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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A "Vatican II" for Islam?

There is a move in Turkey to update the Koran, something that hasn't happened in 700 years or so...This "New Islam" could be the equivalent of a "Vatican II" which opened up the Catholic church.

It's important because of the restrictions the old interpretations have had on women. Scholars apparently feel that many quotes attributed to Mohammed were either not made by him, or require updating. In Mohammad's day, it wasn't safe for women to travel without their husbands for over three days. The new rules would relax that rule that has kept women confined, and even resulted in women being killed for marrying the "wrong" person, etc.

Basically, Turkey is attempting to liberalize Islamic teaching.

Will it work? It's unclear if these revisions will create more problems with the radicals then they solve but it is time for an Islamic update at a time when a lot of religions are retreating into their own worlds instead of reaching out in interfaith efforts. All religions must find common ground and encourage mutual respect of others --and move away from the "my way or the highway" extremism that has been the trend in all the world's religions, including Islam.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Statesman vs. Politician & Builders vs. Haters

I watched the Obama-Clinton final debate last night. What I saw was a statesman versus a politician.

In a breakfast meeting of GHASP this morning (covering the state of our --cough, cough -- air quality in Houston), I heard people tell me that they are looking for a potential statesman as President, not another politician who plays the “gotcha” game.

Mr. Obama came across more as a Statesman, who didn’t lower himself to take cheap political shots, even when it would have been easy to do so. He went out of his way to say good things about some of Mrs. Clinton’s plans when most candidates have nothing good to say about an opponent.

Ms. Clinton came across as a good politician, “who was against NAFTA before she was for it” (depending on which state she was campaigning in) and full of catchy slogans like "change you can Xerox." But we are “full up” on politicians in Washington who read the polls to determine which way the wind is blowing, and which slogan of the minute might connect with people.

At the same time, we saw a glimpse of the hate speech to come from the dark side. At a speech during a McCain rally, radio hater Bill Cunningham implied Obama was a Muslim (untrue). When McCain, to his credit, did the right thing and apologized for the bigoted remarks, Cunningham got angry and said he had been “thrown under McCain’s bus” -- and turned on McCain!

Bigotry like Mr. Cunningham's is a major GOP problem that is driving away decent people. Decent moderates were kicked to the curb. If you aren’t a “hater” candidate willing to condone trash talk, they will turn on and eat their own candidate!

This episode shows how un-American the haters really are, and why none of them deserve to be in office or influencing American policy. We need a statesman as President, someone who can build bridges. We don't need another a politician or a President supported by groups that promote hate. The GOP war against blacks, Hispanics, gays, Muslims, etc. is racism at its worst. (McCain's attack on Obama about Al Qaida in Iraq ignores the fact that there was NO Al Qaida in Iraq before Bush started this war --none, zip, nada! They poured in after we opened the borders).

Hate is neither equality nor a family value. In this election we have a chance to vote against the haters and for a new level of American, statesmanlike leadership...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When A Christian Can Reach Out to Muslims - America Wins

While there is a possibility that someone in the Clinton camp may have deliberately circulated a photo of Obama to make people think he is a Muslim when he is in fact a Christian, I think it shows that Mr. Obama is a Christian who can reach out to Muslims and other faiths.

This ability by an American leader – to reach across religious lines - is something incredibly valuable in our future domestic and foreign policy. Our country was founded on the principle of treating all religions equally.

Recent polls confirm the need for this. Researchers say that many Americans change religions just as we change spouses and jobs. America needs a leader that can reach out to all religions worldwide, including Muslims. That is what that photo means to me. Even Bush has “gone tribal” in dress, and gotten into the cultural swing when on the world Presidential tour.

On the international front, it turns out that Pakistan blocked the Internet over YouTube–and shut down YouTube on the Global Net over something they deemed offensive that most of us didn’t even know existed. It raises the issue of internet control when any country can shut down a website for a country (and the world) over one item out of billions someone doesn’t like. Imagine if the Internet was shut down every time someone posted something stupid about the Pope. A change is needed in the Global Internet Protocol to prevent future “YouTube” and other website censorship by governments.

Finally, and important, it turns out that high Mideast Oil prices are also hurting the Middle Class and poor in the Mideast – causing riots and more instability in an already unstable region. People feel their governments are corrupt and the oil wealth is not “trickling down” to them. It’s true. Part of the problem is that countries like Syria allows Monopolies on imports—one company/family controls oil; one controls food, etc.

