.S. role in their nation that has caused the deaths of more than one million Iraqi civilians in a nation with just 28.2 million residents. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. has brought deaths to many families in Iraq, which is no doubt very unpopular.

Yesterday on CNN, David Gergen commented that for a president so boldly acting on the economy, President Obama is very cautious on foreign policy matters and is acting very carefully so as not to upset critical balances or allow a new crisis to emerge. Mr. Obama has no plans to go down in history as a president that lost Iraq, so he's carefully compromising his policy both there and in Afghanistan as well where he might only add just 17,000 more troops, while many in the Pentagon ask for as many as 30,000 more troops.

Caution and moderation might be the best words to describe the Obama foreign policy so far. Mr. Obama doesn't need an international crisis to contend with right now when he's attempting to make some progress dealing with the serious economic crisis. If anything, Mr. Obama is proving himself to be a wise and pragmatic sort of liberal, much in the mode of John Kennedy, who was a trustworthy defender of the U.S. interests around the world. Perhaps that might well be the best path to take.

A Wild New Three Wheeled Motorcycle

There's a wild new three wheeled motorcycle soon to land in the U.S. named the LX-Day Crawler. This wild new three wheeled motorcycle is also marketed under the Chinese Spider nameplate as well, and features a 250cc water cooled 4 stroke engine, 4 speed manual transmission and a very low $4,595 price tag.

This wild new bike seems to be greatly inspired by a $50,000 Swiss built machine with four wheels that uses a BMW engine, but has had significant importation problems because European four wheeled motorcycles are classified as automobiles according to federal rules, making U.S. importation very difficult to impossible. This Chinese built machine faces less importation difficulties because it was three wheels, still an acceptable number for U.S. motorcycle regulations, and a proven low emission 4 stroke engine design that is more conventional in design than the radical BMW engine in the much higher priced Swiss machine.

Three wheeled motorcycles have some safety advantages over their two wheeled counterparts that include much better stability and safety as well the ability to stand upright at stops compared to conventional motorcycles.

With street legal designs and much lower prices than the ultra-priced European machines, Chinese motorcycle makers may be able to chip a new place into the U.S. market. Wild three wheeler bikes might just be the coming thing. Trikes were once considered a 1960's hallmark of a few custom bike lovers. But with a low $4,595 price tag, these new generation of trikes might just find a new generation of buyers.

Cult Classic Remake Of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT Due Soon

In 1972, a young director named Wes Craven and a young producer Sean S. Cunningham produced a violent and twisted crime drama that went on to become the grandfather of the slasher horror movie genre. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a very twisted tale of two young women brutally abducted, abused and murdered by a gang of psychotic hoodlums and thugs, and was such a disturbing tale of gore that theatre patrons were actually throwing up in the few movie theatres that this cheaply made violence-trash film ever played. And both Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham joked that they were two young pot-smoking kids, stoned much of the time while they filmed this outrageous and vile little low budget crime film. It was also reportedly only the second time in film history that a chainsaw was used in scenes of film violence as well, and helped to clear the path for a whole generation of slasher chainsaw horror violence films as well.

Even the title, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, was a later choice as earlier titles for the film only meant empty movie theatres and little interest. However, the vague LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT title seemed to stoke curiosity in the film, and only helped to cement the future career of Wes Craven as a premiere horror film director with later successful films like the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series of Freddy Krugger films.

This Spring, a 2009 remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is supposed to hit movie theatres and will likely be nearly as controversial as this original 1972 film was, although it is likely a far more toned-down sense of gratuitous violence than the original film as this film is aiming for a bigger commercial success than the original low budget shocker. But indeed, as the parents of the missing daughter find out that their house-guests whose car has broken down have been involved in her disappearance and murder, then it still sets up a perverse justification for their violent actions against these criminal thugs.

Reportedly both Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham are both on-board as being involved in the production of this new remake. And likely this outrageous violent crime drama that inspired so many future horror films will be greeted with affection from horror movie fans and disgust from most movie critics much like the original film was.

If anything, it's amazing how two young stoner kids managed to produce a film as well made as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was for such a tight little budget that involved the unauthorized use some public places or the use of friend's homes as filming sites. And the actors were poorly paid with little experience for the most part as well, yet were all effective in their roles. The original was at least an impressive effort for all of budget constraints involved and the small cash outlay. And some of the crude and outrageous ad-libs by the cast members during the actual filming seem to make the film feel more authentic like some documentary of the commission of a serious crime.

For 2009, the bar has now been raised very high for director Wes Craven. Likely, like most nearly all remakes this new film just won't quite capture whatever magic the first film generated to become the cult classic it was that was so respected by so many who love film. But then again, it's Wes Craven. And Wes Craven seems to always make great entertainment. So by remake standards the film should still be worthy enough.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

China Responds To State Department Human Rights Abuses Condemnation With Human Rights Abuses Within United States Document

The Communist Party government of China has issued a sharp rebuke for the U.S. State Department's recent condemnation of human rights within China by offering up a new document that condemns human rights and living conditions within the United States, and urges the United States to remedy a number of deplorable issues within their own nation before condemning the human rights of other nations. Such a war of words is appearing to signal a slight bump in the relations of both countries who have massive economic ties to each other with trade as well China holding billions of dollars in U.S. bonds keeping the American government fiscally solvent.

Among the areas of Chinese condemnation are the widespread crime problem in the U.S. compared to China and the massive number of gun related crimes. China cites FBI statistics that document 1.4 million annual crimes in the U.S. as of September 2008, including 17,000 murders, many of which can be attributed to gun violence.

The Chinese report also condemned how some of the 200 million guns in the United States are sometimes used in school violence, killing a number of school aged children each year. According to the report, some cities have documented as many as 31 gun violence incidents in just one day such as Baltimore, which degrade the human rights and security of American citizens.

The Chinese report further condemns the serious erosion of civil rights during the Bush Administration where by 2008, the FBI and other government police agencies may have examined every Email sent by Internet users, as well conducted investigations into what websites or Internet searches at least 100,000 Americans have done while using a computer. The Chinese report also blasts a July 15, 2008 bill signed by Bush that allows telecommunications companies immunity from lawsuits and allows massive wiretapping of American citizens.

The Chinese report also condemns the unprofessional conduct of a small number of police officers who have illegally shot some suspects, or used violence or illegal sodomy of some suspects in some instances. And the report further condemned that the number of American prisoners vs. the population as a whole as reached an all-time high percentage. And the report also blasted the lack of human rights with deplorable conditions in prisons. Many jails and prisons are serviced by corporate food or service providers who have inadequate diets for prisoners who must count on outside funds from families or friends in order to purchase adequate amounts of food, a toothbrush or other hygiene items. These extra items are then sold to prisoners at greatly inflated prices compared to comparable goods available on the outside. And families are charged outrageously high fees for phone calls from inmates as well. 15 minute phone calls costing $15-25 are not uncommon.

The Chinese report also condemns the extreme wealth gap that exists in the U.S., where a few own a great deal of wealth while the number of those homeless and in poverty is only increasing, and American society is becoming less fair. The report also claims that a record of over 31 million Americans now must rely on Food Stamps for enough to eat, while the number of American billionaires increases.

China also condemned that the right of laborers are not protected in the U.S. with high unemployment numbers, however it was not mentioned in the Chinese report that massive manufacturing competition from low wage nations such as China have cost millions of American manufacturing jobs.

The report further condemned that many Americans right to education, pension plans and health care all suffer considerably with less Americans able to afford each of these important items. The Chinese report also condemned that only 47% of many businesses even provide an employee health care program of some type.

China also condemned the huge drug, gambling and suicide problems facing the United States and the huge problem with recreational drug abuse by millions of Americans. And the report condemned the widespread lack of mental health or other services as well.

The report also cited the continued racial and sexual discrimination within the United States, and condemned the American war in Iraq which has cost more than one million civilian lives as well as the cruel and inhumane treatment of suspected detainees of the United States.

What is pretty clear is that China resents any U.S. State Department document that condemns their own human rights record. However, the Chinese seem to be more than able to cite numerous serious quality of life issues within the United States to claim that this government is not adequately providing for the human rights, safety or security of our own citizens as well.

