Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Those Rare AMC Prototype Pickup Trucks







Back in 1971 little American Motors Corporation considered adding a pickup truck model to their compact Hornet automobile line which eventually included a coupe, sedan, hatchback and a sports wagon. However, just one prototype of the AMC Hornet Cowboy was ever built. While pickup trucks based off cars were popular such as the Chevrolet El Camino or the Ford Falcon Ranchero, and AMC built many trucks through their Jeep line, the AMC Cowboy just never developed beyond this single rare prototype model.


At one time both the compact Ford Falcon and the Chevrolet Corvair lines had their own versions of the first minivans. However, AMC decided not to enter the car based truck market for some odd reason. The compact AMC Cowboy might have had a cult following.

There is also a rare prototype for a Gremlin pickup as well that was built, but strangely sports a Jeep name on the back of the car. Little Kenosha, Wisconsin based AMC, the only major non-Detroit automaker in recent American history built some interesting prototypes that never saw the light of day.

How Well Will The Iraqi Army Stand On Their Own?


As the American military pulls out of Iraqi cities today, allowing Iraqi forces to take full control of their own security, many questions remain how well this military will perform on their own. In just the past 10 days, 250 persons have died in terrorist bombing incidents, as Iraqi forces seemed unable to stem this violence. On one hand, Al Qaeda or other terrorist elements in Iraq have no military means whatsoever to overthrow the government of Iraq. In fact, Al Qaeda only presents a tiny portion of Sunni radicals in the largely Shiite controlled Iraq. Likely, there is no way that Iraqi security forces will fall completely apart and turn helpless like the grossly failed Vietnamization of the Vietnam War. But some serious problems could develop.


While sectarian violence problems have gotten much better, and less frictions remain between the two rival Sunni and Shiite sects, new frictions could again flare up. Further, Iran might attempt to increase it's influence in Iraq with less of an active American presence. And right now with tensions between Iran and the West worsening, Iraq remains as Iran's closest and most likely prospect area to expand it's political influence and to spread Shiite power in the region.


At some point, the United States really needed to hand back power to the people of Iraq. Nationalistic sentiments run strong in Iraq. However, the United States really needs to take the risks of allowing those in Iraq to better manage their own affairs, although some serious risks of Iran seeking to expand it's influence or renewed sectarian problems remain as serious risks.

The John Conyers Question


John Conyers is the fifth longest serving member of either the Senate or Congress right now. He is also one of the great progressive leaders in Congress as well. However, the the legal problems that his wife is facing present a real appearance problem for the 80 year old member of Congress, even if he had no knowledge of her actions while on the Detroit City Council.


Conyers wife, Monica Conyers, who is considerably younger than the congressman was a member of the Detroit City Council up to only recently when she had to resign her position due to an ongoing FBI criminal investigation that resulted in Monica Conyers pleading guilty to bribery charges. Monica Conyers guilty plea in the scandal involves city contract corruption charges of accepting more than $6,000 in bribes in a case where a company, Synagro Technologies, received a contract from the city of Detroit.


Politically, John Conyers may be able to win re-election in his district. However, in a serious guilt by association problem, Conyers finds himself in a much weakened position in Congress as a result of the problems with his wife. The powerful congressman faces some serious issues here. He may have a great deal of clout in Congress, however with his advancing age and worsening problems with his wife's legal problems, Conyers faces the real possibility of simply opting out of running for office again as the only viable option.


Conyers' seat in Congress is a safe Democratic seat. But likely if Conyers should decide to depart Congress, it should spur a real battle to succeed him among many potential challengers.


It might be very difficult for Conyers to survive all the problems with his wife even if he might have been absolutely unaware of her actions involved with the city contract bribery scandal. Appearances are probably bad enough that this congressman's career might well be just about over soon. Sadly, as much as Conyers attempted to promote integrity in government in his long career, his wife's own problems have made the congressman a real victim here even if he appears to have had no involvement or knowledge of her corrupt actions.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Iran Ramps Up New Tensions By Detaining British Embassy Employees

The renegade Iranian government is back to their old tricks again. Now they've detained employees of the British embassy in Tehran, a scene much like their hostage taking at the American embassy back in 1979 through to 1980. Ahmadinejad and his government have been creating new tensions with the British over the last few days, where holding embassy staff in detention is only the next new level of ramping up bad relations with the West.

The Iranian government justified the arrest of nine British embassy staffers by claiming that they had a "considerable role in recent arrest". However, later four were freed by the government, although the other five remain captive of the government. Rather than respecting the diplomatic immunity of foreign embassies, once again the rotten government in Tehran seems intent to make a foreign embassy part of their internal politics and to exploit the capture and hostage taking of foreigners for their own political goals.

Iran and Britain are currently involved in a war of words over the election outcome, and both countries have expelled some diplomats in recent day. However, the arrest of British embassy employees moves this crisis to a new level. And if Tehran continues to hold British embassy staff hostage and not offer to free them, NATO might even become involved in some sort of military action at some point to punish Iran.

"Oxi Clean" Guy Found Dead

Billy Mays, the very likable promoter of the Oxi Clean products was found dead in his home Sunday by his wife. Mays was only 50. Mays was recently featured on a new reality program on the Discovery network called "pitchmen" along with Anthony Sullivan, another big name in infomercials.

Mays was actually a very popular pitchman, with plenty of fans asking for his autograph or to share their good experiences about the Oxi Clean products he promotes. Mays was originally an Atlantic City Boardwalk promoter of some made-for-TV products such as knives, but after touring state fairs and other circuits to sell his goods, the head of Orange Glow was very impressed with Mays and hired him to promote their new line of Oxi Clean products.

Strangely, Mays was on an U.S. Airways flight Saturday that avoided a serious accident when it blew out the front tires. Several passengers had very minor injuries such as head bumps or bruises after the incident.

Mays always had an enthusiastic style and an upbeat personality with great self-confidence in any product he sold, which made him one of the greatest promoters of commercial products that ever lived. Mays was always popular for his thumbs up approach.

Well, here's a big thumbs up to you Billy Mays.

(Note: At one point I was seriously considering making this into a humor post, making wacky comparisons with the tragic Michael Jackson news, wondering what comment the Sham Wow guy would have, or whether CNN would interrupt their regular news for nonstop coverage of this latest celebrity death. But the more I read about the life of Mays, the more I respect the guy. He was a very decent man who was a great minor celebrity. And I opted to respect him instead in this post rather than make jokes. I'm going to miss him).

Yet Another Goofy Republican Politician Scandal

As if the news of the affair of Nevada Senator John Ensign wasn't bad enough news for the struggling Republican Party, the goofy details about the new scandal with South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford was much worse yet. Now these scandals have been capped with a third goofy Republican politician scandal. In Georgia, the former mayor of Gainesville, a city of about 35,000 residents, Mark Musselwhite was arrested for public nudity.

Musselwhite had served as mayor for six years starting in 2000, but lost a 2006 bid to run for the State Senate in Georgia. The 43 year old politician had the potential to be a rising star in the Georgia Republican Party. But instead, the goofy details of his arrest once again hurt the future of a Republican politician, and make him look like a real joke to voters and comics.

Musselwhite reportedly claimed that he merely had been swimming earlier when he arrested at a a public campsite. However, the police were called when Musselwhite was also viewed by persons walking down a public road naked earlier. Why Musselwhite decided to walk down a public road or to linger around a public campsite in the nude are all good questions that call into question his own judgment. But now the voters of Georgia have to sort out whether Musselwhite is merely a kook, or whether has some sex offender characteristics such as an exhitionist. But regardless, another Republican politician has ruined his own career by creating a goofy new scandal by his own hand.

The voters also have to decide whether some of these goofy new Republican scandals are merely signs of some "middle-age crazy" men or whether the Republican Party is now becoming the party of open marriage as a new party position, or clothing optional attire. Once again, the "family values" party are raising new questions about just what sort of family values really glue this party together.

Michael Jackson's Death Raises New Concerns About Prescription Drugs Once Again


While it hasn't been yet established whether prescription drug use contributed to the death of Michael Jackson, nonetheless, his death once again raises new questions about the safety of some prescription drugs. It was a known fact that Michael Jackson used prescription painkilling drugs to the extent that the family lawyer for the Jackson family had expressed real concerns. Further, Deepak Chopra, who also has a medical license, claims that he was aware of Jackson abusing prescription painkiller drugs since 2005.


