Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Fun Stuff--Victoria's Secret is TOO SEXY for their clothes!

I had to reread this story twice. The lingerie company Victoria's Secret has decided to tone down its image because they are just...wait for it...TOO SEXY! From MSNBC News:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Victoria's Secret, the lingerie company that introduced the Very Sexy bra, the Fantasy Bra, and the Internet server-crashing fashion show, has become "too sexy" for its own good, its top executive said.

"We've so much gotten off our heritage ... too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine," said Sharen Turney, Victoria's Secret's chief executive, in a call with industry analysts.

Victoria's Secret was launched with the idea that Victoria was manor-born and lived in London, Turney said.

"I feel so strongly about us getting back to our heritage and really thinking in terms of ultra feminine and not just the word sexy and becoming much more relevant to our customer," Turney said Thursday.

Turney said Victoria's Secret has gotten younger with a strong focus on its successful Pink line of lingerie and loungewear created for college-age women, and has tried to chase those customers.

Turney said Victoria's Secret wants to increase its level of sophistication.

"We will also reinvent the sleepwear business and focus on product quality," she said. "Our assortment will return to an ultra feminine lingerie brand to meet her needs and expectation."

Sales at Victoria's Secret, like many clothing retailers, have been slipping.

Victoria Secret's parent, Limited Brands, said Wednesday that its fourth quarter profits fell 12 percent and that its first quarter earnings would come in below Wall Street expectations.

Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret fell 2 percent in 2007, with sales in the fourth quarter dropping 8 percent.

Model Gisele Bundchen is seen walking the runway during a Victoria's Secret fashion show. The lingerie company's CEO says she's planning an image makeover amid slipping sales. Mark Mainz / Getty Images file

Is Victoria's Secret too sexy for their clothes? Of course, Gisele does look very fetching in her pheasant-stuffed bra, but I'm not sure if Gisele's attire is very practical for everyday life--unless you are out in the Scottish countryside, hunting for game.

What really interests me here is how sales have been dropping for Victoria's Secret. Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret fell 2 percent in 2007, with sales in the fourth quarter dropping 8 percent. Victoria's Secret merchandise is a luxury item. I'm thinking that with the economic slowdown that we're seeing in the United States, and with consumers cutting back on spending, the first items that American consumers are cutting back on are luxury items, such as Victoria's Secrets bras. Instead of acknowledging that sales are dropping because of the economic slowdown, Victoria's Secret management are playing a little PR-image game here, saying that they are turning away from the pheasant-stuffed bras to a more pragmatic style of sleep-ware and lounge-wear. So instead of going to Target to purchase your next pair of pjs, you can go to Victoria's Secret.

I think the Victoria's Secret management needs a little advise from Right Said Fred. From YouTube:

Don't get too dull and dour....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

GOP--You can forget about those White House emails

I really don't have any comment on this story. How much more outrage can one have against the criminality of this Bush administration and the Republican Party? From The Washington Post:

After promising last year to search its computers for tens of thousands of e-mails sent by White House officials, the Republican National Committee has informed a House committee that it no longer plans to retrieve the communications by restoring computer backup tapes, the panel's chairman said yesterday.

The move increases the likelihood that an untold number of RNC e-mails dealing with official White House business during the first term of the Bush administration -- including many sent or received by former presidential adviser Karl Rove -- will never be recovered, said House Democrats and public records advocates.

The RNC had previously told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it was attempting to restore e-mails from 2001 to 2003, when the RNC had a policy of purging all e-mails, including those to and from White House officials, after 30 days. But Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) disclosed during a hearing yesterday that the RNC has now said it "has no intention of trying to restore the missing White House e-mails."

"The result is a potentially enormous gap in the historical record," Waxman said, including the buildup to the Iraq war.

Spokesman Danny Diaz said in a statement that the RNC "is fully compliant with the spirit and letter of the law." He declined further comment.

Administration officials have acknowledged that Rove and many other White House officials routinely used RNC accounts for government business, despite rules requiring that they conduct such business through official communications channels. The RNC deleted all e-mails until 2004, when it exempted White House officials from its e-mail purging policy.

About 80 White House aides used RNC accounts for official government business, committee staff members said. Rove, for example, sent or received 140,000 e-mails on RNC servers from 2002 to 2007, and more than half involved official ".gov" accounts, the panel has said.

The RNC dispute is part of a broader debate over whether the Bush administration has complied with long-standing statutory requirements to preserve official White House records -- including those reflecting potentially sensitive policy discussions -- for history and in case of future legal demands.

The committee is investigating allegations that vast stores of official Bush administration e-mails have also gone missing from the White House, which scrapped a Clinton-era archiving system and has struggled with data retention problems.

Of course the GOP had no intention of restoring the White House emails--the last thing the Republican Party would want is to have those emails brought before Congress, revealing even more details of the Bush administration's criminality and corruption. So now the Republican Party is saying to Congress that they no longer have to search for those emails--not our problem anymore! And the GOP knows they can get away with this since Congress will not do anything. Congress will not issue subpoenas against the GOP for those emails, or the servers. The Democrats in Congress will not get into a fight with the Bush administration on this issue. So the GOP and the Bush administration will win again on this issue.

Rove said Simpson said on Siegelman scandal....

The fallout of the Don Siegelman scandal is now starting to rain down on the Bush administration. We now have a little tit-for-tat taking place between former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove and Republican lawyer Jill Simpson. Rove flat out denied that he ever knew Simpson, nor did Rove ask Simpson to shadow Siegelman in order to take compromising sexual photos of Siegelman. Here is the story through TPM, and the YouTube video:

And now here is Jill Simpson's response on MSNBC's the Don Abrams Show: "Since Karl Rove has said that and he feels so good saying that, what I want him to do is go and swear before the United States Congress and swear what he's saying is true." You can read the story through TPM Muckraker, and watch the YouTube video here:

I would love to see Karl Rove answer these questions, under oath, before Congress. Unfortunately, the Bush administration will never allow Rove to testify before Congress.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The story of Don Siegelman and the Bush Justice Department's agenda to take him down

I saw this story yesterday through The Carpetbagger Report, and TPM, and I'm fascinated by the case. The CBS News program 60 minutes aired an incredible story of Alabama governor Don Siegelman, and the Bush Justice Department's intent desire to constantly investigate Don Siegelman, and take him down, because he is a Democrat. Siegelman was ultimately indicted and convicted of bribery, and is currently serving a seven year prison sentence. But what the 60 Minutes news story has uncovered is that the indictment and conviction of Siegelman may have been pursued because of politics. What is more, the politics of this Siegelman case is linking back to the Bush administration, and Karl Rove. Here is the video of the 60 Minutes news story:

And here is the transcript of the 60 Minutes story.

The story is just incredible here. We've got a Republican lawyer Jill Simpson who was recruited by President Bush's senior adviser Karl Rove to take pictures of Siegelman in uncompromising sexual positions. There is a Republican consultant's wife who used her power as a federal prosecutor, appointed by President Bush, to investigate Siegelman. The prosecution's star witness in the bribery case against Siegelman was a crook, who was extorting money from Alabama businesses, when he cut a deal with prosecutors to turn against Siegelman. The star witness couldn't remember the details of conversations with Siegelman regarding the meeting in which the bribe took place, causing prosecutors to force this witness to write down his testimony again and again in order to get his story straight. And those notes were never turned over to Siegelman's defense. This case is scary here because it really shows just how a Rove-politicized Justice Department operates. It is not about putting away crooked politicians, but rather using the incredible power of the Justice Department to remove your political opponents.

