Friday, February 29, 2008

What if they took away Black History Month?

This is a repost from Black Entertainment USA and can also be seen at Black & White Blog

What if Black History Month was removed? Would anyone have noticed? Would anyone complain?

It seems not.

Why would I say this? Because I just learned that the school system in Endicott New York has removed all Black studies in the curriculum. There was nothing discussed in this past month about Black History, not even Dr. Martin Luther King, because the entire subject was deemed unimportant.

Hello, stop and read that again. Unimportant and having no place in the minds of any of the children, including those that are African American. And this was all done without a single word to the parents, a single complaint from ANY of the students. It was just wiped out without a concern as if it was no more than a piece of errant string found on a piece of clothing.

Why am I upset? What if the school decided not to discuss the Holocaust, or Native American history? What if all the history about England was removed, or France, or Ancient Rome? What if history in schools forgot about President George Washington, just not ever mentioning what he did, or the Constitution?

People would be up in arms. Parents would be inflamed. Jewish communities would claim its anti-Semitic, Native American Indians would say it’s a slap in the face. Whole communities would demand a reason why their rich pasts were being denied their children. Cries that the fundamental based of what is America was being corrupted.

And I ask, in what way is this different? How are the lives and blood of the African Americans that helped build and shape this nation any less important than anyone else? I am not just talking about the Slaves that literally built the foundations of the nation, but the inventors that created thousands of items we use every day, like the stoplight, or save millions of lives, like blood transfusions. How can we value the lives of soldiers like the Tuskegee Airmen, or those that fought in the Civil War, or the American Revolution with any less honor than every other American.

I don’t know how we can equate those lives and contributions as less, but obviously this town in Upstate New York has. I’m willing to bet that they aren’t the only ones. What are the odds that kids in Montana, or Florida, or Ohio, or any other State have no idea about these inventions or people? How many believe that being a slave, less than a dog or piece of furniture, was no different than having trouble getting a job? I know there are more than a few as I’ve read comments that insist that the trouble the Irish had in getting a job was the same as working 20 hours a day for your entire life, with no days off or concern for your health, without pay, and with the reality that at any moment your entire family may be sold away from you and that you can be killed for no more than amusement or the crime of looking at the wrong person.

If we can allow these schools to just toss away a piece of American History, a history of an essential people that helped found and defend this nation, what will go next? Dr. Martin Luther King’s Holiday? A holiday that over half the nation fought from coming into existence, and many still ignore? Maybe the laws dealing with segregation could be next. And if we get that far, why not restate Jim Crow? Hell, just bring slavery back and make it national.

It’s not that crazy. Slavery was just 5 lifetimes ago for some families. Jim Crow was just 2 or 3. Segregation was just 1. And a people without a history aren’t really a people are they?

And this was so important an issue, that not one child mentioned it. Not one parent noticed. Not one meeting was held. It was just understood that it was ok. As long as no one spoke about it, and no one asked why.

So as long as no one asks you if you are Black, or Hispanic, or whatever color, religion, or background you claim, you are nothing. And you can’t hurt nothing. You can’t defend, offend, steal from, brutalize, rape, murder or anything to nothing. And in Upstate New York, that’s what they are equating being African American with. Perhaps the Jews will be next?

Are you nothing? Is your history, your family nothing? Are you sure?

“Don’t learn Black History because of what you know, learn it because of what you don’t know” – C. Miller

I don’t have children. I’m not a teacher or involved in the school system. Maybe that’s a cop out, maybe not. But I am now aware, and so are you. Part of my responsibility is to let you know, and ask for your comments. What will you do?

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Monopoly used to hide bias - 2.28.2008.1

I want to share a response to a comment that I recieved at Black Entertainment USA under the post of Coming to a movie theater soon: Monopoly - 2.20.2008.3 and my response. I feel both are more appropriate on this more political blog.

Every part of the following is verbatim and can be seen at the above link. I believe that the commentor meant to respond to one of my posts referring to the racial and false religious attacks against Senator Obama. [By the way, I do enjoy comments and generally don't care if the responder is anonymous or not. But I do not enjoy small minded racial, religious, or gender based prejudice and intolerance.]

"Anonymous said...
He is of muslim descent ding-a-ling. The name has everything to do with our future. Your not gonna have the women in the United States wearing burka's. How the hell has he helped the taxes in Illinois, What has he done for this state. We are one of the highest taxed States in the country. I cant stand hooples...the youth of the country voting for him are stupid."

M. Vass said...


I can see why you didn’t place your name to this post. First, I find it quite interesting in your choice of term to try to denigrate and minimize my posts with. Generally I find the more eloquent wordings better, but yours was a cute blast from the past.

Beyond this, I feel the need to emphasize that you obviously placed the comment on the wrong blog. Considering that you posted this to my entertainment blog, under a post about Monopoly becoming a potential movie in the near future, I think you were a bit confused at the time. Or you were fearful of making the comment under a more appropriate post such as Democratic Presidential candidate’s tactics and behavior which is found at my political blog – VASS.

But, lets deal with the comment as it pertains to Senator Obama and his growing success at becoming the Democratic Presidential nominee.

As I stated in the post I referenced above, The Clinton campaign has used the background of Senator Obama’s parents (particularly his father’s religion) and his given name as a reason not to vote for him. You seem to agree. I find that ignorant.

Senator Obama is of African and American descent. To be more exacting he is of Negroid and Caucassian decent. The religious background of his parents is not a birthright nor a genetic imperitive passed on to him at conception.

Further, his name is not a determination of anything in his life. Were it true as you suppose, Billy Bob Thornton would never be an actor or person of note, but instead a poor farmer of dubious parentage and unlikely to be able to sign his name. Such is the stigma attached unfairly to such a name, and with no reasoning behind it. Another example might be John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It could be said that such a name could imply that this great President of our nation was gay and a drunk. Of course only the most insipid of minds would come to such a conclusion, but they might say this because his middle name comes from his mother and the last is related to his Irish lineage. Niether are true to my knowledge, nor affected his ability.

Or perhaps John Wayne, whose real name is Marion Robert Morrison, was gay? Or Albert Einstein was a Nazi because his name and parentage is German? I can go on throughout history, but the point is a name does not make a man. A man (or woman for that matter) makes the name renown by virtue of their actions.

But in your fear adled mind a mere name is enough to make you worry that women in America could be forced to wear burkha’s or that laws based on our constitution would be suplanted by those of a strick religious sect, which is not the most populous sect followed by a majority of Americans. I’m sure if you were told that the sky was falling or that certain actions with your hand would make you go blind you believed that too. I am also lead to believe that your knowledge of history is defined by your belief that those just like you were always right and beneficial in every act ever done. You are a fear monger, and appear ignorant of facts both present and past.

As for the taxation in Illinois, I cannot answer that. I am not a native nor resident of that state. Though I am sure that the taxes in that state are not the sole responsibility of this one elected official. Perhaps he has not done enough for your state, but sharing in that responsibility would be the Governor, another Senator, your Congressional representiatives, and the Federal Government most recently headed by President George Bush and his administration. But that is a legitiamte reason, if correct, to not vote for Senator Obama. That is your Constitutional Right. As is the Freedom of Religious Expression that this nation was founded under.

By the way, what is a hoople? I find that the urban dictionary has multiuple unofficial meanings. Do you mean you don’t like birds that cannot fly straight? Or the hardening of nipples? Or prehaps you are more against a preson who drinks to excess (normally refered to as a drunk or alcoholic). Possibly you mean to say that you dislike people similar to a character in the book Mott the Hoople that was lazy. Of course none of these meanings seem to apply to Senator Obama, my readers – I believe, with the exception of possibly the writter of the comment this is responding to, or myself.

You claim that the youth of this nation are stupid. I doubt that. While many may be misguided and/or are making decisions without understanding the full ramifications of the actions that is neither a new thing nor stupid. I in fact believe that the youth of today are educated, and far more knowledgable of current technology than many adults. Many are far more understanding of religious, racial and gender differences than their parents have ever been. Far more than what you appear to be with your limited scope of understanding and inability to use technology accurately.

So in fact I think you may be projecting your own fear and lack of willingness to become educated onto the youth of America. That seems far more apparent and resonable.

With any luck, and the attention of American citizens that actually care about the best interest of America, we will never have a President – nor any elected official at any governmental level – that reflects the small minded, zenophobic, religiously intolerant, illogical, uneducated, probably racist and gender biased mindset that I believe you have displayed.

That is what I believe. And I am happy to present my name not only throught my blogs, websites, and businesses but also on this post.

Michael Vass

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Ohio Democratic Presidential debate

My initial impressions of the Democratic Presidential debate in Ohio are that this is turning out to be quite a match. So far Senator Clinton has been quite forceful in trying to make a stand on universal healthcare, and to a lesser extent Iraq. NAFTA was a sore point.

