Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Star Trek Tricorders--Coming to a Docter near you!

This is just totally cool. From MSNBC News:

New handheld medical scanners coupled with regular cell phones resemble "Star Trek" tricorders and could see what ails you with a push of a button.

The invention, using off-the-shelf cell phone technology, would allow medical scanners to boldly go where none have gone before — to the aid of the roughly three-quarters of the world's population currently without access to ultrasounds, X-rays and other imagers used for everything from detecting tumors to monitoring fetuses.

In addition to offering medical scans in developing nations, the devices "could find their way in ambulances, or rural clinics," said Boris Rubinsky, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Medical imagers are typically bulky combinations of scanners, processors and video monitors. Rubinsky and his colleagues instead physically separated these components, so the most complicated elements of imagers — the powerful computer processors — can reside at a remote central location.

The researchers next devised a simple portable scanner that could plug into a cell phone. The phones transmit the raw scanning data to the processors, which create images to relay back for viewing on the cell phone screen.

We're getting closer to the world of Star Trek. We already have our clamshell portable communication devices (i.e. cell phones), phasers, and we're still working on the impulse engines, and even the transporter beam. And now we're getting to the point of having portable medical tricorders into our doctors hands for scanning, analysis, and treatment of patients. Of course, there is one doctor I know who really doesn't need a tricorder to scan and analyze his patients. From YouTube:

He's dead Jim!

GOP candidate speaks at Hitler's birthday party

Tony Zirkle, Republican candidate for 2nd District U.S. representative, addresses a weekend gathering in Chicago of the American National Socialist Workers Party at a celebration of the 119th anniversary of the birth of Nazi leader Adolph Hitler. From The New York Times.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure what to say about this NY Times story:

A congressional candidate is defending his speech to a group celebrating the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, saying he appeared simply because he was asked.

Tony Zirkle, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Indiana's 2nd District, stood in front of a painting of Hitler, next to people wearing swastika armbands and with a swastika flag in the background for the speech to the American National Socialist Workers Party in Chicago on Sunday.

"I'll speak before any group that invites me," Zirkle said Monday. "I've spoken on an African-American radio station in Atlanta."

The 2nd Congressional District includes a large portion of north central Indiana spanning from South Bend to Kokomo. It includes Pine and Jackson Townships in Porter County and parts of Washington Township, which includes the eastern edges of the Valparaiso.

It is currently served by Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly.

Porter County Republican chairman Chuck Williams on Tuesday denounced Zirkle's appearance at the gathering.

"He certainly doesn't hold the view of the of the Republican Party," Williams said. "I don't know why you would stand up in front of a picture of Adolf Hitler when millions of Americans fought against that kind of oppression."

I'm not sure what to say about this guy, except is Tony Zirkle completely batshit crazy??? My apologies here for the crude language, but I can't seem to make any sort of political analysis on a GOP congressional candidate who decides to speak before the National Socialists on old Adolf Hitler's birthday. What is this guy Zirkle trying to accomplish? Of course, it gets even better with the NY Times story:

Zirkle said he did not know much about the neo-Nazi group and that his intention was to talk on his concern about "the targeting of young white women and for pornography and prostitution."

I just googled National Socialist, and I received plenty of hits linking National Socialist Party with Nazism (or the Nazi Party). In fact, the first link was Wikipedia's definition of the Nazi Party--complete with the Nazi flag. Tony Zirkle could have easily found plenty of information on the American National Socialist Workers Party website and see the Nazi symbol in the upper right hand corner. Does Tony Zirkle even know how to use the Internet?

I guess not.

I'm being rather sarcastic here because it appears obvious to anyone with half a brain to realize that Zirkle is a neo-Nazi sympathizer. He wanted to speak before the Nazi group, even as he was currently running for Congress--he's courting the Nazi vote here! What especially boggles my mind is did Zirkle even realize that this speech before a Nazi group would come out in the news media? Did Zirkle even think that by zoning in on the Nazi vote, he's threatening an even larger vote base of moderate conservatives if they realize Zirkle spoke before a Nazi group? Zirkle's speech is out on the Internet in glorious video, courtesy of the American National Socialist Workers Party website

Right after this story broke the media, Zirkle has been backpedaling, saying that he didn't know much about the Nazi Party. According to The News-Dispatch:

Zirkle confirmed to The News-Dispatch on Monday he spoke Sunday in Chicago at a meeting of the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party, whose symbol is a swastika.

When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn't know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it.

"This is just a great opportunity for me to witness," he said, referring to his message and his Christian belief.

He also told WIMS radio in Michigan City that he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.

The Crown Point Republican spoke in front of about 56 "white activists" at an event honoring the birth of Hitler. The German leader was responsible for the genocide of millions of Jews and others during World War II.

This is a major CYA here. Zirkle knows that he screwed up, and is trying to justify it by saying he'll speak to any crazy group as a means of getting "his message" out. I just hope that Indiana's 2nd District voters realize just how much of a bigoted and hateful man Zirkle is, and send him back to the sewer where he belongs. This is not the kind of person we need in our government.

You can watch more of this story on Zirkle through this WSBT Channel 2 news report here through YouTube:

Complete batshit crazy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Chip an' Dale

This is a rather interesting little Disney cartoon that introduces the two famous chipmunks Chip and Dale. These two mischievous chipmunks get their official, name introduction in this 1947 cartoon, where they foil Donald Duck's attempt to use their tree as a fireplace log during a cold, snowy, winter's day. Walt Disney did produce two previous cartoons using these chipmunks as antagonists, the first being Private Pluto in 1943, and then Squatter's Rights in 1946. But I would say that these two pre-Chip 'n Dale cartoons are really fleshing out the characters, their personalities and behaviors--similar to the pre-Bugs Bunny cartoons of Porky's Hare Hunt, or Hare-um Scare-um. There is an evolutionary process that takes place in creating these timeless characters. And when these two chipmunks take on Donald Duck using their tree stump as firewood, you just know you are in for a classic, fun cartoon. And the quality of the Walt Disney animation is still the best! From Youtube:

And as a post-script here, you know Walt Disney had some winning characters here when Warner Brothers both imitated, and poked fun at the famous chipmunks with Warner's own duo rodent team--The Goofy Gophers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bush: U.S. economy "not in a recession"

There is really not much to comment on with this ABC News story:

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday said the U.S. economy was not in a recession but was experiencing a slowdown.

"We're not in a recession, we're in a slowdown," Bush said at a news conference at the end of a two-day summit with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Bush pointed out that the U.S. economy grew in the fourth quarter and that the statistics for the first quarter were not out yet. "But there's no question we're in a slowdown and people are concerned about it, obviously," he said.

Bush reiterated his view that taxes should not be increased, especially when the economy was showing sluggishness.

"The key is for Congress not to raise taxes during this period of time and (to) send a signal that they're not going to raise taxes," he said.

You can watch the YouTube video here:

I can't wait until Bush finally leaves office.

Then again, it probably shouldn't be surprising that President Bush doesn't believe the U.S. economy is in a recession. I mean, President Bush didn't even realize that the price of gas was predicted to be shooting up to $4.00 a gallon. From YouTube:

Excuse me Mr. President, but gas prices have already gone over $4.00 a gallon here in California.

Mr. Bubble Boy hard at work.

Buchanan calls Maddow's analysis "Marxist dialect."

I found this story through Crooks and Liars, and I'm just amazed at what an incompetent shrill Pat Buchanan is. Why MSNBC still has this guy on their political coverage amazes me.

First, the back story. This is from last night's MSNBC show Race to the White House, which was covering the Senator Hillary Clinton's win over Senator Barack Obama in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary. The panelists during this coverage were David Gregory, Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan. Gregory brought up the question of Barack Obama "going the distance" in Pennsylvania, knowing that winning Pennsylvania was a long shot for the Obama campaign, and is a strong argument that Obama could bring to the super delegates. Maddow agrees with the statement, explaining that there are different motivations for voters in selecting candidates between the primary and general elections. Maddow explains that while Obama may not be winning in the big states, which are splitting the Democratic votes between both Obama and Clinton, Obama is winning in the money race, the pledged delegate race, and the enthusiasm race.