It will take some time for autopsy reports to affirm the medical reasons for Jackson's death. However, once again the dangers of heavy use of prescription drugs are brought under the spotlight. The fact of the matter is that prescription drugs often come with significant side effects and some drugs can become habit forming. And even if users of drugs such as the powerful painkiller, Oxycontin, feel that they need the drug, the potential addiction is very high for this drug.


The fact of the matter is that probably most people who claim to live in pain could probably learn to live without most if not all prescription drugs. Michael Jackson claimed that he needed prescription pain killers because of claimed constant pain, including an old broken bone injury. In 1993, a concert tour was reportedly cut short, partially due to Jackson's prescription painkiller use according to some news sources.


Another fact of the matter is that with so many side effects and the potential for addiction with prescription painkillers, I've learned years ago to manage my own chronic pain without the use of any medications at all, including aspirin. In 2008, I had a very serious motorbike accident when I got caught in some sudden hail far from my home in North Portland, and skidded out of control and flipped the bike when braking on a downhill slope. I got thrown and rolled about 20-25 feet, and the bike hit me in the side at least once, causing some injuries as well. But I refused any painkillers from the hospital. Over the months the worst injury to one leg gradually improved. I got through these injuries without even using aspirin. I also have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for many years, where I have injuries, damage and pain in every joint in my body. But through a careful diet, not drugs, I control this condition. The fact of the matter is I believe that most persons who claim to have chronic pain can probably learn to live without drugs to cope with the condition.


Prescription drugs have such serious side effect potential that in many cases persons are risking their lives and safety when they take high doses. Some painkillers can poison the liver. Other painkillers can have a high addiction potential.


If anything, the death of Michael Jackson should serve as another warning that dependence on prescription drugs might have such serious potential dangers that more persons should consider the health benefits of living completely drug free. My best guess is that persons can live longer, live more healthy by improving their diet to promote better health and learning to live prescription drug free.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cds You Should Own:Eric Clapton And Steve Winwood:LIVE FROM MADISON SQUARE GARDEN


Here's a long overdue reunion album between former Blind Faith members Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood that is certainly better than excellent. It's certainly more than worth the long wait. This new release is simply one of the very best Eric Clapton releases in some time. And Steve Winwood is fine musical form as well adding either guitar or keyboard work to the great performances here. And of course, Eric Clapton is always one of the great undisputed guitar supermen.


This two Cd package includes live versions of many of the songs from the album BLIND FAITH, as well Traffic, Derek And The Dominoes and Eric Clapton solo classics. And both Clapton and Winwood are both excellent here. In fact, the two seem to flawlessly merge their talents together, only proving that these two really needed far more works together than they originally ever issued. For me, the only two less than satisfying moment were with the attempts to do two Jimi Hendrix classics, "Little Wing" and "Voodoo Chile". As good as Clapton and Winwood are, nobody does Hendrix better than Hendrix in my view. However, all of the other Clapton and Winwood classics are flawlessly executed by comparison. The two classics penned by J.J. Cale, "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" both stand out as excellent here. Clapton always seems to improve on the minimalistic style of J.J. Cale with his greater electrical production on these two great songs. "Cocaine" is especially good here.


The two Cd set includes more than half the songs from the album BLIND FAITH as well. And all of these are great live versions of these classics seem great. Steve Winwood always adds great keyboard work as well his guitar talent, and is real double threat whenever he makes music.


It's difficult to say enough good things about this terrific album which should have really come out around 1970 or so. But better late than never is still good. This is one fantastic album here.


The album is available online at Cd Universe for just $19.75, which is a pretty good discount from the $24.98 list price. However, many other music retailers no doubt carry this great new May 19, 2009 release as well. If they don't carry this album, then they don't know good music.

War Of Words Between Washington And Tehran Makes Life Tough For Election Protesters


One one hand President Obama and other Western leaders were pretty much forced into issuing stronger, yet careful condemnations of the suppression of dissent and violence in Iran. On the other hand, some like John McCain only proved that by forcing the President's hand, Tehran would only act with more violence against the demonstrators. This is the catch-22 here; Washington had to be cautious not to appear to meddling in Iran's internal politics. On the other hand Washington couldn't hardly allow the violence to continue to soar out out of control in Iran.


Now Tehran and Ahmadinejad seems to be relishing in violence and abuse against the protesters, not only to create a climate of fear at home, but also just to defy Washington and Western states that abhor the violence. Tehran is forcing phony confessions out of the protesters, forcing them to claim that they have been influenced by foreign governments or other influences. This cycle of abuse was almost inevitable. Washington was appalled by the situation in Iran and the rigged election, and the peaceful protests that were brutally suppressed by goon squads loyal to the Ahmadinejad government. But when some like John McCain forced the president's hand to speak out more strongly, then this only worsened the situation for the protesters in Iran, and might have prevented a possible successful revolt against the government because too much American involvement was the worst possible thing for what needed to entirely be a homegrown and domestic internal political struggle within Iran.


Some who wondered what John McCain would be like as president got a pretty good clue from this Iran situation. McCain would have been quick to say too much against Tehran, and would have brought even quicker and worse violence against the peaceful protesters. Yet regardless, Washington really needed to say something about the situation there. Still the world community should prepare for stories of torture and for some public executions by the Tehran government of some protesters very soon. Domestically this will promote fear and keep order at home in Iran. But it is also meant just to anger and provoke Washington as well. All of this is why dealing with Iran is so difficult.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Nothing Makes Money Like Death


Nothing makes money like death. On Ebay, all things Michael Jackson are suddenly selling for absurd prices including up to $1,000 for some albums or other gross marketing of posters or collector's items for hugely inflated prices. Record stores have been selling plenty of Michael Jackson Cds with albums like THRILLER and OFF THE WALL easily selling out. And Joe Richey who owns an Oregon based closeout business never seems to miss any opportunity to make a buck, and was quick out of the gate with at least two different Michael Jackson bumper stickers for sale.

For some folks, death means big business. And Michael Jackson is making more than a few cash registers ring right now. Farrah Fawcett items also are seeing a big price boost as well right now, with a signed yearbook going for an asking price of $3,000 right now on Ebay. A few Ed McMahon items are going for fairly good prices as well, completing the latest celebrity death "trifecta".

Sadly, death seems to always create a temporary boost in prices of celebrity items. And compared to the uncertainty of stocks and bonds, the marketing off the dead seems like a great business to some folks. You might even call it the "Michael Jackson Economic Recovery Act" where some empty stores that sell Cds are actually seeing something rare these days, customers.

The King Of Elective Plastic Surgery And The Awful Actress Who Finally Improved


Yesterday's deaths of Michael Jackson, the fourth best selling recording artist of all time, and of Farrah Fawcett closes yet two more chapters in popular culture history. Michael Jackson's fantastic career of proving to be one of the biggest names in entertainment of all time seemed to often overshadowed by his sheer strangeness. His Neverland Ranch, his attempted purchase of the Elephant Man remains, and all of his seemingly endless elective plastic surgeries where some even joked he went from being an African American male to becoming an old White woman, all created a cult atmosphere of strangeness surrounding this pop icon. On FOX News, the attorney for the Jackson family, Brian Oxman, had claimed that he had tried for a long time to prevent Michael Jackson from over-use of some prescription medications that were claimed to be needed for pai management. Likely, far more will be heard about this prescription drug use in the coming weeks as an autopsy might only fuel more speculation among many tabloids. Expect the Michael Jackson story to become a major tabloid news headline for months.




Despite being such a major trend setting iconic star, Michael Jackson's near constant media circus only seemed to make as much news as his own groundbreaking stage performances, new uses of media including music videos and his huge selling recordings. Comics for years joked about Jackson's Neverland Ranch and his frequent child guests such as Macaulay Culkin, yet Jackson never took a clue from any of this to even avoid any question of inappropriate interests in young boys. Finally, all of this only made him a target of a mother involved in welfare fraud scheme to attempt to extort him over similar related allegations. But when comics joked that how could your run of the mill scum child molester ever hope to even compete with something like the Neverland Ranch, Jackson, his family, friends or his lifelong family attorney should have taken a serious clue here to even avoid any appearance of anything questionable involving little boys, but no one did until it landed him in a courtroom for a five month trial draining huge amounts of money. Michael Jackson's intent of Neverland might have been pure enough, and intended for the benefit of adding some joy to the lives of sick children. However his oddness, including showing up at court in pajamas, only seemed to conjure up his image as a very eccentric musical genius who almost begged for controversy.




