Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Superman in The Mad Scientist

This is actually the first of the early 1940s Superman cartoons. This cartoon is titled The Mad Scientist and was released September 26, 1941. According to Wikipedia, the first nine Superman cartoons were produced by Fleischer Studios, which produced the Popeye cartoons. Interestingly enough, if you listen closely to the voice of the Mad Scientist, you'll find it is the same voice as Popeye--Jack Mercer. The animation in these cartoons is beautiful, with that wonderful 1930s art deco look in the background. This is a classic. From YouTube:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Fun Stuff--When death comes calling, so does Oscar the cat

Oscar, a hospice cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, RI, is seen Monday, July 23, 2007. Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

I've been seeing this story sprout up on, Yahoo News, The San Francisco Examiner, and a few other news sites over the past week. It even made it to the second story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night. What is this story? Well, meet Oscar and find out. From CNN.Com:

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means the patient has less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," Dr. David Dosa said in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Oscar, a hospice cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., walks past an activity room at the facility Monday, July 23, 2007. Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room, though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advance warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

Oscar, a hospice cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., waits outside a patient's room, Monday, July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."

All I can say is talk about Friday Cat Blogging here. But Oscar seems to be performing a special service for the doctors and staff at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. While other hospice cats are chasing mice, Oscar is predicting when nursing home patients are going to die. I wonder, is all this media fame and glory for the past week going to Oscar's head? Or is he just shrugging off all this media attention, taking it in stride as he continues his hospital rounds?

Oscar, a hospice cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., strolls past residents in the hall, Monday, July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Did Ann Coulter accidently tell the truth?

I found this through Crooks and Liars, and I'm rather amused by it. The original source is from Rick Perlstein at Campaign for America's Future:

Ann Coulter's latest column claims that "New York cabbies' compliance rate on daily bathing" is less than 48 percent; dilates upon the reporting in the "Treason Times"; and reflects, "Fox News ought to buy a copy of Monday's Democrat debate on CNN to play over and over during the general election campaign," because the only people it could possibly convince to vote for a Democrat are "losers blogging from their mother's basements."

Now why ever would Fox care about electing Republicans, given that they're a news organization in the business of "fair and balanced"?

I went into Ann Coulter's column, and read the first paragraph:

Fox News ought to buy a copy of Monday's Democrat debate on CNN to play over and over during the general election campaign. For now, the Democratic candidates need to appeal only to their nut-base. So on Monday night, the candidates casually spouted liberal conspiracy theories that would frighten normal Americans, but are guaranteed to warm the hearts of losers blogging from their mother's basements.

And what liberal conspiracy theories did Ann Coulter touch upon in her column about the Democratic debate? She wrote about two very important liberal conspiracies. The first is that "B. Hussein Obama got the party started by claiming he couldn't get a cab in New York because he's black. This line was a big hit with white liberals in the audience who have never been to New York." This is a liberal conspiracy?

I went into the debate transcripts to find the actual quote by Obama about not finding a New York taxicab. Here is the transcript of the YouTube question, and Obama's response:

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Jordan Williams, and I am a student at K.U., from Coffeyville, Kansas.

This question is meant for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.

Whenever I read an editorial about one of you, the author never fails to mention the issue of race or gender, respectively. Either one is not authentically black enough, or the other is not satisfactorily feminine.

How will you address these critics and their charges if one or both of you should end up on the Democratic ticket in '08?

COOPER: Senator Obama, how do you address those who say you're not authentically black enough?


OBAMA: Well...

COOPER: Not my question; Jordan's question.

OBAMA: You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan -- in the past, I think I've given my credentials.



But let me go to the broader issue here. And that is that race permeates our society. It is still a critical problem.

But I do believe in the core decency of the American people, and I think they want to get beyond some of our racial divisions.

Unfortunately, we've had a White House that hasn't invested in the kinds of steps that have to be done to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in this country.

And as president of the United States, my commitment on issues like education, my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that's what's really going to solve the race problem in this country.

If people feel like they've got a fair shake, if children feel as if the fact that they have a different surname or they've got a different skin color is not going to impede their dreams, then I am absolutely confident that we're going to be able to move forward on the challenges that we face as a country.


And here is the YouTube video of Obama's response to the question:

It is interesting how Coulter writes half her column on the important subject of the lack of racial discrimination with New York taxicabs, concluding that Obama is promoting a liberal conspiracy theory of racial discrimination in New York taxis, when Obama was simply making a joke in the debate. Of course, the real problem here is that Coulter spouts non-existent theories, while ignoring the real problems of racial discrimination during the Bush administration. Let's start with this November 22, 2004 article from

WASHINGTON -- The government's enforcement of civil rights laws declined sharply during the Bush administration, according to a study released yesterday.

Even though the level of complaints received by the Justice Department has remained relatively constant, far fewer criminal charges have been filed.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 159 defendants for violations of civil rights laws in 1999.

By 2003, the number had dropped to 84, according to the study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a non-partisan research center at Syracuse University in New York.

The charges include abusive police tactics, racial violence, slavery or involuntary servitude, and blocked access to clinics.

During the same time, charges against terrorism suspects increased dramatically and charges on weapons violations doubled. In addition, federal charges on immigration violations increased more than 28 percent, according to the study.

Civil rights groups said that the report was not surprising.

"This confirms what everyone in the civil rights community has known for the past four years, which is that President Bush's Justice Department does not have a commitment to full enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws," said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Anders also said that the Bush civil rights record is worse than that of previous Republican presidents, including President Reagan and the first President Bush.


The study also found:

# The rate of civil rights complaints to the government has stayed steady since 1999 at about 12,000 a year.

# Civil sanctions against civil rights violators have also declined -- from 740 in 2001 to 576 in 2003. Civil suits can involve voting rights violations, employment and housing discrimination and other matters.

# The Justice Department's referrals for prosecution in civil rights cases also dropped under the Bush administration -- from 3,053 in 1999 to 1,903 in 2003.

# From 1999 to 2003, the number of people charged by the Justice Department with terrorism-related offenses increased from 99 to 899 and the number of people charged with weapons violations more than doubled, from about 4,900 to more than 10,000.

In addition, the number of people charged with immigration violations increased from 16,219 to 20,833 during the same time period.

# Civil rights cases have always been rare. During the last five years, the United States prosecuted more than 450,000 people on various charges. Only a small fraction of those -- about one in 1,000 -- were aimed at civil rights violators. By comparison, about 600 of every 1,000 involved drugs, weapons and immigration.

So federal prosecution of civil rights violations had plummeted during the Bush administration from 159 defendants charged in 1999, to 84 defendants charged in 2003. The Justice Department's referrals for prosecution in civil rights had dropped by two-thirds in three years. In addition, the Justice Department shifted manpower and resources into fighting against terrorism and immigration, as you can see by the increase in the number of terrorism-related charge and immigration violations. The Bush administration didn't care about civil rights or discrimination--not when September 11th gave them the opportunity to increase police powers in fighting terrorism.

But there was one area that the Bush administration was interested in--reverse discrimination. This is from a July 23, 2006 Boston Globe article:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.

The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees.

But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.

For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected.

Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.

The profile of the lawyers being hired has since changed dramatically, according to the resumes of successful applicants to the voting rights, employment litigation, and appellate sections. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Globe obtained the resumes among hundreds of pages of hiring data from 2001 to 2006.

Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds -- either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups -- have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.

Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply. Since 2003 the three sections have hired 11 lawyers who said they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Seven hires in the three sections are listed as members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, including two who volunteered for Bush-Cheney campaigns.


he changes in those three sections are echoed to varying degrees throughout the Civil Rights Division, according to current and former staffers.

At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.

It seems interesting how the Bush administration is stuffing the Justice Department with conservative ideologues who are refusing to bring up voting rights and employment cases involving discrimination against African-Americans, but are happy to prosecute reverse-discrimination cases against whites. According to this April 12, 2007 TPM Muckraker story by Paul Kiel:

The Justice Department, we like to think, is a nonpartisan institution. And yet, on the Republican National Lawyers Association website, you can find 25 Justice Department employees listed under "Find a Republican Lawyer". The listings, according to McClatchy, "strike some current and former Justice Department lawyers as inappropriate, especially given that several members of the group work in the Justice Department's voting section, criminal division or as assistant U.S. attorneys."

Take two of those listed names in particular:, Christian Adams and Joshua Rogers, both lawyers in the voting section. As I detailed last week, the section, which is charged with protecting minority voters from discrimination, has filed only two cases on behalf of African American voters during the Bush administration (and one of those cases they inherited from the Clinton administration).

But the section has, remarkably, pursued the first case to allege discrimination against white voters ever filed under the Voting Rights Act.

That case is United States v. Ike Brown and Noxubee County. It's a case essentially against the Noxubee County Democratic Party -- it's one of the named defendants in the complaint. And Ike Brown is chairman of the county Democratic committee. The complaint alleges that Brown has been trying to limit whites' participation in local elections.

And who are the two lawyers in the section handling the case? Christian Adams and Joshua Rogers.

I can continue on with even more allegations of discrimination in this Bush administration, but this post is starting to get a little long. There is still the connection of the firing of the U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration and Karl Rove's obsession with alleged voter fraud. The problem here is that Coulter refuses to examine these reports, or accept the evidence of widespread discrimination by the Bush White House. To acknowledge these reports would require Coulter to reject the entire limited view of the neoconservative movement, and how that movement refuses to accept that racial discrimination still exists in the U.S., and that the Republican Party still needs to court the southern states for conservative votes--conservatives which may still harbor racial views against African-Americans. The same racist conservatives who are probably happy to read Ann Coulter's column.

The second part of Coulter's column was an attack against Senator Hillary Clinton, saying that Clinton "played to her audience with wacky conspiracy theories." Coulter claims that Clinton "raised the Bush-stole-the-2000-election fairy tale" in claiming that "somebody else was elected" and not Bush. And Coulter again goes through citing three newspaper reports stating that Bush won the 2000 election. Again, Ann Coulter doesn't seem to get it--Hillary Clinton wasn't spouting a "Bush-stole-the-2000-election fairy tale," but also making a joke here. Again, let's look at the CNN transcripts:

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Chris Nolan and I'm a Democratic precinct committeeman from Mundelein, Illinois. And my question is for Hillary Clinton.

With Bush, Clinton, and Bush again serving as the last three presidents, how would electing you, a Clinton, constitute the type of change in Washington so many people in the heartland are yearning for, and what your campaign has been talking about?

I was also wondering if any of the other candidates had a problem with the same two families being in charge of the executive branch of government for 28 consecutive years, if Hillary Clinton were to potentially be elected and then re-elected.

QUESTION: Good luck. And, whoever becomes the nominee, I'm pulling for you.

QUESTION: Go Democrats!


COOPER: The question is for Senator Clinton.

CLINTON: Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000.


CLINTON: I actually thought somebody else was elected in that election, but...


CLINTON: Obviously, I am running on my own merits, but I am very proud of my husband's record as president of the United States.


CLINTON: You know what is great about this is look at this stage and look at the diversity you have here in the Democratic Party. Any one of us would be a better president than our current president or the future Republican nominee.


CLINTON: So I'm looking forward to making my case to the people of this country...


CLINTON: ... and I hope they will judge me on my merits.

Of course, you can also see the YouTube video here:

What is so ironic here is that the CNN audience to the debate completely understood that Senator Clinton was making a joke here--does Ann Coulter even bother watching these debates here? Instead of recognizing this as a joke, Coulter again gets into a hissy fit of liberal conspiracies on how President Bush stole the 2000 election. But even here, Coulter cherry-picks the facts of the 2000 election. She ignores this October 23, 2002 USA Today story reporting GOP voter fraud in the 2000 elections:

The Republican Party has compiled a national database of 3,273 names of people who it says apparently voted more than once in the 2000 elections. It is turning the list over to local authorities for investigation and possible prosecution.

But early looks at the data by state officials have found little evidence of multiple voting.


Connecticut, the first state to check the GOP's multiple-voting data, found it "highly flawed."

Officials said that at least 51 of 54 names listed as voting both in Connecticut and elsewhere were erroneous.

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, called the list "a deliberate attempt to distract election officials across the country from their responsibility to encourage voter participation."

In North Carolina, officials found that the first name on the double-voting list was that of state Rep. Martha Alexander, a Democrat who chairs the General Assembly's panel on election laws. "It's got to be two people with the same name and birth date," said Gary Bartlett, director of the state Board of Elections.

And there is more. According to this January 18, 2001 Nation story, Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Secretary of State Katherine Harris developed a systematic program to disenfranchise legal voters:

The group prevented from voting has few defenders in either party: felons. It has been well reported that Florida denies its nearly half a million former convicts the right to vote. However, the media have completely missed the fact that Florida's own courts have repeatedly told the Governor he may not take away the civil rights of Florida citizens who committed crimes in other states, served their time and had their rights restored by those states.

People from other states who have arrived in Florida with a felony conviction in their past number "clearly over 50,000 and likely over 100,000," says criminal demographics expert Jeffrey Manza of Northwestern University. Manza estimates that 80 percent arrive with voting rights intact, which they do not forfeit by relocating to Florida.

Nevertheless, agencies controlled by Harris and Bush ordered county officials to reject attempts by these eligible voters to register, while, publicly, the governor's office states that it adheres to court rulings not to obstruct these ex-offenders in the exercise of their civil rights. Further, with the aid of a Republican-tied database firm, Harris's office used sophisticated computer programs to hunt those felons eligible to vote and ordered them thrown off the voter registries.

After reviewing The Nation's findings, voter demographics authority David Bositis concluded that the purge-and-block program was "a patently obvious technique to discriminate against black voters." Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC, notes that based on nationwide conviction rates, African-Americans would account for 46 percent of the ex-felon group wrongly disfranchised. Corroborating Bositis's estimate, the Hillsborough County elections supervisor found that 54 percent of the voters targeted by the "scrub" are African-American, in a county where blacks make up 11 percent of the voting population.

Bositis suggests that the block-and-purge program "must have had a partisan motivation. Why else spend $4 million if they expected no difference in the ultimate vote count?" Florida's black voters gave Al Gore nine out of ten of their votes; white and Hispanic felons, mostly poor, vote almost as solidly Democratic. A recently released University of Minnesota study estimates that, for example, 93 percent of felons of all races favored Bill Clinton in 1996. Whatever Florida's motive for keeping these qualified voters out of the polling booths on November 7, the fact is that they represented several times George W. Bush's margin of victory in the state. Key officials in Bush's and Harris's agencies declined our requests for comment.

