Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where The Dr. Tiller Murder Leaves The Abortion Issue

The murder of Wichita Kansas abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, 67, leaves some interesting political fallout. Dr. Tiller was serving as an usher at his regular church, The Reformation Lutheran Church, when a he was fatally shot to death, and a blue 1993 Taurus was seen speeding away from the murder scene. Late reports are that the arrest of a gunman has taken place.

Dr. Tiller was always a very controversial figure in the whole abortion question because he was one of the rare providers of late term abortions in the United States. Many in the antiabortion movement absolutely hated Tiller who was often nicknamed, "Tiller the baby killer". Tiller was shot in both arms once before. And Tiller was once put on trial in Kansas for violation of 19 misdemeanor laws in regards to abortion providing, but found not guilty on all charges.

Part of the problem for the antiabortion movement in the aftermath of the murder of Dr. George Tiller is that they might have have eliminated a hated figure. But at the same time the more radical elements in the antiabortion movement have now pushed themselves closer to being viewed as domestic terrorists and have also increased the likelihood of prosecution under racketeering and other organized crime laws. The antiabortion movement hardly needed to paint themselves into this legal corner of being branded as domestic terrorists and now subject to some newer and more serious laws enacted since 9/11.

The antiabortion movement didn't really gain very much today. In fact, they lost a lot of legal ground. This movement really needed to take the high moral ground on the abortion issue if they ever hoped to sway more public opinion in their direction. Instead, they have only rallied more on the pro-choice side today, as well as given judges a new incentive to allow tougher laws against the more radical elements of the antiabortion movement.

One very controversial figure hated by the antiabortion movement may be gone today. But the antiabortion movement lost a lot of political ground today as well. For the antiabortion movement, Tiller's murder is a pretty good example of winning a battle, but sacrificing losing the war for that battle's sake. That's not gaining very much.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Last Outpost Car Dealer

Some conservative blogs as well as NEWSMAX are kicking up a little dirt recently by claiming that Chrysler dealerships owned by Republican-leaning donors are somehow being shut down by the Obama Administration. And in a few cases, a loose example here or there has been used to perpetuate this story. However the facts emerging quickly blow the lid off this latest conservative urban myth that is currently circulating.

It appears that the dealerships that Chrysler wants to survive are dealers whose property is large enough to house all three Chrysler product lines, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep under one roof. And it is only smaller dealerships whose buildings or operations are too small to include all brands that are being forced out of business by Chrysler. Chrysler wants every dealer to be able to sell and service every Chrysler produced vehicle and some small dealers unable to meet this requirement are being asked to leave the Chrysler family.

Recently, some long-time single Chrysler product dealerships such as a Jeep dealership have begun running new ads announcing that they are now full Chrysler product line dealers. Some smaller dealers whose sales were relatively good are angry that they are not being included in Chrysler's new full dealership plans. However, these operations are simply too small to provide parts and service as well as the full Chrysler line.

These full service Chrysler dealerships have absolutely nothing to do with making partisan donations to the GOP. Yet the story is circulating that for example, Representative Vern Buchanan(R-FL), who owns a Chrysler dealership in Venice, Florida is on the cut-list. However, it is not always noted that he is also a Nissan dealer as well, and Buchanan can certainly continue in business to sell Nissan vehicles which are probably far better Sellers than most Chrysler vehicles right now. Many imported brands of cars have about a 60 day selling supply available at dealers compared to many Chrysler vehicles with far larger supplies of unsold vehicles. As I noted a couple of days ago, some Chrysler cars such as the Crossfire are in 300 day supplies at Chrysler dealers.

And in fact, Buchanan also claims, "I'll going to be fine", in an answer about what he'll do next. But likely that sure isn't going out of business. Buchanan will almost certainly continue as a successful Nissan dealer. Yet the conservative media conspiracy tales continue. Further, there is no way that the White House is involved in deciding how Chrysler restructures it's dealer network. That's an internal decision of Chrysler. There certainly isn't some Obama White House agency sitting around and looking to close down businesses whose owners might lean Republican. That's not the way that either business or the White House operates.

In fact, rather than simply being a full time Chrysler dealer, Buchanan actually operates 23 total car dealerships in Florida and North Carolina. So it becomes a complete myth that he is being forced out of business because with this much assets and an established franchise with Nissan, business will only continue for Buchanan. For a grocer, It would be like if Pepsi decided to cut a dealer for some reason, so he handles Coke products instead. It certainly isn't clear how Buchanan can claim the Obama White House has a single thing to do with this internal Chrysler dealer franchise determination issue, although that certainly hasn't stopped a few over on the right from making a conspiracy tale out of this issue.

So Chrysler decides to close about 25% of it's smallest and sometimes financially troubled dealerships among the 3,200 currently operating. And because some Florida Republican Congressman finds himself on the cut list because he's not even a full time Chrysler dealer, with commitments to selling Nissan vehicles, then the right runs with the conspiracy myths that Obama's killing off Republican businesses.

During the 1950's when Hudson and Nash merged into the newly formed American Motors Corporation some dealers no doubt were faced with the same choice, cease to become a Hudson or Nash dealer, and sell all the models produced by the American Motors Corporation or go out of business. But one Hudson dealer outside of Detroit, Miller Motors Hudson, decided to remain strictly as a Hudson dealer despite the fact that brand ceased to exist in the 1950's and continues to sell and service used Hudson cars to this day without the franchise support of a major existing car company. In a good year, this tiny little dealer might sell around 12 cars. Miller Motors might have even been able to join the Chrysler family after AMC was bought by Chrysler. But they didn't. They intended to be the last outpost for Hudson.

The fact of the matter is that Chrysler isn't looking to have some last outpost dealerships. They want full product line dealerships. And the Obama Administration or White House has nothing to do with which dealerships that Chrysler chooses to continue. There is no politics here. This is strictly a business decision.

Are Three Wheels Better Than Two?

Recently one of my neighbors had the good taste to bring one of those wild Can-Am Spyder three wheeled motorcycles home. For a list price around 15 grand, it's a very impressive looking machine that looks all motorcycle from the rear, but strangely almost ATV-like from the front. If anything, these Can-Am Spyders are an attempt to try something new and daring and a re-invention of the classic motorcycle.

With a huge 990cc V-Twin motorcycle engine, the Can-Am offers great performance. And the front end handles much like a high quality sports car. In fact, the Can-Am features a reverse gear, power steering and a forward mounted trunk, three things all common in most any four wheeled vehicle. And unlike any motorcycle, the rider doesn't have to lean in to corners and remains upright due to the extra wheel dramatically changing the handling characteristics. Those that have taken a ride on the Can-Am Spyders claim that some aspects of the ride are very similar to an ATV or snowmobile experience. And perhaps because of a larger tire contact area with the road because of larger tires and in fact three tires rather than two, the Can-Am strangely seems to give more road rut feedback to the driver compared to two-wheeled motorcycles.

With a decidedly wider stance than normal motorcycles, the Can-Am isn't really able to cut through tight streets quite as well as it's narrower two-wheeled counterparts. However, the vehicle does offer many high end automobile type features not found on most two-wheelers. And besides the five speed manual transmission model, an automatic clutch version is available as well, broadening the appeal of the vehicle to buyers who aren't so much into shifting gears and like much more of a twist-and-go experience like a scooter offers.

If a rider likes to get the looks on the streets by driving something real unique, and if a rider doesn't mind a vehicle that reminds them a little bit of an ATV or snowmobile compared to a traditional two-wheeler, then his great unique vehicle might just be your cup of tea. Heck, for about 15 grand, or a little more if you prefer the automatic, this great fun vehicle is something you owe yourself.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Senator Pat Roberts Doesn't Need Any Stinkin' Facts

Senator Pat Roberts(R-Kansas) has already announced that he intends to vote against President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court even though she hasn't even had her fair chance for a hearing yet and little is known able her views on many topics that will face the Supreme Court such as how she views the constitution and how she would apply law. Sotomayer has been a judge longer than either Justices Roberts or Alito have been judges, yet the types of issues she faced in that role didn't really give a clue as to her views on the type of issues she might face on the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet Republican Pat Roberts intends to vote against her anyway, even before she was even allowed the courtesy of presenting herself to the Senate for possible confirmation.