Pat Buchanan completely misses Maddow's argument. Buchanan believes that since Obama can not beat Clinton in Pennsylvania--even with Clinton's high negative poll numbers--then Obama can not beat Republican Senator John McCain in the general election. Maddow states that there is "no connection" between Obama's inability to beat Clinton, and whether or not Obama could beat McCain. Maddow claims that they are "two totally different kinds of races...."

Here is where Pat Buchanan totally goes off his rocker. From YouTube:

Look, let’s hold the Marxist dialectic.... I'm trying to figure out what Buchanan really meant by this asinine statement--aside from trying to put Rachel Maddow down since he not only couldn't understand Maddow's reasoning here, nor could he even counter Maddow's argument with his own reasoning. Instead, Buchanan reiterates his lame excuse that the super delegates are so worried that Obama can not beat McCain because Obama can't beat Hillary. What is even more amazing is the look of surprise on Maddow's face as Buchanan insults her with this crass statement. There is such an utter stupidity and contempt that Buchanan has with this insult to Maddow. What is worst, MSNBC allows Buchanan to get away with this crap because he is supposedly the "conservative commentator" for this panel. But the news is no longer about news--it is about political punditry. And if you can get a near-fascist wacko like Pat Buchanan on your network to spout some stupid, crazy insults as a means to generate ratings, you can bet that Pat Buchanan will continue on with this crap.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chuck Todd: "Impossible for Obama to lose his lead"

MSNBC's Chuck Todd does a pretty good job analyzing the latest delegate math between the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. From YouTube:

Next, a little disclosure. This YouTube video was posted by I'm thinking that the Obama campaign is using this latest MSNBC video to bolster their own claim that Hillary Clinton can not win the race, and should drop out. But Barack Obama has not yet clearly won the Democratic nomination. He is ahead of Hillary Clinton in the pledged delegate count, but does not have enough delegates to cinch the nomination here. Whether the Obama campaign likes it or not, around half the nation's Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton here. Again, the Obama campaign and Clinton campaign are going to have to sit down and hack out a deal to create a winning ticket to satisfy both the Obama and Clinton supporters. Both camps will need to reconcile their differences and emerge as a unified team in order to propel the Democratic Party into the White House in November. And that means that the Obama campaign will have to give a major political favor to Hillary Clinton for her support.

Democratic money race--Obama outraises Clinton in March

This is from the Los Angeles Times:

Battling to keep her presidential hopes alive, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ended March with less than a fourth of the money that front-runner Sen. Barack Obama had in the bank for the coming contests, newly filed campaign finance statements showed.

Clinton had less than $10 million available for the remaining primary battles, including today's vote in Pennsylvania, compared with Obama's $42 million in primary funds.

At the same time, Clinton disclosed $10.3 million in debt, most of it owed to her cadre of political consultants, suggesting that if the campaign were to end now she would be financially underwater. Obama had $662,000 in unpaid bills.

The New York Democrat's debt could be "a glimpse of how it all comes to a close unless she has a shockingly good victory" in today's Pennsylvania primary, said political scientist Bruce Cain, head of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. "Campaigns end not because candidates make rational decisions about their prospects but rather because others who give resources make that decision for you," Cain said.

In March, Clinton raised sums that in any other campaign would be impressive -- $20 million. But Obama amassed $41 million last month.

I'll admit that I am impressed with Barack Obama's fund-raising juggernaut. It is such a powerful system of creating a huge internet database of small donors, who are willing to pitch in small dollar amounts to the Obama campaign without maximizing their political contributions. This is the next generation of campaign fund-raising for both political parties.

One other detail that surprises me is the $10 million debt that the Clinton campaign owes to her campaign consultants. Hillary Clinton raised $20 million for March, but half of that money will go into paying off her high-priced political consultants, leaving her to $10 million to run the campaign in the remaining seven states. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has $42 million, and almost no debt, available to pick and choose his fights against Clinton in the remaining state primaries and caucuses. This is not a position for the Clinton campaign to be in, since they will have to spend money in states defending against selective Obama attacks. It is really not a position of strength for the Clinton campaign.

It is a matter of time.

MSNBC projecting Clinton win in Pennsylvania

MSNBC is calling Hillary Clinton as the winner of Pennsylvania primary:

NBC News projected Tuesday night that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had won Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, a victory that analysts said she had to have if she were to remain a credible candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton, independent analysts and the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had predicted ahead of time that Clinton would win the state, where she enjoyed large leads in opinion polls until recently. But after closing the deficit in the last few weeks, Obama’s advisers said he would have the momentum unless Clinton won by a sizable margin.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a senior adviser to Clinton, maintained that “this was a big win in Pennsylvania.”

I love how Terry McAuliffe thinks that this is a big Hillary Clinton win here. It is not, considering that even Barack Obama's campaign was predicting that Clinton would win the state. The big question is by how much will Clinton win the state? If it is within 5-10 percentage points, then both campaigns are still at the status quo from when they started the Pennsylvania campaign--with Obama ahead of Clinton by around 140 pledged delegates. There is no way that Hillary Clinton can get ahead of Barack Obama in the pledged delegate count before the convention. And the super delegates know that Obama is ahead in the delegate count over Clinton. They are not going to do anything until the final state caucus and primary is finished, and we will know what the final delegate tally will be. Obama will be ahead in that count.

Does that still mean Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race? Not exactly. We still have a Democratic Party that is split between the two candidates, and that I expect, would be happy with either candidate, or even be thrilled with both candidates on the same ticket. So even though Barack Obama is getting closer to wrapping up the Democratic nomination, he still needs Hillary Clinton in order to rally her supporters to his camp. There will need to be some type of reconciliation between the two candidates, before the convention, because they both need each other. They need a unified Democratic Party, where Obama supporters will need work with Clinton supporters in order to defeat the potential third Bush term under John McCain. Both sides need each other to get a Democrat in the White House. And if the two candidates can't reconcile their differences and come before their supporters, united in the common goal of winning the White House...well, then this country is truly in a state of disaster.

But the writing may be on the wall for the Clinton campaign. The only way for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination now is to convince the super delegates to her side. But the super delegates know that if they throw their support to Clinton when Obama has the lead in the pledged delegate count, the super delegates are courting a political disaster of tearing the Democratic Party apart by voting against the wishes of the states' caucus and primary voters. This is how you destroy the Democratic Party and hand the White House to McCain on a silver platter. Of course, this is also the only way for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination at this point. The real question is whether the super delegates are willing to risk a political disaster, and the potential loss of the White House for the next four to eight years, by quickly jumping over to the Clinton side. At this point, they are staying quiet until all the state primaries and caucuses are finished. After which when they are positively certain that Obama is ahead in the delegate count, they may end up throwing their support for Obama. And while the Clinton campaign may not be ready to drop out of the race, they may have to suspend their race within the next couple of months, depending on the money situation. It is going to come down to the last seven states, and how much money both candidates have to spend in those states.

One final quick comment. As for Hillary Clinton talking about how Barack Obama could not win big states and how she can--that is all pretty much desperate talk from the Clinton campaign in a move to sway the super delegates to her side. Yes, Clinton has been winning the big states, but they have been close wins of around 10 percent or less. In California, Clinton won over Obama, 52-42 percent--the difference of 10 percentage points. In Ohio, Clinton won over Obama 54-44 percent, and Texas was even closer at 51-47 percent. Clinton blew Obama out in her home state of New York, 57-40 percent. And the Pennsylvania returns are showing Clinton's projected win over Obama at 54-46 percent win--a seven percentage point difference. Aside from Clinton's win in New York, these are not blow-out wins for the Clinton campaign. These are close, big state wins that really show a divided Democratic Party supporting both candidates. And I still suspect that whoever the Democratic nominee is, these Democratic voters may just rally around the Democratic nominee for the purpose of keeping the White House out of a third Bush term under John McCain. The Democratic base is energized for this 2008 race--look at the heavy turnout in Democrats for voting in the Pennsylvania primary, and the previous state primaries and caucuses that have taken place. The key point here is to unify both the Clinton and Obama campaigns for the common goal of electing either Hillary, Barack, or even both into the White House for 2008.

