Friday, December 28, 2007

Wordpress blank screen error fix - 12.28.2007.1

Recently I noticed an issue that can occur with the Wordpress blog software. I’m sure others have encountered it too. And I believe I have a simple and direct answer for the problem.

If you use the wordpress program to run your blog, you may have encountered the problem where you go to modify a post and instead of seeing anything you merely get a blank screen. There is no information in the title and post boxes, and you cannot add or change anything in them. This can be quite frustrating. Errors in picture files, typos, or just information you wanted changed is unavailable. I can think of little that would aggravate a blogger more.

The solution can be resolved without a lot of difficulty, or any real technical expertise. If you look at the address bar of the page you will note something like: or

The issue is in which configuration you have set the blog for. To resolve the issue on a case by case basis, simply add or remove the www. prefix. The addition or removal of that portion of the web address and refreshing the page via F5 should make the post appear, and allow modification. That should be it. It’s really simple, but it took 3 bloggers, each with years of experience quite some time to figure out where the error was coming from.

In fact the source of the error seems to come from an option implemented to improve the SEO of the blogs affected. In the Options section under the Wordpress and Blog address (url) you have the ability to modify the address. If you chose to modify only one of the addresses such that it includes the www. prefix you can encounter the above blank screen issue.

The value of adding the www. prefix is debatable. Some find it useful, some not. I feel it is useful in SEO (search engine optimization) and in common usage by internet users. Not everyone will use it. If you do, and only use it for one of the above mentioned address options, you probably will encounter the above issue. To fully resolve the issue, either convert both addresses to include or exclude the www. prefix.

It’s a simple fix, but sometimes it’s just that easy. If you found this useful, please add this to your Digg or Stumbleupon or other lists. Please add you comments as well.

If I really saved you some trouble, time and money you can even donate a buck or 2, if you like. You can donate via my PayPal donation button seen at the top right of the sidebar. Don’t kill me about the donation. It’s voluntary and it cost money to provide the blog, contests and other items you find here.

Michael Vass is also a contributing author to the 1800blogger family of blogs.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Will 2008 be a lump of coal or a nice present for investors?

While in New York City recently I visited with several old brokerage friends. During that visit we all discussed the market and what may potentially be on the horizon.

One broker, whom I respect and consider quite sharp [even when I disagree], had an interesting comment on my predictions. I believe that the move to junk rating of ACA, the probable $6 - 12 billion loss at JP Morgan [significantly higher than expected], eventual losses from Citigroup – which reinsures itself, oil breaking $100 a barrel, and the multiple overseas investments will all hit the market in mid-January 2008. Thus I think a move to 11,000 is more than probable.

My friend disagrees. His view is that if I am correct in these outcomes, then the Fed will be forced to lower rates further immediately. He feels that this is the only way to stem the problem that is the mortgage crisis. This is especially true when you consider the increase in credit card debt.

“All the people with million dollar homes that would be refinancing and getting an extra $200,000… They find it hard to change their lifestyle quickly. That says nothing about most people who are feeling deflation. And add those paying the mortgage with their credit card and you have a market that needs the Fed to cut.” – Paraphrase

Sound reasoning. But I don’t think a bear market is avoidable.

The fact that the mortgage crisis is far closer to its beginning than end. I expect that there are far more homes in danger than has been seen to date. Even with the highly selective mortgage bailout stated by President Bush, many are going to be at risk. Credit card debt can only float for so long. With the added pressure of oil at or above $100 per barrel, which I expect mid-January as I stated above, more will fail even if rates are lowered (less than 2 points).

Add to this the fact that financials are at high risk. The early infusion of foreign capital may look good now, but this does nothing for future and continuing losses. It’s window dressing. With re-insurers like ACA in trouble and Japanese banks are unwilling to help bailout the shortfall (due to very limited exposure to this risk), the sector will be weak. Historically if financials are stagnant or falling so goes the majority of the market.

That says nothing of the potential of a Democrat becoming President. Again historically a negative pressure on the market. It is even graver with several prominent Democrats nearly promising to increase corporate taxes (or outright take their profits – especially oil companies).

The Fed can lower rates, but that will not stop the general malaise I see coming. At the least the first half of 2008 will not be good. A move to 11,000 seems inevitable. If I am correct then the question is this.

Will those experiencing deflation outweigh the inflation fears? And if more people lose their homes how much of our financial institutions are we willing to sell to avoid the harshest realities of a crash?

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Predictions of China's growth by the Christmas tree

I have often found that some of the best information comes from the least expected places. For example I recently was at a Christmas party for a top NYC law firm. One of the people I met was a trader who specializes in Southeast Asia.

This trader believes that Japan, China, and Australia will all be exceptional areas of growth throughout the next 5 years. China is his personal favorite. I paraphrase…
“China has the sheer manpower that will help it outperform. In many ways it is similar to Japan of the 1950’s.”

It is hard to argue that point. Especially since the $5 billion 9.9% stake in Morgan Stanley was made December 19th. This positioning and the $29 billion Chinese buyers spent buying outside companies signal a long-term plan by China to integrate with the world markets in a more direct manner.

There is no question that the manpower resources available to Chinese corporations are a unique resource few nations can match. Add the previously stated investments and time, and you get growth and stocks that can surge longer and stronger than even in the last Chinese bull market.

But there are serious negatives. The Chinese stock market is hardly as transparent as many might wish. The latest bull has very recently reversed into a solid bear market. That transition occurring in an amazingly rapid month. And of course the communist nature of the Chinese Government adds political issues; some of which are known, some unknown, and 1 thing is assured – volatility.

There is no lack of investors that agree with the abovementioned trader I met. In fact I agree with reservations. While I am perhaps more cautious than Warren Buffett, China is a market that demands attention. The only question is the one most vital to all investors.

When is the right time to get in and out?

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Contest Winner Photo - 12.20.2007.1

I received a photo and comment from the $1000 Holiday Contest winner Cheryl W. from New York State. I want to share her thoughts and photo with you.

$1000 Holiday Contest winner Cheryl W. of New York State

"I used to believe in Santa Claus, but now I'm older. Thank you for giving me a reason to believe in people. This helps me so much, thank you."

I'm glad this has had an impact in a positive way in someones life. I hope all my future contests can do the same.


Michael Vass
President - M V Consulting, Inc.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The challenge to you for 2008

Recently I was speaking with a friend of mine, I’ll call him Bob. We were discussing my effort to regain the 6 pack abs I had back in my 20’s. Bob is a former military man, and used to also be in far better shape. Bob is now a pretty average 43 yr old, with a decent middle that is not uncommon for most men his age.

While discussing the gym I had chosen, the conversation hit upon my annual physical. Surprisingly Bob has not been to a doctor for a physical in over a decade. That’s 10 years without any check-up, simply because he doesn’t like doctors. While I agree with his dislike and distrust, I was surprised.

For the past decade Bob has paid into his health coverage plan. Let’s assume that the family plan costs $253 per month, which I have been told it costs some. That’s $3036 per year or $30,360 over the last decade. That’s no small amount of money. Even if it’s half the cost that’s still $15,180. And it’s being wasted.

For me it costs over $1200 for me to get a physical. That includes testing for diabetes, prostate cancer (essential for Black men over 35), HIV/AIDS (everyone should test for that – that isn’t married), and the regular battery of tests. It’s at least $80 just to wak into the door of my doctor. That’s life without medical coverage (I am self-employed). Bob pays a fraction of these costs per visit.

I know that many men are like Bob. We all hate doctors, and consider taking pills or medication a sign of weakness. I have no desire for it either. But if you don’t there are consequences.

I mentioned to Bob what happened to my best friends father. He was a Korean War vet, in great shape, no smoking or drinking, that died due to Prostate cancer. By the time he went in to check out the pain he was feeling, it was too late. He was diagnosed with late stage, terminal prostate cancer. He had waited for years before going to the doctor. Who knows how long he may have lived if he had a regular check up and caught this early. I do know that his grandson wanted him around longer than he was, as did my best friend.

Being fit and healthy does not mean we have to become vegetarians. We don’t have to give up every vice we have, nor ever pleasure. But it does mean moderation, and it means we have to be aware of where we are.

Doing the exercises and eating a good balanced diet (and cutting back on the cigarettes and beer if you are like me) is half the battle to becoming healthy and fit. Getting regular check-ups is the other part. You are probably paying for this anyway, so why waste the money you work so hard for. Get your money’s worth, see a doctor and get a check-up.

The life you improve will be your own. The lives you will affect are your wife, kids, children, grand-children and loved ones. I dare you to explain how that’s not worth taking a few minutes out of your year, on something you’ve already paid for.