Pat Roberts is representing the worst form of prejudice here. He's prejudging the nominee for something not based off of her experience as a judge or some other professional standard, and instead intends to vote against her confirmation based on some other factors such as because she was nominated by President Obama, or her ethnic background, or for partisan political reasons or something. That is plain outrageous.

Every member of the Senate owes it to court nominees to give them a fair hearing before they announce how they'll vote. What Pat Roberts is doing is completely unethical here.

Pat Roberts' view that he doesn't need any stinkin' facts to make up his mind how to judge a Supreme Court nominee is a pretty pathetic standard indeed. It sets a new low for Washington partisanship.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

China Sends Message To North Korea By Promising Stronger Ties To South Korea

China managed to send a quiet, yet strong message to North Korea, by meeting with ROK Defense Minister Lee Sang Hee, early today and promised further efforts to work for peace and stability as well as to work for military cooperation. This all sends a message to North Korea that China does not support efforts to expand nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, and that North Korea stands isolated with no support for their recent nuclear tests or missile launch efforts.

Both China and Russia appear to be onboard with reasonable efforts to force North Korea to back down and to begin to respect the agreements they made with the Bush Administration and the other regional governments to destroy their nuclear program in exchange for fuel oil and food aid from the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

Without any political or military support for North Korea's nuclear program, the Pyongyang government needs to quickly realize that they are bucking international pressure to return to a peaceful stance and accept international aid in return for destruction of their nuclear program.

It is highly likely that the Obama Administration will use the U.S. Navy to check each North Korean ship for possible exporting of missile or nuclear parts to nations such as Iran, despite North Korean threats that such inspections could resort in war. However, the Obama Administration appears willing to stand up to North Korea's stance, and to consider their threats as a possible bluff. Other international states appear to want to engage in the inspections of North Korean ships as well including Japan.

The official news service of China, XINHUA appears to offer support for both President Obama and Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton to peacefully return North Korea back to constructive relations in the region. So far nothing in the Chinese press appears to be supportive of North Korea, proving that the Pyongyang government has no support in China for their current actions which endanger peace in the region.

The Russian newservice, VOICE OF RUSSIA. which operates largely as the mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin's political party and government went even further in condemning North Korea for attempting to use the "nuclear blackmail" card to force more aid from the United States and South Korea after Russia and China stopped foreign aid to North Korea back during the 1990's. Russia views that North Korea's nuclear program as entirely built on wringing aid from Washington and South Korea while attempting to preserve their hardline regime. Russia would like to see North Korea enact political reforms to become a more stable and open society. Russia views North Korea's nuclear program as an attempt to pressure states for aid without offering political reforms in exchange for the aid.

With a common goal of Washington, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia for North Korea to return to constructive relations in exchange for aid, North Korea needs to change politically internally and allow some reforms to prevent constant military tensions in the region. The conduct of North Korea has lost them support first among the old Soviet Union, and then with China. And the nuclear blackmail card is not helping the hardline regime to continue to hang on to power either, although the main pressures for political reform are all coming externally from Russia, the U.S. and other sources.

China And Russia Will Launch Joint Mars Probes Later This Year

Sometime later this year, China and Russia will launch joint Mars probes aboard a Russian carrier rocket. The Chinese Mars probe, Yinghuo-1 will orbit Mars and study why water disappeared from the planet in a scientific research study. The Russian Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt is expected to land on one of the moons pf Mars, Phobos, and to take a soil sample, and then to return to Earth with the sample. Yinghuo is a Chinese word meaning the light that a firefly produces.

The Chinese probe also will study why the environment changed on Mars so much that the water disappeared. That has been a serious scientific question for several years among space experts and geologists.

China had hoped by 2010 to be able to stage a manned moon landing, however that appears to be running behind those hopes. However, China continues to make steady progress in efforts towards space exploration.

Despite the bad American economy and serious budget problems, President Obama seems intent on eventually improving America's space exploration program after the Shuttle program ends. This past week. President Obama named decorated Air Force pilot and astronaut, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., 62, to become NASA's first African American head. Bolden flew 100 combat missions in Vietnam, as well as piloted several Space Shuttle flights. He spends time off teaching school children about the space program, and is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic supporters of space exploration. Likely he will urge the President to fund a program for a return to the Moon in the future as well as a vision for a future manned Mars landing.

It takes 10 months for a space vehicle to travel to Mars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chrysler's Dealership Problem: The Saga Continues

Part of Chrysler's dealership problem is a large number of dealerships with an excessive inventory of unsold vehicles sitting on their lots as 90 and 120 credit contracts become due. This only creates a serious cash flow and credit problem for Chrysler and is a prime factor in Chrysler's decision to close hundreds of underproductive or credit drag dealerships.

Chrysler unfortunately has huge supplies of some vehicles sitting on dealer lots such as the Crossfire, a 300 day supply, the Sebring and Avenger, 242 day supplies, and some Jeep models such as Patriot, with a 200 day supply as of May 15, 2009 reports. This creates a serious credit drag when dealers cannot pay for this inventory in 90 or 120 days because the product remains unsold. By contrast, although all brands of automobiles are suffering some sales losses, Toyota, Hyundai, Subaru and BMW dealers are in far healthier condition with average 60 day inventories of vehicles, and more likely to be off 90 or 120 day credit contracts to their suppliers in that time span compared to some troubled Chrysler dealers that Chrysler is hoping to ax.

Chrysler does have some models in short supply such as the Challenger, and nearly sold-out models such as the Magnum, or the Wrangler or Journey. But many dealers failed to sense the high demand for these particular models and instead purchased excessive numbers of underperforming units. Further, the cost of shipping vehicles across the country might run hundreds of dollars in some cases, so the problem of excessive dealer inventories is not always that easy to solve.

Problem dealers present an interesting dilemma for a manufacturer. On one level they are an outlet for their products, however at some point they can become a credit drag as well if they have an excessive amount of product on hand, and cannot pay for upcoming due credit contracts.

Back in the 1980's when I ran a smaller TV business, there was a far larger TV and appliance business that operated across the street. My business was run on a tightly managed cash only basis, while the larger business across the street took out the equivalent of several football fields full of TVs and appliances from the manufacturer, GE, on credit, but had trouble paying for the product when credit became due, yet only continued to purchase more product on credit. Eventually GE and other creditors had to force the company into liquidation.

The problem is with so much product and inventory on hand, underperforming dealers tend to sell the stock to pay rent, lights, salaries or other expenses, and with the stock sold, the manufacturer has no remaining equity left. Chrysler has little choice but to eliminate problem dealers like this.

One popular misstatement that the government continues to make is the assertion that Chrysler has too many trucks. However Chrysler's supply of trucks is in the 109 day range, which is not quite as bad as their average 132 day inventory of cars. Trucks will often be purchased by business for business purposes and often have a better built-in market than some car models. However, Chrysler products simply haven't developed the keener marketing skills of some brands such as Toyota, Hyundai or Subaru, which manage to more closely control supply and dealer inventory. Chrysler has allowed management issues to get out of hand, where excessive credit to dealers a well as huge supplies of poorly selling models has brought the company nearly to the point of extinction.

North Korea Breaking Deals Made With Bush Administration

North Korea is breaking some agreements with Washington and other countries made during the Bush Administration to allow food aid to travel to North Korea and to ease some trade restrictions and to remove North Korea from the list of of states sponsoring terrorism in exchange for the destruction of it's nuclear power program. Back on July 1, 2008, another U.S. ship with 37,000 tons of wheat sailed to North Korea, only days after North Korea allowed Western reporters to film the destruction of a disabled nuclear plant. North Korea has also received more than 100,000 metric tons of fuel oil from the U.S. as well during 2007 from the Bush Administration.

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. , South Korea, Japan and China all offered North Korea some substantial food aid and other assistance in exchange for the destruction of their nuclear program. Now that there's a new administration in Washington, North Korea is simply looking to appear threatening, only hoping to wring more new aid from Washington.

However, it is likely that the Obama Administration might take a hard-line against North Korea in the area of inspecting North Korea ships to prevent them from shipping missiles, missile parts or nuclear materials to rogue nations such as Iran. And that could be a potential area of conflict, compared to the tough statements by the Pyongyang government.

