Sunday, April 30, 2006

Congress Looks Silly In Gas Price Debate

President Bush and most Republican leaders have a huge problem when it comes to creditability on the high price of gasoline this election year. Most Republican Members of Congress have received big contributions from the oil and gas industry, just like President Bush has done. Now when there is a sever oil crisis they look really silly standing out in front of gas stations and talking tough to the oil industry who has given them millions of dollars in contributions over the years. This pandering isn't going to work with the American voters; in fact it will probably have the opposite effect because everyone can see through this pandering. Their best option was to do nothing rather than look like they are trying to do something, which they will never carry through with. The need for power is great and the need for power in Washington is like an addition which Republican leaders see slipping from their hands each passing day.

Many American Republicans left our party over a year ago when they started doing things, which didn't make sense to the rank and file. Over the past few months our original feels have just become stronger as these power hungry politicians have tried to find some way to convince the voters that they deserve another chance. The time for them to have done this was last year when there was no election. However, they just kept on doing their best to anger their own rank and file and now the old ways of getting folks back into the fold come election day isn't working anymore. There were a few folks in the party who saw this coming, but they were quickly dismissed by the leadership and TV pundits who said everything was ok with the Republican Party. They even went so far as to say none of us would vote for Democrats anyway so there was no need to worry about the future of Republican leadership in the Congress.

What these smart by half pundits didn't think about was that while Republicans are unlikely to vote for Democrats even when they are unhappy with their leaders. They will do the next best thing and that is to stay home on election day and watch the current leaders of the party go down to defeat. In reality, this is the only way to get rid of bad leaders in US politics and start over with new faces and ideas who have not gone astray in that corruption center known as Washington DC. I don't see any chance at this time for Republican leaders to convince folks they are truthful in their determination to turn around gas prices or make a serious attempt to fix immigration issues which their own party members have been demanding for months. While they are sick with power in the Congress, they are so afraid of losing that power; they will not take the right course of action to correct problems right now. This is because holding onto power is more important to them than doing the right thing for the folk’s back home.

I hope none of us have to watch the Speaker of the House of Representatives stand in front of a gas station in the future and talk about problems with the oil and gas companies. Really it's shameless. This is the same speaker who will not push meaningful lobby reform in the House because members of that body don't want to lose their perks, even if it means they won't be reelected. The only hope we voters have is that the next bunch of people who are sent to Washington make an attempt to clean up the mess that has been left there by the current Members of Congress. This won't be easy, but they are our only hope of some kind of fiscal discipline being put back into the US government.

Pitbull Breed Has Huge Image Problems

Tonight, my wife and I came home from a trip to McDonald’s to get an ice cream cone. During this time of year we make this trip most Saturday nights. Rather than going inside the restaurant, we take our little dog with us and just eat our ice cream in the car and share our last little bit with the dog. It’s really nice to sit outside around 9pm and just smell the fresh cool air and enjoy the ice cream. Tonight, as we got back to the apartment complex we live in, a small little dog who was not on a leash ran up to us probably because our dog was walking along side my wife and I on a leash. This dog was a puppy Pitbull and it was such a friendly little dog and all of us got along well, including our little Rat Terrier. I’ve never had a bad experience with a Pitbull puppy and tonight was no exception. A few minutes after we started petting the little Pitbull puppy, the owner of the dog came running out of his apartment and scolded the puppy for coming over to us.

I made sure the dogs owner understood that I was the one who called the puppy over and his dog didn’t do anything wrong. However, this dog owner would have no part of that and continued to yell at his dog to the point the small animal was hugging the ground as they crossed our apartment courtyard. All the time on the news I hear about Pitbull’s hurting people and attacking children all over the country. However, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the dogs breed, which is to blame or the poor breading of their owners, which is the problem? I will be the first to admit I don’t know much about Pitbull’s or the tendencies of their breed. However, I do have my suspensions as to the type of human personality who wants to own this breed of dog and what their ultimate intentions are when the dog grows up. Some experts have said that Pitbull’s should never be family pets while other say they are perfectly fine around adults and kids if they are raised properly.

I tend to come down on the side of the experts who say that Pitbull’s can be trained to act right and the reason they have such a bad reputation is because of the way they are raised and treated by their owners. It makes me so angry when someone like this guy tonight punishes his dog when the dog didn’t do anything wrong. More than likely this kind of treatment by a dog owner will cause this animal to grow up and become a fighter rather than a loving animal. Then someday this dog will attack some human being and rather than pointing the finger at the human owner, who raised the dog, society will blame the dog and put it down because of bad behavior. Just like some humans are raised in caring and loving homes, others are raised in places that more resemble hell. The lives of dogs are probably the same way.

In my gut I don’t think Pitbull dogs are not any worse than other animals if they are trained to have the right personality when they are puppies. However, when people who didn’t get proper raising themselves try and train a dog that is extremely strong, they are more likely than not to teach that dog to be a fighter rather than an animal who respects other animals and people. In every one of these cases it’s the animal who will pay the ultimate price for acting the way their owner trained them to. This is such a terrible thing to have happen and unfortunately these same people will go out and buy another Pitbull puppy and start the whole process over again. Then at the end of the day there will be more injured people and another dog, which will be put down just because of the stupidity of its owner.

Related: K9 Personality Traits, City Pitbull Laws, Traveling With Pets, Fun Veterinary Clinics, Movie 8 Below

Pitbull Image Problems

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nightmare 'TGN1412' Drug Trial In UK

A young man of 20 years old is recovering in London after he and other volunteers took part in a drug study recently. The new drug was designed to treat leukemia and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The medication known only by number, “TGN1412”, had already been tested extensively in animals with few side effects. Six total volunteers were injured in some way by taking this medicine, but this one 20 year old man was so injured he remained in a comma for days and he is likely to lose his fingers and toes because of the sever reaction of this medication on his body. The UK government has authorized a panel of experts to look into what when wrong in this clinic trial. These kinds of medical experiments go on all the time around the world and most of the time only small side effects are realized in test subjects.

The most logical explanation is that somehow the medication in this trial was somehow contaminated either through accident or on purpose. Doctors and research scientist are extremely careful when working with new medications and human trials only start once the medications are proven safe and effective on laboratory animals. I have read stories in the past about rival drug companies who have tried to effect the approval of new medications, but surely someone would not be this cruel to innocent volunteers who are just doing their part to prove or disprove a new medical treatment. It makes more sense to me that something bad got into this medicine by mistake. This type of mistaken contamination happens all the time when there are plants that produce many different kinds of products. Some manufacturing plants in the US produce material for agricultural use and at the same time make other products that go into the food supply.

I hope what happened in this tragic drug trial in England doesn’t reduce the number of people who volunteer to test new drugs. The final step in the development of new drugs is critical and if not enough people volunteer to participate in this type of drug testing then research will be set back decades. There is an old saying that once you eliminate the impossible, what ever that is left, however improbable must be the truth. I think that’s what’s going to be eventually discovered in this case. I believe this young man who was hurt so badly in this drug trial was being paid around $3000 US dollars for his participation in the program. That is certainly a small amount of money to be paid considering he almost lost his life and will most certainly lose the use of his fingers and toes.

There are many life threatening diseases which will eventually be cured by experimenting with new drugs. However, risking the lives of volunteers in clinical trials is not a price that should be paid so that new research information can be gathered. Whether it is ultimately proven that this medication effects humans different than animals or that contamination of the medication is to blame, better safeguards need to be put into place so future tragedies like this don’t occur again.

TV 'Doppler' Radar Weather Updates

Being a resident of Central Texas means that during this time of year sever weather is an almost daily occurrence. Local television stations have invested millions of dollars into “Doppler” radar technology and for some weathermen and women they tend to get over excited every time a thunderstorm comes onto the horizon. While I was working tonight my wife said she was unable to enjoy any of the prime time television shows she normally watches on Friday night because our local television stations kept interrupting with weather bulletins every few minutes. One of the major problems in wide open areas like Texas are that local television stations are consider local even to residents which live hundreds of miles away. In the hometown of a television station the sky could be totally clear, but hundreds of miles away there are sever storms happening which could threaten residents in those outlying cities.

Tonight in Central Texas there were some heavy thunderstorms which pounded several small cities outside our hometown of Waco Texas. Every time one of these storm became sever, local television stations in Waco interrupted network programming to give a weather report for someone who lives well outside of the Waco City limits. While everyone is concerned about their fellow man, it does get a bit old when weather announcement are made on local television when those report only effect people who live several counties away. Many of these areas have no local radio or television stations so Waco is the closest place where they can get up-to-date weather information. I know my opinion of this subject seems petty, but these kinds of over blown weather reports have been a pain for people in Texas for a long time.