Michael Jackson also reportedly spent so much money that he actually died $400 million dollars in debt and ended up losing much of his income over the years despite some great business deals such as buying The Beatles catalogue of recordings. How Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison let this get away seems like a scandal in itself. Yet in all reality for someone to make this much money, and then to lose this much money and to leave with this much debt, Jackson probably has little left to leave his three children.




In the end, Michael Jackson seemed to end up dying young so many other tragic music icons, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Marc Bolan, Elvis Presley and others. A planned soldout comeback tour by Jackson in London will never be. There will be no comeback for the "King Of Pop". No last chance to salvage or redeem his badly spoiled reputation. By any standard of measurement, Michael Jackson's reputation was strange for any African American recording act, let alone for any recording act. It was like nothing from an artist growing up from the Motown family of acts had ever seen. The Temptations or Supremes never made a bid to buy the Elephant Man's remains or to sleep in some sort of special chamber. Neither did The Beatles or Rolling Stones either. Michael Jackson's bizarre death was the final chapter to a bizarre life and career.




Actress Farrah Fawcett seemed to be another interesting pop culture icon and set of contradictions as well. For so many years she seemed like a simply dreadful actress, so bad that she made acting in cheapie grade Z movies look positively Shakespearean in quality by comparison. For years, it only seemed that her good looks were her only one real asset. CHARLIE"s ANGELS had to be one of the most embarrassingly bad TV detective dramas of all time. It was horrible and lasted far longer on TV than it ever deserved to. And with a revolving door of actresses quiting the show and new ones being hired, it all just seemed like a real trainwreck mess that never deserved to even be aired. Amazingly, this crap TV show even was a #1 show at one point, despite easily being one of the worst programs on TV. Even as a kid I thought that the show was pure dreck and miles beyond horrible.


In later years, a terribly disoriented appearance by Fawcett on David Letterman's show only help to fuel speculation of alcohol and drug abuse, forcing Fawcett to fight to challenge that image in many other interviews and appearances afterward with Howard Stern and others. And even though to many Fawcett lacked any real potential as a serious actress, she surprised her critics with such good performances in THE BURNING BED and EXTREMITIES that she actually became a multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, which was a far cry from going from being one of the worst actresses on TV to one that could seriously act well enough to be considered for major awards. That was a great leap for the actress.


And Fawcett did win much praise and support for her couragious three year battle with cancer, which sadly ended the life of the actress who greatly improved over the years to becoming a reasonably serious talented dramatic actress afterall.


While neither Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett had little impression on me, because I never really personally considered either as a really significant serious figure, nonetheless many loved both entertainers.


Michael Jackson's music always seemed like pure pop music to me, while I was always a rock fan far more impressed by The Beatles, The Doors, Canned Heat, T.Rex, Ten Years After and others. But the early Jacksons' recordings were good Motown music to me. Even "Dancin' Machine", recorded after Michael left the group for a solo career seemed like one of their best recording simply because it was good Motown in the same vein as The Temptations, The Supremes or Four Tops. But Michael Jackson might have been the best bubblegum music king ever. His music wasn't the most serious writing ever. At least, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix always experimented with some bold new musical styles, while Jackson was always making music just for kids it seemed.


Farrah Fawcett did have that famous head full of long blonde hair that so many young guys liked when I was a young guy. However, I never really saw much to impress me with Fawcett until she did either THE BURNING BED or EXTREMITIES.


Neither Jackson or Fawcett added much to my own life experience. But to many millions of others, Jackson was the soundtrack to their lives, with his perpetual childhood and ultimate Peter Pan-like persona, while Farrah Fawcett's famous swimsuit poster graced their walls, but not mine.




Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Challenging Road To More Fuel Efficient Automobiles




So far, automakers Ford, Nissan and Tesla are sharing part of a $25 billion dollar government loan program to the auto industry to develop a future generation of cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles. For Ford and Nissan this likely to mean the development of more hybrid automobiles, while the tiny Tesla company focuses on electric automobiles. Almost as ambitious as the program to put men on the Moon in the 1960's, the Obama plan is to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, an awesome goal that can only be reached by crash programs into new technology development. However, at least the American government is helping to assist automakers towards this goal instead of simply mandating new future standards.



The automobiles developed by the Tiny Tesla company might be some of the most interesting of the next generation of fuel efficient automobiles. The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric automobile capable of speeds up to 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds which is a blisteringly fast speed on a par with Corvettes or other high end sports cars. Right now, the Tesla cars are capable of traveling 244 miles between charges thanks to a complex network of lithium-type batteries much like sturdy laptop computer batteries looped together. The newer sedan type body model which sells for a lower price than the sports car for $49,900 features an awesome claimed 300 mile range between recharges, and boasts a quick 45 minute recharge. The more expensive roadster sells for $101,500. The Federal government is so impressed with the Tesla automobiles that they are giving the tiny automaker a $465 million loan to build more of the model S sedan type cars. In addition, buyers of Tesla automobiles may be entitled to tax savings or credit of $7,500 or more from either the Federal government or their state governments, making the purchase of a $49,900 Model S considerably cheaper and a great bargain in many ways because of all the fiuel savings involved. And the Lithium batteries have a long service life as well.
Because electric motors make such high power and torque compared to gasoline engines, the 115 pound electric motor in the Tesla roadster produces power comparable to a large displacement sports car engine weighing in at several hundred pounds. However, the energy storage system which brings together the power of several thousand computer grade lithium-ion type computer grade batteries. But future versions of the Tesla automobiles will likely include larger new generation lithium-ion batteries especially suited for automobile use.
The products from Ford or Nissan are more likely to be some new generation of hybrid versions of existing or new conventional models. The use of more hybrids should help both automakers to meet the tough future fuel efficiency standards, while the future of Tesla is to carve out a new marketplace with more reasonably priced, yet high end luxury electric cars. Reportedly, comic David Letterman bought one of the Tesla Roadsters and just loves the car.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Famous People Who Fled To Argentina







More Top Ten TV Shows That Sarah Palin Would Like To See Replace David Letterman


#10. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS MARK SANFORD?

#9. MARK SANFORD & SONS

#8.DICK CHENEY'S $2 MILLION DOLLAR BOOK CLUB

#7.DESPERATE GOP HOUSEWIVES

#6. PALIN FAMILY FEUD

#5. HUCKABEE HOUND(Animated)

#4.DICK MORRIS THE CAT(Animated)

#3.THE LARRY CRAIG GOODTIME HOUR

#2.MISS CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

#1.BARBOUR THE GOP ELEPHANT(Animated)

Cds You Should Own: The Doors: THE SOFT PARADE-Audio Fidelity Gold Disc


Set for a June 30, 2009 release is a new completely remastered gold disc version of the classic album by The Doors, THE SOFT PARADE, by Audio Fidelity. At the time this album was highly controversial among both fans and critics for it's overproduced huge horn and string section sound, of which The Doors could never really reproduce live on stage except for one big stage appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW to promote the single "Touch Me", which became a huge hit for the band which became increasingly troubled by the antics of lead singer Jim Morrison within a few months.


Certainly, THE SOFT PARADE had a decidedly more pop sound compared to the heavy blues influence in all other earlier Doors albums. However, the album did spawn four singles. Further, the album became something of a showcase of the music writing talents of guitarist Robbie Krieger who contributed about half the songs as Jim Morrison was busy writing two poetry books while most of the songs for the album were being put together. And Robbie Krieger's jazzy style of music seemed to really show through on some songs. One hand, the album had jazzy songs like the hit "Touch Me", or the weird little unsuccessful single, "Runnin' Blue" with Robbie Krieger adding a strange little hillbilly voiced chorus to the song, to all the wicked little Jim Morrison gems like "Wild Child", "Do It", "Easy Ride" and "Wishful Sinful", which became another single off the album. Another single, "Tell All The People" seemed like a really radical political rant piece even by 1960's standards by encouraging people to get their guns, yet amazingly this song also became a single off the album, although only charting in at #57 on the American charts. Robbie Krieger's hillbilly chorused tune, "Runnin' Blue" did even worse coming in at #64 on the top 100 singles charts. But "Touch Me" was a #3 hit, while the follow-up single, "Wishful Sinful" with plenty of string backup had a far less impressive #44 peak level on the U.S. charts.