USA Today headline: Bush's disapproval rating worst of any president in 70 years

Not much more to comment here. From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

Bush's rating has worsened amid "collapsing optimism about the economy," says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies presidential approval. Record gas prices and a wave of home foreclosures have fueled voter angst.

Bush also holds the record for the other extreme: the highest approval rating of any president in Gallup's history. In September 2001, in the days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's approval spiked to 90%. In another record, the percentage of Americans who say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reached a new high, 63%, in the latest poll.

Assessments of Bush's presidency are harsh. By 69%-27%, those polled say Bush's tenure in general has been a failure, not a success.

Low approval ratings make it more difficult for presidents to maneuver, limiting their ability to get legislation passed or boost candidates in congressional elections.

"The president understands war and the slowdown in the economy weigh down public opinion, but the situation in Iraq is improving, and the economy is about to get a big boost from the stimulus package," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Bush has had dismal ratings through most of his second term. His approval rating hasn't reached as high as 50% since May 2005. He has been steadily below 40% since September 2006.

Views of Bush divide sharply along party lines. Among Republicans, 66% approve and 32% disapprove. Disapproval is nearly universal — 91% — among Democrats. Of independents, 23% approve, 72% disapprove of the job he's doing.

I love White House spokesman Scott Stanzel's spin on Bush's unpopularity. The president understands that the war and the economy are bad, but they will be getting better--you just have to wait a little longer. You just have to wait until January, when Bush will leave office and dump the entire mess on his successor. And if things are still bad in January, 2009--it is not Bush's fault!

I guess King George, The Deciderer is still fantasizing about history vindicating him--just like Harry Truman.

The real interesting number in this USA Today poll is the independents, with 23 percent approving of President Bush's job performance, and 72 percent disapproving of Bush. Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain will certainly try to solicit the independent voters with the message that he is a "maverick" senator who has butted heads with the GOP. However, McCain's political policies are pretty much an extension of the Bush administration's policies. And the independents are overwhelmingly disapproving of President Bush's job performance. The key point here for the Democrats will be to tie this albatross of President Bush around John McCain's neck, and force the McCain campaign to sink within the Bush administration's failures. And McCain is certainly tying this Bush albatross to himself, with his continued support for keeping the war in Iraq going for another 100 years, making the Bush tax cuts to the rich permanent, and allowing the U.S. to drown in even more debt. It is a powerful message that the Democrats can use to convince the independents to not vote for McCain, if they are convinced that a McCain presidency will really constitute a third Bush term. And if the U.S. economy and the war in Iraq continue to worsen to November, that will cause even more problems for the McCain campaign in their own desire to court the independent vote.

Oil sets new record above $119 a barrel, gas now at $3.51 a gallon

This is not surprising. From MSNBC News:

NEW YORK - Gas and oil prices pushed further into record high territory Tuesday, with retail gas reaching a national average of $3.51 for the first time and crude nearing $120 as the dollar fell to a new low against the euro.

At the pump, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas rose 0.8 cent Tuesday to $3.511, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices for diesel — used to transport most food, industrial and commercial goods — also rose overnight to a new record of $4.204 a gallon.

Gas prices are nearly 66 cents higher than last year, when they peaked at a then-record of $3.23 in late May, and have prompted many analysts to raise their estimates of where gas is going to go.

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we could get to $4,” said Antoine Halff, an analyst at Newedge USA LLC.

Other analysts are less certain. Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service, thinks gas prices will rise only another 10 cents to 20 cents nationally. That would mean they would peak near $4.15 a gallon in California, where prices are typically highest, and around $3.50 in New Jersey, where they’re typically lowest.

Surprise! The Shell station at 453 Main St & Twin Lakes in Bridgeport, California is selling regular gas at $4.59 a gallon! Granted, this is a single case, but it shows that gas prices are going nowhere but up! The regular gas prices in San Jose are averaging between $3.77 a gallon for the cheap stuff to $4.05 a gallon for Valero regular gas in Palo Alto. I was expecting gas prices to hit $.400 a gallon here by Memorial Day weekend, with the start of the summer driving season. It appears that I was off by a month! And the premium stuff here in San Jose is already above $4.19 to $4.25 a gallon!

This makes me wonder if we're going to see $5.00 a gallon gas by the end of this year.

Wall Street Journal’s managing editor leaves

Sounds to me like News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is ready to "Foxify" the Wall Street Journal. From MSNBC News:

NEW YORK - Marcus Brauchli is stepping down as managing editor of The Wall Street Journal just four months after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the paper, the company announced Tuesday.

Brauchli, who had been in the post for just under a year, will stay on as a consultant to News Corp. A search for his replacement will begin immediately.

Brauchli didn’t go into detail about his decision to leave, telling the Journal’s staff in an e-mail that with the ownership change to News Corp. complete, “I have come to believe the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing.”

Through a spokesman, Brauchli declined to be interviewed for this story.

Murdoch has been moving quickly to reposition the Journal as a competitor to the New York Times, adding more political coverage and reorganizing the paper.

On Monday the Journal added a third page to its opinion section, moved a daily column feature off the front of the Marketplace section and added an extra column to Marketplace’s front page.

Nearly all corporate news is now moving to the Marketplace section, with the front section focusing on breaking news, the economy, politics and opinion.

I once had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, and I will admit that I loved the way the Journal covered business and economic news. The WSJ's writing style was the best, business information reported was top-notch--you knew what was going on within the business world that day when you read the WSJ. The WSJ editorial page was total crap, pushing the standard corporate hype of more tax cuts, less business deregulation, and vote Republican. You didn't order the Wall Street Journal to read the editorial pages--you ordered the Wall Street Journal to read about the business news!

But that is all slowly changing as Murdoch takes control of the WSJ. Murdoch has a tendency to push his extremist conservative ideology through his media empire--and I'm not talking about just through the editorial pages and segments of his newspaper and TV shows. Murdoch has shown just how you can shape the news to fit your own propaganda--look at how the Fox News Channel "editorialize" its news content to support the conservative ideology, and even the Republican Party. And with the WSJ, Murdoch wants to place all the corporate news reports off the front page, and use the Journals front page for breaking news and opinion--in other words, politicize the Wall Street Journal's front page to push Murdoch's extremist, conservative ideology. To bring Fox News propaganda to the Wall Street Journal.

And don't think it is not going to happen because the Bancroft family is demanding that the Journal remain independent from the rest of Murdoch's media empire. Whoever is hired to become the next WSJ's next managing editor will have News Corp. experience and loyalties to Murdoch. This next managing editor will continue to incorporate the Journal deeper into the News Corp. empire, giving Murdoch even greater control in deciding what goes on the Journal's front pages, and how the news will be slanted to Murdoch's ideological views. It is only a matter of time, as Murdoch places his own News Corp. people within the WSJ's staff. We are watching the slow demise of a premier business newspaper to be replaced by another "yellow journalism," GOP propaganda machine.

I no longer subscribe to the Wall Street Journal.

Pennsylvania primary today

Today is the big day for the presidential race, with Pennsylvania holding its primary today. And the candidates have been out campaigning in the Keystone state for the past couple of weeks. The turnout today has been heavy, as according to The New York Times:

PHILADELPHIA — For the first time in six weeks, the Democratic presidential nominating contest returned to the ballot box as voters across Pennsylvania turned out in record numbers on Tuesday to cast their judgment on Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Let’s just say it’s very busy,” said Joseph Passarella, the director of voter services for Montgomery County, sounding a little harried. “Our phones have been ringing since 6:15 this morning and have been ringing nonstop. We’ve never had a primary election this busy.”