I grew up in a small Texas Panhandle town, which only had one radio station, and it went off the air at night. The only reliable weather information we got at night was from Amarillo Texas television stations. At that time these weather reports were critical for our small community. Without professional weather folks from those Amarillo television stations we would have receive no information at all. There were local people from law enforcement and the volunteer fire department that watched the clouds looking for tornadoes, but they had no radar equipment to help guide their way. The biggest problem I see in weather information in this modern day and age is that it hasn’t changed much from the 1970’s.

Most people, even in small towns have access to the Internet these days, which means they are able to view the same radar information, the weather professional’s view at their TV studios. Why is it necessary to interrupt entertainment programming all the time when many of these storms are not life threatening to anyone? I think the reason weather professional interrupt programming so often is to justify the cost of their expensive equipment. Of course, if anyone in their viewing area is under a tornado warning, then they should immediately interrupt programming and warn those citizens. However, I have noticed that more and more weathermen are interrupting for much less sever weather conditions and this practice is making their viewers angry. A good balance of weather coverage mixed with common sense is needed.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Katie Couric – Rosie O'Donnell Entertainment News

Katie Couric and Rosie O’Donnell have been in the news the past few days for different, but similar reasons. Couric is taking over anchor duties on the CBS Evening News and O’Donnell is joining the group of women who host “The View” on ABC. I was just looking at pictures of these two powerful women and there is nothing similar about their appearance or personality. It’s almost like they are complete opposites. Katie has that smiling lovable look and Rosie has that in your face, going to knock your head off appearance. While, “looks can be deceiving” in this case I believe what you see is what you get with both of these women. I like both of these women, but in different ways. Couric comes across on television as an impartial television professional, which O’Donnell is an activist at all times.

I hardly ever watch “The View” on ABC. This makes perfect sense because I’m a man and I’m pretty sure the target audience they are going after on that show is female oriented. However, I have seen a few clips of comments made there and I must admit Barbara Walters has brought together women from different backgrounds, experiences and politics to sit at the table together each day and discuss issues that effect the world that day. It would have been easy to just put “liberals” in that group, but from what I’ve heard from folks who watch this show, there is a balance to the viewpoints of the various hosts. Rosie O’Donnell should bring a very strong personality to this group of women and that might be fun for regular viewers to watch. I’m not sure how long, “The View” has been on ABC, but it’s been many years, so Walters and others must have found a winning formula their target audience enjoys to watch each day.

I’m more concerned about what will happen in the long run over at the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. I believe she will improve the ratings of that broadcast tremendously in the first few weeks after she takes over as anchor. However, I have my doubts if she will be able to keep the ratings high over the long run. The reason I feel this way has absolutely nothing to do with her abilities to do this job and her tremendous appeal with the American people. My reasons have more to do with her natural demeanor when it comes on an on-air appearance. Katie Couric’s appeal is as a nice person who smiles and is easy to look at. Network evening news broadcasts are almost entirely made up of stories, which involve death, corruption and natural disasters. I’m concerned how Katie will be viewed in this type of a television format, but at some time in all our lives we are forced to adapt and more than likely Couric will find a way to make this new position work to her advantage.

The best thing about this world we live in is the different type of personalities, which make it, work. Katie Couric and Rosie O’Donnell are two of the most different personalities on television today and I found it interesting that these strong women, in very different ways, were both in the news at the same time today. The American people love variety in their lives and our love for both of these women, in different ways, continues to prove that fact. I wish both of them good luck in their new career challenges and time will tell how each performs their new duties on these two television programs which are a huge part of the lives of millions of Americans each day.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

FEMA Being Replaced - Senators Discuss Changes

A couple of US Senators went on television today and stated their desire to replace FEMA with another federal agency because they believe the whole department is too damaged to continue operation under the same structure. Well excuse me for stating the obvious, but who took FEMA from a stand-alone unit, that was working well and mixed it into “Homeland Security” to begin with? That’s right, it was the US Congress and President Bush that decided this would be best for the country. The President saw problems with this idea from the beginning, but Congress kept pushing until they got their way and forced FEMA and other federal agencies under the same umbrella in the new Homeland Security Department. Now, these same Senators want to start over with a new agency. My question is why not just put FEMA back the way it was before September 11th, 2001?

I guess the main reason they won’t do this is because in doing so they would have to admit they were wrong in their first assessment of how to design the new Homeland Security Department. Now these Senators want to create a whole new agency, outside of Homeland Security, which looks very much like the FEMA we all knew and trusted prior to Hurricane Katrina. That old saying of, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” keeps coming to my mind and really in a nutshell that’s exactly what the Congress did with FEMA. They broke it and now rather than admitting they made a mistake and just putting it back together the way it was before it was merged with Homeland Security. This Congress wants to create a whole new agency, which will cost billions of extra dollars, but will allow many in the Congress to not admit they made a mistake in the first place.

I wonder what else these Members of Congress broke in other agencies, which have yet to be discovered? Having a Department of Homeland Security does make sense in the New World we live in since 911. However, it doesn’t make sense to take federal agencies, which have worked well for years and break them up in a way that will cause more harm than good. It would make more sense to me and I’m sure other Americans if the US Senate would recommend that FEMA be moved out of the Department of Homeland Security and placed once again as a stand alone unit of government. I remember when Bill Clinton was President of the United States when FEMA did its job with great efficiency and received few complaints from elected government officials or the people of the United States. Now the whole agency is broken and these fine elected representatives are looking for someone to blame.

My advice to members of the US Senate is to look in the mirror if you really want to know who is to blame for the problems at FEMA. It would have been so much easier to have a new agency, which only responded to terrorist attacks and leave a fine working agency like FEMA alone to deal with natural disasters, which hit the US every single year. You guys in Congress pushed this new Homeland Security Department down the throats of the American people after 911 and the only way you can sell the idea was to bring different agencies, like FEMA, together under one roof. Well, the new FEMA is a failure, I agree with you there. However, don’t create more problems by trying to create a new agency to take its place when it wasn’t broken to begin with. Simply put FEMA back together exactly the way it was before you joined it to the Department of Homeland Security and move on. Sure, you’re going to take some hits for being wrong in your first assessment, but that’s just the way REAL life works.

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Divided Government Seems To Work Best

People have said for ages that the United States works best when it is being lead by a divided government. What I mean by divided government is no one party controls all of Congress and the White House. The past few years have given us all an idea of what can go wrong when one party controls everything. Even Republicans are not happy with their own party leadership and the main reason leaders in the Republican Party have lost their way is because they have been in control of everything for way too long. The same thing happened when Democrats were in control of the whole government, too. The US government needs a minority party to contend with, just to make sure that the majority doesn’t go nuts with too much power.

There was talk yesterday about President Bush vetoing a bill that is supposed to be helping out the troops in Iraq. However, Congress has loaded this legislation with so many “pork projects” that the President might have to veto a bill that he supports, because it is filled with so much wasteful spending on non military projects. This is outrageous and it’s just another reason why the current group of lawmakers in Washington needs to go home and get a real job. There is no way this kind of “pork spending” would be as bad if the US had a divided government right now. However, it must be really bad if President Bush is willing to use his first veto to stop a bill, which is designed to help US troops in a war, which he supports.

Government worked pretty well when President Reagan was in office and had a Democratic Congress. He was still able to get many of his policies through Congress, even though it was lead by the Democrats. From most polls, the Democrats have a decent chance to win at least one of the chambers of Congress this November. The country will benefit if they do and even some life long Republicans are thinking about staying home this November and letting this happen. While Republicans don’t agree with much the Democrats want to accomplish in government, their presents will help keep Republicans from going crazy when it comes to spending taxpayers money on personal pork projects and letting the budget deficit run wildly out of control.

It worries me that most Americans are so angry at Republican leadership that they might replace them in both houses of Congress this November and then elect a Democratic President in 2008. If this happens, the country will be no better off than it is right now with the Republican Party running the whole government. Both parties are needed to make sure that government does a good job looking out for all the citizens of the United States. In previous years, the voters have kept one party from running the whole show in Washington and my hope is that history will repeat itself again this November in the Congressional elections and in 2008 when we elect a new President. Divided government works under the US system and I hope it will once again be a part of federal governing for years to come.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Flight 93 Memorial Hits A Snag

Representative Charles H. Taylor R-NC has taken a stern stand in the fight to stop the purchase of land to build a national memorial to the victims of Fight 93 in Pennsylvania. While Representative Taylor does not oppose the building of a memorial honoring these brave Americans, he universally opposes the purchase of any more privately held land by the federal government. In his view, the federal government already owns too much land right now. Representative Taylor has a point, from a strictly conservative point of view, but he is taking that position too literally and should realize that exception are always made to the rules when it comes to government. The way one member of the US House of Representatives is able to hold up a project that is desired by almost every other member of the House, Senate and the President of the United States says a lot about how things are really run in Washington these days.