And there is even more coming out of this story. According to MSNBC News, a CBS affiliate station, WHNT-TV Channel 19, of Huntsville, went black for several moments, just before the 60 Minutes airing of the Siegelman segment on Sunday. MSNBC reports "The screen was dark for a few moments before the station flashed a message blaming a technical glitch for the problem." According to Scott Horton of Harper's Magazine, CBS News in New York reported that "There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters." Horton reports that WHNT-TV is owned by the Bass family, which has contributed heavily to the Republican Party. According to Raw Story:

WHNT in Huntsville Alabama was purchased by Oak Hill Capital Partners from the New York Times Company early last year. Oak Hill is owned by the Bass brothers, Bush fundraisers at the "Pioneer" level – raising over $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in both 2000 and 2004. Lee Bass is perhaps the best known member of the Bass family for his role in George W. Bush’s failed energy venture called Spectrum 7 and later for his bailing out of Harken Energy.

This story is really smelling like raw sewage here.

HOT Obama and Hillary debate

Here is Saturday Night Live's February 23, 2008 opening skit showing the press fawning love affair over Obama-mania. From YouTube:

And while we're enjoying SNL's political humor, how about this SNL Weekend Update interview with Mike Huckabee:

Obama is now a Somali citizen!

This is just wacked-out. I found this YouTube video through Americablog, with the source coming from Talking Points Memo. For some background information here, Clinton supporter Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) went on MSNBC's Morning Joe, today, to talk about the story of the unidentified Clinton staffer who supposedly sent the pics of Obama wearing a African clothes to the Drudge Report. Here is the YouTube video of what Tubbs Jones had to say about the issue to Patrick Buchanan:

And here is the transcript of this exchange through Americablog:

BUCHANAN: You saw that lovely photograph on Drudge yesterday and Drudge said initially that Clintonites gave it to her. If Clinton, the Clintonite did that, would you consider that first a dirty trick and secondly, would you think the individual that did it should be fired if they could find him or her.

JONES: Understand this: The Clinton campaign does not condone people putting out pictures that they seem to believe are inappropriate. But let me say this: I have no shame or no problem with people looking at Barack Obama in his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.

This is a diverse country and people across America recognize that. I would not personally have done it and we can't attribute it to anybody in our campaign, but the Clinton campaign does not condone the conduct and we would hope that America is going to have an opportunity or begin to see if we're supporting a woman or an African-American for President, we ought to be able to support their ability to wear the clothing of their nation.

Okay, I'm confused here. Is Stephanie Tubbs Jones saying that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States, but rather a citizen of Somalia? The clothing that Obama is wearing in the picture are native clothes of a Somali elder, presented by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan. Stephanie Tubbs Jones claims that she has no problem with Obama wearing the native clothes of his country. And since Obama is wearing the native clothes of a Somali elder, then Tubbs Jones is saying that Obama is really a citizen of Somalia. But wait a minute--if Barack Obama is a citizen of Somalia, then how can he become president of the United States, as according to the Constitution:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

So I guess, according to Tubbs Jones, that Obama has every right to wear the native clothing of his country, and the picture is showing him wearing the native clothing of Somalia. So Obama is really a Somali citizen, and not an American citizen since he is wearing the native clothing of his country in that picture. If Obama is really a Somali citizen, then he has no right to become president of the United States, since only natural born citizens of the U.S. can become president. Because Obama is showing that he is a Somali citizen by wearing the native clothing of his country, then he should pull out of the Democratic nomination for president, because Obama is not an American citizen, and hand the nomination over to Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a true American citizen, and not the fake American citizen that Somali citizen Barack Obama really is. At least that is what Stephanie Tubbs Jones is probably saying in this YouTube video.

I know you are rolling your eyes at this ridiculous logic, and you are right. It is ridiculous. I'm starting to think that what Tubbs Jones really meant was that Barack Obama had the right to wear clothing of his heritage, rather than of his country--Obama was actually born in Hawaii! If Obama had to wear the "native clothing" of his country, it would be a Hawaiian shirt and a lei, considering that Hawaii was once an independent, sovereign state. His father was born and raised in Kenya--not Somalia. Does that mean that Obama is no longer a citizen of Somalia, but rather a citizen of Kenya? Is Obama even a citizen of any country? It is obvious that Tubbs Jones' mouth was working faster than her brain, otherwise she would not have said something this stupid on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

My bad--Tubbs Jones has just said something really stupid on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

More bad economic news....

I don't know what else to say here, except that the economic crap is hitting the fan today. Let us start with some inflation news. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Inflation at the wholesale level soared in January by the fastest pace in 16 years, pushed higher by rising costs for food, energy and medicine.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that wholesale prices rose 1 percent last month, more than double the 0.4 percent increase that economists had been expecting.

The worse-than-expected performance was certain to capture attention at the Federal Reserve, which has chosen to combat a threatened recession by aggressively cutting interest rates in the belief that weaker economic growth will keep a lid on prices.

But the combination of rising inflation and weaker growth raises the threat of “stagflation,” the economic malady that plagued the country through the 1970s, when a series of oil shocks left households battered by the twin problems of stagnant growth and rising prices.

The 1 percent jump in wholesale prices followed a 0.3 percent decline in December and was the biggest one-month increase since a 2.6 percent increase in November. That gain had been driven by sharply higher energy costs.

With the January jump, wholesale prices have risen over the past 12 months by 7.5 percent, the fastest increase since the fall of 1981, when the country was in a deep recession.

I've been looking at the recent economic and political events taking place during the Bush administration, and have been comparing them to Lyndon Johnson's administration. There are disturbing similarities here--both sent the U.S. into an undeclared war, both refused to pay for the war with high taxes, and both embarked on large government spending programs--Johnson with his Great Society program, Bush with his tax cuts to the rich. Both presidents Johnson and Bush wanted to have their 'guns and butter' cake, and eat it too. And just as we have seen the beginnings of stagflation in the U.S. just after the end of the Vietnam War, we are seeing the beginning of another era of stagflation in the U.S. as we are still stuck in the quagmire of Iraq. This is scary.

Key home price index shows record decline: This MSNBC story shows that the housing mess is still not going away;

NEW YORK - The collapse in home prices accelerated to a record pace in the fourth quarter of 2007, with prices plunging 8.9 percent last year, according to a national home price index released on Tuesday.

The quarterly drop in prices of existing single-family homes quickened to 5.4 percent in the final three months of last year from a 1.8 percent drop in the third quarter, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, Standard & Poor’s said in a statement.

The 8.9 percent year-over-year decline was the largest in the 20-year history of the index, as housing was pressured lower by a huge supply of homes for sale, rising foreclosures and tighter lending conditions.

By comparison, during the 1990-91 housing recession the annual rate bottomed at a 2.8 percent drop.

