Category Archives: hot topics

My Top 10 Best Childhood Christmas Gifts

I decided I needed to write down these top 10 childhood Christmas gifts quick, before my long-term memory goes the way of my short-term memory that can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.  I won’t get into the Christmas is not about the gifts stuff and how we should all be grateful for whatever we think we should be grateful for, this is strictly about the shallow part of Christmas. The materialistic, me, me, me, Santa’s list type, emotional yearning for–gifts.  Also, as a child I never bought into the it-is-better-to-give-than-receive creed. As an older and wiser adult–I still don’t buy it. Herewith, my all time favorites:

1. RED COWBOY BOOTS

I was six, I lived in Chicago, far from any cowboys except the ones I saw at the yearly Chicago Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Chicago Ampitheater. Just to be sure I got those boots, I asked for nothing else. I figured, how could Santa say no to just one request? My poor mom told me years later that she had scouts out everywhere looking for those damn red boots. Word was, the first night I had them, I slept with my boots on.

2. YELLOW TRANSISTOR RADIO

Nobody under 40 probably even knows what this is. This was even before boom boxes. It was the 1960’s and WLS Radio station in Chicago was king and so was my favorite radio disc jockey, Dick Biondi. I really NEEDED this radio so I could listen to a radio station that was more in-tune with my top 10 favorites (played over and over every hour) and much less of my parents favorites like news and talk radio (thanks mom and dad, I eventually went into the news business). This radio was yellow with a leather carrying case and shoulder strap. It was a Westinghouse and the size of a medium size purse. I didn’t need a dog, this radio was my faithful companion.

3. STADIUM CHECKERS

I have no idea why this game was called checkers because it was a plastic stadium contraption with marble-like pieces. I loved this game and since you couldn’t really play it alone it forced me to play with my sister. She was three years younger and could play the game well enough to assure my winning most of the time. Playing my folks however, was a losing situation for me. The stadium seats moved to advance the marbles to various levels. Okay, it was a much simpler time but we weren’t all zonked out on video games.

4. HEIDI

This book made me cry every stupid time I read it but I just kept re-reading it anyway. Yes, I knew Heidi was going to eventually find her grandfather but each time I read it and they would come so close to finding each other and miss, I would be yelling at the pages. This was during my sad books (Black Beauty) with happy endings era.

5. PINK ANGORA SWEATER

Only rich kids in my neighborhood had Angora sweaters, and rich kids in my predominantly working class/middle class neighborhood were few and far between. I never really asked for this sweater because I figured it was out of reach for my folks so I figured I would just settle for the scratchy mohair. When I opened that box I was never so shocked, it was just like–Christmas.

6. RED LEATHER BUCKET PURSE

These purses were very popular in the 1960’s and I had never really had a nice leather purse. I can remember this purse like it was yesterday. It was a pebbled grain red leather, a long shoulder strap and two small flaps folded inward on top of each other and it looked similar to what else? A bucket. I used this purse for many years. I suspect it was not made in China.

7. BLACK WOOL CHESTERFIELD COAT

It was all in the details. Double-breasted, velvet collar, sophisticated and perfection. I was 13 and it was my first black, grown-up coat. I remember that this coat was $50. because even though it was a Christmas gift my mom left the tags on in case in didn’t fit. This was a lot of money for a coat in the 60’s, and a huge amount for my parents to spend on a single item. But, my parents always felt quality clothing was more important that quantity. That coat lasted me all four years of high school and beyond.

8. GAS STATION

I was never into real girly type toys and thank God my parents didn’t buy me dolls I wouldn’t have played with or gender based toys that girls would have traditionally liked. My father owned a Standard Oil gas station and this was a sturdy, metal gas station with a bay for fixing cars, gas pumps etc. And of course, a Ford and a Chevy. Loved this gift.