Most experts believe that Representative Taylor will back down this year and allow this legislation to go forward to build a memorial to the men and women who risked their lives on September 11th. The actions of these folks on Flight 93, saved countless lives of people who would have been killed if this flight was allowed to continue on to Washington DC. I still remember hearing the stories of these fine people who, after finding out from people on the ground what was going on that September morning; took matters into their own hands to make a stand and stop the senseless killings of Americans by these terrorist. This weekend a new movie will open in theaters across the country honoring the sacrifice of the people aboard Flight 93. It would be a nice expression of gratitude to their families if Representative Taylor would allow funding to be approved to build a memorial to these brave people. I agree that the government already owns too much land, but this is the wrong place and time to take a stand on principle when real families are still hurting from the tragic loss of their loved ones.

The thing I remember most about Flight 93 is Todd Beamer. Like most folks, even when many people do brave things, I tend to remember the person who says something that is easy to remember and stands the test of time. Todd’s comment of “lets roll” is something I still think about and it was even repeated several times by President Bush in the days leading up to the war in Afghanistan. Todd’s wife, Lisa was on many television shows after 911 and for me it was like she became part of our family instead of just a wonderful spokesperson for her hero husband. There were many other brave men and women on Fight 93 and hopefully this new movie about their sacrifice and bravery will do honor to these unlikely heroes of September 11th. I have written of my mixed feelings in other postings regarding this new movie, Flight 93 and others, which will be released in the near future. I was originally against them because I felt like not enough time had past for their release not to hurt family members of those who lost their lives on that flight. However, it’s becoming more clear to me everyday that most family members are happy with the release of Flight 93 and if it’s good enough for them, it’s certainly fine with me.

Over the past two weeks there has been a release of some of the cockpit voice recordings of the last 30 minutes of Flight 93. While these recording do add to the overall picture of what was going on inside that airplane in the final few minutes of its flight. There are still many other unanswered questions as to whether Todd Beamer and other passengers were able to get inside the cockpit and battle with the hijackers directly. I believe they were able to break down the cockpit door and the fight for control which took place that day lead to the jet eventually crashing in that Pennsylvania field. However, even if they were unsuccessful in breaking down the cockpit door, the efforts they were making at pounding on the door most likely caused the hijackers to decide to crash the plane in that empty field instead of into the US Capital or White House. Lives were most definitely saved that day because total strangers decided to band together and make a stand against terrorist who were out of kill their fellow Americans. It’s still amazing how in a pre 911 world these folks on Flight 93, who had never met before, banned together to make life and death decision within a short period of time.

I get emotional when I think about these strangers who made the first US stand against terrorism without any political speeches or anyone asking for their help. It might seem silly to many of you, but down deep inside I believe most Americans are just like these brave souls on Flight 93. This is why despite the problems we have in the United States; we the people always keep trying to improve not only ourselves, but our country as well. Americans are a stubborn bunch of people, but I believe we are stubborn in a good kind of way. In one way or another we have been fighting for our own freedom as well as others around the world without asking for much in return. It has become fashionable for less free counties around the world to bash the US and claim that we only wish to impose our will on other nations because of our arrogance. While I do agree sometimes we as a nation get it wrong, most of the time we take action against others only when we feel that our own rights and liberty are at stake. With all our problems, I still wouldn’t want to live in any other country besides the United States and I’m so proud of my fellow citizens who gave all Americans a tremendous sense of pride when they made their stand on September 11th on Flight 93.

Read more: Video, Fear, Comair, Accidents, Seaplane

Flight 93 Memorial

Terrorist Murder in Egypt With Bomb

I just finished reading about three bombs that went off in Egypt yesterday, which killed or wonded dozens of people. Why terrorist continue this practice of killing civilians is something I can’t seem to understand. I know the whole idea of terrorism is based on scaring people into submission, but these kinds of attacks seem to have the opposite effect from what is planned when they are carried out. Human nature would tell anyone with common sense that no one is going to fear someone who straps on explosives and kills themselves and other innocent people who are minding their own business. These kinds of attacks cause hatred of the people who carry them out and also stubbornness on the part of people who are attacked for no reason at all.

On 911, when Bin Laden and his bunch of killers attacked the US. Rather than bringing a nation to its knees, all they did was galvanize public opinion against them and cause their whole movement to run into hiding from the rest of the world. There is some kind of twisted logic that goes in the mind of an ideologue. I think these folks actually believe if they show they are cruel enough to attack innocent people that somehow the rest of the world will bow down in fear of them and their cause. Every single time the opposite thing happens, but for some reason their brains can not learn that the way to achieve success in this world isn’t through terrorism, but through negotiation and compromise. I see this kind of attitude in some people from western countries as well. While they don’t try to murder people to get their way, they believe the only way to succeed is to bully their position any way they can toward other people.

There is another possibility here that most people don’t even want to consider. That is, some of these terrorists are nothing more than mass murders. Rather than fighting for a cause they believe to be just, many might just be cold-blooded killers who get pleasure in seeing other people suffer and die because of their power. This type of human trait is seen in serial killers around the world who have no particular agenda except to extract joy in their own life by watching other people suffer. While this type of thinking is sick, by its very nature, I don’t think right-minded people should discount the possibility that what we are dealing with here are just sociopaths with a political agenda. In the old days, these kinds of twisted people lurked in the shadows and took advantage of people who were not paying attention to their surroundings.

I think it’s possible that people like Osama Bin Laden are nothing more than a newer and more modern type of sociopath who loves to watch people suffer from afar, rather than doing the dirty work in person. How else can we explain why they keep making the same mistake over and over again in how people who might be sympathetic to their cause will be completely turned off by the killing of innocent women and children by suicide bombers? I wonder if experts in the field of human behavior have studied this possibility in people like Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist masterminds that plague the world today? While I can’t prove it by any scientific method, it does make sense that folks like this are more interested in inflicting human suffering than they are in achieving a political goal.

Another reason I believe these new types of terrorist attacks might be more sociopathic than politically driven is because these latest attacks in Egypt had three different bombs. The first bomb killed some folks who were in the general area. However, the other two bombs were delayed to a point where they would kill anyone who was rushing to the aid of the first people who were attacked. I don’t see any rules of war, which play into these types of attacks. However, I can see some sociopath getting kicks out of killing people who are only trying to help their fellow man after they are injured or killed by a bomb attack. I know this line of thinking on my part isn’t what is usually put out in the mainstream media. However, we could be dealing with a different kind of enemy than someone who is really interested in furthering their politics around the world. We could be dealing with a new kind of sociopathic killer who is only masking his or her crime in a new way.

There are many types of killers in this world and not all of them act in the same way as the serial killers we have read about in US history books over the years. I don’t think it’s that big of a stretch to believe than someone like Osama Bin Laden is nothing more than a serial killer who uses surrogates to carry out his dirty work under the disguise of religion. To date, I haven’t seen much religion or national pride involved in any of these new types of terrorist attack since 911. Maybe more will be written about the possibility of what we are dealing with here in this new type of terrorist is really just a newer form of sociopathic serial killer. If this eventually turns out to be true, it will help the world better understand the unimaginable pain and suffering these folks are willing to inflict on innocent people who have never done them any harm. Right now it’s easier to just call them cold-blooded terrorists who are trying to further their political agenda. However, if it’s really proven that they are really no different than Kenneth McDuff or John Wayne Gacy, then the world might understand what is really at the root of their crimes against humanity.

In the mean time, we should all pray for the families of the victims of the bombings in Egypt yesterday and pray for the speedy recovery of the folks who were injured.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Buying Liquid Gold At The Gas Pump

When pulling up to the gas pump last night to fill my car with gasoline, a small amount of gas dripped onto the parking lot and for a few minutes it looked like “liquid gold” as it sparkled in the light. While an ounce of gas is nowhere close to the same price as an ounce of gold, the two are vary valuable commodities these days and I wonder what the top price per gallon is going to be before the end of this summers driving season? The good news is, that most of the time the experts are wrong with their dire predictions. I take heart in that because some of them are already talking up the fact that most of us will be paying $5 per gallon for gas sometime during this summers vacation season.

