Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout Bill Disaster Was A Failure Of Leadership

The reason why only 9% of the American public approves the performance of the 110th United States Congress (according to the latest Rasmussen public opinion poll) was on full display yesterday.

After working for days on a financial bailout bill proposed by the Bush Administration and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in an apparent attempt to save the country from the financial abyss, the House voted 228-205 against the compromise bill.

Every Congressional politician from both political party's during the last week had the same talking points. Something had to be done right away about this financial crisis and a failure to act was not an option. Of course, a failure to act was indeed the option chosen yesterday and now the House Of Representatives will not vote again on any bailout plan until at least Thursday.

So what happened to this critical financial bailout plan? The answer can be found in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll. The poll found that just 22 percent of Americans said that they wanted Congress to "pass a plan similar to what the Bush Administration has proposed", while 56 percent wanted Congress to pass something "different" , and 11 percent wanted Congress to take no action at all.

The plan that was subject to a vote yesterday was not very different from the original plan submitted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The plan went down because it did not have voter support in an election year. An alternative bailout plan from the Republican Party was never actually proposed.

In addition, the sad truth is that this entire financial crisis is exposing an even bigger problem for the American voter. It is now apparent that there is no political leadership in Washington, D.C. .

President George Bush, who in his eight years in office has never seen a spending bill that he would actually veto, endorsed the bill but never really sold it to a skeptical American public.

Consider that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a partisan speech to blame this mess on Republicans even as she was trying to get Republican support to pass a bi-partisan bailout bill.

Then after the vote fails, the House Republican leadership indicates members changed their vote due to Pelosi's partisan attacks. Its all about politics but what ever happened to voting on the merits of the legislation?

The fact is that 40% of Democrats voted against this bill and the bill could have passed without any Republican support since Democrats are the majority party in the House. So, the real question here is if this is a good bill, why could the majority party not pass it?

Meanwhile, both of our Presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have gone AWOl. Its hard to understand what bailout bill they actually support. They appear to be awaiting passage of any bailout bill and a test of public opinion before they climb aboard the financial crisis bailout bandwagon.

The truth is that Barack Obama is hiding out on the campaign trail and is voting "present" on this difficult issue as he has often done throughout his political career. John McCain's response has been inconsistent and erratic. In fact, one of McCain's advisers told The Washington Post last week: "you've got to get it [the financial crisis] over with and start having a normal campaign."

The definition of leadership is the ability to affect human behavior to accomplish a mission. It requires the ability to rally and influence people to complete an important goal . It is difficult to achieve a positive result as a leader when you are afraid of the political risk and attempt to lead from behind. Yesterday's bailout bill disaster was a result of a failure of leadership.

Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain Does Not Explain His Suspended Campaign

The first Presidential debate was held in Mississippi on Friday night. The first forty minutes of the debate were devoted to questions on the financial meltdown of the domestic economy and the remainder of the debate was focused on foreign policy.

The near universal opinion in the community of political analysis was that Barack Obama had the slight edge on the questions concerning the domestic economy and that John McCain had the advantage in the debate on foreign policy.

The conclusion of political observers was that there were no major gaffes by either candidate and no real soundbites that would be played by the media for days after the debate.

While Obama gave scripted and polished answers, McCain displayed his extensive experience in foreign policy. Most political pundits thought that the outcome of the debate was a draw.

While all of this the may be true if you were scoring each and every question, it overlooks one important political point. John McCain never explained the reason behind the suspension of his Presidential campaign last week. Why was it necessary? What did he do? What result was achieved? He has never answered these very basic questions.

The truth is that the opening question of the debate was the perfect opportunity for McCain to tell the American public why it was so important for him to suspend his campaign last week and return to Washington D.C. . It is hard to understand why he did not.

The Democrats have been calling his suspended campaign a political stunt for days. Barack Obama had implied that the insertion of Presidential politics was not helpful to the entire bailout package process. Those charges were left completely unanswered by the Republican during last Friday nights debate.

Political mistakes do not have to be major television gaffes. They do not have to take the form of media soundbites. Often, it is the opportunity lost that is the real mistake. For John Mccain, the first Presidential debate was an opportunity lost on the question of his leadership during this financial crisis.

This is a difficult political environment for a Republican candidate. A financial meltdown, a struggling economy, an unpopular sitting President, the war in Iraq, and problems in Afghanistan are not a formula for success if you are the Presidential nominee of the political party in power. It is not an environment that will easily forgive self-inflicted campaign mistakes.

The real story of the first Presidential debate is that John McCain did not explain his suspended campaign. It was a political mistake and it will do nothing to stop his slow but steady erosion in national public opinion polls.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Crisis Presidency Of George Walker Bush

President George Bush said in his televised speech to the nation last night: "We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis and the federal government is responding with decisive action."

Of course, the decisive action he is talking about is trying to convince skeptical members of Congress to give away 700 billion taxpayer dollars to bailout the financial services sector.

The problem for George Bush is credibility due to the fact that the word "crisis" has appeared in his speeches very frequently during the last eight years.

There was the crisis of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The crisis of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leading to the war in Afghanistan. The crisis of weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq. The crisis of an internal civil war in Iraq that could have lead to American failure. The crisis of the subsequent troop surge in Iraq to prevent the crisis of failure in that country. The crisis of Iran and their acquisition of a future nuclear capability that apparently will not be handled under this Administration's watch.

Indeed, the list goes on and on: The crisis concerning the handling of Hurricane Katrina, the economic crisis of deep recession that led to those tax rebate checks drawn from the Federal Treasury several months ago, and now finally this serious financial crisis involving sub-prime mortgage loans.

The Bush solution to all of these crisis events is usually the same. Throw billions and billions of taxpayer dollars at the problem and try and make it all go away. Unfortunately, it is the solution of the reactive manager, not the proactive planner.