The Nation goes into great detail on how this program stripped the rights of thousands of voters--most of them Democrat and minority voters. If this program was not set up by the Republicans, there is a good chance that Florida would have gone to Al Gore in 2000. Again Coulter refuses to look at all the facts and evidence regarding the 2000 election here. If Coulter were to acknowledge that the Republican Party commits massive voter fraud, this would completely discredit her conservative ideology, and destroy her belief in the Republican Party. What is even worst is that the Republican's use of voter fraud in elections is targeted directly at black and minority voters, further showing that the Republican Party is a party that accepts and promotes racism.

Coulter really concludes her column in the third sentence of the first paragraph:

So on Monday night, the candidates casually spouted liberal conspiracy theories that would frighten normal Americans, but are guaranteed to warm the hearts of losers blogging from their mother's basements.

Coulter spouts this hype of "liberal conspiracy theories" during the Democratic debate that would "frighten normal Americans." The only "liberal conspiracy theories" here are the ones that eat into Coulter's rotted brain, causing her to spout fear within the hard-lined ideologues--not normal Americans. But what is especially disturbing is the last part of her sentence--conspiracy theories that are "guaranteed to warm the hearts of losers blogging from their mother's basements." In her ideological zeal to attack both Senators Clinton and Obama with these non-existent conspiracy theories, Coulter provides a little of her own truthfulness here. Coulter uses her position in the mainstream media to carry out attacks against liberal and Democratic views and candidates. It is a single-minded position, whether she is writing columns or appearing on Fox News. This brings up another question of why does Fox News, which purports to be "fair and balanced," would even allow Ann Coulter to come on the show and spout her dribble? Ann Coulter admitted, through this slip of the tongue, that Fox News is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party.

Of course, we already knew that.

FBI director contradicts Gonzales' testimony

It is just amazing at how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has completely lied to Congress in his testimony on the domestic spying program. This is the latest story off CNN.Com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress Thursday that the confrontation between then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in Ashcroft's hospital room in 2004 concerned a controversial surveillance program -- an apparent contradiction of Senate testimony given Tuesday by Gonzales.

Mueller said he spoke with Ashcroft soon after Gonzales left the hospital and was told the meeting dealt with "an NSA [National Security Agency] program that has been much discussed, yes."

Mueller made the comment as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gonzales, now attorney general, said he had visited the ailing Ashcroft in the hospital to discuss "other intelligence activities," not the surveillance program.

Mueller also testified Thursday that he had serious reservations about the program, which allowed surveillance without warrants, at the time of the dramatic internal administration showdown and threats of top-level resignations.

Mueller did not confirm he had threatened to resign, but he twice said he supported the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who testified that Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card tried to pressure Ashcroft to reauthorize a surveillance program against terror suspects.

Mueller for the first time publicly confirmed he dispatched -- as Comey testified -- an FBI security detail to Ashcroft's hospital room to ensure that Comey was not removed from the room when Gonzales was there.

Earlier Thursday, four Democratic senators called for an independent special counsel to investigate whether Gonzales perjured himself during Capitol Hill testimony.

Both Mueller and Comey testified that Gonzales and Card tried to pressure Ashcroft into authorizing the domestic spying program. But Gonzales is claiming that he visited Ashcroft at the hospital for "other intelligence activities...." If Gonzales is telling the truth here, then why is Mueller and Comey lying to Congress? That doesn't make any sense. Of course, it makes sense for Gonzales to lie to Congress about his hospital visit to Ashcroft in order to protect the Bush administration from pressuring Ashcroft to approve their illegal domestic spying program.

Keith Olbermann has got a nice round-up of Gonzo-gate in his July 24, 2007 Countdown program. From YouTube:

Daily Headliners--Thompson's double campaign woes, Senate Dems subpoena Rove, Dow drops 300 points, McCain's ad staff quits,

There are some pretty interesting news stories coming in for today's Daily Headliners.

Fred Thompson's campaign raises $3 million: I found this MSNBC News story through Daily Kos, and it is just amazing. From MSNBC News;

Sources close to the presumptive campaign tell NBC News that Fred Thompson's fundraising is down "markedly." One claimed it has "slowed down big-time." The pace is described as a consequence of the delayed announcement to enter the race."The Friends of Fred, Inc." will report to the IRS its revenue by July 31st. Sources reveal to NBC News that number will be in the range of about $3 million. Five million dollars had been the talked-about June goal. Sources describe an early burst of donations in June and say the summer fundraising has fallen off. While additional fundraisers are planned, sources say the scheduling of fundraisers was "frozen" for a time while the team was going through some internal strains.

The Thompson campaign was hoping to raise $5 million, but have only raised about $3 million? This is not good, especially with the staff turnovers that have taken place over the past three days and the affects of this staff shake-up has had in the scheduling of fundraisers. At this point, the campaign should be running smoothly, and Fred Thompson should be spending his time giving speeches and raising money. Instead of being the GOP's "White Knight" to save the Republican Party from the disaster of this Bush administration and to retain the Oval Office for The Party, Fred Thompson's non-entry into this presidential campaign is morphing into a Keystone Cops comedy. In addition, $3 million is not going to get the Thompson campaign very far in the Republican race, considering that Mitt Romney has raised $14 million and Rudy Giuliani has raised around $17 million. Of course, the Democrats have raised ten times as much as the Thompson campaign, with Barack Obama brining in $32 million and Hillary Clinton raising $27 million. Things are certainly not looking too well for the Thompson campaign here.

The Jeri factor: This is also from the same MSNBC News story;

Some sources describe the role of the presumed candidate's wife, Jeri, as vast and powerful. Sources say "she's integrally involved in every decision" and that Fred Thompson has "set it up so everything goes through her." Critically, that was cast as "running it like a congressional campaign" and from the "kitchen table."

Sources also describe Jeri favorably as smart, and that her level of involvement could be an asset. However, they also claim she is "reluctant" to shift to the eventual front-stage role she would have to assume as the candidate's spouse with her own events and public responsibilities. An interpretation of Jeri's role was described as a "scattershot management style" that "lacks prioritization."

At present, those close to the planning say Jeri is involved in hiring, salaries, schedule, office assignments at the two headquarters, and small details like the color of bumper stickers. Some sources defend her, adding that "it's easy to say she's controlling things." Sources describe that she, like many in Washington, knows many people in politics. They acknowledge Jeri meets with and interviews senior staff candidates and is clearly a key adviser.