I hope these experts are wrong, but my gut tells me that they are not, this time. There are just too many potential problems brewing in the world right now and every single day developing countries like China and India are consuming more petroleum products than they did the day before. The sad fact is we are all going to have to adjust out lives and thinking when it comes to the price of gasoline, heating oil or natural gas. Not only are the good jobs in the US being outsourced to places like India and China, but our large supply of oil is heading that direction as well. While no one wants to pay $5 per gallon for gas, there is little business or government leaders can do in the short run to reduce the price because they have waited to long to address the issue.

These huge spikes in the price of “liquid gold” which everyone else calls gasoline are jumping faster than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Sometimes when I go to work, the price is 10 cents per gallon less than when I leave 8 hours later. How do these gas stations and convenience stores get their price signs changed so quickly? Do they have a full time employee on the payroll just to go out with their little suction device and pull down the old price and replace it with the new, higher, one? I don’t understand why these businesses don’t go to a digital sign device that can change the price from within the store. That would certainly save them some time and effort when prices are changing, sometimes, by the hour.

The next time you drive into a gas station or convenience store to fill up with gasoline. Take a good hard look at that liquid you are putting into your tank and see if it doesn’t at least look a little bit like “liquid gold” these days.

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Public Learning Curve On Important Issues

Maybe I just spend too much time at this computer reading news these days. Last night, I watch a report with Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes where he interview a retired intelligence officer who was in charge of US intelligence in Europe in the days and weeks before the start of military conflict in Iraq. Almost everything this man was talking about I had already heard or read about months ago on the Internet. This made me wonder if there is a different leaning curve for those of us who spend hours per day reading news and writing about it, from those who don’t keep up with current events at all? I think there is a learning curve when it comes to world events and that proves itself out when polling is conducted to find out what the average American thinks about the issues of the day.

The main thrust of the 60 Minutes story last night revolved around the State of the Union comment made by President Bush in the months before hostility broke out in Iraq. The President said Saddam was trying to buy materials in Africa to restart his WMD program. The former intelligence officer pointed out that most people in the CIA and State Department felt like the documents which this assessment were based upon were forgeries and adviced the White House of this fact. However, the President’s staff left this wrong information in the State of the Union address that year, anyway. When I think about the big picture here, the 16 words which are at the heart of this dispute are a small part of the overall thinking which went into the War in Iraq.

I still believe most of the news media is still missing the point when it comes to who and why the US went to war in Iraq. Most pundits still believe that it was Cheney and Rumsfeld who pushed President Bush into this war. I on the other hand believe it’s the exact opposite of that. I believe George W. Bush was the driving force to go to war in Iraq and VP Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld were just following the instructions of their commander-in-chief. The major media complex has worked overtime since President Bush was elected to try and prove that he is some kind of dumb man who can’t think for himself. I think President Bush prefers this way of thinking and the media play right into his hands when they continue to underestimate the strength of President Bush.

The intelligence officer also said last night that the administration ignored any evidence that proved Saddam was not engaged in restarting his WMD program. This just further makes my point that is was President Bush who wanted this war and he made sure that his administration was out there making a positive case of invading Iraq every single day. I believe President Bush is very smart when it comes to politics and ever since he was governor of Texas, members of the news media just can’t bring themselves to picture this man as an intelligent leader. Back on the learning curve question, maybe the millions of us who read every piece of news we can find each day are missing out on some of the more interesting things in life. However, I certainly don’t want to bury my head in the sand at this point in time when the truth is finally starting to come out about how and why the Bush administration got us in to this war in the first place.

The Secret To Happiness Is Minding Our Own Business

Almost every problem in the world today can be linked, in one way or another, to people who will not mind their own business. Whether it be problems at work, issues within a family or war and peace. Why it’s so hard for many people to mind their own business is something I’ve asked myself over the years and have yet to find a satisfactory answer. Most people can relate this issue to family members who always think they know what’s best for others in the family. Many times the people giving out this unwanted advice can’t even keep their own life on track, but they feel an irresistible need to tell others what they are doing wrong.

The other day I was thinking about some of the major issues, which are facing the US right now. There are many people who believe that homosexuality is wrong and some believe it to be a sin. However, when two people get involved in these types of relationships, they are not hurting anyone else. However, people who want to impose their views on other people’s lives believe it’s their God given right to tell people what they can and can not do in their own home. The most amazing thing about this issue is that people who are homosexual just want to be left alone and would never try and impose their lifestyle on people who do not agree with them. However, people who think they know better than anyone else, believe they have the right to impose their own views on others. Now who is threatening whom in this example?

At the root of most wars in recorded history are disagreements between various religions. One side believes they are right, so they go to war in order to force their enemy to believe the same way they do. This never works, thankfully, but the unfortunate side effects are dead people on both sides of the battle who are willing to die in order to impose their religion and beliefs on other people. There is little doubt that most of the worlds problems could be solved if everyone would just mind their own business, take care of their own family and ignore the way other people choose to live.

While most people claim to want a simple and uncomplicated life, I believe the truth is that they only wish to have a life where everyone else they know believes in exactly the same things they believe in. When anyone else from the outside world has a different opinion of how to live, then problems start to occur. We’ve all seen this happen in race relations. All white/black communities have fought to stay that way, even when people of different races have desired to live there. Really, what business is it of anyone else what color of skin his or her neighbor has? As long as that neighbor doesn’t bother them or threaten their family, it’s none of their business who lives in the house next door.

This is a subject I have thought about now for a long time and if you take the time to examine how many bad things could be solved in your life, if you only worried about problems which were under your control. Then take to heart the minding your own business issue when it comes to the workplace or your own neighborhood. Of course, there will always be times when some folks will cross the line and try and run your life without being asked to do so. However, most of the time good people just want to be left alone and not told what’s wrong with their lives by people who can not even run their own.

Is Congress Listening To Voters Back Home?

Members of the Congress go back into session this week and representatives have apparently got an earful of comments from the folk’s back home, because Republican leaders have decided to put “immigration reform” back up for debate this week. This is all happening only two weeks after representatives of the House and Senate said that immigration reform was dead in this session of Congress. You see there is a little problem for these Members of Congress called an election which will be held this November and the voters back home are very upset at their inaction on legislation about this important matter.

Whether people favor illegal immigration or not, for the Congress to do nothing is becoming a huge political issue for anyone who is running for reelection. Since most Congressional representatives are Republicans, the debate this week will most likely revolve around stiffing up border control and laws, which effect people from other countries who violate US law and enter the country illegally. Nationwide protest by hundreds of thousands of people caused a firm Congress to back off after these demonstrations spilled out into the streets. However, when Members of Congress traveled home over the Easter weekend, I’m sure the home folk’s were not as effected by these demonstrations as Congress people who live inside the “Beltway”.

My guess is that Republican Leaders will attempt to force a vote on some kind of legislation before the end of this week. The longer this debate continues, the worse it is for Republicans who are in the fight of their lives to maintain control of the Congress. In an effort to speed things along, I hope congressional leaders don’t go too far in penalties against illegal workers because if they do it will backfire on them in the next few months. The truth is that President Bush has a much different position on this issue than many members of his own party in the US House of Representatives.

I you remember, a couple of weeks ago members of the Senate reached a compromise agreement one day and the whole deal fell apart within 24 hours when some members wanted to add amendments to the legislation which would have gutted its enforcement power. Senate Majority Leader Frist said after that defeat “immigration reform” was dead for the rest of this year. It’s funny that Frist is now the leading voice saying that reform isn’t dead and will be on the agenda early this week. What happen? I would guess the power of the people got the better of these folk’s over their Easter break and now everyone wants to get back to Washington as soon as possible and try to fix their mistake.

If I had to guess, I would say that Members of Congress will pass a piece of “immigration legislation” which will be unacceptable to President Bush and we will see the first veto of his presidency early next month directed at poorly worded and over harsh immigration reform. This will allow Members of Congress to say that they passed meaningful legislation and it’s President Bush’s fault that it didn’t become law. This will be just the first of many departures of Republicans in the Congress away from President Bush, which will occur between now, and the November elections.

Just get ready for a loud debate and at the end of the day no new laws will be passed to stop a problem everyone agrees exists, but no one wants to face, “head-on”.

Related: Dead Immigration Reform

Is Congress Listening?

More Osama Bin Laden Tapes Released

Are the days of Osama Bin Laden numbered? I certainly hope so. Yesterday, he released another videotape asking his followers to attack Americans all over the world. The text of this latest tape didn’t specify attacking America directly, but attacking Americans in countries around the world. Ever since September 11th, Bin Laden as been hiding out in caves to avoid being killed by American troops in Afghanistan. Since that time other terrorist have stepped up and taken over from Bin Laden and my guess is he is feeling a little less powerful now than he did right after the attacks on American in 2001.

Terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden are really cowards when all their tough talk is taken away. Mainly they encourage young people who have lost hope in their future to kill themselves in attacks which will pave a smooth way to heaven, according to Bin Laden and other which lead such operations. I’ve never seen any one of these, so-called, leaders risk their own life to further the cause they claim to be so committed to. The reason I believe Osama Bin Laden is releasing videotapes again is because he is becoming irrelevant in the war against the United States and more than likely his ego is starting to suffer from lack of attention. This is great news for all Americans.

While Bin Laden would like the world to view him as some type of futuristic leader who will bring down the United States, the truth is that he isn’t brave at all. He just has a way of speaking to young people who will carry out death missions to further his personal objectives. Osama isn’t the first person in world history to use the problems of others to further his own goals, he’s just the latest and more than likely his days are number when it comes to worldwide credibility. It tough to consider anyone a true and strong leader when they spend years hiding out in caves while others risk their life to pursue that person’s agenda. The last I heard of Bin Laden and others within his inter circle they were trying to give orders to their former followers in Iraq, which were promptly ignored.

Even loyal followers will lose faith in leaders who are afraid to venture out of their caves and fight like everyone else. More than likely, Bin Laden has convinced himself that he is so important that his potential death would end the whole war against America and the values we hold dear in this country. The truth is that it doesn’t take courage to hide in a cave while others die for your wishes. My guess is that more and more people who use to see Osama Bin Laden as a strong leader have changed their view of him over the past five years since he went totally underground. Bin Laden can release videotapes every single day, but that isn’t going to change the current perception of him.

Bin Laden can say all day long that he will die before he is ever captured by US forces. However, if think I heard the same kind of statement from Saddam when he was being tracked down as well. However, when coalition forces finally caught up with him, the first words out of his mouth were that he wanted to negotiate. My guess is Bin Laden’s words will be very similar if he is lucky enough to be captured alive.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

One More Election For New Orleans Mayor

It was a close race for mayor yesterday in New Orleans as the current mayor, Ray Nagin, didn’t get more than 50% of the vote in his reelection bid, so there will be a runoff between Mayor Nagin and Mitch Landrieu. I wrote the other day about how silly it was for New Orleans to be having an election, for mayor, at this point in time because hundreds of thousands of residents are scattered all over the country right now. With this latest runoff news, now some people who made long bus trips back to New Orleans to vote are going to be asked to make that long journey again. I guess many will do so, but in much smaller numbers than before.

I’ve tried to stay away from all the past problems with city government in New Orleans because I didn’t want to add to the stress of the citizens there with old bad news, when they already have too many problems to deal with after Katrina. However, many of the past problems of corruption within city government and the police department have been well documented over the years. Just because most of the city is now displaced around the country doesn’t mean that the people who took advantage of those citizens over the years are not still in New Orleans wanting to continue their ways as New Orleans rebuilds.

While most residents who have been relocated say that they wish to someday return to their hometown, the truth is many will not return. Their reasons will vary, but mainly the cost and the trouble of rebuilding their homes and businesses in New Orleans will be more than the average person could financially afford. The emotional stress of returning would be too much for many other residents, as well. When all is said and done the City of New Orleans will most likely be one half the size it was before Hurricane Katrina caused their levee system to fail and flooded almost the entire city.

Having an election for mayor is important, but the timing of this last election is wrong and now to ask people who are spread out over the entire United States to return to settle a runoff election is just plain crazy. This runoff has to favor Mitch Landrieu, in my view, because when an incumbent mayor can not get over 50% of the vote, he’s already in serious trouble with most of the people of a city. In addition to that, Nagin has a huge problem getting thousands of his supporters back on buses to return once again to New Orleans to vote for him again. I would be very surprised if Nagin is able to eventually prevail in the runoff election against Landrieu.

Politics is a strange business. At a time when no one should want the job of leading the rebuilding of a city of almost one million people, several people did step forward to run for the office of mayor in yesterday’s election. The scenic in me wonders, “what’s in for them” to want such a thankless job for very little pay? Maybe the challenge of such a huge job is what’s driving their decision to want the job of mayor in New Orleans. However, judging from the political corruption of the past, I’ll withhold judgment on their real motivation until sometime later. Some probably just want to lead their city out of disaster, but more than likely some also want to reap huge profits from the rebuilding effort.

Hopefully, this runoff election will settle at least the political situation in New Orleans and the people can get back to rebuilding this city before the next hurricane season starts in just a couple of months. The old saying goes that lighting doesn’t strike twice in the same place and I’m sure that former residents and political leaders from the federal, state and local government hope that saying is true when it comes to this years hurricane season.

Problem With McCain - Conservatives Lack Trust

I was talking with my mother a few days ago and she ask me who I thought would be the Democratic candidate who will run against John McCain for President in 2008? My mother, who is a “yellow dog democrat”, is always interested in Republican politics because I follow them much more closely than she does. I ask her, why she thought John McCain would be the Republican nominee in 2008 and she said that everyone she was listening to in the media had pretty much already declared him the winner. I told her that this type of conventional media thinking was very premature because millions of social conservative Republicans will never vote for John McCain for President.

While I don’t consider myself a social conservative, I am a Republican and I too don’t like the way John McCain has been approaching politics ever since he ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign. During that campaign, John McCain was always talking about how special interest money was ruining the political process in the United States. To begin with I believed what he was saying, but ever since I gave his campaign a small amount of money during his 2000 Republican bid, I have received numerous letters from his campaign committee requesting donations for his endeavors. These actions made me suspect to his real intentions years ago and his recent actions of “sucking up” to social conservative leaders this time around strike me as very disingenuous to say the least.

McCain is getting old and the 2008 campaign will be his last chance to run for President. My thinking is that he will do or say anything right now to win the Republican nomination and that sad fact will most likely doom his chances at the nomination. Now the major news media is going to stick with John McCain till the bitter end because of his so called, “straight talk” when it comes to politics. If John McCain represents “straight talk” then I would hate to meet someone that was worse at it than he is. Most social conservatives consider John McCain and other moderate Republicans, RINO’s. That stands for “Republican In Name Only”. No amount of work he can do between now and the 2008 Republican nominating process is going to change the feelings of true social conservatives about his stand on issues that matter most to them.

I feel bad for John McCain because he not only has served his country honorable in Vietnam, but he has been one of the brightest voices for reason in the US Senate for years. However, when a reasonable politician throws his or her hat into the ring and makes a run for President of the United States, then all sound reason seems to leave their brain and they start doing anything to win. If John McCain followed up his good words with the right actions, he might just be the next President of the United States. However, the more people start to see the conflicting principles of this proud and brave man, the less likely they are to support his bid to become our next President.

Hydrogen Powered Cars The Future Of Energy?

President Bush said this weekend that he believes that hydrogen is the future of energy in the United States. This news caught me completely off guard because I haven’t heard the President of the United States talk about any type of new fuel since he has been in office. I certainly am not aware of everything the President says, but this announcement he made today while visiting the State of California is at least something to think about. Many in the news media are already shooting down his proclamation because it doesn’t fit into the Democratic Party line of a lame duck president. I’ve been one of the biggest critics of President Bush’s policies the past couple of years, but if he is proposing a different type of energy sources other than fossil fuels, then that is big news coming from an old line oil man like George W. Bush.

I don’t know much about hydrogen energy except for the limited amount of information I’ve read about it on the Internet. I know hydrogen was used in old style airships we now call blimps today, during World War II because most of the world didn't have a supply of helium, which is a much safer form of lighter than air product which is needed for these huge airships to float. I’m sure hydrogen has come a long way since World War II and while most of it is produced using natural gas, today. There could be other ways to manufacture this new energy source if the world’s best minds started concentrating on how to make it a viable alternative fuel source. The best news about hydrogen is that when it burns it omits no pollution. The only thing coming out of the exhaust pipe is H20, which we all know as water.

The folks who were talking down this idea today said that producing hydrogen from natural gas would still cause pollution when natural gas is burned to create the hydrogen. However, I believe natural gas emissions are not as bad on the environment as coal burning plants or ones that run on products developed via crude oil. At least this idea is something to work with and if the President can get the Congress on board with major government funding maybe this idea might have a chance, down the road, at helping the US break our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Folks, we have to start somewhere and hydrogen energy is just as good of a place to start for me as anywhere else. Now that President Bush has gone out on a limb and named an alternative fuel source, look for the behind the scenes folks who support the petroleum industry to start coming out of the woodwork and condemning this new source of energy.