The unfortunate fact is that the U.S. State Department report on China is correct. And sadly, the human rights report from China about the United States is also sadly correct. Both nations need substantial reforms to improve the basic living conditions of their citizens.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stimulus Bill Contains Millions Of Dollars To Keep Jobs Of Aides Of Defeated GOP Congressmen

While many Capitol Hill Republicans are quick to want to go the record as opposing the economic stimulus bill, none of them have taken responsibility for some programs that they slipped into the legislation. One such program was millions of dollars for a program whereby interns and other employees of GOP congressmen who lost their bids for re-election in 2008 would be still be able to keeps their jobs.

Interestingly, after a number of GOP members of congress added provisions to the economic stimulus legislation, then they still wanted to officially go on record as opposing the thousand page bill, knowing full well that the legislation would pass and their pet projects would still be funded that they slipped into the legislation. It was the ultimate in playing political games with the voters.

Such workings are unfortunately how those in the GOP in congress often play their political games. They add proposals to legislation that they know full well are going to become law, but then go on record opposing the legislation, and only hope that they are on the right side of history if public opinion turns against the legislation. And if voters like the legislation and it works well, then these members of congress claim that they actually helped to write the bill, although they actually voted against it.

This is absurd, silly and just plain pathetic political games of the very worse variety from those expected to act as statesmen and public servants for the greater good of American society. Voters should spend a little time to see which provisions their own GOP congressmen added to this legislation that they voted against.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All The King's Horses, And All The King's Men Could Not Put Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

During last Summer's conflict over South Ossetia with armed combat between the state of Georgia and Russia the use of some new high tech weapons were used including some new generation Israeli guided missiles. Russian military were backed up by a new generation of low slung T-80 tanks that were protected with a scale-like reactive armor that explodes outward whenever struck by missile or shell, making these tanks one of the most difficult to stop of any tanks used by any world military. But the Georgian military used a new generation of Israeli built guided missiles that use a double charged warhead that destroyed several of these tanks, which also created some diplomatic friction between Russia and Israel, just when Russian-Israeli relations had proven steady improvement. The secret Israeli warheads on the guided missiles were specifically designed to defeat the T-80s by the first charge setting off the reactive armor, and then the second charge penetrating the armor and killing the tank and the crew.

Georgia also used Israeli produced Hermes 450 spy drones to scope out Russia troop movements and mount counterattacks. And Russia hoped to make quick work of many Georgian military defenses with the deployment of a number of swept-winged TU-22M3 Backfire bombers, however Georgia responded with counterattacks using SA-11 "Gadfly" surface to air missiles and managed to knock as many as 10 high tech Russian aircraft out of the sky during the conflict. Some of these aircraft such as the Backfire bombers are very difficult to down and requite very high tech weaponry such as these superior "Gadfly" surface to air missiles to have high degree of success.

One important advantage the Russian military had was the use of modern high tech and very lethal new class of SS-N-22 "Sunburn" missiles which travel at supersonic speeds and can be outfitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads. This new class of anti-ship missiles as well as Russian experiments in hypersonic nuclear cruise missiles means that Russia probably now has a large force of anti-ship weapons that could completely destroy the entire U.S. aircraft force in the time of war sinking every flattop with hypersonic nuclear strikes leaving even the newer class of American aircraft carriers such as the $6.2 billion dollar Northrop Grumman built Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush with crews of over 5,000 sailors and airmen and 90 aircraft only burning piles of wrecked metal.

Russia also made extensive high tech use of computer warfare to hack onto Georgian computers and cause great interruption of the Georgian military and government. This was the first armed conflict where extensive computer warfare was used as a weapon.

The fact of the matter is that Israel has managed to build and export a whole new class of secret high tech weapons that rank as some of the best in the world specifically designed to thwart specific Russian high tech weapons. Russia has also poured substantial oil revenues into the modernization of it's military as well and continues to produce new and more lethal modern weapons as well. China is also undergoing the rapid development

Realistically, the United States government is in such a huge budget crisis dilemma right now that certainly many high tech weapons systems projects will have to be scrapped, shelved or scaled way back. The U.S. is going to very quickly find itself as the odd man out as Russia, China and Israel quickly become the armies with the newest most high tech weapons of any armies in the world.

Diplomatically, the Obama Administration needs to have very good relations with Russia and China where war is never an option between these states as the U.S. military hardware begins to age and cannot keep up with the advances of these other states as the U.S. budget woes hamper new high tech weapons development.

Unfortunately the U.S. is now finding itself in a situation somewhat similar to the old Soviet Union before it collapsed largely because it could not compete with all of the huge military spending of the U.S. during the Reagan years. The U.S. cut social programs and threw many Americans under the bus into poverty and homelessness during those years to free up hundreds of billions to spend like drunken sailors on massive military projects. And the far smaller Soviet economy expected this was a prelude to war, and spent all that it could to build up a military that it hoped could leave the U.S. a smoldering heap of ashes. Fortunately war did not break out, and the Soviet system mainly bankrupted itself through this wild military spending as well as it's expensive defeat in Afghanistan. The U.S. proved it could run up big national debts and deficits and spend massive amounts of money on new arms. But that was the 1980's.

Now these 1980's vintage weapons are nearly museum pieces compared to newer technology weapons that have been developed by a renewed oil economy in Russia and the new export economy of China. Now it is the U.S. with the aging fleet of weapons, budget and deficit woes, and facing a likely defeat in Afghanistan where it cannot prevent it's ally in Pakistan from making treaties with Taliban forces to establish bases for cross border fights into Afghanistan to attack NATO forces and then retreat back over the border with Pakistan's protection.

And the U.S. not only faces problems with an aging military and the inability to afford a whole new class of high tech weaponry at all levels, but the basic economic survival of many of the nation's own cities is now in the balance as many cannot to keep all of their fire departments or police jobs.

The U.S. probably won't collapse as a nation like the old Soviet Union did. But the U.S. is now in a very similar position of economic ruin with a sharply declined industrial base and automobile industry bordering on complete ruin.

Mr. Obama is probably facing the greatest challenges of any president since Lincoln himself on how to make this country survive economically and avoid financial collapse. America is simply running out of money, and unemployment and poverty problems are only mounting. Mr. Obama is recognizing the seriousness of this threat to the U.S. and is quickly calling together economic summits as well as actions to help to stave off these serious building economic threats to the U.S. Yesterday, Mr. Obama called together an important budget summit and made sure to invite opposition leaders such John McCain and others to recognize that this is an American problem far greater than 9/11 and requires a united American answer to these problems.

Mr. Obama is still constantly seeking a bipartisan solution to every major problem facing the United States because this economic crisis is so serious for the future survival of the U.S. as a country. The fact of the matter is that united for some answers and solutions to this economic crisis we will survive as a nation, but divided along highly partisan political lines and jockeying for advantages in upcoming elections, we will fail and could even collapse as a nation.

Military spending becomes both a critical need for a modern state as well as their own greatest internal financial threat. Military projects provide very few jobs per every billion of dollars spent. Yet if you don't have the hardware, you will lose a war. And if you spent too much money on the military, your nation goes bankrupt and you lose your security. Ask many dictators around the world this question with a few tanks and soldiers, but populations living in poverty with no real viable economy to show for. Guns and butter requires a careful balance because either can and will destroy a nation's security.

In the end it all boils down to the logic of the Children's tale, that "all of the King's horses. and all of the King's men, could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again" if a system self bankrupts itself, of which the U.S. is now very dangerously close.

Monday, February 23, 2009

China's First Breakthrough In U.S. Automobile Market Likely To Be Electric Cars

With some difficulty for Chinese automakers to comply with tougher U.S. air pollution rules, China's first major breakthroughs in the U.S. auto market are likely to be a new generation of small urban electric cars. One such new entry is the Clever Car, a tiny two passenger electric car that looks much like the German engined Smart car. Clever Car is also expected cost thousands less than even the cheapest model of the Smart, which starts out at $11,990, but tops out at nearly $17,000 for the top of the line model in the three model lineup. The small Chinese electric cars could possibly even be priced at less than $7,000 in some instances, making them competitive with used cars.

Oil prices are expected to stay low only as long as this deep worldwide recession lasts, as prices are currently suffering deflation. And with gas only around the $2 a gallon level right now, it only encourages more use of the larger gasoline powered cars. However once gas starts to creep back into the $3-4 a gallon area once again, then the small Chinese electric entries will begin to look far more attractive to buyers.

The small Chinese electrics may also attract a small niche of environmentalist buyers who believe these cars to be more green than even the preferred Toyota Prius models which are the current favorite vehicles of the environmentalists. In most real world driving circumstances, many Prius owners experience 45mpg fuel economy with these hybrid vehicles.

