Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama Administration Gains Foreign Policy Success In Pakistan Government Push Against Taliban

The Obama Administration gained a huge foreign policy success by urging the government of Pakistan to take a strong military stand against a Taliban offensive that threatened the capital city of Islamabad. The Obama Administration finally succeeded in making the official government of Pakistan realize that the moderate democracy was being threatened by the recent Taliban offensive. And when Taliban forces didn't really withdrawal their forces as promised in yet another broken promise, the government of Pakistan was forced to send in troops and warplanes to scatter the Taliban forces.

As many as 64 or more Taliban militants might have been killed in fighting over the last two days. And evidence of Taliban forces building car-bombs to use against the government have surfaced as well. These Taliban forces and their Al Qaeda allies wanted to seize control of the capital, which could nuclear weapons in their hands as well giving them an official state to wage an ongoing terrorist war in Afghanistan and well beyond.

Since the government of Pakistan has responded with force to challenge the Taliban offensive, and not let Washington down, the Obama Administration is now seeking some emergency military funds to keep the Islamabad government in power and the country in the hands of moderate democratic forces.

The Obama Administration has well proven that they're willing to act tough and draw the line in Pakistan. And Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton has acted very tough as well, making it very clear to the Islamabad government what Washington expected of this government.

Mutual respect of both governments in Islamabad and Washington have been renewed as both of these governments now appear to be on the same page, both working towards the same goals of stopping the Taliban and Al Qaeda from a land grab in Pakistan and establishing a major terrorist base threat.

Another Good Reason The U.S. Needs The American Civil Liberties Union

A recent case in Portland, Oregon where a Portland Community College instructor was falsely arrested on prostitution charges for merely waiting for a bus for a ride home is a another pretty good example why the United States needs civil liberties watchdogs like the American Civil Liberties Union.

On 82nd Avenue, there is a SouthEast Center Campus of Portland Community College, and a young female instructor was merely waiting for a bus to arrive, before Portland vice cops swooped down on her and held her for two hours on false prostitution arrest charges. The city eventually paid her $5,000 in damages for the false arrest, but it doesn't take away from the fact of a cavalier legal system way too fast to put citizens in jail on false charges even if no evidence of a crime even exists.

The city and the police both attempted to defend this arrest claiming that her behavior was suspicious merely because some buses passed her by and she did not get on. However, often many bus stops are used for as many as five different bus lines going to different locations and some buses are "limited" ones that do not make stops. Waiting for more than one bus is certainly not uncommon for anyone who rides a bus. Another claim was that she talked to someone in a car. However, the city failed to prove that wasn't one of her students who might have seen her at the bus stop and attempted to offer her ride that she might have declined because they weren't traveling in her direction.

The fact of the matter is society cannot be so concerned with stomping out victimless crimes such as actual prostitution that innocent citizens are swooped-up in government dragnets and arrested on false charges. Civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have to wage an ongoing fight with local, state and federal governments who go too far in laying out government dragnets. Capturing college instructors who merely wait for a bus ride home from work is a poor law enforcement practice. Just because a college instructor is young or even attractive is not a very good a reason to put her in jail on false prostitution charges with no evidence of her ever having committed any crime. The $5,000 in damages paid to this innocent victim hardly go far enough to repay her for this human rights outrage against the right of a young woman to wait for a bus ride home from work without the fear of false arrest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alaska Gov. Palin Will Now Sign Legislation Accepting Nearly All Stimulus Funds

After joining the ranks of some other Republican critics of the federal stimulus legislation as well as the Obama Administration, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin now intends to sign legislation and accept all but one $29 million dollar energy program funds out of the total $930 million dollars in funds earmarked for Alaska. Interestingly, Palin attempted to join Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently by complaining that many programs had "strings attached" that forced ongoing state funding once the federal funding ran out. However, after state legislators conducted more than 20 hearings on various portions of the stimulus legislation, no evidence turned up to support the claims by Sarah Palin, and Alaska's legislature passed legislation to enact the stimulus funds to help the state of Alaska.

As part of damage control, since Palin's claims of federal strings attached to the stimulus funds were untrue and unfounded, Palin's spokesperson, Sharon Leighow, now claims that Palin "never said she's rejecting anything. She's been consistent that we need to hear from the public, thus the legislative hearings".

Palin's turnabout is typical of a few Republicans position who are seeking higher office soapboxing on the federal stimulus funds issue. While some governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California are pragmatic and appreciate the role of the federal government working to lessen the problems of the states, some like Jindal and Palin with presidential ambitions want to attack Washington for political points, while at the same time accepting nearly all of the stimulus funds for their states.

Unfortunately truth and honesty often, appears to be the first casualty of a few who seek higher office, while other governors simply seek to do the best for their citizens, regardless of their own political party.

In other publicity seeking news, Palin plans to be a guest on AMERICAN CHOPPER of all shows. Maybe the name confused her. The program is called AMERICAN CHOPPER, not AMERICAN SHOPPER. One is all about bikes, while the other is all about buying lots of clothes. Maybe WHAT NOT TO WEAR might be a choice for her to appear on.

More Thoughts On Arlen Specter's Marriage Of Convenience

Arlen Specter may be a moderate as far as Republican Party standards go, but he has seldom seemed as any Democrat by any means with his voting record. His switch to the Democratic Party isn't likely to produce and real major changes to that long-time voting record either. While Specter's move helps the Democrats, at least on paper, move towards that magic 60 vote majority, the move by Specter must still be viewed as more of a marriage of convenience than anything. It is probably unlikely that waves of other Republican moderates will suddenly be switching parties and joining Specter.

Specter was running about 20 points behind a potential conservative GOP primary challenger in current Pennsylvania polls, and was concerned about losing his senate seat in 2010. A switch to the Democratic Party may give Specter a better shot at keeping his senate seat provided a strong Democratic challenger doesn't emerge either.

Vice President Joe Biden personally takes a great deal of credit for urging Specter to switch parties. And this also helps the Democrats to secure a 60 vote majority once All Franken is confirmed as the winner of the Minnesota senate election battle. As far as advancing the Democratic agenda of President Obama, the Democrats are now solidly in position to enact any legislation that they wish. However, the double edged sword here is that this legislation must work and be popular enough with the public. A new Rasmussen Poll out today, shockingly gives Republicans a slight edge on a generic congressional election ballot, so the Democrats with control of the White House, congress and the senate might only have until just the 2010 election to prove that they can advance the country and move the economy ahead before that majority at least in the congress might be threatened by a voter backlash should this agenda fail.

With the added vote of Arlen Specter on some Democratic legislation, there is a window until the 2010 election for the White House and the Democrats to succeed or fail. Mr. Obama has moved very quickly a great deal of legislation, and whether this revives the economy or solves other problems will take some time to consider.

However, in most polls, President Obama draws high approval numbers. And the stock market is up again sharply today. And both GM and Chrysler seem to have at least some good news that both are making some changes that might be the cornerstones of the survival of both companies.

With the Democrats so heavily in control of the federal government, they will certainly be tagged by the voters as throughly "owning" any problems the nation is facing. This brings with it a great deal of responsibility to suceed. And it gives some hope to Republicans to gain some voter support as a protest party should Democrats fail, even if Republicans have so far failed to really advance any real platform or agenda to address the nation's problems.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Outbreak Creates Flood Of Rumor News Stories

The outbreak of the swine flu, a disease spread from animals to humans is creating a flurry of rumor news stories and unconfirmed news features among the news underground. Among some of the most interesting are these three stories that are currently circulating in underground news circles:

1. NYC Jet Flyover Story: Officially the flyover by a presidential jet over NYC that panicked many in NYC has been dismissed as some sort of "photo-opt" staged by the Pentagon. However it seems unlikely that such an event would be staged by the Pentagon, adding fuel to some underground news stories that President Obama made a sudden visit to the UN yesterday to meet with Russian and Chinese officials to discuss plans to contain this serious flu outbreak, which kills about 10% of persons who get this illness.

Also it is known that the use of decoy jets are sometimes used for security reasons to better protect the president, and to divert attention away from the real landing of the presidential jet. In Baghdad, President Bush made some surprise visits there, and at least twice, decoy jets were used to divert attention away from the actual landing site of the presidential plane.

Does this explain the strange events yesterday? Not exactly. Yet the events were strange enough yesterday and the official explanation not very good that perhaps some serious security concerns helped to create this strange event as a cover for some more important event. This is a real mystery here where the official explanation does not suffice, fueling some news rumors of a larger story here. Likely this small story will generate more news in the coming days.