I found her whining about getting the first question on issues she has made comments on and obviously wanted to answer, and suggesting that Obama should be offered a pillow – like on Saturday Night Live – less than Presidential and weak. And for the record she has only gotten the first question 6 out of 10 times including this debate where she chose to answer the open question to both candidates.

Her seeming demand that her plan was better and that professionals thought so fell flat. She did not answer the question of what is affordable, and if she would cause penalties to come out of the paychecks of those that do not accept her plan. Obama made a good case why children need to be covered and parents will chose to be covered if given an affordable option.

I think it looked bad that Clinton would not let the issue end and had to try to get the last word in on that issue, as well as several others. I’m upset that 16 minutes were spent on universal healthcare because Senator Clinton did not agree with Senator Obama. Especially since this is not a program that exists right now, and other questions on issues that do exist were not able to be asked of either candidate.

In terms of NAFTA, her answers were weak. She had the worst answer possible about her promise to Upstate New York. In her bid to gain the Senatorship, she promised to create 200,000 jobs. What has actually happened is that 30,000 jobs left since she has been elected. That is a fact. The reason why was,

“Because I thought Al Gore would be President.”

A leader should not promise things they cannot deliver. A leader should make clear that a plan that requires unknown probabilities is not a promise. Because I can tell you many in Binghamton NY, where I now reside, remember the promise that was made and the numerous jobs that have been lost since that time; and how the area in Central New York is suffering.

Iraq is a big issue for both candidates. I personally do not agree with either of their positions. Thus rather than addressing how they debated this point, I will simply state that they both claim plans towards leaving Iraq.

I will say that on the issue of experience, which Senator Clinton claims Obama does not have, Senator Obama made a very good stand. He clearly outlined that his comments about acting against Al Quida in Pakistan back in the summer of 2007 is exactly what America recently did in killing the number 3 man in that organization.

I found the comments by Senator Clinton, butting in on the denouncement of Senator Obama to Minister Farrakhan because of his anti-Semitic comments, rude and unnecessary. It was an obvious try to try to corner Senator Obama as somehow being connected to Islam and the Nation of Islam. She attempted to embarrass Obama, asking him to reject on top of renounce Minister Farrakhan. To her annoyance, I imagine, he reiterated that he did both, renounce and reject. But what that had to do with her trying to get in that she supports Israel and Jewish people is beyond me.

In the closing statements based on the question what does your opponent need to do to win the nomination the answers were very telling. Senator Obama stated that Clinton was qualified and more worthy than Senator McCain, and took about 2 minutes in lauding her before he mentioned why he is after the nomination and why he felt he was better. Senator Clinton, by contrast opened with what made them both good candidates. She spent a minute discussing how “we are qualified” and “they both wanted the best for America” before continuing on her self-promotion.

Oh her not so subtle inclusion of gender seemed a pandering move towards women. As if she was the only one to be a history making candidate. That playing to women, almost as a fear tactic, was her battlecry. This contrasts the fact that Senator Obama never felt the need to emphasize that he is African American and that he would be making history and that this was the chance for Blacks to “change the playing field” as Senator Clinton implored.

Overall I felt Obama won the debate. He did not feel the need to press Clinton into a corner. He showed a very Presidential stance in that he took her attacks and rather than attack back he just answered the question. Unlike Clinton, Obama does not seem to need to hammer a fight to finality.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that Clinton felt the need to be unequivocal and final in her position about how Obama dealt with Farrakhan – a point that she was not involved with at all. She closed all options and demanded a response that met her standard. Obama worked as a facilitator, having a position and willing to take the extra step to get to a conclusion that he already agreed with.

That is the potential Presidents that we see. In Senator Clinton, a President that will demand and fight to get only and exactly what she wants, at whatever cost. In Senator Obama, a President that is level headed and willing to bend as long as he is in the direction he believes is right. Considering the differences between the Democratic and Republican political parties, which do you, think will be most likely to pass laws that the candidates are basing their nominations on?

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Jim Cramer - making money on ethanol when he doesn't want to

I was just watching Jim Cramer at 6pm on Tuesday. The stocks Cramer had been discussing included Monsanto, Potash and Deere. The subject was the increase in cost of food, international famine, and the glut of ethanol expected to be reported over the next several days.

The focus of the review of the potential for these stocks was primarily famine and the fact that because 35% of the grain production in America is being mandated to use for the creation of ethanol. There were in fact 5 stocks in the agricultural industry that were Cramer picks. Of note was the fact that Cramer mentioned that

“If I were a politician I would vote for ending using corn and grain, our food, for the production of ethanol… But I’m a broker so instead I will buy these stocks. If you want to help the world famine then buy these stocks and donate the profits to the U.N. world famine relief…” Paraphrased from the Mad Money program (if you have a video of this please let me know)

The argument is powerful and dramatic. Ethanol is a less effective means of fuel. That is a fact. And compounding that inefficiency by burning our food is in one point of view illogical. Especially when we have the example of Brazil where ethanol is created from sugar, thus not affecting the food supply or cost.

In watching this monologue from Jim Cramer I was struck by 2 things. I felt he really would rather that the world famine was being resolved by these companies as opposed to creating the roughly 164% aggregate increase in stock price since 2005 he noted. The other point was why other forms of renewable energy are not focused on.

In Florida nuclear plants shutdown and caused over 3 million to be without power mid-day. The price of corn is rising in commodity markets and supermarkets, as is beef. Ethanol is being mandated by the government even though it is more expensive and there is a glut of supply as it’s virtually impossible to find outside of the Midwest (mostly in 2 states).

Why then when all this is considered is the U.S. not seeking to promote wind energy, or solar, or any of a half dozen other ideas? Nuclear power is not green (due to the resultant waste) and problematic. Ethanol, as is currently being implemented, is counter-productive in multiple manners. What motivates the blind eye to all other forms of renewable green energy?

It doesn’t make sense to me. Ending corn as an ethanol base will not end world famine, but it may help deal with the problem. Wind energy does not harm anyone. Solar is plentiful and consistent. Biomass fuel is turning waste into a productive product. Shouldn’t we focus more on these answers?

I have to believe that when brokers, like Jim Cramer, are highlighting the fact that they would prefer to not make money in a stock or industry the public and government should take notice. When he, and others, would prefer to work harder to make money – which is his job – because of the international benefit then I have to say good for him and shame on the rest of us.

The options are there, and we need to take advantage of them.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Democratic Presidential candidates tactics and behavior

I love this line,

"Let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign." - Senator Hillary Clinton to Senator Barack Obama in a speech.

It’s only in politics where one candidate can complain about the actions of another while using racial attacks, smears, and religion (all indirectly) to attack their opponent. It’s only in politics where a candidate could possibly count on the public completely forgetting pervasive and continuous attacks and claim that they in fact are the victim.

To date the Clinton campaign has been directly linked to multiple dirty tactics against Senator Obama. No matter what you may feel politically you have to notice these facts:

  • The Clinton campaign forwarded emails claiming that Senator Obama is a Muslim – which is false.

  • The Clinton campaign alleged that Senator Obama was a drug dealer in his youth – which there is no proof of, nor ever alleged prior. Obama has long ago admitted that he used drugs in his youth, and that such action was a low point in his life and not something that youth should do.

  • The Clinton campaign has focused on the full name of Senator Obama – his name is Barack Hussein Obama. And what does that mean? If his name was Buck Rogers would that imply he has knowledge of the future? Does a name his parents gave him mean anything about his life? Does yours?

  • Former-President Bill Clinton directly injected the factor of race prior to the South Carolina Primary – Through various speeches and after the loss the dismissal to Senator Obama’s win, President Bill Clinton minimized not only Obama, but Jesse Jackson and Dr. Martin Luther King (along with Hillary – though in a much more quiet manner).

  • The Clinton campaign highlighted the connection of Senator Obama to a slumlord – A past association to a client of the law firm Senator Obama worked at. His prior association (including receiving donations to his State Senate election) all occurred without Rezco ever being accused of violating any law. This is confirmed by all the Chicago newspapers looking for any wrongdoing over months of research. (By the way, Clinton did associate with and accept $1 million in stolen money from known fugitive from the law Norman Hsu).

  • And the latest item (not that the above are the only examples, I just picked the most popular ones)? The Clinton campaign will neither confirm nor deny that it has published a photo of Senator Obama, dressed in the garb of a tribal elder while in Kenya. The implication is obvious. It’s an attempt to feed into the religious prejudice of this nation, specifically focused on Muslims since the 9/11 attacks.