It wouldn't appear that Pyongyang seriously wants war. The reclusive regime likely is only looking to wring out a few more aid benefits from the donor states. But that doesn't mean that some ship inspection could go horribly out of control and accidentally trigger some military incident. And that's the real danger here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Youth Vote & Facebook May Decide Iranian Election

With as much as 50% of the voters under the age of 30, the youth vote as well as Facebook may prove to be deciding factors in the upcoming June 12 Iranian presidential elections. Sensing his grip on power possiby slipping away, the government of controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned Facebook ahead of the election as most of the buzz among young voters is highly favorable of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the Independent Reformist candidate for president.

The fact of the matter is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has burnt down much of his popularity at home by his constant confrontations with the West as well the terrible economy he has fostered. Grocery prices have doubled since Ahmadienjad was elected president in 2005. Prior to that election, Admadinejad was the controversial Mayor of Tehran who once ordered the streets of the city widened so that some Islamic prophets could walk those wide streets once unbelievers in the world would be defeated in a future war with Islam.

The middle class of Iran prefers a better business climate and more Western trade and would prefer to avoid potential war in the future over the Iranian nuclear program. Likewise, many young people in Iran feel that Ahmadinejad has sucked hope out the country and has only been too controversial and badly mishandled the Iranian economy. Mousavi may not be the Iranian Barack Obama, however he's seen as the best hope for change and reform among the three presidential candidates. Mousavi would likely move to advance relations with the West and improve trade. And even though the development of nuclear power is a source of pride among many in Iran, Mousavi would likely seek to divorce the peaceful development of nuclear power from any military intentions.

Mousavi has also proven the ability to draw huge crowds at rally events on very short notice as well. With only a two day notice, Mousavi drew a large 15,000 person crowd recently. Former president and moderate cleric, Mohammed Khatami withdrew from the race and supported Mousavi as the best hope for reformers to win the election. And most of the talk about the election in Facebook has been heavily weighted towards Mousavi as well, leading to the government of Ahmadinejad's government banning Facebook prior to the election.

Mousavi would have a full plate in working to improve the economy mess made by Ahmadinejad as well as improving relations with the West. Further, Mousavi promises greater civil liberties such as more freedom of speech in Iran. That would be a sharp contrast from Ahmadinjad ruling out of fear, and falsely accusing some of spying for Israel and allowing public hangings.

Some polls suggest that Mousavi may have a moderate to huge lead. Other polls, put Ahmadinejad ahead. However, it is really not known just how reliable any of these polls actually are. One poll entirely comprised of just workers has Mousavi leading by 52 to 36% over Ahmadinejad. However, another poll that includes small towns and village actually has Mousavi running third in the race with Ahmadinjad leading. But it is highly likely that a runoff election may take place, and that Ahmadinejad is running far behind the 61.89% that he received in the 2005 Iranian election when he defeated former President Akbar Rafsanjani.

With the potential of the huge youth vote, and Ahmadinejad so far running far below his 2005 election margin, it is highly likely that Mousavi may win the election coming up in a few days, and the relations with Tehran and Washington may start to improve somewhat from the low point they have sunken to under Ahmadinejad.
Just like the recent American presidential election, hope and change are big factors in the upcoming Iranian presidential election.

The Psychology Of THE WIZARD OF OZ Suicide Myth

The social psychology of myths, rumors and legends is a strange science. And one of the strangest false rumors and myths is the belief by some persons that a love-jilted munchkin who was spurned by a female munchkin became so depressed that he hung himself in a suicide in the background of the set of the 1939 classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ, although there was at least two hundred total cameramen, production crew, directors and actors present on the set.

The truth is that no munchkin ever hung himself on the set of THE WIZARD OF OZ. A large emu bird that was supposed to be used as an extra got loose and was wandering around in the background of at least two scenes in the film. Yet strangely, many have mistaken this large bird flapping it's wings in the background as a munchkin killing himself for some odd reason.

Interestingly, after some mistook this emu bird for something hanging in the background, then some began to write a story to go with the action, creating the false myth of a munchkin suicide on the set of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Some people see what they want to into things, and then fill in the details, where the more simple and obvious explanation of a large bird in the background was overlooked. The social psychology behind the creation of myths is very interesting.

Strangely, this suicide myth continues to be a major discussion point on YouTube, with many videos and commentaries for both viewpoints posted. But deeper than that, the whole myth creation tells a great deal how human logic and psychology really works.

Liberty University Bans Young Democrats Club

Lynchburg Virginia's Liberty University, the college founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, has banned a Young Democrats club on the campus, claiming that the goals of the club were not compatible with the moral goals of the college. Unfortunately the university leadership fails to understand that the Democratic Party is a "big tent" party, where a wide variety of opinions are acceptable. Some Democrats are prochoice, some are prolife, some support Gay rights, others support more "traditional marriage" and other issues, some are more liberal, some are more conservative.

Unfortunately, the leadership of Liberty University views the 2008 Democratic Party Platform as some sort of monolithic document that all Democrats must adhere to, which is a huge mistake. It is not some religious book or a document of faith. It is loose philosophical document that binds many Democrats together, although not all agree with every position. In fact most members of the Liberty University chapter of the Young Democrats considered themselves to be prolife, compared to many Democrats nationally who consider themselves to be prochoice. In fact, in the U.S. Senate, Majority leader Harry Reid considers himself to be prolife, yet many of the other Democratic senators respect him. There is no litmus test to be a Democrat compared to some in the Republican Party who seem to be urging for a smaller "tent" and more ideological view on many issues.

Strangely, Liberty University seems to believe that being a Baptist and being a Democrat are somehow not compatible memberships. That is a sad commentary. Whoever knew that Jesus was a Republican partisan who supports tax breaks for big corporations or whose works were funded by throngs of corporate lobbyists?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus wasn't any advocate of any rulers or man-made governments. He was an advocate for his own future rule on Earth when he promised to return as King. But Liberty University has forgotten this important belief and trust in Jesus so central to the Christian faith. Instead, they view politics and governments in the real short-term. And they view a litmus test to run a club on campus as well.

Liberty University wants to define Democrats simply by abortion and homosexuality, not looking at the broader widely held Democratic goals of running a good government that helps to keep schools open, a standing military, strong national security, a social security network for the elderly or disabled, or goals of a health care system that serves all persons, regardless of their income level. Liberty University has missed the larger message of fairness supported by most Democrats that is a deeper principle that binds most Democrats together.

Recently, in his graduation address to Notre Dame, President Obama called for a more respectful and civil dialogue between those who disagree with issues. By contrast, Liberty University has decided to shut down the dialogue. On the campus of Liberty University, you apparently need to be both Christian and Republican to be right. If you aren't, then maybe you'll burn in Hell. Maybe that's the hidden message of the Liberty Flames.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Only Six World War I Veterans Are Still Alive

Sadly, out of 65, 038, 810 soldiers who served from all armies during WWI, only six verified veterans remain alive today, 2 from Australia, 2 from the UK, and two Americans. The last two American WWI veterans are both 108 years old. John Babcock was actually a Canadian , but moved to the United States in 1924, and still lives in Spokane, Washington. Frank Buckles who lives in Charles Town, West Virginia, also served in WWII as well, and was held as POW during that conflict. Veteran Frank Buckles is pictured here.

No members of the German forces are alive. But there is one 105 British man who claims to have been a bicycle courier during the war. There is one Polish man, who is 109, who joined the military after the Armistice, but before the Treaty Of Versailles.

And the numbers of WWII veterans are declining as well. Out of 16 million Americans that served during the war, only around 2-3 million are still alive today. with more than a thousand dying each day.
In WWI alone, 9,750, 103 soldiers lost their lives. One of the worst forms of warfare during WWI was the extensive use of mustard gas and chemical warfare. 50% of soldiers who didn't wear respirators died from exposure to this toxic warfare. Even 2%of soldiers who wore respirators died as well, because the gas was so hazardous. During WWII, some advocated that mustard gas be used against the general population of Japan. However, General Curtis Lemay opted for the massive fire-bombing of crowded cities like Tokyo, which burned thousands of women, children and babies to death in every mission. War is a terrible business.
God bless the veterans who worked to end wars, and to restore the peace on this Memorial day.