2. Swine Flu Epidemic linked To Mexican Drug Cartels: No good evidence really exists to support this growing underground news story other than this animal illness originally came from Mexico and might originate in some rural areas where drug cartels may be active. It is also not clear how some drug cartel could spread this illness to humans. So far this underground news story does not have good explanations to pin it together in any credible way. Yet no doubt, this story may have a little more life in it until an official explanation of the real source of this flu is given by WHO(World Health Organization).

3. Al Qaeda Using This Flu To Cause Economic Destruction And Death In North America: Like the above story, this underground news story has little supporting evidence as well. It is unclear how exactly Al Qaeda could transmit an animal disease to humans to cause illness, death and economic destruction, but you know that they might do it if only they could. However, Al Qaeda has never been a very sophisticated organization, and research labs dealing with biological illness seem far from their technology means. Al Qaeda's means always appear to be very crude and simple. And it is not clear that this organization has much of any presence in South America either. This rumor story has some interesting elements. However, too few facts pin this story together with any credible reality here.

Underground news provides some interesting stories. However with thin facts or sometimes facts that don't line up, such rumors usually aren't usually that good of news. But mystery events such as that NYC flyover as well as the source of this swine flu, all serve to fuel rumor news stories.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Inept Republican Takes Aim At The Obama Foreign Policy

Fred Thompson, the former senator and LAW & ORDER actor who couldn't even successfully raise campaign contributions or manage his campaign for president in 2008, has become the latest of a crowded field of inept Republican "leaders" to become a critic of the Obama foreign policy and the release of CIA documents related to torture. Strangely, Thompson referred to Obama as "inept, naive and arrogant", when it is probably Thompson that has failed to see the irony of his comments being a pretty good self-description.

Thompson proved in his failed 2008 bid for the Republican nomination that he really has no real base of support among many Republicans other than as a fringe candidate. He attracted very few votes and quickly dropped out of the race. And reputation of Thompson as an effective manager were quickly dashed by his woefully inept campaign and lazy approach to running for office. This failed to impress many donors to give funds to some candidate who didn't seem to show any real ambition or drive to really seek the office.

Another problem is that the most vocal critics of the Obama foreign policy so far have been figures such as Thompson, Cheney and Gingrich who have little real public support outside of inner Republican Party circles. The public doesn't really care what these largely irrelevant figures think.

Another problem is that it is a difficult sell for a few Republicans like Cheney or Thompson to generate a great deal of public sympathy for torture or abuse of prisoners. This is a downright crazy issue to champion that is highly unlikely to become a Republican path back to power at any point in the near future. These guys just don't seem to be intelligent enough to understand that torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib wasn't one of America's finest moments. The public is hardly going to return Republican back to power on such an absurd issue.

These Republican voices could be tuned in to the real world here, and understand that the economy is the overwhelming issue of public interest right now. And as long as the Obama Administration and the Democrats don't have a complete foreign mess develop somewhere or allow a new major terrorist attack in the U.S. to succeed, then foreign policy will remain a minor issue compared to the economy. A minor issue like foreign policy is where minor votes are right now. This isn't a major issue for Republicans to soap box on.

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton did manage to urge Pakistan to take some stronger action against the Taliban over the weekend, where the government in Pakistan appears to want to use military means to have a show of force against the Taliban after Clinton put pressure on them. This about all that can be hoped for. Pakistan is sending troops into areas where the Taliban is strong to send them a message that a military showdown could result if the Taliban attempts to further break peace agreements or make efforts to seize more territory.

Foreign policy may not be the strongest suit of the Obama Administration. But this administration is only about 100 days old, and will certainly improve in this area. All the Obama Administration needs to do is to improve relations in some areas such as with Cuba and Russia, while not allowing Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea or Venezuela to become a complete mess, and this administration will be judged pretty well as long as the main action is in the area of strengthening the economy. In the area of terrorism, as long as there are no new attacks in the U.S., most voters will judge that the Obama Administration is keeping America safe enough by most voters.

The fresh Bush Administration in September 2001 was challenged by the surprise 9/11 attacks and part of the aftermath of that was inept actions that allowed this event to happen in the first place and an over-reaction that allowed torture and prisoner abuses to take place. The current debate over torture is whether this over-reaction to 9/11 allowed abuses that were criminal in nature to take place. This discussion is best to conducted by impartial judges of some sort as any debate by Congress would be too highly partisan in nature and may not really get to the truth of the matter.

As long as the Obama Administration faces no similar major foreign policy mess, and can keep most of the public discussion on the economy as the major problem facing the U.S., the Republican voices from figures such as Cheney, Gingrich or Thompson aren't likely to generate much wind for the sails of Republicans. This is another example of the wrong message by the wrong messengers.

Pontiac's Problems Were More Complicated Than Sales

The problems that killed off the Pontiac brand were far more complicated than mere sales. Pontiac was actually the third best selling brand for GM behind the Chevrolet and GMC brands. In 2008, for example sales were 1,801,131 for Chevrolet, 376,996 for GMC, 267,348 for Pontiac, 188,004 for Saturn, 161,159 for Cadillac, 137,197 for Buick, 27,485 for Hummer and 21,368 for Saab, for a total of 2,980,688 vehicles. Certainly these figures were way down from sales figures of the past, however the problems for the Pontiac Division were many-fold.

One of the biggest problems for all GM brands is that younger buyers are no longer as loyal to particular brands as they once were. Few buyers now characterize themselves as lifelong Chevrolet or Ford owners these days as in the 50's through 70's.

Another big problem is that $4 gas could someday return, and the Pontiac brand was built on high performance type models and now suffers from many buyers wary to buy fuel hungry cars. Further Congress continues to demand better fuel economy from automobiles and lower pollution, pressuring GM to cut back on models that produce less mileage in order to allow for more trucks from the GMC Division or the more profitable Cadillac or Buick Divisions to sell vehicles.

So the bottom line troubles for the Pontiac Division boil down to a profitability issue. GM can make bigger profits selling higher priced vehicles such as GMC trucks, Cadillacs or Buicks, but the Pontiac Division works on a much tighter profit range as well ass facing modern problems with Congress over fuel mileage and the possibility of expensive gas in the future returning.

While Pontiac will merely die as a brand, GM still hopes to eventually sell off the Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands. Ford was able to sell of Jaguar to a company in India that also owns Land Rover as well. And hopes are that a foreign buyer may be attracted to the Hummer and Saab brands. The Saturn brand will be a much harder sell for GM. The brand hardly looks that attractive to many buyers, unless some upstart into the American market Chinese or South Korean brand has some interests in breaking into the U.S. market by buying the brand so that it can use the existing dealerships to jump start it's American entry. India's Tata which is the world's eighth largest automaker and current owner of Land Rover and Jaguar might be tempted to make a bid for a brand like Hummer as well.

As GM looks to slim down in hopes of survival from this bleak economy, the Pontiac Division's future became doomed. It lost too much money, although it still sold a reasonable number of cars. And a return to high performance cars seemed unlikely as new environmental and mileage rules continue to pressure modern automakers to build cars much different than the past.

Sadly, Pontiac quickly became the odd man out at GM. The division quickly looked like a good bet to save lots of money by giving the brand the ax, as well as satisfying the demands of Congress and environmentalists to kill off. Today, the only "excitement" the Pontiac brand is making is by the news that the brand will soon shut down.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ode To The Pontiac

General Motors really knew how to break my heart this weekend when late on Friday it was announced that the Pontiac Division will be axed. Darn that was a heartblow to me. For years, the Pontiac Division built some of the coolest looking and high performance cars that were largely customized versions of the Chevrolet line, but often with far cooler looking styling cues.

During the 1970's those Pontiac Firebird Trans Am cars were the want of nearly every young guy. I owned a 1973 Firebird myself. Many a young guy growing up in the 1970's had some fond memories of dating and taking girls out in his Firebird. And girls really dug these cars too!

In fact, some cars like the Firebird Trans Am were such a success that going into it's final years, little American Motors even produced a smaller ripoff version of the Trans Am calling it the 1979 AMX. This was built out of a customized 1979 Spirit, with the wheel wells were cut out to insert custom fibreglass panels and other add-ons. These AMX cars are very rare with only around 5,000 ever built in their 2 year model run in 1979 and 1980. However only the 1979 models featured a V8 engine.

But in the mid-70's Pontiac and their big 455 cubic inch engined muscle cars like the Trans Am became less popular when long gas lines were the rule in 1975, and suddenly car buyers wanted cars that got more than about 10 or 11 miles per gallon. When cheap gas and plentiful gas bgan to quickly disappear, Pontiac's reign as a high performance brand seemed out of step with reality, and the slow fall of this once proud brand began.

