Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Thoughts on the Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate from LA

If there was ever an event that did not happen in a vacuum this was it. Without a doubt you can read everything that you ever wanted to know about this debate on, and every other political blog in the western world. So I'll spare you the play by play recap and just share a few thoughts that you may not read in the political blogs. And hopefully, I'll give you a little food for thought.

Tonight's Democratic debate was held in the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, and the stars were out in full force. But it was clear that there were no two bigger stars in that room than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This could have been an opening episode of "The West Wing" or "Commander in Chief". I'm sure that someone in that audience was taking notes for a pilot and someone else was calling a producer.

I will say that CNN could have used a Hollywood director because on two occasions they returned from a commercial break right in the middle of Barack Obama's responses to a question. The first commercial break interrupted part of Obama's response to the question asking if Hillary was ready to assume the office of the presidency on day one. The other broadcast oops cut into Obama's response to the question of how he would address concerns about the sex and violence coming out of Hollywood. Maybe they'll clean that up on the rebroadcast.

Both candidates were prepared, polished and looked every bit the role of the President of the United States. So if anyone is still looking at either of them in terms of race or gender they have, shall we say, "personal issues".

In addition to the stars, the ghost of John Edwards was definitely present. As expected the candidates made their appeal to the Edwards voters. Barack Obama wasted no time and addressed this in his opening comments. Hillary repeatedly mentioned that her Healthcare plan is like John's. Oh, the love for John!

The debate was cordial and definitely not the combative event that some may have hoped to tune in to. Overall it was a substantive discussion of the issues of healthcare, immigration, Iraq and the mortgage crisis. Of course, there were a few questions thrown out there by CNN's Wolf Blitzer that were clearly intended to bait the candidates and create excitement. The candidates didn't bite.

Here are a few examples:

  • Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary Clinton if she was "missing in action" when Barack Obama was working on immigration reform legislation with John McCain and Ted Kennedy.
  • Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary Clinton what experience as "First Lady" qualifies her to hold the office of President.
  • After Jean Cummings of asked Hillary how she felt about the Kennedy endorsement of Obama, Wolf Blitzer asked Obama how he feels about Bill Clinton presidency.
You get the picture.

But the question that floored me, and many in the audience, came after Hillary Clinton responded to a question about her vote against the original amendment requiring George Bush to report to the Congress before invading Iraq. Now Hillary did give a rather convoluted response to this question. But at this point Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary if she was "naive" in trusting President Bush. Even the audience booed on that. "NAIVE"? Would he have asked a man if he had been "naive"? I think not.

Hillary did get in the best quote of the night:

"It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and might take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush"
Now that's a campaign slogan.

Oh I can't wait until Super Tuesday.

Final Thoughts on the Edwards Campaign

"And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone with both his hands. With hands and feet he tried to roll it up to the top of the hill,
but always,

just before he could roll it over on to the other side,
its weight would be too much for him,

and the pitiless stone
would come thundering down again on to the plain.

-- Homer

As I sit here and watch the media circus that is being described as "a political Thriller in Manila" and "the historic debate between a woman and an African American" I can only imagine how historians will view this moment. Forty years from now what will political and journalism historians think about CNN's Wolf Blitzer referring to his "Britney Spears" headset and the talk of $1,000 a ticket to attend a political debate. It says a lot about the times in which we live.

Sometime later I will be posting a recap of tonight's CNN Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate, However, before doing that I have to share my final thoughts on John Edwards.

Despite the fact that I've been jokingly telling my friends that I am in mourning the truth is that since
I went down this same road in 2004 I was prepared for the disappointment this time. Like so many John Edwards supporters I realized that his bid for the 2008 democratic nomination was tantamount to the fate of Sisyphus.

The deck ( or timing) was certainly stacked against the Edwards campaign.

The Democratic National Committee was never behind him. The media certainly didn't give him equitable coverage -- he just didn't make "good TV". Big Pharma and the Insurance Industries certainly weren't going to contribute to his campaign. Those who John fights so passionately for are unable to provide the financial resources to keep him in this campaign. The majority of the American public doesn't really want to hear about making sacrifices and helping the poor. And of course, who can compete with Oprah, Bill and Ted. People might say they want change but what they really want is the familiar.

Only history will determine exactly what America lost on January 30th, 2008. For me, I can only compare to the morning that my Mom woke me up and told me that Robert Kennedy had been shot. That moment hurt then and it still hurts forty years later.

John Edwards' 01/30 remarks from New Orleans:
"I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.

It is appropriate that I come here today. It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified, and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November and we'll create hope and opportunity for this country."

"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about?

When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering
or sick or in prison and didn't help.
"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth:
Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was
being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

Matthew 25:40-46 (The Message)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Did Big Pharma Sell The Idea of High Cholesterol To The Medical Community?

"The truth is, we’ve always had reason to question the idea that cholesterol is an agent of disease. Indeed, what the Framingham researchers meant in 1977 when they described LDL cholesterol as a “marginal risk factor” is that a large proportion of people who suffer heart attacks have relatively low LDL cholesterol."
-- from the article "What's Cholesterol Got To Do With It"

When you read the recent news about the debates in the medical community on the subject of "cholesterol" and its correlation to heart disease, you have to wonder if the pharmaceutical industry first created a drug and developed a marketing plan and then, as an after thought, conducted studies to support their marketing plan.

The questions surrounding bad vs. good cholesterol and the use of "cholesterol management" drugs has left me more than comfortable with my decision to treat my doctor's diagnosis of "high cholesterol" with healthy eating and exercise.