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The question is who to vote for in 2008

I was speaking with a young former military man today, and the subject of the 2008 election came up. This man is 22, a former Navy Seal, and interested in what will happen to America in the near term. He also has no idea who to vote for.

Sometimes I forget that many people, of all ages, have not been following the Presidential race since 2006 like I and other bloggers have. That’s not because of a lack of interest, or intelligence. It’s because there is so little information out, and so little to get behind. There are plenty of YouTube video clips, charts on the net to chart where each candidate stands, and 30 second soundbites galore. But there is little substance and platforms for the average American to sink their teeth into.

To an extent I hope that my lists of Pros and Cons of Republican and Democratic candidates are helpful. I hope that my letters to several of the candidates (of both political parties) helps to give further insight to what each offers the nation. But even if all that I have written over the past year and almost a half on this has been read by every undecided voter in America I don’t think it is enough. That is because all the candidates are failing America.

They are failing us because they are playing partisan games, one-upmanship and preening like celebrities (with issues) more than attempting to be political leaders. And that benefits none of us.

One example of this failure is in the question given to me by this young man. The question was

“This war has gone too far. Especially since it was started over oil. I’m concerned about that.” – paraphrased but the essential elements of the question.

My answer is simple, and not one politician has ever said this that I am aware of.

Let’s say that the war was done only for oil, which is easily debated and proven incorrect. Why is that bad? Right now, estimates state that there may only be another 40 years or so of oil left in the Middle East. At this time there is not another alternative energy source that works. Not one. Lot’s of theoreticals but they are all only effective on paper.

Given that fact, and there is no debate it is fact, then oil is the only reliable energy source in the near future. America has reserves and access to several major oilfields that have never been tapped. The reason is that we are using all the oil in the Middle East while developing alternatives for the future. If OPEC were to run out of oil, most every nation would be unable to continue to provide for the safety and quality of life of their people virtually overnight. Except for America and a few other nations. That’s because of our use of foreign oil.

Taking a long term view, it is strategically important that we use oil from everyone else as much as possible, to guarantee that when the reserves start to dry up we will still be able to defend our nation, and continue to seek and create improved energy sources.
So, having an ally in the Middle East that provides America cheap oil in large quantities is vital to our long-term survival. It makes sense for us to want to have control over a major oil producer.

In addition, there is the question of money. Many want to point at President Bush and say it’s about him making money. The theory is that only oil companies will make money from Iraq. Those claiming this fail to recall that those same oil companies help fuel the American economy. They are part of the stock market, where tens of millions have invested their retirement funds, based on the thought they will bring in a profit. These companies employ thousands of people. They are paid to find, refine, and transport this fuel. This oil is used by hundreds of businesses that create cars, plastic, tires, perfumes and other products.

Oil companies making more money, means that America makes more money. And for those that might want to “take the profits away from the oil companies and give it to the people,” they are both liars and ill-advised. If the profits are taken from the oil companies, you will not receive a check for your share of that money. In addition, your mutual funds, and the stock market will drop. Jobs will be lost, in dozens of industries. America will be hurt.

It’s true, and all you need to do to see it is to look at the big picture and the long term view.

But politicians won’t say that.

How about tax reform that so many want to have. Several presidential candidates claim they will “remove the IRS” and completely convert the tax code. I feel they are misguided in the worst manner.

Not that I think the IRS is a good thing, or that the tax code is working. But if it were to be removed it would impede the entire nation. Of the roughly 40% of the nation that is employed by the Government let’s say that the IRS, or any department, makes up 5% of all the people employed. Without the IRS they are all out of work.

In addition you lose all the people that do oversight on the IRS, all those that do research on the effects of the tax codes, those investigating the loopholes of taxes, and those that prepare taxes for the average American.

Say good bye to H&R Block and other similar corporations. And with their loss goes the benefit and impact they provide to the stock market. Unemployment skyrockets, and the stocks, mutual funds and retirements of millions plummet.

The big picture, long-term view really takes all the wind out of the sails of a cute popular soundbite. But it’s far more honest. Because the fact is that any department of the Government is incapable of being removed or revised substantially. There are just too many lives, and economic implications tied to it to happen.

What does that mean when evaluating Presidential candidates? That when you look at all the information and comments made you have to take a moment to review what they are really saying. You have to look at the long term effects. And you have to throw out all the feel good fluff soundbites they all make. Because there isn’t a human being alive, ever, that can discuss all the implications of say nuclear weapons in Iran or illegal aliens in 30 seconds.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

A point of caution for Iowa Democrats

As has been shown constantly since it happened, the most important part of the Iowa Debate has now hit YouTube. It’s very important for more reasons than just the joke that Senator Obama wittily made. Take a look at the video clip, and watch for the details. I’ll explain my points right after.

Now at the beginning we get the question. This is very important because of what it does not state. The fact is that many long-time supporters of the Clinton’s have abandoned them and joined Senator Obama. I have to wonder why these people, who personally know the Clinton’s, would end a decades long relationship. What do they know that would cause them to switch? And en masse at that.

The next thing we hear is the laugh. Or cackle if you prefer. [The 23rd second of the video] This is not a joyful laugh, but one that directly implies superiority and advantage. It’s clear that Senator Clinton felt this was an embarrassment to Senator Obama. That it proved his lack of experience and ability, in her mind. Her laughter was at him and not with him, it was mean-spirited and for once an honest reaction from a normally very well scripted and calculating politician. [I’ll address the experience issue in a moment]

Senator Obama responded in defense and with class. [The 28th second] Rather than snapping at Senator Clinton’s implied slap in the face, he retaliated with jest. He emphasized his growing support and the fact so many of her initial supporters have joined him. He mentioned and declared that like all great leaders, he too would seek advice from those around him and make the best decision.

If you notice the reaction from Senator Clinton, which is brief, is opposite everyone else. EVERYONE else laughed. Senator Clinton caught herself in the middle of a scowl. [The 32nd second of the video clip] She showed part of another real reaction. She is angry about her attempt to embarrass was used against her, well. That a moment she thought would stand for her benefit turned into a moment of her obvious weakness.

I am not saying that Senator Obama should be the choice of anyone. I am not endorsing any candidate, Republican or Democrat, at this moment. But I am highlighting facts that are going unspoken in this race of the primaries.

Oh, and as for experience. In the mid-80’s Senator Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In the 1990’s Senator Obama ran a voter registration drive. From 93-96 he represented communities and voter rights as a lawyer and lectured on constitutional law from 1993 until 2004 when he was elected to the Senate. Oh, don’t let me forget to mention that Senator Barack Obama served in the Illinois State Senate from 1996 until 2004 when he was elected to the Senate.

Now that might not be executive political experience, but it is experience. It is serving the public. It is a commitment that spans roughly 20 years.

As for Senator Clinton. She campaigned for a year in 1973. She researched impeachment procedures in 1974. She taught something at Fayetteville School of Law, for 3 years until she got a job working on patent infringement. When President Bill Clinton was elected Governor she got to work on getting federal funds to expand medical facilities. After President Clinton lost re-election she joined Arkansas Educational Standards Committee and did eventually change school policies.

When President Clinton was elected First Lady Clinton took on healthcare, a familiar area for her. She failed miserably.

Essentially Senator Hillary Clinton has consistently had minor experience serving the public. She has done very well making money in dubious actions. But her roles helping the public have consistently come from her connection to President Clinton. That includes being elected in New York, where she is not from and has no connection to.

Senator Clinton has not lead a life of public service. President Bill Clinton has, Hillary has not. Consistently Senator Clinton has had the claim that she was around public service, and dabbled with it a bit, while being the wife of someone who did serve the public.

If sleeping with public figures qualifies as public service, executive experience, then expect Monica Lewinsky to win a Senate seat shortly. But if actually serving the public is the criteria, Senator Clinton is lacking all the candidates.

Oh, a last thought. From 1978 until roughly 1992 Senator Clinton made at least $100,000 a year. She was on multiple corporate boards. When was it that she, or Warren Buffett, or John Edwards and so on, wrote a check from their excess funds to the government just because. Not paying taxes but just paying more than their share, which she claims the rich, which she qualifies as for over 2 decades, don’t do.

Suffice to say, be cautious at the Iowa Caucus. 41 seconds in the past might have a lot to say about what 4 years in the future could be like.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Pros and Cons of Republican Presidential candidates Part 3

Concluded from Pros and Cons of Republican Presidential candidates Part 2...