This poses major trouble ahead for the U.S. But it is also a major opportunity for economic changes that need to be addressed to eliminate the import monopolies that make people pay too much for basics like food, clothing, etc. The next American President must seize this challenge and opportunity.

I believe Mr. Obama does have the unique credentials and broad appeal to meet these global challenges and find solutions. The ability to reach out across religious as well as racial lines instead of “my way or the highway” will be the next President’s greatest strength.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The DARK Oscars - and America at its Best

What a contrast between America at its worst and best. Our movies are so dark the directors should be submitting to psyche tests. Yet our Presidential race involving the first woman and African American making history is America at its best.

Over the weekend I saw "Vantage Point," a sort of "Groundhog Day from the View of Everyone including the Groundhog" about a Presidential assassination attempt, with a twist. Before the movie I saw all the previews. Every one was DARK, violent and downright vapid.

It's no wonder Osama bin laden thinks we are a soulless bunch (now our movies are just as mindless and violent as he is). Even the theater's ad "not to be rude in the theater" was rude, strange and violent. It started with a scene of a woman putting her kid to bed, then "famous" director Martin Scorsese (sp?) walks on the set and starts talking trash that was violent, twisted nothingness. It would be enough to get him handcuffed for being verbally abusive towards a woman and child. It wasn't smart. It wasn't clever. It was just total crap. It was not anything brilliant or remotely intelligent.

Maybe it is just like the times we have been living in, neither brilliant nor intelligent. I saw "There will Be Blood" and saw nothing deserving of an Oscar other than the Marfa countryside - but that wasn't worth 3 hours of watching a greedy jerk cheat and kill people. It was a total waste of a beautiful weekend afternoon. So, forget the Oscars - until Hollywood starts making films worth watching. The only one people seem to like is "JUNO" but I'm about 40 years too old to relate to it.

So I have been making phone calls for Mr. Obama and have discovered some fascinating things. I'm finding Republican ladies voting Democratic. I called a lady last night who told me she was a Christian Republican -- and she was trying to choose between Hillary and Obama!

She did say that she didn't think any candidate was addressing her on a religious basis, not even McCain (she didn't even mention Huckabee). After our call, she's now going to vote for Obama.
Hispanics are starting to swing the same way.

I'm trying to figure out Hillary. One day its nice Jekyll. The next its the raging Hyde. Then its back to Jekyll. It's making folks dizzy.

What a weird, fascinating and wonderful Presidential year. The race is the only "movie" worth watching.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mistreating Vets - and Voters

Bush world has always claimed to support vets but the neglect at Walter Reed in DC has now been joined with another broken promise - vets who hoped to earn citizenship are kept waiting for months while some bureaucrat worries about their name being potentially similar to someone on a terror list.

How insane is that - thinking an American vet might really be a terrorist from that list!?

While the Bushies mistreat vets who believed their sacrifice on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, Ralph Nader is about to do the same to voters. Talk about insanity - he got less vote in the last race (0.3%) than Ron Paul is polling today!

Its all about narcissist Ralph, who I predict will get even less vote this time. This is not 2000 when Ralph's run cost Al Gore Florida by siphoning enough votes to give Bush the 200 vote lead he used to claim Florida, and the White House.

Mr. Obama and even Mr. McCain both attract independents, so this is not a race that favors any independent, be it Mr. Bloomberg, Ron Paul or Nader.

Even the independents in Texas, who worked for Nader (and me) in 2004, have come out in favor of Mr. Obama. They learned that it is better to pick one of the major candidates to support instead of lining up behind a lost cause like Ralph Nader, who has become a sad joke, just like the Bush support for our troops.

Another sad joke is the YouTube video of two Serb girls shoplifting in Belgrade after the U.S. Embassy was torched after being broken into, along with nearby shops, during the protests over Kosovo's independence. Makes me glad Kosovo is now independent of such jerks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Star Wars has Arrived - & Two Telling Questions No One Asked President candidates - yet

Star Wars is now operational. The Pentagon successfully shot down a dead satellite 100 miles up which had gone dead after its launch still filled with deadly hydrazine and spy stuff.