The U.S. Military & The Afghan Language Bible Burning Controversy

Some religious groups are hyping an incident from nearly one year ago involving a U.S. serviceman serving in Afghanistan who received Bibles from his church back home that were printed in Pashto and another Afghan language solely to be used for distributing to Afghans. A military chaplain who found out about the Afghan language Bibles distribution plans, informed the serviceman that active duty service-persons in Afghanistan were not allowed to engage in efforts such as proselytizing to promote religion in the devoutly Muslim nation because that presents a security problem that could result in a backlash against American troops and cause riots and needless deaths of American service persons. For security reasons, the small number of Afghan language Bibles were burned by military officials.

Unfortunately the largely antiAmerican Middle-Eastern newservice, Al Jazeera, found out about the effort by the Evangelical soldier to distribute the Bibles and then presented the story how U.S. service-persons are now in Afghanistan in an effort to promote the Christian faith. Fortunately this not incite more needless American deaths, however the story wasn't very helpful. But by the some Christian groups promoting this story, it only tipped off Al Jazeera reporters to carry what would have been a minor private incident on an American military base of a soldier presenting a possible risk to his fellow soldiers where religion is such a highly sensitive issue. Military rules do allow for some voluntary Evangelism which is defined by non-pressured voluntary discussions of faith with Afghan persons. And some argue that by soldiers owning Bibles written in the two main Afghan languages, that they could be used for American service persons to learn the Afghan languages. However, the intent of these Afghan language Bibles appeared to be solely aimed at distribution and religious conversion.

Unfortunately this whole story doesn't end here. The Pray In Jesus Name Project is involved in fundraising activity to distribute more Afghan language Bibles in Afghanistan, regardless of the security and safety risks it may present to the American service persons serving there. And two North Carolina Congressmen, Mike McIntyre(D-NC) and Walter Jones(R-NC) are involved in some effort in Congress to supposedly "defend" the rights of military chaplains, which is really a cover to allow soldiers serving in Afghanistan to engage in efforts to convert them from the Muslim faith to the Christian faith.

The fact of the matter is that private religious organizations are usually free to operate in many nations, and usually use charity work so that they may open schools or churches in foreign lands. These charity groups often bring good works such as clean drinking water, schools or medical clinics to poor nations. However, because of the serious nature of religious tensions in Afghanistan, many organizations such as Catholic Charities are largely involved in resettling Afghan Christian converts in the United States due to security concerns. In some Muslim nations, the police force are actively involved in arresting persons who practice Christian religion.

This whole incident is becoming a showdown for some Christian groups in the U.S. intent on distributing Bibles in a sensitive Muslim war zone in which Muslim moderates are seeking to win over the efforts of the more extreme religious views of the Taliban. And the efforts by a few religious right Congressmen of both political parties also seem intent on allowing potentially dangerous efforts by American service persons to promote the Christian religion as well, possiby undermining the the entire war effort to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the American effort to build schools and medical clinics is certainly advancing under the Obama Administration. But some in Congress and among some religious groups only want to open the door to further efforts by American service persons to engage in activities meant to convert Afghans to the Christian faith.

My view is that private religious groups and charities have the right to promote aid efforts and other religious activities in Afghanistan. But some others who want U.S. service persons actively involved in promoting religion in Afghanistan probably are seriously endangering both other U.S. service persons as well as the overall mission in Afghanistan. What do you think?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Statistics From National Counterterrorism Center(NCTC) Only Prove The Huge Growth Of Global Terrorism During Bush/Cheney Years

One fact that you certainly won't hear from Dick Cheney in his deceptive "national security" claims is that according to the National
Counterterrorism Center(NCTC) is that terrorism actually grew by fantastic percentages of growth worldwide during the Bush years from the previous Clinton years. Dick Cheney is making his administration into some sort of phony champion on the terrorism issue, while the terrorism problem worldwide, not just in Iraq, grew by huge numbers, especially during 2004 to 2005 period.

The fact of the matter if the Bush and Cheney anti-terrorism efforts really worked globally after 9/11, then why did the problem continue to only dramatically grow and worsen. Cheney wants Americans to center on the false perception of no more attacks on American soil since 9/11, when many regions of the world actually logged greatly increased and numerous incidents since 9/11 that only worsened and grew in many regions of the world. The fact is that there were actually logged 15 incidents of terrorism on American soil just between February 2004 and December 2008, including a fatal bombing incident at a Woodburn bank that I once before identified as an act of domestic terrorism here at Wizbang Blue.

The fact of the matter is that many incidents that are merely passed off as some crime story are actually taken seriously by the NCTC as incidents of domestic terrorism. A March 3, 2006 incident was blamed on an Islamic extremist that wounded nine in Chapel Hill, NC for example. Anarchists or environmental or other extremists have found responsible in some other incidents, while some other incidents are still under active investigation. But the fact of the matter is that it is just plain false if Dick Cheney wants you to believe that no acts of domestic terrorism took place since 9/11. Fortunately domestic acts of terrorism have mostly damaged property and not took too many lives, however 2 persons have been killed since 9/11 on American soil and 15 more wounded.

Mr. Cheney never made the United States nearly as safe as he would like to mislead many to believe. Mr. Cheney isn't dealing in facts here. It's pure political nonsense. Cheney would like you to believe that he was far more powerful and effective of a leader than he actually was. But like the fearsome Wizard Of Oz, it's all a show. The reality is about the worse that Cheney could do to you is to rap you with his cane or drive over your foot with his wheelchair.

Mr. Cheney received several educational draft deferments during the Vietnam War to avoid military service. Yet he talks like some tough super-soldier. There was a clear record of increased terrorist incidents both in the U.S. and globally. Yet Cheney brags of some success record that isn't supported by the facts. This Memorial day weekend is for the real soldiers. the real defenders of national security. Not the frauds like Cheney.
Part of Cheney's style is to act real self-confident and self-assured, even if it's complete nonsense that he's making up.

TV's Biggest Cancellation Losses: How The Recession Will Drive What We See On TV

Unfortunately as this May Sweeps season winds down, the networks have announced the cancellations of some very fine programs that certainly will be missed by many viewers. However, it is likely the recession and money issues that are driving many of these cancellations rather than mere ratings this year. Here are some of the biggest announced network cancellations.

CBS: WITHOUT A TRACE: CBS was the only network to actually increase viewers this past year, yet like the other networks, cost cutting had some impact on the CBS schedule. The biggest victim of this was the top 20 drama, WITHOUT A TRACE which sometimes posted as high as #11 on the Nielsen charts this past year. With a drama packed schedule, and only one slot left for the Fall schedule, CBS opted to keep the cheaper to produce drama NUMB3RS. It is simply amazing how a top rated hit program can be axed simply because of cost, but that appears to be exactly what happened here. The show certainly had a lot more life in it and could have played on for a few more seasons. The finale wasn't really clear whether it was setting up a cliffhanger involving the character played by Poppy Montgomery or not, but she appeared to be moving on, possiby creating a slot for another character to move in. If another network could afford the production costs of this program. It is not entirely clear just how much this Jerry Bruckheimer series costs per episode, but TNT had to pay $1.3 million per episode just to air reruns of this very great drama. Ratings may have fallen a little over the years, yet any program in the top 20 still has plenty of life it in. Perhaps this is the biggest loss of program this year.

THE UNIT: This another huge loss to the Fall CBS schedule. This excellent military drama features some cloak-and-dagger James Bond-type missions by a special covert forces unit of the American military. For a relatively tight budget, this great program managed to appear as though it was filmed all over the world, even though it was of course filmed on sets. Dennis Haysbert is an excellent actor as the lead military officer in a role of this military unit similar to Delta Forces. The producers of the show hope to keep the series alive as a syndicated series if it can sell the series to some buyers. Let's all hope they can. This show is to good to die off. There are plenty of good missions still left for this military unit.

WORST WEEK: While this comedy wasn't great by any standard, it was indeed a very funny series of mishaps by a groom of a couple leading up to their marriage, that kept managing to build. It had some very funny moments. But once the episode with the marriage took place, it seemed like a sort of series finale and the series really had nowhere to go. So it was like a limited series program, but great fun while it lasted. RIP.

