Monday, March 30, 2009

Can Washington Really Fix Detroit?

The big developments of Washington's edicts to General Motors and Chrysler hit Wall Street very hard on Monday, as investors like the idea of bailouts with no strings attached far better than they like the idea of bailouts with strings attached. So far today, Wall Street seems to be rebounding from the duo bad news from GM and Chrysler.

In the case of General Motors, Washington tired of the ongoing leadership failures of CEO, Rick Wagoner who has been presiding over troubles for GM that started way before the current economic crisis. One of Wagoner's first acts as CEO of GM was to raise his own, since then he has presided over the decline of what was once the world's largest automobile manufacturer. Now it is in second place to Toyota, and is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Wagoner spent massive amounts of money on new model designs that sold poorly as well as invested $1 billion in developing a hydrogen fuel cell powered car, which so far has extreme problems in development. Even rival Toyota doubted the viability of a fuel cell powered car based on current technology, and is betting on extreme hybrid automobiles as the best bet for new technology vehicles for the short term future.

Under Wagoner's helm, GM stock lost 90% of it's value per share and in addition GM also lost $82 billion dollars. While Wagoner gained some early praise as a cost cutter in some areas, he seemed to lack vision for the company in other areas. And some problems such as the high cost of pensions for retired union workers were a major cost problem for GM, adding as much as a $1,600 cost to each car. But perhaps the biggest shortcoming of Wagoner was his focus on fuel thirsty SUVs, light trucks and other lower mileage vehicles while Toyota and Honda moved ahead with hybrids and extreme hybrid testing of prototypes.

Wagoner had agreed to work for just $1 this year, which was substantially less than his former $14,415,900 total salary as well as compensation. All of this bad history for Wagoner as well as his lack of a real plan to turn around GM forced the White House to ask him to resign for the good of GM and to allow new leadership a last ditch attempt to turn around this ailing giant corporation around.

At Chrysler, things are also very bleak. German automaker Daimler dumped this company a few years ago and a group of private investors have attempted to manage the company through this tough recession environment. However, despite a number of very attractive model cars and trucks as well as the strong selling Jeep line, Chrysler in such bad financial condition that the White House is pushing the company to merge with Italian automaker Fiat within the next 30 days.

There are many problems with this. Fiat has historically been a marketing failure in the United States, where it was never a big selling brand name here ever. Further, a terrible reputation as a quality challenged brand makes many U.S. buyers very wary of buying Fiat products. Fiat often had to seek out partnerships with some of the worst of brands such as in the Soviet Union designing some of their old passenger cars. The dreaded Yugo from Yugoslavia was a Fiat ancestored product as well. However, Italy's modern Fiat cars do have many fresh and attractive models that could conceivably have some American market appeal traction if Chrysler could market them under their own names as Chrysler or Dodge products and American buyers could be distracted from the old reputation and history of Fiat.

It is understandable how the White House would like to see some real tangible results for the billions of dollars of ongoing aid that the government is pouring into GM and Chrysler. Compared To Ford, which has been far better managed and not seeking aid from the government, both GM and Chrysler are two very sick corporations struggling for their very lives.

Washington would certainly like to save both GM and Chrysler. But both GM and Chrysler have both dug themselves a very deep hole to climb out of. Now, even the best of intentions from Washington is almost a case of too little, too late. Both GM and Chrysler needed to be managed as well as Ford was very early on. Now things are almost a lost cause.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Obama's White House Building Impressive Record

For only having about 70 days in office, President Obama is compiling a very impressive record of hands on leadership and achievements. This president is proving that he can juggle and manage many serious problems all at the same time, and has been able to compile some very impressive results in such a short time in office. Here are just a few of the highlights of impressive achievements so far:

*American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009: The President urged congress to quickly author and pass wide sweeping legislation that might provide up to 4 million jobs over the next few years along with funding many vital state projects that are vital to economic stability as many states struggle with red ink state budget deficits. So far some positive economic signs such as the stock market rebounding about 20% have resulted. Further good signs are improved new and existing home sales. Some retail sales figures are now better than expected as well. Unfortunately, unemployment tends to historically lag about 6 months behind the stock market, however the recent good Wall Street performance speaks well for lower unemployment figures within a few months as the president's hands on actions are reversing this recession.

*Modernizing Schools, Community Colleges and Universities: The president's plan is to modernize the nation's education system, modernize schools and improve educational standards in the U.S. and catch American students up in educational standards which have been lagging students from many nations around the world for many years now. Educational opportunities were how this president, the son of a mother on Food Stamps, was able to become a law professor, a U.S. senator and then president. Education is the key to a better future for America.

*Getting Credit Moving: This White House is working with it's top economic staff to inject billions of dollars into the credit market to get cash into the hands of consumers to get home sales, auto sales and retail sales moving again.

*SCHIP Children's Health Legislation: At the president's request congress passed and the presidency signed an expansion of the SCHIP children's health care program, providing continued coverage for up to seven million children and expanding health care for up to four million more children largely funded by increased tobacco taxes, holding this industry responsible for part of the serious health costs they create for society.

*The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: The president's first piece of legislation that he signed was this excellent piece of fair wage legislation that will help to insure that all persons will receive fair pay regardless of sex, race or age.

*Doubling Alternative Energy Production In The Next Three Years: The president is requesting congress to write legislation that will double the production of alternate energy production within the U.S. in just three years. This is an impressive goal that will result in less air pollution, reduce global warming and greenhouse gases and provide less dependence on foreign oil. This is a very ambitious goal.

*Computerized Medical Records: The president's proposal is that congress write legislation that will computerize medical records allowing for quicker life saving efforts in emergency situations, a record of existing medications, and a record of medical allergies to medications and other vital information which will saves billions of dollars and improve medical care and save lives. This will help to streamline medical care, especially in emergency situations.

*Investments In Science, Technology And Medicine: The president proposes that congress heavily invest in research funding that will create new medical breakthroughs, new technology to provide future jobs and in science that will modernize and create a better tomorrow.

*Improving Energy Efficiency: The president is proposing that congress help to promote greatly improved energy efficiency that will not only save government but average homeowners a great deal of money on heating, electrical and other costs.

*Broadband Expansion: The president is proposing that broadband computer service be spread all across the nation so that businesses and individuals can more fully compete in the national and international economy.

*DTV Delay: The president helped to urge congress to delay the February deadline for the switch over to DTV, allowing more time for those with lower incomes to acquire equipment to be able to enjoy TV including news coverage. The government has expanded funding for the converter boxes as well.

*Afghanistan: On Friday, the president offered a moderate but tough plan that will increase U.S. troop strength as well as plans to weaken and destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist network that has been very active in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

*Middle Class Tax Cut: The president is at odds with congress over his proposal for a middle class tax cut to help to spur the economy. Congress is concerned about the costs of the other economic recovery programs and has put this proposal on delay, however the White House will continue to push for this tax cut until it becomes law.

*Expanded Child Care Tax Credits: The White House is urging congress to act on a proposal to expand tax credits for child day care to make it more affordable for working parents to place children in day care while they work to provide a living for their family. This proposal is especially important to some many millions of single mothers with children to be able to afford day care so that they can work to provide a living for their children.

For an administration only 70 days into office, these goals and achievements as well as many others are an impressive record of a White House and president that is quickly moving on an agenda to improve life in the United States, modernize the nation and to quickly pull this nation out of the recession, and build America into a modern huge and booming economy. It has been an impressive record of so much achievements and goals within such a short time in office. This is a very good presidency.

President Obama Right On Top Of North Dakota Flood Control Operations

President Obama has been right on top of flood preparations throughout the rising Red River crisis that is threatening North Dakota with very cold flood waters. Fortunately, the latest signs are that the waters might have crested. So far only one school was flooded and damaged from a small leak in one area.

President Obama was in touch with local and state officials, and deployed federal aid from the Army Corps Of Engineers and other federal agencies to prevent a disaster. Local volunteers also helped to an effort to lay thousands of sandbags to protect against the rising waters.

Although the flooding in North Dakota never presented as much of a potential disaster as the New Orleans Katrina flooding, still very cold flood waters could have presented a great potential to cause death as well great property damage.