GM also marketed cars in competing markets as well, and faced some of the same marketing problems that Ford had faced back as far as the late 50's. Ford attempted to market the new Edsel brand in a market of cars costing more than Ford, but less than Mercury, which really wasn't much of market to begin with. All that survived of the Edsel cars was the little Mercury Comet which was re-badged as a Mercury as Edsel began to fail, and this found some market for a few years in the 60's as a higher priced compact car.

GM unfortunately had Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick cars are competing in roughly the same market as cars that cost more than Chevrolets, but less than Cadillacs. This meant that many Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks were often the same cars, but with trim or exterior appearance differences. And as GM needed to belt-tighten, this name game drew old with many GM buyers, and the Oldsmobile line became the first to go. Now Buick will be left as the sole car line costing more than Chevrolets, but less than Cadillacs. And with serious money problems at GM, the Saturn line is facing an uncertain future as well, where GM would love to sell this brand to some other maker. However it is unlikely that any buyer is really interested. In reality, Saturn is causing money problems for GM and they really need to unload this brand because they could use the money.

Axing Pontiac is very sad for me. I loved to collect those AMT model kits during the 60's and 70's of Pontiac cars. And I never cared much that those huge Pontiac Bonneville kits of the 60's were really just a customized Chevrolet Impala, Caprice or other full size Chevrolet because those Pontiacs always looked so cool and had such big engines. Model car collecting and building has also became another lost art as well. Kids long ago abandoned this old hobby as computers, computer games, and other things changed what kids bought. Model kit collecting is mainly for the older guys these days, who will still pay huge amount of money for old kits they sought to own on EBay or at swap meets.

Likely axing Pontiac won't be at all enough of what GM needs to do to stay in business. It is probably a way too little, way too late bid. Saturn and Hummer both probably need to go as well for the company to stop losing so much money. And likely, maybe that isn't hardly enough to counter all of the huge debt problems of this company.

The death of Pontiac is yet another sad passage of time me. Yet another fond memory from my life gone. R.I.P. dear old Pontiacs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Disputed Reports Claim Taliban Forces Withdrew From Region Near Capital

Heavily disputed reports on Friday by the government of Pakistan claim that Taliban forces withdrew from the Buner District only 60 miles near the capital of Islamabad. However, other independent sources such as some human rights organizations have seen no sign of any withdrawal of Taliban forces. This all begs the question whether the government of Pakistan is simply giving Washington false information about this crisis just to get the Obama Administration's State Department off their back, while only ceding more territory to Taliban forces.

The Pakistani government might resent American pressure on them, though this government begs for billions of dollars in yearly aid and military arms from Washington each year. In addition, this government may be denying that any problem really exists with the Taliban breaking their peace deal and invading the Buner District. For whatever reason, what the official government of Pakistan is reporting and what human rights groups are reporting on the ground in the Buner District are two different things.

The fact of the matter is that the Obama Administration's efforts in Afghanistan are heavily dependent on having a dependable ally in Pakistan. However, the government has proven a real unwillingness to really raise substantial military force to counter this Taliban threat so near their capital, and pretty much relied on some lame excuse that the Taliban only violated the terms of their peace deal. But the Taliban has proven a history of breaking peace deals before.

Winning the war in Afghanistan is going to be very difficult with such an ally as Pakistan which is not really serious about much of anything other than ceding more territory to the Taliban, making failed peace deals with them, and restricting the American military from actions to stop Al Qaeda. This is one heck of an ally. At some point the Obama Administration is going to have to really access this relationship with Pakistan here and decide whether it really serves the interests of the U.S. or not before this becomes a complete disaster and the Taliban rules all of Pakistan and Al Qaeda is given new power in Pakistan, and the fate of Pakistan's nuclear weapons becomes frightening.

Cds You Should Own: The Doors STRANGE DAYS Remastered Expanded Edition

A couple of years ago when The Doors released their wonderful PERCEPTION 40th anniversary 12 disc box set of fully remastered cds and companion DVDs of their only six studio albums released during the 1967-1970 Jim Morrison period years, it gave Rhino Records the opportunity to re-issue these individual studio albums in this new form. Perhaps the greatest of these original six studio albums by The Doors was STRANGE DAYS because it was so listenable and such a conceptional masterpiece.

What is so incredible about this mere 40 minute Cd is that it manages to go from one unusual surreal image after another and really helped to define the sound of The Doors back in 1968 with one outrageously good track after another including the hit singles "Love Me Two Times" and "People Are Strange". Both were really great singles in fact.

The album opens with the great creepy title track, "Strange Days", and keeps up this surreal momentum through every song including even the very bizarre exercise in poetry, "Horse Latitudes". "When the Music's Over" is a real masterpiece, another bizarre Doors epic on a par with "The End" from the debut album.

The new Rhino Records re-release of this album includes two bonus track out-take versions of "People Are Strange" and "Love Me Two Times". On, "Love Me Two Times", Ray Manzarek got noticeably creative with his keyboard playing, but was far more restrained on the final version of the song used in the actual album version of the song.

Jim Morrison's bizarre lyrics and unique vocal style, Ray Manzarek's haunting key boards, as well as the unique guitar talents of guitarist Robbie Kreiger, all help to make this one of the best 1960's albums ever made. This is psychedelic era music at it's very best. Even the cover art is a classic here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan Deploying Some Forces For Possible Military Confrontation With Taliban

The official government of Pakistan has sent some paramilitary forces to the Buner District which were ambushed by Taliban fighters early today, setting up a possible confrontation between the government and advancing Taliban forces.

The Taliban has been known for establishing a peace treaty, and then breaking it as they attempt to seize more territory. This leaves the government of Pakistan with some difficult choices as whether to use the government military to battle the Taliban and whether to eventually declare martial law in the country, much like General Musharraf did, and risk a military coup in the nation where the nation could be torn apart by a civil war between Taliban supporting villagers and the military backed by some in city areas of the nation.

Since their takeover of the Buner District yesterday, only 60 miles outside of the capital of Islamabad, the Taliban has ordered men not to cut their beards, an end to education for girls, closing of courthouses and official forms of justice, and ordered any business selling music or movies to immediately close down. These primitive religious extremists are seeking to tun Pakistan back to the near stone age.

The United States needs a secure Pakistan in order to have any good attempt at any military success in Afghanistan. However the Taliban is really quickly undermining all of this. Democratic elections in a future Pakistan are being threatened. And billions of dollars in American aid and military wares could eventually only fall into the hands of the Taliban including the nuclear weapons that Pakistan developed with it's own program.

Secretary Of State has become the first major public official in the United States to consider this to be a critical issue and is no doubt working with the official government of Pakistan today urging them to take some action to prevent a further Taliban takeover of their nation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WHITE TRASH WARS: Episode VII: Levi Johnston Will Continue Feud With Palin Family On LARRY KING TONIGHT

The ugly breakup of Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin, which has spurred a very nasty public feud involving both families, is likely to take another bad public turn tonight when Levi Johnston and some of his family members are guests on LARRY KING tonight on CNN and will only likely throw more accusations at the Palin family. Likely the Palin family will then want a chance to respond, only keeping this embarrassing cycle of what would normally be a private family matter, a very public spectacle.

If Sarah Palin likes publicity, then her family will get plenty of it here. But none of it will be good. This is one of the worst public fights by a political family that can ever be recalled.

Further fueling this whole mess is not only the public appetite to hear this story, but the scandal sheets interest in this story as well. And neither the Palin nor the Johnston family have done a thing to quiet down this story. Quite the contrary, both families seem to jump at any opportunity to go public with more accusations and complaints about the other family. Last week when Sarah Palin's dad got involved in the conflict, thenm it only spurred the other Johnston family members to join with young Levi Johnston to appear on Larry King to lob more complaints about the Palin family.

Since John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate for his badly failed 2008 presidential bid in which this team failed to even win many dependably Republican states, goofy publicity and stories continue to surround Sarah Palin and her family. Now the public breakup of Sarah Palin's daughter who was pregnant out of wedlock with Levi Johnston is providing a whole new round of goofy publicity for the Palin family.

Move over White Trash Britney Spears, a new White Trash bunch is taking over here.

Germany Expands New Auto Sales By 48% With Controversial Scrapping Legislation

Germany has found a controversial way to expand new vehicle sales by 48% by offering a government payout of about $3,300 to vehicle owners who will scrap out a vehicle over nine years old and buy a new one as a replacement.

This program might be spurring some new sales. However this program has some real serious drawbacks that simply cannot be ignored.