In retrospect, many of these crisis could have been avoided. The war in Iraq lacked proper planning ( See : "There never Was An Iraq Exit Strategy" on eWorldvu.com) and the success of the troop surge confirmed that there were not enough "boots" on the ground from the beginning. Afghanistan is a mess and soon will become the next crisis, because it was left to an ineffective NATO and subsequently ignored.

Today's financial crisis and the problems of Hurricane Katrina were really failures of government oversight and leadership. Henry Paulson was hired to lead the Treasury from Goldman Sachs two years ago but never saw this crisis that would lead us to the brink of the financial abyss.

Also, Paulson's reaction to this crisis over the last several weeks has been to guarantee a bailout of Bear Sterns, refuse to bail out Lehman Brothers,and then to bailout Aig, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Finally, with his 700 billion dollar plan , he now wants the taxpayer to bail out everyone. It certainly can be argued that Paulson's erratic policy led to so much confusion and uncertainty in the Financial markets that confidence in the Treasury was lost.

In addition, it was only one week ago that John McCain said he would fire Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox and accused government regulators of being "asleep at the switch'' during this market turmoil. It should be remembered that Cox took over from the previous SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt. Both Pitt and his predeccesor, Arthur Levitt were in charge of the SEC during the Enron fiasco of several years ago.

We need to remember that a Senate investigation would accuse the SEC and Wall Street research analysts of allowing "the greed of a few" at Enron to go "unchecked and unchallenged. The investigation revealed a story of "systemic and catastrophic failure, a failure of all the watchdogs to properly discharge their appointed responsibilities". This is the SEC that Cox would inherit in 2005. It doesn't really seem to have changed very much , does it? Only now the scale of the problem may be much larger.

An effective President should hire the people necessary to set a proactive, agressive tone in managing the day to day business of the federal government. A reactive firefighter to put out the latest crisis is not what this country needs in the Oval office.

A President' slogan like any competent executive should be that the best crisis is the one that you can manage to avoid.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Climate Change And The Quiet Of The Sun

A sunspot was seen this month on the twenty second of September. However , it disappeared very quickly the following day.

The truth is that the lack of sunspot activity in 2008 is beginning to remind some observers of the low sunspot activity at the beginning of the Dalton Minimum.

Of course, none of us were alive at the time, but the Dalton Minimum was a forty year period (1790 to 1830) of low sunspot activity that would lead to a dramatic cooling of the planet. So, low sunspot activity could well be an indication that colder not warmer times for our planet are immediately ahead.

It was also interesting to read the NASA press release yesterday about the discovery from its Ulysses Spacecraft. The spacecraft revealed that global Solar Wind Output was at a 50-Year Low.

Dave McComas (Ulysses’ solar wind instrument principal investigator and senior executive director at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio) is quoted as follows: “The sun’s million mile-per-hour solar wind inflates a protective bubble, or heliosphere, around the solar system. It influences how things work here on Earth and even out at the boundary of our solar system where it meets the galaxy." He continued: "Ulysses data indicate the solar wind’s global pressure is the lowest we have seen since the beginning of the space age.

So what does this discovery from the Ulysses Spacecraft mean? Of course, nobody knows for sure, but low solar wind pressure will mean an increase in the amount of cosmic rays entering our solar system.

Now, consider that the study of cosmic rays has been the focus of Physicist, Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen for over a decade. Svensmark's research has led to his theory that during the last 100 years cosmic rays became scarcer because unusually vigorous action by the Sun batted away many of them. As a result, fewer cosmic rays meant fewer clouds leading to a warmer world and the increase in global temperature.

In his book released last year called: The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change, Svenesmark described his theory that cosmic rays "have more effect on the climate than manmade CO2". So, if Svensmark is right, the increase in cosmic rays will lead to an increase in cloud cover and global cooling.

There has been little sunspot activity throughout 2008. In fact, last month was the first month without a sunspot since 1913. Meanwhile, the Ulysses Spacecraft has just measured solar wind output at a fifty year low. The quiet of our sun may well mean that the global climate is beginning to change once again. It could be that colder not warmer times are just ahead.

For more on man-made global warming read: A Nobel Peace Prize And A Weather Balloon
For more on the Sun read: To Predict Global Climate Change Look To The Sun on eWorldvu.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joe Biden Moments May Get John McCain Elected

We certainly should give Joe Biden credit for candor. At the same time, its difficult to understand exactly why an otherwise intelligent and experienced politician continues to have what can only be called, "Joe Biden moments".

Indeed these "Joe Biden moments" sometimes make you wonder which side he is representing in election 2008. A few weeks ago, the Democratic candidate for Vice President indicated that his running mate Barack Obama could have made a better choice by selecting Hillary Clinton for Vice President. ( See: "Joe Biden's Moment of Truth Will Not Help Obama" on eworldvu.com). While that may well may be true, it called into question Obama's judgement and reminded everyone of the difficult and divisive Obama/Clinton Democratic primary campaign.

Yesterday, in a nationally televised interview with Katie Couric, there was another Joe Biden moment on prominent display. He said in the interview that an Obama campaign ad which mocked Republican John McCain's inability to use a computer was "terrible."

Biden said: "I thought that was terrible by the way," when asked about a campaign ad which made fun of McCain's admitted lack of ease with computers. "I didn't know we did it, and if I'd had anything to do with it, we would have never done it."

What are the political ramifications of this latest Joe Biden moment? Lets just look at what Barack Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Buron said last week about John McCain's campaign: "We will take no lectures from John McCain, who is cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history. "His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking."

The truth is that both campaigns are running negative and sleazy ads almost every day. The ad that Joe Biden is talking about is one in which McCain is mocked as out of touch for not using a computer or the internet. However, the real reason McCain does not use a computer according to various news reports may be due to injuries he sustained as a prisioner of war.