9. HAWAIIAN  UKULELE

I don’t actually know if it was from Hawaii, but I told everyone it was. It was the real deal and not a toy and had a nice carrying case. I wasn’t very “instrumental,” I usually took dancing lessons and acrobatics. But, after watching “The Parent Trap” movie (the original one) with Haley Mills (playing twins) singing the song “Let’s Get Together yeah, yeah, yeah…” I had to have a ukulele and learn to play and sing that song. I did. My youngest brother still has that ukulele. Why does he have it? Geez, my mom must have given it to him, I need to talk to him about that…

10. FIGURE SKATES AND OUTFIT

Even though frozen vacant lots is where I did most of my ice skating my parents would occasionally take me to Michael Kirby’s professional ice skating rink in Chicago. Kirby was a Canadian National champion ice skater who started the first ice skating schools in Chicago (now long gone). I couldn’t afford lessons but I could afford the small fee to free skate whenever I could talk my dad into taking me there. I decided since it was a professional atmosphere I needed to look the part. My Christmas gift that year was the most beautiful pair of figure skates, flesh-colored skaters tights and a black corduroy short skaters skirt with red satin lining (red again). The next time I went to that rink I felt like a million bucks. And, I swear, I skated way better than in my typical street garb.

( In case you just have to have a pair of red cowboy boots for a child in your life I found these;  http://amzn.to/1ryj1Zo They are a little fancier than the ones I had a a kid but at least they are red. I’m an Amazon affiliate so I do get a tiny percentage if you click through this link and purchase these or anything at all. I almost forgot, here is a very, very similar ukulele like the one I had that my brother more or less stole under the guise my mother gave it to him. It’s made out of mahogany; http://amzn.to/1tipR1G . I have no idea what mine was made out of but I’ll bet it was better than any ukulele they make now-a-days, after all it was made in Hawaii-or somewhere.

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The Ghost of Black Fridays Past

Black Friday (1940 film)

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$2 waffle maker Black Friday shopping fight I watched this Black Friday shopping video in utter shock (click on link at beginning of this sentence to see it). Then the sadness set-in as I realized how horrid, inhuman, barbaric and utterly disgusting the whole situation was. People acting like animals over $2 waffle makers points to an abysmal picture of Americans as-a-whole. This video is all over the internet for all the world to see. Here are the ugly Americans at their worst; greedy, ill-mannered consumers that will stop at nothing to purchase crap.  A $2 made in China piece of garbage waffle iron that probably has the expected life span of a week.

In other “fun” Black  Friday events yesterday, A woman who allegedly fired pepper spray at other customers during a sale of Xbox video consoles  has surrendered to authorities according to Los Angeles police. The woman  allegedly caused minor injuries to 20 shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart.

The attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Thursday shortly after doors opened for the sale. The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping. The woman began spraying people in order to get an advantage. Did she really get an advantage? No one seems to know if she ended up with an Xbox after all and it is unlikely she could use it in jail when she most likely will be charged with 20 counts of assault.

In a quite serious Black Friday event, a robber shot a shopper who refused to give up his purchases outside a San Leandro, Calif., Wal-Mart store, leaving the victim hospitalized in critical but stable condition.  What ever happened to the rule, if a robber approaches you, give him whatever he wants or you could end up dead? Is dying worth anything that Wal-Mart could possibly have?

Back in the simple 1970’s and 80’s when people were nice and polite and seemingly not crazy shoppers, I stood in a black Friday line a few times waiting for department stores to open at a normal time (9 am) for a couple of requested items on my children’s Santa list.  One year I stood patiently in line for an unattractive doll with its own unique name and birth certificate. It was called a Cabbage Patch Kid and it was the only thing my daughter had on her wish list. The dolls were in short supply and moms everywhere were on the hunt but I never saw a fight, or a push or an unkind word in my search. I ended up driving an hour away from my home to a friend’s Ace Hardware where he had three of the dolls and saved one for me. He said no one really thought of Ace as a place to purchase dolls and they had been on the shelf for a few days. I think he thought I was a little crazy for going on and on and thanking him profusely.