In an op-ed article for the New York Times, noted author and science writer Gary Taubes points out the "circular logic" used to associate LDL cholesterol to heart disease. He states:

" So how did we come to believe strongly that LDL cholesterol is so bad for us? It was partly due to the observation that eating saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, and we’ve assumed that saturated fat is bad for us. This logic is circular, though: saturated fat is bad because it raises LDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol is bad because it is the thing that saturated fat raises. In clinical trials, researchers have been unable to generate compelling evidence that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease.

The other important piece of evidence for the cholesterol hypothesis is that statin drugs like Zocor and Lipitor lower LDL cholesterol and also prevent heart attacks. The higher the potency of statins, the greater the cholesterol lowering and the fewer the heart attacks. This is perceived as implying cause and effect: statins reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease, so reducing LDL cholesterol prevents heart disease. This belief is held with such conviction that the Food and Drug Administration now approves drugs to prevent heart disease, as it did with Zetia, solely on the evidence that they lower LDL cholesterol.

But the logic is specious because most drugs have multiple actions. It’s like insisting that aspirin prevents heart disease by getting rid of headaches.

One obvious way to test the LDL cholesterol hypothesis is to find therapies that lower it by different means and see if they, too, prevent heart attacks. This is essentially what the Vytorin trial did and why its results argue against the hypothesis.

Other such tests have likewise failed to confirm it. A recent trial of torcetrapib, a drug that both raises HDL and lowers LDL cholesterol, was halted midstream because the drug seemed to cause heart attacks and strokes rather than prevent them. Estrogen replacement therapy also lowers LDL cholesterol, but it too has failed to prevent heart disease in clinical trials. The same goes for eating less saturated fat.

So it is reasonable, after the Vytorin trial, to question the role of LDL cholesterol in heart disease. Not whether statins help prevent heart disease, but whether they work exclusively, or at all, by this mechanism. "

I've stated in other posts, I am not advocating that anyone suddenly stop taking their prescribed medications without discussing it with their primary physician and/or getting another opinion from a licensed alternative medical practitioner. I submit these posts to encourage you to take an active role in managing your health by arming yourself with information. The practice of medicine is an "art" and a "science".

Related posts:

Vytorin: Questionable Truth In Advertising

Do You Really Need That Medicine?

Heartbreaking News for Edwards Supporters

John Edwards to quit presidential race - Yahoo! News

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 8 minutes ago

DENVER - Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies, The Associated Press has learned.

The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two aides. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Ordering Pizza in 2008

Many of you may remember this joke that circulated the internet in 2005. I came across it this morning and today it seems to be more prophetic than funny.

Ordering Pizza in 2008

Operator: "Thank you for calling Pizza Hut. May I have your national
ID number?"

Customer: "Hi, I'd like to place an order."

Operator: "I must have your NIDN first, sir?"

Customer: "My National ID Number, yeah, hold on, eh, it's

Operator: "Thank you, Mr. Sheehan. I see you live at 1742 Meadowland
Drive, and the phone number's 494-2366. Your office number over at
Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302 and your cell number's 266-2566. Email
is Which number are you calling from, sir?"

Customer: "Huh? I'm at home. Where d'ya get all this information?"

Operator: "We're wired into the HSS, sir."

Customer: "The HSS, what is that?"

Operator: "We're wired into the Homeland Security System, sir. This
will add only 15 seconds to your ordering time"

Customer: (Sighs) "Oh, well, I'd like to order a couple of your
All-Meat Special pizzas."

Operator: "I don't think that's a good idea, sir."

Customer: "Whaddya mean?"

Operator: "Sir, your medical records and commode sensors indicate
that you've got very high blood pressure and extremely high
cholesterol. Your National Health Care provider won't allow such an
unhealthy choice."

Customer: "What?!?! What do you recommend, then?"

Operator: "You might try our low-fat Soybean Pizza. I'm sure you'll
like it."

Customer: "What makes you think I'd like something like that?"

Operator: "Well, you checked out 'Gourmet Soybean Recipes' from your
local library last week, sir. That's why I made the suggestion."

Customer: "All right, all right. Give me two family-sized ones,

Operator: "That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four
kids,and your 2 dogs can finish the crusts, sir. Your total is

Customer: "Lemme give you my credit card number."

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to pay in cash. Your credit
card balance is over its limit."

Customer: "I'll run over to the ATM and get some cash before your
driver gets here."

Operator: "That won't work either, sir. Your checking account's
overdrawn also."

Customer: "Never mind! Just send the pizzas. I'll have the cash
ready. How long will it take?"

Operator: "We're running a little behind, sir. It'll be about
45 minutes,sir. If you're in a hurry you might want to pick 'em up
while you're out getting the cash, but then, carrying pizzas on a
motorcycle can be a little awkward."

Customer: "Wait! How do you know I ride a scooter?"

Operator: "It says here you're in arrears on your car payments, so
your car got repo'ed. But your Harley's paid for and you just filled
the tank yesterday"

Customer: Well I'll be a "@#%/$@&?#!"

Operator: "I'd advise watching your language, sir. You've already got
a July 4, 2006 conviction for cussing out a cop and another one I see
here on September for contempt at your hearing for cussing at a
judge." "Oh yes I see here that you just got out from a 90 day stay
in the State Correctional Facility. Is this your first pizza since
your return to society?

Customer: (Speechless)

Operator: "Will there be anything else, sir?"

Customer: "Yes, I have a coupon for a free 2 liter of Coke".

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but our ad's exclusionary clause prevents
us from offering free soda to diabetics. The New Constitution
prohibits this. Thank you for calling Pizza Hut!"