HARPERS ISLAND: CBS had higher hopes that this limited series would be a ratings success, however it became a quick ratings failure and was quickly dirt-canned over to that Saturday night dumping ground slot for failed programs. The program was basically like a serialized teen slasher horror movie, and was actually very good. Each week two characters met a horrible death at the hands of a mystery killer. Great ghoulish fun for horror movie fans. Probably would have done much better as a couple of slasher horror films instead of a TV series.

ELEVENTH HOUR: This was a pretty good medical science fiction drama. It had some pretty fair story lines. CBS even had it air after the coveted Thursday night CSI slot, which was a pretty good sign of faith in the series. The pilot cost $4 million to produce, as it was another expensive Jerry Bruckheimer production. But probably cost might have been a pretty big factor in CBS limiting the series to just 18 episodes before giving the program the ax. Too bad.

NBC: MY NAME IS EARL: Compared to some many comedy programs like THE OFFICE or PARKS AND RECREATION which are only marginally funny, MY NAME IS EARL was a real gem. It was a larger than life and lampoonish show with plenty of very goofy characters and story lines. It was a very good comedy. It is possible that the show just might live on with a deal can be made with either ABC or FOX or possiby with TBS. Perhaps this show might still survive. It certainly deserves to. EARL was also likely a victim of the new economics of the networks that orders as few as 13 episodes of a show at a less than production cost price, and urges that production company to seek outside income from DVD sales and syndication deals, promising a potentially larger deal for 20 episodes later, but then cancels the deal when the time comes. EARL was likely more a victim of this sort of new network economic more than anything related to actual ratings.

DEAL OR NO DEAL: This primetime TV gameshow was once a ratings smash hit, however like all TV gameshows like WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE well proved, these primetime TV gameshows are big hits for a while, then really fall off in the ratings. The show will continue in a syndicated version and will now shot in Connecticut due to a 30% tax cut incentive. Currently the program is filmed in Culver City, California, and is cheap enough to produce because few big cash prizes have ever had to paid out so far.

ABC: ACCORDING TO JIM: This really funny comedy might have grown old with ABC network viewers, yet should still have a few years life left in syndication rights and in possible DVD sales. On June 2, 2009 ABC will actually air the series finale, although the show actually shut down production by December 2008 and the sets were reportedly destroyed. The beautiful, but smart mouthed character played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley will be missed though, as she left the program early into season eight. Maybe this series had a good long life. But it will still be missed by many including myself.

SAMANTHA WHO?: I'll admit that I've never seen an episode of this program. However it had a real following, especially among many women. Further, the heartbreak of the cancer by the star, Christina Applegate, made her a popular figure on women's magazines and gave the series a boost in interest. Yet rumor is that ABC attempted to cut costs by insisting on a traditional two camera shooting of the show rather than the more expensive one camera shooting. And this cost factor might have led to the show being axed. This cancellation will make more than a few persons mad, and seems especially callous in the light of Applegate's cancer situation. Not a good public relations ploy, ABC. Not good at all. Not likely to be picked up by another network either. This show will remain a sort of cult favorite among some women and the DVD sales should continue to give the show a little life.

CW: EVERBODY HATES CHRIS: I think it might have been Tracey Coyle over at Wizbang Pop that once called this the "best show that you've never seen". She's certainly right about that fact. This was a great comedy based off the young life of comic Chris Rock. It was darn funny and a real gem. However no one seems to watch the CW network all that much, and the network really has few highly rated programs or enough of a budget to afford really big shows. Whatever replaces this show likely will cost the network less money.

FOX: PRISON BREAK: This was a great drama, although I never really watched it very much. But it had a pretty fair fan base. And those fans will hate to see it gone.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CRONICLES: This was actually a pretty fair TV adaption of the popular TERMINATOR films. However, without the weekly mega-budget of $100 million or more like the films, this series probably greatly disappointed many persons who expected more action and more special effects. Without this big movie budget, expectations were dampened and disappointed fans simply failed to continue to watch in great numbers. The series unfortunately fell in ratings from over 11 million viewers last season to just 4.64 million viewers this year. It will interesting to see if the failure of this series will hurt the movie series as the new TERMNATOR film opens.

If anything, it appears that production costs more than ratings might have killed off some great TV series for the Fall 2009 season. Most apparent of that will be over at NBC which will begin to air a new cheaper production cost talk show with Jay Leno to cut out the cost of paying for five expensive 10pm dramas. Hopefully CBS will continue to do well enough that 10pm dramas will continue there, and the cost cutting move will remain unique to just NBC, otherwise the quality drama might really suffer. The effect of the recession will really be apparent on the 2009 Fall TV season. Cheaper shows, less quality shows, more belt tightening.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why The Republican Party Is No Longer A True National Party

This weekend on FACE THE NATION, former Secretary Of State Gen. Colin Powell will address the outrageous comments of former Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago on the program when Cheney mockingly stated that he was surprised Powell was "still a Republican" and other personal attacks when Powell wanted to see the Republican Party broaden it's appeal to be able to win national elections again. Powell wanted to see the Republican Party to remain as potential second party in American politics. However, the reality is now that in many ways, the Republican Party has lost so much strength in various parts of the nation that it can no longer be considered to be a competitive second party in a position to win elections.

A very good example is what happened to the Republican Party in the state of Oregon.

Oregon had been a traditionally moderate Republican state throughout it's history until about 1976 when Gerald Ford just barely won the state, and moderate Republicans able to win statewide elections such as Clay Myers and former Governor Tom McCall began to become a little less representative of their party than the emerging smaller Reaganite Republicans. Ronald Reagan was able to carry the state in 1980 and 1984, but that was also with the help of some disillusioned Democrats. However the collapse of the Oregon Republican Party had really started.

Slowly as less quality moderate Republican candidates were available to run for statewide offices, the Republican Party became far less competitive statewide in elections. Most Oregonians could not vote for very conservative Republican candidates for office and the party started to become smaller and less relevant in Oregon politics.

The Republican Party began to field worse and worse and poor quality candidates for statewide offices such as governor who were not really yet ready for prime-time. One losing Republican candidate for governor, Kevin Mannix, was a former Democratic legislator who was even a George McGovern delegate in the 1972, who switched parties mainly because he became a social conservative on a few issues such as abortion. Another failed Republican candidate was Bill Sizemore, an antitax advocate who was the subject of a racketeering lawsuit when his organization was brought to court for using fraudulent signature to make the ballot and other problems. Neither candidate was acceptable enough to be elected governor. Further Republicans began to have less and less electoral success statewide.

Now the Oregon Republican Party is in such a mess that it has no reasonable chance to win any major statewide office, and in fact holds none. U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican lost his bid for re-election, now Democrats hold both U.S, Senate seats. And Democrats hold four of five U.S. House seats as well, where only the seat of Greg Walden, a Republican appears to be in a securely Republican area.

What is happening in Oregon is also being mirrored in New England as well, where the number of offices in Republican hands including statewide and in the U.S. Senate and House are quickly shrinking away and the Republican Party is becoming a largely noncompetitive force there as well.

California was once a dependably good Republican state where both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were able to mount their successful bids from that state. But this past year, the Republican Party has lost so much strength that John McCain lost the state by more than 3 million votes, which is an entirely noncompetitive figure by any means. Moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's election a few years ago when Democratic Governor Grey Davis was taken down from office was the last big break that California Republicans have seen in some time. But Schwarzenegger is now discovering how difficult it is to rule California, as his popularity really sags and five of six ballot measures last week intended to bailout education and state services miserably failed by margins that were not even that close as recession strapped voters said a loud "no". Schwarzenegger may be the last Republican Governor of this state for some years, as the the California Republican Party is certainly proving to have the same problems it is having in some other parts of the country. The party is not really a national party any longer, but largely a regional party in the South and parts of the West outside of the Pacific Coast region.

All of this leaves the Republican Party in a difficult position to be viewed as a credible second party in American politics in many areas of the country. Further, the angry attempts by Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and others to exclude more moderate voters and to move the party to the right will only further shrink the base of the Republican Party, leaving it as a smaller and largely uncompetitive force in American politics. With only real pockets of strength in a few areas like the South, the Republican Party is hardly in a position to regain power in Washington anytime soon.

The fact of the matter is that Colin Powell is correct for those in the Republican Party who still want the party to remain as a viable second party in American politics. But the right wing ideologues like Cheney and Limbaugh continue to see this as some sort of battle for the "soul" of the party, which is only a path to a shrinking party much like the defunct Whig Party in American politics.