Just like his economic efforts. President Obama appears to be right on top of every major issue facing the U.S. and one of the most engaged presidents ever. Almost like a super mayor or governor, President Obama's management style appears to be very hands on and excellent at delegating responsibility to prevent bigger problems.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Aid To Africa Dilemma

Major world powers such as the U.S. and other nations including China are continuing to step up their aid to the African continent. In fact, the Obama Administration may even double aid to Africa. However, some like Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo paint a very bleak picture of what little good so much aid to the African continent has actually achieved so far. In fact, although billions of dollars of aid from around the world has flowed into African states, as a whole Africa is even poorer now than in the 1970's.

Certainly drought conditions in some nations, as well as the AIDS epidemic which is ravaging Africa has had huge economic consequences. However, many states haven't developed much local industry or employment after decades of foreign aid. And in some states such as Ethiopia, 90% of the government budget still comes from foreign aid, where only 10% of the funds come from any local revenues by harnessing natural resources or other revenue means.

Economist, Dambisa Moyo argues in her book, DEAD AID, that African states need to sell bonds and engage in other economic development projects and foster more trade with developing nations such as China or India. Certainly foreign aid has helped to build clean water projects or provide electricity to some areas. However, the political environment in many parts of Africa including dictatorships or guerrilla wars makes economic development very difficult.

A good example of the problems with providing a stable business environment is the Ivory Coast which may provide up to 90% of the world's cocoa supply that produces chocolate including candy bars. A war between the government and rebel fighters forced thousands of French soldiers and thousands of UN peacekeepers to attempt to keep a peace good enough that some cocoa supplies could continue to the world which would provide badly needed funds to maintain a government and some basic services of some type. However problems such as child labor are still rampant in this state, and the level of political violence has really limited the ability of this country to proper.

Many African states are also ruled by bad governments such as dictatorships. However, In Somalia, no real government even exists at all. Rival war lords vie for power in this state and make the nation way too unstable to develop any sort of viable economy.

The fact of the matter is that some nations such as those in Asia and in India are in the process of building huge economies. At the same time, Africa lags far behind. Even at one time, the old Soviet Union had hoped to expand Communism throughout Africa and create client states such as in Angola, but despite pouring a great deal of money into the country, the nation never really developed. During this past decade it has been reported by the World Monetary Fund that as much as $4 billion in oil revenue might have been stolen due to government corruption as well in Angola.

In an effort to help to control the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the Obama Administration will stop purchasing some Alabama produced condoms that cost 5cents each and buy cheaper ones from China costing 2 cents each. An interesting story because it involves outsourcing American jobs on one hand which will result in lost American jobs, yet will provide more condoms for lower cost. Yet, I don't know if condoms are an area where you want to save money over better quality.

But as a sober whole, the world community hasn't really achieved very much positive for the economic situation in most of Africa for all of the aid offered. Maybe the best hope is for businessmen from a developing nation like China to educate these countries how to take a poor nation and build a viable economic environment.

The Western world community will continue to provide aid to Africa because of the guilt over the serious poverty on the continent. But this continent really needs much more than just guilt driven giving. Africa needs a real viable plan to industrialize and to provide basic services as to combat the AIDS crisis among other major challenges.

Are Scientologists Using The Sarah Palin PAC To Further Their Goals?

John Coyle, who is the husband of FOX News personality, Greta Van Susteren, is also a main advisor to Sarah Palin's Political Action Committee, SarahPAC. A celebrity website by the name of Gawker had uncovered a political plan by Coyle that dates back as far as 1986 to increase the power of Scientologists by using media and other contacts to gain access to politicians to help to further the goals of this controversial organization. Scientologists are now known to operate at least two front organizations as political action committees to further the goals of their organization including Citizens For Social Reform and Florida Citizens For Social Reform, as well as some Scientologists like Coyle possibly using the Sarah Palin PAC, SarahPAC, to further their goals as well.

It is a very old strategy for political power by religion to use politicians to further their power goals. For example, while the early Christians were once persecuted by the Roman government, by the third century the Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted the Christian faith into the Roman government helping to create the Roman Catholic Church faith as state church for Rome for example. The Church Of England has long been an official state church in the UK in which ancient UK political figures are worshipped as "saints" in this faith. And even in modern times, Spanish fascist leader Franco was largely put in power by support from the Catholic Church. A strong history of church and state working together to maintain power over citizens and rule them exists throughout history. The Taliban in Afghanistan represents yet another example of religion and government working together for power and to control people. And in Haiti, voodoo based religion, kept people in fear, and politicias in power.

There are also a small block of right wing members of Congress including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and fornmer U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, all Republicans, who have closely aligned themselves with THE WASHINGTON TIMES newspaper, which was founded by the Moonie cult leader, Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Whether it be larger religions or even small cults, some religions often use politicians to gain favors and even power for themselves. And based on the old plan of Palin advisor, John Coyle, there is a substantial question about whether he is using the Palin PAC to further the goals of his Scientology faith as well.

Part of the political problem for Sarah Palin is that she appears to have a cultist following by a fringe, and for some reason this has now attracted some Scientology elements such as Coyle who may even be using her PAC to further his political as well as religious agenda.

Scientologists might view themselves as a somewhat persecuted religion, although many of their followers are wealthy Hollywood or other successful types. And such a persecution complex might be resulting in this group seeking political power or hoping to further their religious beliefs.

On Comedy Central's SOUTH PARK, the above illustration of the actual belief's of Scientologists was once represented, which also helped to result in Scientologist member, Isaac Hayes, quitting the show. The American public has to decide whether they really want such controversial religious opinions so involved in their politics. Sarah Palin probably has a whole new problem to deal with if she allows controversial religious views such as those from Scientology to heavily get involved with her SarahPAC.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dish Network Might Face Record Fines For Breaking Federal Laws

Only a few months ago, I wrote a piece on the outrageous telemarketing abuses by Dish Network. I got a number of sympathetic comments by other injured consumers who strongly agreed with my attack on Dish Network's aggressive telemarketing practices. Now Dish Network, perhaps the most notorious abuser of federal "do not call" telemarketing laws in American history, is being sued by the federal government for failure to settle with the government for their excessive and abusive harassment of citizens registered on the federal "do not call" registry.

In defence of itself, Dish Network issued a patently false statement claiming to "be in compliance" with the federal "do not call laws. However consumer phone records clearly prove that either Dish Network or it's authorized dealers made literally hundreds of robocalls to many consumers home phone numbers, sometimes more than once a day. And that these robocalls often were made to numbers on the "do not call" registry, or to consumers who made repeated requests for Dish Network to stop their harassing telemarketing calls. Currently more than 167 million phone numbers are on the federal "do not call" registry.

Dish Network appears ready to fight the government in court. However phone evidence proves that this company clearly abused consumers who wanted to left alone with aggressive telemarketing practices. When consumers requested to not be called by this company, authorized telemarketing agents would often just rudely hang up on the consumer, and the hundreds more telemarketing calls would only continue. It was not uncommon for some consumers to receive 300-500 telemarketing calls a year from Dish Network or it's authorized dealers.

In my own case, Dish Network made my own life a living Hell, by forcing me to run to the phone so many times when I was caring for two sick elderly parents, who both later died, and I had to answer so many of their abusive telemarketing calls when I was making funeral arrangements and for months afterwards while I was involved in the complex probate proceedings. Dish Network caused me substantial loss of time and aggravation. And every request I made of the company to stop calling my number was ignored until I made another request in writing to the company where I informed them that I would bill them for economic damages and charge them $35 per phone call for each 100 unwanted phone calls I received from them if they won't stop. Only this finally deterred the company from making hundreds of robocalls to my phone number.

Because the telemarketing abuses by Dish Network have been so serious, likely the Federal Trade Commission will seek fines way in excess of the record $5.3 million in fines that DirecTV paid for telemarketing abuses that were not nearly as bad as Dish Network's rampant consumer abuses by any means. But so far, the threat of paying a $16,000 fine for each violation of the federal "do not call" laws failed to deter Dish Network, which is apparently stubbornly preparing itself for a major court fight to defend it's abusive campaign of telephone harassment of consumers who have no interest in becoming Dish Network customers whatsoever.