Monday, January 28, 2008

British Military Stretched to the Limits

The US military is not the only one that has been pushed to its limits by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Only history will determine if it has all been worth it.

excerpt from:

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Pressures 'driving UK troops out'

The pressures faced by the armed forces are driving away experienced personnel and damaging morale, MPs have warned.

The strain of operating at full capacity in Afghanistan and Iraq has left the services "deteriorating", a defence select committee report says.

Personnel do not get enough rest time, and budgets are spiralling out of control, its annual MoD report adds.

Defence minister Bob Ainsworth said the forces were achieving "our highest priority - success on operations".

'Heavily committed'

The committee's annual report on the Ministry of Defence warns that neither the Army nor the RAF are likely to make their personnel targets for 2008 because of problems with recruitment.

The forces have been operating at or above the level of resources they have been given for seven of the last eight years, including every year since 2002, it says.

As a result, the MPs conclude, personnel appear to be leaving in growing numbers.

Washington Post Starts an Online Magazine for a Black Audience

an excerpt from:

Washington Post Starts an Online Magazine for Blacks - New York Times

In attempt to broaden its online audience, The Washington Post Company on Monday is to introduce an online magazine primarily for a black audience, with news and commentary on politics and culture, and tools for readers to research their family histories.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., a writer and a professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard, is the editor in chief of the magazine, called The Root, which he conceived with Donald E. Graham, chief executive of the company. The magazine is based in Washington, free to readers and will be found at

Several well-known authors and scholars have agreed to contribute to The Root, including Malcolm Gladwell and William Julius Wilson. The managing editor is Lynette Clemetson, who was until recently a reporter in Washington for the The New York Times and previously was a national and foreign correspondent for Newsweek.

The magazine they describe could be seen as a more highbrow, political alternative to established magazines like Ebony and sites like and The Root's emphasis on genealogy will set it apart from those competitors, which pay more attention to entertainment, lifestyle and consumption.

Much of the news and commentary, Ms. Clemetson said, "will not have an explicitly black angle" but will address issues like health care and housing.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Only 3 Out Of 2679

I just signed a petition asking the media to cover global warming in their questions of the Presidential candidates. I hope you'll join me!

Major political reporters have been actively ignoring the issue of global warming when interviewing presidential candidates. They have only mentioned the words GLOBAL WARMING in 3 questions ALL YEAR! Hosts like Tim Russert, George Stephanopoulos and Wolf Blitzer have instead asked ridiculous questions about UFOs, baseball and even Chuck Norris!

Check out to learn more and urge these hosts to stop covering the horse race and get back to the human race.

Global warming needs to be a priority issue in the election. Please act today!

A Message of Love For The Little Ones

From the publisher:

" The Keeper’s Garden is destined to become a timeless classic. It's warm and gentle character leads you down a delightful path of self discovery and understanding. Its charming nature speaks to the hearts of all, it teaches that we are welcome with God in a very simple way. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Learn about God’s unyielding love you and everyone else in The Keeper’s Garden. "

To order a Copy of The Keeper's Garden

What more important message could you share with the little ones in your life?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stories That Should Not Slip Into the Shadows

With so much attention being paid to the US presidential election campaign and the precarious global economy, it's easy to let other important stories slip into the shadows. However, all too often the story that you choose to ignore today becomes the crisis that you can't ignore tomorrow.

So on the eve of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary here are a few excerpts of news items from Thursday's UN Daily News which should help us keep perspective.


Cautioning that a shortage of water resources could spell increased conflicts in the future, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos today that the United Nations will take action to address the problem in the context of reaching global anti-poverty targets.

“Our experiences tell us that environmental stress, due to lack of water, may lead to conflict, and would be greater in poor nations,” Mr. Ban told leaders from governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, industry, academia and the arts attending the annual meeting in Davos.

“Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. Many more conflicts lie just over the horizon,” he warned.

The Secretary-General cited a recent report by International Alert identifying 46 countries, home to 2.7 billion people, where climate change and water-related crises create a high risk of violent conflict. A further 56 countries, representing another 1.2 billion people, are at high risk of political instability, according to the study.

“This is not an issue of rich or poor, north or south,” he said, pointing to examples of water problems in China, the United States, Spain, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea. “All regions are experiencing the problem.”

The Secretary-General emphasized that water resources must be protected. “There is still enough water for all of us – but only so long as we keep it clean, use it more wisely, and share it fairly,” he said.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which call for halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015, are key to this effort, he said.

Mr. Ban announced that he would gather world leaders at the UN this September “for a critical high-level meeting on the MDGs, focusing in particular on Africa.”

While emphasizing that “governments must engage and lead,” he said the private sector also has a role to play in this effort.

* * * * *


The United Nations Human Rights Council today called for immediate international action to force Israel to allow fuel, food, medicine and other essential items to be sent to the Gaza Strip, to reopen the border crossings and to end its “grave violations” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The statement passed by a roll-call vote of 30 in favour with Canada voting against it and 15 countries abstaining, following a special session that began yesterday. In it, the Council expressed its deep concern about “the series of incessant and repeated Israeli military attacks and incursions,” which it said had killed and injured many Palestinian civilians.

The resolution demanded “that the occupying Power, Israel, lift immediately the siege it has imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, restore continued supply of fuel, food and medicine and reopen the border crossings.”

* * * * *


As security conditions deteriorate in Kenya, the United Nations refugee agency is in the process of relocating an estimated 6,500 refugees who fled across the border to Uganda to a transit centre farther inland.

Hundreds of refugees have already been transported by bus from the border towns of Busia and Malaba to a centre at Mulanda, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, as part of a five-day relocation operation.

Many of the Kenyan refugees "carried plastic bags containing the meagre possessions they were able to salvage before being chased from their homes in post-election violence across the border in Kenya," the agency said.

