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Fri, Aug 29th - 2:31PM

John McCain chooses a female vice-presidential running mate

John McCain chooses a female vice-presidential running mate

When bidding for the White House it always helps to have the cards stacked in your favour. While Barack Obama turned down Hillary Clinton as his running mate, John McCain has wisely chosen a female in hopes of luring more women voters upset about Hillary Clinton's failed presidential bid.

John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a diehard conservative, as his vice-presidential running mate today in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention. McCain made his selection only six days after his Democratic rival Barack Obama named Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware as his running mate.

McCain said he made his pick after looking for a political partner “who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us.”

McCain said that Palin was “exactly who I need. She’s exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second.”

Palin, whose name wasn’t even on the short list of prospects so heavily discussed publicly in recent weeks, thus became the first woman named to a spot on a Republican ticket.

Obama picked an older running mate, and a man whom he said at the outset was qualified to be president.

McCain chose Palin a generation younger than he is, and a governor less than two years, and made no such claim about her readiness to sit in the Oval Office.

Unlike Biden, who attacked McCain's record in his debut last week, Palin was indirect in her initial attempts to elevate McCain over Obama. Palin made an immediate play for support from Democratic women, mentioning that she followed in the footsteps of Geraldine Ferraro, who was the Democratic vice-presidential running mate in 1984.

She also referred favourably to Senator Hillary Clinton, who drew 18 million votes in her unsuccessful run against Obama for the Democratic nomination.

A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, Palin was also mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 6,500) before she became governor of Alaska.

NAME - Sarah Heath Palin

AGE-BIRTH DATE-LOCATION — 44; born Feb. 11, 1964; Sandpoint, Idaho.

EXPERIENCE: Alaska governor since December 2006; unsuccessful run for Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2002; chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2003-2004; served two terms as Wasilla mayor and two terms on city council.

EDUCATION: Graduated University of Idaho, 1987, journalism.

FAMILY: Husband, Todd; five children.

BUSINESS: Worked as sports reporter for two Anchorage television stations; owned with her husband a snowmobile, watercraft, ATV business from 1994-97. Husband is a North Slope oilfield worker. She has extensive ties within the oil industry.


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Fri, Aug 29th - 3:59AM

Pissed off about high gasoline prices?

Why does gasoline cost so much?

Pissed off about high gasoline prices? Wait until you read this...

Oil prices have dropped approx. 20% since last month, but why is gasoline prices still so high? They're dropped a little, but not by the 20% it should have.

It all kind of stinks of... price fixing. Which is illegal.

Back in July, the U.S. House and Senate held almost 30 different hearings on the role oil speculators bumping up the price of oil.

Here in Canada, Canadian lawmakers have held their own two-day hearing into the cost of gasoline. Much smaller in scope, but important because they narrowed the focus to the price at the pump and how it was radically different from what was happening in the oil market on a regular basis.

When oil prices go up, so does gasoline prices, right? And when they go down, gas prices go down too, right? Wrong. Frequently it seems as thought gas prices just stay high as the various gas companies play a shell game (yes, that was a pun) to come up with excuses to keep the prices high.

"I've been following Hurricane Gustav," says Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, when asked about the parliamentary committee hearing. Rubin didn't deny that speculators are playing some role in the price of oil, but the point he was making was that the oil industry loves to keep the prices high, and almost any event in the media can be used as a scapegoat to boost prices. Problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Nigeria, the Gulf Coast of the United States, Alaska or in Alberta or Newfoundland Canada can all be used as an excuse to boost oil prices. Competition from China, India and Europe can also be blamed, the weak American dollar, etc, etc.

Its all one big blame game for why the prices of gasoline and oil are so high. Depending on what is happening in the news, even if it isn't hurting oil supplies, can dramatically effect, bolster or maintain high oil prices. The problem lately it would seem is that oil speculators seem to have had a drought of credible news topics.

"It's not about the Bank of Canada, the House of Commons or the Finance Ministry. Instead of playing the blame game, I would redirect our energy towards lessening our dependence on oil," says Jeff Rubin.