Nobody has any money to buy houses. Even as the Feds drop interest rates, banks are not opening up their credit checkbooks for home loans unless you have Triple-A-plus-Gold-Standard credit. The banks still have almost a year's supply of houses, due to foreclosures, that are on the market that they still can't sell to recoup their own losses due to the subprime mortgage mess. And homeowners can't sell their homes at a higher price because of the glut of homes that are still on the market. Oh, and let us not forget that we still have plenty of homeowners who will be facing even higher interest rates when their adjustable-rate mortgages kick in. Is it no wonder that home prices continue to drop?

Foreclosures up 57 percent in the past year: There really isn't much more I can say about this MSNBC story;

LOS ANGELES - The number of homes facing foreclosure jumped 57 percent in January compared to a year ago, with lenders increasingly forced to take possession of homes they couldn’t unload at auctions, a mortgage research firm said Monday.

Nationwide, some 233,001 homes received at least one notice from lenders last month related to overdue payments, compared with 148,425 a year earlier, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. Nearly half of the total involved first-time default notices.

The worsening situation came despite ongoing efforts by lenders to help borrowers manage their payments by modifying loan terms, working out long-term repayment plans and other actions.

“You have more people going into default and a higher percentage of the properties going back to the banks,” said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice president of marketing.

Banks are getting stuck with adding even more foreclosed homes to the ones they have on their books. And what is worst, with home sale prices dropping, the value of the homes that banks have are now less than the value of the loans the banks made for those same homes. In other words, the banks can not sell these homes to recoup the losses of their mortgage loans. According to the MSNBC News story;

RealtyTrac follows default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. Lenders typically consider borrowers delinquent after they fall three months behind on mortgage payments.

Attempts to help struggling home owners have fallen short.

“The loan workout modification programs aren’t having a significant material effect on keeping properties from going back to the banks,” Sharga said.

One dramatic trend last month was a 90 percent spike in the number of properties that were repossessed by banks, compared to January 2007.

“It suggests that there’s little or no equity in a lot of these homes, because they’re not even being sold to investors at auctions, and it suggests a continuing weakness in a lot of markets in terms of real estate sales,” Sharga said.

The banks can't even sell these homes to investors at auctions. We are probably going to see even more losses and write-downs being posted by banks and financial institutions over the course of this year.

Consumer confidence weakens significantly: With all this bad economic news, is it no wonder that consumers are losing confidence? From MSNBC News;

NEW YORK - Consumer confidence plunged in February as Americans worried about less-favorable business conditions and job prospects, a business-backed research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 75.0 this month from a revised 87.3 in January.

The reading was the lowest since the index registered 64.8 in February 2003, just before the U.S. invaded Iraq, researchers said, and was far below the 83.0 expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson/IFR.


The expectations index, which measures consumers’ outlook over the next six months, fared even worse. The expectations index dropped to 57.9 from 69.3 in January. The February figure was a 17-year low, the Conference Board said, standing just a bit above the 55.3 of January 1991.

I think I need a shower now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

CBS National Poll: Obama leads McCain 50 to 38 percent

This is an especially interesting CBS News poll:

(CBS) A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds Barack Obama with a 16-point lead over rival Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters nationwide.

Obama, coming off 11 straight primary and caucus victories, had the support of 54 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally. Clinton had 38 percent support.

In a CBS News poll taken three weeks ago, shortly before Super Tuesday, Obama and Clinton were tied at 41 percent. Clinton led by 15 points nationally in January.


When all registered voters were asked who they favored in a head-to-head general election match up between Obama and McCain, Obama led by 12 percentage points, 50 to 38 percent.

In a Clinton-McCain match up, registered voters were evenly split, with 46 percent backing each candidate.

Obama beats McCain by 10 points among independents, while McCain beats Clinton by 17 points among that group.

I'm not sure how accurate this CBS News poll is, but I still find it interesting how Obama has created such a large lead over McCain. I'm wondering if this is reflective of the change message Obama has been pressing during the Democratic nomination, and perhaps how independent voters are approving this message. What is even more interesting is the reversal of the poll numbers in a McCain-Clinton match-up, where McCain beats Clinton by 17 points among independents. There is still a high negative image of Hillary Clinton among both conservatives, and perhaps independents, while McCain is still being viewed favorably as a "maverick" senator by those same independent voters.

Breaking News: Mittens may join McCain race as VP

Okay, let us take a turn into the GOP Twilight Zone. From the Los Angeles Times:

Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney's five sons, says it's "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, as a vice presidential candidate or as the Republican Party's standard-bearer if the campaign of Sen. John McCain falters.

The 60-year-old Romney, who "suspended" his campaign for the GOP nomination after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday and a week later endorsed McCain, was taking a break from politics this weekend on a skiing vacation in Utah with his wife, Ann, according to his 32-year-old son.


Because he suspended rather than terminated his campaign, Romney still retains control of the nearly 300 delegates he's already won. Another former governor, Mike Huckabee, remains in the race and is nearing Romney's delegate totals, though few give him a realistic chance of catching McCain, with more than 900 delegates.

YES! Mittens is back! And he's gunning for McCain's VP slot! This is going to be fun.

TPM: Hillary spokesperson Wolfson denies campaign officially pushed Obama turban picture

The Obama Turban Pic Flack has entered into a new phase of this messed-up Democratic politics. The Hillary Clinton campaign is now denying that they had any involvement in sending the picture of Obama wearing African clothes to the Drudge Report. According to TPM Election Central:

On a conference call with reporters just now, Hillary spokesperson Howard Wolfson strongly denied any official campaign role in pushing the photo of Obama in a turban and Somali garb.

Drudge reported this morning that Clinton staffers had "circulated" the photo. He didn't say who circulated it, what level of Clinton staffer had circulated it, or to whom it had been circulated. Drudge is the sole source for this email's existence. Nonetheless, the media has been all over the story today.

Asked if the campaign had any role, Wolfson said, "No, not to my knowledge...I've never seen that picture before. I'm not aware that anyone else here has. I'm not aware that anyone here has circulated this e-mail."

Wolfson did say, however, that the campaign agreed with part of the message in the email -- that if the same photo had appeared of Hillary, it would have been a big story: "It is a common view among this campaign and our supporters that there is a difference in how the media covers our campaign and how it covers Senator Obama."

Wolfson also grew exasperated with a reporter who pressed the issue, saying: "If you have any original reporting to suggest that this campaign was circulating this e-mail, please let me know."

"We've been very clear that we're not aware of it," he added. "Obviously the campaign didn't sanction it, and don't know anything about it."

What is so strange about this denial is that Wolfson denies that he has no knowledge of this Obama pic, and is not aware that anyone in the Clinton campaign has circulated this pic. Wolfson specifically doesn't say that the Clinton campaign was, or was not responsible, for sending this Obama pic out to Drudge. Nor does Wolfson say that the Clinton campaign officially condones this action of sending the Obama pic to Drudge. It is sort of a non-denial denial on the Clinton campaign's part. Wolfson may not be aware of whether this Obama pic came from the Clinton campaign, or that this pic could have come from lower level Clinton staffers acting on their own and without Wolfson's knowledge. This could also be an attempt by the Clinton campaign to officially deny that higher level staffers were not responsible for sending this Obama pic to Drudge, while at the same time ordering the lower level staffers to send this smear out. I still do not know. The only person who really knows who sent this email with the Obama pic is Matt Drudge himself. And until Matt Drudge publicly releases the Obama pic email letter, with the email name and ISP address, then all we have is pure speculation here.

