Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The post of Secretary of State is one of the more important positions that President-Elect Barack Obama must fill. People mentioned for the job include Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

We have covered Senator Hillary Clinton elsewhere, so we can proceed with examining the other three.

John Kerry would tend to be the most controversial of the three. When Kerry was running for president, he suggested American foreign policy should not be motivated by American interests, but by something he called a "global test." By "global test," it was meant that certain foreign countries, especially those in Europe, would have to approve and be comfortable with American foreign policy decisions before they could be made.

The problem with John Kerry's "global test" is that it fails to take into account the unique leadership role the United States has had thrust upon it. The knee jerk reaction of quite a few countries, especially in Europe, to a foreign crisis, such as Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, is appeasement. The United States has to cajole, persuade and occasionally compel other countries to go along with necessary measures, whether they be economic sanctions or even military action, to deal with foreign threats. To wait upon the approval of France, for example, before doing anything is just the same as doing nothing.

Bill Richardson once served as American ambassador to the United Nations, and thus has some actual foreign policy experience. While at the UN, Bill Richardson was pretty much in the mainstream of Democratic foreign policy thinking and did not behave too alarmingly. The one drawback to a Bill Richardson appointment is his involvement in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, during which he offered a job to Lewinsky at the UN. Richardson may have concealed some of his knowledge about the scandal during grand jury testimony.

Richard Lugar is a moderate Republican senator with very solid foreign policy credentials. He was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and worked on reduction of weapons of mass destruction worldwide. When Lugar ran for President in 1996, he raised the issue of nuclear terrorism, proving to be a man ahead of his time. Lugar once gave a speech praising Obama's foreign policy approach and, in turn, Obama praised Richard Lugar as someone who had shaped his views on the subject. The one drawback to a Richard Lugar appointment is that he is 76, though apparently in good health.

American downsized!

Have you noticed smaller sizes or strange happenings to some of your old standby products on market shelves recently? I have - and I'm not fooled nor am I happy about it.

My local newspaper, The San Diego Union - Tribune, called this to my attention about a week ago. I suspected some products in stores had changed, that some looked smaller or slightly different. I just didn't realize how sneaky corporations had become.

Manufacturers have, I suspect, been fighting raising prices to cover rising costs, especially shipping, by changing packaging to make the product look larger or altering the container size to hold less of it. In many cases prices haven't changed in relation to the size of the container; the net amount of product you get with each purchase has. Or, you are paying less for a smaller amount, but more in price per unit.

For instance, a popular brand of peanut butter is in what appears to be the same old jar. However, upon closer inspection you will notice a new indentation about the size of half an egg on the bottom. The jar is the same size, and same price, but it holds about one ounce less peanut butter. Only if you carefully read the new label and remember how much was in the old container would you realize the trickery involved.

And, have you tried finding the old 20 ounce Pepsi six packs in the market? I can't, but I do see a 16.5 ounce size in six packs replacing it at 3.5 cents an ounce and a 12.5 ounce size in twelve packs at 3.2 cents per ounce. Gone are the 20 ounce sizes at considerably less per ounce. As a result the price per ounce is now higher in smaller bottles. Come on, Pepsi, did you think I am so stupid that I would not see what you have so cleverly done to my 'Old Pepsi' in order to sell more thinking I am paying less per bottle? Not so fast!

Last week I noticed my regular butter, a major brand name, was in smaller quarters in a smaller box. I don't think it was any less expensive though. Cows must be demanding more hay? Maybe that new law passed this past election in California requiring better treatment of animals is the result, but I don't think so. No, I think I have been downsized and am now paying more per ounce of butter.

Another deceitful practice is placing a product in a seemingly large package. When you get it home and open it, you find this tiny object in a big box. This is not only misleading packaging, it is wasteful in that these package materials now must be discarded to the landfill. The product could easily have been packaged in a box about half the size. However, you were impressed by the fancy, big package you thought you were buying of the product. Corporations know this and package accordingly - and deceptively. There oughta be a law!

This downsizing trend is misleading and an unfair business practice, I recon. Unless you remember to check the very small sign on the shelf concerning price per ounce or other unit of measure - and remember the old price per unit - you may have been duped into buying a lesser amount and paying more. Not my style of shopping - I want more and to pay less.

Corporations must have taken Barack Obama seriously when he suggested we "share the wealth". I'm not so sure he had this in mind when he recommended that, but don't think I should be paying more for a lesser amount no matter what he meant. I'm not willing to share whatever measly wealth I have with big corporations regardless of the reasoning.