Photo found at
It does not matter that Senator Clinton, and President George Bush have both worn similar garb as a matter of respect and honor when visiting nations in Africa and the world?. Does that mean that President George Bush is a Muslim? Obviously that is a laughable concept, but why does it change context when applied to Senator Obama? Because some small-minded, bigoted, racist, uneducated, potentially inbred, blights to humanity can’t get past color of skin and a faith they likely know nothing about. And Senator Clinton is counting on those votes to get her the nomination.

…..Plouffe said in a statement: “On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election. This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire, and it’s exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world,” said Plouffe.

Of course Senator Clinton has not directly made any of these statements. She has consultants that compare Senator Obama to Nazis, minor aides sending out the emails alleging a false connection to Islam, a senior aide implying drug dealing, and of course Bill in South Carolina and beyond.

Funny how none of these things are her fault. That for a candidate known for micromanaging every aspect of her campaign she is so out of control when they consistently (for over 6 months) smear, lie, and prejudicially and personally attack Senator Obama.

So when I hear Senator Clinton cry out that she wants to “debate about your tactics and your behavior” I have to ask, does her mirror somehow obscure her own actions when she looks at it? I wonder that if her moral compass shows these kinds of tactics as the high road, what is the low? And if there is no line to cross in just attempting to get the Democratic nomination, what line would she also cross if elected President?

I would suggest that those in Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Texas all consider this before voting in their Primaries on March 4th. I hope everyone votes, but know what you are voting for.

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Senator Clinton fights for Ohio, Texas Primary wins

For those that thought Senator Hillary Clinton was going to just give up in her bid to become the Democratic nominee, stop celebrating. In moves that are ranging from complete racial ignorance, to actual issues she is trying to reverse her position on, Clinton is holding on with claws firmly dug in. But this is not a surprise considering the extent of her total campaign.

Let me deal with the actual issue that Clinton believes is unfair. When former-President Bill Clinton was in office he pushed to create and pass NAFTA. That is fact. While he was fighting for this, the then First Lady Clinton, advocated the plan and supported it. That too is fact. Today, now Senator Clinton says

“I am fighting to change NAFTA," she insisted. "Neither of us were in the Senate when NAFTA passed. Neither voted one way or the other."

While that is true, one would believe that based on the actions of Senator Clinton at the time, were that she was in the Senate she would have voted for it. Plus, this is another item that targets the flimsy actual experience that Senator Clinton tends to co-opt from her former-President husband. She just doesn’t like it when people point at facts and say that her opinion flips along with poll numbers and her objective at the time, in my opinion.

Another example of the inability of Senator Clinton to take criticism appears when she has her healthcare plan criticized. The Clinton health plan does require everyone to be covered. To do so, if you are not covered you will be penalized. And the penalty planned by Clinton is to go after the paychecks of offenders. Note in the quote below that “more affordable” is not completely affordable. This is all fact.

“Her plan requires everyone to be covered, but it offers tax credits and other subsidies to make insurance more affordable.”

So if you cannot afford healthcare under the Clinton plan, and I mean when you get your paycheck, you will lose money from your check because of it. Now to be fair when you file taxes, once a year, you will get a tax credit and subsidies will exist. So I would imagine that the tax credit will cover the cost of healthcare for a year, hopefully since that is not clear. That still leaves you with a loss from the penalty you accrued up until you filed the taxes. If you received a rebate in the first place, as taxes will be going up and there has never been a tax increase in the 40 years I have been alive for that did not affect every American.

When Obama points to this negative impact of the Clinton healthcare plan, he is accused of being unfair. Oh, did the Clinton campaign leave out the fact that the ads Senator Obama used to criticize this plan have been out for over a week, BEFORE anything was ever said by them.

But never let it be said that fact has anything to do with the Clinton campaign. Or rather I would say the lack of a factual and known stand on the positions. Much like the new stance on NAFTA, or the inability of Senator Clinton to be able to answer a yes or no question about illegal aliens receiving driver’s licenses, many viewpoints of the Clinton campaign remain obscure at best.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Green energy advances in Europe and Britian, but lags in U.S.

The move towards global green energy usage took a few steps forward today with announcements by the EU and Wales. These moves are important not only because of their attempt to reduce carbon emissions but also the diversified sources they seek to gain renewable energy from, and the economic stimulus they plan to implement in the process.

The European Union earmarked almost €9bn for investment in green energy projects. This is to be distributed to proposals and projects that research, develop and improve efficiency of alternative energy sources and the reduction of carbon emissions. The net goal is the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels. One such example of this is the Danish project to turn the island of Samsø into a carbon neutral community.

Across from Europe in England similar actions are now planned in Wales. The goal is for Wales to be self-sufficient with renewable energy within 20 years. The main source of the energy would come from wave and tidal energy with "minimum environmental distrubance". In addition to this wind turbines are another planned source,

“Wind presents great economic opportunities and the potential for Wales to become a world class centre of excellence for the development and manufacturing of low carbon technologies” - John Woodruff, British Wind Energy Association chairman.

But in the United States there continues to be large debate on which renewable energy sources to use. Nuclear and coal energy sources are considered part of the renewable energy portfolio. And a bigger issue looms over the proposals that have been made.

“However, the plan stops short of deciding the sticky question of how and when utility companies will be regulated in the future.”

Reluctance of lawmakers to adopt timeframes and standards bog down efforts to improve the green energy capabilities of States and communities across the nation.

Green energy and renewable energy sources are economically feasible alternatives. The European Union and other initiatives prove that. So efforts to generate those same alternatives in the U.S. need to receive more than debate and exclusive responses.

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Will gold hit $1125 and lift gold stocks in 2008?

Over the past 9 days the potential for a Democratic nominee to be identified in the U.S. Presidential race became clearer, crude oil has topped $100 a barrel, China has begun to recover from winter ice storms and started the Lunar Year of the Rat. Each of these items has helped to place upward pressure on the spot price of the precious yellow metal commodity gold. Thus today we are at a point where record profits are being reported by some gold mining stocks, and gold spot prices have breach historic levels.

And I’m not surprised.

I have mentioned,
“As these facts are absorbed by the markets, increased volatility and further upward pressure on gold should continue. It’s likely that the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index and Amex Gold Bugs Index will reflect this pressure. Several Canadian gold miners are also likely to have a short-term boost as they will have increased sales due to lack of competition.

Perhaps most important will be the timing of all these events. If they are moderately spread out and occur individually I expect that they will not be able to retard the move in gold. Combined or occurring close together the effect will be magnified.”

When I made this statement gold spot prices were above $920, now on February 21st they have reached $948. That’s roughly a 3% increase in 9 days, and a continuation of the trend established at the beginning of this year. And it’s not limited to just gold commodity prices.

Barrick Gold Corp reported a 28 percent gain in fourth-quarter profit, or 61 cents a share, beating the estimate of 14 analysts. Barrick was able to attain this while production in 2007 fell 6.7 percent to 8.06 million ounces.

Given that fact, what would an investor or analyst think when you consider that supply is in the throes of shrinking due to power outages and other factors in South Africa. One example is DRDGold, which dropped production 13% in the 4th quarter, and yet is up 4.4% today.

But the growth is not limited to just these companies.

The TSX material stocks gold sub-sector is up 1.4 percent. That includes the aforementioned Barrick and Goldcorp. Other companies around the world on the rise include Exxaro, AngloGold Ashanti, and many others.

The facts are that China and India need gold. Even in a global slowdown their demand has increased pressure on supply. Recession and inflation fears and a lagging stock market in the United States have not diminished though they are not leading world headlines this moment. Oil prices are foreseeable going to continue higher and place more pressure on world economies, especially if OPEC cuts production rates as expected. And the prospect of a Democratic President in America is generally seen as a negative for the stock market, further spurring a move to gold to hedge investments. I have said,

“All stock markets, all financial markets, move on emotion first. That’s given. And few things are more emotional that 1.25 basis point moves by the Fed in a week. But fundamental facts of the markets always come to fore and correct the emotion. To me, $1000 gold, and higher gold stocks across the world, is as fundamentally sound today as when I discussed it earlier this month and in December of 2007.”

I’m no analyst, nor am I making an advisement. But I do believe that the factors are in place, and the results are like dominoes falling. Unless investor sentiment changes, which actions by Warren Buffett and the IMF have not been able to counter to date, I see nothing to stop this trend.

Now I will go one step better. If supply remains constrained, as we can see is likely, and the U.S. economy has the mild recession now being stated by the Federal Reserve. If oil production is cut, in combination with the recent U.S. refinery accident that has placed pressure on capacity, and Senator Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States. If all those actions occur, which seem 80% probable to me at this time, then I believe that gold spot prices in excess of $1125 are possible by the end of this year. Commensurate with this move should be gains among the gold mining stocks across the world.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Primary race results chart - 2.21.2008.2

This is part of the I Love America That’s Why I Vote! campaign.