Campaign smears against Obama

I haven't really gotten into the issue of campaign smears since I know it is pretty much a standard operating procedure to discredit and destroy your opponent in an election--smears are probably as old as politics and elections itself. But today, I've noticed two interesting smears targeting Barack Obama by what may be two completely opposite opponents.

The first smear I've seen is coming from this MSNBC News story, titled Obama may face grilling on patriotism:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism.

Now Obama's wife, Michelle, has drawn their ire, too, for saying recently that she's really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

Conservative consultants say that combined, the cases could be an issue for Obama in the general election if he wins the nomination, especially as he runs against Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain.

"The reason it hasn't been an issue so far is that we're still in the microcosm of the Democratic primary," said Republican consultant Roger Stone. "Many Americans will find the three things offensive. Barack Obama is out of the McGovern wing of the party, and he is part of the blame America first crowd."

You have got to love the Republicans and their ridiculous flag lapels. You are only a true American patriot if you wear a flag lapel on the collar of your suit jacket--and at the same time get away with illegal domestic spying on Americans, sending this country into a disastrous war in Iraq, politicizing the Justice Department by firing U.S. attorneys who will not investigate and prosecute cases for a political agenda, blowing the cover of a CIA operative in revenge for criticism against arguments for going to war in Iraq, handing out hundreds of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to your friendly business and defense executives, Abu Ghraib. The scandals just go on and on and on. Of course, this is nothing new for this new Republican Party--you swear your loyalty to the Party first, then to your business and ubber-rich elites, and then to the Religious Right, and then to your conservative constituents, and finally--maybe--to the rest of the American people and the country. You show your "patriotism" by wearing some little piece of costume jewelry, and criticize your opponent when he isn't wearing his little flag pin.

This is what Barack Obama had to say regarding the criticism against him for not wearing a little piece of costume jewelry. From Fox News:

Asked about it Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens.

"The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.

"I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest," he said in the interview. "Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism."

On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: "We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It's about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war."

Yes, I know I specifically pulled this quote from Fox News--the Mouthpiece of the Republican Party. I hope that people who are watching Fox News could understand that patriotism to one's country is reflected in what they do for the service of their country, and its people, rather than in wearing some flag lapel. The Fox News story came out on October 4, 2007. It is now late February 2008, and MSNBC is still regurgitating this ridiculous story of questioning Obama's patriotism because he won't wear a flap pin. Of course, it won't make much of a difference since the extreme right wing of the GOP will continuously bring up this issue again and again.

The second story that is generating a lot of buzz is a Drudge Report posting, where a photo of Obama wearing African clothes is being circulated by unnamed Clinton campaign staffers. According to the Drudge Report:

With a week to go until the Texas and Ohio primaries, stressed Clinton staffers circulated a photo over the weekend of a "dressed" Barack Obama.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows the Democrat frontrunner fitted as a Somali Elder, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya.

The senator was on a five-country tour of Africa.

"Wouldn't we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?" questioned one campaign staffer, in an email obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT.

In December, the campaign asked one of its volunteer county coordinators in Iowa to step down after the person forwarded an e-mail falsely stating that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe quickly accused the Clinton campaign Monday of 'shameful offensive fear-mongering' for circulating the snap.

Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams responds: "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed."

Barack Obama wearing African clothing during a 2006 trip to Kenya. From the Drudge Report.

So Barack Obama decided to go "native" in wearing some African garb during a trip there. Big frickin' deal. That is what you're suppose to do when you go to other countries--sample the local food, the culture, the dress, the music and such. I could care less if either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, or even John McCain were found wearing African clothing during trips to the region--wearing native clothing during these trips to any foreign country does not affect your abilities or experience as a potential presidential candidate. This is another non-issue that is being generated as a smear against Obama.

But there is more to this story here. The first big question is who sent this picture of Obama to Drudge, and where did they get the picture? Drudge reports that this picture was sent via email by an unknown Clinton campaign staffer. Is that true? Considering that this is the Drudge Report, I can't really say. This photo could have come from one of two sources. The first certainly is an anonymous Clinton campaign staffer, hoping to generate a smear against the Barack Obama campaign. And in that case, it may have worked. This posting of this image has created both a stir within the Internet, and generated even more squabbling between the Obama and Clinton camps. According to MSNBC News:

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe immediately accused Clinton's campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."Obama's foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, said the circulation of the photograph was divisive and suggests "that the customs and cultures of other parts of the world are worthy of ridicule or condemnation."

The Clinton campaign did not comment on the distribution of the photo, but campaign manager Maggie Williams said the Obama campaign's reaction was inflaming passions and distracting voters.

"Enough," Williams said in a statement. "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.

"This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry."

What is particularly interesting about the Clinton campaign's response is that the Clinton campaign does not confirm, nor deny, that they were responsible for sending the photo to Drudge. Instead, we have Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams attacking the Obama campaign in creating "an obvious and transparent attempt" to distract voters away from the "serious issues." This brings up an interesting question--was this a smear attack by the Clinton campaign? The fact that the Clinton campaign will not directly respond to the question of whether the campaign was responsible, or not, for submitting this photo to Drudge certainly does questions and suspicions that they were responsible for this action. The Clinton campaign would have had something to gain in conducting this smear--this is a way to negatively attack your opponent, who has become the Democratic front-runner with an 11-state win, while claiming denial at the same time.

The second party that could have sent this Obama photo would have been an unnamed someone in a conservative group, or the Republican Party. But even here, the question would be why either the conservatives, or the Republican Party, would want to get involved in initiating this smear during the Democratic primary? Do the Republicans feel that they can win in a John McCain/Hillary Clinton match better than a McCain/Obama match, and this is a smear campaign in order to help Hillary get nominated? According to the latest polling data from Real Clear Politics, McCain has a six point advantage over Clinton if a general election was held today, over that of a McCain two-point advantage over Obama. But if there is anything that this 2008 election has taught us, is that the polls cannot be trusted. There are so many dynamic variables taking place, with so many people switching their decisions over who to support in the Democratic primary, that you can not trust the polls to create an accurate representation of who Americans support for a Democratic candidate. And the polls certainly are not representative of the general election because the Democratic nomination process is still not finished--the Democratic candidates are only starting to turn their attention against McCain, and that is even fleeting at best. We still have a long spell of fighting between the Obama and Clinton campaigns to get through, and that may only stop until after the convention ends, and the nominee is chosen. Another problem I have with the photo being sent by conservatives, or the Republican Party, is why would the Republicans want to insert themselves into this Democratic campaign in the first place? The last thing the Republicans would want is to be caught meddling with the Democratic nomination--I can only imagine the outrage that would be directed against the Republicans by both the Clinton and Obama campaigns, and their supporters. Of course, considering that the Republican Party, and their nominee John McCain, are chained to the sinking Bush presidency, maybe conservatives feel that it is better to go with candidate Clinton, who they especially know and hate, over that of an unknown candidate Obama.