There is a small chance that with President Bush’s approval ratings at all time lows and the Congress in the cellar with the American people as well, that now is the right time for the government to act in the best interest of the nation. Yes, special interest will still be working Members of Congress and the American people via television advertisements fight any new potential energy source every step of the way. However, something the CEO of GM said a few weeks back in an interview caught my attention and his statement might just apply to the President and Congress as well. He said, “people do their best work when they are under tremendous pressure to succeed”. There is no doubt that the President and members of the Republican leadership in Congress are under pressure right now and this might be the right time to get these politicians to act on something good, without special interest being able to bog down the whole process.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Progress In Iraq Is Being Made Slowly

At last the various elected parties in Iraq are starting to make progress in forming a new government. This is good news for the US because our troops are not coming home until a new government is formed and taking responsibility for the day to day operations of Iraq. Just because a new government is starting to take shape doesn’t mean that it will stand the test of time. I certainly hope it does last because the sooner the US withdraws troops from that land, the better most Americans will feel about this whole conflict. I’ve said on many occasions that things would have gone smother in Iraq is the US government would have pushed for three different countries to take over the old Iraq.

The people who live in the northern part of the country are different for the folks in the center who are different from the people that live in the south. Not only do the different factions of Iraq have different experiences when it comes of democracy and free markets; they follow complete different religions. I have never understood the Bush administration reluctance to divide this country into different sections, but the location of the countries oil reserves must have played some role in their decision making. While not all sections of Iraq are created equally in the oil reserve department, all sections are necessary for the protection of a pipeline to get that oil to refineries and onto the world market.

For obvious reasons, the Bush administration doesn’t want to be seen as trying to keep a nation together for the sole purpose of oil distribution, but I can see no other logical reason for a group of people who hate each other being forced to form a government of cooperation. While just about everyone has given up on Iraq’s huge oil reserves providing the financing of military operations in that country; I have not given up. Future President’s and Members of Congress might just find a way for the new country of Iraq to help pay for the cost of freedom. If not, then we need to find some new leaders in Washington. The problem with the current setup is that oil companies will profit at the expense of the US taxpayer and once the Bush administration is no longer in office, a future president might have a different set of priorities when it comes to Iraqi oil wealth.

There has been worldwide criticism of the Iraqi’s for taking so long to form a working government. However, part of the problem is in the way the US and other coalition partners decided how Iraq would look after the war was over. Can you image an outside force inside the US trying to form a new government a few months after our own civil war? Just image the type of problems they would have just getting the various parties to talk, much less work together in a new government. These are the same types of problems, which are happening in Iraq right now. Unfortunately, oil helped decide how the new Iraq would look and it will effect events in that country for years to come.

Like many experts have already stated on news programs and magazines over the last three years, the Bush administration and it’s partners didn’t see the insurgency coming when they did their initial planning for the War in Iraq. Now they and our young men and women in uniform are paying the price for that lack of foresight into potential issues after the war was over. From day one, the Bush administration saw nothing but blue sky when it came to how a new Iraq would look without Saddam. Their mistake in planning and preparation for this war has cost thousands more lives than it should have, if their initial approach would have contained a more realistic scenario. This fact will be what historians will remember years from now, in my personal opinion.

Bird Flu Update - New Vaccine Development

I saw an interesting story on the news tonight about some brave volunteers who are testing a new Bird Flu vaccine in the US. I guess this isn’t as dangerous as it sounds because the vaccine contains a non-active form of the virus, but I would still be a little concerned if anyone in my family volunteered to take part in this research. More than likely, a vaccine is the best way to attack this potential disaster which is creeping its way around the world and killing up to 50% of the people who become inflected. From the little bit of information contained in tonight’s news report, this new vaccine is injected into volunteers on two different occasions during a 30-day period of time. Then at the end of the 30 days, tests are run to see if the immune systems of these volunteers have begun to attack and kill the virus.

For the most part, people in the United States have not seemed that concerned about the potential of Bird Flu occurring within our country. My guess is that there are so many other more pressing problems to worry about right now, that Bird Flu has taken a back seat. However, that will change when the first case of Bird Flu is identified in the United States. My guess is this could happen before the end of this year. The good news is that Bird Flu has not spread as fast as some expert’s first thought. This extra time has given research scientist a chance to develop and test new vaccines, which could save millions of lives if there is a full-blown outbreak of Bird Flu somewhere in the world.

I admit that I look at birds with more concern today than I did before the news of Bird Flu started breaking in Asia. Like many other families, mine enjoys eating all kinds of chicken from baked to fried. The thought of not being able to eat one of our favorite meals is something I don’t want to consider. I doubt if Bird Flu will effect chicken consumption in the US any more than concerns about “Mad Cow Disease” has effected the sale and consumption of beef products. However, everything is subject to change if a large-scale outbreak of either one of these diseases start effecting large numbers of people.

I’m thankful that there are people who are willing to volunteer and test new vaccines, which will help others. The 62 year old woman who was one of the test volunteers, interviewed on television tonight, said she was taking part in this research because she wanted to do something to protect her grandchildren. When I heard her say that it made me think about the “Greatest Generation” book that was written a few years ago by Tom Brokaw. It seems that our nations greatest generation is still giving of themselves to make this world a better place.

CIA Employee Fired After Media Leak

A long term CIA employee was fired yesterday after a polygraph test showed deception when asked about intelligence leaks to “The Washington Post”. According to some sources, when confronted with the results of this polygraph test, the CIA employee confessed, was fired and then escorted from the building. My guess is there will be more of these types of scenes playing out around Washington as all agencies try to put a stop to high level leaks which have found their way into the “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times”.

When a person enters government service they are warned all the time about the legal implications of leaking classified information to the media or anyone else. While reporters and the public in general have benefited from these leaks over the years, other leaks of classified information have hurt the country and CIA agents, which work undercover throughout the world. I have mixed feeling about what this CIA employee did because she did uncover something which might have been against US law, but at the same time her obligation was to the CIA and to protect the secrets of the United States. More than likely this lady will suffer greater consequences than just losing her job. I would guess the next step would be for the Justice Department to file charges against her, which could carry a life prison sentence.

I image the news media will make this former CIA employee their new best friend. However, I don’t think she should be glorified for breaking the rules of the CIA and the laws of the United States of America. As a career employee, she knew the consequences of her actions and certainly she knew what would happen to her if she was caught releasing classified information to the news media. While some folks may release this type of information to protect the public interest of the US, others will do so for strictly political reasons. I’m not sure which one of these scenarios this fired CIA employee applied to her leaking. However, in the end it’s not going to make a great deal of difference to her ultimate fate as a person who leaked highly classified information to a newspaper.

I have more problems with government employees who leak classified information for political purposes rather than those who believe what their bosses are doing to be illegal. However, even if the President of the United States is breaking the law, leaking classified information to the press is not an acceptable option for a government employee to take. The only legal option I know of for career government employees to follow if they believe their supervisors or government leaders are breaking the law; is to report such conduct up their chain of command or within certain parts of the Justice Department. Leaking is not a good solution to legal issues within the US government.

We need to all remember that there is a secret side to these types of leaks which involve undercover agents around the world who’s identity could be blown and their lives put at risk even when a small amount of classified information is released to the public. Even if no operative’s names are released, a small amount of unknown information in the wrong hands can cause foreign nations and enemies of the US to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together which could lead to extreme danger to clandestine operatives around the world.

Can President Bush Recover From Low Approval Numbers?

In some public opinion polls, President Bush’s approval rating is down at 33%. For any public official this is bad news, but for a President who hopes to keep his own party in the leadership of both the US House of Representatives and the Senate it’s even worse news. Most political experts have shown examples of how previous president's recovered from bad public approval numbers, but President Bush has a problem most of them did not have. President Bush has now lost support of at least 1/3 of hard core Republican voters. While folks in the middle will move back and forth in their public opinion of the President, “base voters” usually are the last to leave the side of their President and usually will never return.

This hard truth is terrible news for Republican Members of Congress who are up for reelection this year. While President Bush isn’t officially on the ballot, his leadership of the Republican Party is on the ballot via his segregates in the Congress. It is possible for Members of Congress to distance themselves from an unpopular President, but the current leadership in both the House and Senate have hooked themselves to the policies of President Bush for years and they will find it difficult to run on their own record. It’s going to be very difficult for President Bush to regain enough public support in the last couple of years of his presidency to get much done and that’s really not a bad thing considering the projects he has pushed up until this time have been mainly disasters.