By Wednesday, some 200 tents provided by UNHCR had been erected at the transit centre in readiness for the refugees, with another 300 being prepared. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) installed water tanks at the site.

Registered refugees will receive ration cards which entitle them to food, basic household commodities and other services at the transit centre.

Many of the refugees had been living at schools, with women and children quartered in classrooms and men sleeping in tents.

But others who are staying with relatives and friends "may not move to Mulanda because they prefer to stay close to the border where they can closely follow developments taking place on the other side," said a UNHCR official who travelled. She added that they were anxious to return home, put their children back in school and rebuild their lives.

In contrast, many of those moving to Mulanda on Wednesday were expecting to be there for some time. "I have nowhere else to go. We plan to stay here for some months as we decide what to do next," said Rahab Wanjiru, a dealer in electronic goods in Busia, which straddles the border.

Her shop was set ablaze by drunken youths as they hunted down people from Wanjiru's ethnic group after the results of the 30 December presidential poll were announced, sparking violence that has left hundreds dead.

* * * * *


The number of people displaced by recent flooding in southern Africa has nearly doubled in less than a week from 70,000 to more than 120,000, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Unusually early torrential rains in the Zambezi river basin led to widespread flooding in Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in recent weeks.

UN agencies and their partners are continuing to assist flood victims in the affected areas. In anticipation of this year’s rainy season, emergency supplies, including shelter and non-food items, had already been pre-positioned in several strategic locations in flood-prone areas.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is continuing to deliver food via helicopter to a resettlement centre in Mozambique that houses roughly 13,000 people. The agency has also provided Mozambican authorities with three boats to assist in rescue and evacuation operations and some people are stranded in areas that cannot be reached by road. Some parts of three provinces – Tete, Sofala and Manica – are now inaccessible by land.

This is the second time in a year that central Mozambique has been hit hard by floods. Since January last year, when the Zambezi valley was inundated, WFP has provided relief assistance to about 190,000 people.

Must See Video from the World Economic Forum

Earlier today, CSPAN broadcast a discussion between former US Vice Pres. and recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore, musician and activist Bono and, New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist, Thomas Friedman on the interrelationship between the efforts to end global poverty and the urgent need to address the climate change crisis.

The broadcast entitled "Poverty and Global Climate Change" was from a session held during
the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.

Unfortunately, I was unaware of the broadcast before it aired and at the time of it's broadcast I was experiencing a temporary internet outage. However, I am certain that at some point this program will be either rebroadcast on C-SPAN or on another outlet such as FORATv or YouTube. If you are interested in the subjects of world poverty or climate change and have the opportunity to watch this discussion I highly recommend it.

They're Still Talking About Those WMDs

To read my review of last night's Republican Presidential Candidate Debate go to:

Recap of The Florida GOP Presidential Candidate Debate

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recap of The Florida GOP Presidential Candidate Debate

If Monday's Democratic Debate was a battle then tonight's GOP Debate was a love fest.

At one point I thought that Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani were going to run across the stage and hug each other. The anticipated gang attacks on McCain never manifested. And, they were even respectful to Ron Paul. The only person under attack in Boca Raton was Hillary Clinton. They left no doubt that they want to run against the former first couple.

You certainly can't accuse the Republicans of playing the race card because they never mentioned Barack Obama once.

There were also no real surprises here. Here's my very brief recap.

All of the Republicans support the economic stimulus package, except of course, Congressman Ron Paul,

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Senator John McCain all stated that they believe that the tax cuts should be permanent and didn't go far enough. John McCain made it clear that he wants to cut corporate taxes in order to encourage businesses to stay in the US. I guess that the wind-fall profits that many of the corporations raked in over the past seven years haven't been enough encouragement. McCain also made me smile when he stated that he wanted to encourage consumer saving.

I have to applaud former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for being the first to state the obvious. When consumers go out and spend those refund check they will probably be buying goods made in China. So whose economy is being stimulated?

Another Kudo to Huckabee for reminding everyone that at the GOP Debate in Michigan he ( and Ron Paul whom he forget to credit ) was the only one honest enough to state that for most working class Americans the economy was not in good shape.

Ron Paul was the only candidate to point out another obvious fact. The fact that the cost of the Iraq war is a large reason the nation is in its current financial condition. Congressman Paul also made it clear that he has been waving the "red flag" about the economy all along.

Historically, the sad truth is that wars have stimulated lagging economies, However, now that the US no longer manufactures anything, grows anything and is turning into a service society, the war drained instead of bolstered the economy. I'm no economist, by a long shot, but I figured that out.

While John McCain's age certainly may not disqualify him from fulfilling the duties of the Office of the Presidency, I worry that he may be a little delusional. When asked a question on how the US can sustain a long term presence in Iraq with a poor economy he launched into his standard philosophy that America can "win" this war. And, in response to another question, he stated that he still believes that this war was justified because Saddam Hussein had WMDs.

Overall Romney came across well. Tim Russert went for another one of his "gotcha" moments by asking Romney to disclose exactly how much of his own money he is spending in Florida. Romney didn't flinch and stated that he'll report his finances when everyone else does. Good for him.

In my view there were no clear winners and no decided losers to this debate. However, a MSNBC text poll is showing that viewers indicate that the winners were Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Oh, how easily the media dismisses Ron Paul.

I will say that if Rudy Guiliani was hoping that this debate would launch him to victory in Florida, he may be really disappointed.