Voting lines were long and voter-service phone lines were jammed across the state, from Philadelphia in the southeastern part of the state to Beaver County in the west. “We’re just overwhelmed,” said Geri Shuits, a polling clerk in Beaver County. “I’ve gotten so many phone calls, I just can’t keep up.”

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to at least double the 26 percent recorded in the 2004 primary, and perhaps approach that of a general election, even though there is no presidential contest on the Republican side. “It’s a crazy day,” said Stacy Sterner, chief clerk in Lehigh County, who noted that one polling place had 100 people waiting to vote when it opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time. “If I didn’t know better,” she said, “I would think it was November.”

The verdict that all those voters will render — on a multi-front battle for the popular vote, pledged delegates and expectations — will help determine how long the primary campaign continues after Pennsylvania.

Now I've been a little reluctant on talking about the Democratic polls for this race, simply because I don't trust the latest Pennsylvania polls for this race. My feeling here is that there is too big of an undecided vote with Pennsylvania voters, having to choose between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. These undecided Pennsylvania Democratic voters are going into the voting booths, and making their decisions at that moment of choice--regardless of who they will claim to choose during the entrance, or exit polls. I think that this choice is also being switched around with voters who have claimed to made up their minds during these polls, and are possibly switching their votes at the last minute. Either way, here is the latest polling data through

Pennsylvania poll for top Democratic presidential contenders, 4/21/08. From

What is important about this graph is that in 2007, Hillary Clinton had a 20-point lead over Obama which has evaporated as the Pennsylvania primary date drew closer. The difference now is that Hillary Clinton's lead has shrunk to between 5-10 points. Hillary Clinton needs a double-digit blowout win in Pennsylvania in order to keep her presidential campaign hopes alive, and hopefully even up the delegate count against Obama. According to MSNBC, Obama leads Clinton in the number of pledged delegates "1648.5-1509.5, out of 2,025 needed to win the nomination." If Clinton wins Pennsylvania by around five percentage points, we will still have a status quo going into the Democratic convention, with Clinton winning a big state, but Obama maintaining the delegate lead. An Obama win in Pennsylvania could spell the end of the Clinton campaign. There are 158 delegates at stake in Pennsylvania, making this a big race for both candidates.

Looking through the various liberal political blogs here, I've certainly noticed an interesting thread of blogs demanding that Hillary Clinton should drop out of the presidential race. Obama has the lead in pledged delegates and Clinton can't win the math game of overtaking Obama in the pledged delegate count. A continuation of this race is a big boom for the McCain campaign, allowing Senator John McCain to appear "presidential," and run a general election campaign against the presumed Democratic nominee Barack Obama. A continuation of this fight could split the Democratic Party, and force the Democrats to lose this 2008 election to a third Bush term under McCain. These are some of the arguments I have seen within the liberal blogs, and they could possibly be true. But I'm not sure if Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race just yet. I do believe that an Obama win in Pennsylvania will spell the end to Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination. Obama will certainly increase his lead in the pledged delegate count. It would take either an act of God, or a complete self-destruction of the Obama campaign, to vault the Clinton campaign into the lead, and the Democratic nomination. But as long as the status quo is being maintained with the delegate count, and as long as the Democrats are splitting their vote between both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, then Hillary Clinton should continue to stay in the race as long as she can. When she goes into the Democratic National Convention, she can use her delegate count to solicit political favors from either the national Democratic Party, or even the Obama campaign--can you say Vice President Hillary Clinton, or Senate Majority Leader Hillary Clinton, or even Supreme Court Justice Hillary Clinton? She may not be able to get the big prize of the Oval Office, but she will still have a strong position within the party. And again, this race is going to come down to the point where the gray beards of the Democratic Party will order both Clinton and Obama to sit down, and hack out who will be the nominee for president, the nominee for vice president, and see that both candidates reconcile their differences and come up with a winning ticket that will unify both sides for the next big race against the GOP and McCain. Because Barack Obama does not have this Democratic nomination sewed up in the bag, anymore than Hillary Clinton has lost this nomination. What I see here are Democratic voters equally supporting both candidates--they like both Hillary Clinton's message of experience, and Barack Obama's message of change. It now becomes a question of how do you reconcile both of these messages into a winning theme against John McCain in November.

Prince William lands chopper in girlfriend's back garden

Okay, this is really getting ridiculous. From The Daily Mail:

Prince William was under fire again after it emerged that he had landed his £10million RAF helicopter in girlfriend Kate Middleton's back garden during an official military exercise.

Miss Middleton and her parents are said to have watched in delight as the second in line to the throne practiced a series of take-offs and landings in the paddock of their sprawling detached home in Bucklebury, Berkshire, earlier this month.

Details of the two-hour stunt emerged just days after the prince was heavily criticized for using another Chinook to fly himself and his brother Harry to a stag weekend on the Isle of Wight.

It appears that Prince William is learning the fine art of combat chopper flying to stag parties and emergency combat landings in his girlfriend's garden. I can see the prince engaging in one stupid stunt on the RAF--but two stupid stunts in the same month? If an ordinary chopper pilot would have done that, his ass would have probably been grounded for the rest of his life. And our prince here is flying a CH-47 Chinook helicopter--we're talking about a big, two-rotor helicopter that is used to hauling troops and supplies to the battlefield:

Royal Air Force CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

So let us continue on with The Daily Mail story:

The RAF has repeatedly refused requests by the Mail to confirm how much William's attachment has cost taxpayers, arguing that it would take too much manpower to sit down and work the figures out.

The incident is understood to have taken place on April 3 during the final part of the course - codenamed Golden Kestrel - designed to allow army officer William, who one day will become head of the armed forces, to "familiarize" himself with the role of the RAF.


RAF sources told the News of the World that, William, 25, himself came up with the idea of taking the helicopter to Berkshire, claiming there was a shortage of landing spots at RAF Odiam in Hampshire where he was based for part of his attachment.

After the plan was approved by his instructors, the prince flew the 16 miles to Miss Middleton's family home where he completed one circuit of the field at the back of her parents' million-pound house and practiced landing and taking off in their paddock.

He then piloted the helicopter back to Odiham for further tuition. The entire operation is estimated to have cost around £30,000.

This story just gets better and better--it was the prince's idea to fly his chopper to his girlfriend's house. And the Royal Air Force approved of the operation. I could just imagine the scene in the Middleton's family home as Prince William just happens to land his Chinook in their family garden.

Sound of big helicopter blades thumping overhead, growing in intensity.

Kate Middleton: Mum! William's popping in for a spot of tea!

Kate Middleton's Mother: Tell that royal boyfriend of yours NOT to land on my roses--I just planted them! Oh, would William like some Earl Gray, or Jasmine?

Kate Middleton: Too late! And there goes the petunias!

Of course what is even more incredible is how the RAF not just endorsed this crazy plan, but actually defended William in engaging in this stunt. Going back to the Daily Mail story:

A Ministry of Defence spokesman yesterday defended its decision to allow William to land the Chinook in the Middletons' field, however, saying: "Battlefield helicopters routinely practice landing in fields and confined spaces away from their airfields as a vital part of their training for operations.

"These highly honed skills are used daily in conflict zones such as iraq and Afghanistan.

"The sortie on April 3 was fully authorized and planned and was an agreed part of Prince William's attachment to the RAF."

Of course, this is all standard CYA by the Royal Air Force, which would love to see this embarrassing incident buried. It doesn't look good when royalty is using military equipment for their pleasure--be it a stag taxi service, or to impress their girlfriends. Because it appears that the top RAF brass is getting pissed off at the royal stupidity that is taking place within their service. Again through the Daily Mail:

It has also angered RAF top brass who had been savouring the "fabulous" publicity that William's attachment to the force had brought in this, their 90th anniversary year.