    Photo found at
    Mitt Romney


  • Former Governor
  • Strong Business Experience
  • Very Religious
  • For the Death Penalty
  • Finish Iraq war
  • For Privatizing SSI
  • Waterboarding (Torture ok)
  • Pro-Education


  • Few understand his religion
  • Flipped Abortion
  • Flipped gay marriage
  • Unknown position about minorities
  • Pro-GPS tracking of convicted criminals for life
  • Mixed Gun Control
  • Mixed Immigration policies

    Photo found at
    Fred Thompson


  • Former Senator
  • Anti-abortion
  • For the Death Penalty
  • Pro-Education
  • Anti-Gun Control
  • Finish Iraq war
  • Waterboarding (Torture ok)
  • Reform SSI
  • No Nukes in Iran
  • Anti-Flag Burning
  • Anti-Immigration


  • Known for TV/Movie Roles
  • Mixed on gay marriage
  • Mixed on Minorities

Well there you go. I know I did not include the internet favorite Ron Paul. The fact is that while he may be popular on the net, his views are generally seen as extreme and nutty. He has no real following around the country on any poll. And as for Alan Keyes, where the hell did he come from? Are you kidding?

I hope this helps, because the most important decision in the last 3 decades faces the nation in this next election. In my opinion the Presidential Race of 2008 will determine the direction of the country for the next decade or longer, and most of the things done will be irreversible.

Your vote counts, don’t give it frivolously or cheaply.

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Pros and Cons of Republican Presidential candidates Part 2

Continued from Pros and Cons of Republican Presidential candidates Part 1...

    Photo found at
    Mike Huckabee


  • Governor
  • Anti-abortion
  • For the Death Penalty
  • Finish Iraq war
  • Anti-gay marriage
  • For Privatizing SSI
  • Anti-Gun Control
  • Very Religious
  • Fair Tax
  • Pro Education
  • Decent Minority Rights
  • Against 3 strikes laws


  • Virtually unknown to the general public
  • Very Religious
  • Anti-Torture
  • Ok with Pathway to Citizenship
  • Fuzzy on Immigration in general

    Photo found at
    Senator John McCain


  • For the Death Penalty
  • Anti-Torture (he has huge conviction and reasons)
  • Current Senator – Long term position
  • Military Hero
  • Anti-gay marriage
  • Anti-Gun Control
  • Strongly Finish Iraq war
  • For Privatizing SSI
  • Anti-Flag Burning
  • Pro-Minority Bills
  • Limit Judges Legislating


  • Flipped on Abortion
  • Mixed on Education
  • Anti-Torture
  • Pro-Pathway to Citizenship
  • Pro-Immigration Reform

Continued in part 3...

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Pros and Cons of Republican Presidential candidates

Not long ago I created a list of Pros and Cons of the leading Democratic Presidential candidates. To be fair and to see the differences I have complied a Pros and Con list for the leading major Republican candidates.

I do not presume that this list is all-encompassing. I recognize that while I have tried to be neutral, just as I was with the Democrats, I’m sure there are areas where my personal views entered. I do not claim my list is complete or how everyone feels. But I believe it is accurate.

Some issues may fall on both sides, because depending on personal views it is a positive or negative. Most are far more easily categorized. If you disagree, please make a comment and give your reasons why. You may be right, so why not share your thoughts?

You can see some of my source information at On The Issues and 2008 Election ProCon.

Now for the breakdowns (in alphabetical order):

    Rudy Giuliani


  • 9/11
  • For the Death Penalty
  • Finish Iraq war
  • No Nuke Iran
  • Waterboarding (Torture ok)
  • Mayor of largest U.S. City
  • Lower taxes


  • Mixed on Gun Control
  • No International experience
  • Flipped on gay marriage
  • Mayor was highest level of public service experience
  • Relies heavily on 9/11
  • Flipped on Immigration policies
  • Horrendous Civil Liberties (Amidou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, ect)
  • Sold out 42nd Street to corporations

Continued in Part 2...

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What has House Speaker Nancy Pelosi done for you in 2007

As the snow begins to fall here on the northeast, I happened to chance upon an item of minor interest. What that involved was the money spent by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on flowers this year. Not a big deal right? Except you have to remember that Speaker Pelosi gained her position on the basis of change (remember all the Democrats declaring that as the only platform for the 2006 elections). The change in this case was an increase in the amounts of money Speaker Pelosi spent of the taxpayers’ money.
Photo found at
Before becoming Speaker of the House, Pelosi spent $5,000 in 2006 on flowers. The mind boggles at why she would need that many. But in 2007 that number soared to $16,058 for reasons that really seem silly to me. I mean for whatever reason that Pelosi felt she had to host meetings with dignitaries that the President was already hosting, did she really need to give them all flowers too?

But the spending frenzy did not end there. Speaker Pelosi also felt the need to swell her staffing by 46% more than the previous speaker, and her travel budget was a whopping 34.3 TIMES as large as the previous. All in all

“Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent a little more than $3 million in the first nine months of 2007, records show, compared to the $1.8 million Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) spent during the same period in 2006.”

And don’t forget that 2006 was an election year, which generally increases spending. Thank you Speaker Pelosi for taking my hard earned money and frittering it away.
Photo found at
But let me be fair. What have we received for this huge increase in expenditures? Well with the help of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, America was promised that the Democrat led Congress would

“use the first 100 hours of legislative work of the new Congress to reform lobbying, push raises to the national minimum wage, implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and reduce prescription drug costs for seniors and college loan interest rates for students.”

They went on to promise

“Tighter restrictions on spending earmarks, lobbying, gifts and travel will be proposed…A $2.10 hourly increase in the minimum wage to $7.25…”

And what have we received?

Months of debate over why Alberto Gonzalez fired some lawyers (all of whom worked at the privilege of the President and can legally be fired at any time for any reason), though it was clearly known that no law was broken. As noted above restricted spending obviously does not include flowers, staffing, or travel for the Speaker of the House. And since leadership flows from the top down, is there any surprise?

More specifically, on 2 issues that I find to be important and dealing with the lives of children what has the Congress done? H.R. 180 IH, otherwise known as the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act, was introduced in January 2007. As of Dec 12, 2007 it is still not a law. It took the House virtually 8 months to finally vote on this as a good idea, and its gone no further.

What is it? What does it do?

“To require the identification of companies that conduct business operations in Sudan, to prohibit United States Government contracts with such companies, and for other purposes.”

Since most have not heard of Darfur, let me give you an idea of what is happening. Genocide. The murder of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children over the last 4 years plus. I did not call it genocide, the U.S. government has. And the Congress, under Pelosi and Reid who promised change and want to help all the kids whose parents are in this nation illegally or are poor, can’t even agree to stop giving Government money to a country killing people non-stop (possibly 100 more women and children are dead by the time you have read this far) for years.

Well maybe genocide is too political. Perhaps America is not the police force of the world. Maybe our government makes too much money from dealing with the Sudan and the economy will fail if we change. How about protecting children’s lives?

Everyone wants to protect children. Only a beast would want to put them in harm’s way. Only monsters would stand by and allow a child to be killed. At the least you would say something, right? Not if you are in Congress.

In the House there is H.R. 2620: Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007 (in the Senate, where Harry Reid “leads”, there is S. 1175: Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007. They are identical.) The purpose is simple

“A bill to end the use of child soldiers in hostilities around the world, and for other purposes”

So what has been done? In the Senate it was introduced in April, in the House June. And that is it. Just as H.R. 5966 [109th]: Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2006 died with nothing done, so is this years version.

Wow, with this kind of leadership the premium that we are paying Congress and all the perks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is spending our money on, really seems worth it. I mean even our own soldiers are not getting funding while Congress gets ready to relax in their large well lit, well heated homes for Christmas.

Yes, the leadership in Congress promised change and they delivered. Too bad they didn’t mention that it would be a change to waste of our money and inaction on any legislation of importance.

Still feel good about that vote in 2006? Keep it in mind as you vote in 2008.

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What Presidential candidates would say if they were honest

Taking a moment to reflect on the Presidential race, all of the comments debate and punditry that has gone on since the beginning of the year, I was sitting back and remembered something. The television show, The West Wing, had probably the best debates and political competition I have ever experienced in 40 years of my life.

Taking a scene from that show, I want to share a thought that I think is very important in the division among conservatives, liberals, democrats, republicans and everyone else in the nation right now.

Let me know your thoughts.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Feds attack Rev. Al Sharpton and ignore Senator Hillary Clinton - 12.13.2007.1

So some may have noticed the news today on Reverend Al Sharpton. If you missed it, simply stated it was that the Feds have started an investigation on Rev. Sharpton. Now you may ask why? To check what he did with funds he received while running for President in 2004.