It is also true that moderates are a rapidly shrinking force within the Republican Party. However, unless they step up and assert their role within the party, then the Republican Party of the near future won't be in any electoral position to win enough elections to really be considered to be an authentic second party in American politics.

President Obama Signs Into Law New Credit Card Industry Reforms

President Obama has now signed into law new legislation that curtails some outrageous unfair practices by the credit card industry including sudden interest rate hikes, outrageous sudden late fees, or offering credit cards to college students under 21 who do not have a job and the ability to pay for the bills.

A few companies have deliberately been very slow to process incoming payments mailed to them, and then charged credit card users with interest rate hikes. The practice has become a racket with a few dishonest credit card companies and the new legislation makes this practice illegal. Other dishonest companies have preyed on young people of college age with no visible means of support or a job, and offered them a line of credit. The new legislation requires that parents give permission and take responsibility for any credit card issued to a college student under 21 who does not have employment or a source of income.

But the president also tempered the signing of this important consumer protection legislation with the warning that he is not giving irresponsible persons "a free pass" and that he fully expects "consumers to live within their means".

The new legislation means to prevent some outrageous consumer abuses by some dishonest credit card issuers who use outrageous excuses to suddenly jack up interest rates or to charge excessive fees for claimed over-the-limit purchases, often when these credit card issuers are slow to process payments and credit cards are used for paying bills online, etc.

According to credit card industry information, about 90 million American households now hold debt of $10,500 or more dollars. A figure which has worsened during the recession as some families have relied too much on credit cards to get them through hard financial times.

The other flip side of this whole consumer issue is that while this legislation takes time to become law, some credit card companies might begin to impose annual fees on responsible credit card users who pay their full bills on tome each month unless they carry a balance subject to high interest rates. The other possibility is that free perks or benefits for good credit customers might disappear as some credit card companies would cut costs associated with issuing cards.

But overall, this is a very important piece of consumer legislation, and yet another issue that separates the Obama Administration from the previous Bush Administration which seemed far more interested in addressing the lobby industry of banks and credit card issuers than consumers.

Dick Cheney's Garage Sale

Hey kids, I heard there's a garage sale over at Dick Cheney's house this weekend. Look at all the cool stuff he's selling.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Japan's Awesome Magnetic Hybrid Scooter

Axle Corporation, a Japanese company has developed an incredible hybrid magnetic powered motor scooter. The scooter can reach speeds of 93mph and requires a 6 hour charging time to travel a 112 mile range.

The power is supplied by a hybrid magnet design between an electromagnet and a permanent magnet. And the engine fits into the rear drive wheel, and is said to be seven times more cost efficient than gas power scooter engines.

The scooter is virtually silent running, and with such a high top speed might be a suitable design for racing applications.

Wacky McCain Volunteer Gets Probation

Ashley Todd, the screwy 21 year old 2008 McCain Campaign volunteer who beat herself up and wrote a B on her own face, and then filed a false police report, claiming that some Barack Obama supporter attacked her because of supporting McCain was given 9 months probation and 50 hours of community service time by a Pittsburgh judge on Thursday.
Todd wasn't even intelligent enough to realize that when she wrote the "B" on her face, that it would turn out backwards unless someone else wrote it. Immediately, police knew Todd was lying about the attack incident, and she was quickly charged with filing a false police report. Further, Todd also had hoped to inspire a phony hate crime hysteria into the 2008 election, which was an ugly motivation for her actions.

Todd also is allowed to enter a probation program for first time offenders in which her record will be expunged as well if she completes all of her probation duties without further incidents.

Amazingly, the judge didn't sentence her to seeking mental health help for staging such a crazy incident in the first place. Todd had no comment to reporters upon leaving the courtroom. What could she possiby say to defend her crazy actions that makes any sense?
Hey Sarah Palin, could you use a good volunteer?

With A 13% Approval Rating After Leaving Office, Cheney Now Belatedly Decides To Defend Bush Administration

After leaving office with a mere 13% approval rating, and really failing to do much good for the public image of the Bush Administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney now suddenly feels that now it's important to go back on the stage and to defend the reputation of the Bush Administration. Isn't that a little bit late, guy?

If Mr. Cheney really wanted to do his administration some good, back when he was vice president was a pretty good time to defend the administration's reputation. It also might have been helpful to John McCain's ill-fated campaign for president as well. Now is a little bit late, don't you think?

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Cheney left office with a mere 13% approval rating and his "boss" if really was that, Mr. Bush left office with a mere 22% rating according to a final CBS survey. Those were pretty dismal ratings compared to final approval ratings of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at 68%, or even of 44% for Jimmy Carter. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Bush once enjoyed a high approval rating of 90% following 9/11 for strong and decisive action and strong bipartisan support following this attack, but only managed to squander away those numbers with too much controversy, scandal and poor decisions, leaving the U.S, stuck in an Iraq mess that didn't turn out at all like expected or with a terrible economy mess.

But now, all of sudden, since Dick Cheney has no ambitions to run for president himself, and can't really do anything positive for his party other than draw the spotlight away from some more legitimate spokesman who might have a bettert future, Cheney decides this is the time to go back on the stage, over and over again.

Someone call for the stage hook please!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Major Difficulties In Recruiting Pakistan

While the Obama Administration has had some quick foreign policy success in recruiting Pakistan to battle Taliban insurgents as they attempted to close in near the capital city of Islamabad, huge hurdles still remain. So far the fighting between the Pakistani military, which is the seventh largest in the world, has left more than 1,000,000 refugees as villages and towns are torn apart by the fighting and bombing attacks.

Another serious problem is that continued tensions between India and Pakistan only continue drain off most of Pakistan's military resources. Some high profile terrorist bombings in India have all been blamed on radicals from Pakistan, created a sort of demagoguery among Indian politicians as well as the public in India calling for a military attack on Pakistan, which has amassed most Indian and Pakistani troops at each other's border draining off most of Pakistan's military assets. This continued military standoff off most Indian and Pakistani military divisions, leave few few troops available to battle the Taliban. This has only allowed the Taliban a fairly free hand to move on more Pakistani territory as the military is tied down in it's military standoff with India. One of the most important things that the Obama Administration can do is to reduce tensions here, which would prevent a possible war between these two nuclear nations with missiles capable of causing serious damage to both countries. More Pakistani troops need to be freed-up to be available to battle the Taliban, otherwise the Taliban might win out in some battles against a short-handed Pakistani defenders.

Another problem is the run-down state of the Pakistani military. The nation might have have a fairly formidable fleet of missiles and nuclear weapons. However, Pakistan has but 20 attack helicopters, with usually no more than just two operational at any point. Further, dropping bombs by aircraft on the Taliban costs lots of money. Pakistan's military really needs billions in a military aid package promised by the Obama Administration, however some in Congress might attempt to hold it up for various reasons.

Another major problem is that the huge refugee problem that the battle with the Taliban is creating is quickly eroding support for the Pakistani government and is probably only helping to boslter support for the Taliban in some parts of the country, especially among the very poor in Pakistan. This situation is unfortunately very similar to the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos, creating the larger Indochina War, where all of the problems of the expanded warfare into Cambodia, creating destruction and refugees only helped to destabilize and collapse that government, allowing the Khmer Rouge Communists to seize control. All of the problems associated with creating a massive refugee problem in Pakistan as a result of the battle with the Taliban just might serve the purpose of eventually allowing the Taliban to take control of the Western part of the nation near the border of Afghanistan, giving the Taliban and Al Qaeda a base of operations to prevent American and NATO success in Afghanistan.