Obama Speaks The Truth About Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia in the African American Community

When comedian Bill Cosby made what were considered "controversial" comments in 2004 about the state of parenting in the African American community, much of the mainstream media couldn't wait to cover the story.  To the media Cosby's comments reflected a divide in the thinking within the African American community which might be interesting viewing (or listening) by their audiences.   More recently, Mr. Cosby's contributions to the book Come on, People!: On the Path from Victims to Victors have also been widely discussed.  They were even guests on CNN's Larry King Live Show.

So how did the media miss the following comments by Barack Obama on the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day?   This question is made even more poignant given the fact that on the day after these comments, the Congressional Black Caucus sponsored a Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate and the subject of illegal immigration and same-sex marriage were hardly mentioned. 

Now, this is just a small segment of the speech that Obama made that day but his words reflect a truth that many in the African American community don't want to hear and don't want to discuss.   And apparently the mainstream media is still hesitant to cover. 

By the way, this is an excellent speech and worth listening to in it's entirety.

excerpt from:
AlterNet: Blogs: Video: Obama Takes on Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia at MLK's Church

Today Barack Obama zeroed in on equal opportunity bigotry -- and why everyone should strive to not only elevate the political discourse, but to be honest about the base instincts, words and deeds that divide, not unite.

He delivered this message at the house of worship where Dr. Martin Luther King preached, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It was a pointed statement to black parishioners in the pews -- people well-aware of racial politics being played in this political cycle -- but who are also are part of a faith community that has long had a blind spot toward other oppressed groups. He did not hold back:

For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.
We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation .

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Before You Spend That Refund Check

Today, US President George Bush and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Edward Lazear are still stating that the US economy is "fundamentally strong."

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.
-- Albert Einstein

Virtually everyone from Washington to Wall Street, Davos to Dubai and London to Beijing is discussing the US economy, the impact of the sub-prime mortgage crash on world financial markets and the existing/potential recession. Whether we are headed for, or are already in, a recession depends on who you ask and how much money they have in the bank.

In the United States the economic discussion is focusing on the actions of the Federal Reserve and economic stimulus plans. One of the most frequently cited "stimulus" measure is that of a "tax rebate" to American consumers as a way of encouraging consumer spending.

Will "tax rebates" resuscitate the economy or will they be like giving a blood transfusion to a vampire?

So, if you are an US consumer here are a few things to consider before you get excited about that refund check.

  • How do the politicians propose to pay for an estimated $150 billion* in tax rebates?
Let's face it, there is no stockpile of money (or gold) sitting in a vault at Fort Knox or anywhere else in the US ( of course we'll never know what's been stashed away in the Middle East ).

The US budget deficit is estimated to be between $8-9 trillion.

According to a 2004 report by the Brookings Institute:

" Fiscal policy in the United States is on an unsustainable path. Under reasonable projections, the budget deficit is likely to amount to about 3.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in each year over the next decade. Thereafter, deficits are likely to grow much larger, as health and retirement costs mount for the baby boom generation. Over the next 75 years, the nation's fiscal gap could amount to about seven per cent of GDP "

The Iraq war is being financed with borrowed money and it is estimated that the final cost will be in excess of $2 trillion.

In July, 2007 the US trade deficit with China alone was estimated at over $200 billion.

So where is the money for the tax rebates coming from? Which program are they going to cut to give you your $800 to $1600?

  • When the Bush administration was still claiming (not so long ago) that the US economy was in "great shape" the President blamed the rise in consumer bankruptcies, foreclosures and excessive debt on "spend-thrift" consumers. He stated that Americans needed to save more. So now he wants to send you money so you can immediately spend it.
  • Among the Bush administration's plans for reforming the Social Security system and providing health-care for uninsured Americans was a plan for encouraging Americans to save toward their retirement and health needs. Remember Bush's proposed plan for imposing a tax on employers that offered their employees premium health coverage. So again, now he wants to send you money so you can immediately spend it.
  • And if you do get your rebate how will it really impact YOUR financial security?

So you've thought about it now and some of you are a little concerned. If you are feeling a little troubled, do not panic and do not get depressed. My friends, who are far more knowledgeable about finance than I, assure me that there are steps that everyone can take to weather the storm. So we got together and came up with a few ideas.

  • First, decide not to be a passive observer. You can not control all of the factors that contribute to economic recession but you can have some control over how you respond to events.
  • Second. arm yourself with as much financial information as possible. In the beginning, much of it will not make sense but if you are committed to researching, reading and asking questions you will gain wisdom that will last you a life time.
  • If you are in financial trouble consult a professional financial advisor asap. And depending on your faith consult your spiritual advisor. You may want to do the latter first. After all you have to live with any decisions that you make.
  • Don't get taken in by political rhetoric. Problems that have developed from decades of corporate greed, banking policies that preyed upon the most vulnerable consumers, a lack of government irresponsibility and, inequitable trade deals will not be fixed overnight. The economy will not turn around without sacrifices on everyone's part. A thought mentioned during last night's Democratic Presidential Debate. None of the presidential candidates, in either party, will restore the golden years of the automotive industry, bring manufacturing back to the US, completely end US involvement in Iraq or end America's dependence on foreign oil in one term.
  • Think short-term but never lose sight of the long term. You may be in solid financial condition now but could you weather a lengthy illness or a job layoff. Do not dwell on the negative possibilities and draw them into your life. Just keep in mind that life is kinetic and plan accordingly.
  • If you are married or in a committed relationship, make sure that you are in agreement on any major decisions. This sounds obvious but the leading cause of divorce is .......
  • Make friends with senior citizens. This is not a joke, Those who have parents or who themselves have survived the "great depression" know how to survive in tough times. Listen and learn.
  • Make friends with young people. Nobody can clue you in on where technology is going like a teenager or a twenty something.
  • If you get a tax rebate what you do with it should depend on your circumstances. Obviously if you are facing foreclosure, utility shut-offs, liens on your property or, any situation threatening your immediate security use the money for that. If you are in a more comfortable position consider saving it or investing it in alternative energy or another growth technology. If you do decide to spend it do not spend it on an depreciable item. Think about home improvements or taking a class to advance your education.
  • It you are facing moderate financial problems and have considerable equity in a home or other real estate, consider selling shares to a close friend or family member. I cannot emphasize enough a close friend or family member. In essence you will be making them a business partner by allowing them to invest in the future resale value of your home. For example, if your home is worth $150,000 and your friend or family member wants to help you and at the same time acquire a 5% share in your home they would give you $7,500. Then later if you sell your home for $180,000 you give them $9,000. There are various ways that this could work and all of the details would have to be worked out with a reputable lawyer.