Lawyers for Dish Network may attempt to claim that federal "do not call" laws are unconstitutional constraints on free speech or some other nonsense defense ploys. However, the excessive harassing nature of so many hundreds of unwanted calls to consumers should pretty well damn any defense moves by Dish Network. Dish Network is highly likely to be facing the worst consumer protection case loss in court ever. And they do indeed deserve to lose their case. Under President Obama's FTC one of the worst corporate abusers of consumer rights is finally facing justice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Israel's Unlikely Coalition Government

Just as time was running out for Binyamin Netanyahu and his conservative Likud Party to form a government to rule Israel, there is a unlikely coalition with the politically liberal Labor Party. This highly unlikely coalition government, if it actually succeeds, would pit two long time former rival political elements in Israeli politics as partners with policies with little in common as allies. During the 1948 war that established Israel, Likud was an organization that involved many right wing extremists and even terrorists such Menachem Begin as opposed to moderates in Labor like Golda Meir.

The strange coalition between Likud and Labor will likely give Labor some key positions within the new Israeli government including over military matters, dramatically lessening the likelihood that Netanyahu would start a shooting war with Iran over their nuclear program. However, over domestic matters such as economic policies there should only be a huge divide over the issues that will be very difficult to paper over.

The Israeli Labor Party is a member of the Socialist international, a worldwide organization comprised of democratic leftist political parties. The United States is represented in this organization by the tiny Democratic Socialists Of America organization which represents the 1982 merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the New American Movement. The Americans are largely represented by intellectuals and writers, but do not offer candidates for public office, but instead compromise their economic and political values with the Democratic Party. However, it is deeply surprising to see the Israeli Labor Party find enough common ground to form a government with the right wing Likud Party.

How Labor can be involved in a coalition government with right winger Binyamin Netanyahu and not the centrist Kadima Party of moderate Tzipi Livni seems astonishing. However, rampant scandal among the past centrist Kadima government has made life very difficult for Livni, who managed to narrowly outpoll Likud in the last election, but had little opportunity to form a government as she had few other parties interested in joining her. Livni was not asked the form the next government of Israel for this reason.

The biggest question is whether the coalition government of Likud and Labor can even work. Can two parties with very different political agendas even be partners? Netanyahu has suddenly reversed himself from his position of only just days ago, now claiming that he would seek a permanent peace with the Palestinians. Only days before, Netanyahu claimed to oppose any two state solution to this ongoing dispute. Netanyahu even had great support among the American Christian right wing including strong supporters such as Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio because of his opposition to compromise with the Palestinians. Hagee admired that Netanyahu would never seek peace with them. To Hagee, all Muslims only seek religious radicalism.

It will be highly interesting to see how Netanyahu, the darling of the American far right, will somehow suddenly be transformed into some grand peace maker. But perhaps sensing a change in Washington and other political reality, Netanyahu is being backed into political reality. Or maybe not. Only time will tell.

Would You Buy A Used Recession From Eric Cantor?

With so much good economic news out today including a rebound in new home sales, existing home sales, durable goods orders increasing, as well as recent gains on Wall Street, as well as better than expected recent retail sales figures, evidence is pretty clear that the economic policies of the 65 day old Obama Administration and the Democrats are appearing to have not only prevented the U.S. from slipping into an economic crisis as bad as the 1930's Great Depression, but are slow;y turning the corner on this deep recession. I guess you could say that this is a typical Democratic administration; economic recovery and prosperity. But this hasn't prevented Republican critics such as Eric Cantor from Virginia to continue to argue the case for the same failed Republican and Bush Administration economic policies that have gotten the U.S. into this economic mess to begin with.

On this morning's TODAY SHOW, like some bad penny. Eric Cantor shows up to argue the case over and over again for all the same old failed Republican economic policies once again including big tax cuts for the big corporations, never mind that the government needs funds to bail out the ailing segments of the economy with some of those tax revenues.

The fact of the matter is that the Obama Administration is proving great progress in just 65 days in office. In fact, incredible results for just so few days in office. But that's hardly enough to deter some GOP critics like Eric Cantor who will continue to argue in favor of the failed economic policies of the past Bush Administration until Hell freezes over. The fact of the matter is that the big tax cuts for big corporations, many of which were donors to the Bush campaign or other GOP candidates for office, hardly prevented this whole current economic crisis from developing.

As the only Jewish Republican member of congress, Eric Cantor represents a pretty lonely little caucus of just one within his own party. And as a lonely little voice arguing in favor of the failed Bush economic policies, Cantor is also proving himself out of step as well as more and more good economic news breaks that the Obama Administration economic policies are starting to turn the corner.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Memo To Bobby Jindal: Towns Near Anchorage Are Covered In Volcanic Ash

The not ready for primetime Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who volunteered to offer the Republican response to President Obama's recent address to congress must be feeling mighty silly this morning with miles and miles of Alaska located near Anchorage covered in volcanic ash after Mt. Redoubt blew up in a violent eruption. Jindal foolishly chose to condemn volcano monitoring as a main issue in his response to President Obama's serious address on the economy.

Volcanic ash is a very hazardous substance because it is actually fine glass and not normal ash. Air flights in parts of Alaska are now grounded or diverted because this fine glass can cause engine failure in aviation. Automobiles and many other forms of machinery can suffer significant damage or problems as well. And paint of all sorts can suffer abrasion damage including homes and automobiles, bridges, etc. And volcanic ash can present a substantial health hazard to humans as lungs are not likely to be able to cough up such glass material. Volcanic ash may present serious respiratory or cancer hazards similar to fiberglass or even asbestos. Asbestos is especially bad because it stays in the lungs, rusts, and sets up a cancer potential. In a similar way, volcanic ash can settle in the lungs, and not be really leave, creating a similar potential for permanent or even fatal respiratory problems. But of course, Jindal doesn't seem to have any understanding of this as a problem.

Amazingly, you would think that Jindal should be understanding of the sheer amount of damage that natural disasters can cause and understand the need for monitoring volcanoes. It was Jindal's own state of Louisiana that suffered huge economic damage when the Hurricane Katrina broke levees and flooded New Orleans, creating a massive humanitarian crisis. For his part, after spending a few years in congress, Jindal just never seemed to get around to supporting more funds to upgrade the levee system around New Orleans despite ongoing complaint's that this system was crumbling and badly needed repairs and upgrades.

Incredibly, the clueless Bobby Jindal had hoped that his antivolcano monitoring address response to the serious economic address by the President would give him a launching pad to run for president in 2012. But Jindal's message was widely panned by critics at the time. Jindal further cemented his image as a political lightweight when he agreed to accept all of the economic stimulus funds for his state, yet opposed the small amount of funds intended to expand unemployment insurance benefits because the guy is too much of a political coward to ask employers in his state to continue to pay the unemployment taxes in the state to continue to fund this expansion of unemployment benefits after the federal funds run out in three years time. With the spine of a jelly fish and the political insights of the clueless, Jindal has probably pretty much written himself out of any GOP nomination script for 2012 by his own hand.

Some Republican governors such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger openly appreciate the serious help to his state that the Obama supported economic stimulus funds are providing. On the other hand, there's a governor like Jindal who is accepting all of stimulus funds, minus the unemployment insurance expansion funds, but does nothing but petty bellyache, all for his own short-term political ambitions, damn the unemployed and suffering workers in his state.

Jindal has gone from being a crappy little congressman to being a crappy little governor. That's hardly a very good reason to elect him to be a crappy little president.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Pets Of Foreclosure

During good economic times, most average animal shelters will receive two telephone calls a week from someone who has lost their job or their finances substantially changed where they now have to give up their beloved pets. However, this severe economic crisis has resulted in a massive problem for animal shelters receiving an average of ten calls a day from pet owners who can no longer afford to keep their best friends.

When some persons lose their job or their home, and are forced to sleep on some friend's davenport, they cannot expect that friend to also take in their pets, and animal shelters are getting phone calls.

Part of this economic tragedy not only impacts the lives of families, but of pets as well.

Old Mother Hubbard, went to the cupboard, to get her poor doggie a bone. When she got there, the cupboard was bare, so the little doggie had none.