Pictures of the Prince of Wales awarding his son his wings at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, watched by Miss Middleton, on April 11 made front pages around the world.

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, is said to have "erupted" with rage at the "sheer stupidity" of the situation and is said to have demanded a "line-by-line" explanation from subordinates.

One senior RAF source told the Mail yesterday: "William hasn't done anything wrong but the naivety of those around him in allowing him to make these flights without forseeing the potential problems they could cause is astonishing.

"I think there has been a bit of royal fever here."

Royal fever indeed. The RAF was probably hoping for some big, positive press coverage when William received his RAF wings this month. What the RAF didn't expect is that young people sometimes do stupid things--especially if you're royalty, and are in the military, and can get away with it because you're second-in-line to the British throne. My guess is that the to RAF brass is sending the word down through the command to stop Prince William from engaging in these stupid stunts. In other words, cool the royal fever here. And that royal fever can also be quickly cooled when William starts a three-month deployment with the Royal Navy in June.

Next question, what are the Middleton's going to plant in their Chinook-flattened garden?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Schoolhouse Rocks--Energy Blues

This Schoolhouse Rock video seems appropriate enough--considering that oil is now at $116.00 a barrel.

Time to fill up them gas guzzling SUVs!

Music and lyrics are by George R. Newall, the song is performed by Jack Sheldon. From YouTube:

Sometimes I think I'm runnin' out of energy
Seems like we use an awful lot for
Heatin' and lightin' and drivin'
Readin' and writin' and jivin'
Energy ... You'd think we'd be savin' it up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain proposes gas tax holiday

Well, it appears that GOP presidential nominee John McCain now has a proposal for helping Americans cope with the increasing gas and energy costs. McCain's proposal--another tax cut, disguised as a "gas tax holiday." From BusinessWeek:

For months now, political analysts and strategists have been arguing that John McCain needed a more developed economic program to match the extensive policy prescriptions he's outlined on Iraq and other national security issues. As the economy has increasingly moved front and center in the election, that difference has become even more glaring. Until recently, McCain's economic program consisted largely of a call to extend the Bush tax cuts.

On Apr. 15, McCain took a big leap forward in doing that. In a broad-ranging economic speech in Pittsburgh, he called for several highly targeted tax cuts and federal spending initiatives. Included were a summer gas-tax holiday that would suspend the 18.4¢ federal gas tax and 24.4¢ diesel tax, and a doubling of the personal tax exemption for dependents, from $3,500 to $7,000.


To help consumers weather the downturn immediately, McCain urged Congress to institute a "gas-tax holiday" from Memorial Day to Labor Day. His proposal came on a day when oil prices hit an all-time high, rising past $113 per barrel.

Mr. Populist McCain is at it again, trying to ride this wave of American anger and concern over the U.S. economy, while hoping to court a few votes for the presidential election. And what is a better way to court a few votes, than to propose a "gas tax holiday" for those same American voters who are feeling the pain at the gas pump? There is just one problem for Senator McCain's populist gas tax holiday--it is an economic disaster. From The New York Times:

On the face of it, John McCain’s proposal to offer a gasoline tax “holiday” during the summer driving season might sound like a good way to cut gas prices at the busiest time of the year.

But economists and energy analysts say it would have little impact on mitigating the rise in gasoline prices. In fact, it could lead to the opposite result.

The federal gasoline tax represents a flat fee of 18.4 cents a gallon nationwide. With gasoline currently averaging $3.39 a gallon, the tax represents a mere 5 percent of today’s pump price. While that’s not trivial, consider that gasoline prices have more than doubled since 2004.

The problem is that lowering gasoline prices at the pump would encourage more consumption. So in the long run, it would push prices up.

The timing of the proposal matters. Senator McCain called on Congress to suspend the gas tax from Memorial Day until Labor Day. That’s typically the period of highest gasoline use in the country as Americans drive to their holiday destinations.

“You don’t want to stimulate consumption,” said Lawrence Goldstein, an economist at the Energy Policy Research Foundation. “The signal you want to send is the opposite one. Politicians should say that conservation is where people’s mindset ought to be.”

So McCain's gas tax holiday reduces the price on gasoline during the peak summer driving season. The slightly reduced gas prices could cause Americans to take more summer driving trips, thus consuming more gasoline. This increases the demand for gas. The gas suppliers--the big oil companies and energy refiners--will probably be cutting back on the supply of gas, citing the need for switching over from their winter formula gas to a summer formula gas. Gas prices will continue to go up. And as gas prices increase, so do the profits of Big Oil.

There is another problem with McCain's gas tax holiday. According to The Wall Street Journal, the federal gas tax "raises money to repair and expand the highway system." A white paper that was circulated on Capital Hill by the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that every $1 billion of federal investment in the highway system supported 34, 779 jobs. So the McCain gas tax holiday would not only increase the price of gas during the summer, but also decrease the number of highway construction and repair jobs due to federal budget cuts on highway spending. And let us not forget that all that increased consumption of gas will also mean an increase in carbon dioxide levels from auto emissions, thus increasing the amount of global warming on the environment.

Just as McCain has played election-year politics by railing against "greedy" Wall Street investors, he is, again, playing election-year politics with this "gas tax holiday." It is another gimmick to shift McCain's image as that of a "populist" presidential candidate by presenting a simplified political solution to a complex problem. This is nothing more than an attempt by the McCain campaign gather votes.

The question I would now have to ask--is the American public actually foolish enough to buy into this latest McCain scam?

Consumer prices continue to rise

This is not surprising. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Consumer prices pushed higher last month as increases in energy, food and airline tickets overwhelmed the biggest drop in clothing prices in nearly a decade.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in March after being unchanged in February.

Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, posted a 0.2 percent rise last month. Both the overall increase and the rise in core prices were in line with analysts’ expectations.

Over the past 12 months, inflation is up by 4 percent, reflecting relentless gains in energy costs, which are up 17 percent over that period, and food prices, which are up 4.4 percent.

For individual food items, the gains are even more stark, with the price of bread up 14.7 percent over the past year and milk prices up 13.3 percent over the same period.

We are now seeing the effects of increased energy costs now being reflected with the higher prices of food. Food needs to be transported from the farms, to the manufacturing facilities for processing, and finally to the grocery stores for consumers to purchase. There are transportation costs--through both railroads and trucks--that need to be added into the price of food items. And those transportation costs include the use of diesel fuel and gasoline needed by train engines and trucks to haul those very same food items from the farms and factories, to the stores. And since energy costs have been rising, this increase in energy costs are cutting into the profits of farms, factories and retail outlets that produce and sell food. That is why both food prices are rising, and why we are seeing this 4 percent jump in inflation.

Now I also saw this interesting MSNBC article on oil prices topping a $115 a barrel:

NEW YORK - Crude futures rose past $115 Wednesday for the first time, propelled by concerns about how much gas will be available during the peak summer months.

In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said inventories of gas fell by 5.5 million barrels, much more than analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected. Light, sweet crude for May delivery responded by rising as high as $115.07 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and later was up $1.15 at $114.94 a barrel.

The report said crude inventories fell by 2.3 million barrels last week, compared to the gain analysts expected.

But the market was torn and traded sharply lower at times by data deeper in the report showing that the country’s appetite for increasingly expensive gas is declining.

“Demand for gasoline is terrible,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. Gas demand has fallen an average of 1 percent each of the last four weeks compared to the same period last year. “Demand should be rising this time of year.”

Still, May gasoline futures rose 5.39 cents to $2.9349 a gallon on the Nymex after earlier rising to a trading record of $2.9427.

The EIA report also said inventories of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, unexpectedly rose last week by about 100,000 barrels. Analysts had expected a sharp decline. May heating oil futures rose 0.73 cents to $3.2812 a gallon.

Demand for gasoline has been falling for months as consumers reacted to a series of price records by driving less. The national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas rose 1.3 cents Wednesday to a record $3.399 a gallon, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s 53 cents higher than a year ago, and is expected to keep climbing along with futures prices and as the summer driving season draws near.