Another Black Friday moment had me standing in line at Sears for $2 plastic Star Wars figures (of course they are worth a lot now) to complete a Star Wars set complete with a carrying case. My son never asked for a lot for Christmas and it was my mission to find Darth Vader and some of the harder to find figures. Once again it was mostly moms shopping and we were all standing around a huge bin of Star Wars charactersshouting out the names of the characters we found to other moms in need of certain characters to complete a set. We were all helping each other and I walked away with a complete set, as did others. We were laughing, joking and actually having fun. No pushing, shoving, grabbing, pepper spraying or shooting. Not an ugly American consumer in the bunch–evidently a much kinder and gentler crowd and time. Ah, sometimes the good old days–are good.

(Amazingly I found a Cabbage Patch Kid here;  http://amzn.to/Yuq7C4 It is the 30 yr. celebration doll that is similar to the one I stood in line for. I think I’ll get for my 38 yr. old daughter as a memory. I am an Amazon affiliate so anything you purchase through this link will net me a small commission.)

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Congress Approval Rating and National Unemployment Rate at 9%

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint sessi...

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A New York Times/CBS News poll broke the news this week that Congress’s approval rating is 9%.  Coincidentally, 9% is also our national unemployment rate for September and most of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment figure seems almost eerily connected to our do-nothing-for-jobs Congress and their bottom-feeder ratings as they spent this week in session, once again doing nothing for jobs or the economy. It’s like some weird “here is a nine for you too Congress since you won’t recognize and do anything about ours.” Of course, 9% is only the national average jobless rate, some states like Nevada, have a 23% unemployment rate.

They did however, pass a really important bill in the House that would issue commemorative coins for Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, just so you don’t get the idea that they can’t accomplish anything at all together in a big way, the commemorative coins issue was passed overwhelmingly.  See, when the chips-er coins are down and the issue has nothing to do with Obama or jobs or the economy, Republicans can unite and really make a difference.

Remember that old saying about getting out of something what you put into it?  I think our Congress is actually reaping the rewards of what they have, in fact, done for the American people, our jobs and the economic situation.  I think 9% is actually pretty high but of course who knows how many friends, relatives, lobbyists, insurance companies, banks, other corporations etc. were included in the poll (oh wait, corporations aren’t people I hope they didn’t get polled).

Even though the House is a Republican strong hold right now, many polls are showing that the majority of American people, regardless of party affiliation have made it crystal clear they support President Obama’s Job Act, temporary band-aid or not, because it is at least a plan for doing something for jobs and the economy and they feel he is trying.  But, the Republicans are blocking it in Congress and have yet to come up with their own plan other than a big NO because they can’t possibly vote on an Obama plan, even if it will help the American people. Their plan seems to be politics first, people last. I wonder how low their rating can go?

Since the Republicans now seem to represent everything the American People hate about the economy, it is only a matter of minutes before they will represent everything the American People hate. When you become a politician for all the wrong reasons and you vote as a block not to help your own constituents and the American People, you will not only end up humiliated by a 9% approval rating but sooner rather than later–no job.

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Congress Gets a DD–Rating From us Standard Poor

Congress gets DD-Rating

According to our U.S. Constitution, only Congress can spend money and only Congress can set policy. Even the veto power of the President of the United States, is at the mercy of Congress–as they can override his veto power. They can override a presidential veto for political gain (or games), or because they just don’t like him, or because they are self-centered-greedy-drunk-with-power elected officials who want it “their way,” or no way at all.

I only point this out to show that no matter what our President tried-or as some think, didn’t try to do in the month-long debt crisis fiasco–it wouldn’t have mattered. The Republicans had control of the ball and they dropped it right on us. Not just we the people but we the standard poor people. The people who have no jobs, or two jobs, or low wage jobs. The people who don’t get the tax breaks of the rich and can’t afford off-shore accounts. The people upside down on their homes and sinking fast or in default. The people who Congress can’t possibly relate to and therefore refuses to help with anything more than rhetoric.

The fact that Standard & Poor’s  has downgraded the U.S. credit rating a notch is not nearly as important as why? S&P said the downgrade reflected their opinion of our political situation and said the Republicans are not likely to let the Bush tax cuts (for the rich) expire in 2012– so no new money coming in. It is a totally separate issue that S&P is grading on some kind-of fortune teller-astrological-voodoo curve, whereby they predict the future political situation rather than assessing the financial situation as it stands.