Pet shelters could really use your help and donations right now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cds You Should Own: The Doors LIVE AT THE MATRIX

Just before The Doors became huge stars later in 1967 with their debut album, THE DOORS, as well as their first two singles, the moderately successful, "Break On Through" and the later mega-smash hit, "Light My Fire" for Elektra Records, The Doors were only a club circuit band. Rhino Records has recently released LIVE AT THE MATRIX which includes early rare club recordings from San Francisco of this band playing to a very small audience that were previously only available on some poor quality bootleg albums. In addition, since most of the bootleg albums were only a single record album, the Rhino two Cd package of LIVE AT THE MATRIX allows for a lot more material that was previously unheard by most fans of The Doors.

And certainly, Rhino Records does a pretty good job with what they had to work with to make LIVE AT THE MATRIX into a reasonably good package. The only real complaint is that the producers of the project didn't want to pay the higher cost to purchase the first generation master tape of The Doors playing The Matrix, so instead used a second generation copy of the performances to compile into this two Cd set. Certainly, this unfortunate cost cutting resulted in a recording not quite as good as humanly possible to produce the best possible recording despite some nice digital cleanup work by the technicians from Rhino. There is some chatter out there that the some deal may be eventually reached to use the first generation tapes to release the album at some point. Thank goodness if that ever happens.

But for now, what Rhino offers is a pretty good document of the early Doors sound. The vocal performances by Jim Morrison are far more restrained and controlled than the more riotous, and often drunken, Jim Morrison on later live recordings such as ABSOLUTELY LIVE. And LIVE AT THE MATRIX features a few rarities which were never recorded by The Doors on any studio release album including "I'm A King Bee", "Money", and the R&B standard blues song, "Get Out Of My Life, Woman".

From small venues like The Matrix, The Doors filled major theatres once "Light My Fire" became a huge top forty hit for the group. So this album is a rare glimpse into a more intimate sounding Doors. And indeed, The Doors, while top flight musicians, only seemed to grow better with age as well. Ray Manzarek was always a master keyboard player. And Robbie Krieger's guitar work always seemed to have some interesting influences including a Latin sound as well as jazz and other esoteric influences. John Densmore, who later became estranged from the other two surviving Doors, was always a decent drummer.

But for now, LIVE AT THE MATRIX, is a must own recording for any good fans of this significant 60's counter culture act. The Doors were a rebellious and great act that could have only flourished in a time period such as the 60's by all means. And their keyboard heavy and creepy dark sound seemed to influence later punk acts such The Stranglers, who sound strangely a little like The Doors on their early recordings. Even some songs by The Stranglers like "Strange Little Girl", sure sound like a Doors song for sure in title, style and writing.

LIVE AT THE MATRIX is a darn great Doors item. It's the band in basic form before all the major glitz and all the alcohol and drugs destroyed Morrison. The Doors last album before Jim Morrison's death, L.A. Woman, was marred by Morrison's alcohol abuse causing the group's longtime sound producer and technician to quit out of anger, when the recording sessions drug on for days due to Morrison's drunken condition in the studio. Eventually, the album was finally finished. And the result was one of the best Doors album yet, with a unique sound. And The Doors finally got around to recording one of the old blues standards that they had been doing in clubs for years on the album, "Crawling King Snake". The album was more blues than most Doors albums. The Doors were always a blues influenced group, however that fact didn't always readily show up on their pop hit singles such as "Light My Fire", "People Are Strange" or "Hello, I Love You" which seemed to catch the teenage girl listeners. There was the pop Doors, with teen idol bad boy Jim Morrison, and the there was the darker blues and album oriented Doors that appealed to the 60's generation psychedelic music fans with dark creeped out poetry and incendiary revolutionary lyrics such as songs like "Five To One" or "Tell All The People". There was certainly once two distinct Doors identities for the group. One top forty, the other very dark.

LIVE AT THE MATRIX is an essential Doors item for any true fan of the group. It is a pretty good statement about the starting point of this great iconic 60's rock act.

Rush Limbaugh Won't Tell You This

Here's a news scoop that Rush Limbaugh just won't tell his audience. And it comes straight from the official Congressional Record to back it up. While the Republican Party likes to play politics by portraying the Democrats as reckless spenders for efforts to pull the U.S. economy out of this deep global recession, some Republican senators actually top the list of the biggest earmark spenders of all according to the official Congressional Record report.

The Congressional Record clearly proves that Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran with $470 million dollars of earmark spending added to the Omnibus Spending Bill was #1 with earmark spending among all U.S. senators. Next up on the list of big earmark spenders was Senator Rodger Wicker with $390 million in earmark spending. In fact, of the top 10 largest earmark spenders in the U.S. senate, 10 are Republicans. Which certainly begs the issue of major league political hypocrisy on the subject.

But there might actually be a silver lining here. Most of the big earmark spenders represent poor Southern states with extremely high rates of poverty, hunger and other serious social problems such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia. At least these big earmark spenders are perhaps doing some measure of social good for their poverty stricken folks back home, even if someone like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal might be demagoguing on the unemployment issue just to make some political points for himself in hopes of a 2012 presidential run, damn the folks at home.

Christian charity programs such as Feed The Children feature entire families in West Virginia so poor that they are trapping rats to eat as food, calling them "nutrirats". And even affording a potato to eat is very difficult for some families. So not all earmark spending is a bad thing if it funds projects or programs that lift up some people a little higher above deep waters than all this.

Earmarks are not always bad. However, it is all of the political hypocrisy on the subject and the Washington politics of the political chant that "only Democrats are big spenders" that is getting very tiresome and worn out. The fact of the matter according to the Congressional Record facts is that many Republicans are the biggest earmark spenders that there are. But Rush Limbaugh simply lacks the honesty to tell you that fact.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Republican Congressman's Big Cash Grant Give-Away Website

How'd you like some free government grant money to start that birdhouse business or to start your own "nonprofit" organization? Oh, never mind what impact these earmark cash grants and spending are having on the federal deficit problem. Well, Virginia's senior most Republican member of congress, Frank Rudolph Wolf, of the 10th district has a great website that gives all sorts of cool links to anyone who wants to rake in lots of free government cash all paid for by the taxpayer. Wolf will then add these free money grants to legislation as earmark spending proposals.

Here's the website here at§iontree=4,17

There's plenty of cool links on Wolf's big government cash giveaway website to get free taxpayer money from a number or government agencies and even some private foundations as well a link on how to start your nonprofit organization so that Republican congressman Wolf can start sending earmark cash grant money rolling your way. It's almost as good as winning the lottery for Heaven's sake! Why work for living when Republican congressman Wolf can set up with free taxpayer paid cash grants?

Republican Wolf, also interestingly voted against the Obama supported economic stimulus legislation, although no doubt many grants Wolf proposed or supported were probably attached to this legislation. On paper, Wolf could claim that he opposed Obama and the Democrats, while his pet grant projects would still become law and receive their fair share of free cash government grants.

By the way, the cash grants to birdhouse businesses are no joke. There was once an ornithological government grant program that would give citizens a cash grant to open a birdhouse business that matched the first $7,500 invested.

It's like Christmas everyday with some members of congress like Republican Frank Wolf playing Santa Claus giving out lots of free taxpayer money to almost anyone who asks.

What did you bring me Santa Wolf?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Disturbing Better Business Bureau Report On The Finances And Earmark Cash Grants To Morality In Media

Christian right wing political organization, Morality in Media, which received a $100,380 government earmark grant in 2007 thanks to some Republicans in congress, continues to portray themselves as some sort of "moral" watchdog for society. However, a very disturbing Better Business Bureau report on this organization's finances raises serious concerns about the basic financial transparency, ethics and honesty of this organization that continues to receive ongoing earmark government grants.

While Morality In Media also continues to solicit the public for hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in donations, and even received another $150,000 earmark grant added to legislation by a Republican member of congress in a previous annual budget, yet fails to provide basic information about it's finances and disclosure according to the BBB report.

According to the BBB report, Morality In Media refuses to provide basic information of how donations are actually spent, and "the organization did not provide the Alliance with an annual report covering activities conducted in the past year". Donors to this far right organization are simply throwing their money into some black hole in which their donations disappear. Morality In Media President, Robert Peters. sets a $56,000 dollar a year salary for himself according to the BBB report. In fact, of the $705,000 annual budget for all activities conducted by Morality In Media, and the other front organizations it runs seem to largely disappear into the salaries of just seven persons.