A couple of interesting points here to note. First, the demand for gas is declining. As gas prices approach $4.00 a gallon, consumers are reacting to the price increase by driving less and consuming less gas. Energy analysts have been expecting demand for gas to increase as the summer driving season approaches. What will happen is that oil companies and refiners will cut back on production of fuel, both to reduce the unexpected increase in the supply of heating oil and diesel fuel, and to keep the fuel prices at their current levels. If consumer demand for gas increases during the summer driving season, you can bet that gas prices will shoot up due to both the potential increasing demand, and the reduction of the supply by the energy producers. At this point, I can say that here in the San Jose Bay Area, gas prices are now at around $3.80--$3.90 a gallon for the regular gas, and around $4.00--$4.15 a gallon for the premium stuff. If energy prices continue to increase at the beginning of summer, I think we're going to see gas prices shoot up to over $4.00 a gallon for the regular stuff here as the Memorial Day weekend begins.

The second point here is that energy costs are still rising. Oil prices topped $115 a barrel, breaking even more price records. Granted, the price dropped back down to only $114.94 a barrel, but you can look at this chart on how the price of light, sweet, crude oil has shot up since February of this year:

Futures price of light, sweet, crude oil over the past two years. From

Why have energy prices shot up since last February? I found this interesting Raw Story article that may provide a partial answer to the increase in oil prices:

The number of Iraqis killed in February rose by 33 percent over January, reversing a six-month trend of reduced violence, in a setback to the US military plan to curb the bloodshed ravaging the country.

The combined figures obtained by AFP from the interior, defence and health ministries showed that the total number of Iraqis killed in February was 721, including 636 civilians, compared with 541 dead in January.

It reverses the six-month trend of a steady fall in casualties across the country on the back of a massive US and Iraqi military assault, mainly targeting Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The February death toll is up after a steady fall in the preceding six months. The monthly tolls were 541 in January, 568 in December, 606 in November, 887 in October, 917 in September and 1,856 in August.

The number of people wounded in February was 847.

The jump in February's toll seems to have been caused by two major attacks during the month.

On February 1, at least 98 people were slaughtered when a female suicide bomber blew herself up amid a crowd of pet lovers in Baghdad's popular al-Ghazl animal market.

And in another brazen attack last Sunday, at least 48 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of pilgrims at a rest stop in the town of Iskandiriyah, south of Baghdad.

Violence in Iraq had increased during February, 2008. Toss in the Maliki government's failed crackdown against the Mahdi Army in Basra near the end of March, I'd say that the Iraq war premium on oil futures had dramatically increased over the past couple of months. And if the violence in Iraq continues to increase over the course of this year, then oil prices, gas prices, and consumer prices will all continue to increase.

Expect more inflation.

McCain blames "greedy" Wall Street investors for recession

This is just amazing. I found this through Americablog yesterday, with the source story coming from The Washington Times:

Sen. John McCain this morning said "greedy" Wall Street investors are partly to blame for what he said is probably an economic recession the nation is now suffering.

"There has to be a modification of the greedy behavior of some of these people," he said, using the word "greedy" repeatedly in remarks to the Associated Press annual meeting at the Washington Convention Center today.

John McCain is now blaming "greedy" Wall Street investors for causing the economic recession that the U.S. is now it--John McCain is now an economic populist! And you can bet that it was the same "greedy" Wall Street investors that jumped on to the subprime mortgage bandwagon, pushing a lot of the mortgage-backed investment securities that are now worthless and are creating huge losses among the same big Wall Street investment firms--Investment firms like Bear Stearns, which the Federal Reserve has bailed out. Of course, Senator John McCain supports the Fed's bailout of Bear Stearns:

Asked whether the Fed went too far in helping Bear Stearns, McCain said: "It's a close call, but I don't think so." He said he doesn't support federal bailouts unless it has catastrophic effects on the entire financial marketplace and there were indications that a Bear Stearns failure would have rippled across the entire economy.

So even though McCain blames the greed of Wall Street, he is still willing to allow the American taxpayer to bail out the excessive greed of Wall Street, even as that same greed has resulted in a financial market meltdown. Is it my imagination, or is McCain actually rewarding Wall Street investors for their greed? This is just blatant hypocrisy on McCain's part.

This is election year politics that John McCain is playing with--even as he blatantly denies playing such election year politics in this ThinkProgress video. The McCain campaign knows that they have to play some type of populist role, as the polls are showing that American believe the country is on the wrong track, and Americans struggling in a stagnating U.S. economy. So the McCain campaign is shifting its economic message of blaming "greedy" Wall Street investors as a means of courting votes from Americans who are angry over the financial meltdown due to the mortgage mess, and perhaps blame Wall Street for their role in this mess. But this is only campaign talk. Because even as McCain rails against the same Wall Street investors, he has acknowledged that he will continue to bail out those same investors and speculators that he has railed against.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bush approved "Principles" meetings on torture techniques

Back in April 10, 2008, I posted a story about a damning ABC News investigation revealing that "Principle" members of the Bush administration met and discussed the use of torture on al Qaeda prisoners. The Principles included "Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft." You can watch the ABC News investigation here on YouTube:

Well, now we have a huge update on this story. According to the Washington Post:

CRAWFORD, Tex., April 11 -- President Bush said Friday that he was aware his top national security advisers had discussed the details of harsh interrogation tactics to be used on detainees.

Bush also said in an interview with ABC News that he approved of the meetings, which were held as the CIA began to prepare for a secret interrogation program that included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and other coercive techniques.

"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people" by learning what various detainees knew, Bush said in the interview at the presidential ranch here. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

The remarks underscore the extent to which the top officials were directly involved in setting the controversial interrogation policies.

Bush suggested in the interview that no one should be surprised that his senior advisers, including Vice President Cheney, would discuss details of the interrogation program. "I told the country we did that," Bush said. "And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it."

President Bush knew about the Principles' meetings. He knew that they were discussing torture techniques, and more importantly, he approved of the use of torture against al Qaeda prisoners. What is even more amazing is that Bush claims it is legal for the U.S. to conduct torture sessions on al Qaeda prisoners because Bush said so. It is a rather circular argument that goes back to the almost dictatorial powers that Bush claims to have because he is the Commander-in-Chief, fighting an endless Great War on Terror, and that Congress gave him these dictatorial powers after the September 11th attacks. There is only one law here, and that law is whatever President Bush wants the law to be. And with Congress closely divided between the Democrats and Republicans, there is no way for Congress to reassert itself, through either investigating the Bush administration's criminal activities through subpoena power, or through impeachment of the president and his top advisers. It is bad enough for the president to knowingly approve of such illegal activities that his men are doing on his behalf. But when President Bush publicly states that he approves of such illegal activities that his men are engaging in, it shows just how much contempt Bush has for the law.

Finally, there is one disturbing detail in this WaPost story:

The Post reported that the methods discussed included open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and waterboarding. The threat of live burial was rejected, according to an official familiar with the meetings.

To think that the threat of live burial was even discussed in these meetings is even shocking to me. If burying a person alive--or even threatening to bury a person alive-- is not torture, then what is torture? And did President Bush even know that this technique was discussed by his top officials? The details coming out from these White House torture meetings make the Bush administration seem like a tin-pot, bloodthirsty, banana republic dictatorship. It just keeps getting worst.

I can't wait for this nightmare to end.

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Yogi Bear in Space Bears

For today's Saturday Morning Cartoons, we are taking a trip to Jellystone Party, home of your smarter-than-average bear--Yogi Bear! Created by Hanna-Barbara, Yogi was a rhythmic-talking bear that had an addiction to stealing picnic baskets, and drove Park Ranger Smith crazy at times. Yogi was always seen with his best friend Boo-Boo, who often acted as Yogi's conscience in trying to tell Yogi to not get into trouble--which Yogi often did. There are 35 episodes of Yogi Bear cartoons, and while they may be fairly simple in the plot, they are also very much a classic. When you hear the catch phrase, "I'm smarter than your average bear," you know that such a phrase will come from only one character.