This story sheds two important details into the resignations taking place within the Thompson campaign. First is that Jeri Thompson was "integrally involved in every decision" regarding Fred Thompson's campaign. She pretty much controlled everything in the campaign--even down to the color of the bumper stickers. What we may have here is a case of micromanagement on Jeri Thompson's part, where she wanted to maintain the absolute power of running that early stage of the campaign, rather than stepping back and allowing the professional campaign managers to take control. It is interesting to note that Jeri Thompson was "reluctant" to shift from a back-stage role of initially organizing the campaign, to a front-stage role of actively campaigning, on behalf of her husband, in her own public events. What is even more interesting is that Fred Thompson allowed his wife to continue on with her control of the backstage work, rather than trying to convince Jeri Thompson that she needed to change her role to that of active campaigning. This is certainly not good for the Thompson campaign. Because now it shows that there is a fight within the Thompson campaign between the professional campaign staff, and Jeri Thompson. And at this point, Jeri Thompson is still in absolute control of the campaign, micromanaging it from the backstage. Fred Thompson is going to have a hard time recruiting top GOP campaign officials, who realize that their decisions will be reviewed by Jeri Thompson. In addition, the Thompson campaign is in competition with the other GOP presidential candidates' campaign staffs for recruiting these officials--campaign staffs which don't have to deal with Jeri Thompson. One final little note. The fight between the Thompson campaign staff and Jeri Thompson is not going to sit well with the GOP doner base on fundraising. If Fred Thompson can not either resolve the bickering taking place within the campaign, or even to muzzle his wife, then the GOP doner base may end up deciding that Thompson is not the GOP's savior for 2008, and may turn back to either Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani to contribute money to their campaigns. The Thompson campaign may end up seeing their own doner base drying up even before Fred Thompson announces his candidacy. The Thompson campaign may end up being DOA.

Senate Democrats call for perjury probe of Gonzales, issue subpoenas for Rove: The Washington Post is reporting that Senate Democrats are calling for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate charges that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress in his testimony regarding the illegal domestic spying program. At the same time, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas to White House adviser Karl Rove, and the White House deputy political director J. Scott Jennings, to testify on August 2 in the committee's investigation into the U.S. attorney firings and the politicization of the Justice Department. I'll be honest here in saying that I don't even know if the Bush administration or the Justice Department will allow the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales. I'm thinking that there is going to be some type of excuse coming from the Justice Department saying they can not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales. I really don't have any evidence to support this--I guess my BS detector is picking up something smelly here.

But I can say that the White House will use the same executive privilege argument for Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings as they did for Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten with their subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee. So you can expect to see an empty chair in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Karl Rove's name tag by it, on August 2nd. And I'm betting that the week after, we'll see the Senate Judiciary Committee vote, along party lines, to issue contempt citations against Karl Rove. With regards to Jennings testifying, it is a 50-50 chance here. Jennings may testify before the committee, but his testimony will be filled with assertions of executive privilege claims, thus revealing nothing to the committee. More to come here.

Wall Street tumbles as housing fears weigh: It appears that the stock market woes are still not over. According to MSNBC News:

NEW YORK - Stock prices plunged Thursday, sending the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 300 points as the downturn in the nation’s housing market showed signs of worsening, sparking concerns about a broader economic slowdown.


Thursday’s sell-off was the worst since markets plunged worldwide in February, although Wall Street had recovered a large portion of its losses by the close. At one point during Thursday’s session the Dow was down as much as 449 points. Traders attributed the market’s improvement to comments from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who in an interview on Bloomberg TV downplayed the subprime mortgage market’s impact on the economy.

Prices on Treasury securities such as bonds rose as investors moved money away from stocks and into the relative security of fixed-income investments. That suggests investors have decided that problems affecting “subprime” loans made to people with poor credit histories will spread, leading to a more difficult environment for corporate borrowing that ultimately could hamper economic growth, said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors.


The anxiety on Wall Street was amplified Thursday when the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes fell 6.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 834,000 units, a much bigger decline than had been expected and the largest percentage drop since sales fell by 12.7 percent in January.

Disappointing results from home builders Pulte Homes and D.R. Horton — squeezed by a sluggish environment from home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans — also weighed heavily on the market.

Wall Street has been ignoring the problems with the housing market, believing it was just a short-term problem which will correct itself--look at how Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson dismissed the problem of subprime mortgage's impact on the economy on Bloomberg TV? And this is while the Commerce Department is reporting that sales of new homes has dropped 6.6 percent. The housing market is going to be a serious drag on the U.S. economy. And I think that Wall Street investors are slowing waking up to that problem.

McCain's ad consultants quit campaign: It appears that John McCain just can't seem to find any help for his campaign these days--everybody is quitting! According to CNN News:

CONCORD, New Hampshire (AP) -- Sen. John McCain's advertising consultants have resigned from his presidential campaign, the latest in a rash of staff shake-ups in recent weeks.

McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker on Wednesday described the departure of Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens as amicable and said the Arizona Republican "appreciates their service" but accepted their resignations when they were offered Monday night.

Schriefer and Stevens were part of George W. Bush's campaign team in 2000 and 2004 and were part of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. The Wall Street Journal first reported the departures Wednesday night.

While the two had an agreement to work for the McCain campaign, FEC records indicate that they had not been paid and were not owed any money.

Aides downplayed their departure as a sign of a troubled campaign that has struggled financially and has been hit hard by the senator's support for the unpopular war in Iraq and failed attempts at immigration reform.

McCain is trying to revitalize his staff and his candidacy after a disastrous six months of weak fundraising and dropping poll numbers.

I guess the McCain revitalization program for his campaign is not working. The McCain campaign has already lost several key staff members this month. On July 11, McCain's campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver announced their resignations. A day earlier, the McCain campaign accepted the resignations of Deputy Campaign Manager Reed Galen and Political Director Rob Jesmer. The Straight Talk Express can't spin this serious shake-up as "Our campaign has had ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we'll be just fine." But that is just what Senator John McCain was telling voters in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

At this point, I'll be surprised if the McCain Straight Talk Express campaign can even survive through New Hampshire.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daily Headliners--More Polls, House passes contempt citations, Gonzo lied, Thompson campaign shake-up

It appears that this has been a busy and rather bad day for the Bush administration. Let's get into the Daily Headliners here.

Polls, polls and more polls: We've got some polls here to talk about. Let's start with the July 23, 2007 ABC News/Washington Post poll, which reported that an overwhelming 78 percent of Americans say that President Bush "is not willing enough to change his stance on the war, up from 66 percent last December." In addition, 55 percent of Republicans say that Bush will not alter his Iraq policy, moving up by 16 points. Sixty-three percent of Americans say that the Iraq war is not worth fighting, 22 percent say that the "surge" is improving security while 64 percent say that the surge will not succeed in the next few months. President Bush's overall job approval rating is set at 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving. This is an important number to reflect on, because this strong disapproval rating is surpassed only by Richard Nixon, whose highest disapproval rating was at 66 percent four days before he resigned, and Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War. In fact, the Washington Post has an interesting analysis of President Bush's low standing:

The historic depth of Bush's public standing has whipsawed his White House, sapped his clout, drained his advisers, encouraged his enemies and jeopardized his legacy. Around the White House, aides make gallows-humor jokes about how they can alienate their remaining supporters -- at least those aides not heading for the door. Outside the White House, many former aides privately express anger and bitterness at their erstwhile colleagues, Bush and the fate of his presidency.

Bush has been so down for so long that some advisers maintain it no longer bothers them much. It can even, they say, be liberating. Seeking the best interpretation for the president's predicament, they argue that Bush can do what he thinks is right without regard to political cost, pointing to decisions to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and to commute the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff.

But the president's unpopularity has left the White House to play mostly defense for the remainder of his term. With his immigration overhaul proposal dead, Bush's principal legislative hopes are to save his No Child Left Behind education program and to fend off attempts to force him to change course in Iraq. The emerging strategy is to play off a Congress that is also deeply unpopular and to look strong by vetoing spending bills.