Of course, Democratic political damage control is now well underway. Biden has issued another statement this morning. Biden now says that he "was asked about an ad I'd never seen" and was "reacting merely to press reports." So, we are to believe that he called his own campaign ad terrible even though he had never seen it? This response may in itself be yet another Joe Biden moment.

Criticizing his own campaign ad is another Joe Biden moment in a career full of them. However, this is a very close contest and if these moments continue, they could well begin to add up to the hour of John McCain's election.

Those Joe Biden Moments just keep on coming. From Ben Smith's Blog on Politico.com today:

Biden garbles Depression history

Joe Biden's denunciation of his own campaign's ad to Katie Couric got so much attention last night that another odd note in the interview slipped by. He was speaking about the role of the White House in a financial crisis.

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened."

As Reason's Jesse Walker footnotes it: "And if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, 'Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?'"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Paulson's Bailout Plan Is Financial Shock And Awe

It's another Monday and there is another government bailout to talk about in the sub prime mortgage mess.

However, this time its the "mother of all bailouts". U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has proposed and the Congress will soon approve a taxpayer bailout plan for everyone.

The Paulson bailout plan will use at least 700 billion taxpayer dollars to bail out toxic mortgages from every United States financial institution and even large U.S. banks that are foreign based.

In addition, the Paulson bailout plan saves any money market mutual fund that was in danger of breaking its one dollar net asset value. There were two such money market funds that were in that dubious category last week.

While there can be no doubt at this point that the Paulson bailout plan was necessary to save the financial markets from the abyss, the plan is financial shock and awe to the American taxpayer nevertheless.

The commitment of 700 billion in new taxpayer dollars to save the financial markets along with the cost of the Iraq war and the already huge federal budget deficit projected for next year will dramatically limit the next President's ability to spend any money.

So, any Presidential candidate that still maintains that he is going to cut taxes, provide National Health Insurance or any of the other myriad of vote pandering treats in the election 2008 goody bag is simply not facing fiscal reality. Make no mistake about this, American taxes are going up and the growth of the economy is going to be subdued during the next Presidents first term in office.

It is really remarkable how poorly our elected politicians and 2008 Presidential candidates have handled this financial crisis during the last week. Last Tuesday, Republican John McCain said: "We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else." By Wednesday, he had completely changed his mind.

How about this strange quote from the Arizona Republican: "the fundamentals of our economy are strong". Unfortunately he said this as one brokerage house had just filed for bankruptcy, another was about to, and the Dow Jones industrial average had tumbled 504 points in a single trading day.

Meanwhile, America is still awaiting the economic plan of Democratic candidate Barack Obama. He has already delayed unveiling his plan twice. I guess at this point, he has just decided to vote "present" on the current financial crisis. It's apparently a pattern of behavior since he voted "present" on 130 different occasions when he was a member of the Illinois State Senate.

The leadership in the Congress was not much better. In the United States Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid is quoted as saying "no one knows what to do" while in the House Of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially promised to hold hearings on the crisis after the Congressional vacation.

This week both Republicans and Democrats will spend more than 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money and then go home on vacation. In the 2008 election, it will be business as usual as the candidates continue to make campaign promises that they cannot hope to deliver. However, despite the Congressional commitment of a huge amount of taxpayer money and all those campaign promises, this financial crisis is far from over.

A long and deep U.S. recession has now increased in probability. Indeed, defaults on credit card payments could eventually require the Treasury to commit more taxpayer bailout dollars for banks and credit card companies. In addition, a run on hedge funds is very likely and this whole mortgage mess may well spread throughout Europe.

Paulson's bailout plan of 700 billion taxpayer dollars is certainly American financial shock and awe. However, the sobering reality of the plan is that as an economic solution, it may be only phase one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Made In China Is Hazardous To Your Health

China is responsible for the manufacturing of lead paint in toys sold in the United States. Dumplings laced with pesticides sold in Japan. Toxic fish and cough medicine that may guarantee that you never take another breath in order to get rid of that cough.

If you bought products that were made in China and maintained your health, maybe you're pet was not as lucky. Last year, there were pet food recalls in North America, Europe, and South Africa after thousands of dogs and cats became sick and died from contaminated rice, corn gluten and wheat gluten in Chinese made pet food.

So, it should not be very surprising that China is in the news for compromising product quality once again. This time toxic milk has killed three Chinese infants and has made another 6244 babies across the country very ill. The dangerous chemical melamine was found in the babies milk powder.

China may not be the only country involved with this contaminated milk. The product has apparently been exported to Bangladesh, Burundi, Gabon, Burma and Yemen while tainted yogurt has been found in Hong Kong.

Of course, since a product made in China can be dangerous to our health, as consumers, we can simply avoid Chinese goods by reading the product label and avoid purchasing any item that states: "Made in China". Sounds very reasonable doesn't it? However, that may not be as easy as it sounds for ingredients in our food supply.

The truth is that we live in ignorance of how widespread Chinese products are in our food supply. This is because of a loophole in the food labeling laws that does not require a country of origin label for food ingredients if the product has been processed and has undergone substantial transformation.

As an example of the problem, consider the words of former FDA official William Hubbard next month when eating a candy bar during Halloween. Last year, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that most of the candy in supermarket aisles is “likely made with at least one ingredient that originated” in China. "None of the sweets in the candy aisle said: "Made in China," but most are likely made with at least one ingredient that originated there".

"Candy wrappers typically list just the U.S. distributor of the products, so label readers can't determine the origin of the vanillin found in a Nestle Crunch bar, the carageenan in a Baby Ruth or the gum arabic in a pack of Mentos".

"Those three ingredients, and numerous other flavoring and preservative additives, commonly come from Chinese companies. Also, companies in China produce about 80 percent of the world's wheat gluten, common in most breads, cakes and cookies, and 80 percent of its sorbic acid, a preservative used in just about everything", Hubbard said.