For this episode of Space Bears, a flying saucer lands in Jellystone Park and is first greeted by Yogi and Boo-Boo. The saucer takes some pictures of Yogi, then returns to its home planet to report making first contact with "a typical Earth inhabitor." The aliens from the saucer have every intention of invading Earth, but need more information before starting the invasion. So one alien will return to Earth, disguised as Yogi, to learn more, and ends up disintegrating cars, picnic baskets, and Ranger Smith's office. Naturally, everyone assumes that it is Yogi that is causing havoc in the park, and the real Yogi must find "that screwy bear" and clear his name. From YouTube:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Night Fun Stuff--Billy Idol is Dancing with Myself

I had a little trouble trying to find something to post for Friday Fun Stuff. So I decided to log into YouTube, and I found this little blast from the Generation X past--Billy Idol singing Dancing with Myself. The song was originally released by the punk rock band Generation X in 1981, which contained only two members from the original line-up--Tony James and Billy Idol. Billy Idol adapted the song to a more pop-friendly version for his solo album, which then went gold in 1983. Looking back at the song now, it has a fun beat that makes you want to just get up and dance. The music video, however, is a little strange. Is that Billy dancing with himself, in a post-nuclear holocaust, controlling pogo-dancing zombies with his electrifying power? Someone was smoking something strange back then.

So here is Billy Idol, Dancing with Myself. From YouTube:

Consumer sentiment, GE profit warnings send DOW down 250 points

Looks like today was not a good day for Wall Street with the DOW dropping over 250 points. From MSNBC News:

NEW YORK - Wall Street stumbled Friday after a disappointing first-quarter report from General Electric Co. surprised the market and stoked concern about the health of both corporate profits and the wider economy. The major indexes fell more than 2 percent, with the Dow Jones industrials giving up more than 250 points.

A weaker-than-expected reading showing consumer confidence at a 26-year low subdued any positive sentiment.

GE, which is regarded as a bellwether of big business, said its financial-services divisions have been challenged by the slowing U.S. economy and difficult capital markets. The company, whose orbit extends into entertainment, consumer and industrial manufacturing, finance and health care, also lowered its projections for the entire year.

The conglomerate is one of the early companies to post first-quarter results and its shortfall stirred worries that others still to report will paint a similarly dreary picture. The smaller-than-expected profits from GE injected anxiety into a market that earlier this week saw disappointing results from aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. and a warning from chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

“The market really is focusing on the extent to which problems in the credit markets are spilling over into the real economy,” said Brian Gendreau, investment strategist for ING Investment Management in New York.

The Dow fell 256.56, or 2.04 percent, to 12,325.42. GE was by far the steepest decliner among the 30 stocks that comprise the Dow. Its shares dropped $4.70, or 13 percent, to $32.05.

Broader stock indicators also registered sizable losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 27.72, or 2.04 percent, to 1,332.83, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 61.46, or 2.6 percent, to 2,290.24.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 19.26, or 2.72 percent, to 688.16.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.26 billion shares compared with 1.28 billion shares traded Thursday.

So what exactly happened here? General Electric got caught in the housing and financial meltdown. The bean counters at GE were projecting earnings of around $2.42 a share from its operations for 2008. However, they did not expect a 5 to 10 percent decline in the financial services department, which ended up lowering GE's outlook for earnings to between $2.20 to $2.30 a share. Wall Street analysts were expecting GE earnings to come in at $2.43 a share. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt claimed that the financial services deteriorated due to a combination of "the near-collapse of Bear Stearns," and a "continued shutdown of a Salt Lake City medical manufacturer that contributed to a 17 percent decline in its health care business." Immelt also blamed these financial disruptions late in the quarter for GE's inability "to advise Wall Street in advance about the deterioration in its earnings." The issue here is that General Electric was caught with their pants down. GE didn't know how much of a hit they were going to take due to the financial meltdown--a meltdown caused by the subprime mortgage crisis and the housing collapse. And as a result, General Electric lost almost $47 billion in market value.

Wall Street investors were not just shocked at GE's less-than-stellar earnings report. They also had to deal with more eroding consumer confidence as well. From MSNBC News:

U.S. consumer confidence fell to its lowest in more than a quarter century in early April, diving deeper into recessionary territory on heightened worries over inflation and jobs, a survey showed on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of confidence fell to 63.2 in April from 69.5 in March. This was well below economists' median expectation of a reading of 69.0, according to a Reuters poll.

The April result is the lowest since March 1982's level of 62.0, when the "stagflationary" period of low growth and high inflation was still fresh in the memory of many Americans.

"There have only been a dozen other surveys that have recorded a lower level of consumer sentiment in the more than 50-year history of the survey," The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said in a statement.

"Persistently high food and fuel prices as well as rising unemployment have caused consumers to view their future financial prospect more negatively (than) any other time since 1980."

The report showed its reading on one-year inflation expectations jumped to 4.8 percent -- the highest since a similar reading in October 1990 -- from 4.3 percent in March.

Five-year inflation expectations rose to 3.1 percent -- the highest since December 2007 -- from 2.9 percent in March.

The index of expectations for personal finances fell to 97, its lowest since April 1980 when it was 94, from 112 in March.

The index of current personal finances fell to 87, its lowest since November 1982, when it was 85, from 93 in March.

Consumers are expecting very bad economic times to hit the U.S. for this year. The consumer confidence level fell to almost the level of March 1982, when Americans were feeling the effects of stagflation during the late 70s to early 80s. What are Americans feeling today? High food and gas prices, increasing unemployment, and a slowing U.S. economy--stagflation!

Now a good economy to have during an election year, with the GOP under Bush controlling the White House. No wonder the Bush administration is praying for Americans to happily spend their tax stimulus checks so that the economic day of reckoning takes place after Bush leaves office.

Mr. 28.3 Percent

I found latest Bush job approval rating from

President Bush's approval trend has taken a sharp downturn in recent weeks, to fall to a new low for the administration at 28.3%. This follows a lengthy period of stable approval at around 32-33%.

Recent polls from Gallup and AP/Ipsos put approval at 28%, a new low for the Gallup poll. Harris recently found approval at 26% while CBS News put approval at 28%. Pew similarly has approval at 28%, though the Diageo/Hotline result for registered voters (as opposed to adults in the other polls) has approval at 35%, the only recent poll over 30%.

While the President has taken a back seat to the primaries in recent months, his new approval slump reflects growing pessimism over the economy which has displaced the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing the country. Likewise the percent saying the nation is headed in the wrong direction has continued to grow in recent months, to a high of 81% in a recent CBS News poll.

Now President Bush's job approval ratings have been staying within around a 29-33 percent range for quite some time. There have been a number of polls that have placed Bush's approval at 28 percent. And I do have a Reuters/Zogby poll that placed President Bush's approval rating at 24 percent. But this appears to be more than just a simple drop in the poll numbers--this could be the start of another downward trend in President Bush's popularity. Just look at the graph:

Graph showing Bush approval ratings from January 2005 to April 2008. From

Starting in January 2008, there is a downward sloping trend in the Bush poll numbers after the poll numbers had stabilized at around 33 percent during the fourth quarter of 2007. At the beginning of this year, something is causing Americans to turn especially sour against the Bush administration. We know what that something is--or rather, a whole number of somethings. It is the bad news that has been coming out on the U.S. economy, recession, job losses, the war heating up in Iraq, the financial meltdown on Wall Street, the continued housing crisis, the credit crunch. All of these stories are making Americans jittery and worried about their future, and about how this country is heading in the wrong track. And the downward trend in President Bush's popularity is a clear sign of Americans displeasure with this president.