Interestingly, of the nine songs on the album, only two songs, the title track, "The Soft Parade" and "Shaman's Blues" were not released as either an A or B side of a single. And one song which was never used on the original 1969 album, "Who Scared You?" found it's way onto the B side of "Wishful Sinful", but was finally added to the more recent 40th Anniversary edition of the album as a bonus track along with the largely unfinished "Whiskey, Mystics And Men" and "Push, Push" along with an outtake version of "Touch Me". Yet few Doors outtakes have ever been released, and even most bootleg albums of the band have been from live performances. The Doors no doubt have many outtakes of their session work, especially since Morrison was later so drunk that many takes often had to be recorded. For example, during the recording of LA WOMAN, Morrison's alcohol abuse had grown so bad that one longtime producer of the band left the project, and Bruce Botnick had to complete the project. Fortunately "Touch Me" was released in December 1968, becoming a huge early 1969 hit before Jim Morrison's drunken stage antics and obscenity arrest began to really mount new problems for the band and some radio stations stopped playing songs by The Doors or some record stores stopped selling Doors albums under pressure by some parent's groups. Part of this arrest explains why so many of the other singles on THE SOFT PARADE charted so poorly because of all the public backlash. I even remember my school newspaper running a student editorial condemning The Doors over the March 1, 1969 concert incident.


Yet despite all of the controversy, THE SOFT PARADE certainly rates as a very good late 60's rock album by any standard of measurement. And next week's upcoming gold disc version by Audio Fidelity of the album should only help to highlight the beautiful fusion of the horn and string sections to the great classic music of The Doors. This album is a must have.


Right now, Cd Universe is allowing preorder of this upcoming cd for a discounted price saving a few dollars off of the $24.98 list price. And likely a few other Internet retailers or record stores may be offering preorders as well.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great Governor Mark Sanford Disappearance Mystery


One continuing strange story is the mystery disappearance of Republican Governor Mark Sanford in South Carolina. Some claim that he is taking a hike in a certain mountain area in South Carolina, however with a nude hiking event also taking place in the same area, that story seems a little suspect. The fact of the matter is that the head of an U.S. state simply cannot decide to just disappear. There are constant ongoing duties and law enforcement actions that need the continued knowledge of the governor.


Since last Thursday, Sanford has disappeared into thin air, almost like some episode of TV's WITHOUT A TRACE. Even on father's day, Sanford was a no show. His wife now claims he wanted some time away from the kids. But where is he?


Another problem is that Sanford had previously been mentioned as a possible 2012 presidential candidate. But if he has problems with depression or other problems, he would only appear as unfit to serve as president by many Americans. The U.S. could hardly afford a president who hides whenever problems loom too large.


A few years ago for a joke, Conan O'Brien sought to create a phony hysteria by falsely claiming a character from the old SANFORD AND SON TV show, Grady, was missing. This phony missing person hysteria was hilarious, as each day Conan built up this phony hysteria until the aging actor who played "Grady" actually appeared on the show to a hero's welcome and a standing ovation. This was funny TV. But a missing governor of a state is far less funny.


When, and if, Governor Mark Sanford reemerges, he'll only have a lot of questions to answer. But for now this is a great political mystery.

Iran: A "Kinder, Gentler" Death To America And Israel?


One reality that many hawks on the right seem to ignore about Iran when claiming the President Obama should do more to intervene in their internal politics is that the United States is a mostly hated state by most people in Iran, and the 1979 Islamic revolution was a direct result of all of the pent-up anger in Iran for so much meddling in Iranian affairs starting with the WWII effort by the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union to install Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi because his father, Reza Shah wanted to remain neutral in WWII. Iran then became an important supply route for U.S. and allied arms to Stalin's government to fight off the invading German army.


But his meddling had a huge social cost to the people of Iran and angered the Shia clerics. The younger shah was mostly secular in his rule, and gradually over time, many of the most radical of clerics such as the Ayatollah Khomeini had to seek exile elsewhere such as in Paris for their own safety. But these radical Islamic clerics plotted for the day that they overthrow the secular government of the shah, which had not only weakened the Shia clergy role in this state, but had prisons overflowing with political prisoners as all opposition parties including the Tudeh Party in 1975.


But all of the years of America's meddling in Iran only created great anger and resentment among those in Iran. And also hardened attitudes against both the United States and Israel according to polling in Iran. According to some polling in Iran, just 29% of persons in Iran have a favorable view of the United States. Unfortunately this view is largely only held among some of the merchant class in Iran who favor more trade with the U.S. and some other more educated segments of that society. Most in Iran are highly critical of the United States. In fact, so critical that by a 52% to 40% margin, those in Iran favor developing nuclear weapons, and even higher figures support developing nuclear energy reactors, of which Iran's government or military could easily spin into a nuclear weapons program. Even more radical, 62% of those in Iran support the destruction of the state of Israel and favor making it an Arab only state. And unfortunately, 73% in Iran would only support giving up a potential nuclear weapons program meant to destroy Israel or to threaten American interests only if the U.S. offer Iran huge amounts of humanitarian funds. That's unfortunately exactly the same situation we face with North Korea. This radical state works on nuclear weapons, using this as blackmail to wring billions of dollars of aid out of rival states like the United States, and as a way to keep their government in power and resist calls for political moderation. Iran would use their nuclear program to do the same. By building a nuclear weapons program, Iran's radical clerics could do the same, blackmail Americans to hand them billions of dollars in "humanitarian funds" in exchange for not reducing Israel to nuclear ash. In short, most in Iran, including among the clergy leadership, as well as the public are no friends of the United States by any means.


Many Iranian moderates and liberals have used the Mir-Hossein Mousavi campaign as an umbrella for their own political views to liberalize Iranian society to some extent. But Americans cannot forget the history of Mir-Hossein Mousavi in Iran. Mr. Mousavi served as Prime Minister of the Islamic revolutionary government of Iran from 1981-1989. Mousavi may be embraced by many as some reformist now, but as prime minister he was just as hard-line as any of the other "Death To America" radicals that ruled Iran and took Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy in 1979. But compared to the Islamic radicals who seized control of Iran from the shah in 1979, Mousavi is considered to be something of left-leaning compared to the hard right politicians such as President Ahmadinjad. After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mousavi was no longer a welcome figure in the Iranian government and resigned from his office. Yet Mousavi is enough of a trusted figure among the ruling clerics that his election was approved by the ruling clerics for b. Yet, after so much political problems as a result of the aftermath of the recent elections, it is highly unlikely that Mousavi will ever get the approval of the ruling cleric again.


The fact of the matter is that Americans cannot get too carried away in wanting more American involvement in Iran, because American involvement in the Iranian elections process would be about as welcome by most in Iran about as much as Iranian involvement would be in American elections. And whether some other leader like Mir-Hossein Mousavi would be less likely to want to build nuclear weapons or to want to destroy Israel remains highly in question. Unfortunately, Mousavi might just only be a "kinder and gentler" "death to America and Israel" type personality. That's hardly a true moderate or a true Persian democrat by any means.


However, once again, President Obama did condemn the ongoing political violence in Iran in the strongest terms today. And that's about all that the U.S. can do for now it seems. Much more, only invites more repression on any true opposition forces in Iran and risks their lives as being branded as tools of the United States or Israel. And in Ahmadinejad's Iran, claimed spies or agents for Israel are publicly hung.

Cds You Should Own: George Harrison: LET IT ROLL-SONGS OF GEORGE HARRISON


Years after THE BEST OF GEORGE HARRISON was released, a far better new Cd comprising the wonderful solo career of George Harrison was released on June 16, 2009. Unlike, the first greatest hits which only included just six solo songs by George Harrison, this new Cd is entirely comprised of post-Beatles solo works and is a truly excellent package of 19 great songs.


His two greatest solo singles, MY SWEET LORD and WHAT IS LIFE are included on both packages. However, many less successful singles are also included in the new package including GOT MY MIND SET ON YOU, BLOW AWAY and ALL THOSE YEARS AGO, which are still fine songs that deserved a place on a good compilation of the best of George Harrison songs. And a few great live songs from the CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH as well as a few great album tracks from the excellent ALL THINGS MUST PASS album are included as well.