For those wondering exactly how popular the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates have been so far, I found something that makes it very clear. At a glance you will be able to see exactly who won a state primary or caucus and what percentage of the voters.

I hope that this tool will help encourage those that have not yet had the chance to be involved to get out to the Primaries. Especially in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island on March 4th.

For those that have voted already, I hope that you stay involved in the election process. Whether your candidate or some other winds up as the nominee for President of America, your vote counts. The more each and every American is involved, the better the future for America becomes. I truly believe that.

If you have not registered to vote, please go to I Love America That’s Why I Vote! and see the information for registering from anywhere in the nation.

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Senator Obama expands lead after Wisconsin vote, Clinton in trouble

Senator Obama has swept even more states and continued his streak of victories with 58% - 41% crushing win in Wisconsin and an embarrassing 76% - 24% clobbering in Hawaii. While the final tally has yet to be finalized Washington State stands at 50 - 47 with 57% of the vote counted. This makes the number of states won by Senator Obama 24 to Hillary Clinton’s 11, and increases his popular vote margin and the delegate count.

As it becomes more apparent that Senator Clinton cannot gain the Democratic nomination, something that far less than a year ago pundits expected to be a given fact, the internet is beginning to rally to Senator Obama. Consistently the internet, along with the predominance of major newspapers and television/cable news, has been quite liberal and Democratic in their political preference. That preference has long held that Senator Clinton must be the choice of the nation. But with the continued inspirational performances of Senator Obama, the tide has changed.

I for one am amazed that it took so long to happen.

Without regard to personal political affiliation or beliefs, Senator Clinton never had a chance of winning a Presidential election. The reasons are tumultuous and towering. Beyond the baggage that is the Clinton Presidency legacy, there are the numerous scandals that Senator Clinton has had individually. Add to this her outright lies (like my favorite – that she has 35 years of experience which is only possible if you co-opt all the years of public service that her husband was elected to) and derisive attacks and you get the reason why Rasmussen predicts an 80%+ chance of Senator Obama winning the nomination. And all of this does not take into account the 47% dislike that the nation holds for Senator Clinton.

At this point only elderly (65 years of age and up) white voters stuck with Clinton in the Wisconsin Primary in any significant numbers. And I expect that even this group will erode from her shortly, because

“Hillary began positively, but the minute she felt the slightest challenge from Obama, she went negative and dirty and then went into denial about doing it and then claimed SHE was the victim of attacks. Worst of all, she used Bill as part of the strategy. Even a hard-core lefty like me is repulsed when hearing Bill Clinton attack people and then act slickly sweet and innocent and paint himself and his wife as the victim.”

Yet this has not prevented Senator Clinton from stating

“I’m not going to just talk about what’s wrong with NAFTA, I’m going to fix it,” she vowed. “My opponent has taken to attacking me on NAFTA. The fact is, neither of us were in the Senate at the time (it passed) and I’ve long been a critic of the shortcomings of NAFTA.”

[In fact neither were in the Senate at the time, but when President Bill Clinton was passing NAFTA then First Lady Hillary Clinton was a huge supporter of the bill and the President. And if we are to go and accept that her time as First Lady is part of her “35 years of experience” then NAFTA must be part of that as well.]

Nor has it prevented the win at all costs strategy that the Clinton campaign is known for.

“On Monday, an aide even suggested going after pledged Obama delegates at the Convention – in other words, directly thwarting the will of the voters.

After a disastrous PR flap, the Clinton camp denied that statement. But it’s fair to draw a basic conclusion: they are getting desperate, and are grasping for any method to win the nomination – whether it is ethical or not.”

This is on top of the fact that the Clinton campaign agreed, with all other Democratic candidates at the time, on the penalties placed against Florida and Michigan in September 2007. But today they are trying to engineer the removal of those penalties to bolster their own flailing hopes.

Given all this, with 2 debates to come and the March 4th Primaries in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island, I have to question why any continue to support Senator Hillary Clinton. Looking at all the comments and facts, without emotion or preference, I am at a loss. Perhaps one reason those 65 and older are voting for Senator Clinton is the fact that she is White and they are part of the generations that lived in a United States that supported segregation and Jim Crow laws. It’s an aspect that I have not heard discussed, for obvious reasons, but it has been a failed tool (race) used since the South Carolina Primary, so it’s worth asking.

For those that still are unsure of whom to vote for in Texas and Ohio (the major delegate states in the next set of Primaries) the question to ask may be one that Senator Clinton asked of Senator Obama

“What has he done? What is his experience?” – as presented in a Fox News clip of Senator Clinton making a speech on February 20, 2008

The same should be asked of Senator Clinton. And when that answer comes up with an equal nothing consider this. She has been in the Senate longer, supposedly with 35 years of experience and has nothing to show for it. Add that to her attempts to break rules she has agreed to, personal racial attacks, her flips on issues important to Democrats (like her vote and support for the war in Iraq), scandals and 47% national disapproval rating.

So I ask, why would a Democrat vote for her over Senator Obama? I’d like to know.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Revising my prediction on a higher oil price, since I was right

Well it would seem that I am wrong and right. Both of which seem to be occurring sooner than I would have ever imagined. And the implications of this is going to have repercussions for quite some time.

With crude oil closing above $100 on Tuesday I am proven right in my expectation of an increase in the price. But I am incorrect for the reasoning and timing. It was my expectation that OPEC would cut production and this would help to fuel further price increases on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The OPEC meeting is on March 5th, and there are still expectations that production will be curtailed. So this may fuel even higher prices.

The cause of this sudden rise was not my presumption of actions in Venezuela and Iran either. It in fact is directly connected to the refinery accident in Texas on Monday. The refinery handled 67,000 barrels of oil a day and as such will have an impact rather quickly in the U.S. This explosion was a tragic accident that could not be expected nor factored.

But in looking at the results from this and the comments over the weekend of Hugo Chavez there are some things we can understand. Chavez, by the way, has backed off his threat to cease sales to the U.S. Obviously the threat was not a major problem for the U.S. as others nations were willing to cover any gap and the total volume from Venezuela is not enough to impact the nation. Cutting sales would impact Venezuela though. In addition I would imagine that Iran was not willing to back their friends in Venezuela on this matter.

According to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service the price for gasoline hit a national average price of $3.032 a gallon. Expectations by the Energy Department target the cost per gallon to exceed the $3.23 that was reached last May in this year. This expectation seems to be a forward indicator of higher crude oil prices, and futures contracts seem to support that theory.

I previously mentioned
“Beyond this scenario the more likely thing to expect is that OPEC will be cutting production levels during the March 5th meeting. Without a dramatic downturn in the U.S. and world economies, in that order of importance, a return to $100 a barrel will likely happen again for a brief period before the summer and then drop back into the mid -90’s. But I believe a surge will occur along with a resurgence of the American economy in the 3rd and 4th quarters. I will say that by the end of 2008 oil breaking $110 is likely.”

Without accounting for the unforeseeable, there has been nothing that has changed except the accelerated increase in crude oil prices and futures contracts. Given that, I continue to stand by my outlook, with one change. I expect that the short-term prices will likely run to about $110 before backing off. My new target, adjusting for this accelerated move in prices, is that by the end of 2008 crude oil will exceed $125 - $130.

Hopefully there will be no more tragedies for the entire year that could accelerate this move higher.

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Michelle Obama discusses her pride

Michelle Obama is currently the focus of media attention. Considering that Senator Hillary Clinton is a woman, the comparisons to her seems inevitable to become harsh. And I find it interesting what is being said.

Michelle Obama is not a politician. She has never tried to be one. She is a hospital executive, well educated, and a mother. She is 44. She also happens to be Black.

Given those facts I have to wonder a few things. First is the thought that what does her thoughts have to do with American politics? If we assume, as the Clinton campaign claims, that being the wife of a politician is the same as having experience, then I expect her views on healthcare reform are very important (especially since she works in the industry). If sleeping with a politician is not enough, then her impact on the politics of her husband is virtually non-existent (and the claims of Senator Clinton go down the drain).

But it seems the media, the McCain campaign, and the Clinton campaign are giving her words significant weight. That is why her comments is being dissected. [This is the full comment and not the polispeak soundbite used by the major news media]

Now there are those that find her comments to be unpatriotic. That it was an insult to the nation. That is one way to view the words, and it is valid. But I think it does not take the meaning of the words into account.