Are there moral problems in the Clinton campaign?

I saw this New York Times story yesterday, and I was rather interested with it. Apparently a somber mood may be descending on the Clinton campaign that Hillary Clinton could lose the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. The NY Times is reporting that Clinton is sounding "unusually philosophical on the phone these days," and no longer uses phrases like "'when I'm president' anymore." And this mood is being reflective within the campaign staff. From The New York Times:

Over take-out meals and late-night drinks, some regrets and recriminations have set in, and top aides have begun to face up to the campaign’s possible end after the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. Engaging in hindsight, several advisers have now concluded that they were not smart to use former President Bill Clinton as much as they did, that “his presence, aura and legacy caused national fatigue with the Clintons,” in the words of one senior adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity to assess the campaign candidly.

The campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, and its communications director, Howard Wolfson, have expressed frustration with the difficulty of “running against a phenomenon” in Senator Barack Obama; their attacks have not stopped Mr. Obama from winning the last 11 contests. Some aides said Mr. Penn and the former campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, had conceived and executed a terribly flawed campaign, something Ms. Solis Doyle disputes. Both she and Mr. Penn have been especially criticized as not planning a political strategy to compete in the primaries after Feb. 5.

“I do believe we built a good organization — 700 people, $100 million, nationwide offices, and a strong base of support and endorsements that helped us win big states like California and New Jersey,” Ms. Solis Doyle said in an interview. “Every time people have written us off, like after Iowa, we’ve come back.”

There is a widespread feeling among donors and some advisers, though, that a comeback this time may be improbable. Her advisers said internal polls showed a very tough race to win the Texas primary — a contest that no less than Mr. Clinton has said is a “must win.” And while advisers are drawing some hope from Mrs. Clinton’s indefatigable nature, some are burning out.

Morale is low. After 13 months of dawn-to-dark seven-day weeks, the staff is exhausted. Some have taken to going home early — 9 p.m. — turning off their BlackBerrys, and polishing off bottles of wine, several senior staff members said.

Some advisers have been heard yelling at close friends and colleagues. In a much-reported incident, Mr. Penn and the campaign advertising chief, Mandy Grunwald, had a screaming match over strategy recently that prompted another senior aide, Guy Cecil, to leave the room. “I have work to do — you’re acting like kids,” Mr. Cecil said, according to three people in the room.

Others have taken several days off, despite it being crunch time. Some have grown depressed, be it over Mr. Obama’s momentum, the attacks on the campaign’s management from outside critics or their view that the news media has been much rougher on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Obama.

I'm not sure if this is a hit piece against the Clinton campaign by the NY Times, but I still find it rather interesting. If what the Times is reporting is true, then we could be starting to see a reality spreading within the campaign that Hillary Clinton could lose the nomination. And that is not good for the campaign--you have to consistently believe that your candidate will win. Otherwise, why bother going in to volunteer your time and work for the campaign? It is almost a self-defeating process that, once the thought is embedded into the campaign, will propagate itself and become true.

Will Hillary Clinton lose the nomination? I still can't say. This Democratic nomination is going down the wire with around half the Democrats supporting Clinton and the other half supporting Obama. I believe that Tuesday's vote in Texas and Ohio will be split down the middle (Take your pick who is going to win) with no blow-outs from either candidates. We are coming into the Democratic convention with both candidates splitting the delegates. Obama may end up with a slight lead in the delegate count, perhaps a couple of hundred delegates, but it will not be enough to win the nomination. We are going to have a situation where this nomination will either be decided by a A) a brokered convention, B) the super-delegates deciding who the nomination will be, or C) one of the candidates will have to drop out. This is a tough call to make.

I'm not going to say that Hillary Clinton is out of the race. But I do believe that the Clinton campaign seriously miscalculated both the Obama phenomena and the American peoples' desire for change. That has always been the key factor in this race. The American people have wanted a major change in the direction of this country, after enduring seven years of this Bush administration. Barack Obama recognized this message and incorporated it into his campaign. Hillary Clinton, however, failed to understand this message. Instead, the Clinton campaign attempted to sell experience to the American people, not realizing that is was change that Americans preferred over experience. It has taken an eleven-straight state Obama wins for the Clinton campaign to realize their mistake. And a somber mood of a potential defeat is starting to sink into the Clinton campaign.

Monday Schoolhouse Rocks--Do The Circulation

Here is a catchy Monday Schoolhouse Rock song to get you up and moving--we're talking Do The Circulation! Music and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens. The song is performed by Joshie Armstead, Mary Sue Berry, and Maeretha Stewart. From YouTube:

So come on, everybody, get it on, everybody.

More Bush fearmongering....

This is just ridiculous. From The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON -- A day after warning that potentially critical terrorism intelligence was being lost because Congress had not finished work on a controversial espionage law, the U.S. attorney general and the national intelligence director said Saturday that the government was receiving the information -- at least temporarily.

On Friday evening, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell had said in an unusually blunt letter to Congress that the nation "is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats" because lawmakers had not yet acted on the administration's proposal for the wiretapping law.

But within hours of sending that letter, administration officials told lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees that they had prevailed upon all of the telecommunications companies to continue cooperating with the government's requests for information while negotiations with Congress continue.

A statement describing the change was released Saturday.

The episode appeared to be another round in the battle between the White House and congressional Democrats over provisions of the proposed new Protect America Act, which would replace one that has expired.

The bill would expand the government's eavesdropping authorities and protect telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. from lawsuits over their cooperation with the intelligence community.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick and tired of the constant Bush fearmongering to Congress, and the American public, so they can permanently receive their illegal domestic spying powers and get the telecoms off the hook for their own criminal participation in this illegal domestic spying program. I can't wait for this incompetent president to finally leave office.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And for more McCain scandals....

This is from Think Progress:

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) “has been indicted for extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other charges related to a land deal in Arizona,” according to the Associated Press. Renzi and two former business partners are accused “of conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government.”

Renzi, who is one of CREW’s 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress, has been under investigation by the FBI since 2006. At the heart of the investigation was a land deal worth more than $4 million that Renzi brokered for his former business partner, James Sandlin:

In 2005, mining company Resolution Copper sought to mine for copper in Superior, Arizona. Before mining could commence however, Resolution needed Congress to approve a land swap.

Rep. Renzi agreed to support the land exchange bill if, as part of the swap, Resolution bought a 480 acre alfalfa field in his hometown owned by Mr. Sandlin. When Resolution Copper refused the deal, Rep. Renzi solicited the Petrified Forest Group to purchase the land for $4 million. Rep. Renzi assured the group that he would make sure that the swap got through the Natural Resources Committee.

Around the same time, Sandlin made a $200,000 payment to a wine company owned by Renzi. The payment was never noted on Renzi’s 2005 financial disclosure forms for the House.

In April 2007, the FBI raided an insurance business tied to Renzi, which led Renzi to resign from his committee seats and eventually announce that he would not seek another term in office.

Questions have previously been raised as to whether Paul Charlton, one of the nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, lost his job because of his active investigation of Renzi. Read the full indictment here.