Yes, virtually 4 years after the fact, the Feds now believe there may have been something wrong going on. And they will not stop before they turn every stone, in an effort to find something out of place. I have little doubt that they will in fact find something too. With the amounts of money involved, and the nature of politics these days I’m sure some money was a bit fuzzy. But more on that in a second.

Rev. Sharpton is claiming that this is simply the Government penalizing him for highlighting the failures of the justice system, in particularly with his march last month for the benefit of the Jena 6. I am no great fan of the reverend but I will have to say that in this case, he is probably right. I mean if there was some question, does anyone think it would take this long to find? Considering the nature and background of Rev. Sharpton, does anyone doubt that officials checked every i and t for their dots and crosses throughout his failed campaign?

More importantly I have a bigger question to ask. Where is the Federal investigation into Senator Hilary Clinton?

Perhaps some have forgotten, or chosen to ignore, the fact that Senator Clinton took a million dollars from criminal-at-large Norman Hsu. Hello, $1,000,000 that was donated to Senator Clinton from a known fugitive. Any bells going off?

How about the fact that initially the Clinton campaign denied they took money, then found out they took $25,000 which they planned to keep. As there was more news they offered to give back, to the fugitive Hsu, $32,000 he donated. When the media found out it was in fact $1 million, and only then, suddenly the Clinton campaign “found” that they were right and offered to give the entire amount to charity.

I for one have yet to hear the name of the charity the money was given to. Which is important as it was found that Norman Hsu scammed tens of millions from investors, which he gave to Senator Clinton and several other Democrats. Those investors that got bilked want their money back. So does anyone know what happened to the money? Is everyone sure that it’s all accounted for?

Can you really be sure that a candidate that is known for micromanaging every aspect of her campaign, who has been photographed and filmed at functions with Hsu, whose campaign continuously attacks every other Democratic candidate – especially Senator Obama as he has gained in polls – and then apologizes when that attack is received badly by the public. Do you really believe that kind of candidate has no issues in their financing? Especially when that same candidate leads EVERYONE in money from lobbyists and institutions?

So I ask again WHERE IS HER INVESTIGATION? Or are we to believe that the Feds are only capable of recognizing well documented facts and violations of campaign finance laws 4 years in hindsight? If at all.

I truly believe that the only reason more is not being made of the Rev. Al Sharpton investigation is because there would HAVE TO BE a demand that the same investigation be made of Senator Clinton.

You won’t hear of this from Rev. Sharpton. He is a Democrat, and supports Clinton (last I heard). The other Democrats will probably stay quiet as well, lest they draw the ire of ultra-liberal party die-hards. Expect to hear that question LOUDLY from the Republican primary winner, unless they too have a few Hsu’s in the closet.

Either way, the timing and nature of this investigation just tells me one thing. The justice system is corrupt, and it has friends in other parts of the Government that will punish those that bring any light to that corruption. It’s hard not to think that, regardless of the dubious nature and background of Rev. Sharpton.

Now the only question left is whether those who champion election finance reform will stand up and defend Rev. Sharpton, or denounce Senator Clinton. Anything else implies, if not proves, racism and Government supported corruption.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Real messages in polls and surveys 12.12.2007.1

The more I read the results of polls and surveys discussing the Presidential candidates, the more I think that you could prove the sky is purple, or that 9/11 was an inside job. Oh wait; there are some that actually think the former. There goes my point.

There are daily, weekly and I don’t doubt hourly polls and surveys for every candidate, newspaper and major media outlet. Each and every one of them has something different to say. Which I find remarkable, if they are all asking the same question.

Of course that is the problem. They aren’t asking the same question. They are asking all kinds of things, and then presenting the results as candidate X is leading the race. When stated in that manner you might think that popular support in America, or a particular region, was incredibly high for one candidate of another. That isn’t the case though.

How often have you heard results that said, ‘X% of undecided voters favor candidate Y.’ Sounds simple and straightforward. Except it’s crap. If a voter is undecided it means they are not favoring anyone. They are up for grabs, and at any moment they might change their mind. Better to ask them how many grains of sand you can hold in your hand.

Or how about when you hear

“Overall, 83% of those surveyed said Hillary Clinton was well prepared enough for the job of president. For John Edwards, 29% said he had been spending his time attacking his opponents. For Barack Obama 60% said he has been spending his time explaining what he would do as president and 80% said that Oprah Winfrey’s help made no difference to them.”

This is just a cluster of misleading information.

First note that it starts with the question of who is prepared for being President. The next sentence goes off track to state how John Edwards and Senator Obama spend their time. It then goes further off the original thought by comparing Oprah’s impact. What in the world does that have to do with if John Edwards or Senator Obama are prepared to be Preisent?

You have just been given a subtle and purposeful guide to positively view Senator Clinton. It’s a falicy of logic. It’s a neat trick, comparing apples and oranges.

You are given the positive of the subject they want you to like, a negative about everyone else, and a negative distraction to keep your mind busy about the lack of cohesiveness. At least they are being consistent about how Senator Obama and John Edwards are spending their time. Though I have to wonder how these same people felt Senator Clinton was spending her time?

Here is another question on those results. It’s stated that Senator Obama spent 60% of his time explaining what he would do as President. It’s phrased as a negative in context of the wording. Why is that bad? Would you want to elect a President that you have no idea of what their goals and objectives were? Think about it. Do you want a President that will suddenly take a conservative or liberal stance on say illegal aliens, taxes, the economy, or the war in Iraq?

Of course not. So why is that a negative? I think the better question is what’s the percentage of the other candidates spending their time doing the same thing.

Why is this important? Because if you don’t pay attention it’s the same thing as being lied to. It’s trying to promote an agenda that is hidden. It’s trying to present bias in a platable manner. It’s on par with a scam.

The next Presidential election is vital to this nation. Far too many issues will be decided between 2009- 2013 that will have ramifications for the lives of our children and perhaps grand-children. Some of those consequences will be irreversible. And there are some that are trying to take advantage of the inattentiveness the general populace has for elections and primaries.

I am not saying that the writer of the above quoted post is trying to do this. I would say that the New York Times and many other pundits and major media are. And if you don’t watch the details, you probably won’t like what you get.

Kind of like when the Democrats campaigned on change in 2006. They never stated what would change. People assumed it would be the war in Iraq. It turned out to be giving up on governing the affairs of the nation and seeking near endless meetings and investigations to blame Republicans and the President. Essentially they changed the limited effectiveness of Congress to being a complete waste of taxpayer funds.

When you don’t pay attention to the details, the wool gets pulled over the eyes with ease. But the Presidential election in November 2008 is too valuable. Look for the details and then make a choice. Because once you vote, there are no do-overs.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The real power of Senator Obama and Oprah Winfrey

For days now I have heard discussion and arguments about Oprah Winfrey. Is it a good thing that she is backing a politician, does it matter that the politician is Black, does it violate regulations and restrictions in the media? They go on with, can Oprah affect politics like she can book sales, does this help or hurt Senator Obama and the Democratic party, how much effect will women and African Americans really have in this next election, and on and on.

But I have to wonder.

Ms. Winfrey is a noted entertainment figure, of that there is no doubt. And there is no question that her fans are legion. To question the impact of her ability to lend credibility to anything she advocates is to have blinders on to the recent past. Ms Winfrey is unique among virtually all her entertainment peers, past and present, in that she moves mountains.

There is no coincidence that because of Ms Winfrey, an 18,000 seat arena was sold-out in virtually no time, in Columbia, South Carolina. The fact is that she wields power. And at the match of that is Senator Obama.

In the beginning of the year, when the average citizen was ignoring the early start of the Presidential race, Senator Obama was called a ‘young Senator without a chance.’ That he would ‘make an interesting distraction until real candidates got involved.’ That was the opinion of the pundits across the major media outlets. How wrong they were.

Suffice to say that Senator Obama is a real candidate, with appeal to all Americans, and his own goals for the country. He is no cookie-cutter politician, nor is he flustered by the Clinton political machine that has ground many other opponents to dirt.

So given the high credentials of both these figures, the fact they have spoken and discussed issues in the past that are mutually aligned, and that they have a media presence individually that is impressive, why are there questions?

When Don Cheadle, George Clooney, and others have spoken about Darfur, the media did not blink. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made efforts to help millions in Louisiana and Africa there was barely any attention. When Hanoi Jane Fonda, and Tim Robbins protested the war in Iraq, few centrists (where I think most of the nation is) cared.