My question is this: Can they match the Chinese, who shot down one of their weather satellites at 500 miles in orbit? There is a big difference between hitting something at 100 miles and 500 miles. The problem with that is the danger from debris from a 500 mile explosion would jeopardize the safety of future Shuttle flights and space station missions since that debris is not likely to fall back into earth and burn up.

Another question: Does Russia also have the ability to knock out orbiting satellites or incoming missiles? Our future is dependent on the answer.

Other big changes. I just saw on the Today show the blocks of condos in Miami that are in foreclosure. They are calling it the "foreclosure district." Europeans with Euros are snapping them up at 50 cents on the dollar. With it taking $1.50 to buy 1 euro that means are prices are so low for the Europeans that we have become their "Mexico" in terms of purchasing power.

The fiscal mismanagement of our government, mortgage scams and trade imbalance have become a financial bonanza for international investors who can now buy up American assets on the cheap --basically 75% off with our currency devaluation. Meanwhile, while your American kids and grand kids are stuck with paying off trillions in war debt, with nothing in return.

So, we can shoot down satellites at the same time we have shot ourselves in the head financially and are selling billions of assets at fire sale prices to offshore investors.

You can thank our leadership the last 7 years for allowing this situation to develop. It's time for a big change.

But which candidates represent real change?

But which candidates who want to replace Mr. Bush represent real change?
No one in the press or at one of the debates has asked Hillary Clinton about the news reports of her husband getting a $30 million contribution to his foundation from the man who flew the former President to Kazakhstan on a private jet to be introduced to the Kazakhstan dictator - and getting a contract despite his lack of experience.
Question 1: If Hillary is President, what kind of million dollar deals will Bill be doing for hire with other dictators globally? How can she champion democracy and fairness when Bill has been doing crony deals globally for hire, just like the Bush clan?

Regarding the surprise revelation about Mr. McCain, a question. (1) How come none of the press have asked him if he (a) had or (b) had not flown to meetings on private jets with the female lobbyist onboard? That's a lot different than just bumping into someone at a public meeting. Where is the change if McCain also has a "Monica" problem?
These questions have yet to be asked or answered by those who want to be our President under the banner of "change."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pakistan, Cuba, Iran - Reformers are Starting to Win

The good news is that free and fair elections were held in nuclear Pakistan -- and the religious parties lost big-time, as did President Musharraf whose party received less than half of Mr. Sharif's party.

While the Bush administration pinned all their hopes on Mr. Musharraf winning, they should instead be happy that democracy happened -- and the extremists lost, despite reports of the tribal areas preventing women from voting. Pakistanis are sick of the extremists coming out of the hills and killing people for no reason.

To their great credit, Pakistani's chose the more liberal and progressive voices. That means that the nuclear issue has improved considerably from what could have happened had extremists been the vote of choice.

The other good news is that Fidel Castro is "out" (he looks like a walking ghost,) and even his brother Raul is an improvement that could begin the process of taking Cuba out of the 1950's. Young people in Cuba want "change" (meaning the Internet, opportunity, jobs, choices, etc.)
Raul Castro is more open to reforms than Fidel would ever allow. When Raul put economic reforms in motion, Fidel withdrew them. Those days are over.

Finally, a third good thing is that Iran is actually allowing reformist candidates on the ballot this time (after knocking them off last time). So, progress is possible even in Iran.

An American friend who does business in Pakistan and travels there often tells me that Bhutto's killing sparked a huge sympathy vote, yet her party only got 20 more seats than Mr. Sharif. So, our guys should be happy to let democracy take its place.

After all, it would look hypocritical for the President, as he has done, to demand "Free and Fair Elections" in Cuba, and yet ignore the free and fair people's choice of new leadership in Pakistan (or Gaza and Venezuela, even when you don't like who the people pick)...

Pakistan's Mr. Musharraf is not as indispensable as the administration thinks. He is expendable and has had his turn at the wheel since 1999.

It is democracy that is indispensable...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is America Really Getting “Dumber”?

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Is America really getting “dumber” as some claim?

Are some of us “proud” of being uninformed about things like the “smarter than a 5th grader” contestant who has written books yet thought Europe was a country?

Should we be proud that our people are experts on eating fatty foods and the details of Britney’s latest meltdown, Rush hour rage, trivia on Harry Potter and sports figures who did or did not use the latest performance-enhancing illegal drugs, but haven’t got a clue about the countries where billions of our dollars go every year to buy gas, toys with lead paint and tainted drugs?