Unlike properly labeled consumer goods, the fact is that we can't do much to avoid tainted food ingredients made in China. They are not properly labeled on our processed foods. However, the truth is that "Made in China" is hazardous to your health whether its on the product label or not.

For more on China Product recalls read: "Its The Year Of The Pig For The Consumer" on eWorldvu.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is E-Vote Security The Hanging Chad Of Election 2008?

The most clever advertisement on television today is when the Maytag repairman saves the day at a polling booth by holding up a handful of crumpled ballots that he has just removed from a voting machine.

I watched that advertisement the other day as I was reviewing the latest public opinion polls from the 2008 Presidential Election. These latest polls told the same story as nearly every other Presidential tracking poll this year. It is a very close race for the White House in the 2008 election.

Indeed, it is a race that on election day may be decided by a handful of votes in a few battleground states. So, while contemplating another very close election, i wondered about the American voting system. I asked myself two question: Is our voting system fixed or will there be more controversy surrounding hanging chads and disputed votes on election day 2008? Will this election be decided in the legal system again or by accurately counting the total vote?

First, we should consider that the American voting system has dramatically changed since 2000. Funding from The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, has permitted states and counties to replace outdated punch card and lever voting machines with electronic voting systems.

As a result, during the November 2006 general elections, just 12.7 percent of registered voters nationwide used the outdated equipment, compared with 45 percent in 2000. So, many Americans will vote in the 2008 election using equipment that represents the latest technology.

However, before polling places consider throwing away the telephone number of the Maytag repairman, they may want to read the latest test results concerning electronic voting equipment.

Several recent studies commissioned by the states of California and Ohio concluded that most Electronic Voting Systems are plagued by security glitches, and the technology has yet to prove itself as the solution many were looking for. The study concluded that such systems could allow voters and poll workers to place multiple votes, crash the systems by loading viruses, and fake vote tallies.

Of course, the American taxpayer should ask why these security questions were not resolved by election officials throughout the United States prior to the purchase of these electronic voting systems from Diebold (now called Premier), several years ago. The answer may be that in their haste to secure the latest in voting technology, many election officials did not exhibit proper due-diligence.

The fact is that the security of the voting equipment is so bad in the battleground state of Ohio, Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, is suing Premier the maker of the touch-screen voting systems in which Ohio has invested more than $62 million since 2005.

In her complaint, Brunner states: "We believe that Premier's equipment has failed to perform as required by its contracts and according to state law. We have taken this action to recover taxpayer funds spent for voting systems used in half of the state's 88 counties."

The truth is that paperless voting is not secure and will not be in time for the 2008 Presidential election. If this 2008 election is very close, it may well be that the security of the electronic vote becomes as controversial as the hanging chad was in Florida in the year 2000 in several battleground states.

Indeed, the 2008 Electronic Voting Machine may be something that not even the Maytag repairman can easily fix.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vandalism And A Diet To Stop Global Warming

The Jury's "Not Guilty"verdict was certainly a surprise. The Greenpeace defendents had already admitted to their crime and did not deny the 35000 British pounds worth of vandalism to the Kingsnorth coal plant in Kent in the United Kingdom.

During the trial the five defendants said they had acted lawfully, owing to an honestly held belief that their attempt to stop emissions from Kingsnorth would prevent further damage worldwide caused by global warming.

Their aim, they said, was to rein back CO2 emissions and bring urgent pressure to bear on the Government and E.ON to change policies. They insisted their action had caused the minimum amount of damage necessary to close the plant down and constituted a "proportionate response" to the increasing environmental threat.

The acquittal was the second time in a decade that the "lawful excuse" defense has been successfully used by Greenpeace activists in the United Kingdom. In 1999, 28 Greenpeace campaigners were cleared of criminal damage after trashing an experimental field of GM crops in Norfolk, causing a similar amount of damage.

The "lawful excuse" defense allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

Meanwhile, as the Greenpeace defendents were being being acquitted of their vandalism due to the "lawful excuse" of preventing global warming, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was suggesting another solution to the problem of global warming.

Dr. Pachauri said that people should have one meat-free day a week. He said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems including habitat destruction associated with rearing cattle and other animals. Needless to say, the meat and restaurant industry sharply disagreed.

So, its environmental criminal vandalism and a United Nations suggested diet change to reduce CO2 gas emissions in order to stop man made global warming. It seems that even if CO2 gas is responsible for global warming that the activism of global climate change appears to be more important than any realistic, economic cure.

For more on global climate change read: "To Predict Global Climate Change Look To The Sun" on eworldvu.com.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Financial Crisis Of A Century

Alan Greenspan has just called this ongoing United States economic disaster a "once in a century financial crisis."

The problem for Greenspan is that he sounds like an impartial, detached observer providing commentary on the sinking of the Titanic. The reality is that he was the captain of what is now the sinking American economic ship.

The truth is that today's financial crisis can trace its origin back to 2001, amid the end of the Internet boom and the shock of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

It was at that point that the Fed under its Chairman, Alan Greenspan turned on the monetary pump to try to combat an economic slowdown. The Fed poured money into the US economy and slashed the Federal Funds rate from 3.5% in August 2001 to 1% in 2003.

Then, Greenspan's Federal Reserve made two fatal mistakes. First,it kept the Federal Funds rate too low for much too long. In doing so it created the environment of speculation for the creation of a housing bubble which is now exploding.

Next, Greenspan failed to closely regulate the bankers. Lending standards became shamefully lax and the Fed should have done something about it, not to mention the deceptive and in some cases fraudulent sub prime mortgage practices.

The problem is that as Fed Chairman, Greenspan actually encouraged the development of the housing bubble which has led to this "once in a century financial crisis". Remember when Greenspan suggested that many homeowners could have saved tens of thousands of dollars in the last decade if they just had Adjustable Rate Mortgages?