The huge refugee problem being generated might just be the damning feature of success against the Taliban here. Further, the Pakistani government is so concerned about the backlash of anger against the U.S. by many in that nation, that the government is very careful about accepting American aid for the refugees such as tents, blankets, food or other relief supplies. This refugee aid is very vital. Yet the sensitive nature where the Pakistani government needs to disguise American aid because of a huge political backlash is a huge roadblock problem towards winning the battle with the Taliban. If really given a choice, many in Pakistan would far prefer the Taliban to the U.S., which is a huge problem for the United States to overcome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Uses Medium-Range Missile Launch To Bolster Presidential Election Hopes

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad obviously used Wednesday's medium-range missile launch to help to bolster his strength among the right wing voters in his country ahead of the June 12 presidential election. It was an attempt to make his country look powerful and strong to voters in his nation, although it only makes observers outside of Iran such as Israel and the U.S. look to use more resolve to shut down Iran's nuclear program. President Obama was able to buy a little more time with Israel to put off any possible future military on Iran's nuclear program by pressing Iran to meet a deadline to comply with the international community on the nuclear issue. However, the launch of the new Iranian missile with a claimed 1,200 mile range only puts more pressure on Iran to comply with international efforts to halt their nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad has really misread the resolve of the Obama Administration if they only continue to work on developing and testing missiles capable of hitting Israel or American bases within a 1,200 mile range in the Mideast. In Pakistan, the Obama Administration managed to prod the government into action against the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies there. And Iran should not rule out that the Obama Administration would take military action off the table if their missile program and nuclear weapons program threaten American interests.

The new Iranian missile is called the Sajjil-2, which refers to an account in the Quran in which birds supposedly defended the holy City of Mecca by dropping pieces of clay on enemy attackers like little bombs. Ahmadinejad seems intent on coupling Iran's military with his own extreme Islamic end-time philosophy views, while some reformer candidates running for president are concerned about this deliberate attempt to antagonize the United States and to provoke isolation and possible eventual military action.

Reformer candidates would like to strengthen the weakening economy of Iran, have more constructive relations with Washington, and less confrontation with the world community. By comparison, Ahmadinejad seems more intent on pursuing some extreme end-timer Islamic religious viewpoint. As mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad ordered the streets widened because he believed that some prophets from the Quran would need these wider streets to walk down once nonbelievers such as Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. were destroyed in a religious war. The intent of Ahmadinejad still appears to be pursuing his radical end-timer religious views of creating a war to kill "nonbelievers" so those prophets he believes in will return to Earth and walk the streets of Tehran. This is why Ahmadinejad's intents to build a nuclear program are so suspect. They appear to be a further aspect of his radical religious philosophy to create a religious war on "nonbelievers".

Ahmadinejad has voter strength among the very poor and the religious right wing of his nation. However the middle class of Iran, interested in improved business and a stronger domestic economy only view Ahmadinejad as a huge failure and a poor leader with a failing economy and constant friction with the world community over the nuclear program. A win by a reformer in Iran might mean the end of Iran's nuclear weapons program and greatly improved relations if not trade with some nations such as the United States.

Michael Steele: Turning The Page Of The Same Old Book

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele may be sounding some new battle cry that his party is now turning "the page", however it's a page from the same old book. Rather than offering up a constructive and cooperative vision to work with the Obama Administration and the big Democratic majority both in the Senate and in the Congress to work to help to resolve this recession and other pressing issues, Steel's message is more of the same old tired partisanship and party purification of more moderate thinking. In the words of mainstream conservative talk show radio host, Michael Smerconish, yesterday's speech by Steele was merely more "chest thumping" and "red meat" to some hardcore GOP party members, but offered little real new substance to attract new voters to the rapidly shrinking GOP party tent. How this new call for more partisanship and less cooperation is supposed to reinvent the GOP is a perfectly legitimate question?

For his own part, Steele has proven that he could not even elect himself to the U.S. Senate in his home state of Maryland. So it is pretty unclear how a call for more partisanship and even less cooperation among GOP members of Congress is somehow supposed to endear many voters who are concerned about the economy and other important issues to now vote Republican. President Obama by contrast is establishing a solid reputation as someone concerned about the welfare of the average citizen and someone able to achieve some fast foreign policy success with states such as Pakistan, or able to offer up constructive policies on many issues all at the same time. Further, President Obama's calls for a less partisan Washington and even naming moderate Republican Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah as Envoy to China prove his commitment to look beyond normal Washington partisanship. If Obama is one of the least partisan presidents in some time time, and Steele is calling for some of the most partisan politics ever, then Steele could easily find his party on the short end of the voters once again.

Mr. Obama has already proven that he is more than open to hearing the opinion's of the main GOP leaders in Congress and often invites them to conferences at the White House to hear their input on issues and to add their best ideas to his proposals. The Obama view of government is a cooperative vision of the inclusion of all ideas to seek the best possible solutions. That's a far cry than some call for more obstruction and division from Republican leader Michael Steele. Michael Steele doesn't seem to be offering up any new GOP proposals for the economy or any other issue, just a new call to be far less cooperative. And that's not offering voters very much to believe in.

Unfortunately, the GOP is largely where it was just before and after Michael Steele's highly partisan speech, still without new ideas, solutions to problems, and a message and a messenger both. The reality before and after the Michael Steele speech is Republican Party membership declining in virtually every voter group except among weekly churchgoers. That's no real plan to hold many current GOP members, let alone to attract new GOP voters. At least at GM and Chrysler there's some serious soul searching and looking for some new ideas to rescue the companies by comparison. Michael Steele hardly offered his party any rescue plan by comparison.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great Lear Steam Engine You Never Got to Own

In the early 1900's the Stanley Steamer cars were very powerful and fast cars, yet the high price tag of $2,200 compared to just $360 for a Ford Model T in 1907 helped to make these steamer cars a rarity in those days. Comic Jay Leno joked about he once got a ticket for going 75 mph on a 55mph stretch of a California freeway in a 1917 Stanley Steamer. Further the steam blowing out of the back of the vehicle was mistaken for fire by the police who called the fire department as well to put out the fire.

William Lear the aviation pioneer had a dream during the late 1960's to bring back a modern version of the steam engine that featured a closed circuit design in which a special sort of fluid that would not freeze would be encased in closed coils to power the engine. It also featured an external rather than internal combustion type design as well which was also unique to the design. One of my of my own relatives was also the lead engineer on this unique project to produce a new type of automobile engine that would produce up to 500hp and would only produce just 1% of the pollution of conventional internal combustion engines.

Lear spent millions of dollars to buy a former production plant and hire a group of talented engineers to work for several years on the development of this new modern form of combustion engine. At first a larger model was built to power a bus and later a very small and compact version of the engine was developed that powered a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The compact size was very impressive of the later engine.

The Lear engine was powerful and seemed to have some clear advantages over the old Stanley design including no steam exhaust due to the closed circuit design unlike the old style engines which blew lots of exhaust steam. However, it appeared that the engine just was not nearly as efficient as the normal internal combustion engines as well as it seemed to run best on kerosene rather than gasoline. Eventually Lear had to give up his dream of the steam engine. But the incredibly compact size of the engine had to be one of the most impressive features of the Lear steam engine. Perhaps it was a great idea that just needed to be developed a little more to be a greater technological success than it really was. On the official Lear website, the Lear family blame Detroit for helping to bury the design as well, although they do not elaborate how Detroit actually did this. Regardless, the Lear dream died.

Then Lear turned to his love of electronics instead, and developed the Lear 8-track tape cartridge system which made music portable for cars. For a while this revolutionized the portability of music in automobiles before the cassette tapes were improved enough to replace the 8-track as the standard for portable music. Eventually the compact disc managed to displace both formats. But few persons remember that as far back as the late 50's a small number of companies marketed some small record players in cars designed to play a 45rpm single, or about three minutes of music, with skips and scratches when the car hit bumps in the road, etc.
Ironically, after losing millions of dollars on the failed steam engine dream, Lear turned his portable 8-track cartridge player dream into an $8 billion dollar industry by 1978 until cassette tapes began to quickly overtake the market and become the new dominant format. But William Lear's role as one of the greatest American inventors cannot be understated. The man was a genius.

Monday, May 18, 2009

GM's Great Fuel Cell Powered Equinox That You May Never Own

The other day I gave high praise to two college students who succeeded in building a hydrogen fuel cell powered motorcycle. However, that doesn't take away from the fact the General Motors has invested over $1 billion in hydrogen fuel cell experiments and now has a fleet of experimental vehicles as well as few limited production models that have logged over 750,000 miles. But the cold hard fact here is that the public may never really see many real production models of the Equinox or other fuel cell vehicles because the Obama Administration has apparently lost faith in the future of fuel cell vehicles. Fuel cell funding research money from the federal government has been cut by $100 million this year, leaving just $68 million.