It doesn't make much environmental sense to destroy existing vehicles just to create new ones for all of the added air and water pollution it creates. There is little real gain there, even if these newer vehicles get slightly better fuel mileage than the one's being destroyed. Further, destroying perfectly good used vehicles keeps them off the used car market, only raising prices, making it harder for lower wage earning families to afford transportation to drive to work or school. Also, less used parts will exist on the market, also raising repair prices. Further, once the German government program expires, it is expected that vehicle sales will once only again decline.

The U.S. pondered adding vehicle scrapping legislation into the economic stimulus bill before, however lobbyists from SEMA which represented car collectors and others made a compelling case to Speaker Of The House Nancy Pelosi to keep this legislation out of the larger bill.

For the sake of the environment as well as the art of the old car, it makes little sense to simply destroy what is old simply to create something new. Automobile manufacturers need to find new ways to spur vehicle sales. Not just destroy a lot of cars, just to create their replacements. Society doesn't really gain much this way.

Destroying a perfectly good condition, nine year old, 2000 model year, German SUV only to replace it with a new and shiny, 2009 model, German SUV might provide a few short term jobs, but it's not a real recovery for the German auto business by any means.

Taliban Makes Another Big Power Grab In Pakistan Near Capital

Since the government of Pakistan made some peace deal with the Taliban under the outgoing Musharraf regime, the Taliban has only managed to take control of area after area in Pakistan in a sort of domino effect. Now these religious radicals and allies of Al Qaeda have taken armed control of new territory only 60 miles outside of the capital city of Islamabad. Soon the Taliban may not only control the capital of Pakistan, but eventually be in control of their nuclear weapons as well. This could give enemies such as Al Qaeda or even the rival Sunni sect Shia controlled Iran some quick access to nuclear weapons. The threat here cannot be understated.

Pakistan is a huge Muslim nation, in fact the second largest Muslim nation in the world next to Indonesia, with over 165.9 million estimated citizens. For the Taliban to control a nation of this size armed with nuclear weapons would present a serious threat to neighboring India as well. According to the CIA, only about half of Pakistan's population is able to read and write, and this number falls to mere 36% for females as many are kept from getting an education by elements such as the Taliban which is opposed to girls being allowed to attend school. Taliban elements have violently attacked girls who attempted to attend school. Education is the enemy of this Taliban movement that rules by ignorance and imposing strict religious law. The economic situation in Pakistan is also worsening as well according to CIA information.

A real problem for the U.S. and NATO effort in Afghanistan is that Pakistan becomes a major area for both the Taliban and Al Qaeda to stage military activity in cross border military assaults on NATO forces. These forces are thought to bankroll their murderous wars with drug revenues from heroin, opium and morphine sales, worsening the quality of life in many Western World states with these drug sales while arming their forces from the international arms market.

Pakistan might have as many as many as 48 nuclear warheads, and this is pretty alarming when irregular forces from Pakistan's Swat Valley were able to move in on the the Buner District using pickup trucks in the last day, establishing a Taliban radio station and other communications in the area close to the capital. Secretary Of State Clinton has voiced the most concern today about this threat as being "grave".

Clinton is surprised to not see more concern in other communities such as intelligence and the military community over this serious move by the Taliban to establish control very close to the nation's capital. Islamabad's government condemns the move by these Taliban forces as a violation of the terms of the peace deal that was struck with them, yet it is unclear whether the government will deploy any government troops to remove these Taliban forces or not. But the fact of the matter is that the Taliban could attempt to end the government in Pakistan if they should gain control over the capital city. Certainly not all in Pakistan wish to accept Taliban rule, as many parts of the country value education, better living conditions, and some modern world culture. This could leave Pakistan split in two as well, where no one government exists with a large Taliban controlled countryside and larger cities in the hands of a declining traditional official Pakistani government.

It's a important sign that Secretary Of State Clinton is right on top of this potentially important issue, However, the U.S. really lacks the ability to do much to change the situation on the ground in Pakistan. A best guess is that this government is far less likely to authorize the deployment of military troops to defend the nation than even former strongman Musharraf by any means. This government is probably more likely to simply allow the Taliban to grab territory, issue a complaint, and then do nothing while the Taliban takes more control of the nation.

Unfortunately, the quickest path to nuclear weapons among radical Muslim elements might not be through Iran at all, but a Taliban takeover of Pakistan.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Iran Quickly Closing The Window To Avoid Military Conflict With Israel

No one can ever accuse Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being a skillful or wise politician. And his dumb and racist anti-Israel rant at the UN conference on racism in Geneva was a pretty good example of Ahmadinejad at his very worst. Today, Iran sought to further raise tensions with Israel by threatening them with military action if Israel should attack nuclear sites in Iran. Some military reports claim that Israel has acquired special aircraft and weapons and is involved in training efforts to hit a number of Iranian nuclear program sites. Also today, in Tehran, a large crowd welcomed back the Iranian President today with shouts of "Death To Israel".

The fact of the matter is that President Obama's Administration has laid out something of an olive branch to Iran to act more cooperative about better relations with the world community to avoid a future military confrontation with Israel over their nuclear program. The U.S. was quietly hoping that Iran would want to better join the world community and avoid this possible military conflict with Israel. But Iran does little but fan the flames for a future military battle with Israel where the Iranian President's UN speech only serves to spur hawks within the Israeli government to justify military action against the Iranian nuclear program.

Israeli bombers have already gotten some precise bombing practice when they had to hit Gaza arms smuggling tunnels recently. However, it is pretty unclear how Israel hopes to strike some Iranian nuclear program sites buried in 75 foot deep bunkers without using nuclear weapons themselves. Israel isn't really know to possess deep bunker buster military technology of the sort really needed to precisely hit just the Iranian targets.

The Obama Administration is highly unlikely to give the Israeli military the "green light" to proceed with military action against Iran. However, that likely means that Israel might just chose to act on their own at some point. And if Israel is unable to be successful in efforts to control the large Iranian military, then Israel could leave the United States with a major mess to clean up. These are all problems that the Obama Administration would sure like to avoid. However, when Iran only continues to fan conflict with Israel rather than join the world community concern's about their nuclear program, then the worst possible outcome, war, might be the most likely outcome.

The Obama Administration could potentially face a huge foreign policy crisis here unless they can successfully defuse this recent new heightening of tensions between Israel and Iran.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Venezuela Reality Check

Today, former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as Newt Gingrich and other Republican figures all chimed in with more critical thoughts about the nearly meaningless handshakes between President Obama and Venezuela's erratic leader, Hugo Chavez. Once again, some on the right are running with the photos of President Obama and Chavez shaking hands to cast further doubts about the president, his patriotism, and his resolve to stand up to radical leaders abroad.

But fact of the matter is that a handshake between the leaders of two states is a fairly meaningless gesture for two nations that are major trading partners. According to the U.S. Department Of State's own website, a full 57.5% of Venezuela's estimated 2008 $315.6 billion yearly economy is built on trade with the United States. The Netherlands is a distant second with just 5.2% trade with Venezuela. Mexico is third with just 4.5% trade. That figure for trade with the U.S. over 57% is indeed a very high trade figure. Despite the outrageous antics and speeches of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela still remains as by far the largest trade partner and export market for Venezuela. This is the all-important fact that Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and others simply ignore from their discussion of the handshakes with Hugo Chavez. For the leaders of two nations with trade that runs into the billions of dollars, simply exchanging handshakes is pretty insignificant.

Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich also are not very upfront that the 14,000 Citgo gas station retailers in the U.S. are affiliated with a Venezuelan company which is closely linked to the Venezuelan government and Hugo Chavez. Yet, neither Cheney or Gingrich seem to question the patriotism of American dealers or customers who choose to go with Citgo.

Further, wealthy businessmen from Venezuela have billions more in other U.S. investments of all types including even horse racing and other sports. Yet the misleading nonsense coming from Cheney or Gingrich don't tell you that fact either.

Like all half-truths, the nonsense coming from Cheney and Gingrich over the simple two handshakes with Hugo Chavez don't really mean at all that much. Hugo Chavez used the opportunity to give President Obama a book that supposedly details an exploitative relationship with South America by the United States. However, this case is a little hard to make for Chavez when far more than half of his nation's trade and a large part of their $315 billion economy comes from trade with the U.S.

The fact of the matter is that President Obama knows full well that Hugo Chavez is an erratic kook who only continue to make crazy statements and be a thorn to the U.S., all the time seeking to sell billions of dollars of oil and agriculture here to the United States. Long ago, other major trade partners with the U.S. such as China realized that being pragmatic and only offering guarded critical statements about their differences with the U.S. is the best path. So far, Hugo Chavez hasn't grown that much as a world leader.