UPDATE: Renzi is member of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) National Leadership Team as well as a co-chair of his Arizona Leadership Team.

What we have here is a corrupt Republican politician that got caught in a bad land deal for his own greed. What is worst is that the McCain campaign didn't realize just how dirty Renzi was when they brought him into the campaign. Even McCain himself is completely oblivious to just how dirty Renzi was. Consider this from ABC News:

At a news conference in Indianapolis, he [McCain] said, "I’m sorry obviously, you always feel for the family as you know he has 12 children. But I don’t know enough of the details or anything to make a judgment, this kind of thing is always, is always very unfortunate. I rely on our department of justice and our system of justice to make the right outcome.”

When you read this comment by McCain, it seems that McCain is saying that Renzi is a great family man with 12 children, whose life is being destroyed by this "unfortunate" incident. McCain is defending Renzi without actually coming out and directly saying that Renzi is innocent of this corruption. What this Renzi indictment, and McCain's response, shows is a lack of any sort of ethics, or morality, within the John McCain, and his campaign. This is a man who will say anything, and do anything, in order to become president. This is not the sort of individual you want in the Oval Office.

Students shut down Texas highway in protest of redistricting games to limit vote

I found this through Shakesville, and it is just amazing. The source story is from The Field:

Texas Republicans have worked overtime to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and be represented fairly. The redistricting games they’ve played are infamous. And for the Prairie View A&M University precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles from the school.

So what did the students in this video do? They shut down the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on the first day of early voting.

This is just WOW! Here is the video through YouTube:

More McCain scandals....

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — In late 1998, Senator John McCain sent an unusually blunt letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission, warning that he would try to overhaul the agency if it closed a broadcast ownership loophole.

The letter, and two later ones signed by Mr. McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, urged the commission to abandon plans to close a loophole vitally important to Glencairn Ltd., a client of Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist. The provision enabled one of the nation’s largest broadcasting companies, Sinclair, to use a marketing agreement with Glencairn, a far smaller broadcaster, to get around a restriction barring single ownership of two television stations in the same city.

One of the McCain campaign’s statements about his dealings with Ms. Iseman was challenged by news accounts on Friday. In discussing letters he wrote regulators about a deal involving another of Ms. Iseman’s clients, Lowell W. Paxson, the campaign had said the senator had never spoken to her or anyone from the company. But Mr. McCain acknowledged in a 2002 deposition that he had sent the letters after meeting with Mr. Paxson.

On Glencairn, the campaign said Mr. McCain’s efforts to retain the loophole were not done at Ms. Iseman’s request. It said Mr. McCain was merely directing the commission to “not act in a manner contradictory to Congressional intent.” Mr. McCain wrote in the letters that a 1996 law, the telecommunications act, required the loophole; a legal opinion by the staff of the commission took the opposite view.

A review of the record, including agency records now at the National Archives and interviews with participants, shows that Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, played a significant role in killing the plan to eliminate the loophole. His actions followed requests by Ms. Iseman and lobbyists at other broadcasting companies, according to lobbying records and Congressional aides.

So McCain wrote a couple of letters to the FCC, asking that they kill a plan to close a broadcasting loophole that was important to Glencairn, a client of McCain's mistress Vicki Iseman. This story clearly shows just how much McCain is in bed with the lobbyists, and how they "have excess or unwarranted influence" with McCain and his legislative agenda. Remember, McCain has got 59 lobbyists working on his campaign. If McCain is elected into the White House, you are going to see even more corruption and greed coming out between a McCain administration, the lobbyists, and their clients.

Ralph Nader is running for president--Again!

Well, Ralph Nader has decided to embark on another independent run for president. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader is launching a third-party campaign for president.

The consumer advocate made the announcement Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." He says most Americans are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties, and that none of the presidential contenders are addressing ways to stem corporate crime and Pentagon waste and promote labor rights.

Last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control."

Nader's appearance on "Meet the Press" was announced Friday in an e-mail message from Nader's exploratory campaign. The message from "The Nader Team" urges supporters to tell friends and family to watch the show and requests online contributions.

Of course, the Republicans are just happy to see Ralph Nader enter the presidential race. Here is what Mike Huckabee had to say about Nader's entry in this New York Times story:

Mike Huckabee, who enjoyed many laughs last night on “Saturday Night Live” when he refused to leave the stage — a parody, of course, of his uphill battle as he continues to campaign despite his rival John McCain’s indomitable lead among Republican candidates — also commented on Mr. Nader’s decision. On CNN’s “Late Edition” today:

Mr. Huckabee: Well, I think it always would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not the Republicans. So naturally Republicans would welcome his entry into the race and hope that maybe a few more will join in.

CNN’s John King: As you know, there has been chatter from time to time about the prospect of a third party candidacy from the right. Have you picked that up at all in your travels? That if John McCain is the Republican nominee, perhaps there would be a significant third party challenge from the right?

Mr. Huckabee: I don’t think so. I mean, a couple of times it will get mentioned. But people will say, would you ever consider it? And my answer is emphatically no. I think it is a suicide mission, third party candidates are not going to win the election. At best they are going to take away from one of the major parties.

Of course it is rather ironic that Huckabee doesn't want to embark on a third party presidential run against McCain, calling it a "suicidal mission," however he is more than happy to have Nader run his own third party campaign against the Democrats. Any votes Nader steals away from a Democratic candidate brings Republican John McCain just a little closer to the White House.

I'm starting to wonder just how much of that statement is true? Will Nader steal democratic votes and hand the White House on a platter for McCain? This 2008 election is a far different political climate than 2000 was, considering the Florida fiasco that erupted between George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Ralph Nader. In 2000, this country was at peace. Now we are engaged in a lost war in Iraq, of which three-quarters of Americans are opposed to. In 2000, Americans were still supportive of President Clinton, even if they were fatigued by the Monica Lewinski scandal. In 2008, only around 30 percent of Americans support President Bush's job as president, with almost 60 percent of Americans opposed to Bush's job as president. In both 2000, and 2008, this country is heading into a recession, however I think that the 2008 recession will be even worst than what we have ever seen, considering the $9 trillion debt we've incurred, the continued bleeding of money into the disaster of Iraq, the housing bust, the subprime mortgage mess, the increased energy and food prices, and a potential rise of stagflation. How many American voters today will be convinced to join Team Nader, when considering the severe problems this country faces, and the potential disaster this country could face if McCain succeeds Bush in the White House?

Let us hope Americans are smart enough to overwhelmingly reject Nader in this election season.

Rolling Stone: The "myth" of the surge

This is a must-read Rolling Stone Magazine article by Nir Rosen that really explains the "myth" of the Bush administration's surge, and the supposed victory it has created in Iraq:

Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or "the Awakening."

At least 80,000 men across Iraq are now employed by the Americans as ISVs. Nearly all are Sunnis, with the exception of a few thousand Shiites. Operating as a contractor, [Rosen's translator] Osama runs 300 of these new militiamen, former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now counts as allies because they are cashing our checks. The Americans pay Osama once a month; he in turn provides his men with uniforms and pays them ten dollars a day to man checkpoints in the Dora district — a paltry sum even by Iraqi standards. A former contractor for KBR, Osama is now running an armed network on behalf of the United States government. "We use our own guns," he tells me, expressing regret that his units have not been able to obtain the heavy-caliber machine guns brandished by other Sunni militias.