These are just a few suggestions. For more ideas on reducing your debt, saving, surviving a credit crunch and coping with the loss of a job see: America, Maxed Out

and a final thought

Will Economy Lose Support From Abroad?
January 22, 2008; Page C1

As the economy reels from the busted housing bubble, questions loom about whether overseas investors' hunger for U.S. assets will weaken.

For years, the U.S. has run a steep trade deficit with the rest of the world. The so-called current-account balance, broadly speaking, measures the difference between goods and services imported and exported.


The scale has lurched toward the import side of the equation for the U.S., which means the country has been consuming more than it has been saving. Foreign purchases of U.S. assets such as Treasurys have helped finance that spending. This imbalance has inspired all sorts of doomsday forecasts about economic meltdowns and foreign investors dumping dollars and Treasury bonds.

If such scenarios have any merit, today's economic turmoil could test them.

Economists have wrangled for years about what created the current-account deficit -- a spendthrift U.S. consumer and government are favored targets, with productivity and out-of-kilter currency-exchange rates thrown in. Economists love even more to speculate about what could turn it around.

"All conditions and all circumstances in our lives are a result
of a certain level of thinking. When you want to change the
conditions and the circumstances, we have to change the level of
thinking that is responsible for it." -- Albert Einstein

*corrected 1/23/07 2:40am

Child abuse 'growing' in Pakistan

excerpt from:
BBC NEWS | South Asia | Child abuse 'growing' in Pakistan

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Children in Pakistan are increasingly exposed to abuse, kidnapping and violence, according to a new report by a human rights organisation.

The number of reported cases involving children has more than doubled from 617 in 2006 to 1,595 last year, it says.

Poor law enforcement and old social attitudes towards children's rights are some of the reasons to blame, it adds.

Pakistan remains a major conduit for the trafficking of children from South Asia to the Middle East and Europe.

Not enforced

"Children, like women, continue to be vulnerable because they are considered personal property in our feudal-minded society," says Zia Awan, chief of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA).

The organisation monitors and compiles cases of child abuse and kidnapping with funding from the UK-based NGO, Save the Children.

Mr Awan says a major reason for the increase in the incidents of child abuse is the fact that the issue does not figure on the agenda of the law enforcers.

Fed Still Trying to Treat Knife Wounds With Bandaids

Fed cuts interest rate 3/4 of a point - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve, confronted with a global stock sell-off fanned by increased fears of a recession, cut a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point on Tuesday, the biggest one-day move by the central bank in recent memory.

The Fed said it was cutting the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other on overnight loans, to 3.5 percent, down by three-fourths of a percentage point from 4.25 percent.

The Fed action was the most dramatic signal it can send that it is concerned about a potential recession in the United States. It marked the biggest one-day move by the central bank in recent memory.

The Fed decision was taken during an emergency telephone conference with Fed officials on Monday night. Those discussions occurred after global financial markets had plunged Monday as investors grew more concerned about the possibility that the United States, the world's largest economy, could be headed into a recession.

In a brief statement, the Fed said it had decided to cut the federal funds rate "in view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth."

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Banking Giants Reporting A Drop in Profits

excerpt from:

Bank of America, Wachovia profits plunge - Yahoo! News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bank of America Corp. said Tuesday its fourth-quarter earnings fell by 95 percent and Wachovia Corp. reported its earnings tumbled 98 percent, with both banks citing the lending crisis.

Net income at Bank of America declined to $268 million, or 5 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $5.26 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year ago.

Wachovia said Tuesday its fourth-quarter earnings tumbled due to a $1.7 billion reduction in the value of certain portfolios and $1.5 billion set aside to cover bad loans.

Fourth-quarter net income fell to $51 million, or 3 cents per share, from $2.3 billion, or $1.20 per share, during the same period the previous year.

*  *  *  *  *

I guess that they never foresaw the day when their bankrupt customers wouldn't be able to pay their punitive bank fees and interest rates. 

MLK III to Edwards: 'My father would be proud'

excerpt from an article by Jim Tankersley

Moments before he and rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are set to debate in South Carolina -- and at the end of a holiday that saw Democrats and Republicans pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. -- John Edwards' campaign just released a glowing letter to the former North Carolina senator from Martin Luther King III.

Edwards met with King, the first son of the famed civil rights leader, on Saturday in Atlanta. In a follow-up letter, King lauds Edwards for his commitment to social justice and his focus on making poverty a presidential campaign issue.

Much has been made of the struggle for African-American votes - which are critical in South Carolinna - between Obama, the best-financed African American presidential candidate in history, and Clinton, whose husband cultivated deep affection from the African-American community as president. Obama and Clinton tussled in recent weeks over their respective invocations of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy.

Edwards largely avoided that skirmish while relentlessly pushing his people-against-the powerful campaign message - a decision Martin Luther King III seems to appreciate.