The president's low public standing has paralleled the disenchantment with the Iraq war, but some analysts said it goes beyond that, reflecting a broader unease with Bush's policies in a variety of areas. "It isn't just the Iraq war," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a presidential scholar at Gettysburg College. "It's everything."

The lower that President Bush continues to drop in the polls, the more defiant he becomes in attacking his critics, in stonewalling against any congressional oversight or accepting any congressional legislation that he doesn't agree to. What we have here is a president who has locked himself away in an Oval Office bunker and will lash out in anger and defiance against anything and anyone who doesn't agree with him. Such a man can be dangerous because he has nothing left to lose.

There was also a CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted on July 20-22, 2007, which reported an interesting statistic. According to the CBS News/NY Times poll, "Forty-two percent of Americans said that looking back, taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq." The poll also notes that two-thirds of Americans said that the U.S. should either reduce its forces in Iraq, or to completely remove them. In addition, a two-thirds majority of Americans still continue to say that the Iraq war is going badly for the U.S. So I'm not sure if this is an uptick in the polls, or if this is the start of a trend. It is interesting to note that the Bush administration subtly used this polling information for their political spin. On July 24, 2007, President Bush visited Charleston Air Force Base to give a speech warning that al Qaeda was still a major threat against the U.S. In that 29-minute speech, President Bush mentioned al Qaeda 95 times. The Bush White House is going back to their stale PR-strategy of hyping up the evil al Qaeda threat in Iraq, and that the U.S. war in Iraq is now about stopping that evil al Qaeda threat. This administration doesn't care about protecting the U.S. against al Qaeda terrorist threats, it is all about politicizing the issue, politicizing the threat, so it can be used to further this administration's political CYA goals of keeping the war going until after President Bush leaves office in January 2009. Just keep remembering that every time this president opens his mouth to talk about al Qaeda.

House Democrats pass contempt citations: This is big news. According to TPM, the House Judiciary Committee voted contempt of Congress citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and President Bush's former legal counselor, Harriet Miers for failing to comply with subpoenas in the U.S. attorney firings. The 22-17 vote, which was along party lines, now advances the citation to the full House. The House will take up the citations after Congress' August recess, according to a senior Democratic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. No date has been set for the House vote.

Now according to MSNBC News:

If the citation passes the full House by simple majorities, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then would transfer it to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. The man who holds that job, Jeff Taylor, is a Bush appointee. The Bush administration has made clear it would not let a contempt citation be prosecuted because the information and documents sought are protected by executive privilege.

The Justice Department reiterated that position in a letter to Conyers on Tuesday. Brian A. Benczkowski, principal deputy assistant attorney general, cited the department’s “long-standing” position, “articulated during administrations of both parties, that the criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the president or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege.”

Benczkowski said it also was the department’s view that the same position applies to Miers.

It is likely that the Justice Department will not prosecute the citations against both Bolten and Miers. The Justice Department is siding with the Bush administration in that executive privilege protects Bolten and Miers from the contempt citations. In order for the House to drag both Bolten and Miers into testifying, the House is going to have to issue inherent contempt citations against the two. In that case, the Seargent-at-Arms for the House, or Senate, can go out to arrest Bolten and Miers, and bring them back to Congress in order to testify.

Now I've noticed in the comments section of the TPM story that Taylor was a recessed appointment by President Bush, and that his term expires on September 13. The Democrats may be holding off on voting for the contempt citations until after Taylor's term expires, forcing President Bush to either reappoint him for another recessed term, or to choose a new U.S. attorney who may be open to prosecuting these citations. I've left a more extensive comment on this through Daily Kos here. In addition, by holding off on the citation vote until September, the House Democrats are also bringing this issue up at the same time that the deliberations of the progress on the Iraq war, and the September report, is also suppose to come up. This could cause even more headaches for the besieged Bush White House here.

Memo refutes Gonzales’ surveillance testimony: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has just lied to Congress. According to MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents underscore questions about Gonzales’ credibility as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program’s legality.

“The dissent related to other intelligence activities,” Gonzales testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program.”

“Not the TSP?” responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Come on. If you say it’s about other, that implies not. Now say it or not.”

“It was not,” Gonzales answered. “It was about other intelligence activities.”

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director’s office says the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details “the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

It shows that the briefing in March 2004 was attended by the Republican and Democratic House and Senate leaders and leading members of both chambers’ intelligence committees, as Gonzales testified.

The big question now for the Congressional Democrats is when are they going to impeach Alberto Gonzales?

Thompson stumbles--before entering race: I found this off Carpetbagger, and it is rather interesting. Apparently the presidential campaign staff for the non-candidate, former Senator Fred Thompson, is having staffing problems even before Thompson has announced his campaign. First, Thompson's de facto campaign manager, Tom Collamore, was unexpectedly demoted on July 24. Today, the campaign's director of research, J.T. Mastranadi, resigned due to personal reasons. Carpetbagger also provides an ABC News story reporting that the changes in the campaign staff may be the result of personality conflicts involving Thompson's wife, Jeri Thompson, who is a lawyer, a media consultant, and a former Republican National Committee official. Apparently Jeri Thompson is trying to take a more active role in the campaign, and this role is causing some "consternation inside the campaign...." Something is going on within the Thompson campaign, even as the campaign is spinning this as a no big deal. What we actually may have here is a fight for control of the Thompson campaign between the political consultants, who were hired to run Thompson's campaign, and Jeri Thompson. What strikes my own curiosity here is why didn't Fred Thompson take care of this problem before the resignations of the two staffers? Is he completely ignorant of the inter-political fight taking place between his campaign staff and his wife?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Daily Headliners--Gonzo testifies, Justice Dept. drops fraud case, Romney's sign screw-up, Stocks fall

Here is today's Daily Headliners.

Gonzales Stonewalls on President Involvement in Hospital Visit: I found this off TPM Muckraker, and brings up some interesting questions here regarding President Bush's involvement in the illegal NSA domestic spying program. According to TPM Muckraker, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refuses to answer Senator Chuck Shumer's (D-NY) question of whether President Bush sent then-White House counsel Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card to visit then-Attorney General John Aschroft in the hospital to approve the warrantless wiretapping program. Gonzales is refusing to answer Schumer's question. Here is the YouTube exchange;

This makes me wonder if President Bush ordered Gonzales to make the visit to Ashcroft's hospital room in order to have Ashcroft sign off the program. If that is the case, then Gonzales is stonewalling in order to protect Bush's own involvement in the scandal. So this is certainly interesting to follow up on.

Justice Dept. drops massive fraud case: McClatchy is reporting a story on the Justice Department dropping a massive fraud case against a Virginia insurer Reciprocal of America, where Reciprocal "concocting a series of secret deals to hide its losses from regulators." What is even more astounding is that the investigation into Reciprocal of America shows some linkage with Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiary, General Reinsurance. Berkshire Hathaway is the giant investment empire that is overseen by billionaire Warren Buffett. But two years into the investigation, the Justice Department dropped the case. According to McClatchy:

Internal documents that McClatchy Newspapers obtained show that Justice Department lawyers in Washington had become locked in an intense debate with [federal prosecutor David] Maguire over the case until he was removed from it.