The American forces responsible for overseeing "volunteer" militias like Osama's have no illusions about their loyalty. "The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money," says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama's territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to "make Iraqis more divided than they already are." In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups."

The reason the Bush administration's surge is working is because the U.S. military is paying everyone off--Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds-with guns, bullets, and money. And everyone is stepping up, smiling with turban in hand, to collect all these free munitions that the U.S. military is handing out. In other words, we are arming all sides of this conflict. And all these ethnic militia groups in Iraq will happily take these free weapons from their U.S. occupiers until they are ready to start up their own attacks against the other ethnic factions, or against the U.S. troops. Once the guns are depleted, you can bet that the same militia groups will come back to the U.S. military, smiling and asking for even more weapons. That is the success of the Bush surge in Iraq--more arming of Iraqis for more violence. Consider this from the Rolling Stone:

But loyalty that can be purchased is by its very nature fickle. Only months ago, members of the Awakening were planting IEDs and ambushing U.S. soldiers. They were snipers and assassins, singing songs in honor of Fallujah and fighting what they viewed as a war of national liberation against the foreign occupiers. These are men the Americans described as terrorists, Saddam loyalists, dead-enders, evildoers, Baathists, insurgents. There is little doubt what will happen when the massive influx of American money stops: Unless the new Iraqi state continues to operate as a vast bribing machine, the insurgent Sunnis who have joined the new militias will likely revert to fighting the ruling Shiites, who still refuse to share power.

"We are essentially supporting a quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves, which exist at the expense of central government authority," says Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-a-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future."

What a screwed-up U.S. war in Iraq. Can it get any worst?

Sunday Weekly Headliners

My apologies for the lack of posting during the past two weeks. I've gotten a little busy with other things, thus my blog has suffered a little. I want to use this post to catch up on a few interesting stories that took place over the past couple of weeks.

McCain caught in bed with a female lobbyist: I'll be honest here--I really don't care if Arizona Senator and GOP presidential nominee John McCain was bopping a female lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, eight years ago. McCain can bop as many female--or male--lobbyists and interns (Think Monica Lewinsky)as he wants. Sex or marital affairs are private matters for presidential candidates, and the president. But the New York Times story does raise some interesting questions about the relationship between the lobbying group and John McCain. What else is McCain giving to Iseman's clients, in terms of political favors? Going in to the New York Times story;

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.

This is a serious problem with the McCain campaign. You bring in a lot of lobbyists into your political career, these lobbyists are going to expect you to give them political favors. The lobbyists who are working on the McCain campaign are not there because they believe in McCain, or think he's a great guy. They are working for McCain because they expect a President McCain to side with their clients on business and policy issues. This shows a serious lack of ethical judgment on John McCain's part, where he is allowing himself to be corrupted by the special interest of lobbyists. We've already seen enough corruption with this current Bush administration--we don't need to have the corruption continue with a McCain administration.

The anti-lobbyist, advised by lobbyists: This Washington Post story really shows just how much influence the lobbyists have with John McCain's campaign;

For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has railed against lobbyists and the influence of "special interests" in Washington, touting on his campaign Web site his fight against "the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."

But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.


Public Citizen, a group that monitors campaign fundraising, has found that McCain has more bundlers -- people who gather checks from networks of friends and associates -- from the lobbying community than any other presidential candidate from either party.

By the group's current count, McCain has at least 59 federal lobbyists raising money for his campaign, compared with 33 working for Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani and 19 working for Democrat Clinton.

"The potential harm is that should Senator McCain become elected, those people will have a very close relationship with the McCain White House," Sloan said. "[That] would be very helpful for their clients, and that would give them a leg up on everybody else."

There are 59 lobbyists working for the McCain campaign--that is three times as many lobbyists that are working for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. These lobbyists are not working for the McCain just because they think he's a nice guy. These lobbyists are working for McCain because they expect President McCain to give them special favors for their clients--special political and business favors that will give them a leg up on everybody else.

Let us look at the list of McCain's volunteers that are lobbyists in the WaPost story;

Tom Loeffler--Former GOP congressman (R-Tex.), who is McCain's top fundraising official. Loeffler heads a lobbying firm called The Loeffler Group. The Loeffler Group's clients include Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Toyota, the Pharmaceutical Research, and Manufacturers of America.

Rick Davis--McCain's campaign manager. Davis co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications.

Charles R. Black--McCain's chief political advisor. Black is the chairman of the top Washington lobbying firm BKSH and Associates, which have represented AT&T, Alcoa, JP Morgan, and U.S. Airways. Black's current clients include General Motors, United Technologies, JPMorgan and AT&T. Black is the most powerful lobbyist working for McCain--having known McCain for almost 20 years, having worked with McCain on Senator Phil Gramm's 1996 presidential run. According to the WaPost;

But even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.

Just consider the power that Black could have within a McCain administration.

Mark Buse--McCain's Senate chief of staff. Buse was a lobbyist for ML Strategies, which represented eBay, Goldman Sachs Group, Cablevision, Tenneco and Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Steve Schmidt & Mark McKinnon--Senior McCain campaign advisers who have worked for lobbying firms that represent Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

Vicki Iseman--Lobbyist working for Alcalde & Fay, which represents the telecommunications industry. Iseman has been romantically linked with McCain in this NY Times story.

And what does presidential candidate McCain say about the links between his campaign and the lobbyists? Going back to the WaPost:

McCain has long sought to defend his associations with lobbyists, stressing that friendships with them do not influence his independent judgment when it comes to legislative action. In comments to reporters yesterday, he acknowledged those friendships.

"I have many friends who represent various interests, ranging from the firemen to the police to senior citizens to various interests, particularly before my committee," McCain said. "The question is . . . do they have excess or unwarranted influence? And certainly no one ever has in my conduct of my public life and conduct of my legislative agenda."

What a frickin' hypocrite!

John McCain's Lobbyist Friends: This is a great YouTube video that just shows the influence of lobbyists within John McCain's campaign. From YouTube;

Wonder if we could make this McCain campaign into an NBC sitcom?

GM exec stands by calling global warming a 'crock:' This Reuters news story just shows the ignorance of American business executives;

DETROIT, Feb 22 (Reuters) - General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a "total crock of shit," saying his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles.

Lutz, GM's outspoken product development chief, has been under fire from Internet bloggers since last month when he was quoted as making the remark to reporters in Texas.

In a posting on his GM blog on Thursday, Lutz said those "spewing virtual vitriol" at him for minimizing the threat of climate change were "missing the big picture."

"What they should be doing in earnest is forming opinions, not about me but about GM and what this company is doing that is ... hugely beneficial to the causes they so enthusiastically claim to support," he said in a posting titled, "Talk About a Crock."