Iraq's Stock Market Plans Move Into Electronic Age

You just knew it might happen someday. Iraq is going to take a big step into the modern age by using electricity to power electronic trading for the first time in the history of the nation's stock market, started in 2004 by incorporating other previous attempts at market trading into this single market. Previously, all transactions were figured by hand on boards very similar to chalkboards. Currently only a little over 100 companies trade on this stock exchange including Iraqi Tufted Carpets Company and other businesses. Apparently, this Iraqi stock market has found enough gas generators to provide more than a few hours a day of electricity to provide the power to operate the computers necessary to run this tiny stock exchange which only does around $5 million a day in trade.

Besides the Iraqi carpet business that trades on the Iraq Stock Exchange(ISX) formerly known as the Baghdad Stock Exchange, the Bank Of Baghdad, a soft drink distributor, a marble producer and some agriculture businesses trade on one of the world's smallest and underdeveloped stock exchanges.

Well, at least it's a first step towards developing an economy. Anyone know what that magic capet stock is trading at today?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Last Week's Political Trends Tell us

The polling done by the reputable Rasmussen polling organization and other organizations has come up with some interesting trends last week. These include the following:

* The highly favorable vs. highly unfavorable support for President Obama is on the upswing. overall 55% of voters at least somewhat approve of the president's performance in office vs. 44% who at least somewhat disapprove. Some other polling organization have the approval rating of the president even higher yet.

* Texas Governor Rick Perry is far out of the mainstream with most of the voters in his state where only a mere 18% would vote to secede from the Union. This and other issues are contributing to a highly divided electorate about giving Perry a third term as Governor. Mainstream conservative Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson now polls better than Perry and could potentially upset him is she chooses to run for governor.

* Other recent polling finds the number of Americans who now believe that America is on the right track continues to rebound. Some polls have this number up in the high forties right now, compared to just 14% who felt that America was on the right track as the lowest number in January right before President Obama took office.

* In an editorial by conservative columnist, Debra J Saunders, she was highly critical of the Tea Party movement, reflecting that "the exercise struck me as as more than a little out of touch with the political realities of President Barack Obama's America". When mainstream conservatives such as Saunders hold little regard for the Tea Party movement, then that is pretty reasonable indicator that this is merely a political fringe exercise by a small cult of political extremists and not any mainstream conservative or Republican issue by far. And the damning support for the Tea Party movement by Texas Governor Rick Perry as well as his misguided call for a Texas to secede from the Union raises some serious questions of some neo-Old Confederates abusing this Tea Party movement as an umbrella for a racially motivated reaction against the first elected African American president by a disingenuous fringe. The fact of the matter is that President Obama has support with most Americans and his recently proven ability to advance foreign relations with Cuba as well as to be on speaking terms with all nations, including hostile one's such as Iran and Venezuela are proving success for turning the page on foreign policy. This administration continues to talk tough when nations such as North Korea launch missiles on one hand, but also works to be at least on speaking terms with all other nations if they behave in a responsible manner. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela may be a serious problem for the United States at the same time that Venezuela has a great deal of trade with the U.S. such as through those CitGo Gas stations and the oil export business.

* Some old Bush Administration figures hoped to create a political issue out of the Obama Administration making public some documents on the abusive interrogations of political prisoners techniques, last week. However their complaints were largely ignored as some of these techniques such as water boarding were well known long before this report was made public. The public knew that abusive interrogation practices of political prisoners took place during the Bush administration, so these practices seemed to garner little public sympathy by supporters of such practices. Likely, much of the public is in agreement with President Obama that such practices are below the ethics standards for a great nation like the United States.

* Unemployment and some serious economic trends tend to lag far behind the upward performance of Wall Street which has gained 25% in value recently. All of this fuels a debate among economists whether this recession has actually bottomed out quite yet, or whether the stock market continues to run 6 to 8 months ahead of the actual economic conditions, as it often historically trends to do.

Economic Facts

One important fact about this global recession is that 70% of the economy of the united States is built on the consumer market. When the cycle of unemployment and slower consumer sales resulted, impacting reduced sales on all sorts of goods, then this slowdown was especially destructive to Asian imports. The economies of Asia have overbuilt their strengths by counting on the United States as a main destination for their products. For example, Japan has witnessed a 50% drop in export demand in just the last six months alone, especially due to reduced sales in the American market.

President Obama recently urged China to plan their own form of domestic stimulus approach to strengthening the domestic market for goods in China, reducing their dependence on the American export market for Chinese goods. This seems like good reasoning, since the the recent reduced demand for Chinese goods has resulted in the closures of 70,000 factories as well as job losses for 20 million Chinese workers.

On the flip side of this equation, is that one of the best hopes for the survival of the American automobile industry is to increase sales of Chinese manufactured models such as those from financially troubled GM. GM's Chinese manufactured Buick models are especially strong sellers among Chinese executives and a sign of affluence in China. Currently China has the largest automobile market in the world, with monthly sales in excess of 1.1 million units a month, far larger than the monthly 800,000 units sold in the United States. Another possibility is the untapped market for American goods by opening up trade with Cuba, although the average monthly income is Cuba is only around $20 a month. However, with so many aged 1950's cars and trucks in Cuba, there should still be a healthy market for American automobiles and other goods that could only help to spur billions of dollars per year in sales of American exports to the Communist land. Cuba could use American imports of all types. This is a potentially big market for American goods including agriculture.

The fundamentals of the world economy are undergoing a big shakeup. However less Asian dependence on exports to the U.S. as well as increased American goods sold in nations such as China where their economy still continues to grow at a rate of at least 6% a year, are some important keys to working the global economy out of this economic mess.

One real positive for the United States is that it has always not only emerged from every recession and even the Great Depression in stronger condition. So at some point after all of this suffering for so many, a rainbow should someday be shining down the road someday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tea Party Supporting Texas GOP Governor Backs Away From Suspiciously Old Confederacy Threat To Secede From The Union

Rick Perry, the Republican Texas governor on Friday began to backtrack from his absurd threat of Texas to secede from the United States. Like a blow-back to old 1861 Texas Order Of Succession that allowed for Texas to join the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Perry's original statements supporting the possible secession of Texas were in support for an outrageous resolution supporting state sovereignty as reserved by the 10th Amendment as some sort of right wing political reaction against the leadership of the Obama Administration. Perry's original statements in support of the secession resolution were questioned by some as being similar to the old "States Rights" racism of the South that sought to avoid civil rights compliance. Perry's statement are especially suspect now that the U.S. has it's first African-American president as well.

Although a long serving figure in Texas politics, Perry continues to be a very controversial figure nationally for his close associations to racists and other controversial elements. For his second inauguration as governor, Perry invited his old friend Ted Nugent to play the music for the black tie event, and Nugent managed to turn the event into a racist orgy that brought a great deal of criticism. Nugent used machine guns as props and dressed skulls in Native American headdresses to represent dead Indians. Nugent performed on the stage wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt and shouted racist statements about non-Whites during his performance according to press reports of the event. Nugent's performance was throughly offensive to many non-whites living in the state of Texas. Perry sometimes only acts as though he's just the governor for just the White voters of Texas, and not all of the citizens. By comparison, George Bush who Perry succeeded has always been an inclusive figure, who speaks Spanish fluently, and who never once ever pandered to racist elements as governor of Texas unlike Perry.

Perry also has pandered to those anti-homosexual rights elements, and spoke out against the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down most sodomy laws in the United States with the Lawrence v. Texas decision. Perry apparently believed that it was appropriate to allow prosecutors and courts to arrest and sentence homosexuals for up to 20 years in Texas prisons merely for engaging in consensual sexual relations.

Kinky Friedman, the popular Jewish-American cowboy independent candidate for governor of Texas once felt that there wasn't much difference in the Taliban and far right Christian beliefs of Governor Perry. Perry has attended church services at the far right Cornerstone Church run by defrocked former Assembly Of God minister, John Hagee. Hagee was forced to resign his membership in the Assembly Of God Church after he was accused in an infidelity scandal, and eventually divorced his wife. Hagee is great for condemning everything that he calls sin, all the way from homosexuality all the way to rock and roll. Yet, Hagee never seems to condemn adultery.

Perry seems like an old time blow-back to 1960's Southern racism in too many ways. Often Perry seems way too much like a largely unreconstructed figure of the Old South such as George Wallace rather than a modern age governor of a major state. At times, Perry may make a few minor overtures to progress, such as offering a pardon to a Black inmate who faced life in prison for only smoking a little marijuana while on parole. But at too many times, Perry seems to pander to the worst of old Confederacy instincts.