At some point, a really good George Harrison boxset anthology is really needed that will stand with the great ALL THING MUST PASS or CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH packages. But for now, the brand new LET IT ROLL compilation is a pretty fair package of great performances by one of the greatest of singer and songwriters of all time. But like the sad death of John Lennon, it is deeply heartbreaking that George Harrison is no longer with us. But this wonderful new collection of his greatest works should be a real joy to any true fan of this great talented former Beatles member.
The new George Harrison collection is available at Cd Universe online for just $11.80 sale price which is a pretty good discount from the $18.98 list price, or at at many local record retailers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

DVDs You Should Own: WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS


1971's bizarre exploitation film, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, is the darndest movie you'll ever see. It's a bizarre combination between a bad 1970's werewolf horror film and a bad early 70's outlaw biker movie. The result is a film so bad that it's great entertainment and a real cult classic.


The film revolves around a plot of a group of outlaw bikers from a club called Devil's Advocates riding to some abandoned church run by a Satanic cult, who turn a female bike member into a werewolf who infects her boyfriend who attacks and kills others at night. Oh yeah, don't forget her absurd nude snake dance in front of the hooded cult monks giving the poor lonely monks a little badly needed entertainment break or the bad early 70's driving psychedelic hard rock music soundtrack either. It was all real hippie-era schlock of the worst variety, but a funny as heck time-capsule of the era.
This low budget film actually used much real footage of real bikers and does feature some darn great motorcycle stunts such as balancing on the seats while standing, which is pretty cool and impressive. Certainly, the movie is far from the best werewolf horror movie ever made, and certainly far better bike gang films exist than this. But this movie is pure schlock fun.
But the great filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was so impressed by the schlock film double features run by the grindhouses, that it acted as the influence for his great film feat with director Robert Rodriquez, GRINDHOUSE DOUBLE FEATURE. The term "grindhouse" came from the former burlesque houses that ran these crappy exploitation cheapie films. But these awful films which usually opened and closed at these grindhouse theatres or at drive-in theatres did inspire a whole generation of far better quality slasher horror films such as PROM NIGHT, SLEEPWAY CAMP and of course the great Alfred Hitchcock PSYCHO film or a whole generation of zombie films. Even the great Italian spaghetti westerns such as the excellent, THE GOOD, THE BAD And The UGLY, were greatly inspired by the whole grindhouse exploitation genre.
So in many ways, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS was hardly a landmark film in itself. But films of this type helped to inspire so many other better films of the drive-in or grindhouse genre roots. But films like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is great fun and for what sorts of films it inspired. So grab yourself a great snack like popcorn and enjoy. Movies like this laid the cornerstone for far greater films to follow.

The History Of Too Much Foreign Involvement In Iran


Many weekend rallies by Iranians living in the U.S. involved waving American flags and calls for more American involvement in Iran. Further, some Republicans such as John McCain continued to call for more American involvement in the political struggle. However, all of this easily forgets the history of foreign involvement in Iran and how it directly contributed to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the brutal Islamic theocracy coming into power.


During World War II, an allied coalition involving the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded of Iran and forced neutral leader Reza Shah to abdicate, to replace with his son as a better anti-Nazi alternative. For a time, this younger shah helped with arms transfers to the Stalin government from the United States. However, the younger Shah soon turned anti-Soviet and anti-Communist once the war was over, and was used by the United States as an ally to blunt Communism during the Cold War years, despite the fact that the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was characterized by a huge number of political prisoners which numbered around 2,200 by the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Torture and other brutality was common during his rule. The Shah used fear and political repression to stay in power which planted the seeds of opposition to his rule among many Iranians throughout the world, including in the U.S. who routinely burned American flags and blamed the United States for keeping this brutal dictator in power. Further, every American president all the way from Roosevelt to Carter, both Democratic and Republican seemed to remain clueless to demand that the Shah make some political reforms in his nation and treat his people with more dignity. The extent of American involvement in Iran directly resulted in the long hostage drama at the American embassy in Tehran as an act of revenge for so much American support for political repression in Iran.


While the shah eventually banned political opposition of all types by 1975, and gained a horrible reputation among international organizations such as Amnesty International, the shah did allow some social reforms which also angered the Shia clergy and thereby setup his position as being viewed as a weak advocate for the Muslim faith among many more fervent Muslims. The shah was a forward looking leader working to make Iran(which was formerly the powerful ancient kingdom of Persia) into a powerful modern world empire with a modern society and huge world trade. The shah also opened up equality for women and other social reforms and made the society largely secular in nature, which certainly angered many religious radicals among the Shia clergy. But the shah did recognize the state of Israel, unlike other Mideast nations. In this regard, he was seen as a pragmatic realist.


In 1951, there was a short-lived effort by a rising political leader who became the prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, to rule Iran and to make the nation a true democratic state. However, his effort to nationalize the oil industry was something intolerable to the British who controlled this industry. In 1953, the British oil industry was able to get the support of both the British and American governments, and the British Secret Service and the American CIA cooperatively in a covert scheme meant to end democracy in Iran and to replace Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and the Iranian parliament with a military backed coup to bring the shah back into power, where he ruled with an iron hand. Back then as now, oil rules the American and British foreign policy towards the Mideast.


While some like John McCain call for more American involvement in Iran, the truth is that so much American involvement in this nation only resulted in the end of democratic rule in this nation once before and the placing of the shah into power as a cruel dictator. Further, so much American involvement also contributed the ending of all opposition parties in Iran by 1975, and a one party rule of Iran hardly any better than the one party rule of Germany under Hitler. The fact of the matter is that American presidents such as Richard Nixon invited the shah to the White House praising him as some great ally and hero, conveniently skirting the facts that his own jails were filled with political opposition leaders and torture and repression were how he ruled his country. When John McCain calls for more American political involvement in Iran, he ignores this history.


If Iranians want a modern society and democracy, then they need to do it themselves. The United States can't hardly use the CIA or some other covert method or an outright war to install another proU.S. government in Iran once again. Not only would such an effort fail but it would only lead to another dictator once again. The United States can condemn brutality in Iran, but that's about all. But the United States cannot really continue to go around the world overthrowing governments and putting the people in power it wants. That has all changed over time. Such gunboat diplomacy is no longer acceptable in the modern world.


At some point, the political leadership in the American government needed to demand more democracy in Iran and for a multiparty system and a parliament with some real power to exist. But instead, the United States supported dictatorship and political repression in Iran, while claiming to hold dear those opposite values at home. Too much American involvement in Iran is directly responsible for this latest mess in Iran. More American involvement in Iran probably won't help either at this very late point.


The fact of the matter is that many Iranians in the U.S. long participated in anti-American and anti-shah rallies at American universities across the United States for years. Yet somehow, every American president, both Democrats and Republicans, failed to take a clue from this that the shah had a very weak grasp on power in Iran, and was but just one good coup or revolt away from being replaced. Two failed assassination attempts on his life were further evidence at how dire the situation was politically in Iran. Long ago, the U.S. needed to co-opt some moderate opposition leader into power in Iran, much like the way that Nelson Mandala was co-opted into power by the United States and Britain in South Africa to make that nation a more representative democracy. But now it is way too late for such a co-opting of any moderate into power in Iran by the West. For the sake of the profits of the British oil industry, both the United States and Britain threw democracy out in Iran using the CIA and other elements. If democracy should ever return to Iran, it needs to be by their own hands this time. For a change, Iranians, not the United States or Britain, need to decide the future political direction of Iran.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

This is the second Father's Day without my own father, who died in July of 2007. I can't honestly say with time it gets all that much easier to deal with. My father was a great guy. He had a great work ethic and always did the very best he could to provide for his kids. He was always a faithful partner to my mother as well, which is something that can't be said for all men these days. Half of marriages end up in divorce you know, while so many others are ruined with adultery, which ruins the trust in marriage and often ends many marriages. My father always resisted these bad temptations. My mother was so heartbroken after the loss of my father that she died a little more than 90 days after he did, probably of a broken heart more than anything.