Yes, the Republicans got their “deal” and us standard poor people got to watch elected officials play one-upmanship, not play well with others, and sell us down the river so they can report back to the lobbyists, big banks, big pharma, and other big entities that make big political donations. In the meantime the real American crisis of jobs, wages and growth is once again taking a back seat so that the rich can get richer and the middle and lower class can become obsolete.

We can only hope that anyone in Congress that helped create this mess is heavily invested in the big companies that they are supporting with their votes, the “too big to fail” companies that were tanking today in the stock market.  This Congress deserves a DD–rating, from all the standard poor people in America.

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Let’s Whitewash Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Wipe Out History

Cover of "The Adventures of Huckleberry F...

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I love books. I have too many (if that’s possible) and  I particularly like the classics, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. My very old copies of these books among others, sit behind glass in an old barrister bookcase in a place of honor. The reason I like the classics is because they give us a glimpse into what was.

So, it was with great sadness and shock that I read recently in the New York Times and Publishers Weekly that an editor, Alan Gribben, a reported Mark Twain scholar at Auburn University took it upon himself to change the written word of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).  He struck all mention of the word “nigger” and “injun Joe” in the books and replaced them with the words slave and indian. Why any “scholar” would think that these words are interchangeable is beyond my comprehension. Sometime in February the new politically correct, whitewashed version of these books will be published by NewSouth Books for student/classroom use.

Gribben said he felt a need for this change because many teachers felt “uncomfortable” teaching this book to students because of the words “nigger” and “injun”. Well, we should all feel uncomfortable with these words but the teachers are missing the boat on making it a teachable moment in explaining to kids just what it was like over 100 years ago. It was not a pretty time in our history of how blacks were treated, whitewashing the words does not wipeout what was done. This is not like the re-make of an old movie, this is distorting history to make things look better than they really were. This is falsifying  Mark Twain’s words so the teachers of today can feel more comfortable. Here is a passage from the forward page of my old Huckleberry Finn book written by the author:

“In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods. South-Western dialect; the ordinary Pike County dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but pains-takingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.  The Author.”

Since both books are in the public domain and long past their copyright, Gribben can make changes and the publisher, NewSouth, can print tons of copies and make big bucks distributing to schools where the books have been banned or simply not taught because of fear of reality. In the mean time, kids everywhere will still want to gets their hands on the original because it has been “banned” or changed,  just like I did as a kid with Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  And of course, maybe they won’t understand it as well as if a teacher had taken the time to explain the history, culture and vernacular of 1884 and how far we have come.

But, I’m sure for NewSouth Books this is just the tip of the iceberg. I can see them with dollar signs in their eyes now,  going after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and turning it into a condo.

 

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ABC’s “The View” where Whoopi and Joy better agree with your view

The morning ABC gabfest known as “The View“, where differing views are supposed to be welcome, according to Barbara Walters on an early promo for the show, probably could use a new promo.  It should read something like; “If Whoopi Goldberg or Joy Behar don’t like your view, then they will take their toys…er I mean views and walk off the stage and embarrass themselves and the show, because they are not bright enough or quick witted enough to stand their ground against opposing forces.”  Or bullies like Bill O’Reilly.

The guy is a big bag of wind and they let him command the show this week like it was his own. I mean, four women against one guy (I don’t count Elisabeth Hasselbeck) and he still came out a winner even if you totally disagreed with what he said. Just in case you haven’t seen or heard what happened this week on The View, even though it has been on every news, radio and comedy program in the last 24 hours, probably worldwide, in a nutshell: O’Reilly came on the show and mentioned that 70% of people don’t want the a mosque in the area of the 9/11 tragedy. He said Muslims attacked us and most people don’t want a mosque there as a memory. Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg went nuts and said he should have said “terrorist Muslims” and not just said Muslims because it was not right to defame all Muslims. He said he wasn’t defaming all Muslims and that everyone knows that it was terrorist Muslims that attacked us. In other words it was semantics.