Corporate 'spinners' have justified this by saying words to the effect "Consumers don't want to pay $4.00 for a jar of peanut butter (or whatever other product they have jimmied)!" I suppose that justifies the scam in their minds - though not in mine. I mean, what's next? Paying for condoms by the inch?

Top 5 Gifts to order online

You do not have to travel far to purchase and send a gift. Purchasing and sending gifts through the Internet saves on money, gas, and time. The obvious option would be to order flowers, Mrs. Field's Cookies and gift baskets, or wine via online capability, but let's take a trip outside of that box. Here are some great ideas on what the Internet has to offer those seeking a gift to send. When sending a gift, free shipping counts, just ask Target. During Fall of 2008, the world turned to Target for it's buzz cut in shipping costs by offering free shipping on a large scale.

The gifts at Gifts.com range from Pajama Gram's pajamas delivered in a free keepsake hatbox to Radio Shack's TomTom GPS. The variety of shipping details may vary, however most offer free shipping (restrictions apply).

A great gift idea comes from Things Remembered. The Things Remembered online store shares the personalized (50"x60") Giant's NFL Stadium blanket. Treat a sports buff, or treat yourself.

Alas, The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel offers outside wear, and even summer items. From the classic low-fit golf cap, the Deck Jacket to the Wireless Forecast Station, these items can be ordered online and delivered. 'Tis the season with TWC, as their site shares options for all ages. This is the perfect site for those who hold an interest in TWC.

Top 5 Picks: Online Gift Purchasing with Delivery

5. (Internet) Magazine: For those with a taste for reading, a magazine subscription may fit the profile. Whether purchasing online or off, magazines have grown in size, price, and distance during the last ten years. Before purchasing a magazine, be sure to ask pr search of any deals on the subscription to save in cost. Once you have chosen the appropriate magazine, place the address of the person you are purchasing for in the appropriate block, and pay online, it's that simple. A great read, is a great gift.
4. RIM Blackberry Bold (AT&T): The RIM Blackberry Bold is a sharp display of multimedia performance with smartphone options for mobile professionals. The gift of communication is priceless, and with the holiday seasons around the corner, the average price of $299.99 is sure to be lowered by seasonal price cuts and offers. CNET rates the Blackberry Bold high in standards, as the public rates the Blackberry Bold at 4.5, with 5 at best.

3. Giants NFL Stadium Blanket: From Things Remembered comes the 50" x 60" Giants NFL Stadium Blanket, one of the house favorites. Treat a sports buff, or treat yourself to this fan warmer. Things Remembered doesn't stop there, they offer a blanket for other NFL teams. Pick up your favorite at ThingsRemembered.com.

2. Gift of Inhouse Dining: Purchase a dinner online for someone special, and have it delivered to their home. What a great way to say "thinking of you". The Internet has climbed in value when it comes to gift giving, including the finest of inhouse dining. Since nothing says loving like a bisquit from an oven, it would only seem kind to offer a night off from the stove. When they say that feeding a man is a way into his heart, this also could stand for women as well, as this gift is a feast without labor, making landfall at number two.

1. The Gift or Gas Card: Prepaying for a card is not such a bad idea when one thinks of the benefits they offer. A gift card for a persons favorite shop actually helps the shopper in the long run. They can simply pull out your gift, and shop, shop, shop. The gas card is not a bad idea either. For those who suffered during the gas price hikes of the summer, gifts such as gas cards have a new respect. Read all the small print on any card before "investing".

With Black Friday approaching fast, the shoppers gear up for the busiest shopping day of the year. Finding online deals can best be done upon the following Monday. Search the engines for any changes on upcoming deals prior to Black Friday, for some deals may change in time or climb in price reduction.

Inside of malls, shoppers can find jewelry stores with many gift giving ideas. The same can be done online at Kay.com. Kay Jewelers offers a spectacular world of diamonds with the option of purchasing and delivery online. Even though this would not be our first pick, let us not stand in the way of you and your goal.

These gifts should direct you closer to your shopping goal. All by which can be ordered and sent online, a true convenience.

The next Sec of State -- Hilary?

Media reports are suggesting that the Barack Obama transition team is mulling over none other than Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Other candidates include Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar and Governor Bill Richardson.