Toyota and other makers will soon introduce a new breed of extreme hybrids in the coming years, that are able to travel for the first 40 miles using purely electric power before the vehicle uses any gas. And these sort of vehicles will little doubt be bigger sellers than the small Chinese all electric entries which take 5 to 10 hours to recharge the batteries and the traveling range is often limited to only around 60 to 66 miles, although probably closer to 40 miles in many cases.

The new breed of Chinese automobiles also face the marketing problem of a lack of a real dealer or parts network as well compared to brands like Toyota which long ago established a powerful network of dealers nationwide as well as excellent service and parts distribution networks. The Chinese entries could leave buyers in some difficulty even acquiring brake pads or electrical controls for a while until a parts and service as well as dealership network builds. With few dealers for at least the time being, the Chinese entries will struggle in the American marketplace, however over time they could find their niche in the U.S. auto market as domestic brands such as Chrysler and GM both struggle to survive. And as the traditional brand loyalty to American-made automobiles suffers, buyers become more open to purchasing new Asian brands. And both Hyundai and Kia from South Korea proved that it is eventually possible to chip away their share of the U.S. market by improving quality, service and offering trust-building long vehicle warranties.

The electric automobiles do often have a real power advantage over many tiny gasoline engines in that these engines seem to have a lot of pickup for their size and easily able to carry two passengers with ease. There are also a few interesting lightweight Chinese automobile hybrids that are classified as motorcycles that only have three wheels in some cases. However, with four stroke rather than two stroke engines, due to tighter U.S. air pollution laws, these vehicles often only have top speeds that only top out at around 45mph.

Incredibly, there are even some 50cc and 150cc entries in this class as well. The 50cc engine is no bigger than a moped or smallest motor scooter engine, yet is able to propel these tiny Chinese automobile/motorcycle hybrids to city traffic speeds and offer excellent fuel economy due to the tiny engine displacement size. Some 50cc engines in mopeds are able to claim fuel mileage over 100mpg. I once owned a Chinese motor scooter with a 50cc four stroke engine that was able to get an awesome 94mpg once I converted it over to AMSOIL synthetic oil and removed the conventional petroleum oil which offered a lesser 83mpg fuel economy. And the top speed was probably about 40mph for this vehicle. However, I now own two motor scooters with two stroke engines that have higher top speeds, however the fuel economy is just 62mpg with one, and the other about 39mpg. Two stroke engines also remain controversial because while they put out far more power than four stroke engines of the same size, they both waste and consume much more fuel than four stroke engines, as well as burn oil to lubricate the engines, leading to far higher air pollution levels than the much cleaner burning four stroke engines. In fact, a 150cc two stroke motorcycle will emit far more air pollution per hour than a huge diesel burning city bus will. At some point in the future, air pollution regulators are likely to ban the sale of many two stroke engines.

Two stroke engines once found their way into automobiles built by Saab. Saab had some two cylinder two stroke automobiles during the 1950's, but over time increased these to three cylinders, and even had an experimental 6 cylinder engine that mounted two three cylinder two stroke engines together. Two stroke engines had some base of support among both automobile as well as motorcycle fans because these engine turn out more power. However, these engines always burn far less clean, and always emit far more noise. Some two stroke motorcycles sound much like a chainsaw, while others with tuned exhaust notes can be quite nice to listen to. Four stroke engines always have the advantage of less engine noise, lower pollution and higher mileage than two stroke engines, however they cannot match the power output of two stroke engines which are able to produce power on every engine cycle, unlike the four stroke engines which only produce power on every other intake, compression, power and exhaust cycle.

But electric cars always have the advantage of a great deal of power, although the recharging time takes away considerably from the freedom associated with automobiles. But the tiny size of the new Chinese electric cars and the ability to park them in tiny parking spots in crowded congested cities might just give them a market appeal with many younger environmentally conscious buyers. At some point Detroit must realize that China will become a major player in the U.S. auto market, only complicating their own market woes. And this new breed of Chinese electrics will be the first wave of a massive wave of Chinese automobiles expected to travel on American streets in the near future.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Response To The Bobby Jindal Post Controversy

Yesterday, on Wizbang Blue when I ran a post dealing with the serious poverty problems in Louisiana and how Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has failed to so far address these serious issues, I faced a great deal of criticism because I satirically used an Academy Award based theme based on the popular film, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, to make my point. However, even if some may object to my harmless lampoon of a popular movie to make my point, they still need to recognize the larger issues at hand that were in my discussion.

When Bobby Jindal became governor of Louisiana in 2007's off year election, he led many in his state that to believe that he was a competent leader who could address the many serious issues impacting Louisiana such as the serious damage to New Orleans as a result of the August 2005 Katrina storm and flood damage to this main city in the state. This serious storm broke levees resulting in serious loss of life, property damage and loss of business, jobs and homes. However so far, Jindal's conservative politics have really very done little to reduce the 19.2% poverty rate in Louisiana which continues to be the second worst in the entire nation. Jindal cannot be blamed for causing this huge poverty problem. However, he can be blamed for so far failing to address and work to remedy it.

Jindal is also thought to have presidential ambitions, and this has propelled him into a position as acting as a spokesman for the Republican Party opposing President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plans. However, the fact of the matter is that Jindal is accepting nearly all of the funds provided in the stimulus bill for Louisiana including the highway funds. Jindal then announced that he will just oppose the portion of the 1,000 page bill which offers an extension of unemployment insurance benefits for the citizens of Louisiana, despite the high poverty rate in the state. However this is a three year program, with the federal government offering the help for much of these years.

The fact of the matter is that Jindal is just playing cheap political games here. He has presidential ambitions with little real achievement to show, but signed on early to act as the Republican spokesman to oppose the economic stimulus bill, although accepting most all of the funds for his state. Unlike other Republican governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California or Charlie Crist of Florida, who both openly praise the economic stimulus bill as vital for the economic well being of their own states, Jindal claims to oppose the legislation, yet accepts nearly all of the funds, but then only finds a minor portion of the bill to oppose, and not for good reason so that he can soapbox on the issue to further his own political career. That's mighty shallow in my view.

Jindal's politics are indeed inch deep and mighty shallow. Jindal knows full well that within three years the Obama stimulus bill efforts might well improve the national economy by then, so Louisiana will be unlikely to stuck with some bill for increasing unemployment costs which is actually a form of insurance policy paid for by employers, not workers. Jindal is simply playing to a few big corporate interests in his state by not asking them to pay their fair share after three years to sustain the unemployment insurance program once the federal help eases.

The fact of the matter is that Republican governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charlie Crist are attempting to do the best that they can for their own citizens and realize the great benefits of the economic stimulus bill to their states and how much it means to their own people that they serve. But Jindal is merely a cheap ideologue, with a 97% partisan Republican voting record while in congress, and little spirit of compromise or bipartisanship.

Jindal is merely looking climb political ladders, even if he has to search for some minor issue such as opposing extending unemployment insurance benefits just so that he can claim to oppose something. But I think that any serious person can see this for the political nonsense that it really is.

The fact of the matter is that Jindal wants political power for himself, however the leadership abilities to back that up are somewhat absent. Jindal is merely exploiting the human suffering of thousands of unemployed Louisiana residents during this serious economic recession to further his own future political career. That's not being a good public servant in my view. Jindal's political ambitions come first with Bobby Jindal. And that's the honest truth.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Slumdog Governor

Louisiana Republican governor Bobby Jindal has been a dismal failure so far, with little progress on Louisiana's serious poverty problems. With a 19.2% poverty rate, Louisiana ranks as having the second worst rate of poverty in the entire nation. And with few labor unions thanks to Louisiana's right to work laws, family wages in the state lag far behind the national average as well.

The median average family income in Louisiana is just $35,523, which is far below a state like New Hampshire with a median average family income of $57,352. The national average for all the states is $44.473.

Now comes word that Governor Jindal plans to not allow his unemployed and poverty stricken citizens to have their fair share of the extension of unemployment benefits included in the recently passed federal economic stimulus bill. Jindal will allow the federal highway funds to be used. But tens of thousands of families with no work and a shortage of jobs in many communities will be forced to rely on food banks to feed their children as their unemployment benefits end thanks to Jindal. What in heck is this guy thinking?

Ironically, the nation's first Republican conservative Indian-American governor is keeping many of his own citizens in poverty conditions more similar to Mumbai, India than anything.