I don't know if President Bush is really worried about these poll numbers, or if he doesn't really care anymore--he is gone next January. But this should be a major concern for the Republican Party, and for the McCain campaign. Whether they like it or not, they are trying to run for a third term on the basic Bush platform of tax cuts to stimulate the economy, business deregulation, more domestic spying, and continue the Bush war in Iraq. If things continue to get worst in this country over the next six months, and the American people continue to pummel Bush with even lower job approval numbers, both John McCain and the GOP could find themselves in an electoral disaster as Americans may decide that they no longer want a third Bush term, or to have a minority Republican Party continue to block legislation in Congress through filibustering. As we get closer to November, the importance of this election is really starting to stand out as a signpost asking Americans which direction would they like to take their country to. And on that signpost will be picture of King George The Deciderer, with his declining job approval numbers showing Americans just how far he has gone in destroying the prosperity and security of this country.

More Americans will use the Bush tax cut stimulus to pay bills

This shouldn't really be surprising. The Bush administration has been hoping that their middle-class tax cut will be used to help stimulate consumer spending, and pull the U.S. economy out of the recession that King George The Deciderer denies we're in.

So with that in mind, what are Americans going to do with their tax cut? Will they stimulate the U.S. economy out of a recession? Check this poll out from

WASHINGTON—One in three people say they will use this year's tax refund to pay bills as that nice annual check from Uncle Sam becomes less of a luxury for many people.

Thirty-five percent said they plan to use the money to pay utility, credit card, housing or other bills, an Associated Press-AOL Money & Finance poll showed Thursday. That is up from 27 percent who said so a year ago, in a fresh example of how the ailing economy is affecting many families.

About a third said they are saving or investing the money, down slightly from last year. Nearly a quarter said they are using their refund to pay debt from credit cards and other loans -- essentially the same as the one in five who said so last spring.

Thirty-five percent of Americans are going to be using their tax cut to pay bills--utility, credit card or housing bills. And that number is up from 27 percent. This money is not going into the U.S. economy as consumer spending--this money is going to pay down the enormous debt that Americans have accumulated. Sure, some people are going to spend their tax cuts. But I seriously doubt there will be enough Americans spending their tax cuts in order to keep the U.S. out of the looming recession, which King George and his GOP criminals have gotten us into.

Iraq: Six months at a time

This latest ad is just brilliant. Even I have forgotten just how many times King George The Deciderer has told me that success in Iraq is just around the corner--in about six months. From YouTube:

Come to think of it--King George is actually right this time. Success in Iraq will come to us at around six months from now. Because that is when the presidential elections will take place, and hopefully we'll be able to kick the GOP out of both the White House and Congress so we can finally end this bloody war.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

GOP getting worried over McCain's 100-year war in Iraq

Talking Points Memo has this rather interesting little story about how the chairman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is getting a little worried over McCain's comments on keeping American troops in Iraq for 100 years. So worried, in fact, that the NRCC has issued a little press release on the subject. From Talking Points Memo:

Republicans can see how John McCain's 100 years comments (remember, he said it repeatedly) can be made into an albatross around his neck. So they're going for the full court press. Here's a press release just out from the head of the NRCC, the Republican House campaign committee (one among many over the last couple days) ...

Chairman Cole Comments on Issuance of False Democratic Talking Points

Despite Being Widely Discredited, Democrats Level False “100 Years” Accusation at Senator John McCain in Desperate Election Year Ploy

Washington– Today, Chairman Tom Cole made the following statement in regards to the dissemination of talking points issued by the House Democratic Caucus in advance of Gen. Petraeus’ report before Congress, which included a statement falsely accusing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) of “promising” 100 years of war in Iraq:

“With a long and protracted primary battle brewing in the presidential contest, Democrats are justifiably worried that a John McCain candidacy could hurt their chances from the top of the ticket on down. Unfortunately for the American people, when the facts don’t meet the political goals of some Democratic leaders in the House, they resort to desperate tactics such as undermining the testimony of a widely regarded military General or distorting the words of the Republican presidential nominee. Intentionally disseminating falsehoods as ‘talking points’ in order to stem the perceived political fallout of positive news coming out of Iraq, just goes show how worried Democrats are about the upcoming elections.”


Here's why Republicans are scared to death of this. No one wants to be in Iraq 100 years from now, even if McCain stipulates to the fantasy that Iraqis will be happy having us occupy their country forever and that the place will become like Finland. And none of our soldiers will ever get killed there and it won't cost any money. If that's the explanation for why we shouldn't be concerned that he's happy to stay in Iraq for a century, that just tells people that McCain is living in a fantasy world.

If there every is a more brilliant means to attack Senator John McCain on Iraq, it hanging this 100-year albatross around McCain's neck. And the Republican Party is finally realizing just how devastating this 100-year McCain remark can be. As Carpetbagger's Steven Benen had noted:

There’s no great mystery here. McCain’s (repeated) willingness to maintain a century-long presence in Iraq has become the single biggest mess for his campaign that Republicans can’t explain away. It doesn’t need to be distorted; it’s damaging enough on its own.

What the Republican Party is now trying to do is to create an intensive marketing campaign in order to eliminate this linking of "McCain," "Iraq," and "100 years" from a single sentence, and completely out of the political discourse of this presidential campaign. Even more ironic, the Republican Party is claiming that this tying of McCain to the "100-years in Iraq statement" is really showing how "justifiably worried that a John McCain candidacy could hurt their chances from the top of the ticket on down," and are resorting to "to desperate tactics" by "distorting the words of the Republican presidential nominee. It appears to me that with this memo, it is the Republican Party that is worried over the Democrats attacking McCain for his 100-year in Iraq statement, and are trying to turn this into a Democratic weakness in order to force the Democrats to abandon this type of attack against McCain.

The problem for the Republican Party here is that John McCain's comments on Iraq are a disaster. From YouTube:

If the Democrats are smart, they need to consistently attack John McCain to his 100-year statement, and probably even go as far as calling McCain a "war monger." Here is what The New Yorker columnist Hendrik Hertzberg said after John McCain made his 100-year statement of American troops staying in Iraq:

McCain's wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal—that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay.

He'll see your fifty years and raise you fifty. But the cards are blank.

History will not judge kindly the Bush "Principles" approval of torture techniques

I saw this story through the Carpetbagger Report, with the source story coming from ABC News. ABC News has published a damning investigation, reporting that senior Bush administration officials signed off on the use of torture--especially waterboarding--on al Qaeda prisoners in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. From ABC News:

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.

You can watch the ABC News video of this story here on YouTube:

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, George Tenant, Colin Powell, and John Ashcroft attended these meetings in the White House Situation Room to discuss whether the CIA could use torture on al Qaeda prisoners. What even more surprising is that the meetings were so detailed to the point of redefining torture into the more politically correct phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" while also discussing exactly what those techniques would constitute from slapping to waterboarding. No matter how you slice it, the Bush administration approved the use of torture on al Qaeda prisoners. And what is more damning is that the approval for these techniques came from these top "Principles" in the Bush administration. They approved them continuously, as Tenant kept asking the Principles for authorization to continue torture sessions on even more al Qaeda prisoners:

According to a former CIA official involved in the process, CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques. Agents, worried about overstepping their boundaries, would await guidance in particularly complicated cases dealing with high-value detainees, two CIA sources said.

Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.

"It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time," said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. "They'd say, 'We've got so and so. This is the plan.'"

Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved.

"These discussions weren't adding value," a source said. "Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it's legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it."

The Principles continued signing off of more CIA torture sessions to al Qaeda prisoners got so routine, that even Attorney General John Ashcroft was worried the direction the Bush administration's torture policy was heading:

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

History will not judge this kindly. It is rather disturbing that someone as conservative as John Ashcroft would realize just how immoral the Bush administration has become with the continued approval of these cruel and barbaric torture sessions. We have insane criminals running this White House, and they will not stop the inhuman use of torture and endless war in Iraq to continue their own bloodthirsty dreams of imperial glory.