"There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father's legacy," he wrote in the letter to Edwards. "It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.

"I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice."

In closing, he wrote: "So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father's words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud. "

Read on for the full letter.

The Swamp: MLK III to Edwards: 'My father would be proud'

Monday, January 21, 2008

Recap of the CNN Democratic Presidential South Carolina Debate

Tonight Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards debated in Myrtle Beach S.C. and the media will certainly tell you that it was, to borrow their phrase, "a slug-fest". But if they tell you that there was a clear winner that will purely be subjective perception. All of the candidates had their shining as well as dim moments.

The first 40 minutes of the debate did bring to mind a boxing match. But this time you can't blame it on the media. Wolf Blitzer, Joe Johns and Suzanne Malveaux put the obvious questions out there but Clinton and Obama took the proverbial rope and almost hung themselves and the Democratic party.

Barack Obama brought up Hillary Clinton's involvement with Walmart's corporate board and Hillary Clinton accused Barack Obama of once working for a slumlord. OUCH!
CNN had to be thrilled because you will surely see this segment over and over and over.

The Clinton/Obama bickering did lead to one of John Edwards' best moments when he pointed out that their squabbling was not contributing anything substantive to a discussion of the real issues. Now let's see if the media includes John Edwards' comments in their recaps.

In my opinion this was Barack Obama's most challenging but overall his best debate performance. He looked comfortable in both the podium and the seated format. He clarified his position on his healthcare plan and an economic stimulus plan.

However, somewhere in the next few months he is going to have to give a better explanation about his voting record in the Illinois legislature. I am still stumped about the "present" versus "yea" or "nay" votes. I doubt that this will be an issue with the South Carolina voters but New York and California voters are not going to let that go without be challenged.

Barack Obama did get away with a response that neither Hillary Clinton or John Edwards could have gotten away with. Joe Johns asked Barack Obama what he thought of the often repeated phrase that Bill Clinton was the first Black President. Obama stated that he would have to see Clinton dance to tell if he was a brother. Now imagine that comment coming out of John Edwards' mouth. It would be perceived as being tantamount to using the "N" word.

Hillary Clinton was in great form and gave as good as she got. At one moment the audience expressed its disapproval of criticism of Barack Obama but she held her ground and made her point. She did somewhat sidestep the question asking if the voice that she found in New Hampshire's was Bill's. Did they really expect an answer to that question?

John Edwards was at his best -- passionate, making his case and staying above the petty squabbling over the other two. My biggest criticism of his performance would be his repeatedly bringing up the "lobbyist funding" criticism. Even if it's a valid point, no audience likes to be beaten over the head. There were moments when you did feel a little sorry for the white male also referred to as "a Son of the South" in the later part of the debate. That "Son of the South" phrase carries all sorts of connotations in a state like South Carolina.

In spite of the expected arguing between Clinton and Obama, this debate did give viewers a good sense of where the candidates stand on a number of the issues including:

  • the economic stimulus plan
  • Universal Health Care
  • and Iraq
In the end, I doubt that this debate will change the minds of any of the voters in South Carolina but this debate left no doubt that there are numerous similarities and numerous differences between the candidates. There are also still a few gray areas. And yes, race and sex will be a factor.

The debate will be rebroadcast on CNN at 1:00am EST Tuesday. It's worth viewing and judging for yourself.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

FEMA Offers to Buy Back Its Toxic Trailers

Gee that's many nice of them!

excerpt from:

The Associated Press: FEMA Offering Refunds on Trailer Sales

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency, responding to concerns about formaldehyde in trailers issued to hurricane survivors, said Thursday that it would offer refunds to people who bought them after their initial use.

The federal government began selling trailers in 2006 through online auctions and to victims of the intense 2005 hurricane season. Sales were suspended in July last year because of the fears about formaldehyde, which can cause respiratory problems.

Hundreds of people in Louisiana and Mississippi are suing manufacturers, accusing them of providing FEMA with trailers that contained high levels of the toxin after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated much of the Gulf Coast

* * * * *

If you don't think that FEMA should be let off the hook this easy for trying to cover-up a threat to thousands of lives, join us in signing the petition to:

Hold FEMA Accountable

* * * * *


The following press release found on Media-Newswire proves that as always nothing is simple with FEMA:

GSA auction sales, refunds for the purchase price of travel trailers and park models will be offered for units purchased through GSA auctions on or after July 24, 2006, until such sales were suspended in July 2007. Individuals who want to return their travel trailer or park model unit must contact FEMA within a 60-day period beginning January 17, 2008.

For units sold by FEMA directly to disaster assistance applicants occupying the unit, FEMA will offer to refund the purchase price of any travel trailer or park model sold on or after July 31, 2006, until such sales were suspended in July 2007. The refunds option applies to disasters declared on or after Aug. 29, 2005. Occupants will have 60 days from the date of notification to request a refund.

Buyers must have purchased the units directly from FEMA or GSA. The refunds will be provided upon repossession of the units.

Individuals and disaster applicants, who have questions regarding the purchase of their unit, may call FEMA at 1-866-562-2381 or, TTY 1-800-462-7585.

Purchases through GSA

FEMA will notify via e-mail each individual who purchased a recreational vehicle ( travel trailer or park model ) sold to the public as excess by FEMA through GSA on-line auction sales. The e-mail will include the refund period and procedures for requesting a refund. Buyers will need to send a written request for a refund to FEMA within 60 calendar days of the initial public notification date, January 17, 2008. The written request must include the GSA Sales Contract Number, the purchaser's name, the purchase price and the purchaser's receipt for payment.