Canada, a major oil producing country, isn't likely to do much about it. We're making huge profits off of the oil industry right now. High oil prices? So much the better. We can roll in the profits.

Sure, it will hurt the prices of commodities and inflation will skyrocket, but who cares? Might as well enjoy it as it lasts.

And that's the mantra the oil industry in general is going for. Keep the oil prices high as long as possible to get as much profit out of it as we possibly can.

Sure, as Jeff Rubin suggests, people can cut back on their oil and gasoline usage. Drive less, drive smarter (hypermiling for example) or buy a hybrid car. Its going to be many years before hydrogen cars are available anyway for mass market production.

The rapid rise of oil prices and market speculation is undeniable. In the 20 years prior to 2003 there was plenty of spare oil capacity, and nations who were members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could influence the price occasionally by simply turning the tap on and off. OPEC's power to control the oil prices kept risk-averse speculators out of the market for many years. (Earlier this year OPEC predicted oil prices might reach $170 US/barrel.)

In 2000 the United States ended its regulation of energy markets, letting speculators trade in oil futures without much oversight from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In 2003 there were about 50 financial institutions trading oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Today that number is closer to 400. In 2007 billions of dollars flooded the commodities markets after the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, turning oil into an asset class and making oil and gold prices skyrocket due to over investment.

Every investor suddenly jumped off the mortgage and banking bandwagon and jumped on the oil and gold bandwagon (gold prices are less effected by geo-politics thankfully). Nothing else could explain a barrel of oil jumping from $70 (U.S.) to $147 and back down to $115 within a year.

U.S. legislators are looking at putting up speed bumps that would reduce the influence speculators have on commodity prices, including limits on the number of oil contracts an investor can hold, and stricter disclosure requirements. If it wasn't for the oil speculators the price of oil would likely be closer to $80 a barrel today.

There's also the Peak Oil Theory that global oil production has reached or will soon reach its maximum and slowly decline as oil resources become more scarce in years to come. That theory has a lot of investors thinking positively about the future of high oil prices...

And lawmakers and regular citizens looking at a future of skyrocketing energy costs and high gas prices. 
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Fri, Aug 29th - 3:03AM

Obama the Promise of Change and the American Dream

Obama the Promise of Change

On August 28th 1963 the Reverend Martin Luther King gave a memorable speech to a crowd of multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith people who crowded into a football stadium to hear him speak.

Why did they go? Because they wanted to witness history in the making, to be part of something bigger than one person, to see a man with shared values stand up for what they believe in: The American Dream.

Exactly 45 years later, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States and made his own speech to an overcrowded stadium of 85,000+ Americans. Why are they they there? To witness history in the making once more.

Obama's theme? The American Promise.

"America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this."

"This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight."

"On November 4th, we must stand up and say: Eight is enough."

Some of the people in the crowd are old enough that they were at both speeches and can draw parallels between the two. But where Rev. Martin Luther King dwelled on racism frequently, Barack Obama describes himself as post-racial and doesn't constantly remind people of the colour of his skin.

Obama's key points is that he is a man of change, of promise, and most importantly, he's not like Bush. If anything he's the anti-Bush. No more shooting first, asking questions later. No more preemptive strikes and wars without evidence or legitimate reason. If the United States goes to war with Iran, it will be because Iran's leadership has become violent and needs to be removed. Not because the White House trumps up threats with phony documents about WMD.

Did Bush lie to the American people? Yes, but its a bit like asking permission to do something after you've already done it. Its too late now. Bush will be gone 4 months anyway. Americans have paid the price and will continue to pay the price for not paying more attention to what their leaders are doing. American troops and finances will be bogged down in Iraq for years if not decades.

Obama's opponent John McCain meanwhile has been trying to distance himself from the fact that he's basically a carbon copy of George W. Bush, but without the Bush family wealth and aloofness to back him up. Does America really want to make the same mistake a third time?

In the words of George W. Bush himself: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. A fooled man can't get fooled again."

Or can they?
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