Maybe more than anything, my dad proved his character when he served in Korea in 1950 during that war when Communist forces overran 90% of the South, and bayonet charges by hordes of Chinese troops against American forces became commonplace on the cold battlefields of this foreign land. Because my dad had experience working as a baker since the age of 16, he was asked to be a main cook on a prisoner of war camp in Pusan, South Korea. Because my dad had no racist instincts, he had no problem working along the side of a number of African American soldiers in the kitchen, back at a time when few opportunities existed for African American soldiers in a segregated America. My dad was also a great friend to the Korean staff who helped to support the Americans. For Christmas, my dad dyed a set of white cook clothes red and made a Santa suit and gave small presents to the Koreans, his African American co-workers in the kitchen and other soldiers on the base. When one Sergeant saw this great act of kindness on the part of my father, he was jealous that he didn't first think of it. But it was good works like this and treating the Koreans and others with respect that made my father a well loved soldier.

Unfortunately, not every soldier behaved as honorably during this war. Some GIs actually offered poor Korean women a dollar for sexual favors, which was something that always made my father angry and disgusted because it was such a dehumanizing and racist way to treat these Korean people. My dad loved these Koreans. They had a wonderful culture and were wonderful people. My dad always had the highest of respect for these people. My dad always admired that I also had such a respect for the Korean people, which I learned from him, and was always pleased when I had Korean business friends and contacts. My dad's respect for the Korean people became a huge influence in my life.

Compared to some modern soldiers who behaved so miserably at Abu Ghraib or committed some dehumanizing war crimes while in Iraq or elsewhere, my father's military service was built on respect for the people around him, respecting their culture while he shared American traditions such as Christmas gift giving with the Korean people.

But being the best guy still doesn't mean that life will be easy. During the early days of my life, my dad struggled with all of the heartache and serious medical costs for providing medical care for my sister who was born with some significant birth defects. This was back in a day when health insurance was an unknown idea. When you had medical expenses in those days, you got stuck paying the entire bill yourself. And unfortunately helping organizations such as the Shriner's refused help, leaving my dad stuck working long hours to pay huge medical costs for my sister. Certainly my dad wondered why he had to be burdened with so much sadness. But he worked hard and got through it somehow.

Even though my father could display enough toughness to get through whatever problem he faced, he still had a very soft side. My mother remembers the romantic message he wrote with lipstick one day on the bathroom when she was well in her 60's, saying simply, "I love you, Eileen". That message is still on the mirror. I never had the heart to wipe it off. It meant so much to my mother.

Just for a lark, my dad wrote a wonderful letter to the Oregonian about his marriage which actually lasted just short of 58 years, interrupted only by their deaths in 2007. THE OREGONIAN loved my dad's romantic letter so much that they published a Valentine's Day feature on my parents.

This was the type of guy my dad was. He could be a wonderful romantic on one hand. He could be equally tough when needed to be. Yet sometimes, some things could nearly bring tears to his eyes such the time when we were at an airport and some American families were adopting some Korean orphan babies.

My dad would probably get a few tears in his eyes reading all this. I know that it would certainly touch him. I'm only sorry that I can't deliver this to him since he's gone now. But happy Father's Day dad. Here's to you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ahmadinejad May Have Come In Third Place In Rigged Election, As Nation Slips Into Political Violence


A British reporter has offered claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have actually come in third place in last week's election, however his government as well the religious leadership, especially by Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei, manipulated the results to retain the power of the religious theocracy government of Iran.


Today, there are many reports of government violence meant to put down protesters in Iran. However, it is very difficult for the United States to act much because the long history of American involvement in Iran, starting with the WWII efforts to put the Shah in power to resist the Nazis was the start of a long history of U.S. meddling in Iran that actually alienated many Iranians against the U.S., leading to the anti-American 1979 Islamic revolution. The Obama Administration has accordingly moved carefully so as not to worsen the plight of those pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran, despite ill placed calls from many Republican political leaders in the U.S. for the Obama to act more decisively. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. is in a very poor position to act with much involvement in Iran. Likely, the U.S. is still perceived as many in Iran as a primary enemy of Iran. Britain is also viewed by many in Iran as another primary enemy of Iran as well, especially after so much more of an active role in being critical of the Iranian election results. France might be in the best position to offer condemnation of the Iranian election aftermath because it allowed the Ayatollah Khomeini many years of political asylum. But the best that most Western nations can hope for is that this is an internal political matter in Iran, to be sorted out by those in Iran. and to allow the chips to fall where they may.


Further, many Americans really fail to understand what is really going on in Iran. Mir-Hossein Mousavi is hardly any true Western-styled democrat, but a more moderate member of the group of conservative religious radicals that helped to overthrow the Shah back in 1979. In Israel, there remains a more educated perspective of what's going on. In Israel, there are no illusions that Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his followers probably still support the destruction of Israel and the nuclear program if not nuclear weapons for Iran. Mousavi might believe in some social liberalization from the strict religious rule in Iran, but that is really as far as he might go. Mousavi also would probably improve contact and trade with the Western world, but that mostly serves the interests of the wealthy class of Iran for financial reasons, and not entirely as an aspect of a real social liberalization agenda. However, many who believe in far more social liberalization or democracy are likely using Mousavi as an umbrella for their pro-democracy views.


There are also reports that the Iranian government may be shipping in foreign mercenaries to act as police to put down the protesters as well, as many do not even speak the common language used in Iran. This could seen as a sign that some police are not entirely loyal to the government battle with the protesters, where detached elements from abroad are being shipped in to attack and beat the protesters. It could also be a sign that the police and military elements loyal to the government are severely strained by the massiveness of the protests as well.


It may be very easy for some defeated Republican presidential candidate like John McCain to argue for more American involvement in Iran. However, this really fails to understand that this is really an internal political dispute by two conservative factions of this Islamic revolutionary government. Much like the internal struggle in the old Soviet Union which resulted in the downfall of the Communist system during the administration of George Bush #41 in 1989, this power struggle in Iran is between rival factions of the government. In Russia, Communist Mayor Boris Yeltsin represented the change elements back then, while Mir-Hossein Mousavi represents the change elements for that system. Yeltsin fortunately turned out to be a pseudo-democrat. However, Mir-Hossein Mousavi may not be. He might just be an agent of the better educated and more affluent in Iran, and stands for some social liberalization. But he could still support the destruction of Israel and continued political problems for that area. So Americans really need to sit back and allow Iranians to decide just what this internal power struggle really represents and how far things can go towards liberalization for that nation or political reforms.


Ultimately, it will be to the rival elements in Iran which side wins out, and how much liberalization actually takes place in Iran. The United States really can do little to move this Iranian process along, and in fact could be very detrimental to those liberalization elements if it should act too involved. It might be politically easy for some Republicans such as John McCain to call for more American involvement in Iran. But this is a very poor call, and only demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of all of the issues involved in this internal power struggle taking place in Iran.

Friday, June 19, 2009

President Obama Sets An Excellent Tone For Father's Day


Today in a speech, President Obama set up an excellent tone for Father's Day today in a heartfelt speech by urging young men to become better fathers. The president barely knew his own father, but instead always has sought to be the best possible father himself. The president made it clear of the importance to children to have a father active in their lives. Fathers fill a special role for children


Vice President Biden also added some pretty important sentiments as well. In 1972, Joe Biden became a single parent after his wife and one year child were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Both of Biden's sons were seriously injured, but survived the terrible accident with a tractor trailer. It was an unbelievable tragedy for such a decent man right before Christmas.


The sentiments of both President Obama and Vice President Biden represent two great role models for the integrity of fathers for all American men to follow. Many young men need to step up and show some real responsibility, and to be active and present fathers in the lives of their children. The emotional lives of children and society pay a huge price when some men fail to step up to the level of fatherhood responsibility really expected of them.

"Card Check" Won't Open Floodgates To Unionizing

One fact that is conveniently ignored by opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act is that card check won't necessarily open the floodgates to rampant unionizing of nonunion businesses. Two years ago in the state of Oregon, the legislation passed legislation that was signed by the governor that changed Oregon labor law, allowing card check. In just two years, only 110 employees of various businesses for workplaces used such a union representation method to allow just six workplaces to become unionized. Out of the thousands of workplaces in the state, that is a pretty small increase in the number of businesses that became unionized.

In most cases it appears that most of the increases in union workplaces were among workplaces such as small fire departments or groups of educational workers such as at community colleges, etc. In one case, a group of electrical workers requested a vote, and by a single vote rejected becoming unionized.