I do feel that Michelle Obama is proud of America, but that she means that she has not had a reason to be overly and beyond the general pride we all feel every day. That there has not been any moments in her adult life that brought her special or specific feelings of pride. To be honest I think all people are proud of America in general, but not overly elated in expressing that pride every day. I mean when was the last time that you heard a politician, or anyone, just say “I feel proud of America today” without context to some event or action?

And as I discussed this with a friend, the thought came up that the fact Mrs. Obama is Black is also a factor in the comment. Specifically because

“As a Black person having to deal with the way people treat you in America, you have a very different take on America. So her statements reflect her experiences. She could have walked into places, like a store, and been treated like crap while her White friends could go in an be treated well in the same place.

It makes me think of Janet Jackson’s last film. In one scene they went skiing, and the wives went into town to shop. They were wearing furs, and well dressed. The clerk walks up to them and says that there is no cash in the store. The first thought was they were there to rob the store. So in reference to Mrs. McCain, they don’t have the same life experiences. The treatment is always going to be different.

American daily life, and politics, have not given her reason to be overly proud. It’s a Black and White issue. Which is why this makes a big difference from Mrs. McCain saying the same thing. It falls under the “walk a mile in my shoes” quote.”

Obviously there is a huge source of pride in the fact that while African Americans continue to not be able to catch a cab in New York City, even if they are Denzel Washington or Danny Glover, Senator Obama is winning states across the nation that have virtually no Black voters by enormous margins. Because they think he is the best candidate for President. And that is a source of pride that has not existed in the lifetime for African Americans before.

And what other moments since the 1980’s have Blacks had to be especially proud of America for? What has changed that made a dramatic difference in the average Black Americans life? Gaining Mayors in cities that never had Blacks in positions of power before? Learning that there are many trying to end Affirmative Action, without implementing something better and more fair, even though racial bias continues to exist in the nation? What event equals the momentum and potential of Senator Obama being able to gain the highest office in the nation?

Context makes a difference. Point of view makes a difference. And being the spouse of a political figure minimizes those points to a degree while amplifying the spotlight they receive. Is Mrs. Obama especially proud of America prior to the current election cycle, maybe not.

But then again what has happened that she should be? That’s the real thought that the media and America should be focused on.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who are the Vice-Presidential candidates going to be?

With the nominees of the political parties winding down, pundits and talking heads are starting to look around and question who will be Vice-Presidential matches. While many citizens may not consider the Vice-Presidency as overly important, in political circles it’s a big deal. Considering the fact that the Democratic nominee will eventually end up being either a Black man or a woman, the Vice-Presidential candidate becomes very important in drawing voters that might otherwise avoid the name on the Presidential ticket of either party.

While rumors are beginning to build, and some older ones are resurging, there is no real clear answer on who might get the nod. So when in doubt, one of the best places to look is where the betting is going. Yes, gambling. Very often where people are willing to put their money, and the payoffs odds makers are willing provide, are early indicators of what may happen.

So looking at I’ve found the following:

On the Republican side –

    Mike Huckabee leads with 6-4 odds (which I’d call 3-2 but the quote is what it is)
    Charlie Christ has 5-2
    Tim Pawlenty at 4-1
    Mitt Romney is at 11-2
    Joe Lieberman at 8-1
    Condoleezza Rice at 10-1
    Rudolph Giuliani at 14-1
    Chuck Hagel at 16-1
    Dick Cheney at 20-1

While some of the more religious conservatives may want Mike Huckabee, I feel he is too religious to be electable. Mitt Romney is more concerned with gaining the big ticket and thus I’d expect him to wait til 2012 for his shot at the prize. I expect that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the real favorite. She brings in some of the Black and women vote. And she is easily qualified for the position. I see the Democrats seriously troubled in trying to attack her on anything. My dream pick would be Colin Powell though.

On the Democratic side it’s a bit sketchier –

    Hillary Clinton leads the odds at 11-10
    Barack Obama follows with 5-2
    John Edwards comes in at 5-1
    Ted Strickland is at 7-1
    Bill Richardson follows closely at 8-1
    Dennis Kucinich is a ways back at 20-1 (though I like his position on Reparations and an apology)
    Ted Kennedy is unlikely at 25-1
    Bill Clinton is an extreme improbability at 66-1

As can be seen the Democratic ticket is very murky. While an Obama-Clinton ticket may sound good to some, I find it highly unlikely and very probably a losing ticket. The baggage and extreme dislike that Clinton brings is not worth the trouble, and virtually guarantees a Condoleezza Rice VP nod. This combination also says nothing of the dislike the candidates have for each other, nor the ego of Clinton. And if Senator Obama loses the nomination, he is better off waiting for 2012 and seeking the nomination directly.

John Edwards is a dumb choice as he is already a loser in this position, and could not draw significant support running for President 2x now.
Ted Kennedy is just not going to happen. He’s always talked about in this role, but it doesn’t happen. His name and association are not enough. As well as his appeal on a national basis is not nearly strong enough.

Former-President Bill Clinton may be some ultra-liberal Democrats wet dream of a ticket, but that’s all it is. Add him, and it’s an instant loss.

I expect odds on Richardson to improve as he is a Governor, Hispanic, and experienced with the Executive Branch. His odds go up significantly if Hillary wins as he is an old member of former-President Bill Clinton’s administration. Hillary loves to lean on Bill and his previous actions.

So my bets, if I made them, are on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a match to Senator McCain; and Bill Richardson to go with Senator Obama, and a lock with Senator Clinton.

Considering the above, which do I think will win? Well that will be a different post.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

A conversation about President Bush - 2.18.2008.1

I had an interesting conversation last night with a guy on the current status of the Presidency and the up-coming election. It’s a conversation I’ve had many times and I think needs to be discussed in a broader manner.

The crux of the conversation dealt with the anger this one guy had with President Bush. In his opinion, which I have seen mirrored in the media and on many blog sites, President Bush has driven the nation into the ground, broken laws, and involved us in a war that we have no place in. In this opinion America has been lessened by the actions of President Bush.

I disagree.

First I suggest that there is a separation that needs to be made from the emotion some carry with the actual effects of President Bush. While he may not be liked, that is not the same as what he has done being bad for the nation. Much like President Nixon, who was massively disliked in the 70’s, time and a review exempt of emotions shows that he did many things that were in the best interest of America and he was in fact a decent President.

President Bush finds himself as the second President to be involved with an openly disliked war. The fears of mothers and loved ones for the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is no small thing. But that does not mean that President Bush has done something wrong. Nor does it mean this is not in the best interest of America in the long-term.

America needs oil, a moderately peaceful Middle East, and a beachfront against terrorists that would kill every American man woman and child for no reason other than they exist. And as I mentioned in conversation, if this were likened to a bar fight the Democrats want to shout “I am done, I give up” then turn and walk away. Those same Democrats want to ignore the fact that in the middle of a fight, your opponent will likely not stop, and given the chance as you walk away back exposed will strike you over the head with a barstool. Just because some want to stop fighting, our enemies so not.

Perhaps some would prefer to fight terrorists on American soil. Perhaps they would be more motivated in attacking our enemies after they have taken down our skyscrapers and killed our children in schools and school buses. Some are disheartened because in attacking these vile individuals there is a cost of some innocents, as is true in every war.

But I say that I do not want to risk the hundreds or thousands that would die in America. I do feel badly for the tens of Iraqis and Afghans that die as a result of hiding, abetting, and/or ignoring those that attack America. But I feel far worse for the thousands that died in New York. Is it fair? Maybe not, but I love America far more than I do any other nation.

Some say President Bush has taken America down a dark path. I disagree. I would say that America has not changed course since arguably WWII. Less debatable is that America is still tracking the same direction that we have been on since the 1980’s. Every President, Democrat or Republican, has not deviated from this course. Some Presidents have just had worse media coverage, and more difficult events to deal with. (And with all honest and lack of emotional predetermination the next President will follow in that direction as well)

President Clinton attacked Iraq. America was the police force of the world during his administration. The Tech Bubble was created during his fiscal watch, and the resulting crash was caused by his in/action. President Clinton allowed Osama Bin Laden to live and kill thousands of Americans, and he lied to America directly. But I don’t see the passion for the laws he actually broke; and I do hear compassion about the actions he took that allowed Saddam Hussein to kill thousands of Kurds, cost thousands of Americans their jobs and homes, and embarrass the nation in front of the world.

All of this is not to say I agree in a blanket manner with President Bush. He deserves criticism for his actions in Katrina (or more accurately failure to act), and scrutiny on the powers given by the Patriot and other Acts.