Mexico's Border Drug Wars Threaten U.S. Security

A new serious problem has developed in Mexico recently as the powerful drug cartels have been able turn out demonstrations and support among the populations in the border towns near the U.S. border. With popular support among much of the border population who are loyal to these powerful drug cartels, weak police forces have faced significant opposition and even the government of Mexico has had significant difficulty combating the influence of these powerful drug cartels and their citizen supporters. This situation has now grown so serious that some foreign policy analysts actually believe that the government of Mexico could conceivably even collapse at some point, with powerful drug cartels taking control of the nation.

Part of this problem comes from the fact that since much of the population of Mexico is in such deep poverty, that the illegal drug trade has become one of Mexico's major important exports to the U.S., and unfortunately provides much employment and cash flow for Mexico. Another major problem is the enormous American appetite for illegal drugs. This supply and demand cycle only creates a dangerous environment in which crime flourishes on both sides of the border. The poverty in Mexico that fuels the drug trade as well as the American demand for drugs only continues to create major headaches for the governments of both Mexico and the U.S.

Part of the problem is also that American support for drug laws tends to be very weak in the U.S. This week for example, Rasmussen released a new poll inspired by the Michael Phelps story and found that only 43% of Americans support keeping marijuana illegal, while 40% supported legalization, and the remainder were undecided. It is very difficult for law enforcement to enforce drug laws if only a bare plurality of Americans even support such laws.

Some nations such as Holland long ago decriminalized drugs and were able to have few problems associated with legal drugs. However, this has not completely prevented some from becoming drug addicts or ruining their lives. And now with the rise of meth, which causes significant brain damage to the user and fuels outrageous and irrational crimes such as metal theft of bridge or traffic control parts or leads to bizarre violent crimes as well as serious damage to the users, the drug usage problem has only worsened in the U.S.

The fact of the matter is that the government of Mexico, it's police forces, and it's judges are being seriously threatened by violence orchestrated by supporters of the drug cartels. And since the failure of NAFTA to improve the economy of most in Mexico, where farm wages actually fell by a full third after American corporate farms dumped cheap corn and wheat on the Mexican market, many in Mexico either have attempted illegal entry into the U.S. as workers or others have become associated with the illegal drug trade.

The United States cannot allow the government of Mexico to collapse. The resulting anarchy would be a serious national security threat to the U.S. as well as not in the best interests of Mexico either.

The Obama Administration very well might face some very difficult policy positions in dealing with Mexico very soon. And there needs to be a serious national debate about all issues related to drug usage in the United States as well to decide what policy is best for the national interests as well. Meth causes significant damage to the users and promotes serious crime problems including the national epidemic of identity theft. It is no uncommon to find meth abusers looking in the garbage of homes waiting at curbside, looking for any paperwork they can find to steal someone's identity and ruin someone's life.

The public seemed very forgiving of the marijuana use of athlete Michael Phelps, and public support for marijuana laws is very weak in the U.S., however that doesn't address the fact that any sort of drug use is not healthy and still harmful to the user. Any sort of drug abuse has potentially serious health issues associated with it. And the flip side is that much of all drugs are now coming from Mexico and only helping to fuel the violent deaths of citizens, police and judges.

The poverty in Mexico that fuels this drug violence problem is a very serious issue. The United States cannot have a nation right on it's border collapse and only worsen the drug problem where a greater flow of meth and other drugs will impact the quality of life in the U.S. This is a very serious issue that deserves a very serious discussion.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Home Foreclosure Crisis The Worst In John McCain's Own Backyard

While John McCain is attempting to score political points with the right wing donors of his own political party by opposing efforts of President Obama to ease the nation's economic crisis, only to help to secure campaign funds for McCain's own 2010 re-election, or possibly another run for president in 2012, McCain has ignored the voters of his own state who are suffering from the worst of the home foreclosure crisis. While one in 466 homes nationally is currently in foreclosure, in McCain's own Arizona the rate is actually one out of every sixteen homes in some parts of his own state.

In Mesa, Arizona, for example some neighborhoods might have at least two homes for sale on each block. Many homes that are now owned by banks with foreclosure signs might have seriously deteriorated conditions such as brown dried-up lawns, broken windows, gang graffiti and other eyesores. But with little loan money available from banks to assist new buyers, these homes are only expected to continue to deteriorate in appearance as the "For Sale" signs grow cobwebs. In fact, some angry neighbors have even started some websites to highlight these awful looking rundown bank owned foreclosure homes for sale in states like Arizona where banks never bother to mow the lawn or perform basic yard or appearance maintenance. Yet John McCain works hard to oppose President Obama's policies to revive the economy and to address issues like the home foreclosure crisis.

The inside contents of some of these homes tell of some very sad stories. In many of these homes, the banks forced the buyers out so quickly that they left behind much of their personal property including their wedding photos or pictures of their family members. In many cases, a sheriff knocked on their front door and simply ordered entire families to leave the property immediately because some bank was taking over the property. John McCain has no doubt received thousands of letters from voters telling him of such sad stories. But he doesn't seem to care based on his recent voting record opposing all financial rescue attempts by the Obama Administration.

In Arizona, another big problem was so many unethical sub-prime loans made at interest rates of 7% that were suddenly raised to 10% due to fine print clauses. Yet John McCain sits on the senate committee that is supposed to deal with consumer issues. Where has John McCain been when thousands of letters arrived in the mail to his senate office complaining about unethical loan terms that set so many up in his own state to fail and lose their homes?

The fact of the matter is that many borrowers in Arizona were duped by scam teaser loan rates that were very low, only to find these rates soon raised to a payment level which they could not afford, especially as the job market softened up in Arizona and unemployment worsened. But where was John McCain during all of this?

John McCain is way too typical of way too many long time Washington politicians who have been in office way too long that have grown far out of touch with their own voters. When John McCain only narrowly won his home state over Barack Obama by the relatively tight 54 to 45% margin in 2008, a margin closer than Bush's 2004 win over John Kerry in the state, it should have been a political wake-up call to McCain that there is something seriously wrong in his own home state and his position among his own voters is deteriorating about as fast as their own lives are.

This one time military hero might even now be considered AWOL by many his own voters. When the financial crisis began to ruin many of the voters in Arizona. McCain just couldn't be found.

Earlier this week, President Obama made a speech in McCain's own Arizona setting up a framework to address this serious home foreclosure crisis because this situation is the most serious in this state than any in the nation. But it was John McCain who was supposed to look out for the best interests of his own voters, but did not. McCain also didn't look for the best interests of his own voters when was a leading figure in the Lincoln Savings & Loan Scandal either.

McCain has been very busy sending out re-election campaign Emails this past week as he kicked off his 2010 senate re-election campaign. But McCain has really forgotten one important factor. He stopped listening to his voters a long time ago, and has only coasted to re-election based on his past war hero image. Maybe that's why even McCain expects his 2010 re-election to be one of the toughest campaigns that he has ever faced.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Morality In Media Endorses Communist Crackdown On Free Speech

The far right New York based Morality In Media organization has voiced support for the recent Chinese Communist Party crackdown on free speech in China. Under the phony guise of a crackdown on Internet based sexually oriented websites, the Chinese Communist Party used the recent purge to roll back Internet search freedoms opened up during the 2008 Summer Olympics that allowed reporters open access to their home news sites to report Olympic coverage. Major Internet search engines such as Google were forced by the Chinese Communists to issue apologies and to comply with their political repression and roll back of press freedoms.

It is outrageous when far right organizations such as Morality In Media voice support for the type of political repression that is still common in China despite more open trade with the United States and the world community. But antidemocratic elements of all types, whether they be the Chinese Communists, or American far right organizations such as Morality In Media all thrive by keeping people ignorant, ill informed and in the dark. These sort of intellectual dictators all trade in ignorance, lies and deceptions to peddle their control of people's intellectual freedoms. Whether they be foreign Communist officials, or American far right figures, they are all the same sort of ruthless elements who want to control other people and they all view a free press and democracy as a great danger to their shallow political power which is completely built on lies and deceptions.

It was certainly hoped the Summer Olympics would have permanently opened up more press freedom in China. However, with more Chinese accessing political information via search engines such as Google since the Olympics, Chinese Communist Party Government police agencies became fearful of losing political power with more Chinese residents than ever searching Western websites. Even searches of sexually oriented websites by millions of Chinese meant that many Chinese were beginning to question the repressive government official cultural morality as well.