The fact of the matter is that big lobby efforts continue to fight against the Employee Free Choice act at the federal level, inspired by fear stories among the business community and among Republican members of Congress of fears of rampant unionizing will take place if the legislation passes. But like much fear driven politics. the reality of the experience in Oregon proves that by allowing an easier path to unionization will hardly bring new costs to most businesses during this recession. Further, many agencies closely associated with government such as the Oregon Lottery Commission and the Oregon Judicial Department still remain as functioning as nonunion agencies.

The fact of the matter is that employers still hold too many legal ways to circumvent unionizing such as requiring employees to attend mandatory anti-union propaganda meetings and film presentations, often hosted by professional anti-union organizations. Even if a lot of the information presented is outwardly false and misleading, still this method has only worked to undermine unionizing efforts in many workplaces.

Another problem is that most Republicans seem to be standing in the way of the vote in the Senate to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, leaving it critical that Al Franken is seated in order to allow a vote to proceed. But unfortunately for many workers, this won't yet open up the better benefits of becoming a union member for many workers as the slow progress to unionize in Oregon since card check became law proved.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sarah Palin's Top Ten TV Shows To Replace David Letterman


#10. ALASKAN AERIAL WOLF HUNTING, #9. WHAT NOT TO WEAR: GOP EDITION #8. THE LATE SHOW WITH LARRY CRAIG #7. ACCORDING TO NEWT #6. AMERICA'S GOP LACKS REAL TALENT #5. CALIFORNIA TERMINATOR: THE GOVERNOR SCHWARTZENEGGER CHRONCILES #4. MY NAME IS JOHN ENSIGN #3. LIPSTICK PITBULL JUNGLE #2. TORTURE OR NO TORTURE #1. ARE YOU SMARTER THAN THE ALASKA GOVERNOR?

Bad Economy & Bad Reviews Close Pet Store Chain


In Oregon and Washington, all five Scamps pet shops which operate in shopping centers are closing under chapter 7 bankruptcy. For years, the stores had to fight against bad publicity by animal rights activists as well as some angry consumers. In 2008, KGW news in Portland ran a damning story claiming that Scamps knowingly sold sick pets to customers. Some dogs for example had parasites, worms and in one case, a dislocated kneecap, according to the KGW report. However, Scamps did offer a free veterinarian exam with each major pet purpose, with the right to return an animal within a specified time-frame.


Two former employees of Scamps have even posted claims on the Internet that they were ordered to place sick animals in a plastic bag and to kill them by putting them in a freezer by the owner of the stores. However, no independent claims exist to verify whether this is true or simply two disgruntled former employees or just some phony animal rights activist propaganda. Many other employees loved their job and the customers.


The fact of the matter is that this pet store chain struggled in the last several years with bad publicity as well as the bad economy, and it all became too much and strained the company to the breaking point.


However, I have some good things to say about Scamps. After both of my parents and my dog all died from unrelated old age health issues in late 2007, I felt lonely and purchased my little dog, Archie, a Havanese Bichon at Scamps for the reduced price of $275. He's not the brightest guy. And maybe he's even a "puppy mill" dog. But he's still a great little guy and companion and worth owning. Maybe Scamps wasn't the best pet business ever. But I'm a very satisfied customer myself. The staff always seemed very good. And the store had a great selection of quality pet food and supplies in stock. Scamps didn't seem like too bad of a business to me.


Yet, with a bad economy, buying a dog and having an extra mouth to feed in the family isn't at the top of most people's hit list right now. And the combination of too many critics, possible bad business practices and the bad economy all worked to sink what appeared to be a popular pet store business located in several shopping malls. Scamps probably was about as good of a business as could be expected for any business that sold live animals at shopping malls. Not perfect, but not entirely bad either.

Rock-Ola Built More Than Just Jukeboxes


As popular as the classic 1950's jukeboxes by Rock-Ola are, few know that this company once built motor scooters during the 1930's and 40's as well. This Chicago based company, whose classic jukeboxes sometimes sell for thousands of dollars also was a builder of some now very rare motor scooters sought out by collectors. Strangely, the 1 horsepower engine that powered some of the Rock-Ola motor scooters was called the "Iron Horse" engine by Rock-Ola. Okay.


One interesting Rock-Ola design was this three wheeled scooter which was designed to be used by business with a large front mounted trunk. Possibly some were converted into ice cream wagons by some dealers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One Tiny Car


The tiny Peel automobiles from the UK might set the record as the smallest street legal automobiles ever built. The tiny 50cc cars could easily be picked by the average woman because of their extremely light weight. these cars only weighed just 132 pounds, far less than the average motor scooter which weigh in around 200 pounds or more. These tiny cars were built between 1962 and 1967 with only about 100 one seater and 100 larger two seater models ever built. The company that built these tiny cars also built go carts as well as boats, so this company was expert in building lightweight vehicles. The little one seaters could travel as fast as 38mph.

Sarah Palin Supporter With Arrest Record Draws Crowd Of Around 15 Persons To "Fire David Letterman" Rally


John Ziegler, an unabashed right wing radio broadcaster supporter of Sarah Palin, with an arrest record for attempting to disrupt an appearance by journalist Katie Couric to receive the Walter Cronkite Journalism Award at USC, is spearheading a new low budget protest effort for CBS to fire David Letterman because Letterman tells jokes about the Alaska governor and her family. On Monday, Ziegler claimed that he would have a huge crowd protest outside of the taping of the LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN in NYC, instead Ziegler had maybe as few as 15 supporters show up to protest the show.




The fact of the matter is that with only a relative handful of Sarah Palin supporters fueling some ongoing controversy with David Letterman, there is no real grassroots effort against David Letterman or support to fire him. Instead, CBS is only likely to renew Letterman's contract and even offer him a pay raise within the next few days.


Ziegler was pretty unhappy when a grossly overweight red-headed and bearded man held up a sign proclaiming, "I'm A Right Wing Lunatic", and kept shouting "Jesus is speaking to me!", "I hate it when people tell jokes on TV!" to mock Ziegler's latest political stunt to support Sarah Palin. The man was sent from a radio show to mock Ziegler's absurd efforts to muzzle comics.


The reality that seems to be lost on Sarah Palin and her small bands of supporters who are fueling this nonsense controversy is that other comics such as Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Craig Ferguson have probably told far more jokes about the Alaska governor than David Letterman ever told. Further, there is no law preventing public figures or their families from becoming the butt of jokes. That simply goes with celebrity.


A further problem for Palin is that by keeping alive the tabloid story about her daughter's out of wedlock pregnancy, Palin only further erodes any real potential political support among most voters, leaving her only with a tiny fringe of extremists and kooks as supporters. Palin marginalizes herself as the candidate for some fringe personalities. That's hardly the path to the White House in 2012. Even Republican strategists have attempted to warn Palin and her supporters about the potential damage she's doing to her own political career, yet these concerns seem to only go unanswered.


The fact of the matter is that even some failed extreme conservatives like Barry Goldwater had a number of real issues to advocate and run on. Instead, Palin's kooky personality and goofy family problems only attract the comics to tell jokes, so Palin supporters think that by inspiring a chilling effect on the comics rather than clean up their trailer park family conduct is the proper path.


The fact of the matter as that Palin has made herself too much of a butt of jokes by her own hand. It's a little too late to blame the comics for what she has brought upon herself. There is zero chance such a person will ever be elected president. It takes more than a handful of voters to be elected.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MAD Magazine Hit By The Recession


The tough times in the print business have now hit the last remaining satire magazine published in the United States, MAD Magazine. Starting with issue #500, which is currently available at many newsstands, MAD will cut back from being a monthly magazine with 48 pages selling for $4.99 to becoming a quarterly publication with 56 pages selling for $5.99. Two other MAD publications, MAD FOR KIDS and MAD CLASSICS are being dropped, and some staffers at MAD are being laid off by the owner of MAD, AOL Time Warner.


Part of the problem with less of a presence of MAD at newsstands due to the shorter publication schedule may only encourage some distributors or newsstands to drop MAD altogether, putting MAD sales into a tailspin. The fact of the matter is that this cannot possiby be good news for this very influential satire magazine that has existed since the 1950's.