How about his request that encouraged greedy bankers to create those unique alternative products which led directly to the sub prime mortgage problems of today. In 2004 Greenspan said: "American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage."

So, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan created the environment and without any real oversight, the immense greed of the investment banks did the rest to create this financial mess. Now, one by one these banks march to the United States taxpayer for a bailout.

It is hard for many American citizens to understand the sheer arrogance and greed of all this. Consider that Lehman Brother's CEO Richard Fuld made over twenty two million dollars in compensation in 2007 alone. Twenty two Million dollars paid to a man who was about to run his company into bankruptcy. He is hardly alone. Tens of millions of dollars in annual compensation is the going rate for all these failed financial bank CEO's.

Indeed, it seems like every weekend brings headline news of another major failure in financial corporate America. Bear Sterns was bought by J.P. Morgan with government guarantees. FannieMae and Freddie Mac are now owned by the Federal government and the American taxpayer. Lehman Brothers has just declared bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank Of America in a rush to avoid another impending disaster.

The problem is that this economic crisis is far from over and there are many more financial corporate failures to come during the remaining months of 2008. The sad truth is that there have already been 100,000 layoffs in financial services this year. It now looks like there are at least 50,000 more to go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Complex Mix Of Italian Politics, Sex And Religion

Here is a sample of some of the news of the day from Italy. It is an interesting and complex integration of politics, government, sex and religion.

Silvio Berlusconi, who owns Italy's three main commercial television channels and as Prime Minister also wields influence over RAI, the state broadcaster, has often been accused of using his media power to muzzle his critics and satirists.

In the past, Berlusconi has frequently been the target of jokes from Italian comedian Sabrina Guzzanti. Ms. Guzzanti still remains upset about the media's suppression in 2003 of her late night show RAIot in which she satirised the Italian Prime Minister.

Several months ago, Ms. Guzzanti joked that Pope Benedict XVI would go to hell and be tormented by homosexual demons. In Italy, a joke in bad taste about the Pope can also be a crime. Guzzanti is now being prosecuted by the Berlusconi government and if convicted is facing a prison term of five years.

Of course, politics may well be at the heart of this matter since Berlusconi has been trying to win favor with the Vatican and the Catholic vote since returning to power last May. Last weekend he accompanied Pope Benedict to Cagliari in Sardinia and attended mass there.

Meanwhile, Father Antonio Rungi, from Caserta near Naples, has just announced that he is cancelling "Sister Italia 2008" which was due to start on his blog next month. The online beauty pagent contest for young nuns was cancelled due to a flood of abusive emails and he has just taken down his blog.

Also, consider that the controversy of the crucified frog continues to rage. An art museum in northern Italy said that it will continue displaying a sculpture portraying a green frog nailed to a cross that has angered Pope Benedict XVI and local officials.

In August, the pope had written a letter to Franz Pahl, the president of the Trentino-Alto Adige region that includes Bolzano, denouncing the sculpture. It "has offended the religious feelings of many people who consider the cross a symbol of God's love and of our redemption," Pahl quoted the pope as writing in the letter.

The news of the day in Italy. It is certainly a complex mix of politics, government, sex and religion.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Joe Biden's Moment Of Truth Will Not Help Obama

I woke up this morning to another Joe Biden moment. What is a Joe Biden moment? Historically, a Joe Biden moment is when voters just shake their head in wonder and ask why an otherwise intelligent politician would say such a dubious thing.

The truth is that Joe Biden has a history of these moments and as a result is a politician that has often shot himself in the foot during his long political career.

So far, in election 2008, while Sarah Palin has dramatically energized the Republican campaign, Joe Biden has not been much of an asset to the Democratic ticket . However, yesterday, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden became a political liability to Barack Obama.

At a rally in Nashua, N.H., a man in the audience told Biden how glad he was that Obama picked him over Hillary, "not because she's a woman, but because, look at the things she did in the past."

Here is how Biden responded: "Make no mistake about this, Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend, she is qualified to be President of the United States of America, she’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America, and quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me. But she’s first rate, I mean that sincerely, she’s first rate, so let’s get that straight."

It sure sounds like Joe Biden is questioning Barack Obama's selection of himself as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. It highlights once again the lack of a proper explanation of why Hillary Clinton was not selected by Barack Obama for the number two spot on the ticket.

Of course, the McCain camp was quick to respond: McCain Spokesman Ben Porritt: "Barack Obama’s most important decision of this election, and Biden, the candidate he selects, suggests, himself, that he wasn’t the right man for the job, and that Hillary Clinton would have been a better choice. Biden certainly has a credible viewpoint on this."

Look for the Republican attack ads questioning Obama's judgement again in the days ahead. Certainly, Joe Biden's moment of truth will not help Obama but it was not the only Joe Biden moment on display yesterday.

At the start of his speech in Missouri he pointed out several state lawmakers in the audience for praise. When he got to Chuck Graham, a state senator from Green Meadows, Biden urged the lawmaker to “stand up Chuck, let ‘em see ya.”

The problem for Joe Biden is that Chuck is wheelchair bound and can not stand up. Here is Biden's response when he found out: “God love ya, what am I talking about. “You can tell I’m new,” he then asked the audience to stand up for Graham instead.

The problem for Obama is that Biden is not new and too often people don't know what he is talking about. The political reality in this campaign is that Joe Biden is fast becoming an anchor around Obama's neck as big as the anchor of George Bush that hangs from John McCain's.

For More on Election 2008 see: Presidential Election Day 2008 In My Dream on eworldvu.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kim Jong - ill or Maybe Its Double Trouble

In addition to being a strange, cruel, and brutal dictator, the "Dear Leader" of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il is also a Tinseltown movie fanatic.