Perry's threats this week for Texas to secede from the union deserve to be held up to the light of day. Perry hasn't had much problem spending tax dollars in Texas during his long rule as governor, yet hypocritically offered support for the Tea Party revolts this week. In a great many ways, Perry is about as close as you can get to an Old Confederacy figure in this modern age. He's certainly no credit to the image problems of the Republican Party. If anything, Perry has only further racially polarized Texas politics for the most part.

Rick Perry offers the Tea Party a pretty embarrassing supporting figure. In fact, the entire Tea Party movement seems like a highly suspect right wing racist reaction largely aimed as more of a revolt against America's first elected African-American president than anything. For the modern Tea Party movement to claim to align themselves as a similar historical reaction as against the rule of the King of England is nonsense. This movement is an old time racist reaction against the 100 day rule of the Obama presidency by a fringe of neo-Old Confederates like Perry. Perry's image of "God and Country" is unfortunately all too similar to that old dream of Jefferson Davis.

Republican Senator's Solution To Bank Crisis Is To Withdraw Funds And Hide Them In A Mattress

North Carolina's Republican Senator Richard Burr's solution to the banking crisis this past fall was to withdraw all his bank funds using an ATM machine and probably put the cash in a mattress or something. While the Obama White House economic advisers currently work to restore vital portions of the economy such as the banks, a major Republican's solution is to help to spur panic in the banking industry and threaten the safety and security of the banking system by encouraging panic cash withdrawals. If Burr was a far better legislator, then maybe he'd be on the same page with the Obama Administration and working to restore faith in the economy with the voters instead of working to fuel bank panic.

Here's the actual quote from Burr:"On Friday night, I called my wife and I said, Brooke, I'm not coming home this weekend. I will call you on Monday. Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to withdraw out everything it will take. And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday. "I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash".

Now isn't that special. Burr could have voted in favor of the Obama economic policies to strengthen the banks and to strengthen the economy. But, no. Instead a Republican senator like Burr chooses to withdraw all his money out of the banks, fueling a bank panic mentality.

The only solution to the current economic crisis is to work through these problems issue by issue. And interestingly, Burr attempted to straddle this issue with the voters of his own state with a positive sounding note of cooperation for this past week's economic address by President Obama, while continuing to oppose the specific White House efforts to revive the economy.

This is part of the problem with Burr. He knows full well that a majority of voters in his own home state voted for President Obama. So Burr will attempt to hop on that popular bandwagon when it serves his benefits, but then will vote for Republican economic obstruction when given half the chance in the senate.

It is hardly surprising that Burr is trailing Democrat Roy Cooper, the Attorney General, in current polls for the 2010 senate election in North Carolina. Burr is yet another ineffective legislator facing possible defeat in 2010 as Democrats go for a three-peat in the national elections.

The Republican Party has a long way to go to become a really effective national party when one of it's leaders simply encourages withdrawing bank funds and stuffing them in some mattress or something as an economic solution. Pathetic indeed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Party Movement Forgets That The Bush Administration Started The Bank And Auto Bailouts And Other History

Like many purely partisan and overly-simplistic political movements, The largely Republican lead Tea Party protests are attempting to rewrite recent history. It was only months ago that the Bush Administration had proposed the bailouts of banks and the auto industry as the American economy slipped into disaster after months of inaction by the Bush White House that only allowed so many banks to collapse and for the American auto industry to fall into near bankruptcy conditions. Only when the financial system and many banks teetered on complete financial collapse did the Bush Administration begin to consider action back around early September when the problems reached near critical mass.

In fact, it was on September 30, 2008 that the stock market fell by a record 777.68 points for a single day as many Republicans in congress opposed the financial industry bailout plan proposed by their own Bush White House and congress voted by a 228-205 margin to oppose the legislation.

And it was well before this entire financial mess developed, that the Bush Administration compounded the huge American financial loses resulting from the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and all of the huge resulting security spending with the huge mistake of the very costly new war in Iraq, leading to record deficit spending. For much of the Bush years, Republicans controlled the White House, senate, congress and the Supreme Court, each only rubberstamping the same economically disastrous record spending or legislation. It was only since 2006 and 2008 that the Democrats even began to retake portions of government back with two successive election wins.

But these largely partisan Republican Tea Party protesters don't want to hear a word of any of this recent history of their own creation. In their own imaginations, President Obama isn't just attempting to manage all of the serious problems he inherited from the previous Bush Administration and the Republican lack of economic direction of past sessions of congress and to bring these economic crisis issues they wrought for the nation under control. Like all simple minded persons, these Tea Party folks have no real working knowledge of economics for the most part and simply fail to grasp the complexity of issues hurting the financial and automobile sectors that years of Republican economic mismanagement created.

These tax protesters also fail to note that President Obama has long proposed a middle class tax cut to further spur spending and the economy, however it is congress that has failed to pass this proposal and pretty much tabled that proposal as they grapple with big shortfalls in revenue caused by this economic slowdown for business and so many workers now out of work now requiring unemployment benefits instead of being able to pay taxes to help lighten the tax burden for others and to keep the system well oiled and solvent.

And in the U.S. senate, six of the 10 largest earmark spenders continue to be Republicans, such as Thad Cochran. Many of these big earmark spenders come from mainly poor Southern states with very high poverty rates and low wages, and few labor unions due to "right to work" state labor laws suppressing earned per capita income. Democrats aren't even the worse of the earmark spenders in the senate.

Yet these tax revolt, Tea Party Republicans don't want to hear a word of this either. But the fact of the matter is that it was the Republican George Bush White House that allowed this whole economic mess to fester and develop into this current crisis instead of taking steps to prevent this serious recession despite global warnings for months from other nations with a great deal of investment or trade in the United States. Now, despite being the party whose White House had a large hand in creating this whole global economic crisis, many Republican leaders are trying to suddenly pass themselves off as being the solution to this crisis, when all that they have to offer is obstruction to the efforts of President Obama to resolve this crisis and get credit flowing again to spur home, auto and retail sales.

The Tea Party revolt is a wholly directionless political movement, with no real sense of recent history, and long on political hypocrisy, that seeks to offer the overly simplistic complaint of high taxes being the root of all evils. To say that this fails to grasp any decent understanding of the complexity of all of the serious economic issues currently at hand is to say the very least for the intellectual shortcomings of this new right wing movement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Exactly Do Those Tea Party Folks Want?

It's always hard to figure anarchists out. The Antigovernment kooks from the Tea Party movement were out in full force today, sometimes with poor spelling on their crude homemade signs , with protests held all over the nation that not only allowed them to take a day off from work, provided many of them even have a job, but to wear funny costumes and wigs, and to dress like Thomas Jefferson, George and Martha Washington. If anything today was a major windfall for costume shops, and perhaps their best business day since Halloween.

But looking beyond the funny costumes, it's quite hard to figure out these antigovernment Tea Party kooks. You know that they're antigovenment, but what do they oppose? An army? A navy? Schools? Former porn star, Marilyn Chambers who died on Monday was the vice presidential candidate of the Boston Tea Party because she opposed laws that had her arrested for nude dancing in a movie theatre in San Francisco back when Diane Feinstein was Mayor of the city by the vice cops. Other Tea Party members imagine that somehow President Obama is going to arrest them for owning guns. Others protest federal taxes, although most of the taxes many of them are paying are to support local police, fire departments or schools. Some are mad that banks were given loans, although they seek a mortgage to buy a home and need solvent banks. Others are buying a car, yet are angry at government help for the auto industry, although they still want a company to be around to buy parts or to honor their vehicle warranty. In short, this Tea Party is just an umbrella for a bunch of kooks with no one single philosophy except that they're antigovernment in nature.

Yesterday, President Obama made a pretty compelling and detailed case for his economic recovery proposals once again that should have satisfied any reasonable person. But regardless of this, some antigovernment persons oppose any more funds to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan or see no merit in the government providing schools, police, fire protection, 911 responders or other services.

To figure out the Tea Party movement is like trying to nail jello to a wall. Many are attracted to this radical umbrella for antigovernment activists for many reasons, all of them kooky and unrealistic in philosophy. And it only gives them another good reason to wear goofy costumes in public without fear of being placed in a mental hospital by a judge for observation and having their belt and shoelaces taken away.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oregon's Unemployment Soars To The Worst In The Nation

Normally a higher wage state with many quality union jobs, Oregon's March unemployment rate has soared to a dismal 12.1%, likely the worst in the nation even beyond the 12.0% unemployment rate of Michigan as the Detroit automobile industry collapses in the wake of this serious global recession.