A few years ago, BUSINESS WEEK magazine in an article wrote about some ongoing problems with cold weather damage to the membranes that converted the hydrogen to electric power. However, newer technology allowed that cold weather problem to be overcome. However another big hurdle has been the cost per unit of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which might have cost up to $70,000 per vehicle if costs could not be reduced. A further problem is the high cost to convert over existing gas stations to supply hydrogen instead to power this new generation of vehicles.

Over years of ongoing research and investment in new technology, GM has been over to overcome previous technology difficulties such as the cold weather problems with early prototypes to build a highly functional and reliable fleet of Equinox fuel cell vehicles with even a few limited production models now available for sale. Yet the future of fuel cell vehicles doesn't look too bright despite all of private and public money put into development of these alternative powered vehicles. The public may never really see real production examples of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The future of many alternative type engines ended for various reasons. Chrysler had hoped in the early 60's to build some gas turbine powered automobiles. However, these engines spun at speeds around 60,000 rpm and had to be greatly geared down, but produced excessive amounts of nitrogen oxide as well as producing great heat through the exhaust. Most of these cars were eventually crushed down by Chrysler for legal reasons and only a few survive as museum examples out of a fleet of 50 experimental models tested. The cars strangely sounded like a giant vacuum cleaner, compared to the sound from conventional V8 engines as well.

Interestingly, even though the Stanley Steamer automobiles were highly functional and reliable automobiles with a high top speed, steam powered engines were not a favorite of the public for several reasons including a longer warm-up time to be able to drive as well as some fears by customers of potential boiler explosions. However, in more recent years William Lear who owned the jet aircraft company had a team of engineers including one of my relatives who was the main engineer who worked to produce a modern version of the steam car. Lear developed a steam car with a new type of closed circuit system that was able to be fired up in seconds. It was both powerful and reliable, yet the modern steam engine project eventually died.

The Wankel rotary engine was another engine design that eventually faded from the marketplace. Mazda heavily used this engine for a few years, but eventually only used it in their sports cars. And GM had intended to build the engine as well, and AMC intended for the Pacer to use the engine, but GM decided against the project at some point, leaving the Pacer without an engine, forcing the huge and long inline AMC 6 cylinder engine to be used instead which even extended into the passenger cab due to the short hood design.

Saab and a few other car manufacturers once used two-stroke engines in their cars. However, fuel and oil mixing as well as high pollution have eventually forced this engine to be used mainly in some motorcycles and motor scooters.

Some form of electric cars now look to be the most likely, with more and more hybrids and extreme hybrids in the coming years. The hydrogen fuel cell cars once looked to be the most likely replacement for the internal combustion engine. And now after GM has apparently made some very good running prototypes and limited product models of these vehicles that have been tested for many miles, the federal government ssems to have lost faith in these modern technology design vehicles which few may now ever see the marketplace.
Unfortunately the price tag for the few production hydrogen fuel cell automobiles that exist still remains pretty high, however advancing technology seems to be cutting those costs. However, that might be a losing battle for an alternative powered vehicle design that might not catch on afterall since Washington seems to be losing faith here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just What Does "Prolife" Mean Anyway?

The other day a feature at Wizbang noted that now 51% of Americans call themselves "prolife" while 42% call themselves "prochoice" for the first time ever in a Gallup annual values and beliefs survey. This raised the issue have Americans suddenly turned antiabortion in just one year's time-span, or do many Americans just like the sound of the term "prolife" to describe their views on the abortion issue, because another finding of the survey was that 53% of respondents still believed that abortion should be legal under at least some circumstances.

What this all suggests is that many Americans just like one term to describe their views better than the other for the first time. This hasn't exactly resulted in any change in a majority supporting legal abortion under at least some circumstances. So it can be argued that little real values change has resulted here.

A further issue is what exactly does "prolife" mean in regards to Roe v. Wade either. The 1973 Supreme Court decision might have made abortion legal by federal recognition here, however in many conservative communities because of public pressure or protests, abortion remains pretty rare. Generally, only in larger and more liberal communities is abortion more available. Yet those most recognized in the "prolife" community such as the National Right To Life and other organizations continue to claim for decades that the overturn of Roe v. Wade would somehow be a cure-all to ending abortion, when the truth is that it would probably do nothing of the sort.

An overturn of Roe v. Wade would merely return the issue back to the states to individually decide. This would almost certainly result in abortion being legal where it is now legal, and rare where it is now rare. It would be highly unlikely that any real change in the availability of abortion would take place if Roe v. Wade was overturned, despite a long running political argument and those on both sides of this issue using it as a wedge issue to scare voters in one direction or another. The fact of the matter is that the horror stories of illegal coat hanger abortions should be no more common than any woman who cannot afford a bus ticket to a larger city where abortion still legally exists, whether Roe v. Wade is the law of the land or not.

Another problem is that by returning the abortion issue to the states will only result in a huge amount of time being devoted to endless state legislature battles over this issue rather than normal serious issues like school funding, state funding, state police funding, etc. This would slow state legislative work considerably. Further, major political battles over swing legislative seats would be become huge issues. Yet the end result would be that abortion would probably remain legal where it's generally legal now, and rare where it's generally rare now. For all of this new paralysis for state governments, little would likely change in either direction on the abortion issue. The arguments of those who claim that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a "prolife" move aren't very clear at all here. Likely little would actually change here, despite all of the fear politics on both sides of the issue to motivate both Republican as well as Democratic voters.

Another important fact is that the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this abortion several times over the last few decades as well. Allowing some state laws on the issue and limiting other state laws on the issue. How is that supposed to completely ban abortion anyway? Even the overturn of Roe v. Wade wouldn't likely result in every previous court case being revisited either.

States have never been very good at addressing moral issues either without the Supreme Court putting some limits on some local or state laws that go too far. In 1973, the same U.S. Supreme Court allowed the states as well as local communities to address the issue of pornography and obscenity rather than allowing for some sort of a objective national standard as to what exactly constitutes illegal obscenity. This has only resulted in many years of endless court cases to decide exactly where some legal line exists for commercial free speech, and certainly has not prevented the existence of legal pornography in much of the nation's communities. Generally, only some extreme material can be found legally obscene and therefore illegal in some communities. The only real result of the local communities addressing what should be an objective national standard issue has been a great deal of money wasted on endless court cases over the years and a few lawyers making a lot of money. But that certainly hasn't banned most material that could be considered as pornographic, but not legally obscene. There's no shortage of that sort of material nowadays. In fact, the recession has removed far more objectionable material from the marketplace than millions of dollars in court cases ever have. For all of the money spent on endless local and state court cases, only a few books or movies were ever removed for a short time, and then very similar material legally emerging as common in the marketplace later. So what's the point anyway here? States haven't been very good at deciding this issue, and they likely won't be any better at deciding the abortion issue either. Abortion would likely still very available in states like California and New York, and less available in Utah or Mississippi, which it already is now. For spending a great deal of money on local court cases, the local courts probably won't significantly change the availability of abortion in most cases if the issue would be returned to the states to decide.

So what exactly does "prolife" mean anyway? Some people like that term better than the term "prochoice" this year compared to last year according to the Gallup poling results it seems, yet their views narrowly supporting legal abortion haven't really changed very much it seems, just how many describe their own views. And during the next four years with the current 5 to 4 majority in favor of retaining Roe v. Wade instead of returning the issue to the states, Roe v. Wade is unlikely to be overturned and the issue returned to the states either. The only real factor here will be more in both the Republican and Democratic parties using the issue as a wedge issue to scare up a few votes to their side for some issue unlikely to really change. Back in 1980 if a more than a few voters thought that voting Republican or for Ronald Reagan would change abortion or overturn Roe v. Wade, well they only wasted those votes 29 years ago. Nothing much has really happened on the abortion issue since the original 1973 Supreme Court decision but a few politicians scaring up votes or how some describe their views but not actual opinions on the abortion issue. And that's not much real movement one way or the other on the abortion issue.

The antiabortion radicals who choose to protest the Obama appearance at Notre Dame aren't really living in the real world here. The battle to overturn Roe v. Wade that they choose to champion will only result in endless local and state battles to essentially have the same outcome as they have now on the abortion issue, so what's really the point here anyway? Is this what "prolife" really means?