What does this portend for our future as a superpower?

Within the past two years we have had Congressional leaders who did not know that Muslims are split between Shiite and Sunnis and who hate each other as much or more than the Irish Catholics and Protestants did in their time. We elected a President in 2000 who had been in only three countries and whose administration under John Ashcroft actually cut millions from counter-terrorism funding before 9/11 on the assumption that it wasn’t a priority.

To have future leaders with real world knowledge and strategy we will have to have an American public more attuned to the world than pictures of Princess Di in Paris. We don’t have to read 600 page novels but reading The Economist from London would be informative and a good start.

When 5th graders know more about the world than adults writing books, and our leadership, we are in trouble. Our ignorance will not help us maintain our superior standard of living.

The proof is that imprudent decisions are coming home to roost. Our trillions in petro-dollars have made it easier for Dubai to buy Wall Street than get a contract to manage our ports. The Euro has gained so much against the dollar that U.S. stores now take Euros as payment (a first) and the Taj Mahal tourist mecca in India no longer takes dollars (also a first). Our dollar has sunk along with the housing bust, the sub-prime mess, and as the Iraq conflict has yielded a $1 trillion IOU to the folks in China, Dubai, etc. At the minimum we’ll need to learn to say “Thank you” in Chinese and Arabic.

The silver lining is that our exports are now cheaper – but that requires a people with global knowledge and skills. Not too many negotiations in Europe will hinge on your details of baseball history – but could on European soccer and the latest technology available.

Big changes are happening around us, America. Castro is out as “President” of Cuba, Musharraf just lost his party base in nuclear Pakistan, Russia has become rich and aggressive and the even richer Chinese are allowing Darfur killing to happen as they take Sudan's oil -- while our leadership cuts $200 million from the African Peacekeeping forces just before the President’s trip. So, Africans are increasingly more likely to die from rebel bullets in Sudan or ethnic knives in Kenya than AIDS. All of this will affect our American future. Our oil comes from these areas, and so does potential terrorism.

All of us better know more than the 5th graders to keep from losing any more of our superpower status. Personally, I’m hoping the Pentagon folks have enough math and science to shoot down hazardous space satellites – instead of our international space station!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who Should Gov Perry Pick as Next DA?

Yesterday Houston District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal finally did the right thing and resigned. The question now is: "Who should Governor Perry Pick as Interim DA?"

He should pick someone who is NOT running as a candidate, so that the choice will be between the Republican and Democrat voters in the primaries which are merely a couple weeks away. We don't need one candidate getting a "leg up" on the others. We need to see what the true voters choices are.

So, Governor Perry should respect that democratic virtue and pick an interim District Attorney who is not from that office and who is not a 2008 candidate. He should pick someone with known ethical values who will restore to the DA's office a public perception of fairness, equality, and justice --and pursued by that important criminal justice office in the same way.

But then, I'm beginning to wonder if leaders are more focused on their own ambitions and "win at any cost" than the perception of fairness and moral authority in their actions. It's time for them to let the people make this call since the election date is upon us.

It's time for people to demand responsiveness from their representatives - "or they will be removed." If they don't, then voters should "Just DO IT --remove the dead wood who are not paying attention to the pubic instead of their own pocket or ego. Voters need to show the resolve to remove non-responsive reps (and not elect more like them). Californians have done it, surely Texans can.

We'll see what Governor Perry chooses in his replacement District Attorney for a city that has suffered major damage to its criminal justice system -- and that's not just a perception when belonging to a particular Church can get you barred from jury duty.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Changing the Rules in the 3rd Quarter

A bug hit me last night so I've had time to lie in bed and read too much news for my own good.

The Pentagon is going to try to shoot down the dead satellite that never worked and therefore is fully fueled with a half ton of deadly hydrazine. Since the Chinese shot down one of their satellites with a missile, this looks like a good reason to test the U.S. system. Let's just hope they can do it on the first try, instead of having to outsource it to the Chinese!

I see that Hillary wants to change the rules in the 3rd quarter of the ballgame. Now that she's behind in delegates she wants to "count" the votes in Florida and Michigan (where she won), which had changed their primary dates against party rules and so their votes weren't counted as a penalty.

If this is how the Clinton's do business, it is yet another reason to break the Bush-Clinton- Bush-Clinton lock on the White House and get someone totally new as President.