America is at a crossroads. The decisions at the feet of the next President are huge and long-lasting in their impact on every American life. But to blindly pack every problem facing America on the back of one President is to potentially open the door for the next President to fail at various points even more regrettably.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Debating Kim Gandy of N.O.W. about Senator Hillary Clinton and sexism

I recently received a link that I found interesting. Since there is a bit of time before the March 4th Primaries I thought I’d delve into this a bit. But let me first state that I have nothing against a woman as President. Like any man that may wish to hold the highest office in the nation, my only concern is that it is the best person that receives the Presidency. I must also disclose that I have previously stated that I am locked between Senators McCain and Obama as my choices, which is based on their political profiles only.

This post will be addressing a column by N.O.W. President Kim Gandy. The full post can be found on the N.O.W. site.

To start with I have no doubt that there are women that face sexism in their fields of work. I don’t doubt this because I know that there is still massive and pervasive racial bias in the media, business, and politics with examples of this being displayed nationally everyday. So to say women still face similar difficulties is neither a surprise nor a reach.

But I will say that I think Kim Gandy protests too much on a couple of points, and seeks the election of Senator Clinton more to make a point than her actual qualifications. This is not a fault that is uncommon, as there are many African Americans that vote for Senator Obama for no reason other than the color of his skin. Neither is a reason for the candidates to receive the nomination nor Presidency.

Kim Gandy starts her column stating that Senator Clinton is the object of venom from media, in television and print, and receiving an unfair amount of negative coverage. In part I would say that is correct, as several pundits have made their comments personal and not relevant to Senator Clinton’s qualifications or they unfairly involve the Clinton family. But at the same time some of the coverage is fair and according to national polls taken from 2007 to now reflects the 47% of the nation that dislikes Senator Clinton. In politics, if polls say you are unliked the media will make their tone less favorable, no matter what your sex or color.

As for her 4 common themes used against Senator Clinton:

“First, Clinton is criticized using a gender-based grading system…His behavior shows compassion and warmth, but her similar behavior shows too much emotion and maybe weakness. He knows how to work the system; she is manipulative. He shows a mastery of the subject; she is nit-picky. He thinks through all the options before charting a course; she is calculating. Familiar?”

While I will agree that Senator Clinton has been criticized about her apparel and mannerisms there is more to this. I have mentioned in the past that I have seen posts and articles that have critiqued the colors and clothing that all the candidates wear. I feel that it is perhaps the least effective or useful reason to judge anyone for any position. I admit that several pundits have focused more on Senator Clinton for these reasons. But in a society where multiple organizations run and directly focused on women consistently choose to evaluate and critique the apparel of famous women in all walks of life then that is to be expected. Were there less interest in the clothes worn during red carpet events, as an example, I would agree whole-heartedly. But when there are dozens of television programs and magazines that exists solely to critique women on this basis, to complain when the highest profile woman in America at the moment is placed under that same flimsy microscope is silly. I don’t think it has anything to do with Senator Clintons abilities, but it is a reality that many women (apparently) find important or at least of interest.

As for the emotional outbursts, this is unfair. Several of the Presidential candidates have been singled out for their emotional reactions. Notably there are the numerous comments on Senator McCain. Whether it is commentary on his attempts at joviality (Bomb Iran) or his well known temper, his outbursts are well covered, as are most of the candidates.

And there are none that I think do not believe that Senator Clinton knows how to use the political system. Consistently Senator Clinton has been shown to use the media and polls to gain attention and political clout without actually doing anything. In looking at Senator Clinton’s record as a Senator, votes on both sides of issues and correlating directly to changes in polling positions exists. Do you recall the “Hot Coffee” scandal? Senator Clinton was prominent in her denouncement of a truly overblown subject, yet she did nothing about it and walked away from the issue immediately after it stopped gaining press attention. It is this kind of use of the media to improve her image that is considered manipulative, and she is not the only Senator to do so. But to call her on that is not a gender based reasoning, it’s just honest.

“In other words, everything Clinton does to win the election -- strategizing, organizing, confronting, comparing and contrasting -- is interpreted as calculating, fake or just plain evil.”

Well that’s not exactly true either. All politicians are calculating to some degree. Whether is campaigning in areas more favorable to their voter base, or picking to campaign in this state over another is politics today. Rudy did it when he picked Florida as his main focus; Mitt Romney did it in Wyoming, and so on. All the candidates calculate what is in their best interest and strategize, organize, compare and contrast to that end. What might be considered fake or evil are actions like promoting a half-conceived idea, like the $5,000 bond for every child in America towards their college education, and dropping it after it has gained her press coverage and positive voter sentiment. Promoting ideas that are infeasible and not having the ability to answer reasonable questions on such a plan is pandering to gain votes, and any candidate that does such needs to be called on it.

“Third, Clinton is presumed to be where she is today because of her husband, Bill.”

To a degree that is a true statement. There is no question that the fame and recognition of President Bill Clinton elevated the political hopes of Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton had no official, and questionable unofficial, political experience prior to Bill Clinton gaining prominent political positions. There is no question that either Clinton has no ties or connection to New York State. Thus her initial claim to fame in that election was that she was the former-First Lady and the headlines in New York City at that time was the fact that Bill Clinton was considering taking an office in Harlem. Often in this election cycle, Bill Clinton has dominated the media coverage, beyond any other spouse of a candidate – and most of the other candidates, because of his former office. This drew media coverage to the Clinton campaign, for good or ill and thus benefited the Senator. While an argument can be made today that Bill Clinton’s status is not the sole reason for Hillary’s current Presidential race, it is undeniably a factor and significant in her ability to be elected initially in New York State. To deny these facts is to deny modern politics and the power of political clout and endorsements in electing any official to office.

“Finally, when all else fails, belittle the voters. Women voters are irrational and biased, and voting only on the basis of gender, the press are happy to intimate (at least about the women who are voting for Hillary), and they not so subtly imply that all voters are stupid and shallow.”

I am unaware of any pundit that has belittled voters. Nor have I heard that women voting for Senator Clinton are “irrational and biased”. That may be my own inability to follow every pundit and talking-head in the media. Any that might have made such a statement is wrong and I agree that such statements are unfair.

“Hillary Clinton and women in general, aren't the only ones subject to gender-based assessments. Barack Obama and John Edwards have also been degraded when the media detect in them "feminine" characteristics or behaviors (like paying attention to your appearance) that supposedly are unbecoming in men.”

It is true that John Edwards in particular was criticized by the media for his notorious $400 haircuts. But this criticism was not about priming himself in some feminine manner. It was the obvious disconnect from his stance about 2 Americas. It seems odd when someone states they care about the poor, and is then seen paying for haircuts that are equivalent to the weekly paycheck of some Americans. And any candidate that wishes to state they are “looking out for the common worker” is at a disadvantage if they lavishly spend money on common grooming. That seems hypocritical and deserving of comment.

“Regarding women and men and politics, we really ought to be past the tree house-years. It's not just those in the public eye who are hurt when the media promote sex stereotypes. Daughters everywhere are hearing the message that a woman can't be as competent and effective a leader as a man.”

Obviously America is not beyond many things. Racism and gender bias are just a few of those things. Since both exist and are promoted on the media daily, it’s no surprise when they appear in politics. African Americans should not be presumed to be poor, violent, drug-addicted felons yet most Black men are. If we cannot get past color, is it s surprise we cannot get past gender on some issues?

Again I will ask, who has said women can’t be effective leaders? There are many women in political office. Nancy Pelosi leads the House. There are many women that lead major corporations, or own them. Oprah Winfrey is perhaps the best known, but she is not singular. Could there be more? Definitely, just as there should be more African American, Hispanics/Latinos and people of color. But to depict the political landscape or the general one at that, as devoid of women in leadership positions across the world is to be blind and instilling gloom and downtrodden view that is inaccurate in my opinion.

The column goes on to then quote several pundits and talking heads that have made various statements. Some are bad, and others depend entirely on the way you wish to perceive them. (I do find it interesting that they are virtually all from organizations that are considered highly liberal and pro-Democrat) One in particular I think is accurate.

“Tucker Carlson, MSNBC's Tucker, Jan. 22, 2008
"It takes a lot of guts for a rich, privileged white lady who is one of the most powerful people in the world to claim that she is a victim of gender discrimination. . . . She hasn't driven her own car in almost 20 years and she's a victim of discrimination? I mean can't we both agree that's just BS?"

There is no question that Senator Clinton is rich. There is equally no question of her political prominence. And from what I have read about her, she has not had to endure the difficulties 90% of Americans combat daily in over 3 decades at least. I’m not sure how much pity I am supposed to feel for Senator Clinton when she has sat on the board of Wal-Mart, a partner of a law firm, indulged in commodities trading, and had the ability to, questionably, influence public policy. My mother and sisters on the other hand have strived against discrimination and they don’t ask for any special recognition for their achievements.