But in this one instance we get something different. We get a real media powerhouse backing a real candidate. That is not to say that Barbara Streisand, Bon Jovi, or Sir Bono, among others, are (were) not powerful in a manner, but they are not powerhouses. Moreso they are not minorities. And I think that scares more than a few.

I think the huge media argument has been very simple and well disguised. Some fear that 2 Black figures at the top of their respective fields can make things change. No one questioned Oprah while she avoided politics. No one worried about how Senator Obama campaigned or who backed him. But the second both were linked there was frenzy.


Because they both are articulate individuals, and in a manner that does anything but evoke the stereotypes and back-handed compliments usually attached to that phrase. Because millions agree with their views and most of those are citizens that have not historically used the power of their vote. Women, African Americans, and the youth. None of these groups have been noted for actually voting in high numbers or in a block. And some are terrified if they do.

If these 3 groups come out in force and vote, the traditional political power lines will fail and things will change. It doesn’t matter if they vote for Senator Obama or not. The result will be a shift, and many in America are terrified by such a change. Its implications could end the control some have had for centuries.

This is the reason why some pundits try to belittle the “Oprah effect”, knowing that said effects reach and power is known and unmatched. It is the reason why some pundits state it will not help Senator Obama. It is why 18,000 rushed to hear these 2 people in the middle of the South, a point that has not been duplicated in the past or present and cannot be underestimated.

In everything I have heard I come back each time to one thought. Some are afraid of having 2 Black powerhouses, saying the same thing together, signaling the real end to the ‘White Old Boys Club’ in the most significant way. If my supposition is correct, then I herald that chance. I look forward to that change. I am not endorsing Senator Obama, but I am recognizing the impact.

I once wrote if celebrity endorsements affect how some vote. Perhaps I should have asked and discussed if a triumvirate of minorities coming out to vote in force can improve America. That is the real question behind Oprah and Senator Obama. That is the real fear. For some.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Early thoughts on Mitt Romney's speech

Having just heard the speech by Mitt Romney I want to share my early thoughts. I think that this was an impotant speech, and there will be no end of pundits discussion of what worked and failed in the speech. But from a comman man’s point of view, I have to say that it was a good speech.

I have no doubt in the conviction of the words spoken by Mitt Romney. They came across in a heart-felt manner. And I believe there was a hint of annoyance at times as well. I too share that annoyance, because in the 21st century, with 231 years of existence, America should not have a need for such a speech.

I have to wonder, as I did early in the speech, if Senator Barack Obama needs to make a speech about his race, or Senator Clinton needs to make one about being a woman. Sounds absurd on the onset, but where is the difference? In essence there is no difference unless an individual seeks to find a way to segregate and divide Presidential candidates on a basis that ignores character, intelligence, ability and experience.

Mitt Romney stated [I am writing this before the full speech is available so forgive me if I misquote]

“As President I will need the prayers of all the faiths of this nation.”

The fact is that any President needs this. We are a diverse naton, and no President has ever, nor ever will, represent everyone in the nation. Nor should they. We don’t need candidates that are willing to deny what they are, or give platitudes in an effort to gain cheap votes. And do not misunderstand, seeking votes on the basis of gender, race, religion or other categorizing factor is a vote that is sold cheaply and unwisely.

There is no question that in this nation there are many faiths, and peoples from across the planet. That is a strength of this nation. The basis that we all live and believe that our freedoms are the single most important fact of our lives. It is the driving force of why everyone in the world wants to live here or have their nation emulate facets of our own.

But the fact that this speech needed to be made worries me. It implies that there are some, a great many of them, that cannot accept the freedoms far too many have died and bled to maintain. It means that some would rather stick to prejudiced ideals and huddle in the dark rather than take steps forward to ensure the greatest good for the nation.

I am not making an endorsement, but I am highlighting a thought. Does it truly matter what the race, gender, religion or ancestry of an individual if they are the best choice to lead our nation in prosperity, peace (as much as possible), and freedom? Could anyone honestly say that they would give up any of those things to gain a superficial comfort in having a cookie-cutter incompetent lead them? If so that is perhaps one of the most un-American things I’ve ever heard.

The next President of the United States, and those to follow like those that preceeded them, is not a Man. They are not a religion, race or anything else. They are the embodiment of the nation, and when we pick them properly, the highest ideals that are the foundation of our land. It is this embodiment of the people, and service to them in seeking the greatest good, that is what the President is. To select a President for any other reason, to have a President that serves any other purpose, not only diminishes the nation but in fact harms our ability to continue.

Mitt Romney’s speech reminded me of these facts. He crystalized the fact that the election is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, or men vs. women, or White vs. Black. It’s not about whom a person gives faith to, or chooses not to. This election, like all elections in America, is about serving the will of the people and the betterment of our lives and world.

Perhaps that sentiment will pervade as pundits and major news organizations ponder over every letter and syllable. Perhaps the various candidates will reflect on this as they prepare for the next speech or debate. Perhaps the American citizens will take to heart this thought as they discuss this among friends, debate at primaries, and vote in the general election.

The faith of the citizens of this nation, in our nation and each other, is pre-emminent for each of us and all of us to continue to be free.

If we lose sight of that, we lose sight of America.

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Impending US rate cut moves China and Asian markets

It’s amazing the interconnectivity of the global stock markets and the thoughts that are held in various countries. This is especially true of China, and it’s stock market.

As noted earlier on this blog, China has ended a long Bull market and entered a Bear recently. The 20% drop has elicited calls of caution from noted investor Warren Buffett, and debate amonst brokerage house. Yet the outlook for 2008 is not quite that dreary.

With the chance that U.S. markets will be receiving another rate cut by the Federal Reseve, Hong Kong rallied and took much of the Asia markets with it. Even the Chinese banks, which are expected to raise the reserve ratio to a high of 17%, gained with expectation
“Hong Kong Monetary Authority generally follows interest rate adjustments by the Fed because of the local dollar's peg to the U.S. dollar. Local and Chinese banks gained on expectations that a rate cut would fuel their mortgage businesses.”

In addition there is the thought that China will be a big part of growth in South Korea. Shipbuilding and steel are the favorite sectors for some analysts like Cho Yong-jun of Shinyoung Securities. Others feel that China is one of the critical keys to the emerging markets, like Yoon Ji-ho of Hanwha Securities.
“China is the growth engine of the global stock market. The rise would continue unless China and other emerging markets slow down.”

Yet this news all comes as an expected tightening of the monetary policy is being implemented. Which is seen as a positive in that
“Yuan appreciation has actually been helping the stock market by attracting inflows of foreign funds and encouraging Chinese investors to keep their money in domestic markets.”

So given all this, what conclusions can we draw?

It’s likely that any rate cuts in the United States will rally all the Asian markets and while the Chinese monetary policy will probably increase the Yuan to the Dollar, growth is foreseen in the emerging markets. How this growth interacts with the continuing questions in the U.S. economy and the increased demand in Asia is unknown. Mr. Buffett has made his statements, which must be respected. At the same time Asian brokerages are indicating they have no fear.

I would suggest, though this is no recommendation, that any potential investors remember that bears hibernate, as do the market trend that is named after them. Often the worst of a bear market is not seen in the first bite. But in any non-bull market there is always an area of productivity. And at some point even the worst performers are worth buying for the long-term.

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OPEC influences BP oil sands deal

When will oil prices break thru the $100 a barrel mark? That is a question that Europe and America are considering now, even as OPEC has decided to hold production levels steady, and the question of an American recession loom on the horizon.

Though President Bush has taken action to halt the mortgage crisis, the demand and cost are still serious issues. So serious in fact that BP has just inked a $5 billion deal with Husky Energy to take a position on the huge oil sands reserves found at Alberta oil sands deposit. Previously the cost and difficulty of oil sands had prevented BP from getting involved, but with oil at nearly $100 a barrel there has been a need to change.

Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water and heavy crude, which is difficult and expensive to extract. But the partnership expects to be able to produce oil at a cost of about $40 a barrel.

Even if America, and subsequently Europe, falls into a recession the demand for oil is likely to increase (though more slowly) as technology consumes more and more. The expectation that future innovation in the recovery of oil from oil sands is probable.

Recently the Energy sector has been targeted by analysts looking at the S&P 1500 as the top sector recommended. And if the mortgage crisis fails to get worse, while America avoids falling into a recession, demad for oil will likely increase as the winter storms start to affect consumption. The demand for cheap and plentiful oil, without the influence of OPEC and the turmoil of the Middle East politics, is on the horizon.

Given that, the outlook for global energy stocks seems positive in the near-term at least.
“We like the outlook for raw-materials and energy shares very much,” said Pat McHugh, who helps manage about $310 billion as a portfolio manager at MFC Global Investment Management in Toronto.