Part of the reason Republicans argued for to the taxpayer earmark grant to Morality In Media is the claim that this organization combats illegal obscenity. However, THE NEW YORK TIMES reported that for $150,000 grant this organization received, not a single prosecution of any illegal obscenity actually resulted. Morality In Media is a pretty good example of a Republican sponsored earmark grant funded organization that doesn't have to provide any proof of work or achievements in order to qualify to receive taxpayer money.

Further, some of the activity such as harassment and threatening letters sent by Morality In Media to legal businesses selling constitutionally protected materials may even come very close to constituting crimes such as extortion and racketeering in themselves. It is illegal to threaten persons who are not breaking any law or committing any crime with a letter sent through the public mail system that they must do as you say, otherwise you will have them arrested or put them in prison. It is threats like this this coming from Morality In Media members that raise the serious question of whether this organization may in itself be a criminal enterprise not that much different than some criminal gangs that shake down businesses for cash. Extortion schemes are illegal. Yet this organization receives earmark cash grants.

While Republican members of congress have no problem sending taxpayer money off to this highly questionable organization in the way of earmark grants, the BBB notes that Morality In Media home page website "does not include a board roster or financial information. The website also does not provide electronic access to the organizations most recent IRS form 990". According to BBB standards this organization does not meet the basic financial disclosure standards of standard charity nonprofit organizations. Yet Republican members have slipped hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to this Christian right wing political organization whose activity largely involve the illegal harassment of legal business such as bookstores, websites, film and book distributors, grocery stores and TV networks.

More on the BBB report about this organization that receives ongoing Republican sponsored earmark cash grants can be found at the BBB website at

Far right groups like this have pressured congress to pass outrageous unconstitutional laws that have put controversial independent filmmakers, artists and others in federal prisons, including the notorious federal facility outside of Lompoc, California where stabbings and other violence are common place for mere production or distribution of controversial books, movies, record albums, paintings, short stories or operation of a website.

Morality In Media claims to be a morality watchdog, yet cannot even provide basic information how they are spending your tax dollars received as earmark grants? Your tax dollars at work?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This Is Wheel Crazy!

An Oregon State representative from the Portland area is proposing a crazy new bill in the state legislature that would allow bicyclists special rights to be able to run stop signs without fear of getting a traffic ticket. There is already a huge problem with bicyclists too lazy to stop at stop signs or even for red lights, that constantly run these traffic control devices. And now a state legislator wants to make this dangerous practice legal.

The most common sort of injuries that bicyclists do to themselves are single vehicle accidents cause by their own reckless riding habits. And now some brilliant state legislator would like increase these traffic deaths by giving bicyclists special rights to ignore basic traffic safety rules such as stopping for stop signs. Predictably, police are outraged at this proposal. They are usually first responders to fatal bloody bicycle accidents where the tiny twisted frames of a bicycle and a smashed body are smashed onto the street or under the wheels of a car or truck.

Currently, probably 90% or more of bicyclists disobey basic traffic rules and endanger their lives. Running stop signs and red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, riding with no hands, pulling wheelies, riding without a helmet, riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs are all too common of problems with many bicyclists that contribute to accidents and deaths. Instead of promoting better safety or traffic education among bicyclists, this state representative seems to want to vindicate and justify their poor riding habits that endanger their lives.

Another big problem is that bicyclists do not have to be licensed or carry insurance and often have little money to pay if they should run a stop sign and put a dent in an automobile door. On the other hand, auto insurance rates could increase if a new law allowing reckless riding by bicyclists would result in more insurance injury payouts. An insurance company could be stuck with a claim that runs a million or more dollars if a bicyclist was severely injured and had a spinal cord break or other disablement. All motorists might be stuck paying for these medical bills with higher auto insurance rates. And another problem is that "right of way" laws then become more complicated and more motorists who thought that they have the right of way could be charged with manslaughter or other charges if they hit and killed a bicyclist. the legal and insurance questions are very serious here.

Of all the bad legislation to propose, this has to be among the worst of all. It certainly endangers lives and sets a poor example for bicycle safety for children to follow as well. Many bicyclists need to improve their safety and riding skills. This legislation is going in the wrong direction for the good of society.

Strangely while many people in the U.S. are getting off cars and on to bicycles as transportation, in nations such as China, many people are getting off bicycles into cars.

President Obama's TONIGHT SHOW Appearance Will Mark A New Use Of Media

Tonight's appearance on Jay Leno's TONIGHT SHOW by President Obama will mark the first appearance by a sitting president on a popular media television show that is not specially a news program. This will probably mean a new use of popular media to reassure the public or to advance the White House agenda will become a new feature of the use of media by government. Probably such an appearance will prove to have much more political mileage in it than the normal use of political or news programs to advance the message of the White House.

This is a brilliant new use of popular media to maintain a strong connection to the public.

Likely news clips from this appearance will be common all over TV the next day or two, and probably such clips should have the effect of boosting support for the president and his policies. And these clips are likely to have far more weight with the public than normal news appearances as well.

While there will certainly be some jokes or humor, there is also likely to be some real news made as well. And both of these will become news, with both likely to boost the popular support of the president.

The president's handlers are indeed very clever strategists. And this is a great new use of the media to deliver the message.

The whole leadership style of this president is markedly different than past presidents. On one hand, he's running the country much like some inspirational school principal that is boosting confidence for students to succeed. On the other hand, he's like a brilliant CEO, who is excellent at delegating responsibility to others. And he's not afraid to juggle several important important issues all at the same time. It's a unique presidency to be sure. And it has a tremendous potential to make massive changes and improvements in the nation if it succeeds. And the skillful use of the media is an important key component in spreading this message.

This should be great TV tonight.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Congress Moving Too Slowly To Confirm Obama's Key Economic Staff

While President Obama is moving quickly to do what he can to revive the American economy, congress continues to stall around with confirming his economic and state department staff over tax and other background investigation matters. It is very difficult for the Obama Administration to operate with so few key staff members in place to work on the economy and foreign policy, yet has managed much action on a number of important areas including the economy, health care reform and sending Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton out on foreign policy visits to world capitols.

Congress needs to understand that the American public is hurting and needs to speed up the confirmation process so that the Obama Administration can have more staff to deal with the economy and also foreign policy matters. This is a critical need.

The fact of the matter is that Timothy Geithner has sometimes almost looked a little foolish some days, and this is largely because he doesn't have much staff in place because of the slow action by congress to have all of the important background materials to research every major economic issue. And Secretary Of State Clinton also looked a little awkward as well on her first visit overseas because most of her key staff haven't been confirmed by congress yet. In fact, Timothy Geitner is largely on his own on many matters because he has so few staffers.

The American public expects action from this new administration. Congress needs to give President Obama the staff he needs to do the job.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The March Madness Economic Stimulus Package

In Oregon, the unemployment rate hit a staggering 10.8% as more Oregon businesses close their doors or lay off employees as the local economic situation seems to only worsen there, placing Oregon among the top four five states hardest hit by the recession. However, an unlikely event will act to inject $10 million dollars in badly needed funds into the Portland, Oregon economy. March Madness.

At least 8 national basketball teams will be playing in the Portland, Oregon Rose Garden which is the normal home court of the Portland Trailblazers which will be retrofitted for a national TV audience as CBS and other media bring massive crews of cameramen, technicians and producers will fill local hotels and restaurants. The March Madness economic stimulus effect will bring a great deal of cash into the local economy and will likely spur some more employment as businesses scramble to be able to serve such a huge influx of tourists into the city.

Portland, Oregon can sure use this huge cash influx. So many large Oregon industries have suffered during this recession and Chinese and Asian imports through the Port Of Portland are way down with the global recession as well.

March Madness will not only provide a great event for college basketball players to compete in, provide a great TV sports event, but will also help to bail Portland, Oregon out of it's deep economic distress caused by this serious global recession. Hopefully, March Madness will be one economic stimulus event that liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans can all rally around and enjoy.

The Pope Both Right And Wrong About African AIDS Problem

With his first visit to Africa, Pope Benedict is both right and wrong about the serious AIDS crisis which is decimating the populations of many African nations. Once again, the Pope is adhering to the unBiblical line of his church by even opposing birth control such as condoms for married persons, by claiming that condoms are not the answer to the AIDS crisis. Yet the Pope is probably right in viewing that the widespread problems of male sexual dominance in Africa are a major cause of this serious epidemic. Cultural traditions in many African nations allow men to dominate sexual relationships, leaving most women with little ability to determine even this role for themselves, allowing women to easily become AIDS victims.