MAD has many competitors over the past decades including CRACKED, SICK, CRAZY, HARPOON(later known as APPLE PIE) and a few other minor publications. NATIONAL LAMPOON once made a serious attempt to appeal to an older audience of readers of satire magazines, and was really at it's peak during the 1970's as a great satire magazine. CRACKED fell into hard times with distribution problems and an attempt to revive the magazine sadly fell flat. CRACKED managed to continue a great 1950's style of cartooning until the short-lived new version came out. CRACKED was also a pretty good competitor for MAD all during the late 50's into the 70's.


Sadly for MAD is the news that FOX has cancelled the MAD TV show as well. In the past 14 seasons, MAD TV managed some very effective satires and parody bits. And some decent stars such as Nicole Sullivan have emerged from the show.


MAD Magazine is a great institution that deserves to live on. When I was just a kid around 1959 to 1963, my parents used to give me a 25cents allowance to spend as I see fit. I usually would opt for buying a MAD Magazine rather than buy two 10cent comic books and a 5cent candy bar. MAD Magazine taught me to read at 4 and five years old. I had no problem blowing my whole allowance wad on this great magazine that deserves to live on for future generations. Society needs more than just SATAURDAY NIGHT LIVE as a vehicle for parody and satire. MAD is too good to disappear, but it certainly appears to be living on life support right now. How long AOL Time Warner will continue to stand by a number of troubled publications like MAD is a good question. But the recession has hit many print publications pretty hard in recent times, leaving great newspapers and magazines hanging on for dear life.

David Letterman Wins Ratings War Again, Thanks Largely To Palin


Based on the ratings from last evening, David Letterman appears to be building a clear and steady ratings lead over Conan O'Brien as the Sarah Palin controversy along with some big name stars has helped Letterman cement his recent ratings gains. At the same time, Sarah Palin appears to be using the Letterman controversy to create some sort of values campaign issue. The reality is that both have emerged as gaining something from the controversy.


The truth is that comics tell many jokes, many of which may not always be in the best of taste. Sometimes cheap jokes get cheap laughs. And comedy cannot always be so concerned about hurt feelings. However, Palin's fight with Letterman doesn't appear as real genuine here, and certainly seems more contrived than anything. Palin also hoped to get some political mileage out of another David Letterman joke about her buying makeup at Bloomingdales to get that "slutty stewardess" look, but Palin failed to rally a mob of pitchfork carrying slutty stewardess types with this phony victim's rant as much as her phony victim's rant about the mild Alex Rodriguez joke garnered.


Palin's complaints about the Letterman joke appear to be more of the same old right wing culture smear politics that attempt to falsely blame popular culture for causing crimes such as rape just as much as those old 1930's smears by the old Ku Klux Klan against minorities, claiming that just the very presence of minorities contributes to rape. Whenever the far right wants to obfuscate an issue, they holler rape, much as some lunatic would holler fire in a crowded theatre hoping to create some havoc.


The fact of the matter is that Sarah Palin is a pretty insignificant politician that only speaks for a small fringe of supporters. And it is unclear whether she will even run for re-election for Alaska governor in 2010. However, odds are that she is putting together a presidential bid to nowhere for 2012. But at least David Letterman is laughing. His ratings are way up. And he is cementing a position as the new king of late night TV once again, which he lost a few years ago to Jay Leno as Conan O'Brien struggles to build a new audience for his 11:35 version of the TONIGHT SHOW.

Cash Strapped Americans Turning In Small Change To Banks To Pay Bills

One sad new commentary on the continued economic problems that the recession is creating for many families is the recent big increase of many Americans now turning in small change like pennies, nickels and dimes to banks for cash to pay bills. Many banks now note twice as much small change traffic compared to only months ago. Meanwhile two states, Oregon and Washington noted increases in May unemployment statistics. Oregon's unemployment increased to 12.4%, the largest number recorded since 1976 when modern new methods to figure unemployment were employed. In Washington, based on the huge decline in construction work, unemployment statistics increased to 9.4%. Both states noted a 0.3% increase in unemployment figures since last month, clearly indicating that unemployment problems tend to be only worsening despite attempts by the states and the Federal government to stimulate the economy. Further, on Wall Street there appears to be some signs of investor discouragement as well, with the markets retreating both business days. Whether this signals just a market correction, or genuine concern that the economy is barely improving are all real concerns.

It is known that unemployment tends to historically trend six months behind the economy. However, in the U.S. many economic trends continue to lag while some segments in nations such as China continue to improve. In China, the automobile market looks strong, and manufacturing seems to be rebounding somewhat.

Ahmadinejad's Coup


When it looked certain that he would lose last weekend's rigged presidential election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did just about everything humanly possible to rig the vote in his favor. In all there were around 40,000 polling places, however at least 14,000 of these were mobile ones there were supposed to be in independent locations such as hospitals, but instead were moved into police stations and military bases so that government forces aligned with Ahmadinejad could easily identify opponents of his regime. Further, there were no polling booths or an opportunity to cast a secret ballot, as the polling officials were aware of how each voter voted and often filled out the ballot for the voter. Further millions of voters were functionally illiterate, not able to read or write well enough to fill out their own ballots, so polling officials aligned with the Ahmadinejad regime of course filled out these ballots as well. Further, despite the complete absence of voting machines to count votes, somehow the Ahmadinejad government claimed that all 40 million ballots cast were somehow counted only two hours after the polls were closed. Ahmadinejad was also allowed to bribe many poor voters with the gift of 400,000 pounds of free potatoes that were distributed right before the vote took place, pretty much in exchange for their votes. The fact of the matter is this election was a complete farce. It is also likely that Ahmadinejad has enough political alliances among the ruling religious leaders such as Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei that he is making himself president for life of Iran, where elections are now only a mere window dressing.


Today Ahmadinejad is in Russia, seeking to strengthen his alliances there. Further, Ahmadinejad could attempt to become a player in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has pulled together the powers of China, Russia, India and Brazil as four emerging powers to act as a counterweight to NATO or other Western political or military alliances. Ahmadinejad could be seeking the protections of this alliance to allow his regime to build a force of nuclear weapons and to resist pressures from Washington and Israel to abandon this dangerous program. Further, Iran could forge new business opportunities abroad in these nations, giving it new finances to afford a huge military buildup as well as buying off some of the frustrations of the upper class of Iran who supported the broader looking trade values of moderate candidate Mousavi.


The hardline religious leaders such as Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei recognize that Iran could be subject to some sort of military attack from Israel's hardline Netanyahu government which now has a majority backing among the Israeli population in a current poll to attack Iran if it has nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad's gestures towards Russia and China give the country more time to stall while it attempts to build better missiles and to develop some sort nuclear weapon and to make that weapons small enough to fit on those missiles.


The fact of the matter is that it looks like nothing will get in the way of removing Ahmadinejad from power. Further, it appears that nothing will prevent Ahmadinejad and his religious allies among the ruling religious council from seeking a nuclear weapons arsenal. And nothing may prevent Israel from from eventual war with Iran, even though it really lacks the conventional weapons to fight such a war, and would likely quickly be forced towards using nuclear weapons or even worse, sucking in the United States to clean up their mess that would make Iraq look like an ice cream social by comparison. Right now there are no good options to look for or to hope for. Iran is in the process of creating a huge future world crisis that a free election with a win by moderate Mousavi might could have avoided.
All of this leaves Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his supporters in an interesting position. On one hand they must appear as loyal to the religious ruling elements and the Muslim faith, while merely opposing the dictatorship of Ahmadinejad and his clearly fraudulent election. Mr. Mousavi brings together the same important elements of the youth voters, the well educated, the middle and upper classes of Iran, and this coalition needs to figure a way to wrest power from a powerful military and police machine run by Ahmadinejad, which is quick to use violence to suppress dissent.
Mr. Mousavi probably needs to look to the example of how Boris Yeltsin was able to speak for and represent the Democratic elements as they sought ways to wrest power from the Soviet ruling machine of government, military and police. Mr. Mousavi is probably as close to a true Iranian democrat as can be found at this point in Iranian society. He is also the best hope to bring some semblance of democracy and civil liberties to this nation and to possiby avoid a major war with Israel at some point in the future by lowering international tensions.
(Interestingly, the Western spelling of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's translation of his last name is a matter of some debate in the English speaking world. In a previous column, I relied on another common English spelling of Mousavi spelled yesterday as Moussavi. The spelling as "Mousavi" appears to be most commonly used, however either spelling appears to be acceptable because of the problems in translating Persian into English).