It looks like a McCain-Obama duel in the fall - which definitely breaks the Bush-Clinton endless loop and offers a clear choice on our future. Neither one of them has called for a rule change in the 3rd quarter.

Personally, I'm going with Mr. Obama, since the thought of another "100 years" in Iraq doesn't make sense to me. In a recent poll. nearly 50% of the American voters said the best way to save billions would be to exit Iraq - that's a $170 billion savings in just one year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Odd political questions in District 22

Today at lunch a friend of mine told me that she had received a phone call from someone polling for the Republican Party of Ft. Bend for the District 22 race, formerly Tom DeLay's seat now held by Nick Lampson.
One of the questions asked was: "Do you consider yourself in Evangelical Christian, OR a Catholic?"

What? My friend immediately informed the caller that Catholics are also Christians, since the pollsters seemed to think otherwise.
What is going on?

When my friend, who had voted in prior GOP primaries, was then asked to choose which of the 10 people running for Texas District 22 as a Republican she didn't name anyone. Before the young lady calling hung up, my friend asked her: "How are you going to label me?"

The answer was: "Undecided." At that point my friend (a "woman of a certain age") said: "Oh, to the contrary, I HAVE decided who to vote for."

Apparently she is voting for the only candidate left who knows that a Catholic is also a Christian. That would be Nick Lampson.
Stay tuned. It can only get weirder.

Monday, February 11, 2008

First GLOBAL Primary in U.S. Election history

For the first time ever, we are having a GLOBAL primary, at least among Democrats who live overseas and are getting a chance to vote in over 33 countries. Te turnout has been off the charts from London to New Delhi, mirroring the unusually high turnout in the U.S.

Good - with the dollar sinking to new lows so that it is no longer accepted by the Taj Mahal tourist attraction in India and U.S. stores now accepting the higher value Euro, it is good that we have voters with international viewpoints weighing in on this important election.

No word on why Republicans aren't doing the same thing.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Amsterdam to Shut Down Red Light District - After 500 years in business

Since the 15th century, Amsterdam has had a legal "red light" district and legal drugs. But now there is a move to shut down the sex trade, replacing sex shops with designer clothes shops. Two thirds of the city's residents approve of the plan.

Meanwhile, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury can't figure out why everyone went ballistic over his statement that Islamic "Sharia Law" should apply in England. I guess he figures we needed some reality therapy about "casting the first stone" (as in stoning to death adulterers, etc.).

Now if someone in Europe decides to get "stoned," it may be a whole new experience...(the only good pun is a bad pun).

Not to be left out, the Pope has issued a new prayer calling on Jews "to recognize Jesus." Perhaps because Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet the Jews should do the same - never mind that it contradicts the foundations of Judaism.

I guess he missed the interfaith meetings.

So we now a combination of too much tolerance and too much intolerance -- existing in the same planet at the same time.

The world is changing...stay tuned.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Texas Vote Finally Counts - The Choice is Clear

The Texas vote finally counts for once. Our March 4 primary will help pick a Presidential nominee. Instead of being a "rubber stamp" or "protest vote," it will really count this time.

Our primary will help decide where we stand on the candidate best suited to represent America on the world stage. Our image around the world has no where to go but up. The choice is clear.

For years, I thought that the Clinton's were unfairly treated by extremist Republicans like Tom DeLay.

But then I saw them use the same tactics on a fellow Democrat who had taken the lead. You see the real person -- not when they are ahead of the game -- but when they are falling short or caught off guard. When I first ran as a surprise to the powerful, wealthy Mr. DeLay in 2000, he didn't even have campaign signs since no one had opposed him in years. So his people stole mine -- despite the fact I had little money and little chance. If you have to cheat even when you would win without it, that tells you something about a person.

The Clinton's tactics against Mr. Obama showed me how absolutely absolute power can corrupt "absolutely." Hillary has put $5 million "of her own money" into her campaign. How does a civil servant for 35 years have $5 million? Then we discover former President Clinton pulled in over $30 million to a foundation from a guy he flew with on a private jet to Kazakhstan -- to praise a dictator and get a big contract. Having $30 million in the bank is like Mr. Romney and his $250 million trying to buy an election. It doesn't work that way.

We need someone who knows what the average Americans' budget is like.

America should not be a third world country that passes the Presidency from family elite to family elite: from Bush/Clinton/BushII/ClintonII/BushIII, etc.