Most members of the national news media have focused on the 33% job approval figure, which President Bush received in a recent poll. However, that same poll shows the 1/3 loss of support from Republican voters and any political analyst will tell you that the loss of bases voter support is much worse news than the 33% job approval number. Hard core supporters are not moved very far most of the time, especially hard core conservative Republicans. A politician has to work very hard to get them to abandon their leadership, but George W. Bush has put in the extra work and done something most presidents have been unable to do. Turn off 1/3 of his base voters.

It's true that base voters will not vote for the other party when they are disenchanted by the policies of their party leadership. They will instead, just stay home on Election Day and not vote at all. In effect this will cause their party to lose that election because most elections are decided by less than a 5% margin of victory. If this 1/3 figure of Republican who are dissatisfied with President Bush’s job performance holds in future polling, then Republicans in Congress are going to lose, “big time”, in the upcoming November elections. There will be little they can do to reenergize that lost voter base. Only new candidates in future elections will move these voters back to the Republican Party.

New Energy Sources Need To Be Explored

The jawboning about high gasoline prices is continuing this weekend with both political sides blaming each other for the problem. While some politicians try to make hay out of the latest increase in crude oil prices, the average American is just plain suffering because of these latest increases. As the world becomes more industrialized, the sad truth is there just isn’t enough oil to go around so the price of gasoline goes up.

Sure there are those in the oil industry and middle-eastern countries that manipulate the price of oil to increase their own personal profits, but with the recent growth in the Chinese economy, shortages are only going to get worse. The world is faced with some tough choices in the years to come about how this ever increasing need for crude oil will be solved when there isn’t enough of it to go around. The only real solution is to find alternatives to fossil fuels, which won’t be easy, because the countries and companies who are profiting greatly from this latest price increase will fight such efforts by other companies and governments.

My hope is that the time has finally come when governments around the world will move this planet towards new energy sources. This move will eventually pay dividends not only for a planet which is “hooked on oil”, but to the worldwide environment, as well. There are two huge issues, which face everyone on the Earth today. First, there is not a large enough supply of oil to meet the worlds needs and global warming is getting worse because the planet is burning too many fossil fuels.

The powers that be will bury their heads in the sand, like always, because the issue of developing alternative forms of energy will be controversial. Politicians like dealing with sure things when it comes of policy and politics and there is nothing certain about the development of newer and cleaner forms of energy. The good news is that market economies in nations around the world will be working hard on finding these new forms of energy because, if successful, there could be a tremendous payoff for them down the road.

Governments like the US need to be ready to spot new forms of energy, which show promise and financially support their development. It’s also critical that the old fossil fuel industry be forbidden from buying out these new technologies and putting them on the back shelf to protect their own energy monopoly. The sad fact is that these old oil companies and countries have billions of dollars at their fingertips ready to spend to stop any kind of new competition. I believe good energy alternatives would have already been developed and helping out worldwide energy demands today, if current oil interest were not allowed to block their development by purchasing companies that desired to compete with them.

More than likely all of us in the United States will be paying close to $5 per gallon for gas at some time during this summer. The days of cheap oil prices are long gone and won’t be coming back because the world economy is growing at such a raid pace right now. The only solution is a long term one where we finally break this addiction to fossil fuels and get on with the business of finding better and cleaner ways to supply our energy needs. The world will not be able to drill its way out of this present crisis and the sooner we all realize this fact, the quicker we will find new ways to supply our future energy needs.

Related: Gas Pump Price, Politics Of Nature, Tattered Image Issue, Gas Thefts Up, New Gas War

New Energy Sources

Electing A Mayor In New Orleans

The people who are still left in New Orleans and the folks who can find a bus service to take them back there will be voting for a new mayor in the next few days. Why in the world the City of New Orleans is having an election at this point in time in the history of this city is something I do not understand. From most accounts, more than 50% of the pre-hurricane Katrina population is scattered across the rest of the country. How will elections now benefit the people who currently reside temporarily thousands of miles away from New Orleans?

I guess there are laws and rules, which require an election, but by no means will the election of a new Mayor of New Orleans be considered a TRUE election in the years to come. It’s sad when politics get involved in the rebuilding of a city, but I think that’s what’s happening here. My gut tells me that when all is said and done the current mayor will be reelected. However, that might not have been the cases if some kind of one-year delay was placed on this election. At the root of what’s going on here is the desire by some Republicans to take over this once Democratic city and put in one of their own to mold the rebuilding of New Orleans more to their liking.

This isn’t going to work and when this new campaign is over, Republicans are going to look worse than they did before. The real people that have lived in and will live in the future New Orleans will feel deceived and reject all future GOP attempts for years to come. I think most residents in New Orleans would turn their racist mayor out on his ear, if outside forces were not trying to influence this election. However, political partisans can’t seem to resist the temptation to try and pull something, even after a disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

Republican partisans are not doing anything different that Democratic partisans would do under the same circumstances in a Republican city, which was hit by disaster. There are some ugly sides to politics and they don’t get much uglier than what we are seeing in this latest race for mayor in New Orleans. I believe in my heart that big changes are on the way for New Orleans and the rest of the country this November. Millions of people are sick of these political games which are being played by ideologues.

As a disenchanted Republican, I can say that millions of us will be staying home in November, which will cause great hardship to our party. This is the right thing to do because the Republican Party has lost its way and refuses to listen to the people that voted them into office in the first place. We will not be influenced by political ads anymore about what terrible things will happen to the country if liberal Democrats are elected. Why? Because in reality there are no differences between liberal Democrats and the people who CLAIM to be Republicans in Washington right now, they are one in the same.

There was a time when I thought electing Republicans would make a difference in the US government. Now I don’t see how any Democrat could do worse than what the current Republican leadership has done. In years past I have always believed that government worked best when it was divided. Maybe I was right back then because the countries problems were not as great when each political party has some kind of say in how laws and policy were written. Right now, the government is in the total control of my party, the Republicans, and just look what kind of mess they have made of things.

Friday, April 21, 2006

'Sentinel' Movie Getting Bad Reviews

I just finished reading a couple of bad reviews of the new movie, “The Sentinel” starting Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Douglas. Just like millions of movie buffs, I would have missed some of the best movies ever made if I based my attendance on the opinions of people that watch and review movies for a living. I’ve seen a few of the TV commercials promoting the weekend release of this new movie and it looks like the kind of movie I would like to see.

I’m a huge Michael Douglas fan. He is one of the best movie stars of my generation. I tell my wife all the time that what makes his movies great are his facial expressions when he gets extremely angry. I think every major star in Hollywood has at least one strong point, which causes them to stand out from other actors. That strength in Michael Douglas is his wide range of facial expressions, which can go from devious to angry in the blink of an eye.

I have watched Kiefer Sutherland a couple of times on the Fox TV show, “24” and while his is also a great actor, the entire bases of that show is too hard for me to believe. Also, on the few occasions I have watched the show, Sutherland has spent half of the program yelling at the top of his lungs at suspects. I think the problem I have with “24” is that I’m too old to fit their target audience. More than likely they are looking for that 18-30 year old person who loves drama and doesn’t ask too many questions about the script.

Michael Douglas is the type of actor, which should play the role of an aging Secret Service agent, well. I remember when Clint Eastwood played a similar role a few years ago and I enjoyed that movie very much. Most of the reviews I read today said that Michael Douglas was too old for this role to be believable. Maybe they are right, but too many times Hollywood cast young people in roles where they are too young to be believable to me.

“The Sentinel” is the type of movie I have been encouraging Hollywood studios to make for a long time now. At least this movie has something original to offer and not another remake of a 1970’s television show like “The Dukes of Hazzard” or “Dallas”. Michael Douglas is a wonderful actor and even if the script for this new movie were lacking, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t carry this movie to box office success. As long as a movie has some semblance of reality, then folks will go see it if there is great acting talent. I look forward to seeing this new movie at some future date.

Related: 2006 Movie Favorites

Sentinel Bad Reviews

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China Growing Up As Economy Expands

Several news broadcasts I watch today said that China would be insulted by the vocal demonstration by a lady at the White House welcoming ceremony of their President, Hu Jintao, yesterday. In the words of an old friend of mine, “get over it”. If China desires to be considered an adult in the modern world, then they need to understand that the price of a ticket to this party is called “free expression”. People in the US have this right, unlike the more than one billion people who live in China and the sooner the leaders of China learn this fact, the quicker they will become a major contributing member of the free world economy.

China is walking a tight rope by trying to keep old communist ways while at the same time open their country up to free markets and free trade. In the end they won’t be able to have their cake and eat it too because every single day that the Chinese people are exposed to capitalism is one day less they will accept the kind of communistic rule their country has been subjected to for generations. This pride thing of never backing down is as old as Asia and while old habits die hard, they will eventually die in China, just like they are dying in Japan right now. Honor is one thing, but false honor is something entirely different.