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What's moving gold?

The ripple effect from the mortgage crisis here in America continues to reverberate around the world. As in China and Asia
“With the chance that U.S. markets will be receiving another rate cut by the Federal Reseve, Hong Kong rallied and took much of the Asia markets with it. Even the Chinese banks, which are expected to raise the reserve ratio to a high of 17%, gained with expectation”

the actions by President Bush and the expectations on the Fed have affected gold prices and stocks.
“This re-iterates that in America they will do anything to stop sub-prime. It has put confidence back into the US market, and that is why guys are going out of gold.”

Even with this resurgence in confidence, and the prospect of lower rates in American and subsequently the rest of the world markets, there is still the possibility that a recession is in America’s future.

Several factors remain in the air that will influence the outcome of the economy and the price of gold and gold stocks. Sales for the holiday season, and the amount of discount being provided by retailers, are being watched closely for clues on year end and first quarter corporate numbers. Energy prices, which were recently as high as $100 dollars for a barrel of oil, has helped to put pressure on the economy as well.
“When will oil prices break thru the $100 a barrel mark? That is a question that Europe and America are considering now, even as OPEC has decided to hold production levels steady, and the question of an American recession loom on the horizon.”

Not to mention the predictions of Goldman Sachs
“Goldman Sachs said today that investors should sell gold in 2008 to take advantage of the steadying dollar.”

Yet with all of this gold rose above $800 on Tuesday. To say that speculation is in the air is the least of things. With so many factors inter-related, geo-political unknowns and the impending primary voting on the horizon there is no surprise that February gold futures contracts were recently quoted at $855.

Will the futures contracts be accurate? Will America fall into a recession? Will a Democrat be elected President? No one is quite sure, but the answers will become apparent very soon.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The polispeak on experience

Experience. It is defined as to have firsthand knowledge of states, situations, emotions, or sensations. In politics it is the difference between the records of one politician and another, allegedly. In the political world, having secondhand or peripheral knowledge is equal to firsthand. And that is enough to get elected on.

Amazing isn’t it. That is to say if you are married to a scientist that cures a disease, you too are qualified as an expert. The fact you know nothing about the subject besides knowing co-workers and colleagues only adds to your experience.

Imagine writing a resume and saying that

“My brother (or whomever) worked as a certified electrician and I went with him on jobs for several years. So I am applying for work as a certified electrician.”

Your application/resume would be thrown in a dumpster. That’s the real world that most Americans live in.

But if you are a politician, you live in a world that is separate of the real one. A world in which osmosis and standing next to important people is just as good as doing something. Want to get popular and you’re an unknown, stand next to a movie star. Want to seem important, get seen talking to a famous politician or dignitary (even if the actual conversation was about how they like their coffee).

For those that would scoff at this, or wonder how it applies to Presidential politics consider the current argument between Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. Both claim to have international experience. In fact neither does.

For Senator Obama, the fact is that 4 years lived overseas as a pre-adolescent is not political experience. I submit that it can and does broaden life experience and that it can help to widen views about different cultures. But that’s about it.

I mean I spent a year and a half in Moscow, witnessed the coup attempt on Michial Gorbechev and the start of the civil war in Soviet Georgia firsthand. That does not qualify me as an expert in coups, civil wars, Soviet politics, revolutions, or Russia. But if I were running for political office you can bet your ass that it would be a confirmation written in stone that I have international experience.

Looking at the facts of the matter, according to how politicians equate experience, I have more experience than Senator Obama (I was 23 while in Moscow) and arguably Senator Clinton.

For Senator Clinton, there is no question that as First Lady she visited several nations and met with several dignitaries. That is fact. Of course she never discussed the politics of America with these Heads of State. That was the job her husband, President Bill Clinton did.

Do the spouses of leaders of nations have influence? On fashion trends, absolutely. On whether there will be sanctions against terrorist nations, no. That’s just a fact. No one asked First Lady Clinton how America should deal with export taxes, or Qadafi, or the no-fly zone over Iraq. Because she had no influence, power, or experience in the matter. Whether President Clinton spoke to her about these matters or not, it’s not experience.

In the same manner that First Lady Bush (either), Carter, Reagan, Ford, or Nixon had any experience because of the office their husbands held. So of the 8 years of Executive Office experience Senator Clinton claims, none is really valid except a short period of time when she tried and failed miserably to reform healthcare. A miserable failure that arguably was because she had no influence or political power/experience. She doesn’t have 15 years of political experience, because if including the time that President Clinton served counts so should his time as Governor, which she does not include (rightly).

So for all the hogwash that’s being spun out there, the fact is I and many Americans have more real firsthand knowledge of international politics and events. Those Americans do not include the Presidential candidates. It may sound great for a soundbite, but it’s just polispeak and another cheap way to buy your vote.

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Video clips of candidate flips: Polispeak in action Part 2

Continued from Video clips of candidate flips: Polispeak in action Part 1...

Hillary Clinton on troops in Iraq – [She is the “frontrunner” so she gets more attention here]

Mike Huckabee on Taxes

There are other examples, and I have no doubt every candidate has to some degree taken opposing sides of many issues. One pundit has stated this is just the

“difference between campaigning and trying to govern and legislate” – Chris Cillizza

But if you ask me it’s just a way to lie to the public. If you are for something, then you campaign on it. If you are trying to get votes you omit facts and your intentions. Perhaps I’m unique being from the Bronx, but omitting things is considered lying. Hiding part of my actions is considered shady and duplicitous. Telling part of the story, and acting contrary to what I vehemently stated is considered manipulation.

The election for 2008 is very important. Many critical issues affecting America for the next decade are in play. Essentially it seems that this election will come down to the lesser of 2 evils, which still leaves us with an evil. But given that, keep in mind when you go to the primaries that virtually every Presidential candidate has lied, answered in the grey, or outright taken both sides of the argument.

Because of that you need to pay attention to what seems to be their real positions and what you think is best for America. If not, we all may regret the President we get, because once the votes are cast we can’t go back and try again.

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Video clips of candidate flips: Polispeak in action

In my continuing efforts to present a nuetral (until the primaries) and unbiased view of what is really going on with the Presidential candidates, I found a site that has done some serious homework. This is about as honest as it gets. It’s not a written rebuttal, or questions asked of the candidate, it’s their words on the issues that they and pundits believe are important.

The benefit of the internet in regard to politics and Presidential elections has been huge. Candidates of both parties have used this medium to poke fun at, criticize and detract the message of their opponents while making requests for funding from the public and emphasizing their own importance. But they also seem to forget that this same medium allows us the chance to see how they employ Polispeak (my own term for the way politicians shape their comments to fit the audience and polling they want to influence).

Here are the examples: [Michael Vass, and 1800blogger, do not endorse any political candidate or party at this time. Any endorsement or candidate affiliation found in the following video clips are as they are found via the YouTube site.]

Hilary Clinton on both sides of Nuclear weapons and Iran -

Rudy Giuliani takes both sides of Immigration -

Continued in part 2...

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Steroids vs Death: An unnatural risk

Women love a man with a good build. And men want to be loved by women. It’s not a surprise, it’s human nature. It’s the whole core of the birds and the bees.

To that end men have long gone to great ends to impress women in general, and even moreso for specific women. I have, as did my father, as I’m sure every man reading this has. It’s what we do.

Whether that means buying a trendy, red, sports car (or a big yellow Humveee depending on your tastes) or working out 4 times a week men across the world want to look attractive to women. For a growing number of men, this quest to be a mirror-image of Adonis has lead to acne, male breasts, and death.

I’m referring to steroids and its use among teenage boys and young men. Not that the side-effects are any better or less severe for older men. But a trend has been growing for some time and is starting to reach proportions of serious concern. Yet it doesn’t make sense why.

To be honest, I did not know much about steroids back in 1998. That’s when I got a client (I was a stockbroker at the time) who was taking steroids. I’ll call him B (for Buff).

B was taking steroids for about 6 months by the time he became my client, to my best knowledge. Due to the nature of his account I spoke with him several times a day. Because he was a local New Yorker I saw him about once a week to review. For the next 3 years I noticed the change in his behavior.

B was a young man, 26, successful and a bit stocky though he was about 5’6”-ish. Energetic all the time, he was very excitable. He could be heard yelling at me, both in joy of a good trade and anger at a bad one, through the phone. The thing was that the trading we were doing was not overly impressive. He was making money, but not so much as to be that excited.