The documents, together with court records and interviews, provide a rare look inside a corporate fraud case and the Justice Department's deliberations on whether to pursue an indictment.

Five years after Enron collapsed and tough measures aimed at white-collar crime were enacted, federal officials struggled with questions of corporate accountability:

Who should be held responsible when fraud leads to a company's demise? How far should federal prosecutors go in pursuing corporate suspects?

In the Reciprocal of America case, the fallout was clear. More than 80,000 lawyers, doctors and hospitals in 30 states lost their malpractice coverage. As they couldn't expect new insurers to cover them for past cases, some who were sued have claimed losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

As doctors and lawyers faced bankruptcy, the victims of malpractice feared they'd never get their due.

Even so, prosecutors had to be certain that their evidence of wider wrongdoing justified the financial damage that an indictment could cause to General Reinsurance.

After the Enron scandal provoked an aggressive Justice Department crackdown on corporate fraud, federal courts made it clear that the department had overstepped its authority in several high-profile cases. The pendulum appeared to be swinging back in favor of corporations.

The big question I would have to ask here is whether or not the Bush administration actually pressured the Justice Department into dropping this fraud investigation into this Reciprocal of America case? I would have to wonder if lobbyists from either General Reinsurance of Berkshire Hathaway contacted top Bush administration officials, asking them to drop the case. Of course, I don't have any proof, but this case certainly stinks of politics here.

Mitt Catches S**t Over Hillary-Bashing Sign: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is really screwing up here. First we have Romney's example of crisis management by sticking the family dog in a cage on the roof of his car, and then calmly washing off the poop after the dog has been sitting up in that cage for hours. Then we've got Romney getting into a catfight with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama over kindergarten sex. Now Romney has gone beyond the level of outrageousness here. According to, Romney was photographed with a supporter, holding the supporter's homemade sign which said, "No to Obama, Osama and Chelsea's Moma." You can see the sign right here;

Well, this is bringing up even more controversy against the Romney campaign. According to Raw Story, the Romney campaign is trying to spin this controversy as a non-event. Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden told TPM Cafe, "The governor stopped briefly for a picture with a supporter who just happened to be holding their own sign with an alliterative play on words," Madden said to TPM Cafe, via e-mail. "I don’t think it was equating or comparing anyone." Even Mitt Romney tried to downplay the sign, telling Buckeye State Blogger Jerid to "Lighten up" at a townhall meeting in Exeter, NH. You can view Romney's spin here via YouTube;

Now Mitt Romney may not be responsible for the signs that supporters bring to his campaign rallies, but he is responsible for allowing his picture taken with a supporter holding that sign, and he is responsible himself for holding that sign up to photographers. He could have passed the supporter by. He could have shaken hands with the supporter. If the supporter wanted a photo taken of her with Romney, Romney could have asked that the sign not be included in the picture--all it would have taken is to move the sign to the side of the supporter, and away from the picture. When you look at this picture, Romney is standing next to the supporter, with the sign prominently placed at the front. Mitt Romney completely screwed up here, and he is trying to dismiss it as a joke.

Keith Olbermann has a great analysis of this latest Romney screw-up on signs here on YouTube;

Stocks tumble amid mortgage, earnings worries: The stock market fell sharply today, with Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping by 200 points. According to MSNBC News;

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow gave up 226.47, or 1.62 percent, to 13,716.95. The drop was the average’s biggest since March 13, when the Dow tumbled 242 points, also amid concerns that the subprime woes could infect the broader lending landscape.

Other major stock indicators also suffered steep declines. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 30.53, or 1.98 percent, to 1,511.04. The Nasdaq composite index lost 50.72, or 1.89 percent,closing at 2,639.86.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by nearly 10 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to almost 2 billion shares, compared with 1.52 billion on Monday.

What could be an underreported reason for this market tumble is a disappointing earnings report from Countrywide Financial Corporation;

NEW YORK - Countrywide Financial Corp, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, on Tuesday reported a 33 percent decline in second-quarter profit and slashed its full-year earnings forecast, citing a difficult housing market.

Net income for the Calabasas, California-based company fell to $485.1 million, or 81 cents per share, from $722.2 million, or $1.15, a year earlier. Revenue fell 15 percent to $2.55 billion.

Analysts on average expected profit of 93 cents per share on revenue of $2.9 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Countrywide also cuts its full-year earnings forecast to a range of $2.70 to $3.30 per share from the $3.50 to $4.30 per share it had forecast in April, and the $3.80 to $4.80 it had forecast in January. Analysts on average expected $3.65. Profit was $4.30 per share in 2006.

“Softening home prices continued to affect many areas of the country and delinquencies and defaults continued to rise across all mortgage product categories,” Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo said in a statement. “Due to these adverse conditions, the company incurred increased credit-related costs in the quarter, primarily related to its investments in prime home equity loans.”

Mozilo added that for the second half of the year, “we expect difficult housing and mortgage market conditions to persist.”

We've got a situation where the collapse of the subprime lending market is now starting to affect the profits of these mortgage lending companies. Defaults on subprime home loans have been rising, which has forced Countrywide to "set aside $292.9 million in preparation for borrowers missing payments on loans, with some $181 million of that amount for prime home equity loan losses. The reserve is more than four times the size of the reserve established in the second quarter of last year." Even worst, "Countrywide said 4.56 percent of its prime home-equity loans were delinquent at the end of the quarter, up from 1.77 percent in the year-ago period. Some 23.71 percent of its subprime loans were delinquent, up from 15.33 percent." In one sense, the crash of the U.S. housing market is starting to ripple through the U.S. economy and through company earnings reports. The MSNBC story on the stock market reports on the major losses by individual companies, but it fails to connect a potential relationship between the rise in defaults on American mortgages, and the inability of these companies to American consumers who do not have the money to purchase such products. Consumer spending is starting to slow now. I'm now wondering if the U.S. will slip into a recession in 2008.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Schoolhouse Rocks--Electricity

I've got a fun Schoolhouse Rock video that is electrifying.

When you're in the dark and you want to see,
You need uh... Electricity, Electricity

Electricity. You can bet that this song will stay in the back of your mind for the rest of the day. Music and lyrics are by Bob Dorough, while the song was performed by Zachary Sanders. The real interesting aspect of this song is a little wish that if we had a superhero "who could stand here and turn the generator real fast, then we wouldn't need to burn so much fuel to make... electricity." This particular cartoon gives a subtle lesson to conserve the burning of fossil fuels. And this cartoon was produced back in the mid-1970s. Of course, Schoolhouse rock would then produce another cartoon The Energy Blues, which presents a full lesson of energy conservation. So it is interesting how these cartoons were at the forefront of progressive thinking.

Here is Electricity. From YouTube:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

WaPost ogles over Clinton's boobies and not her brain

This story has always been in the back of my mind since I first saw it on Friday, but I've been wondering how to comment on it. I would like to start this with a little story of what happened in my own life.