While the federal stimulus efforts are targeted at boosting the economy quickly by even boosting such things as Food Stamps payments, immediately boosting sales at grocery stores, often in poor neighborhoods, creating more employment, Oregon's own version of economic stimulus has been slow to create new jobs. Oregon's own version of economic stimulus passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor was intended to help the 24% unemployment rate among construction workers by providing $175 million in projects funding. However, because the process to start these projects is so slow, so far just 16 jobs have been created by this $175 million in project funding. It may take months to years for many unemployment construction workers to see work from the state version of the economic stimulus which just was not as well focused as the federal version by any means.

Even Oregon business is seeing serious financial problems a result of this continuing recession. Joes, a major automotive parts and sporting goods dealer, which started out as war surplus store, which has 30 stores in 3 states, including some huge Oregon stores is going into liquidation and closing within a month.

A major downtown Portland, Oregon construction project is being stopped for months to a year, because the developer simply ran out of money after digging a huge excavation site hole. In other cases, uncompleted urban development shopping projects are offering rent allowances of $25,000 or more for any prospective retail renters who will bring in money to provide basic items such as interior walls, ceilings, lights, toilets, sinks, etc. Developers started projects, and then ran out of money, leaving uncompleted and largely unrentable retail sites that are not even as well completed as the average home garage. These uncompleted construction eyesores are a sign of the times as developers start projects and then run out of money to complete the projects.

At all levels, Oregon is seeing serious signs of this recession causing serious problems in construction work at all levels including huge unemployment and now uncompleted construction projects.

The Gingrich That Stole Christmas

On Sunday's, THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, disgraced former Republican Speaker Of The House, Newt Gingrich, hoped to pick a petty fight with the public interest in the new White House dog by arrogantly proclaiming "who cares" and other mean spirited and very petty comments. Way to go, Newt. Many in the public, including children, have a real interest in this nonpolitical story involving the new White House dog.

Little stories such as the new White House dog create pleasant stories that many in the public love to hear. The dog might really a gift to the two young Obama girls by their father, the president, but the public loves to hear about this story. Just like the last White House dog, Barney, that belonged to George Bush, or even Socks the cat, of the Clinton's, White House pets always have a big public interest appeal.

Hey Newt, a large part of American politics is timing. You don't attract 84 ethics charges if you wanted to remain as Speaker Of The House and not resign in disgrace. You don't surprise your wife dying of cancer on her death bed with news that you're having an extramarital affair. You don't shut down government by withholding critical funding. You don't champion more oil drilling to reduce oil prices, when oil prices are really driven by market speculation, not the actual number of oil wells located on sensitive federal lands. And now you're cheering on that wacky "Tea Party" movement.

Newt, you just don't have good political sense. Picking a fight with the White House dog isn't cool.

2008 Boston Tea Party Vice Presidential Candidate Found Dead

The 2008 alternative Vice Presidential candidate of another major "Tea Party" movement political party, former porn star, Marilyn Chambers, 56, was found dead in her California mobile home on Monday. Chambers was an outrageous 1970's counterculture figure who was once known as the "Ivory Soap" box girl, but completely shed this wholesome image to star in the 1972 new wave porn smash hit, "BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR" for the Mitchell Brothers who owned California movie theatres and filmed many of their own films played at their own theatres.

The Boston Tea Party is another fringe appeal political movement that is quasi-libertarian in nature, opposing big government and seeking the downsizing of Washington. However, like the other Tea Party movement, seems to offer no real answers or solutions on how to to revive the American economy or the global economy or to deal with numerous other basic government issues.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hostage Rescue Big Success For U.S. Navy & Obama White House

For a few days I had deep fears that the Obama Administration might be moving too cautiously to wind up the hostage rescue incident off the coast of Somalia. Certainly, I understood that both the U.S. Navy and the Obama Administration did not want the crisis to end in disaster. And the successful conclusion of this crisis well proved the behind the scenes hands-on crisis management approach by the Obama White House.

Behind the scenes, President Obama had 17 phone calls with the captain of the Navy ship involved in handling this hostage crisis and authorized him to take any military action necessary. While the juvenile pirate was lured to the Navy ship on the pretense of negotiations, it helped to allow for his safe arrest. avoiding the shooting of this juvenile, while the adult pirates were considered legitimate targets by Navy sharpshooters if they endangered the life of the hostage. When the life of the hostage was threatened, the Navy sharpshooters acted with great success ending this crisis.

Unlike a President Bush who would likely don a flight suit and proclaim, "Mission Accomplished", over such a significant foreign policy success, making a big show of the event, the style of President Obama is to painstakingly work behind the scenes to see the crisis through to success. This is excellent management

Over the next few days, the U.S. might even face some new acts of violence done by pirates or by their warlord supporters. But these elements should be very wary that President Obama will take any efforts necessary to protect American shipping. These pirate criminals are in no position to pick a war with the U.S. Navy or President Obama who will do whatever necessary to protect American lives.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Obama Family Chooses Episcopal Church To Worship Easter Sunday

The Obama family chose St. John's Episcopal Church, across from the White House to celebrate Easter Sunday services. For weeks, a number of churches had hoped to lure the president as a member. However, major security reasons as well as not wanting to be overly disruptive of the other church members, has made St. John's a safe choice for many American presidents including President Bush and others.

This church dates back to 1816, and the this church claims that most presidents since James Madison have prayed or worshipped there. President Lincoln was known to walk to pray at this church alone, as serious problems such as the American Civil War tore at the nation and weighed heavy on Mr. Lincoln.

There were some mostly African American congregation churches that hoped that the Obama family would become regular members. However, because of security concerns as well the president careful to avoid new problems with controversial sermons or pastors, the president has been careful to choose a new church to attend. So far, the president has not sought to become a member of St. John's Episcopal Church, so the option remains open to attend several area churches, while not committing as a member. This might become an option to honor several area churches on major holidays.

Disney Hype

This week Disney is running some absurd ads for the new HANNAH MONTANA movie including hype from one critic who claimed that the movie "is the best" of this year. This is outrageous. What serious critic would even nominate this film for an Oscar for example? Certainly this is not the best film of the year so far by any means. Rotten Tomatoes gives this new film a weak 46% approval so far, with most critics not really liking this movie very much, and certainly not praising it as "the best" film of the year so far.

The HANNAH MONTANA movie is no doubt perfectly good entertainment for it's intended target audience of young girls who adore Miley Cyrus and buy her records and enjoy all her licensed Disney products and TV shows and specials. But critical endorsements of films is greatly cheapened when films such as this abuse critical praise just to hype the films in order to fill theatres and drive up box office numbers. This is cheap marketing of the very worst kind. This lacks real integrity.

The movie-going public should be able to have some level of trust in the what the critics say. But they often cannot. Often the critical comments are nearly generated merely as another marketing tool of the motion picture companies.

Another problem is movie hype that takes comments of the critics far out of context. The classic example was a confused film that was such a mess that Larry King once said that you'd have to "see it twice" to make any sense of it. Of course, some enterprising movie studio began running ads with "SEE IT TWICE" and signing Larry King's name to it.

Not all movie praise is really good. Buyer beware.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time To Disarm Somalian Pirates

The UN Security Council needs to pass a resolution banning the type of small boats that are being used as pirate vessels off the coast of Somalia from carrying larger weapons such as grenade launchers or AK47s or should face destruction by American, British, French, German, Chinese or Russian ships patrolling the coast off of Somalia. Legal weapons on these type of boats such be limited to knives or small handguns like pistols. These heavily armed thugs need to be disarmed to prevent their acts of piracy from taking ships hostage and demanding huge ransoms.

My proposal is just one idea on how to disarm these thugs and make shipping safer. Somehow the UN needs to give authority to the international ships patrolling these waters to bring order to ship travel off the coastline of Somalia.

So many ships have been attacked by these pirates that something bold and new needs to be done. This situation has become a serious crisis.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Somalia Pirate Drama Becomes The First Major International Crisis For The Obama Administration To Address

Last week's missile launch by North Korea was hardly as serious of an event as some would think. Once again, North Korea proved that it could not launch a missile into a high orbit or display the range necessary to threaten the mainland United States. Probably, only Iran might be interested in such failed missile technology as it might be able to target Israel with such a short range, if Iran could improve the guidance of these missiles. But, otherwise the North Korean launch was largely a failure on many levels.

But an even lower tech crisis over off the waters from Somalia has many dangers for the Obama Administration. Once again, a low tech group of criminals have proven that they can best the United States. Just like Iraq and Afghanistan, low tech bands of terrorists, criminals and thugs have been able to proven that they can match the U.S. in many ways. the American military is prepared along the lines of fighting high tech wars with unlikely opponents such as China or Russia, neither of whom probably want to really destroy their societies economic gains in a nuclear war. Both nations also have substantial investment in the U.S. as well, so it hardly makes a great deal of sense to destroy so much of their investments here. But the low tech wars with small bands of thugs remains as the most elusive and difficult sort of war to fight for a higher tech military like the U.S.