As time passed these mood swings got worse, til one time B wanted to get into a fight with me because (at our weekly meeting to review the account) a bar tender gave him a lite beer instead of a regular one. When I tried to calm him down he nearly assaulted me. That’s when I found out about the steroids.

That’s how I learned a bit more about steroids than the common thought that it’s something baseball players and wrestlers use. Actually lots of regular people use it too. And they suffer for it along with all the people they know. It nearly cost B his marriage and the brokerage account I managed for him. But when he nearly assaulted his mother over spoiling coffee, that was his turning point.

But rage is not the full measure of this problem. Long-term abuse leads to far worse problems than a hair-trigger temper. There is the fact men can grow boobs, lose their balls and the ability to have children. They go bald, have heart attacks, get liver cancer, acne, and more. That does not even touch on the chance to get HIV or AIDS and/or delusions.

All by the age of 25 in some cases, sometimes even younger.

Honestly it isn’t even necessary. Any man can get bigger, looking like a small truck if they want. You just need to eat healthy and work out. That’s it. Real simple and no different than what men have done for centuries across the world.

But in a world where every guy is trying to outdo the movie stars and CGI effects (al la 300) natural improvement isn’t enough. Teens are apparently feeling peer pressure and taking the easy way out. It’s just stupid.

When I got back from Marine boot camp, I was diesel. No question on that. And there was no need for more. And I could have done it without joining the military (which was not the reason why I joined, just a pleasant bonus).

This is not just an American problem though.
"I started using them to build up my muscles and look better. In the group of lads I hang around with, the bigger you are the more respected you are and at my local gym everyone was doing it, no one ever told me about any side effects."

That’s one young man from Britian. In Austrailia
“In a nine-month Customs operation between October 2006 and July 2007, Customs officers detected 1405 separate importations — a 50% jump in seizures at the Australian border.”

This is a growing issue, and its not getting the attention that it deserves. When Chris Benoit killed his family and himself in a steroid rage, there was huge coverage. Since that became old news, what have you heard? What have your kids heard? That Barry Bonds got into the history books because of steroids, Not exactly a reason not to take the drugs.

Suffice to say that this is something parents, friends, wives, girlfriends, and family need to pay attention to. We as men need to know that this is not a quick fix to attracting women. There is a cost for the added mass, and it’s not cheap.

Male fitness is more than a means to get bigger, it a way to live better. There is no shortcut to that. And it’s not too much to achieve with a good diet, exercise, and a clear mind. Think about it.

*this can also be found at Male Fitness Blog, where I am a contributing author.*

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 5 - 12.3.2007.5

Concluded from Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 4

And another thing. I’m tired of hearing half-truths and lies from politicians. Especially those running for President. I do mean the supposed affordability of Senator Clinton’s Healthcare plan, and the comment from Senator Obama that he is not funded by special interest lobbyists. The health care plan gets its money from our taxes, and that means higher taxes if this plan is approved – don’t allow yourself to be lulled into false dreams that it won’t.

And every candidate, Senator, and Representative receives money from lobbyists. They all have funding from special interests. They all wouldn’t have enough money for the campaigns they are running now if they didn’t, donations from the public may be large to the average person, but they are not enough. To deny this is a lie. If he said he had less than other candidates (like Senator Clinton who leads all presidential candidates) I might have bought it, but he didn’t.

So all in all, this was just a jamboree of feel good left liberal democratic propaganda. There were no real answers, and less definite thoughts than at a real debate.

And one final thing on the Forum Saturday. I was very upset that the moderator called for a sick child to go hug Senator Obama. That was partial treatment, a subtle endorsement, and a ‘kissing babies’ moment that should never have occurred. It was wrong and there is nothing more to say about it than that.

If the next Heartland Presidential Forum is a bit less feel-good partisan self-aggrandizement and more debate oriented, and balanced enough to be welcoming and involving for the Republican Party I will enjoy it more. But that’s my thoughts on it all. It wasn’t bad, and I am happy for the opportunity to work with TV One (I hope they will consider working with me again in the future), but I am honest and this was hope I rated it.

What do you think? What did you get from it if you saw it? How did the Heartland Presidential Forum affect your views of the Democratic Presidential candidates? Will it change or influence how you will vote at the primaries in Iowa in January and the rest of the primaries after that?

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Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 4 - 12.3.2007.4

Continued from Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 3

Another thing worth noting was that Senator Clinton was not at the event but on satellite phone, where the conversation could only go one way and she could barely be heard or understood. That meant she had a delay in her response, was allowed to go over her time, and could not be cut off as other candidates over their time were. To be fair this was due to the attempted bombing/hostage situation in New Hampshire Friday, and bad weather at the airport (which was announced to the crowd). Obviously this was an unforeseen difficulty and the technical issues were from the last minute nature of these events.

The last was that of all the candidates, I felt that Senator Obama was the least opportunistic and most direct. He covered more of the questions asked of him, with better details than any other candidate. Still there was a mountain of vagueness and ambiguity in his words and plans. And of course he used a couple of his prepared soundbite quotes, like the often used

“CEO’s make more money in 10 minutes than the people that work for them.”

Of course I have to say, “What’s wrong with that?” I mean where in the American dream or the law is it said that there is a cap on the success ANY American can have? What class did Bill Gates skip, or Michael Jordan violate, that said you can’t make more money than X? So some people are jealous, they feel bad they don’t make as much. But what are those people doing to make their lives better? Do they own their own business, did they go to college, and have they worked to improve their situation? Is it hard to make money, especially large amounts? Yes. And it’s even harder to build a business or run it as a national or global entity.

Do I think it’s fair that a CEO of a mega-corp receives millions as a bonus when a company underperforms? Yes. But shareholders can complain or sell their holdings if they are upset, and that will get the companies attention. The golden parachute doesn’t have to be enormous and inlaid with precious jewels. Then a gain, they did spend decades of their life building careers to get to that position, which often is the last one they ever will have. And if they do well a bonus is a nice incentive.

I’m tired of hearing people presume they are entitled to things just because they are a citizen and exist. I’m tired of politicians feeding into the concept that government must be involved in every aspect of our lives and there to pick up everyone that bruises their knees. It’s not the job of government, and honestly everyone doesn’t get to have all the perks and luxuries as everyone else, least of all those that worked a lifetime to get them.

Concluded in Part 5...

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Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 3 - 12.3.2007.3

Continued from Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 2

I mean raising the minimum wage sounds nice, except it has no connection to civil rights. And of course there was no mention that many if not most small businesses can’t afford the higher cost of paying employees. There was no connection between Guantanamo or alleged secret prisons or torture to civil rights.

But these are big talking points for many Democrats and liberals. It made them feel good hearing that it was on his mind. But what I noticed was that it was a convenient way to avoid the real question he was asked.

And every candidate did this. Mixing some of their talking points into answers given to them and failing to really answer what they were asked. Like when Kucinich was asked about immigrant (more on this in a second) being separated from their citizen children because they were deported – by a woman for a pro-immigration organization – and then a question about the pay a woman at Tyson receives. He chose to speak about NAFTA and the WTO, denouncing each. He spoke of the woe that workers are not getting paid enough. He avoided the immigrant issue.

Another item in the propaganda celebration of the left was the fact that everyone involved used the term immigrant. What they were referring to are the people from other nations (mostly Hispanic/Latinos from Mexico) that have entered the U.S. without visas, green cards or any legal documentation. No matter how some may want to spin it, every one of these people are criminals and the name for them is illegal aliens. They are not, NOT, immigrants.

There is no difference between an illegal alien and someone walking into your house, and moving in. They eat your food, use your gas and electricity, and take up your space. They didn’t ask to be allowed in, they don’t pay you rent or your bills, and all the money they make they keep, minus the loose change they drop into your couch as they watch your television, They complain to you that you need to learn their language to speak with them, that you need to get books and magazines in their language, and that you need to spend more money on them while they stay in your home. They have literally broken into your home and effectively stolen your possession of it.

That is an illegal alien, and that is what they have done to America. Sugar coating it, and spinning the name they are called does not change that fact. But during the Forum everyone was on the same page of propaganda, making these criminals (they broke the law the second they entered the nation without documentation) sound like they are tourists being unfairly taken advantage of. Like they had done everything involved to become U.S. citizens but was being treated with Jim Crow laws preventing them. It’s a lie and to try to pull the wool over the actual citizens is insulting. But it worked on the 5,000 in the crowd and I’m sure many who watched the webcast or C-Span coverage.

3 things worth noting though. The first is that Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate to ever have spoken at a debate, forum or any event that I am aware of on the subject of reparations to African Americans. He is in favor of them, and an apology for slavery. No other candidate of any party will speak on the issue. Even when asked directly about it. Not one including Senator Obama.