It is said that his library has an inventory of over 20,000 Hollywood films. It has been reported that the Wizard of Oz is the highlight of the collection and is one of his favorite pastimes.

The truth is that as an American taxpayer, I have earned a front row seat to see how this strange tale about Kim Jong-Il now playing in North Korea ends. After all, I have certainly paid for it. You may remember that the United States agreed to give more than a billion taxpayer dollars to North Korea to insure that the government of Kim Jong-Il would not develop nuclear weapons under the Carter Administration in 1994.

Ten years later, despite recieving all that money, North Korea had secretly developed the very weapons of mass destruction that Ameicans were paying the country not to develop.

The result was that an unstable government with an equally unstable dictator became an immediate International military threat and a country that was included in what President George Bush labeled as the Axis of Evil.

The strange story of Kim Jong-Il certainly has gained international interest during the last several days. Yesterday, speculation about the health of North Korea's leader increased when the dictator failed to appear at a parade to mark the 60th anniversary of North Korea's founding. Reports from the CIA indicated that he had suffered a recent stroke and may be gravely ill.

However, there is another possible explanation for the absence of the dictator at that parade. A Japanese expert (Waseda University professor Toshimitsu Shigemura) on North Korea is claiming that the role of Kim Jong-il has actually been played by a group of four doubles since 2003, when he says the North Korean President died of diabetes.

So, it well could be that the all the meetings and agreements that the International community has had with Kim Jong-Il for the last five years were held with a lookalike imposter.

What is the truth about Kim Jong-Il ,you may ask? Is he currently ill or did he already die five years ago?

Well, nobody really knows yet for sure, but any confirmation of the "Dear Leaders" demise should prompt a celebration by some of the nations starving population.

Indeed, they could literally be "singing in the rain" near yesterday's parade route, on a North Korean street, known as Judy Garland Way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Homeland Security Seven Years After 9/11/2001

Its been seven years since 9/11/2001, and the United States has not experienced another terrorist attack. For everyone concerned with the issue of our security, the question to ask is not if we are safer than before the World Trade Center attacks.

Indeed, the real question to ask about the absence of another terrorist attack concerns the reason. Was the lack of an attack just sheer luck or are we now safe enough?

Certainly there has been progress in the effort to secure the United States from terrorist attack over the last seven years. In 2004, Congress created a Director of National Intelligence to unify the efforts of the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. Congress also created the National Counterterrorism Center, where CIA analysts, FBI agents and other experts from all areas of the government share intelligence continuously.

Since 9/11/2001, the number of FBI bureau intelligence analysts has more than doubled to about 2,100. National transportation security has also greatly improved. In fact, the Terrorist Screening Center has a football-field-size room filled with a giant electronic board and dozens of experts who track the flight manifests of over 2000 international flights that arrive in the United States each day.

So, there is no doubt Homeland Security has improved but has it improved enough? The answer is there is still much more to do, according to a report just released from the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America. In fact, the study concludes that The United States remains ``dangerously vulnerable'' to chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.

The report cites concerns in the following areas: Efforts to reduce access to nuclear technology and bomb-making materials have slowed, thousands of U.S. chemical plants remain unprotected, and the U.S. government continues to oppose strengthening an international treaty to prevent bio terrorism.

The independent study, however, did credit the Administration with progress in a number of areas. It cited improved U.S. port security, reduction of military chemical stockpiles, increased U.S. funding for securing nuclear weapons sites in Russia and new international programs aimed at preventing crimes involving biological weapons.

However, numerous reports on national security in recent years have criticized a cumbersome federal bureaucracy that is slow to implement new technology and drive the pace of change. For example, it remains difficult to understand why the prescreening of passengers is still left to the airlines, which lack access to the complete watch lists of suspected terrorists.

In addition, Congress mandated national standards for secure driver's licenses but has not given states the money to make it happen. For airline travel, advanced baggage-screening systems will not be in place until at least the year 2024.

Also consider, that three years ago, the 9/11 commission noted that the Department Of Homeland Security reported to 88 congressional committees and subcommittees -- a major drain on senior management and a source of contradictory guidance. After several dubious reforms that number is now down to 86.

There has been substantial Homeland Security reform in the United States during the last seven years. However, it is easy to see how a growing complacency about Homeland Security may well become a formidable enemy in the effort to prevent the next terrorist attack.

Monday, September 8, 2008

FannieMae, Freddie Mac And The Magical Piggy Bank

The sub prime mortgage crisis continues to get worse. It seems like every week that the federal government takes over another bank in the financial industry.

In addition, it was only six months ago, on a weekend, that Bear Sterns made international headlines as it became a J.P. Morgan entity backed by Government guarantees.

This last weekend it was government sponsored home mortgage lending giants FannieMae and Freddie Mac that became the recipient of federal government oversight. The government bailed out both financial institutions and the tab to that magical piggy bank known as the United States taxpayer may be as much as 200 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the CEO's of these two failed home mortgage giants will not have to worry about their next meal any time soon. Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd received $12.2 million in total compensation in 2007. Mudd's pay included his $990,000 salary, a $2.23 million bonus and a $9 million "long-term incentive" award. In 2006, Mudd received a $3.5 million bonus and a long-term incentive award of about $10 million. His total pay for 2006 was $14.45 million dollars.

Over at Freddie Mac, Chairman and Chief Executive, Richard Syron pocketed nearly $19.8 million in compensation in 2007, even though the mortgage company's stock lost half its value last year.

However, these salaries were apparently not enough reward for corporate failure. Daniel Mudd, the departing head of Fannie Mae, is expected to walk away with $9.3 million in pay and retirement benefits for 2008 under the terms of his contract.

Richard Syron, the departing chief executive of Freddie Mac, could walk away with $14.1 million. Mr Syron's larger payoff follows a clause added to his employment contract last summer when the first signs of the credit crunch began to emerge.