So while Kim Gandy has some points, the real issue boils down simply to is Senator Clinton deserving of being the first female President. Based on her abilities as expressed as her actions in political office (which is limited to her time as a Senator since she held no elected office or political position prior) I would say no.

I would say the same for why I would not support John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and others. It’s not a bias against women to say she is not the best option; it’s just honest in my opinion. That’s the same as saying Jesse Jackson was not the best option for a potential Black President. Nor does it preclude a future candidate that is more worthy attaining the office.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Renewable portfolio standard: 2 sides in one nation

When it comes to alternative renewable green energy, in the United States there are basically 2 factions. I think that a good example of the 2 sides can be seen in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Taking a look at Michigan, a state that has been devastated with lost manufacturing jobs; there is the fact of a lack of initiative. In 1991 Iowa became the first state to create a renewable portfolio standard, effectively requiring the state to seek out and generate a portion of it’s energy usage from wind, solar, biofuel and other renewable energy sources. 17 years later there are 24 states that have their own renewable portfolio standards; Michigan is not one of them.

The fact that Michigan continues not to have a renewable portfolio standard flies in the face of Republican Gov. John Engler’s effort with NextEnergy, a nonprofit that sought to accelerate development of an alternative energy industry in Michigan. Add to that the 2005 State of the State speech by Gov. Jennifer Granholm which pushed for the creation of a renewable portfolio standard.

Yet with renewable energy growing at a pace of roughly 30% a year and $9 billion invested last year in wind energy alone in the U.S., Michigan has yet to take part. But to be fair Gov. Granholm is recently quoted as stating that she is viewing this area in a Machiavellian manner,
“I think this is such a moment for us to capitalize on, creating this whole new sector here," Granholm added, warming to her cause. "And if other states have done it without the resources that we have, then we can certainly explode onto the scene."

On the other end of the spectrum is Pennsylvania. The State Senate has already passed legislation advancing wind power, and other clean energy sources like solar and biofuels. The State House is currently debating their version with $30 million for grants and loans to develop wind energy and the manufacture of wind energy turbines passed on February 13th by a landslide vote. In addition there was $5 million for low-interest loans to people who install more energy efficient systems to heat their homes. $25 million is to go for high-performance "green" buildings of which 300 buildings are estimated to be built.

In total the debate is currently centering on $850 million for the bill that would promote energy conservation and increase the types and amount of renewable energy sources. And with that improvement it is also noted that,
“For every dollar we spend in wind energy investment, we can leverage 12 in the private sector," said Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon.”

And there is the crux of the issue. Billions of dollars and new jobs are being generated by the use of renewable clean green energy sources. The mandate of states requiring generation from these sources has been beneficially working since 1991. And growth is rising at an enviable rate throughout the country. Yet 22 States continue to support a dependency on oil and coal.

Considering the 2 examples above, the reasoning of the remaining 22 states seems faulty at best. Maybe the Machiavellian view exposed by Gov. Granholm is in fact acting in the best interest of the people, and required by more Governors. But with so much growth and the resulting positive effects on the economy and environment, we can only expect that resistance will not endure.

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Potential factors to push crude oil over $100 a barrel

Crude oil prices have been on a seesaw of volatility, most notably since hitting $100 a barrel in January of this year. Since that time there have been recession fears in America, massive rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, horrendous losses by most financials due to the mortgage sub-prime loans, and drops in the stock markets to near bear levels. That says nothing of the current growing battle between Venezuela and Exxon.

Overall the pressure has been on the downside of pricing, as many of the indicators express a likelihood of reduced demand as industries slow down. Yet not all the pressure is one sided. And the economic outlook is seen as not as bleak as once thought.
"The market has been struggling with whether we are recession-bound or not," John Kilduff, senior vice president for energy at brokerage MF Global in New York said. "That's an indicator [Japan’s economy] that whether or not we are, there's some life out there in the rest of the world and energy demand could hold up."

It’s this factor that has added to the price of crude oil recently, topping $95 a barrel on February 14th. But I think there is an aspect that has yet to be factored into the market. That factor has nothing to do with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s thoughts the U.S. economy will rebound at the end of the year. It has little to do with the lack of effort of states like Michigan to create a renewable portfolio standard. It has everything to do with Venezuela.

It’s a given that the 90,000 barrels of low quality crude exported by Venezuela to the U.S. is a fraction of what the nation used. The threatened cut of sales to the United States is more likely to have a negative effect on Venezuela than effect America or impact crude prices significantly. But it’s the ally of Venezuela, or more accurately the ally of Hugo Chavez that matters. That ally would be Iran.

Iran is a major oil exporter, and no friend of America. In recent months there have been several conversations of mutual support between Iran and Venezuela, and condemnation of the U.S. It is this mutual anti-American sentiment that could drive up prices beyond an OPEC reduction in supply might create.

If the current court actions continue to favor Exxon over Petroleos de Venezuela, and negotiations fail with ConocoPhillips causing them to follow in Exxon’s direction it could start a landslide against that nation. In the face of that kind of pressure, and the refusal to sell oil to America, Iran may join with Venezuela in a stance against America. This combination of political action and national leadership prejudices is an unknown that I have yet to see any analyst or blogger mention. It’s probable that the reason for that is the unlikely nature of it coming to pass. But unlikely is not improbable.

Beyond this scenario the more likely thing to expect is that OPEC will be cutting production levels during the March 5th meeting. Without a dramatic downturn in the U.S. and world economies, in that order of importance, a return to $100 a barrel will likely happen again for a brief period before the summer and then drop back into the mid -90’s. But I believe a surge will occur along with a resurgence of the American economy in the 3rd and 4th quarters. I will say that by the end of 2008 oil breaking $110 is likely.

Now let’s see if this comes to pass.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

After sweeping the Potomac Primaries, what's next for the Presidential candidates

Voters have spoken. Mike Huckabee and Senator Hillary Clinton sadly weren’t the voices being called out by the najorities. In sweeping victories Senators Barack Obama and John McCain continued their momentum towards the nomination for their various political parties.

Most decisive was the victory by Senator Obama. In victories that were between 60% to 75%, there was no question that voters of every race in the Democratic Party are being drawn by the message of hope and change over the message of experience touted by Senator Clinton. So definitive was the victory that long before the outcome was reported, Senator Clinton had already left the area to travel to Texas. There she is making what may be a last line in the sand stand to claim the Democratic nomination.

On March 4th Texas and Ohio will have huge Primaries that could likely seal the delegate battle, potentially removing the need of Super Delegates to decide the Presidential nominee. Potentially because there is still the question of the Michigan and Florida Primaries.

Both Michigan and Florida were penalized for moving up their primary dates by the Democratic Party. Michigan had it’s delegates decreased and Florida received none. But now that the battle is so close the Clinton campaign is making a huge push to get those delegates validated. And a major debate is ensuing. There is a more than probable chance that legal action will wind up being involved.

There are 2 opinions on these penalized delegates. The first, which I agree with, is that both states were warned and fully aware of the cost if they chose to hold their primaries when they did. Decisions were made and the consequences were metted out. Such is the essence of life. A choice is made and we live with the results.

On the other side is the Clinton campaign, and it’s proponents, that believe the voice of the people in the respective states must be heard. They want to ignore the known consequences and take advantage of the results. It should be remembered that while all the other Presidential candidates respected the rules in place, the Clinton campaign pushed forward to try to seek an advantage.

While Democrats in Mifchigan and Florida may be upset, they were fully aware of what would happen. To claim sour grapes now is without merit and does not warrant reward.

Looking at the Republican results, Senator John McCain has finally received tallies that place him above 50%. He has also further pressured Mike Huckabee towards what is most probably a withdrawl. Given the math, it is virtually impossible, and would be unpresidented, if Huckabee were to garner enough support to overturn Senator McCain’s lead. Unless there were to be a major gaffe by McCain, and Huckabee were to win the Texas and Ohio primaries in massive landslides, there is no chance for huckabee to win the nomination.

But I do believe that his continued efforts are more politically motivated. While his chance of gaining the Vice-Presidential nod is impractical, his ability to gain other political office and generate favor is large. It has been said that Washington, DC is a zero-sum game. Meaning that all political power and influence is a finite and the only way one politician moves up is at the cost of another moving down.

By continuing his unlikely quest for the Presidential nomination Huckabee more likely seeks to improve his political standing, thus enabling him to influence and enact some of the goals his candidacy has heralded. I would strongly believe that if he is able to stay in the race, with support, long enough to gain more delegates than Mitt Romney he may well succeed in this attempt.

A similar case may be made for the continued campaigning of Ron Paul. Though in his case I believe it is the more fringe elements of the Republican and independants that are supporting him.