Continued in Part 4...

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Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 2 - 12.3.2007.2

Continued from Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast Part 1...

But it got worse. The form of the Forum was then announced. 20 minutes per candidate, 2 minutes to respond to the questions presented. One question from pre-selected (that’s important) people, and 2 questions from a select group of organizations and political figures would be asked before the candidate could use the 2 minutes to respond. Sounds fairly straight forward and easy to do. I had to wonder why the Forum was expected to take 2 ½ hours.

Well I found out quickly as the event started with John Edwards, followed by Dennis Kucinich, Senator Clinton, Senator Dodd, and finally Senator Obama. With the first question we saw the format in action. One average person would come onto the stage with a story of woe and anguish. They would wax on about how horrible things were for them. Then after a few minutes of this they would as a question something like, “What are you going to do about this”, “or “How will you change that?” Then the mic would go to one of the selected figureheads and representatives who would ask another question which might only be tangially connected to the first story, and then another would do the same.

Then the candidates would respond with some equally waxing response that was more of an attempt to have a soundbite on the news than a hard answer. Basically they were playing to the audience and trying to get cheap votes. I found the answers shallow.

Kind of like when Edwards was asked about what he will do on civil rights, making the laws and system more balanced and fair to African Americans and minorities. The response was both rambling and indistinct. He was told how unfair racial profiling was and how one family was affected by it.

Edwards’s response was that he would stop the profiling, and then he went on. He mentioned that he would close Guantanamo Bay, would close all the secret prisons, would cease spying on Americans, and end any and all forms of torture. He picked back up on the inequality core of what he was asked with a claim to remove mandatory minimums, the unfair and heavy handed practice of giving minorities extreme sentences as compared to Whites (like Genarlow Wilson). He then went on to jump top discuss creating jobs, passing a national healthcare raise the minimum wage to $9.50, empower unions, and oh back to the subject at hand change the disparity in sentences for crack versus power cocaine.

He was posturing on a soapbox to the converted. The crowed loved it. And the responses of the other candidates were all similar in their scope. The “questions” also were all similar in their dreary and bemoanful story-telling. But what was it all really saying?

Well as an example I now know that Edwards has no idea on what to do about the civil rights offenses in this nation. He has no plan, and thus could not point to anything he would change. He didn’t even mention a single case that is on-going that he could highlight as something he would prevent or change if he were President. I mean there are plenty to pick from, Genarlow Wilson – as I mentioned before, Megan Williams in West Virginia, the Jena 6 and many more. I’m sure his staff could have picked one to mention if he cared about it. Or any of the candidates for that matter. Not one had a real answer about this issue, or could reference a single event that happened recently. They all spun this in a manner to get everyone feeling warm and fuzzy though. Lots of style and not a drop of substance.

Continued in part 3...

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Final thoughts about the TV One Heartland Presidential Forum webcast - 12.03.2007.1

I happened to be traveling on Saturday, and was out in public watching the Heartland Presidential Forum. I heard a couple of different comments about what some people thought about it. One was

“Show me and honest politician and I’ll show you a dead politician.”

Several had that kind of reaction to the event. Many were just starting to follow the race for the Presidency. Of course everyone that was listening and watching part of the webcast with me was moderately interested. Several had no idea who Dennis Kucinich or Chris Dodd were. None were interested in watching the whole event. Everyone thought I was crazy to be working on a Saturday. But well over 5,000 people were at the Forum, many spending hours (one group spent 12 hours on a bus) to arrive.

So for those that were not able to see the Live TV One webcast of the Heartland Presidential Forum, or have not read my live commentary on the event, I offer this summary of my thoughts. [By the way, I want to thank TV One for selecting me as one of the 5 bloggers that covered the event live. Each of us had a unique viewpoint and it’s worth reading what they all had to say as well.]

Basically one thing was very clear from the beginning. This was no debate, formal or informal. It was not like any of the usual political gatherings we have come to expect and often ignore on television. But what else might you expect from Iowa?

The event started with no real pomp. Instead there were far too many accolades for various officials and organizations that were involved with creating the event. Oh and gospel singers. Oh and a prayer from a female reverend. Like I said, not your regular political event.

After all the various people involved too their time to blather on about how great it was to be there and see the response of the people from 32 states gathered their, things got under way. Actually it’s a bit unfair to say they were blathering. Yet at the same time, I could have done without the fanfare. I honestly didn’t care who they were or their political affiliation. I wanted to hear the Presidential candidates speak and see how they responded to the questions of average American.

But as the event went forward, I noticed something. More than the fact that this was not a Presidential debate. It was a propaganda stump for the Democratic Party, and liberal viewpoints. That was most likely the reason that though Republican candidates had been invited, only one arrived to participate. Of course since only one arrived, they were denied the chance to speak to the people.

That was perhaps the first clue to what was to follow. It was announced that the lawyers for the event (they needed lawyers for this?) felt it would be an endorsement for the only Republican Presidential candidate to speak. So he was denied, and his name was never mentioned. Nothing like lawyers to make something political even more partisan than it already was. How they thought one candidate could be singled out like that is beyond me since there were 4 other candidates there.

Continued in Part 2...

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Live in Heartland 6

Now for Senator Obama.

Well this was a bit unfair. Senator Obama listened to a mother about her travails on losing healthcare and the trouble she had in caring for her sick daughter. Then the moderator allowed the child to hug Senator Obama. That is just wrong as it's the old kissing babies tactic that politicians often employ. I don't blame Obama, it was done on the moderators insistence.

As for the healthcare question perhaps the most important thing was his promise that if elected he will have national healthcare, equal to any politician, that will cover every American by the end of his 1st term. He also stated, though not promised, good schools for all and the ability to retie well.

Now are the questions about homes and the current mortgage crisis. One woman described how her family had to chose between their home or the health of their family member. Another woman had to chose etween the home and food.

This was important. his response strts with

"America has lost it's balance. Ceo's make more in 10 minutes than some worers do in a year."

He has used this quote often. But why can't someone have the American dream of building a big company and being paid for it?

but going beyond that He stated that to help mortgage owners he would have a tax exemption, and that those over 60 (or was it 70) would not pay taxes. And there would be and exemption for small businesses (if I heard that right) of 15 thousand dollars. He would also end the current tax cuts promoted by President Bush.

This is because he is not "funded by special interest lobbyists". Sounds great though it is not entirely true. While a large amount of his funding is from private citizens, or bundlers like Ms.Oprah Winfrey, he does recieve money (a lot) from institutions. He recieved, I recall, the 5th most money from pharmacuetical companies - though i may be off on this as I do not have my figures in frot of me.

I will say this. Senator Obama sounded the strongest, most prepared and most descriptive of how he would implement the proposed plans he stated. Perhaps Senator Clinton could have been better in person, but we will never know. If I pick one winner it would be Senator Obama hands down.

I will be providing more indepth thoughts on the Forum in a bit, perhaps tomorrow. I found it interesting.

I hope you have found this informative, and gives you some more insite when you see the soundbites on television tonight and Monday. Remember that this election is critical, and everything that gives you more information to make a decision on is a positive.

I thank TV One for the live webcast, and I hope to have more for you all soon.

Michael Vass

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Live in Heartland 5

Had to take a small break. I'm sorry I missed a bit of Chriss Dodd's questins and answers.

So let me take a moment tosun up some of the major point of the Forum so far. As I expected high on the priorities has been Civil Rights - particularly equality for minorities in the justice system. This is a bigger issue among African Americans, Latino/Hispanics and mnorities in this nation. And it's been mostly avoided up til now.

Also the Economy. As I thought, most Americans are concerned about their jobs, and gaining a better wage. We all want more pay, though how smaller businesses will afford it is something no one has an answer for, nor even attempted to comment on.

The last seems to be immigration. More correctly its illegal immigration. This may be one reason several of the Republican candidates didn't show up. This is sad as I think this is the exact reason they should have. To answer those concerned on this issue. It will come up again.

I will note that this Forum seems highly aligned with Democratic philosophy, and I have yet to hear stories or questions that veer away from that view. This seems to go against the stated goal of inclusion of all Americans views. I truely doubt everyone in the Forum is pro-immigration, higher minimum wages (which I might suppor if it wouldn't kill many small businesses). I do agree with the civil rights stance, though I feel that is an apolitical view. It is something that affects every minority regardless of income, education or position.

I'm also glad that many are bringing up the concern of education as that may be one of the most important issues for the future generations.

And without surprise, there have been no question dealing with Iraq, or terrorism, that I was able to hear.

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