The Chinese Communists were fearful of losing power and perhaps facing more Tienanmen Square type protest incidents in the future. And the Chinese Communist Party officials who are living lives of wealth and privilege, while most Chinese toil for low wages, were fearful of losing their position of power within Chinese society. Many Chinese Communist Party officials profit from all of the corporate and trade arrangements with the West, where corruption is still a major problem in this country. And the Chinese Communists are always fearful about how the Soviet Communists lost their power after Russian leader Gorbachev opened up his society somewhat and more press freedom to be critical of the government was tolerated.

One thing is pretty clear though, both the Chinese Communists and the American Morality In Media organization both fear press freedom and democracy as dangerous to their own goals of political control and economic privilege. Like their Chinese Communist counterparts, the leadership of Morality In Media live very well off of over $600,000 a year in political donations as well some $150,000 taxpayer funded federal government cash grants slipped into some spending bills by Republican Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia. Fascists of all political stripes have much more in common with each other than not.

Eric Holder's Second Amendment Views Sure To Raise Controversy

Attorney General Eric Holder's views that the Second Amendment only allows for organized militia ownership of firearms is sure to raise a great deal of controversy among gun owners over the next four years. In fact, since the election, the number of Americans seeking federal permits to own a gun has skyrocketed to the highest levels ever recorded, as many fear that the private ownership of guns might be severely limited by new legal efforts of this new attorney general. Holder might attempt to place a higher value or what he views as public safety vs. upholding a strict reading of Second Amendment rights. Certainly this could set up some serious Supreme Court fights and cases.

Gun owners who prefer handguns or assault type rifles are the most fearful of new legal attempts by Holder to limit or ban the sale of such weapons. The fear is that Holder will not try to strike the careful balance between the ownership of guns by law abiding citizens and attempts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill or children. Holder also is worrisome to many who support the First Amendment as well.

What makes Holder such a controversial choice for attorney general is that he holds such restrictive views of many portions of the bill of rights, and may feel that his own views or some misguided sense of public safety could guide his legal views on issues like Second Amendment rights or First Amendment press freedoms.

The current conservative leaning makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court as well as some possible defections of those like Justice John Paul Stevens who seems to champion the Bill Of Rights should probably be more than enough to strike down any overreaching attempts by Holder to go too far. However, Holder might clearly attempt some new law enforcement tactics to weaken the Second Amendment as well as First Amendment freedoms. His legal philosophy is very disturbing to strong upholders of Bill Of Rights freedoms in all areas.

There are also some disturbing federal cases that Holder might attempt to champion. In one case, a gun owner loaned a legal assault weapon to a friend that misfired at a shooting range, and the federal government then brought illegal machine gun charges against the gun owner who has faced huge legal bills as well as serious criminal charges. It is pretty obvious that this was a fully legal weapon, and that the illegal machine gun charges are simply overreaching and unfair. However, Holder might choose for the Justice Department to champion such outrageous cases in an effort to mount up a number of legal challenges to weaken the Second Amendment.

My own personal feelings are that guns might cause a great deal of problems in society, however the Second Amendment does very clearly allow for the ownership of private firearms. And my personal fears are that Eric Holder might hold views where he believes far less in upholding the Bill Of Rights, than what he believes best suits his own legal philosophy of law or what he thinks is in the best interests of society. That can be very dangerous to the Bill Of Rights, and should be a subject of great concern to any civil libertarian.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GE Money Bank's Lies Exposed

The other day I wrote about an outrageous example of abuse by the banking industry when GE Money Bank that manages PayPal's Buyer Credit slashed my credit for the second time after I paid my complete monthly bill in whole for the second time. GE Money Bank is no stranger to consumer complaints and reports of abuse or other sleazy business practices.

At the time a few years ago when I signed up with EBay, they pretty much required that anyone who buys any items on their site needs to sign up with PayPal. And PayPal was quickly acquired by EBay which further encouraged anyone registered to sign up for their Paypal Buyer Credit program, which it turns out is run by GE Money Bank. Well, the fact of the matter is that this money grabbing bank likes their high interest rates just as much as PayPal and EBay love their sky high fees for everything. And GE Money Bank apparently didn't like it very well when I twice paid my entire monthly bill for a few music Cds in total, so that they couldn't charge me any high 21% interest rates on a balance. Well, the last two times that I paid my complete bill in full, GE Money Bank responded by slashing my credit limit, which unfortunately can go back to Equifax or other credit reporting agencies that you are a bad credit risk, when actually quite the opposite is true, You're actually paying your bills in full. Apparently GE Money Bank only likes customers who can afford to pay monthly minimums and their debt continues for years and years, making lots of interest money for GE Money Bank. GE Money Banks hates people who pay their bills and punishes them with credit limit cuts to encourage them to stay in debt to them.

Well, today I received a piece of trash paper from GE Money Bank as a pathetic attempt to justify their slashing of my credit after I paid my bill in full the last two times. GE Money Bank falsely asserted that my credit "score was below other customers" and further lied by claiming according to my Equifax report that my credit utilization is greater than 50% of my revolving credit accounts. Well, I knew that this wasn't true. In fact, I got my credit report later in the day from Equifax and it turns out that GE Money Bank out-rightly lied in their letter. My credit utilization was actually reported at just 11%, not greater than 50% as claimed by GE Money Bank. And with some more recent monthly payments to some accounts not yet noted by Equifax, my latest pecentage is actually down to just a 1.7% of my credit utilization. The fact of the matter is that GE Money Bank simply flat out lied and just made up some information that simply doesn't exist to justify slashing my credit limit after I paid my bills in full.

Well, I went to PayPal's website and changed the preferences where I will use an ethical credit card provider if I decide to purchase any music Cds or items in the future from EBay. And I informed GE Money Bank in an angry phone call that I wish to close my account with them and have no further business dealings with them ever. Of course this tightwad operation uses phone operators over in India to save money. I should have expected this.

I personally never thought that GE made that great of light bulbs myself. It seems like I'm always having to climb up some high place and change them. And it seems like the credit that GE Money Bank offers isn't very good either. I'm very glad to have changed that and cancelled my relationship with these sleazes. It's too bad some of these awful banks got so much taxpayer money during the last bailout. Some of these bastards need to get honest jobs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Morality In Media Morons Now Attacking AARP Of All Things

The Religious right morons at Morality In Media, which promote censorship and other repression through a constant propaganda campaign of outright lies, fraud and distortion of facts have now found a new absurd battle to champion. Robert Peters, Moron-In-Chief of Morality In Media has penned an absurd letter to the AARP complaining because of some small ad in their last newsletter that advertised some videos that promoted "better Sex" for older Americans.

Apparently, Peters believes that older married Americans have no right to be having good marital relations. However, products such as Viagra in recent years have emerged on the market to add to the quality of sex life of older Americans. And it has been remarkable to see the opinions of medical and other health professionals to finally realize that sexuality among older persons is still an important aspect of many of their lives. Many couples who have been together 30, 40, 50 or more years often still have decent sex lives, despite the efforts of morons like Peters.

Self-righteous and intellectually dishonest men like Peters do not really have the public good or welfare at heart. Peters lines his own pockets with donations by vilifying any enlightened culture that he disagrees with. He is a pathetic little liar, who constantly distorts any facts to promote his own absurd political agenda.

Peters is still angry that the parent company that is offering the "Better Sex" videos to enhance the sex lives of older Americans was not prosecuted on obscenity charges and put out of business during the Clinton years by Janet Reno. Peters is a pathetic little lying political fascist who wants government to arrest and jail anyone who disagrees with anti-sex political extremism. He has attacked art exhibits as well as store displays of women's magazines as well as championing other knot-headed wacko crusades over the years.

Peters is really the one who should be out of business. His lies and deceptions and false associations of anything culturally liberal with crime have gone on way too many years. He's like the lying snake-oil salesman. Yet, other like-minded cultural idiots actually send this guy donations to carry on his wacko crusades against supermarket tabloids or anything else that he doesn't personally like. Peters' organization actually rakes in over $600,000 a year. The real obscenity is the constant lies and the profits that this organization makes off them by always claiming that society will somehow end unless law enforcement jails anyone they disagree with.

Unfortunately in some cases the FCC or other legal agencies have actually listened to this dishonest huckster screwball and his socially challenged followers. But the AARP would be real wise to tell this wacko to just bug off and get some badly needed mental health help instead.

It would be real interesting for someone like Peters to explain the health of his own marital relations since he is such an opponent of anything dealing with sexuality of any type. Some other bluenoses like James Dobson, have already claimed that they don't have too active of a marital sex life. Yet these cultural screwballs always want to advocate how others should live. The poor examples.