Buyers must submit a Direct Deposit form with an original signature to allow for the electronic deposit of funds and an unsigned, voided check or deposit slip along with a signed and completed Trailer Refund Checklist form. Both forms will be provided via the e-mail notification.

Purchasers must return units to the designated FEMA facility and they will need to turn over the Certificate to Obtain Title, if the purchaser still has the document, and title to the unit itself. FEMA will not reimburse purchasers for upgrades or work done to the unit; individuals are responsible for arranging for transportation or travel and paying for the associated costs.

Refunds will be transmitted to the purchaser's bank account by direct deposit within 30 days of the unit's physical return to the designated FEMA facility.

Refund requests should be sent to FEMA at the following address:

Attn: Logistics Current Operations Branch
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW, Room 330
Washington, D.C. 20472

Purchases Directly From FEMA

FEMA will mail a letter to each disaster assistance applicant who purchased their recreational vehicle ( travel trailer or park model ) directly from FEMA between July 31, 2006, and July 31, 2007, for major disasters declared on or after Aug. 29, 2005, notifying them of the option and procedure for seeking a refund. Buyers who wish to seek a refund will need to contact FEMA within 60 calendar days of the date of the notification letter they receive.

Applicants who contact FEMA through the toll free number will be transferred to the appropriate Transitional Recovery Office ( TRO ) or field office in order to process the refund request. The TRO or field office will obtain the original Certificate to Obtain Title from the applicant, if the purchaser still has the document, and any other titles the applicants obtained for the unit.

FEMA will deactivate and haul away recreational vehicles for occupants who want to return the units to FEMA for a refund. Refunds will be transmitted to the purchaser's bank account by direct deposit within 30 days of the unit's physical return to FEMA.

For occupants still residing in the recreational vehicle and who are in need of, and remain eligible for, housing assistance from FEMA, a caseworker from the respective field or Transitional Recovery Office will work with the applicant to help them move them into other housing.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Friday, January 18, 2008

MLK, LBJ, Civil Rights and History

Bill Moyers gives his first hand historical perspective on Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the civil rights movement. He also subtly but clearly points on how the media and political campagins can twist a comment, or even history itself, in pursuit of their own agenda.

This is also a lesson on what can happen when a grassroots movement and the politicians come together to achieve the will of the American people.

Related posts:

Celebrate His Birthday But Honor His Dream

Today’s The Day John Edwards Grabs The Gold

reposted with permission of the author Mark of ( aka KingOneEye )

A little less than a week ago, it occurred to me that something was wrong. Something was wrong with the veneration of pundits best known for their failure to deduce anything correctly. Something was wrong with the media deciding who is a viable candidate and when an election is over. Something was wrong with voters being treated like afterthoughts whose participation was merely incidental. And consequent to these observations, it also occurred to me that there was something wrong with the fact that Ron Paul held the record for the most money raised in one day.

I concluded that one way to stuff the spin of the know-nothing punditocracy back down their arrogant throats was to demonstrate the narrowness of their vision. They needed to be knocked down a peg or two by circumstances over which they had no control. I knew that if the people stepped up to thumb their noses at the press, the press would have to pay attention. And since their noses were already so firmly planted in the back end of the horse race schema, a competition for cash was just the ticket. I thought that if Ron Paul could raise six million dollars in one day, John Edwards ought to be able to raise seven.

Despite his relative success and obvious contributions, John Edwards was being edited out of the electoral picture by a pack of myopic politicos. He had beaten Hillary Clinton in Iowa and finished in double digits in New Hampshire. The popularity of his platform was forcing his opponents to adjust their own positions to be more in line with his. With a base of support from progressive Democrats that went back to his campaign in 2004, Edwards had a realistic opportunity to compete in the upper tier of candidates. But the media wouldn’t let him. Edwards himself has taken note this orchestrated media blackout. They marginalized him; they disparaged him; they mocked him. And through it all, he continued to garner support and respect. So they had to resort to ignoring him.

nullThe Project for Excellence in Journalism recently completed a study of the amount of time the media allotted to the presidential candidates. Edwards came in last amongst the Democrats, and next to last amongst all major candidates. The survey was conducted in the days following the Iowa primary in which he finished a surprise second. But that apparently wasn’t enough to persuade editors that Edwards deserved to be covered.

So I wrote a little diary that I posted at DailyKos proposing a grassroots effort to help Edwards set a new fundraising record. In all truth, it was more of an academic suggestion to ponder the possibilities of such an endeavor. Possibilities, being what they are, exceeded my wildest expectations.

The proposal picked up steam at DailyKos getting elevated to its “Recommended List.” This was followed by a steady stream of follow-up diaries by other authors acting on their own initiative. Then it began to spread to other blogs. At the Democratic Underground I found multiple instances of the proposal. Some added creative touches to expand on the theme. One member pledged to donate an amount equal to the number of recommendations the posting received (it was over 300 last I checked). I saw postings on the Edwards Blog site. I saw comments at various news sites, including one at Fox News.

I have no idea what will happen today. I have no clue how much the campaign will raise. If they break the record the media will have to take notice. But no matter the final tally, this has been an exhilarating experience. I have had so many well wishers and expressions of support. Literally hundreds of blog commenters pledged to contribute. And that is only those in the small bloggerhood in which I reside.

People are also becoming more aware of the toxic influence of a media that seeks to shape the news rather than report it. When Edwards talks about the harm being done to our country by greedy corporations he knows that chief amongst the members of that club are the giant media conglomerates. So regardless of how this unfolds, we must continue to fight for reform. Because if we don’t succeed in reining in the power of these monopolies they will forever dictate to us how we should feel, what we should buy, who we should hate, and what our choices are in our formerly free democracy.