It certainly makes you wonder what the term pay for performance means in the business world today.

So, what happened? Why has the government gone from sponsoring these mortgage giants to owning them through a bailout that may cost the taxpayer as much as 200 billion dollars?

A financial audit by Morgan Stanley concluded that the accounting of the mortgage companies, (which represent nearly half of the entire mortgage market) while legal, enabled Freddie, and to a lesser extent Fannie, to overstate the value of their reserves.

Indeed, free-market advocates had warned of this impending disaster for years as Fannie and Freddie used an implicit government backing to borrow at will, with only a small mount of capital to protect them from nasty surprises like the recent sharp decline in housing prices and rise in foreclosures.

Look for the stock market to rally in relief since taxpayer dollars are being used to clean up our national mortgage mess. However, banks will continue to be seized and backed by taxpayer dollars. The 2008 Presidential election campaign will proceed with a never ending list of candidate promises backed by future taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, the current United States budget deficit is already projected to be over 480 billion dollars next year, and it still does not even fully reflect the total cost from the war in Iraq or smaller tax reciepts from an extended recession.

So, as corporate CEO's clean up financially and have no accountibility for their own failure, what will prevent executives from other financial companies to gamble even more recklessly in the future? After all, they will still get rewarded even if their gamble fails since the taxpayer now apparently assumes the risk of each financial company failure.

Indeed, it really is a house of cards that all depends on that magical piggy bank courtesy of the United States taxpayer. At some point it is destined to get very ugly when that magic finally wears off.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The First Month Without A Sunspot Since 1913

You may have missed this news announcement during the last few days. Certainly there were many other major stories that attracted more publicity and attention.

However, while the Olympics were a daily headline from Beijing and the United States political Conventions were being held in Colorado and Minnesota, as Hurricane Gustav was threatening the Gulf Coast with destruction and Russia was still a problem for Georgia, a lack of sunspot activity on the face of the sun had become an important story as well.

There were no recorded sunspots in the month of August 2008. In fact, this is the first full month since 1913 that the sun has not shown any evidence of Solar magnetic activity. So, August is the first month in over 1140 consecutive months to not have recorded a single sunspot. The truth is that sunspot activity had been minimal all year. (see Taking The Temperature Of Global Climate Change on eWorldvu.com). In fact, there had been only an average of 3 sunspots each month for the first seven months of the year.

A lack of solar magnetic activity is important because there is increasing scientific evidence that the cooling and warming of this planet is primarily a function of the sun. In the past a significant decline in solar magnetic activity has led to a substantial decline in global temperatures. Higher activity has led to higher global temperatures.

During the last 1000 years, a weak or non existent sunspot cycle can be linked to three global temperature events called the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums. Each of these events led to a rapid cooling of the planet. One was large enough to be called a “mini ice age”.

The current lack of sunspot activity may mean much colder times are ahead for the planet over the next few decades. The politics of global warming may well be ready to turn into a scientific concern over global cooling. It is story that everyone should continue to monitor in the days and months ahead.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's Political Counterpunch

For the last five days, bloggers from the fringe left aided by the mainstream media have been on a Sarah Palin jihad. The political attacks were mostly about her qualifications and her family but make no mistake, they were driven by her conservative politics.

The political attacks were relentless: Her 17 year old daughter was pregnant, therefore Sarah was not a good mother. Sarah Palin's recent child with Down Syndrome was really her daughters child and there should be a DNA test to determine the real mother was another absurd fictional creation from the fringe left blogosphere.

The National Enquirer, the new 2008 standard for investigative jounalism (see "The John Edwards Fairy Tale Campaign of 2008" on eworldvu.com) wrote without any tangible evidence from unnamed sources that she once had an affair. We discovered that her husband had a DUI arrest nearly twenty two years ago. Still others in the media wrote and opined that she should not have run because she had five kids and would not be able to balance the time.

Last night, Sarah Palin answered these critics with a speech that was different in style from the marvelous speech last week given by Barack Obama but every bit as good. She made the case for the election of John McCain. She made the best case yet by any Republican against voting for Barack Obama. In doing both she answered the skeptics and made the case for her own selection to the second spot on the Republican ticket.

Sarah Palin did it all with poise, a smile on her face, humor and with the smooth delivery of a seasoned veteran. It's hard to believe that she is only 44 years old. No matter what the outcome of Election 2008, America has seen the rising stars of the next political generation. It may be that this election is just the first round of several which will feature Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

America has not had two politicians that are gifted communicators like these two people in either political party for many years. Last night at the Republican National Convention, Sarah Palin answered her critics and came out swinging. She certainly proved that she has a potent political counterpunch. It may well be that the difference between a pit bull and this hockey mom is only the lipstick.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Possible October Surprise In Election 2008.

Five days before the Presidential election in October 1968, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson announced a complete halt to the bombing of North Vietnam. This conveniently timed announcement was intended to assist the failing Presidential campaign of Democrat Hubert Humprey.

Four years later, in October 1972, the Nixon Administration would declare that " Peace was at hand" in the Vietnam War. That announcement helped Nixon to a 20 point margin of victory in that Presidential election over George Mcgovern.

The truth is that it is not unusual for newspapers, political campaigns, think tank studies and even books to release studies or disclosures to be timed just before election day in order to influence the outcome of an election. It certainly is not without precedent for a sitting President.

In the 2008 Presidential election, foreign policy experience is a problem for Democrat Barack Obama. It was the primary reason he selected Joe Biden to be his Vice President. However, foreign policy is a political strength for Republican John McCain.

Now consider that there is a real problem in International foreign policy that will simply not go away. It is the problem and danger of a nuclear Iran. Three sets of United Nations sanctions have not deterred the country from enriching Uranium. In fact, Iran has just announced an increase in its effort to achieve a nuclear capability.