Bob Lutz doesn't even get it. He claims that Americans should not be attacking him for calling global warming a 'crock,' but rather they should be praising what GM is doing that is "hugely beneficial to the very causes they so enthusiastically claim to support." And yet, for all of Lutz's talk, GM is sinking as a car company. Toyota has already overtaken GM as the world's top automaker, providing an impressive selection of quality, fuel-efficient cars that consumers want. At the same time, GM is reporting huge losses of $38.7 billion in its auto manufacturing, and will not report a profit until 2010. Finally, let us look at this quick story where gas prices are, again, heading upwards to "2.9 cents overnight to a national average of $3.115 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That was the highest since June 8." The sad thing is that GM has been making crappy, gas-guzzling cars for decades. When gas prices were low, Americans were happy snatching up big GMC Suburbans and SUVs, giving GM fat profits in the 1980s and 90s. Those days are over. American consumers are now turning their attention over to the Toyota Prius, and Camry. Regardless of whether global warming is a 'crock,' or not, Lutz is going to have to force GM to start producing environmentally, fuel-efficient cars because that is what consumers are demanding. Unfortunately, Lutz is too blind to see that stark reality, and GM will continue to sink into a potential bankruptcy.

Fidel Castro resigns as Cuba's president: This New York Times story reports that longtime Cuban ruler Fidel Castro has resigned, handing over power to his brother Raul, after health problems are making it impossible for Castro to continue on as president. While Castro's stepping down as the leader of Cuba is a major story in itself, it will not signal a change in the U.S. non-relations, or the trade embargo, with Cuba--The Bush administration will never consider opening up any sort of dialog with Cuba. And that is sad. Because this is an incredible opening for a thawing of US-Cuban relations. The NY Times story reports that Raul Castro "is more pragmatic and willing to admit mistakes than his brother. He has given signals he might try to follow the Chinese example of state-sponsored capitalism." If Raul Castro is willing to open Cuba to some mixed form socialist government with free-market capitalism, then the U.S. government should provide some encouragement and dialog in moving Cuba towards a more productive, and stable, post-Fidel era. I'm not sure how, or where, that encouragement and dialog should be. But we need to be ready for it, and take advantage of this opportunity.

Olbermann calls President Bush a fascist: This was Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on February 14, 2008, criticizing President Bush with playing up the fears of terrorism on Americans in order to get his telecom immunity bill passed in Congress. In this comment, Olbermann calls President Bush for what he is--a fascist. From YouTube:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Zip Zip Hooray!

This is what Saturday Morning Cartoons are all about--just sit in front of the TV on Saturday morning and watch Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show. Zip Zip Hooray is a fascinating cartoon since Wile E. Coyote breaks out of his character to explain to two little boys, who are watching the TV show, why he continues to chase the scrawny bird. From YouTube:

I'll take some Barbecued Road Runner, stuffed with pickled prickly pears....Smack! Smack!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Senate again caves to Bush, passes telecom immunity bill

This is from The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Tuesday approved new rules for government eavesdropping on phone calls and e-mails, giving the White House much of the latitude it wanted and granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that helped in the snooping after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Protection for the telecom companies is the most prominent feature of the legislation, something President Bush had insisted on as essential to getting private sector cooperation in spying on foreign terrorists and other targets. The bill would give retroactive protection to companies that acted without court permission.

The House did not include the immunity provision in a similar bill it passed last year. House Republicans now want to adopt the Senate bill, which would avoid contentious negotiations to work out differences between the competing legislation.

About 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecom companies by people alleging violations of wiretapping and privacy laws.

Bush promised to veto any new surveillance bill that did not protect the companies, arguing that it is essential if the private sector is to give the government the help it needs.

The president called the Senate bill a good piece of legislation that allows the intelligence community to monitor communications of foreign terrorists while protecting Americans' liberties. He urged the House to pass the bill and send it to his desk without delay.

The real issue here is the telecom immunity. By providing the telecoms immunity from prosecution, we will never know the extent of the relationship between the telecoms and the Bush administration on how far this illegal domestic spying program will go. President Bush will never provide the details of this spying program to Congress. The only way to get the details on this program is through the telecom lawsuits. If retroactive immunity is given to the telecoms, then those lawsuits will be thrown out of court, and the telecoms will be free from prosecution from the criminality that they knowingly engaged in.

But what really pisses me off here is the number of Democratic senators who approved of the telecom immunity:

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

My own California Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, sold our constitutional rights out for protecting the telecom industry.

Here is my own protest email sent to Dianne Feinstein's office:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I am writing this letter in protest to your affirmative voting for Senate Bill S. 2248, also known as the FISA Amendments Act of 2007. I have just one simple question to ask you--why did you vote for this disaster of a bill? Why did you vote to allow retroactive immunity to the telecom industry for their complacency in providing the Bush administration the ability to conduct illegal domestic spying operations against American citizens? Is it because you are in bed with the Telecom and Computer/Internet industry, having taken $93,276 from the telecoms, and $167,987 from Computers/Internet industry? Protecting these industries from their own criminal conduct is more important than protecting Americans' civil rights and rights to privacy? Is that why you voted to support this disaster of a bill, which will allow the Bush administration immunity from any sort of investigation into their own malfeasance? Because that is what you have just done with your vote.

The telecom industry knew that what they were doing in allowing the Bush administration to domestically spy on Americans without a warrant was in violation of Americans' rights to privacy. This is not about national security, or the Great War on Terrorism--this is about outright greed on the telecom industry's part. And you have allowed that greed to continue. You have given the Bush administration, and the telecoms, a "Get Out of Jail Free" card in keeping the details of this massive domestic spying operation secret from the American public. By providing retroactive immunity to the telecoms for participating in this illegal operation, that they knew was illegal, we will never know the scope of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" this administration has consistently engaged in. You have failed in your duties to protect the American people, and to protect the Constitution, with this vote. What is more, you have shown your own greed in siding with your true constituents--the telecoms and Computer/Internet industries--rather than to the American people. You should be removed from office because of your accessory to this criminality that you allowing to continue.

And when you do come up for re-election, I want you to know that I will never vote for you again. In fact, if another Democrat challenges your seat, I will support that challenger in any way I can. You do not deserve to sit on that seat because of this selfish vote you have given.

Eric A Hopp

Senator Feinstein needs to be removed from office.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bush pushes Senate to OK 180 nominees

This MSNBC story really shows the complete gridlock that has taken place between an arrogant Bush White House, and the Democratic Congress. From MSNBC:

WASHINGTON - President Bush vented frustration anew Saturday over the Senate's failure to vote on more than 180 of his nominations, including more than two dozen to the federal bench.

"Some have been waiting for more than a year," said Bush, who invited many of the nominees to the White House for an event on Thursday. "As a result, careers have been put on hold, families have been placed in limbo and our government has been deprived of the service of these fine nominees."

Democrats counter that Bush is equally responsible for the stalemate between the White House and Capitol Hill over presidential nominees to lead government agencies, preside over U.S. courts and serve on commissions. They say that in some cases, Bush has nominated people who have no chance of being approved by a Democratic-led Congress.

The Democrats in Congress, and the Senate, should not approve of any Bush-appointed nomination. It is now February 2008. Bush will be gone in less than 10 months. President Bush has shown himself to be a right-wing extremist, running a disaster of a right-wing administration that has screwed everything it has touched. The last thing we would need is for this incompetent of a president to continue stacking these government positions with his ideologues. These positions should remain unfilled until the next president takes office.