Hillary Clinton might be a good fit for Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton has some foreign policy experience as Senator and before that First Lady. But there are some factors mitigating against Hillary Clinton being offered the job of Secretary of State or having been offered the job her accepting it.

Senator Hillary Clinton is just sixty one, with the prospect of perhaps twenty or more years in the Senate if she so chooses. She might even become a candidate for President again in 2012 should Barack Obama stumble. The job of Secretary of State is considered the cap of a successful career in public service. It is true that three early Secretaries of State, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, subsequently become President, but none have in the modern age.

Rumor has had it that Senator Hillary Clinton had been in line for a Barack Obama Supreme Court nomination. A Supreme Court appointment, unlike that of Secretary of State, is a life time job with the prospect of decades of influence. The term of Secretary of State would only run a few years.

Even though she doesn't come from an academic or foreign service background, Hillary Clinton would be a good pick, from a Democratic perspective, as Secretary of State. Barack Obama also may think he will have eliminated a rival for 2012, just in case he should become less popular then than he is now. That may not be the case as there is no barrier, constitutional or otherwise, for a Secretary of State resigning and then running for President.
Barack Obama may also want to consider that Hillary Clinton, still somewhat ambitious, might be a poor fit for a job like Secretary of State that would require her to subordinate her policy preferences to that of the President of the United States. Senator Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama for being "naïve" on foreign policy issues. If she believes that would Hillary Clinton be willing to execute that same foreign policy naiveté as Barack Obama's Secretary of State?

The State Department bureaucracy has often served a role of undermining the foreign policy of the President it technically answers to. Bill Gertz, in his latest book The Failure Factory, documents how the State Department bureaucracy, among others, helped to undermine President Bush's War on Terror. Imagine a State Department with a Secretary of State with her own foreign policy ideas following a course independent of that of the President. It would be a prescription for chaos and uncertainty. People are already apprehensive about Barack Obama's tendency to appeasement. Barack Obama does not need even the possibility of a rogue Secretary of State, especially one like Hillary Clinton, who might still want his job.

Odesk hunt for Jobs

Job cuts and major changes in corporate strategies have left millions of Americans without jobs, and the technology sector is one of several industries suffering the consequences of the recent economic turmoil. However, the talented pool of technology professionals making their way out of the workforce - at least temporarily - can pick up work easily with the help of online job sites such as oDesk.

oDesk is a global marketplace for freelancers, where certified professionals can pick up real jobs with guaranteed payment - and do it all from the comfort of home. oDesk provides services to create an 'on-demand global workforce', making it easy for technology professionals to network with companies in need of their services. The recent economic upheaval is making sites like oDesk a tremendously valuable resource for technology professionals who are now desperately hunting for legitimate jobs online.

What Makes oDesk Different than Freelance Job Boards?

The San Jose Business Journal reports that oDesk currently features over 125,000 freelance technical professionals from around the world. Companies can hire skilled talent on an outsourcing basis from countries in the Far East, South America and even Australia.

oDesk serves as a global job marketplace where freelancers can pick up work on a contract basis and keep track of their projects on a web-based interface. The key difference between oDesk and the average online job board is that skilled workers can obtain certification for their particular niche so that job providers can track them down with ease.

Each oDesk member creates a working profile page that allows them to list all of their skills, experience, and background so that companies can 'pre-qualify' candidates for certain jobs. oDesk also makes it easy for freelancers to join a remote team of a company; the oDesk interface helps break down the barriers of communicating with in-office staff members, making it easier for the freelancer to work in an online collaborative environment.
oDesk charges a fee for professionals to post their skills, but companies can post jobs for free. Companies have the ability to create and control their own 'team room' where the freelancer can log in their time. This web-based platform reduces the need for excessive invoices and keeping track of hours during each work session.

More Companies Outsourcing with oDesk During Tough Economy

Technology departments, software development companies, data systems engineering companies and dozens of other companies in the technology sphere are tapping into the pool of talent listed on oDesk during the weakened economy. Companies that are growing rapidly despite the economy and looking for skilled workers are also able to spur development with the help of freelancers on oDesk. InternetNews.com reports that Apple's iPhone launch in Fall 2008 led to an over 500% increase in developer jobs per month; in-demand freelancers include programmers, engineers and consultants.

As more firms lose key staff members due to job cuts, they may need freelancers to pick up work and projects until they can rehire or change direction. oDesk makes it easy for companies to fill the gaps during this challenging time.