The prospect of any meaningful future United Nations sanctions simply does not exist with Russia holding veto power in the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, Israel is holding elections in September 2008 which will determine the future leadership of the country. Israel is already on record as saying that it will not accept a Nuclear Iran. (see: Israel Will Act To Prevent A Nuclear Iran on eworldvu.com).

Also consider that after the November election, President George Bush would have to clear any bombing action against Iran through what could well be a reluctant Democratic president and Democratic Congress. So, October could well be George Bush's last chance to deal with the problem in Iran without leaving it for the next administration.

Of course, any October military action against Iran would also serve to remind America of the importance of a candidate's foreign policy experience. It would also be one last chance to help the potential sagging political fortunes of the campaign of Republican John McCain.

Therefore, various political and International conditions are favorable for an October Surprise in Election 2008. In addition, consider the implications of a recent article from the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, ( see article below).

Will there be an October surprise in Election 2008? Will that surprise include the bombing of Iran? It certainly would not be without precedent in American political history. Watch John McCains public opinion poll numbers closely in the next few weeks. If they begin to fall and if I was in Iran, I would keep a close eye to the sky.

Here is the article on September 1, 2008 in the Telegraph. U.K.

Dutch withdraw spy from Iran because of 'impending US attack'

The Dutch intelligence service has pulled an agent out of an "ultra-secret operation" spying on Iran's military industry because spymasters in Netherlands believe a United States air attack was imminent. According to reports in the newspaper De Telegraaf, the country's intelligence service, the AIVD, has stopped an espionage operation aimed at infiltration and sabotage of the weapons industry in Iran.

"The operation, described as extremely successful, was halted recently in connection with plans for an impending US air attack on Iran," said the report. "Targets would also be bombed which were connected with the Dutch espionage action." "Well placed" sources told the paper that a top agent had been recalled recently "because the US was thought to be making a decision within weeks to attack Iran with unmanned aircraft". "Information from the AIVD operation has in recent years been shared with the American CIA secret service." Brig Gen Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of the Iranian armed forces, warned at the weekend that military attacks against Iran would trigger a Third World War."The exorbitant demands of the US leaders and the global Zionism which have created the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Caucasus are gradually directing the world to the edge of the cliff," he said.

The US has refused to rule out a military attack against Iran if its government continues to enrich uranium as part of its civilian nuclear programme, which the West suspects has the clandestine objective of developing atomic weapons. Iran has warned it would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf and a major oil shipping route, if it is attacked.

On Friday, the Israel newspaper Ma'ariv reported that Israel has stepped up preparations for a contingency plan to attack Iran, should diplomatic efforts, via the United Nations, fail to derail Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Election 2008: A Close Race In The Battleground States

One thing becomes very clear when you, look at the different public opinion polls in the Presidential election of 2008. Going into the Republican National Convention, this is one very close race. It looks like Barack Obama got an average Convention "bounce" of 4% from the well run Democratic Convention.

It would only take a small post convention bounce for John McCain this week to return this race to a statistical dead heat. Indeed, the voting public appears evenly divided between the two Presidential contenders. A look at a few of the national polls this morning tells the story. Gallup has Obama up by 6%. Rasmussen has Obama up by 3% and Zogby has McCain up by 2%. The Electoral College is close as well with only 10 Electoral votes separating the two candidates. (Rasmussen).

So, what will decide this 2008 Presidential Election? Lets first discuss what will not. The 2008 Presidential Election will not be decided on whether Sarah Palin eats mooseburgers or how well Joe Biden avoided Vietnam. It will not be decided on the pending pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter or the past plagerism of Joe Biden's speeches. It likely will not be decided by either candidates choice of a Vice President since it is the top of the ticket that wins or loses elections. Historically, the choice of the V.P. only amounts to a 1% popular vote benefit for the Presidential candidate.

With the contest this close, Election 2008 will be decided by the voting in just a dozen American States. The fact is that with 90% of Republicans voting for McCain and a similar number of Democrats voting for Obama, the Independent voter in twelve battleground states will decide the outcome of this election.

For the Independent voter, it will be the answers to the following three questions that will determine the selection:

1. Has Barack Obama been completely vetted by the political media? McCain is very well known to the voting public. It is unlikely that there is anything that is unknown about him at this point concerning his personal background. However, since political newcomer Barack Obama has not yet "sealed the deal" with the voting public despite his gifted oratory, any new dubious revelation about Obama's background would hurt his candidacy.

2. How will each man do in the three scheduled Debates? How will Obama do in handling foreign policy questions? Will McCain look weak when compared to the oratory skill of Obama? How will McCain handle questions concerning the economy, an area he readily admits he is weak on?

3. Who will make that crucial mistake? In a close election, a major gaffe, or speaking mistake could well decide the outcome. So, the candidates better realize; how many houses they have, why they are running for office, and know how many states there are in the United States Of America.

For more on the voting in Election 2008 see: The Twelve States That will Decide Election 2008 on eworldvu.com.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Impacts Republican Convention

Events for the first day of the Republican Convention has been scaled back due to major Hurricane Gustav's expected landfall near New Orleans. Here is the latest from the McCain campaign:

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, told reporters in St. Paul on Sunday that the convention will convene Monday afternoon, but that business will be kept to a bare minimum of about two and a half hours. "There are certain basic minimum requirements of constituting the Party and the convention that are required.

The call to the convention that was issued almost two years ago requires us to meet tomorrow [i.e., Monday] to open the convention and to constitute not only the the Republican National Committee, but the convention itself. That is all we will do tomorrow," he said.

Davis said the convention agenda will refrain from political rhetoric while it is meeting, adding that major speakers, such as California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, are not being told to cancel plans to come to St. Paul.

He said the convention will likely reconvene later in the week to complete the formal nominations of Senator McCain and Governor Palin, but he noted that officials will continue to monitor the effects of Hurricane Gustav.