Many men in Africa are married to perfectly good women, however many married men choose to have sex outside of marriage and then bring the HIV infection home to their wives, who then often pass off the HIV infection to children they bear, and as HIV grows into full blown AIDS as most persons in African nations cannot afford medicines to treat and contain the HIV infection, then AIDS is wiping out the populations of Africa, killing off entire families.

The cultural problem of so many men in Africa having unprotected sex outside of marriage is allowing for the huge growth of HIV infections and the AIDS epidemic to destroy the entire continent. This is the biggest crisis the African continent has ever faced, despite centuries of warfare and dictatorships in most nations.

At least 22 million or more persons on the African continent are probably HIV positive. In nations such as South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the HIV infection rate might range as high 15-20% of the population. However, in some states such as Swaziland the HIV infection rate tops 26% of the population, followed by Botswana and Lesotho with HIV rates in the 23% range.

As the HIV and AIDS epidemic destroys many African nations, many families are left without wage earners and many children are left as orphans due to this serious crisis that is just as serious as the Plague that once ruined Europe when many in Europe held superstitious views that cats were the companions of witches and cats were largely killed or banned, allowing the rat population to grow and spread fatal disease to the population. In Africa, bad cultural views giving men too much control of sexual relations is helping to spread the HIV infection throughout the population.

Condoms are an important first start in Africa. However, the culture needs to change in many African nations as well, where men begin to take more responsibility for their actions and women are given a far greater say in the ability to determine whether to enter into a sexual relationship or not.

The Pope may want to bring his European style religion to Africa, however this is not Europe, and not everyone in Africa wants to accept European culture or religion as their own culture or faith. The Pope may view much of the sexual conduct of men in Africa as being either Adultery or fornication, according to his own European standards, however the culture of most in Africa probably do not share such views. However, some important cultural changes, as well as the use of condoms and education are important steps in controlling this serious problem for African society. The United States and other nations also need to greatly help as well. This is a serious crisis that demands a worldwide effort to contain and control.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama's Update Of Food Inspection Will Improve Public Safety

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama promised to update the FDA food inspection and safety rules which actually date back to the Roosevelt Administration. This improvement in food safety rules should make a dramatic improvement in food safety for the American consumer. Every year 1 in 4 Americans get sick with some form of food poisoning, striking 76 million persons. And many examples of this are because of food processor or retailer handling and not consumer food handling errors.

Sometimes, meat is processed in very dirty conditions, where even "downer" animals are used for food. "Downer" animals are very sick animals unable to walk on their own drug by meat processor personnel to be slaughtered. Often these animals can pass on illness to consumers.

Many Americans are also deeply concerned about the safety of food imports, especially from China and other places. And unfortunately, a great deal of the produce that is now sold in the U.S. is now imported from South America where water safety or fertilizer safeguards may not be as good as really needed for the American public safety. Tomatoes and other produce has been proven to hazardous in recent years.

Even American crops such as some peanuts have been found unsafe recently, and that was largely due to lax standards of safety at one large peanut processing business. However, other food products still may contain insect parts or be produced in plants with serious rats or mice problems. Rats are a known carrier of many illnesses for example.

This proposed overhaul of the public food safety rules should help to improve the public safety. Hopefully, Republicans in congress won't act to attempt to derail these FDA improvements. Often Republicans have bucked new regulations on business, including many good rules for the public good.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

America Troops In Iraq Will Remain On Active Duty For Years

Just as I predicted the other day, when two serious bombings took over 60 lives in Iraq, an American military spokesman now claims that American troops will now still go out on active military missions over the next few years and back up Iraqi troops on missions. Previously, a plan was to maintain a presence of 50,000 U.S. troops over the next few years that would largely confined to their military bases or in training Iraqi troops. However, Iraqi troops have recently proved that they still are not ready to defend their own nation.

Just like the failed "Vietnamization" of the Vietnam War as military duties were handed over to inadequate South Vietnamese troops, in Iraq, the military and police have both proven that they are woefully unable to deal with security threats posed by terrorists and other insurgent forces. The war in Iraq will unfortunately be left to American forces to fight for perhaps decades. And Iran is a major threat to involve itself in Iraq unless a strong American presence is left there for decades as well.

All of this illustrates the great problems of whenever the U.S. decides to enter a military situation somewhere. There are still American military bases left over in Japan, Germany and Korea. And now there will be not only military bases but combat duty left for American forces up to decades in Iraq as well.

American Conservative Union Now Using Backlash Against CPAC Conference & Rush Limbaugh For Fundraising Drive

What good is a controversy unless you can use it to your own financial advantage must be the philosophy of the American Conservative Union which is now using the bad publicity generated by Rush Limbaugh's arrogant address to their CPAC conference as a new means for fundraising and petition drives. The American Conservative Union claims that it's time to "Stand with Rush, fight the smears". Yet it was Rush's own arrogant words that became such a source of controversy and offended so many Americans.

It was indeed Rush Limbaugh who brought up the race issue to the CPAC conference when he asked is Barack Obama "authentically Black" in his address as well as other nonsense. It was Rush Limbaugh who claimed that Democrats want Iraq to fail, when the truth is that the Obama Administration will be forced to keep troops in Iraq for years as a safeguard so that the U.S. effort in Iraq doesn't fail. It was Rush Limbaugh who claimed that Democrats want to "dumb down" education, when in fact the Obama Administration wants to dramatically improve educational standards in the U.S. which might even lengthen the school day as well to include additional study to raise educational standards. Limbaugh painted a false picture of the Democrats and those that disagree with him in his address. Limbaugh brought on his own critics by his own words. Wherever Rush Limbaugh wasn't misinformed, he was just plain wrong on the facts.

And it was Newt Gingrich, another CPAC speaker, who argued only a few months ago that only if the U.S. started a huge new oil drilling campaign, then oil prices would drop. It was Gingrich who refused to accept the opinion's of financial experts that stated that demand and market speculation on oil futures is what was driving the high oil prices at the time, and high oil prices had little to do with any immediate shortage of oil. Yet Gingrich seemed to be demanding an immediate roll back of environment protections or other safe guards to provide more oil supplies which he claimed would lower prices. Oil prices are now well below their $4 price highs because of market forces, and this hasn't demanded that even one new drop of oil had to be drilled from any environmentally sensitive area. Gingrich is clueless about how markets really work which seems pretty ignorant for such a claimed advocate for free enterprise and a college professor.

Conservatives and the Republicans held the White House for the last eight years, and instead of offering the prosperity that they claimed, they allowed a terrible recession to take hold in the country, and lost the last two elections as the public soured on how they were ruling the nation.

Conservatives and Republicans had their opportunity to do their best in the last eight years, and only left a mess of joblessness, home fore closures, the Iraq War mess and huge budget deficits as their aftermath. In simple words, it just didn't work out.

The American Conservative Union might not like it that America has finally elected a new government that is attempting to address many problems at once and to attempt to fix the huge mess that conservatives have left for the nation due to the complete failure of their rule. Election's aren't for the good of the ACU or Rush Limbaugh. They're for the good of the country. An opportunity to elect a government that really works, and really provides answers to problems.

Historically, American voters have had to elect Democrats to restore prosperity to America after so many Republican administrations have taken prosperity away and left economic recession if not depression behind. The economy picked up during the Roosevelt years and boomed during the Kennedy-Johnson and Clinton years. During the Lyndon Johnson years, Chevrolet sold 800,000 units a year of just full sized Chevrolet models alone. However, during the Bush years, the company faced economic collapse. For all their talk about capitalism and prosperity, the Republicans just don't seem to offer much of it whenever they control the White House or congress.

The fact of the matter is that the CPAC conference presented a showcase of claimed conservative leaders who are just plain wrong on the issues, lacked real workable solutions to problems, and promoted the policies that just plain failed during the last eight Bush years that the public soundly rejected in the last two elections. Now, that they're White House "homeless" and lost control of both the senate and congress, they are just down to passing the collection plate around and begging their supporters for a little spare change.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kremlin Races Towards Damage Control After Bombers In Cuba Comment By Air Force Chief

After a Russian Air Force chief made a comment that both Cuba and Venezuela might be used to base Russian strategic bombers, the Kremlin quickly raced into damage control mode to make it clear that that Air Force leader was only talking about a hypothetical situation. With attempts by both the Obama Administration as well as the Kremlin to repair relations that became seriously strained during the Bush years, the Russian Air Force leader's comment were not at all helpful.