Somalia has no real government, where warlords, gangs, thugs, criminals and others simply arm themselves and become a government with their own rules unto themselves. Th excellent film BLACKHAWK DOWN was a pretty graphic reminder of the serious situation caused by gangs of fighters loyal to a warlord in Somalia could cause American forces. During the Clinton Administration, it was hoped that a small number of American soldiers could act as peacekeepers in Somalia, but their mission only ended in failure as they were attacked by bands of fighters loyal to a warlord.

The Obama Administration in the short-term needs this hostage drama to work out. But in the longer-term the navies patrolling the Somalia coast need some military plans to sink and destroy the pirate vessels and remove them as a threat. And the UN needs some real action to help to establish some sort of real government in Somalia and set some real laws to end the actions by criminal gangs. But the reality is that perhaps none of these three things may be achieved. The hostage drama may not end well, pirate gangs will continue to threaten international shipping, and the UN will never act to establish some government in Somalia, where anarchy will continue to be the rule of law.

Unfortunately, all of this only presents an opportunity for the U.S. to appear to be weak, although American, British, French, German, Chinese and Russian warships are all involved in the international effort to make shipping safe in the waters near Somalia.

Somalia is one of those frustrating low tech warfare foreign policy messes in which it is very difficult for the U.S. to emerge with a really good solution. It must be highly frustrating for Washington as well as other world governments to fail in efforts to protect their shipping from small bands of criminals. However, this seems to the nature of modern conflicts. Small bands of thugs will likely continue to oppress and humiliate the major nations of the world until the great nations of the world can figure some way to counter this low tech violence.

For now this standoff off the coast pits just four armed pirates vs. the power of the American Navy, proving the power of small bands of low tech thugs to bully large nations. A Shocking modern warfare development indeed.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Will Norm Coleman Ever Concede?

Lawyers for Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman seem to only continue their lawsuits in an effort for Coleman to keep his seat, despite every recount of votes placing Coleman narrowly behind apparent winner Al Franken. On Tuesday, Minnesota state election officials opened and counted 351 absentee ballots that a three judge panel ordered needed to be legally counted despite attempts by lawyers hired by Coleman to suppress these votes, and this put Al Franken ahead by another 82 votes. Franken now leads by 312 votes, which is certainly no landslide by any means. No one will be calling Franken, "Landslide Al", anytime real soon. But it is pretty clear that Franken has probably won this senate seat. Yet lawsuits by Coleman will probably only continue to drag this thing out for a few more weeks.

Okay, Norm here's the deal. The United States is a representative democracy. And elections are held in which the guy with the most votes wins and represents the people. On November 2008, Republicans were facing some very tough times. George Bush fatigue tired-out many voters, the economy was sinking, and not every voter was very enegized by Sarah Palin or by the weak campaign effort by John McCain. In this bad tide for Republicans, Barack Obama was elected president with a big 9 and a half million vote margin, including a big win in Minnesota.

Oh certainly, Al Franken knew how to make things very hard for himself in a very Democratic year and in a very Democratic state. He nearly managed to lose this election by being so controversial, as many voters just couldn't quite take Franken entirely seriously. But in such a Democratic year, even Al Franken just couldn't quite blow this one for himself. Norm Coleman was facing this awful 2008 tide running against Republicans and just never had a really good chance to be re-elected, despite Al Franken being his opponent. The fact that he came as close to keeping his seat as he did was indeed a pretty good achievement. Many pretty good Republican senators such as compassionate conservative Gordon Smith of Oregon lost their senate seats despite relatively decent records on many issues. Smith even managed to work with Senator Kennedy on strengthening hate crimes legislation as well as work with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden on many issues. In the same vein, Coleman wasn't really a terrible senator by any means. But he faced a very difficult year for Republicans.

At some point, Coleman needs to recognize that elections are held to provide representation for citizens. And the citizens of Minnesota deserve to have someone represent them in Washington, even if it isn't Norm Coleman himself. There isn't any reason for Coleman to assume that the office is owed to him. If things were reversed, and Al Franken was consistently on the losing end of the vote count, after several recounts, lawsuits, court fights, etc., he would be expected to throw in the towel at some point.

Norm Coleman has left Minnesota without representation in Washington for months now. The November election is almost ancient history now. Coleman is highly unlikely to win this election despite lawsuit after lawsuit. You can't plan on winning an election by hoping to suppress the count of legally cast votes with lawsuits. Other than providing lawyers a lot of work, Coleman isn't really proving much of anything here other than a big personal ego trip.

For the good of his his state, Norm Coleman needs to throw in the towel and concede. But Coleman doesn't intend to quit. For Coleman's lawyers, the Minnesota state Supreme Court is only their next legal stop as Coleman hopes to drag this thing out even longer. And according to the Politico, Coleman faces several potentially serious ethics and even an FBI investigation into his business dealings with a benefactor. Even if Coleman pulls out some long shot legal victory to keep his seat in the senate, he faces a rocky path of serious legal issues that will dominate his term as senator.

Coleman needs to be a political realist here. Losing his senate seat might just be the best thing for both Minnesota and for Coleman.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Defense Secretary Faces Uphill Climb To Cut Many Weapons Programs

Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates will almost certainly face an uphill climb with members of congress as he proposes to cut some wasteful defense projects or other projects that have gone into extreme cost overruns. Members of congress will argue that cutting some overpriced defense projects will hurt jobs in their districts. However, compared to other spending projects such as highway construction, unemployment benefit expansion or Food Stamp program increases, extremely expensive defense projects provide very few jobs or provide many economic stimulus to very few persons. Gates would like to see defense spending more closely allocated to likely war events such as in Afghanistan, rather than more more far fetched was scenarios with states such as Russia or even China.

While some defense projects may provide a few jobs in up to 44 states, the cost of these projects for the number of jobs that they actually provide is very low. A good example is that during World War Ii, many of the fighter planes only cost around $6,000 each minus the engine. Today, the overpriced F-22 Raptor fighter plane project that Gates would like to cut back on cost a huge $137.5 each. And such planes have little use in situations such as Afghanistan where a painstaking war to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from hiding places in mountains and other areas takes place by NATO fighters.

It will be interesting whether Gates is actually able to reorganize defense spending as he would like or whether congress will once again seek to undermine legislation with adding so many pork-barrel spending proposals to legislation and actually keep many projects alive that Gates would like to trim back or even eliminate.

During the Bush Administration, at least 33 members of this Administration had ties to the defense industry, were major stockholders or former executives. Even the offices of Secretary of Army, Navy and Air Force were all handed over to former CEOs or others with defense contractor ties, not military career persons. Whether the Obama Administration can really sever the strong ties of the defense contractors to infiltrate government and then spend the government money on projects they want will remain a major battle as members of congress and their defense contractor lobbyist pals will seek to keep the good old boy system alive. Even part of the problem at Chrysler is less defense contracts, since some of their more silly projects such as a tank that flexed up and down by four feet was cut. This tank actually proved to be more vulnerable at the flex points than a normal tank, and cost much much more.

Changing Washington is a very difficult task.

Cds You Should Own: Johnny Winter SECOND WINTER

Columbia Records has recently offered a fantastic Cd re-release of the great second album by Texas rock-bluesman, Johnny Winter. Originally, SECOND WINTER, which debuted on October 27, 1969 was a three sided double album, where side four was blank, which was a real recording oddity at the time. However, the new Columbia Cd version re-release includes two songs that were unfinished and unreleased at the time, "Early In The Morning" and the instrumental, "Tell The Truth". And the live concert recorded at the Royal Alpert Hall is a also included as the second disc in the Columbia release as well.

The brother of Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter played in his band, so this concert includes the earliest known version of the later top 45rpm single hit of "Frankenstein" on it along with many other great songs including a rip roarin' version of "Johnny B. Goode" and a long bluesy take on "Tobacco Road".

Long before ZZ Top and other Texas blues-rock acts became chart toppers, Johnny Winter was blazing the trail by being one of the best blues acts of them all. And songs like his blues-rock influenced take on Bob Dylan's, "Highway 61 Revisited" really are great songs on this album. Interestingly there is a blues song, "I love Everybody", answered by "I Hate Everybody". And greast versions of Little Richards' "Miss Ann" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" are included on the studio album as well.

I loved the three sided lp when it was released in 1969. But this newer Columbia Records re-release has really done great justice to this fantastic second album by one of the greatest blues-rock acts ever. If you love music in the vein of ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan and others, then you should get a copy of this Cd tribute to the great Johnny Winter.