Bush's flaw was that loyalty was more important than competence. Clintons' flaw is that power has distorted their moral compass. When a former President praises a dictator to secure contracts for people who then put $30 plus million into his foundation, well, it doesn't pass the smell test.

Do we really need MORE of this the next four years? I would think 8 years of this same stuff happening in the Bush world would be enough for Americans to stomach.

Even Mr. McCain would be a break from that. (It shows how bizarre the Limbaughs and Coulters have made the GOP when they attack and reject a POW veteran --McCain-- as "not being conservative enough." Even weirder, they do the same to religious conservative Mike Huckabee. How strange is that? Who are these people? How dare they condemn a guy who actually went to war, unlike their critics. Perhaps Mr. Limbaugh is still having withdrawal from the Oxycontin. Ms. Coutler proves that you can be pretty ugly and repugnant despite your looks. Their extremism drives decent people away from the Republican party. It certainly has driven me away.

I have decided that the best break is to go with TOTAL CHANGE. I have decided to endorse Barack Obama.

No more Bush holdovers in a McCain administration. No more Clinton II administrations that add up to over 20 years of two families running our White House. No more spouses or kids of former Presidents passing the oval office as if it were a baton. No Jeb Bush running against a Clinton four years from now.


Only Mr. Obama gives us "something completely different" for our future. It is best for our country. It is best for our future as a fresh democracy with new faces and new ideas...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shoot-out at the (Super Tuesday) OK Corral - Making Prez history

Photos: Grandma Schneider, center, 100 years old. Flanked by daughters Ardella (L) and Ardeen. Snow covered aircraft at Minn-St. Paul Airport

Made it back from frigid Minnesota, after moving fast to avoid an incoming ice/freezing rain/snow storm front. They had to de-ice our plane but it was only an hour late taking off.

It's 50 degrees warmer here. Yes! Thank God I DIDN'T have to drive on ice or freezing rain in the dark from Mason City to Minneapolis at 6 am yesterday. Those who stayed found the Mason airport shut down due to fog and had to drive the 120 miles to Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in falling ice/snow to get out.

But the storm hit the airport before the flight left. Snow began falling hard. One guy saw me film a plane loading passengers that was covered with snow, and asked if I'd never seen an airplane before. LOL.

As a pilot, you are trained to know that snow and ice can kill you when taking off. I told him that seeing a dozen snow plows disappearing in a white-out was an unusual sight for someone living in Houston, which hit the high 70's on the same day a Minnesota airport worker stood perched in 25 degree weather in a crane basket hoisted on a truck sprayed de-icing chemicals on aircraft just before take off.

Remembering the Weather channel special about the Florida 90 aircraft that crashed into the Potomac in DC in 1982 due to pilot error and failure to de-ice the aircraft properly, I was quite happy to be delayed an hour while they de-iced our aircraft.

On the other side of the planet, the Chinese are still freezing and running out of food on trains stuck in the worst snow in over 50 years. Their entire power grid went down because power poles were placed so far apart that the weight of the ice and snow easily brought them down. Penny wise and pound foolish - and now millions are without power in extreme temperatures.

In Iraq, Al Qaida has stooped so low as to use mentally disabled women -- with someone else pulling the trigger remotely -- as human bombs. No wonder that even the extreme Sunnis became disgusted by Al Qaida's low regard for even Muslim life.

Meanwhile, Africa from Chad to Kenya is starting to burn with ethnic killings, and worldwide there is a "surge" in extremism in religions, including Hindus, etc. The Economist wrote a fine article on the extreme intolerance that is growing everywhere.

Even the Chinese government has decreed that the Dalai Lama "shall not reincarnate without State permission." Yikes, I guess that in China, with a rapidly growing religious body searching for something more then atheism, that "no second coming" is allowed without State permission.

But is that any more crazy then the people supporting our administration that wanted Iraq to set up a biblical Armageddon? All of this sets the stage for difficult days ahead unless we have fresh leadership with the ability to tone things down -- because instability in other parts of the world does impact our economy, as when wars slow oil production and people kill each other at the cost of their own tourism and trade. Who wants to tour Kenya to see people being cut with knives?

All of this brings us to this "Super Tuesday." The next President will have to deal with all of these messes on January 20, 2009 -- not just part of it. All of it. I think any of the remaining three potential Presidents (Obama/Clinton/McCain) would be more skilled than what we have had for the last 7 years. We can do better than the guy on vacation more focused on chopping wood and his agents more focused on how their shirts looked on TV than the people drowning in New Orleans during Katrina.