Realistically, ever since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. and the old Soviet Union worked out a delinked resolution to the crisis which involved Khrushchev backing down and not placing Soviet missiles in Cuba, and the U.S. removed some missiles placed in Turkey aimed near the Soviet border. President John Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, who was serving as the Attorney General, rather than the Secretary Of State, to negotiate the delinked agreement for both nations to agree never to threaten the border security of the other's nation by placing nuclear offensive weapons near the border of the other nation. This gentleman's agreement has existed ever since this 1962 crisis. However, during the Bush Administration this long standing agreement was challenged by a proposal to place a early warning radar system in the Czech Republic and the placement of 10 Missile Interceptors in Poland. And while these are defensive rather than offensive weapons, it still seriously challenged the long standing agreement with Russia not to place weapons near the border of the other.

The Obama Administration absolutely cannot allow the Russian military to place strategic bombers near the U.S. border in Cuba. That's a serious threat to American security that is absolutely unacceptable that presents too serious of a threat to the American population to be allowed. If the Obama Administration has to rescind the Bush Administration's proposal to place a limited number of defensive weapons in the Czech Republic and in Poland, then that might be a very small price to pay to keep the old agreement about border security in force.

The U.S. and Russia can never start a series of events that would allow weapons to be placed near the border of the other, Such a slippery slope would be an open invitation towards actual war because such moves would be viewed as way to provocative and not in the interests of international cooperation and world peace. The U.s. and Russia need to work cooperatively on containing nuclear proliferation, not undermine it with a new arms race. And further, it would not be in the financial interests of Russia to become too cooperative with this bankrupt nation as this poor country would seek to bleed Russia for billions of dollars in assistance, aid or loans.

Now is the time for both the U.S. and Russia to really make good on renewing relations. Both countries need to recommit themselves to never placing either offensive, or even defensive weapons near the border of the other. Both Russia and the U.S. are very nervous about their border security, and any moves by the other to undermine that border security could only have potentially dangerous consequences.

Can Jim Cramer Survive Jon Stewart's Expose?

CNBC's financial entertainer and guru, Jim Cramer, suffered some serious hits this past week when THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart exposed Cramer as hyping stocks to his viewers as great investments such as Bear Stearns stock which tanked only six days later. Jon Stewart used file footage from Cramer's own program to prove that Cramer led by investors into financial ruin by hyping some stocks so wildly and enthusiastically that were actually sitting right on the verge of ruin. Jon Stewart acted as great consumer advocate this past week, to protect the public interest. He deserves great praise.

Jim Cramer attempted to defend himself on a split screen appearance on NBC's TODAY SHOW, but that appearance also went very badly for Cramer. And then, even worse for Cramer he agreed to come on Stewart's program as a last ditch attempt to salvage his reputation, and this probably went the worst of all as Stewart apparently had as many over 200 film clips available to disprove any of Cramer's points.

Jon Stewart is an amazingly intelligent man and a major force to be reckoned with. And Jim Cramer underestimated this fact during both his TODAY SHOW and DAILY SHOW attempts to defend his hype for bad stocks that no doubt cost many of his listeners a great deal of money. Cramer was no intellectual match for Jon Stewart by any means. Stewart is one of the smartest men on TV, bar none. His show is outstanding news, masquerading as comedy, parody and satire.

Now the big question is what happens next for Jim Cramer? Will his program survive? Will his ratings hold up? Will CNBC figure that Cramer hurts their reputation and ax his show?

Jon Stewart might have taken down a major icon this past week with his lawyerly, yet very entertaining, and very well documented proof of Cramer hyping bad stocks to his viewers and costing some lots of money. This had to be a very rough week for Cramer. And the more he attempted to defend himself, the deeper Stewart was able to bury him with more facts and more proof by the extensive use of film clips using Cramer's own words. Cramer likely became too close, if not too cozy with some companies, chief executives and stocks to be able to view many in an objective light, and Jon Stewart took full advantage of that.

Jon Stewart came out the big winner in all of this, acting as a great consumer advocate, hitting on Cramer's weakness with his reputation as a bit of an erratic screwball, and now a master of bad hype and bad information. All of this leaves Cramer greatly degraded as a marketable entity for CNBC. But likely, just like Rush Limbaugh, who is constantly degraded by facts from his critics, Limbaugh has managed to survive. Cramer does have many loyal fans. However, the management of CNBC will have to really sort this thing out and decide how much of a liability that Cramer has now become for them. Can this network afford such a liability? This no doubt pains CNBC because Cramer has been very popular at CNBC. But the station's credibility is at stake here. Can CNBC afford Jim Cramer's drag on their reputation?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wall Street Up For Fourth Day In Row. Are The Obama & Democratic Economic Policies Starting To Work?

For the fourth day in a row, the stock market was up. The Dow closed up 53.92 points today. Usually, the stock market runs as much as six months ahead of the actual economy. Further good news came from a number of businesses with more positive news. However, perhaps the biggest news was from GM which might be turning the corner financially and may not even need the immediate $2 billion in proposed bailout help to continue in business. Only last week GM's future was in serious doubt. Now , today that future looks much better.

All of this good news is beginning to beg the question of whether the hands on approach by President Obama with the economy and so much immediate action isn't beginning to turn the corner or other factors are at work? But historically most Democratic administrations have brought prosperity to the nation, and these early positive economic signs might just indicate that the serious global recession may be easing and once again the policies of Democrats are turning the corner with the economy.

Certainly it is very early yet. Still these positive signs from the last four days are beginning to set a upward trend that perhaps once again the voters trust in the Democrats is being rewarded by bringing the economy back to life, while congressional Republican attempted to block the Democratic economic recovery plans.

The GOP Internal Struggle Over Church & State

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele has found himself in rocky territory once again because of an interview he gave to GQ magazine where he attempted to be more inclusive on the issues of abortion and homosexuality. The interview drew a sharp response from the losing candidate for the GOP leadership, Ken Blackwell, who retorted that Steele "needs to re-read his Bible, the U.S. Constitution and 2008 GOP Platform..." Blackwell represents so many in the GOP who believe that their interpretation of the Bible should be the rule of public law in so many cultural areas.

Steele is quickly finding himself in the midst of the leadership of a far right drifting political party that wants to blur the line between church and state, and wants to win elections even at the expense of the nation's economic recovery, where many embrace the arrogant nonsense of talk show clowns like Rush Limbaugh who has answers to nothing, only rudeness to offer. How long Steele can hang on as GOP Chairman in a party with so many wacko factions like is a pretty good question. This party continues to drift farther and farther from mainstream respectability, and mainstream candidates for public office.

Steele is a decent man who once studied to become a Catholic priest. He represents some of the same patience often found in many priests in a political party with many angry right wingers who often represent a radical agenda that wants the line between church and state to be completely blurred. They are America's own homegrown Taliban in a great many ways.

And the new problems that Steele is facing with many members of his own party also indicate that his election was largely based on the GOP looking to find some answer to President Obama to somehow attempt to disprove the racism they have been blamed for by many taking such an extremist line on immigration issue. When Steele disappoints these GOP members by not promoting all of their own ideological talking points, they are angry. This isn't half as inclusive of a party as it would like many voters to believe that it really is. Yesterday, in a national fundraiser held by a Texas congressman for the National Republican Party at least one call-in lamented so many Mexicans are in the U.S., not just illegal immigrants. Just too many Mexicans. This is type of racist nonsense thinking that pervades many in a political party in which Michael Steele attempts to lead. This alone proves how difficult it must be for Steele to keep his job for long.

Likely Steele will be forced to turn in his resignation very soon, and some typical White racist will take up the party helm, that will appeal to those in the religious right who want to blur the line between church and state, the Rush Limbaugh voters, the Sarah Palin trailer-trash voters, and all the other goofy factions that are making the GOP a party that's not really ready for prime time like it once was.