I watched the show as it happened and Barbara Walters looked, flustered and upset. She apologized to viewers and stated that her colleagues should not have walked out. Evidently O’Reilly apologized (according to Behar) and they came back on the set but Behar would not sit next to him as she had been previously and moved her seat. They supposedly left because they said they were upset by his words. 

But, the part I don’t get besides the totally unprofessional antics of walking off their own show is; Why would these two liberals (Goldberg and Behar) not stick around and push their liberal agenda in his face?  Aren’t liberals supposed to be tolerant?  Aren’t liberals supposed to stand up and fight for what is right?  Instead they walked out making themselves look so foolish, I could hardly believe my eyes. They didn’t even try to kick him on their way out or say anything meaningful or smart or even clever (and these two are comedians). They let O’Reilly get the upper hand on their own show. Walters knew it immediately and had to be ready to kill these two.

In the heat of the arguing before Goldberg and Behar left, O’Reilly was very condescending to Behar and at one point even told her to “listen and you might learn ” instead of coming back with a caustic comment  or quip that she is known for, she childishly stuck her  fingers behind his head in a ridiculous display not suitable for ANY talk show host on National TV. This was teenage stuff. I was embarrased for her.

I’ve never been a Bill  O’Reilly fan and I do occasionally watch the view. I’m still not an O’Reilly fan and my View watching days are over. If I wanted to watch screaming and yelling I could turn on Springer, at least they are real white trash. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar are phony liberals and classless acts at that.

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Hey, main stream mess media; I’m going to burn my press card

I figure a headline like the one above should have Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS and maybe even Geraldo knocking on my door in minutes , for the scoop of a lifetime.  I mean, it worked for that nutcase Florida pastor Terry Jones from the Dove Outreach Church. (What does that mean anyway? Are they all running around catching doves? Call PETA quick).
Anyway, when Jones decided he needed his 15 minutes of fame he grabbed a few Qurans (Muslim holy books) and said he was going to burn them on 9/11. And bingo, the guy was a made-for-TV evangelist.  One day you are a nobody with next to nobody in your cult/church and the next day you are a force to be reckoned with thanks to our main stream  mess media that is having a slow news day, or week or just sitting around with their laptops waiting for the next big non-scoop.

This would be comical if it wasn’t so sad. Can you imagine a real pro newsman like Walter Cronkite, in the face of this nutcase pastor, even giving him the time of day? I mean, this is less important that Paris Hilton thinking that the crack cocaine that fell out of her purse was chewing gum. This is even less important than anything Jon Gosselin ever did, said or wore.  This is more embarrassing than Geraldo Rivera’s opening up that vault years ago on National TV and finding NOTHING. This is more embarrassing than Glenn Beck crying and Sarah Palin whining.

Our enlightened media literally turned a nothing pastor and his idiotic tiny tribe of kool-aid, loser followers into a national comment frenzy as anyone who is running for anything, that could even remotely be construed as political  had to have their voice heard on this “issue”. It’s as if the “balloon boy madness” won’t go away.  The press is so easily duped that it bleeds a non-story until the President of The United States has to get involved.  And I’m pretty sure he should be focusing his attention on the economy, the war,  jobs,  greedy banks, slime-ball insurance companies and well-real issues.

So, I have decided that as a writer that regularly does freelance writing for AOL websites among others, I am up to spreading my wings, as it were. I’ve figured out that If I burn something they (the main stream mess media)  will come and I will become famous just long enough to nab a book publisher or write an article for Oprah magazine.  Since today, September 11, is “No News is Good News Day” I have decided to burn my old press card, which is sure to incite an international something-or-other.  Or, at the very least get me on a talk show.

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Say yes to internet neutrality or your online life as you know it will crash

The big guns are out to get us. No, not the too big to fail banks or the health care industry oe even the greedy insurance companies. They already screwed us.  But, now we have yet another industry in search of de-regulation , privatization, and the right to do what they want; our cable and internet carriers.  In other words AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon among others are lobbying our legislators to privatize the internet and its content.  In a nutshell ; limit what we can do and see on the internet without paying someone-like them.