But for many older Americans, an active sex life still remains as an important part of their life, Peters or not.

Support For Stimulus Plan Grows With Obama Efforts

After last week's national press conference by President Obama, national support for the economic stimulus package grew by 7 points to 59% according some polling data and opposition began to wilt. And as the president sells the program around the nation at rally events, the public is witnessing a fully engaged leader who is able to quickly move complex legislation through congress at break-neck speed. It is a very impressive start to his first 100 days in office.

Certainly there were a few disappointments and rocky moments with a few troubled cabinet choices. However, this White House is right on top of any matter and damage control and quickly does whatever is necessary to turn any event around. When John McCain and some other Republicans decided to bet on failure for the economic stimulus package, they underestimated that President Obama and his handlers are extremely skillful and the president is quickly able to rally public support around any issue in political trouble.

Once again, John McCain finds himself on the losing end of politics. After his big loss in the 2008 election, he was hoping to show some strength by championing the idiotic cause of trying to prevent economic recovery in the U.S. Of all the battles for McCain to seek to champion, this has to be perhaps his most silly crusade yet. The fact of the matter is that while other nations around the world in Europe, Japan and China have all moved ahead with their own economic stimulus packages, they were really looking to the U.S. for leadership on this important issue. It's simply not a winning strategy for America's #2 political party, the Republicans, to come up with a second rate political strategy such as opposing an economic recovery package. Past history such as during the Roosevelt years during the Great Depression have proven that government spending and public works projects do provide jobs and will help to lift a nation up from a deep recession.

The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party leaders are playing a politically dangerous game by being viewed as both obstructionists and not concerned with economic recovery. And further, they fail to understand the popularity of President Obama, who makes a real connection with average citizens as a deeply concerned and engaged leader.

Mr. Obama's handlers now seem to understand that a constant campaign mode to sell his policies might be needed to get the nation behind him. And each effort only brings him more positive news coverage, and only weakens the Republican Party opposition among the general public.

The Republican White House of George Bush just didn't seem to get it that the nation was slipping into a deep recession despite fears coming out of Asia and Europe that demanded action. Now the Republican leaders in congress are betting heavily on obstruction as well as inaction. By comparison the Democrats in congress and Mr. Obama have proved that they can move quickly and pass major legislation and earn public respect.

Now the biggest remaining question is whether this is the right type of action or not. If the Republicans once again have bet on the wrong actions, and the losing side, because of their ideology, or their stubbornness, their partisanship, or whatever, then they just might just be a sorry lot in 2010 and beyond. So far the Republican instincts just haven't proven themselves too good dealing with this recession. Being on the wrong side of history and this recession could leave the Republicans a second rate political party for quite some years.

The Democrats thirst for leadership from their past political drought has created a wiser more mature Democratic Party, able to wield power more wisely. And Mr. Obama strikes the public as having the magnetic leadership abilities of a Ronald Reagan as well as the progressive policies of a Roosevelt to achieve a great deal. No question about it, Mr. Obama is off to an impressive start as president.

Monday, February 16, 2009

C-SPAN Survey Of Historians Finds Lincoln Tops, Bush Seventh Worse Ever

For President's Day C-Span released a survey of top historians around the country of all political views as well as viewers, and the survey found a consensus that Abraham Lincoln was the best president in the nation's history followed by 2.Washington, 3. FDR, 4.T. Roosevelt, 5.Truman, 6.Kennedy, 7.Jefferson, 8.Eisenhower, 9.Wilson and 10.Reagan. The bottom 10 included 33.Hayes, 34.Hoover, 35.Tyler, 36.George W. Bush, 37.Fillmore. 38.Harding, 39.W.H. Harrison, 40.Pierce, 41.A. Johnson and 42.Buchanan.

Historians rated each president along several lines of criteria including public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, performance within context of times.

Some recent presidents such as Jimmy Carter might have ranked highly in some areas such as pursuing equal justice, however poor management of the economy as well as handling of the hostage crisis with Iran helped to drive Carter's overall score down to an unimpressive 22 among all the presidents. The man that Carter replaced, Gerald Ford didn't fare much better at 23, but was better than the dismal 25 of Richard Nixon who scored highly in international relations but poorly handled issues of moral authority because of rampant dishonesty related to the Watergate Scandal.

George Bush's father, George H.W. Bush ranked 20th, with some strong leadership during the Gulf War, but far weaker economic handling skills. Bill Clinton that replaced him actually rated at 21, with scandal drawing heavily away from his economic leadership skills.

Among viewers the results were somewhat different than that of the historians. Bill Clinton for example ranked at 36 with viewers, but far better at 21 with historians. Viewers ranked Reagan at 6, while historians at 11, for the combined result of 10. Historians ranked LBJ at a high 10 for getting passed the Great Society legislation, while viewers ranked LBJ far lower at 19. Likewise JFK ranked higher with historians at 8 but lower with overall viewers at 12. Lincoln did manage to top both the viewer as well as historian results as the best president ever.

2009 Sarah Palin Calendar Now Available

Unbelievably, now there is a 2009 Sarah Palin calendar available for all those drooling guys out there who just can't get enough of their favorite rifle packing mama from Alaska. Now all year long, your favorite wolf-shooting mama can be your wall's top pinup Queen. Amazing.

Also unbelievably, a porn film with a Sarah Palin lookalike produced by Larry Flynt productions has also managed to top some video sales charts for many weeks now, proving some sort of sexual attraction for the Alaska Governor by some guys who view the gun-toting lady with the annoying voice as their ultimate wet dream. At the same time, many others simply find Sarah Palin's voice about as sexy as nails on a chalkboard.

Strangely, Sarah Palin is suddenly finding herself marketed as some sort of male sex fantasy queen very similar to those actresses like Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra or others who pose for sexy layouts like in MAXIM or PLAYBOY or for posters.

Recent marketing continues for a large selection of Obama collectibles as well, including plates, hats and watches. However, the Sarah Palin marketing is far more associated with male fantasy than not. Strangely, after falling far short of winning the vice presidency, Sarah Palin continues to attract fans for odd reasons including the male fantasy angle rather than her actual substance as an elected official.

Celebrity and marketing are strange phenomenons. And the continued cult of celebrity surrounding Sarah Palin only continues to amaze and confound me.

It just never seems to amaze me what makes a buck these days.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Caution: EBay, PayPal & GE Money Bank Could Bad For Your Financial Health

If you ever intend to buy anything or ever sell anything on EBay, then you are pretty much required to sign up with an electronic payment service known as PayPal which is also owned by EBay. Instead of EBay allowing direct credit card payments, by using PayPal it can charge more fees to sellers for even small transactions. Like all electronic funds transfer services, PayPal, Moneygram and Western Union are all overpriced electronic services that are largely computer managed with high profits compared to normal reasonable cost bank services that only cost pennies in many cases.

One of the worst aspects of PayPal is that they have a financial arrangement with GE Money Bank that charges 21% or higher interest for a service known as PayPal Buyer Credit. If you don't sell items on EBay, but want to buy a rare music Cd once in a while on EBay, then you're really pretty much required to sign up for PayPal Buyer Credit.

What is so bad about EBay's PayPal Buyer Credit run by GE Money Bank is that this company loves high interest rates so much that it actually punishes any person who pays their owed credit in full in each month.

GE Money Bank incredibly has lowered my credit limit twice recently, both times after I paid my complete bill in full. I had a $950 limit. mainly used to buy a few music Cds here or there, which I paid in full, then suddenly the company cut my credit limit to $780 without notice, apparently to retaliate against me for paying my monthly bill in full. Then after I paid my monthly bill in full again the other day, GE Money Bank retaliated against me once again, now slashing my credit limit to just $540.

The fact of the matter is that GE Money Bank doesn't reward, but punishes those who pay their bills in full and prove themselves to be have the financial means to pay their complete bills in full. And when GE Money Bank reports back to credit rating services such as Equifax that they reduced your credit limit, but not noting that you are paying your full bill, then you appear as a bad credit risk and it only hurts your overall credit score and could drive up the interest rates on any other credit cards you own. It's an outrageous example of wrongdoing in the same credit and banking industry that recently asked the American taxpayer for billions of bailout tax dollars. It's dirty business of the worst variety.