It was around 1976. I was a fifth-grader walking to Mirassou Elementary School that morning with my friend Mark. It would have been another ho-hum school morning, but there was some excitement taking place in some bushes alongside of a house. There were around four or five sixth grade boys standing on the sidewalk of the house, talking and gesturing excitedly. One would sneak into the bushes for a moment, then come out exclaiming, "OH MY GOD! You can see her!" One of the sixth graders came over to us and asked, "Hey, you want to see something cool? Someone ripped up a Playboy magazine and threw it into the bushes! You can see a centrefold's pussy!" We were somewhat curious here--I mean, who would rip up a Playboy magazine? We had to investigate.

The sixth graders made that bush into a temple--The Church of the Holy Bush. It was small enough to where only one person could crawl in and view the sacred scraps of a centerfold. We had to wait in a makeshift line as the high priests limited the time a young boy could view the sacred objects. My turn came. I crawled into the bush, coming to a small clearing between the bush and the house. There were torn bits of paper everywhere--paper showing meaningless words, broken advertisements, and body parts. I could see parts of an unnamed woman's hand, legs, skin, and even her face. But the one torn scrap of paper which brought such excitement to the sixth graders--the Ark of the Covenant--was laying on a shrine of dirt, twigs, and the dead leaves before me. It was almost as if someone had carefully torn this centrefold's glory between her legs, and then placed it on the Alter of the Bush. It was there for all to see. I took one look, shook my head, and then left the temple for another apostle to worship. We continued on to school.

At the end of the school day, we walked by the house, but discovered that the temple was destroyed. A heretic had gone into the brush, and had removed the sacred relics of the centrefold's torn beauty. There were still a few tiny scraps of unintelligible words, but the holiest relic--the Ark which turned many a sixth-grader into a religious follower--was gone. Thus ended the Church of the Holy Bush.

I had just about forgotten that story, until I read this Washington Post's piece on Hillary Clinton's plunging neckline:

There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative -- aesthetically speaking -- environment of Congress. After all, it wasn't until the early '90s that women were even allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. It was even more surprising to note that it was coming from Clinton, someone who has been so publicly ambivalent about style, image and the burdens of both.

I wonder if the Washington Post have been getting some pointers from these former sixth-grade high priests on this story? When I look at this picture of Senator Clinton in her supposedly provocative outfit, I see an attractive woman wearing a professional business attire. Is Senator Clinton's outfit sexy? Perhaps. Should Senator Clinton's choice of business attire be reported on the front page of the Washington Post? Not really. It is ridiculous. It is a non-story about a non-issue that the Post is trying to make into a political story of what this Democratic presidential candidate is currently wearing. Or even worst, that this female presidential candidate even has breasts! Forget about what Senator Clinton's views were on the costs of higher education, or what she said before the Senate floor that afternoon. Senator Clinton's views and opinions were not relevant at that time, just as whatever views and opinions that Playboy centrefold's views and opinions were not important within the torn pages, scattered in that bush. A level of sexism still exists within this country, where we judge women by her looks, her legs, and her breasts, rather than her mind. Even if this woman shows a level of intelligence and determination to run for the highest office in this country--be it a Democratic or Republican female candidate--she will still be measured by her appearance, by how sexy she is, rather than by the traits of her male counterparts. The Washington Post clearly showed this level of sexism in their fashion story on Clinton's neckline and the discovery that Senator Clinton actually has two breasts. Now if Senator Clinton decided to show up at work wearing this to the Senate, then I would say that the Washington Post would certainly have something to report here on Senator Clinton's sense of fashion. Of course, I would also expect the WaPost to report on the new fashion styles of Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain here.

But then again, what do you expect from a newspaper that seems more interested in ogling over a female presidential candidate's body than her mind?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Tom and Jerry in The Mouse Comes to Dinner

For today's Saturday Morning Cartoons, how about a little Tom and Jerry? This is the 1945 cartoon The Mouse Comes to Dinner. I love the Tom and Jerry cartoons just as much as I love the Warner Brothers cartoons. The interesting thing about Tom and Jerry is the absurd violence within the cartoons. According to the Wikipedia entry on Tom and Jerry:

The shorts are famous for some of the most violent gags ever devised in theatrical animation: Jerry slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, Tom using everything from axes, pistols, dynamite, clubs and poison to try to murder Jerry, Jerry stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron, kicking him into a refrigerator, plugging his tail into an electric socket, hitting him with a mace and so on. Despite all the violence, there is no blood or gore in any scenes. A recurring gag involves Tom hitting Jerry when he's preoccupied, with Jerry initially oblivious to the pain--and only feeling the effects moments later.

It is violence, but it is a violence at an absurd level where the characters do not feel any pain, nor is there any blood or gore shown. There is no realism within this type of violence. And while Tom and Jerry can be considered the most violent of the type of animation shorts that were produced between the 1930s to 1950s, this absurdity existed within the animated shorts of all the studios--including even Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

So let's have some fun with Tom and Jerry in The Mouse Comes to Dinner. From YouTube:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Fun Stuff--Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter fans queue in front of Waterstone's in Piccadilly in London, Friday July 20 2007, to get the first copies of the final title, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is to be on sale in the first minute after midnight. (AP Photo / Irina Kalashnikova)

What can I say, but tonight is going to become Pottermania. Fans are lining up at bookstores to snatch up the first copies of J.K. Rowling's final volumn in the epic saga of Hogwart School's most famous wizard. According to MSNBC News:

LONDON - Readers waited in sheets of rain and blazing sun Friday, from Sydney to Seattle, to get their hands on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final volume in the schoolboy wizard’s saga.

In a now-familiar ritual that is part sales frenzy and part Halloween party, bookstores in Britain were flinging open their doors at a minute past midnight to hordes of would-be warlocks, sorcerers and ordinary, non-magical Muggles. Shops throughout the world were putting the book on sale at the same time, and the United States will follow as midnight strikes Saturday in each time zone, from 12:01 a.m. EDT.

J.K. Rowling, who created the magical lad in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” a decade ago, was giving a midnight reading to 500 competition-winning children in the grand Victorian surroundings of London’s Natural History Museum.

For many of the keenest fans, the place to be was Waterstone’s bookstore on Piccadilly in central London. Dozens of die-hard fans sheltered under umbrellas and plastic ponchos, undeterred by torrential rain. Some passed the time by jotting predictions for the final novel in notebooks, while others encouraged passing drivers to “Honk for Harry.”

“This is the biggest Harry Potter party in Europe, so it’s worth the wait,” said Laura Halinen, 23, from Kuusankoski, Finland.

Rowling’s books about the bespectacled orphan with the lightning-bolt scar have sold 325 million copies in 64 languages, and the launch of each new volume has become a Hollywood-scale extravaganza.


“Deathly Hallows” has a print run of 12 million in the United States alone, and Internet retailer Amazon says it has taken 2.2 million orders for the book — 47 percent higher than the pre-order for the sixth volume, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Britain’s Royal Mail says it will deliver 600,000 copies on Saturday — one for every 43 households in the country; the U.S. Postal Service said it would deliver 1.8 million copies.

“It is completely crazy,” said Deborah Tilley, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Waterstone’s bookstore chain. “It has never been quite this busy.”

I will admit that I have not read the Harry Potter books. My introduction to Harry Potter has been through the movies, which have amassed around $4 billion in the global box office. But I don't think I've seen any literary series that has created such a cultural mania as Harry Potter has done, and that could even include J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. Rowling's Harry Potter has become an instant cultural classic, with thousands lining up to bookstores, waiting to get their hands on the first copies of these books. And it is not just children who are reading these books, but also adults, and young adults where were introduced to Harry Potter as they were children and have grown up along with Harry. It is an incredible finale here for Harry Potter, even as there are still two more movies to film.