This year, the Democrat nominee will still be up in the air in our Texas March 4 primary, while the GOP nod looks wrapped up by McCain, so no big mystery there.

The real history is going to be made by Democrats -- either the first
Presidential candidate nominee who happens to be a woman, or the first Presidential nominee who happens to be black. Versus the seven or so white guys on the GOP side -- not even a woman among them. That is the great thing about America in a world where it is usually the same elites trading seats.

It's exciting to have a real election for a change. Turnout is immense. It's great -- unlike what is happening in Kenya, Chad, Russia, China, etc.

Our next President will have to deal with all of this -- as well as fix our economic disaster from years of running a war on borrowed money and a corrupt housing financing system that got out of hand. Like the Titanic, our leaders pushed the limits despite reports of icebergs ahead.

This is America at its BEST. Stay tuned world.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The $20 Million License Plate

Want to know where your gas money is going? In Dubai, someone just bought a vanity license plate for $20 million. Congratulate yourself for that the next time you are filling up that giant SUV (which may or may not have vanity plates, purchased for peanuts in comparison).

The President's suggestion? He told the Saudi's "Pump more." That was his strategy.

OK. That strategy means that the next Dubai guy may raid his petty cash drawer and pay $40 million for his vanity plate, no problem! At $100 barrel oil, with China and India's energy demands growing, it's a sellers market. The prices are staying up even with a U.S. recession, which used to drop the price in the days of old.

The "bust" part of the old "boom-and-bust" cycle has gone out of the oil business in this energy-short world. And supplies won't improve with political chaos in oil countries like Iraq and Nigeria shutting down production -- and emerging ones in the Sudan, Chad, etc. In Nigeria, kidnapping oil workers has become a business in itself. It provides income in an oil rich area where people have none.

Outside this hotel room in Iowa it is 18 degrees. But our lack of a national, rational energy strategy to increase efficiencies could make us feel that bone-chilling weather even more. Our wallets will be feeling it, and feeding the vanity license market in the Middle East for decades to come.

On the personal front, Grandmother's 100th birthday party was held in a little VFW hall in a place called Garner. She was feeling well and looked great in her red sweater. Over 100 descendants were present.

One son said last night that she was so fired up that she wanted to keep talking even when her own kids were worn out and dragging (as I was after a big dinner and hours of catching up with other relative not seen in years). Grandma was the energizer bunny yesterday, wearing out her own kids! LOL.

Snow is piled up everywhere. Ethanol plants, Casinos that pay $4,500 for each student who graduates from high school, and new "windmill farms" have sprouted a countryside that had only corn when I was a kid living here decades ago. Switchgrass might be the new crop of the 21st century, since it provides 4 times more energy than Ethanol made with corn. Brazil does it with sugarcane.

We need more windmills and other alternatives to compete with $20 million vanity license plates.

The weather is going down, 3 inches of snow is predicted, so its time to bail out for a 2 hour drive in deteriorating conditions, or I'll miss the early morning flight tomorrow...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Peacekeeping Failure -Crisis. America lacks global strategy - China doesn't

All hell is breaking out in Chad and Americans are being told to leave as soon as possible. What is so crazy is the statement: "the fighting is keeping Peacekeeping forces from being deployed."

What? Peacekeeping forces can't be deployed because of fighting in the area? How useless is that? That is what peacekeeping forces should be doing - DEPLOYING and shooting if necessary to stop the madness as these countries break down.

In this case, we have rebel forces from Sudan (which has OIL the Chinese are buying up bigtime) going into Chad - which is newly discovered OIL and a dictator who was taking bribes for his oil.

It's a power struggle and our government is not a player because we have never had a global strategy, unlike the leadership in China, which is buying up chunks of natural resources in Africa and South America. Our guys are again sleeping at the wheel while leaders in emerging giants China and India are harvesting the world's energy resources to grow in the 21st century.

And we can't even get an American administration with an energy strategy much less a world energy strategy! It's overdue.

P.S. Granny made it to 100 yesterday. It's 23 degrees and will be "13" tonight. I may turn into a statue. The Happy Birthday 100 Party for her is later today...And on the Ground Hog's are frozen stiff in Iowa today.