Steele is attempting to make the GOP a big tent party, in a party that really doesn't want to be a big tent party. Many in this party just don't seem to realize that if they grow too extreme, then a shrinking pool of voters will view the candidates of this party as acceptable alternatives in elections. This party is quickly setting itself up for defeat of 1964 proportions in 2012. After the big 1964 loss, the GOP quickly learned to become centrist for 1968. More extremism in 1968 would have sent this party going the way of the Whigs. Steele is reasonable man in a party not yet willing to be reasonable.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cds You Should Own: Ten Years After - Live 1990

Many people might believe that Ten Years After with the great frenetic-styled guitar superman Alvin Lee pretty much peaked a few years after Woodstock with the very popular A SPACE IN TIME. However, 1973's ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC TO THE WORLD seemed like an even better album yet to many loyal fans. But then after 1974 with POSITIVE VIBRATIONS, the band began to fall apart and eventually broke up for a few years while Alvin Lee recorded quite a few solo albums, sometimes with mixed results. But then out of the blue the group recorded a new album in 1989, that was sort of a mixed bag. But then there was a fantastic LIVE 1990 album floating out there that has to be absolutely one of the best live Ten Years After albums ever recorded, although few people know about it.
Available on the UK's Demon label, which usually distributes T.Rex and a few other UK acts, LIVE 1990 starts off with an excellent live version of the new song, "Let's Shake It Up", which utilizes a very clever little back down guitar riff by Alvin Lee. Alvin Lee has the ability to even take basic blues or rock tunes and make them very complex sounding with some awesome guitar tricks. And you'll hear plenty of great guitar riffs on this excellent Cd which never sold very well for some odd reason. This album is a virtually unknown treasure.

The album also is sort of like a live greatest hits document as well, featuring great new live versions of TYA album classics like "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Hobbit", "I'm Going Home" and "Love Like A Man" and more.

TYA were always great live, and this album captures TYA sounding perfect live. The album couldn't be any better than it is. Only two newer songs first recorded on the 1989 reunion album, "Bad Blood" and "Victim Of Circumstance", might be sort ho-hum as far as writing goes, but the rest of this live album ranks among the very best of the live albums that TYA has ever recorded.

If you like great live albums, and seemed to forget that Ten Years After even existed after 1974, then it's high time to tune in this great band once again. Alvin Lee has always ranked up there with other great iconic guitar supermen such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and others. This LIVE 1990 album was also the last album recorded with Alvin Lee playing with the band as well. Alvin Lee produced a number of solo albums after LIVE 1990.

Ten Years After as a group has recorded three albums since Alvin Lee departed the band after the 1990 tour, which includes a new lead singer and guitarist, Joe Gooch. However, none of these albums captures the magic of the albums with Alvin Lee featured on them. Alvin Lee is such a rare guitar talent, a master song writer and a great voice for Ten Years After, that the band simply isn't the same band without him. LIVE 1990 is an album you should own. It's Ten Years After at their very best, with the great Alvin Lee and all his great talents on center-stage where it it belongs.

Stocks Up 239 Points. Used Cars Sales Up. Some Signs Of Recovery Present

After months of nearly unmitigated bad economic news, the American stock market was up 239.66 points on Thursday in it's third day of a market rebound. Further some fresh signs of increased used car sales in both January as well as February, as well as slightly increased retail sales are all good indicators of a slight rebound in the works for both the automobile and retail markets. Further good news from China came from increased demand for cement, a component critical for new business construction.

These all may not be signs that the economy will completely rebound even within six months time, yet they seem to be some life signs that must be encouraging to both the Obama Administration as well as foreign governments such as China that the global recession might be easing somewhat due to actions coming out of Washington and other important key world governments.

After so much bad news, all of these fresh signs of some hope for economic recovery should be very encouraging. These signs also might be an important vindication that the intense focus on improving the economy by the new Obama Administration might well be working and the global economy might be undergoing some recovery signs.

Congressional Republicans: About 40% Of Members, And About 40% Of Earmark Spending. So What's Their Point?

A popular political chant of the Republican Party leadership as well as conservative talk radio is that somehow the Republicans are attempting to control spending and the Democrats are not. However, the simple truth is that while Republicans are about 40% of all the members of Congress and the Senate, they still propose about 40% of all the earmark spending added into legislation. It would take a microscope to find any real difference in the spending habits of the members of either party. In fact. if anything President Obama has been bipartisan in his approach by asking both parties to attempt to better control such earmarks in all future legislation.

One good example was just this week when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky attacked the federal budget bill, although his own state of Kentucky was to receive at least $70 million in various earmark projects, that might include as many as 70 or more earmark projects. It has become very popular for congressional Republicans to add earmark spending to bills, complain about the bill for the sake of the official congressional record, vote against the bill, yet know that the pet projects they either they added to the bill, or that other members of their Republican delegation added from their own state will still get funded and become law anyway. This has become a political game by this political party.

President Obama has proposed starting a new website where all earmark spending proposals will be posted online for everyone to see. Next time when someone like Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell rails against some legislation, but the facts tell that his state is actually getting millions in earmark spending, either by his own addition or by other members of his own Kentucky delegation, then they'll be able to judge just how honest Mr. McConnell actually is with the voters.

Iraqi Shoethrower Sentenced To Three Year Prison Term

Muntathar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during what was supposed to a press conference has been sentenced to three years in an Iraqi prison. The sentence drew some immediate outrage in Iraq as many Iraqi citizens have grown tired of the U.S. occupation of their country and the estimated 1,311,696 deaths that it has helped to cause.

Certainly, the actions of journalist al-Zaidi were an unacceptable example of political protest during the visit by a foreign head of state. The security of foreign heads of state must be completely assured, and any threats or actions against these heads of state is not acceptable in the least. President Bush should have had the complete assurance of his safety and the ability to deliver his statements without facing protests or actions by anyone that might have constituted some threat while in the supposed safety of a secure press conference. The actions of al-Zaidi were certainly a form of disorderly conduct, but in reality posed little real physical threat to the president. The three year sentence seems especially harsh in this light.

Further, the Iraqi jail and prison system is especially notorious for allowing torture, beatings and deaths to take place at hands of Iraqi militia members as well as guards. A three year prison sentence might just as well be a death sentence for this reporter.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi jail and prison system is probably about as honorable as the prison system of a terrible nation such as North Korea. And the justice system is about as fair as any kangaroo court system in some countries like North Korea as well.

On one hand, the Iraqi government needs to send a message that the security of foreign heads of state can be assured while in their country, but on the other hand the government of Iraq also needs to be fair in the administration of justice as well and set a tone that it is a better government than that of Saddam Hussein. But so far there's been little difference in the torture, abuse and death of prisoners between the two regimes. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

John McCain's Daughter Condemns Right Wing Author Ann Coulter

Meghan McCain, the daughter of failed presidential candidate, John McCain, has recently condemned right wing author, Ann Coulter, by calling her "offensive, radical, insulting and confusing all at the same time". Strangely, the cult of personality who follow this hateful extremist author might just follow her for just these very reasons. How screwed up is that?

Coulter has wished heart attacks on Supreme Court members that she doesn't agree with and other outlandish nonsense statements in the past. Coulter might even think that some of her comments are very funny, but in reality many statements often cross the line where you'd only expect a very disturbed person to volunteer such bizarre comments as wishing bad health or violence on elected or appointed officials. Many of Coulter's past statements are very sick and twisted, and hardly even witty in the very least. Coulter once even made an outlandish comparison between the Lincoln assassination and former moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, claiming they shot the wrong Lincoln. That was completely outrageous and disgusting. No sane person should make statements about elected officials like that. Ever. Lincoln Chaffee is a decent man who never deserved such outrageous comments by the hateful Coulter.

Coulter's complete lack of good sense seems to attract a cult of kooky followers much like a piece of dog crap on the sidewalk might attract some flies. She almost makes Rush Limbaugh look like a civil person by comparison. Some of her classics include a call by Coulter for the U.S. to invade non-Christian nations and impose the Christian faith on these nations. Incredible. Simply incredible.

Thank You, Meghan McCain for stepping up to the plate to condemn this sort of trash-talk politics nonsense from Ann Coulter that almost makes professional wrestler's nonsense taunts of each other look like university professor's presentations by comparison. Coulter has only helped to roll back civility and reasoned discussion of important issues in America, and really reduced political discourse down to a playground level of reasoning in many cases.