And so to celebrate the latest Harry Pottermania, I found this wonderful Saturday Night Live "Harry Potter" sketch featuring Lindsay Lohan playing a very sexy Hermione Granger. It is hilarious. From YouTube:

Olbermann Special Comment--Go to Iraq and fight, Mr. President

Here is another Special Comment by Keith Olbermann on his Countdown program. Olbermann started this comment right at the beginning of his program, rather than presenting his comments at the end. And it is not surprising why Olbermann presented this comment at the beginning of his show--it is a comment on the Bush administration's attempt to scapegoat Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton for the administration's own disastrous war in Iraq. Let's get into Olbermann's Special Comment here. From YouTube:

Olbermann then interviews Massachusetts's Senator John Kerry regarding the administration's blame game of Senator Clinton on Iraq. From YouTube:

We've seen this type of behavior before from this Bush administration--a crass behavior of both blaming and smearing critics of its pro-war policy, and of this administration's own failure into sending this country into this disastrous war. When the Bush administration was trying to sell the war to the American people, it did so through a PR-campaign of fear of smoking guns turning into mushroom clouds, while painting critics of administration's war as being traitorous, or aiding the terrorists. We've seen how this Bush administration will break the law in outing a CIA officer Valerie Plame as a means of revenge, and to destroy the reputation of Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson's own criticism to the Bush administration's war. In the 2004 election, this Bush administration shifted attention away from resolving the Iraq war towards questioning whether a Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was patriotic enough by bringing up the old, anti-war scars of Vietnam, and linking those scars with questions of whether Kerry was tough enough to take the fight to the terrorists--even though Kerry had fought in the jungles of Vietnam, while President Bush used his family connections to avoid fighting in the Vietnam war. In the 2006 midterm elections, this Bush administration continued its smear campaign by stating that any Americans who would vote for the Democrats, are actually voting for the terrorists. And now this Bush administration is blaming Senator Clinton for criticizing its own failed conduct of this war? Can this administration's hypocrisy get any more outrageous?

Here is the transcript to Olbermann's Special Comment:

It is one of the great, dark, evil lessons, of history.

A country — a government — a military machine — can screw up a war seven ways to Sunday. It can get thousands of its people killed. It can risk the safety of its citizens. It can destroy the fabric of its nation.

But as long as it can identify a scapegoat, it can regain or even gain power.

The Bush administration has opened this Pandora’s Box about Iraq. It has found its scapegoats: Hillary Clinton and us.

The lies and terror tactics with which it deluded this country into war — they had nothing to do with the abomination that Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The selection of the wrong war, in the wrong time, in the wrong place — the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process — that had nothing to do with the overwhelming crisis Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The criminal lack of planning for the war — the total “jump-off-a-bridge-and-hope-you-can-fly” tone to the failure to anticipate what would follow the deposing of Saddam Hussein — that had nothing to do with the chaos in which Iraq has been enveloped. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The utter, blinkered idiocy of “staying the course,” of sending Americans to Iraq and sending them a second time, and a third and a fourth, until they get killed or maimed — the utter de-prioritization of human life, simply so a politician can avoid having to admit a mistake — that had nothing to do with the tens of thousand individual tragedies darkening the lives of American families, forever. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The continuing, relentless, remorseless, corrupt and cynical insistence that this conflict somehow is defeating or containing or just engaging the people who attacked us on 9/11, the total “Alice Through the Looking Glass” quality that ignores that in Iraq, we have made the world safer for al-Qaida — it isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault!

The fault, brought down, as if a sermon from this mount of hypocrisy and slaughter by a nearly anonymous undersecretary of defense, has tonight been laid on the doorstep of... Sen. Hillary Clinton and, by extension, at the doorstep of every American — the now-vast majority of us — who have dared to criticize this war or protest it or merely ask questions about it or simply, plaintively, innocently, honestly, plead, “Don’t take my son; don’t take my daughter.”

Sen. Clinton has been sent — and someone has leaked to The Associated Press — a letter, sent in reply to hers asking if there exists an actual plan for evacuating U.S. troops from Iraq.

This extraordinary document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq,” Edelman writes, “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.”

Edelman adds: “Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

A spokesman for the senator says Mr. Edelman’s remarks are “at once both outrageous and dangerous.” Those terms are entirely appropriate and may, in fact, understate the risk the Edelman letter poses to our way of life and all that our fighting men and women are risking, have risked, and have lost, in Iraq.

After the South was defeated in our Civil War, the scapegoat was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the ideas of the “Lost Cause” and “Jim Crow” were born.

After the French were beaten by the Prussians in 1870 and 1871, it was the imaginary “Jewish influence” in the French Army general staff, and there was born 30 years of self-destructive anti-Semitism, culminating in the horrific Dreyfus case.

After the Germans lost the First World War, it was the “back-stabbers and profiteers” at home, on whose lives the National Socialists rose to prominence in the succeeding decades and whose accused membership eventually wound up in torture chambers and death camps.

And after the generation before ours, and leaders of both political parties, escalated and re-escalated and carpet-bombed and re-carpet-bombed Vietnam, it was the protest movement
and Jane Fonda and — as late as just three years ago — Sen. John Kerry who were assigned the kind of blame with which no rational human being could concur, and yet which still, across vast sections of our political landscape, resonates unchallenged and accepted.

And now Mr. Bush, you have picked out your own Jefferson Davis, your own Dreyfus, your own “profiteer” — your own scapegoat.

Not for the sake of this country.

Not for the sake of Iraq.

Not even for the sake of your own political party.

But for the sake of your own personal place in history.

But in reaching for that place, you have guaranteed yourself tonight not honor, but infamy.

In fact, you have condemned yourself to a place among that remarkably small group of Americans whom Americans cannot forgive: those who have sold this country out and who have willingly declared their enmity to the people at whose pleasure they supposedly serve.

A scapegoat, sir, might be forgivable, if you hadn’t just happened to choose a prospective presidential nominee of the opposition party.

And the accusation of spreading “enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia” might be some day atoned for, if we all didn’t know — you included, and your generals and the Iraqis — that we are leaving Iraq, and sooner rather than later, and we are doing it even if to do so requires, first, that you must be impeached and removed as president of the United States, sooner rather than later.

You have set this government at war against its own people and then blamed those very people when they say, “Enough.”

And thus it crystallizes, Mr. Bush.

When Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside ordered a disastrous attack on Fredericksburg in which 12,000 of his men were killed, he had to be physically restrained from leading the next charge himself.

After the First Lord of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill, authored and enabled the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that saw a quarter-million Allied soldiers cut down in the First World War, Churchill resigned his office and took a commission as a front-line officer in the trenches of France.

Those are your new role models, Mr. Bush.

Let your minions try to spread the blame to the real patriots here, who have sought only to undo the horrors you have wrought since 2002.

Let them try it, until the end of time.

Though the words might be erased from a million books and a billion memories, though the world be covered knee-deep in your lies, the truth shall prevail.

This, sir, is your war.

Sen. Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda? Made it impossible for you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?

Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.

Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.

Go there and fight, your war. Yourself.