So as the March 4th Primaries approach the 2 sides of the objectives become clear. Democrats seek to establish dominance and a clear claim to the nomination. Whether that claim is justified by the votes of the public and existing delegate counts, or via legal machinations is yet to be see. And in the Republican side, the question is not so much who is the nominee, but what political favor can be gained.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Presidential Candidates Lies: Update

**This is part of the I Love America That's Why I Vote! campaign. It's long but worth it.**

Back in November 2007, amid the huge number of Presidential candidates and the multiple debates I found the need to decipher all the polispeak and misinformation that was being bandied about. In the process I found a site PolitiFact that verified many of the issues that I was questioning.

I presented many of the outright lies that candidates of both parties had made. [In the post The lies Presidential candidates say, and the facts that prove it] Now with far fewer candidates, and more critical decisions being made by the remaining Primaries and Caucuses I feel it’s time to revisit and identify the current back of outright untruths, misstatements and polispeak intended to obscure the best candidates for America.

In alphabetical order I present the 3 remaining candidates of significance:

Senator Hillary Clinton -

“I was fighting against those (Republican) ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.”

Besides the fact that the Clinton’s may have accepted contributions from this same individual, and definitely had taken photographs with him (as found after this statement) there is this…

“Clinton’s claim is Barely True. Obama, by his own admission, did some, albeit very little, legal work that helped Rezko’s company obtain properties that would later be neglected. But the allegations that Rezko was a slumlord did not arise, at least not publicly, until years after Obama performed that work.”

"In her short time in the United States Senate, the senator from New York, Senator Clinton, got $500-million worth of pork barrel projects. My friends, that kind of thing is going to stop," McCain said.

Get ready because Senator McCain only got it partially right.

“Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that tracks congressional spending, has identified about $2.2-billion in Clinton projects in her seven years in the Senate.”

“The Bush administration sends mixed messages,” Clinton said during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. “They want to recruit and retain these young people to serve our country and then they have the Pentagon trying to take away the signing bonuses when a soldier gets wounded and ends up in the hospital, something that I’m working with a Republican senator to try to make sure never can happen again.”

Sounds vital and horrendous. But the facts are

Defense Department policy is clear: Bonuses already paid should not be recouped if “injury or illness of the service member was not the result of the service member’s misconduct.”

The Army contends Fox’s was an isolated case. In fact, when it set up a hotline for pay problems, it received just two calls on that issue.

So are we talking about legislation to fix a problem that may have affected just three people? As it relates to wounded soldiers having to return portions of paid bonuses, perhaps. And certainly a lot of politicians made a lot of political hay about that…
So while Clinton highlights a legitimate issue — paying future installments of enlistment bonuses even after wounded veterans have been discharged — her wording is somewhat misleading, suggesting wounded veterans are being forced to return bonus money. There is little evidence to suggest that happened to more than a couple veterans, and the Army admitted its mistake.

Also misleading is her suggestion that there was some kind of Bush administration effort to deny future bonus payments promised to wounded vets…”

“You’ve changed positions within three years on ... a range of issues that you put forth when you ran for the Senate,” Clinton said. “You said you would vote against the Patriot Act, then you came to the Senate, you voted for it.”

Careful where you point that finger.

“A closer examination reveals that while Clinton’s charge is technically correct, Obama went further than she did in trying to expand civil rights guarantees and give Democrats more chances to change the law…

Clinton, in contrast, joined 14 fellow Democrats and all of the Senate’s 55 Republicans in voting to shut off debate and proceed to a final vote on the compromise…

Once Obama’s faction lost the bid to keep the debate going, he voted for the compromise. The final tally was 95-4. Clinton was also among those senators voting yes…”

“Well, actually, Tim, the (National) Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20-million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that. Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available.”

Are they really?

“Clinton must be misinformed. It’s true that many of the documents from the unsuccessful health care effort that Sen. Clinton helmed are available, but there are several gaps in the record, such as her calendar and internal memos….

Also missing from the records are any correspondence on health care between her and former President Clinton.”

“So that 2005 energy bill was a big step backwards on the path to clean, renewable energy,” said Clinton. “That’s why I voted against it. That’s why I’m standing for the proposition — let’s take away the giveaways that were given to gas and oil, put them to work on solar and wind and geothermal and biofuels and all of the rest that we need for a new energy future.”


“While the Energy Policy Act of 2005 did give the oil and gas industry tax breaks and incentives to boost production, the law also mandated 7.5-billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into gasoline by 2012 — the largest such mandate ever enacted and one widely credited with sparking an ethanol plant construction boom across the Midwest. The law also funneled hundreds of millions of dollars toward biomass research and the production of biofuels derived from the leaves, stems and stalks of a plant rather than corn kernels used to make ethanol.”

Senator John McCain -

“John McCain has attacked Hillary Clinton, saying she wants to “wave the white flag of surrender” in Iraq. He said it again in response to a question about Iraq at the Jan. 24, 2008, Republican debate in Boca Raton.”

Perhaps a bit overzealous

“McCain is right that Clinton is setting a time frame to start withdrawing troops, and that does imply giving up and waving a metaphorical white flag. Saying there is no military solution as she does could be seen as a form of surrender. But technically, there is no ruling army to surrender to, which is really what a white flag means. Clinton just wants the troops to come home.”

“Congress just passed another huge, pork-filled spending bill. The Democrats allowed less than a day to read all 3,400 pages and stuffed it with nearly 10,000 earmarks costing about $10-billion dollars,” McCain said in remarks delivered to the Americans for Prosperity Michigan summit in a Detroit suburb.”

Wasteful spending yes. Just Democrats or the correct amount?

“The gist of his charge is true about spending, but his numbers are off and it's misleading to suggest all the parochial spending is being done by Democrats. When we add it up, we get Half-True.”

"Our tax code is so complicated it extracts $140 billion in extra tax preparation costs every year - one thousand dollars for every American family. It’s offensive that six out of every ten taxpayers have to pay someone else just to figure out how to pay the government."

True but the numbers aren’t what you think

“A 2005 study by the Tax Foundation puts the value at closer to $111-billion. That would put the per-family cost at about $822.

But this is worth noting: The dollar figure for spending on tax preparation is a calculation of the value of the time people spend working on their taxes, which the Tax Foundation put at about $39 an hour, not how much they pay to tax pros. That’s not clear in McCain’s statement.”

"The failings in our civil service are encouraged by a system that makes it very difficult to fire someone even for gross misconduct."

Pretty accurate there

“…McCain wisely faults not an individual but a "system." That puts him on pretty solid ground, where even a study by the federal government had difficulty finding supervisors who had attempted to take action against poorly performing employees.”

Senator Barack Obama -

“They've never paid more for gas at the pump."

Not true, even looking at the past

“We might have been inclined to cut Obama some slack for speaking in general terms about the price of gas, but he is still wrong when you look at historical levels. If you adjust for inflation, the current national price is still 41 cents below the peak of $3.39 per gallon, set in March 1981.”

“They don’t want political talk. I’ll just give you one example. Sen. Clinton and I were debating and she was asked about the bankruptcy law that she voted for in 2001. . . . During the debate she said, you know, ‘I voted for it, but I hoped it wouldn’t pass.’ That was a quote on live TV. That kind of talk, I think it makes people not trust government.”

Close but it’s not accurate

“Here’s what Clinton said: “Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn’t agree with, and I was happy that it never became law. I opposed the 2005 bill as well.”

"If we went back to the obesity rates that existed in 1980, that would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars."

Health nuts must have loved this. Too bad it’s a made up number.

“We tracked down one of the authors of the study the CDC cited: Eric Finkelstein, a health economist with the research group RTI International who has studied the issue extensively and written several papers on the topic. Finkelstein said obesity accounts for excess health spending of about $90-billion a year. About half of that — about $45-billion — is billed to Medicare and Medicaid together.

Medicare's share of obesity spending therefore is between $20-billion and $25-billion. If obesity rates rolled back to 1980s levels, Medicare spending would be about half that, or about $12-billion a year.”

I would list more items, but in general the candidates have, of late, been accurate in many of the comments they have made. Or at least accurate to some degree.

As noted via PolitiFact (check it out for yourself), the 3 candidates have a total of 15 outright lies and 31 barely or half true statements between them. The actual breakdown is as follows:

  • Clinton – 3 outright lies, 13 barely or half true statements

  • McCain – 5 outright lies, 10 barely or half true statements

  • Obama – 7 outright lies, 8 barely or half true statements

Not too bad as politicians go, and perhaps as good as we can expect. Sad as that sounds. But now you know. Keep it in mind as you go to the Primaries. Think about it as you decide who you wish to have as President of the United States.

But no matter which you choose, make a choice. Decide who the best choice for America is and use your Constitutional Right to get that person elected. Your vote matters. Use it.

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