EBay pretty makes it impossible to directly purchase any item from a seller without signing up for their unethical GE Money Bank service. But while other legitimate credit card companies reward those who pay their bills by offering them higher cash back or higher credit limits, GE Money Bank punishes those who pay their full bills seeking to create a large pool of persons paying high interest rates to their company each month. GE Money Bank also stands alone as an outrageous example of banking industry customer abuse, with many complaints posted on consumer websites by angry customers who have been abused by this outrageous and unethical company. Angry consumers need to step it up further and file formal complaints about PayPal and GE Money Bank with their state attorney general consumer affair offices and with congressional and senate banking committees.

EBay has become a multi-billion dollar business through many ruthless and tough business practices. GE Money Bank seems like a perfect match for such a cutthroat company like EBay that that has worked so hard to smash competing Internet auction sites with lawsuits or other legal actions, effectively destroying their competition. And EBay has made their site less appealing to small sellers by a variety of rules changes meant to encourage more big mega-seller retail companies that do millions of dollars in business each year to now largely dominate the sellers on EBay.

And EBay has always been about fees, fees, and even more fees. Out of an item selling for just 99cents on Ebay, Ebay or their PayPal business will come in for all but just a few cents of the total transaction, leaving almost nothing for the seller. And EBay profits from selling ads, so even ads that fail, which in some cases might be most of the listings for some product categories, EBay makes millions of dollars. It's nearly criminal.

EBay founder, Meg Whitman is now expressing some interest in running for the Republican nomination as Governor of California in the future. God save us.

Right Wing Win In Israel Could Be Troublesome For The U.S.

Although neither coalition has officially chosen the next government of Israel until February 18. It is pretty clear that moderate Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party probably will fail to be able to form a coalition government with Labor or other moderate or left leaning parties. The fact of the matter is that both the right wing Likud Party of Binyamin Netanyahu and the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu of ethnic cleanser Avigdor Lieberman are the most likely to form the next government.

Either the ethically challenged Netanyahu or ethnic cleanser Lieberman as Israel's next prime minister would be an absolute disaster for the Mideast peace or the best possible constructive relations with the Obama Administration. Moderate Tzipi Livni had previously promised to work with the Obama Administration. However, Netanyahu has always been the darling of far right televangelists in the U.S. such as John Hagee and other right wing radicals. Netanyahu or his wife have been the subject of four scandals so far and fraud investigations, but both have avoided criminal charges so far. In one scandal, the Netanyahus were accused of accepting years of home improvements from an important political donor who is also a contractor as a form of bribery. Netanyahu is as close to an Israeli Richard Nixon as you can find. On one hand he's certainly intelligent and capable enough, but he's also corrupt as they come and Israel is only looking at more corruption scandals as well as war with the Palestinians and the peace process going absolutely nowhere and completely stalling, if not just plain rolling backwards.

However, the worst possible aspect of either Natanyahu or Lieberman ruling Israel is that either one is highly likely to undertake a military strike on powerful Iran to destroy it's nuclear weapons program.

The real major military concern here is that Israel does not have the bunker buster military technology really required to successfully strike at the 75 foot deep hardened bunkers that Iran is using to protect their nuclear research program. Israel would really need several direct nuclear strikes on the same site to have any good rate of success to really take out even some of these nuclear research sites. Further, Iran is a huge country, with a massive military that has greatly improved it's rockets as well as military technology over the past few years. Iran also has some submarines as well as other military hardware that could create a very troublesome Mideast war. Iran could also invade or directly attack American forces in Iraq and push towards Israel for a massive land invasion. Any of these bad scenarios would drag the United States into a huge war with Iran that would make Iraq or Afghanistan look like some Sunday ice creme social by comparison. Any U.S. invasion of Iran would have to involve a force of a million or more U.S. service-persons which would be impossible given our all volunteer army. The U.S. simply lacks the manpower for this sort of massive war.

There are already some Bible scholars in the United States such as Jack Van Impe who are offering a sympathetic view of President Obama, fearing that like Abraham Lincoln, he may be greatly tested and challenged by some major crisis. And Israel and Iran are the most likely to provide just this match and gasoline to create a very dangerous Mideast crisis. It is highly questionable whether political extremists like either Netanyahu or Lieberman could be constrained to behave in a pragmatic way. Either is simply very bad news.

The idea situation would have been where Tzipi Livni would form a moderate government with Labor and other moderate or left leaning parties. But these parties simply lost way too many seats. And already there have been at least 28 formal election complaints filed, charging ballot problems or other problems that suppressed votes.

After the scandal plagued Ehud Olmert administration and a president of Israel who was accused of terrible crimes such as rape, it was very difficult for moderate Tzipi Livni to win a convincing victory. That was simply too much baggage. Many voters were angry. And the recent rocket attacks by Hamas from Gaza only helped to harden many voters and drive up the votes for right wingers like Netanyahu and Lieberman.

The United States needs to have a reasonable and moderate friend, ally and peace partner in Israel. Instead, the recent politics of Israel has unfortunately tilted towards the dishonest, the corrupt, and the extremist. Under far right rule, Israel can only mean a mountain of trouble for the United States. Things could hardly be much worse. Now the big question is when the next shoe falls.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

You're Only Good As Your Last Plane Crash

This past week featured another strange view into the business of the mainstream media and how news-cycles work and also how the public attention span is very short. Earlier in the week the airliner captain that safely piloted the disabled aircraft into the Hudson River in New York was hailed as a hero and made guest appearances on TV shows such as Larry King and David Letterman. No doubt his phone was ringing off the hook with possible book deals or more offers for interviews, etc.

Suddenly the entire news-cycle changed when a smaller propeller-driven aircraft with a few notable persons such as a well known 9/11 widow activist, two members of musician Chuck Mangione's band, and a well loved cantor and others perished in a fiery crash into a home, apparently due to ice on the wings. Suddenly the hero captain of Hudson airliner incident seemed to be all but forgotten.

This is unfortunately how news-cycles work, and how long the public attention span is. And there are more examples to go around. In November, the voters spoke loud and clear that they wanted change in Washington and elected Barack Obama by a convincing win. But just this past week, the president had to vigorously campaign for his economic stimulus package because some conservative radio talk show hosts managed to demonize the bill, while actually hardly mentioning any particular reasons to really oppose the bill other than being antiObama. Probably with the national press conference, the president swayed many back to supporting his legislation once again, again proving the short attention span of the American public.

In the case of the airline industry, it was only as good as their last plane crash. In the case of the president, he managed to remind the public once again why he was elected in the first place; to fix the economy. Often, for the American public the last impression is the lasting impression it seems. So much for the theory of first impressions. Maybe attention deficit disorder is far more common than first realized.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Clinton Hopes To "Push Reset" On Relations With Russia & World Community

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton will embark on a whirlwind foreign policy tour through Asia next week hoping to establish new strong relations with China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. And in March, Clinton is likely to be the guest of the Russia Foreign Minister in an attempt to help to thaw the recent icy relations during the Bush Administration years. President Obama offered to help to "push reset" on American-Russian relations if the Russians can act cooperatively and constructively with many common goals with the U.S. For example, in the last two days, both U.S. and Russian Navy ships have foiled pirates from Somalia.

It would be in the interest of both Washington and Moscow to prevent an expensive and dangerous arms race and for both nations to move more slowly on military projects that could dramatically tip the parity of military power between the two nations. For example, Russia has been working on hypersonic cruise missile projects designed to evade the American antimissle defenses. Russia has other projects such as silent running submarine engines, that China has also recently tested that have been able to closely tail American ships and submarines for up to two weeks without detection. All of these new military technology projects only present some dangers of creating a new high tech weapons arms race.

However, with space weapons or killer satellites, the U.S., Russia and China all present the biggest danger of creating a new arms race that could threaten the military parity of the nations, and could create a potential for thousands of orbiting space weapons. One problem is that it would take an average of two orbiting antimissile satellite platforms to be able to shoot down most types of solid rocket fuel based missiles. In the case of Russia, with around 5,500 armed warheads, it would take 11,000 orbiting U.S. antimissile satellites to have any ability to down a force this large. First of all the U.S. doesn't have the technology, nor the money, to be able to deploy such a large force of orbiting space weapons, when some space programs such as the NASA Space Shuttle project are based off of 1970's technology, and the program is already so cash strapped as well as fragile and accident prone. Even rain or cold weather can damage the fragile tiles or the shuttle. The U.S. simply cannot invite an expensive arms race with the Russians. Part of the fall of the old Soviet system came from the damage of excessive military spending in that nation during the Reagan years, when Reagan cut many social services and other domestic programs, throwing so much money into a huge arms race. Now the Russians have a strong oil rich economy, while the U.S. has been greatly weakened by the ravages of the deep recession, and banks from nations such as Japan, China and South Korea are propping up the American government buying purchasing bonds. The U.S. is in no financial position to spend wild amounts of cash to match some new Russian missile projects or other weapons. New arms treaties and more cooperation between the states where any thought of warfare should be the ultimate goals are needed.