Think about how much we presently have to pay to watch re-runs of Gilligans Island, fake news programming (Fox News) and supposed reality TV?  Even if you throw in some decent programming and sports the basic package at Comcast is about $59.00. That is without any premium movie channels (where they basically give a few new movies a month and show them over and over again ad-nauseum.  It can easily top $100.  That is without internet service which for most companies runs $25. and up.

If the internet was privatized and had no regulations then “the big guns” could decide what we have access to. Instead of having total access to the World Wide Web,  it could conceivably be only access to “the wonderful world of Comcast”. If you wanted to jump to my blog rants for instance, I would either be gone because I couldn’t pay their fee or you would have to pay a fee to see my blog and we all know that’s not going to happen. When these carriers talk about de-regulation,  make no mistake that they mean a no-rules free-for-all for them. They would be able to block content, treat a legitimate site like spam and not allow it through or charge special fees to watch free TV on the internet.

Right now on the internet we experience what is called “net neutrality”. Which means those that own the “stuff” that connects all of us to the internet cannot restrict the sites and content we download. Under net neutrality the nations “big guns” cannot reserve preferential bandwidth for those sites and services that make them more money.  Under net neutrality service providers cannot charge businesses for access to online customers. So, I can buy an antique on Ebay or a pair of shoes from Annie’s Shoe Hut, and big outfit or a small, it is my choice. Without net neutrality, they push Annies to the back burner or out the cyber door. Not enough money for the service providers.

Anyone who works or plays on the internet needs to know about this. A good resource is www.savemyinternet.com , where you get a FREE manual all about this. It is a communications guide released today by the non-profit research center Harmony Institute.  It gives you a much better picture than I can of just what there is for us to lose if net neutrality falls by the wayside and ISP’s control the internet. Tell everyone you know about this or someday we’ll all say,  how did this happen?  Just like we did with the economy.

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In a stellar PR move BP puts CEO Tony Hayward on back burner

Wow, it’s hot on the back burner. But, not as hot as being in front of the Capitol Hill gang,  the President of the United States and millions of Americans who would dearly love to spend five minutes alone with British Petroleum’s CEO Tony Hayward.  Hayward you may remember, endeared himself to the general public by whining to reporters recently concerning the gulf oil spill by stating “I’d like my life back” when asked about the scale of the disaster and the time it has taken to do basically, nothing of any consequence.

In an interview Friday with Sky News , BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Hayward will be turning over control of the day-to-day operations of the gulf spill disaster to BP Managing Director Robert Dudley. Svanberg did say that Hayward’s comments to reporters after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster had hurt the company.  Most Americans however, find their sympathy lies with the families of the 11 people killed in the disaster, the wildlife lost, more lost jobs and businesses and the eco system.  BP and/or Hayward aren’t even on the list.

When Hayward spoke to Congress on Thursday his babblespeak even baffled Congress, that in itself a surprise.  Congress too is known to speak in a political jargon unknown to outsiders but they could not seem to make heads or tails out of Hayward’s lack of answers on the oil spill.  Evidently Hayward played the old game of ducking and evading questions, said he had no knowledge  of the planning that went into the Deepwater Horizon rig and refused to comment on why he thought it exploded.  I don’t know why Congress found this frustrating, as Americans we get this same “I don’t know” stuff all the time from our elected politicians, we are pretty much used to it. In this case it is just a big business, greedy corporate CEO, surely they can deal with it.

Svanberg said that Hayward was going to initially be the face of the company during the disaster but since the oil spill has grown more political they are changing their tack.   Oh please, this is just another word for spin.   Since we have all grown to realize Hayward cares more about himself and the company than people, they need to quickly change it up.  This is straight from the public relations 101 book.

So while we have crude oil gushing into the Gulf Of Mexico, we have a crude company trying out their new “tack” on us.  President Barack Obama has asked for a $20 billion fund to compensate victims and hopefully these people with get some money before their next “tack”, which will probably be bankruptcy or handing out free shares of BP stock.

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