I believe this New World economy is good for China. I still have my doubts as to whether the US will fair as well, but the average citizen of China will benefit enormously by selling their goods and services around the world. Why? Because free trade will do something in this country that years of internal struggle have not been able to accomplish and that is it will open the people of China up to a new way of doing business. This will also lead the citizens there to force government changes from the inside out. For most Americans, it’s difficult to understand how many people actually live in the nation of China.

The last number I saw was that 1.3 billion people call China home. To show how many people I’m talking about here, if the entire population of the US disappeared from China tonight, there would still be one billion people living there tomorrow. Now that should give everyone in the US something to think about. This is also the reason that every major business in the United States desires to do business with China. Just imagine how many potential consumers there are for goods and services those American businesses want to offer to the people of China? It’s a figure that no CEO can ignore and still keep his or her job.

The major problem with China today is the same one that has faced all countries who have wanted to do business with this country for years. That is, you’re dealing with a government that is stuck in the past and doesn’t want to change; ruling the largest group of consumers in the world. My feeling is that eventually the 1.3 billion consumers are going to win, but it’s going to take time for major changes to happen. The first challenge leaders in China are going to have to face is that a country with 1.3 billion people will never follow a communist leadership model forever. Change is hard and change in a communist country is even harder. However, change is happening in China, just like is has been happening in other totalitarian nations around this world and the sooner the leaders of China understand this fact, the better things will be for them and the people of their country.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

TV Political Talk On 'Hardball'

This afternoon I switched on “Hardball” on MSNBC to catch up on some of the political happenings of the day. Joining the shows host, Chris Matthews, was Pat Buchanan who has become a regular commentator, once again, on MSNBC. There was also another lady on the show which I didn’t know and can’t recall her name at this time. The discussion today was based around President Bush’s public approval slide. Chris and Pat both blame all the problems in the Bush administration on the War in Iraq. While I believe the war is hurting President Bush, the real answer to the President’s problems are much deeper than a conflict which could turn into a civil war, unless the elected parties there form a government, soon.

While watching this debate today, I couldn’t help but think about why blogging has become so popular around the world. The major news media, including cable news programs, always try and make everything to do with politics so simplistic and easy. If politics were that easy, almost everyone that gets involved in them would be successful. Pat Buchanan was talking about how good the US economy is right now and he referred to the recent run up in the stock market. The truth is that the current US economy is good for big business people, but for the average working class family, events in the US and around the world are scaring them to death.

Yes, new jobs are being created in the US economy at a rapid pace, but these jobs are not the kind which pay well or offer good benefit packages. Those types of jobs are quickly leaving the US mainland and heading for places like India and China. The US economy is going great for those who own businesses or stock in companies, which are benefiting from the rush to globalization. What Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews are missing here is the “fear factor” that millions of Americans are feeling right now. Especially, if they have a job that is considered mid-management professional or blue collar. There are millions of these people that see layoffs in the tens of thousands at GM and Ford and wonder how the US economy can be considered growing and expanding with this kind of bad news.

I believe the US economy is in a full-fledged sprint right now towards losing the middle class, which has enjoyed success in this country since it’s founding. The rich are getting richer, but in reality the poor are not getting poorer, yet. Their numbers are just increasing at a greater rate because the jobs which are being created after this globalization tread are paying much less than the jobs which they filled before. Most Americans want to work and will accept positions, which pay less and offer fewer benefits. This work ethic also causes the economy to appear better than it really is because most people will accept a lower paying job rather than going on welfare or standing in some unemployment line.

Millions of Americans are now relying on other sources of news and information rather than just trusting their local newspapers, one of the major broadcast networks or cable news shows like “Hardball”. What’s going on in the US economy isn’t simple and it’s getting kind of old listening to these Washington insiders who think they can find an answer to complex questions in a one hour cable news show each day. Sure there are simplistic people who watch these shows and believe they can solve the world’s problems with a few slight changes to public policy. The good news is that more and more Americans are starting to look deeper into these problems than just following the same old political rhetoric, which is funneled out by politicians and cable news shows each day.

The world is a complex place and simple solutions don’t exist or they would have already been implemented into public policy. Just remember that just because a bunch of jobs were created or the stock market is hitting new highs, doesn’t mean that the average American is benefiting from this good news.

Durham North Carolina DA - Duke Discrimination

I’ve been watching with interest the happenings at Duke University the past couple of weeks and the criminal charges against some of their students include rape. So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that either the alleged victim is a liar or the Duke students who are accused have the best legal representation in the world. Whether these charges are eventually proven or not, I believe the Durham NC District Attorney is mainly grandstanding right now to assure his victory in an upcoming election. This part of the story is disgusting to watch, but it goes on all the time in the US.

This whole debate about these Duke students allegedly raping this young woman is leading to other discussions, which need to take place. The biggest being “rape shield” laws that are common place in most of the 50 US states. These laws protect the identity of the accuser, but do nothing to protect the person being accused of a crime. To me, this is a double standard in our criminal justice system. If one party is protected from public scrutiny, then both should be shielded from media attention.

When these laws were first put into place, years ago; their main purpose was to encourage more women to report rape. However, the world has changed a great deal since these “rape shield” laws were first passed. Today, the sigma of being a rapist is just as great as being the alleged victim. Even if these Duke students are eventually found “not guilty” of this crime, the stigma of being charged with rape will follow them forever. It’s only fair that if one party involved in a criminal prosecution is protected from public identification, that all parties in the same case should be shielded, as well.

There have been experts on television the past couple of days who have said that the identities of these young boys don’t need to be shielded because they are already protected by the criminal justice system. Under the US system all suspects are considered “innocent until proven guilty”. That might be true in a literal since, but in reality most people are convicted in the court of public opinion long before they ever enter a courtroom. Also, any good criminal defense attorney knows that the only, for sure, way to get their client found “not guilty” is to prove they are innocent beyond any reasonable doubt.

If these charges are eventually dropped, most members of the news media will continue to shield this woman from public scrutiny. However, the names and faces of the people she accused will remain in the public domain forever. This double standard in our criminal justice system must be debated and some kind of solution found where both parties are protected from public exposure, at least, until the case is ultimately decided in a court of law.

Mumps Cases Spreading In Illinois School

When I was a kid, I remember those dreaded mumps that would pop up occasionally and make kids in my small Texas Panhandle school sick. It’s been years since I’ve heard much about this disease, but “mumps” are back and most of these new cases seem to have started in the state of Iowa. This latest outbreak has quickly spread to other states and is expected to get worse over the next three to four weeks. So far, about 1000 people have become sick with “mumps”.

Yesterday, an Illinois school who was hosting a track meet became afraid some of the Iowa students, which were participating, might infect other athletes at the track meet so they sent the Iowa track and field team back home. “Mumps” are a virus that is spread through coming into contact with infected people. When a person with the “mumps” coughs they spread this virus to other people in their general area.

There is a “mumps” vaccine available for those who have yet to be infected. The US federal government has rushed 25,000 doses of this vaccine to the effected states, all of which are in the Midwestern part of the country. Most of the people infected with “mumps”, so far, have been young and while no one wants to see children become ill. In a way, this is good news because younger people are better equipped to survive this disease than their older counterparts.

The symptoms of “mumps” are a high fever, feeling weak and tired and sever headaches. With time the bodies own immune system will win the battle with “mumps”, but this process could take as long as ten days to two weeks. This latest outbreak of “mumps” is a big concern to national health officials because in an average year, only 250 to 300 cases of “mumps” are seen in the entire United States. So far, over one thousands cases have been reported in only a few weeks time in this Midwest outbreak alone.

The states effected with cases of “mumps” so far include Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma. The problem with any outbreak of a contagious disease in the world today is the ease at which people travel from city to city and state to state. This disease travels with them wherever they go and the virus finds a new home in unsuspecting people along the way. A small number of people get infected with “mumps” and show no outward symptoms of the illness. However, they may still spread this disease to others which will become sick with the disease.

The advice of US health officials is to get vaccinated against the “mumps” if you live in one of the effected states. However, if you are already infected with this strain of "mumps", the vaccine won’t do you any good. It takes several weeks for the vaccine to build up to a point where the body recognized it and learns how to defeat the disease through a person’s own immune system. If you’re already feeling sick, see your doctor immediately for treatment. Most people survive “mumps”, so there is no need to panic. More than likely your doctor will recommend you stay in bed and treat the symptoms of the disease for a couple of weeks.