Secretary Of State Clinton has a great deal of work ahead of her to mop up the foreign policy mess left by the Bush Administration and to renew cooperation with the Russians, who still remain as out greatest military rivals despite the fall of the Iron Curtain some years back. The world community needs peace between these two military superpowers. And the U.S. needs as much freedom from huge military spending projects as possible because of the bad economy. And situations such as Iraq and Afghanistan have only encouraged low tech terrorists and armies around the world to view the U.S. as vulnerable to low tech warfare scenarios. The U.S. needs peace with it's high tech military world rivals, and to improve it's lower tech warfare capability to better handle situations like Iraq or Afghanistan.

While the U.S. military remains the strongest in the world, it still has some great weaknesses due to budget concerns or for the want of some technology that simply isn't available yet. Part of the role of Secretary Of State Clinton will be to promote peace to keep military costs both reasonable as well as within real existing technology realms. However, if the hawkish parties form a coalition government in Israel and decide to attack Iran's nuclear program, which they do not really have the military technology to knock out these 75 foot buried hardened Iranian bunkers, then the U.S. could be forced into a bloody situation far worse than Iraq or Afghanistan to fight a low tech war and clean up the mess. Secretary Of State Clinton certainly has some major challenges ahead of her. And President Obama could unfortunately find himself as the most tested president since Lincoln. Clinton will need to keep any foreign policy brush-fires from developing into huge foreign policy forest fires.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Republican Organization Targets Moderate Senators For Defeat

The National Republican Trust Political Action Committee has started a national fund raising campaign to raise funds to defeat the three moderate Republican senators who supported the economic stimulus bill. This is the latest sign that this party is quickly being taken over by the far out right, who are highly partisan, and opposed to such basic programs as federal aid to poor schools, aid to Native American programs, funding for veteran hospitals, or assistance to cities to prevent job losses by firemen or police.

Some cities such as Portland, Oregon are now in such serious economic straits due to the high 9% unemployment, that there will likely be a hiring freeze for any new fire or police jobs, as older firemen and police retire. One fire department station might be closed. And mass transit could suffer with service cutbacks as well as six or more city bus routes are eliminated. For working people trying to get to work, or those unemployed who cannot afford to drive, this yet another potential blow.

What is so disturbing about the Republican National Trust appeal to other Republican Party members is that this organization offers no solutions or answers regarding the deep recession, high unemployment, home foreclosures, lost tax revenue bases that are putting critical services such as fire departments or police jobs in jeopardy. It is purely an extremist appeal by intense partisans who have no regard for the well being of their nation.

The fact of the matter is that such persons are neither patriots or good citizens. Good persons would work constructively to see their nation recover from this recession and prosper. Reasonable persons should contribute to a constructive debate on how best to help their nation recover from the serious economic problems it faces. These people don't seem to be intelligent enough to comprehend the level of the suffering in this nation, or the importance of bipartisan participation really needed to arrive at some answers and solutions for the good of the nation.

On the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the first successful Republican candidate for president, it is pretty clear that many in Lincoln's own party have left him.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

John McCain Kicks Off His 2010 Re-Election Campaign Online

John McCain is officially kicking off his 2010 re-election campaign with a new online Email appeal to donors. Pathetically though, his Email makes an appeal to Democrats, Hispanics, Native Americans and others, while at the same time he votes against the economic stimulus bill that would aid education, rebuild aging veterans hospitals, keep the jobs of police and firemen, update the nation's electrical grid to prepare for a new generation of extreme hybrid automobiles including a new entry by Ford for 2010, or provide some basic aid to Native American services run by the Bureau Of Indian Affairs. Mr. McCain wants your votes, but he's just not willing to do anything really that constructive to earn that vote.

Mr. McCain once hoped to bank on his image as somehow being something of a "maverick" or moderate. But instead, he has steadily proven himself to be just as much part of the far out right as so many other politicians in his party are. There were way too many positive aspects of the economic stimulus bill for John McCain to simply oppose this bill, but he did anyway.

But in the McCain re-election Email, McCain noted that did expect to face a tough re-election battle, which is very likely true.

McCain's failed presidential bid did tremendous damage to his reputation in Arizona, where he only carried the state by a relatively slender margin. And his pick of the absurd Sarah Palin only cast more doubt on his judgment as a leader. Further, if President Obama and the Democrats succeed at reviving the economy, it will definitely be noted by any opponent that McCain opposed the economic stimulus bill and is wrong on the issues, and failed to act to strengthen the economy when he really should have acted.

The fact of the matter is that John McCain has won elections for many years in Arizona playing the war hero card, but now has created enough political baggage that the voters of his own home state might just be ready to retire their aging career politician. And Arizona is a state in constant political flux, with a rapidly growing population, including many Hispanics, where this state could always swing to the Democrats in some rare instances. In 1996, Bill Clinton was able to carry the state. And in 1964 and 2008, both Arizona home state presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and John McCain barely won there. Arizona might become like Colorado, another potential narrowly Democratic leaning state with enough Democratic organizational effort.

John McCain could likely face his biggest political challenge yet in 2010. Just holding on to his seat for one more term might be just be asking the voters for too much. a majority in Arizona might have finally have tired of the antics of John McCain, where the shining knight's armor is now clearly tarnished.

McCain might have survived his role as the worst of the worst players in the corrupt Keating Savings & Loan Scandal once before. But it just might be all these new issues since his failed presidential bid as well as the massive demographic voter shifts in Arizona that may be too difficult for McCain to overcome. McCain might just be in serious political trouble.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Economic Stimulus Bill Passes Senate In Wake Of Excellent Obama TV Appeal

In the wake of an excellent, hour long, stern and urgent nationally televised address and press conference by President Obama, the senate wisely passed their own version of the economic stimulus bill by a lopsided vote of 61 to 37. It was however deeply disappointing that no more than just three Republican senators were not swayed by the message of the president which was well reasoned and pragmatic and should have appealed to all reasonable lawmakers.

It was also very disappointing that John McCain who wanted so badly to be president only a few months earlier would not come on-board and support board principles such as funding veterans hospital construction, highway repairs, improved schools or other reasonable goals for a decent society. For years, the extremists in his party had accused John McCain of being a RINO(a Republican in name only), but in reality he has proven himself nearly as extreme and nonsensical as they often are, picking silly fights on issues that really shouldn't matter much. A wise warrior always picks their fights. This was a poor war for McCain to decide to champion. His sad decline in American politics now almost reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, where now he's less the once beloved war hero, than just the wrong guy on too many issues, too much of the time.

What 61 senators, including just three Republicans proved was that they listen to the public concerns about lost jobs, closing businesses, home foreclosures and other bad news and are willing to take action of some sort. But for the other 37 senators, it just doesn't make sense that they could not find enough common ground to rally behind in defense of the seriousness of this economic downturn to come on-board.

What voters will probably most remember when they look back at this issue during the 2010 midterm elections is that some senators stepped up to the plate and took action and at least tried something bold that they sincerely believed might help the unemployed, those possibly facing foreclosure, or a business that might otherwise fail. But most Republican lawmakers only put their heads in the sand, ignored the suffering of the public, failed to act, and ignored the problem, failing to offer constructive input into shaping a broad bill with a big consensus that should have passed the senate with a clear 100 to 0 vote.

Fortunately most senators heeded the president's call to act. And foreign nations around the world such as China, Japan, Britain, Germany & the EU as a whole are looking to the U.S. for this leadership to pass some economic stimulus legislation as many other nations have already done. America is considered the leader around the world, and many governments expect America to lead on this economic issue. The president and the senate have now done that. Now it is up to congress to resolve the differences, pass the bill, get it signed into into law, and immediately start pumping some fresh life into the economy.

Certainly the ailing economy will need far more than just this one piece of job producing and infrastructure creating legislation. But even the residents of the districts where their Republican representatives voted against this bill will see jobs saved or new projects creating new jobs started. So even these voters will not suffer at the hands of their representatives poor decisions to vote against this important piece of recovery legislation. That is good, because all Americans deserve to prosper and do well regardless of their political beliefs. Good deserves to come to all people.