Monday, October 20, 2008

John McCain's Brief Encounter

Why I'd Be a Better VP than Sarah Palin

(Or, The Bridge to New Zealand)

By Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash AP Images</br> I'd like to formally submit myself to replace Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket. I feel confident that John McCain will see that the very attributes he desired in his VP choice can be met, and even exceeded in some areas, by me. For your consideration, my big, fat résumé:
1. Focus on the Family

I am the mother of five children, just like Governor Palin. I have known the demands of managing a full-time career and motherhood at the same time. I have juggled a breast pump and a BlackBerry, and I know when to put the BlackBerry down. (To be perfectly honest, I did once send a text to the baby and tried to nurse my bass player. You learn from your mistakes.)

2. Reproductive Issues

I also believe that a teenager's pregnancy is a "private family matter." In fact, I believe that every woman's pregnancy is a "private, family matter." (I bet the GOP never thought of making that leap!)

3. Church and State

Like the Governor, I now also believe that my will is perfectly aligned with God's will. When Governor Palin said that it was God's will for the Alaska pipeline to be built and asked for people to pray for that to happen, I was really inspired by her confidence in the absolute, seamless integration of her will and God's will. I have begun practicing this kind of supreme confidence on a smaller scale, but I am sure that I can quickly move to national issues. Starting with the sartorial, I know that it is God's will that I have the entire Chanel collection for the fall season, including those adorable high-heeled booties that were all over the runway shows.


Lahde Quits Hedge Funds, Thanks `Idiots' for Success

By Katherine Burton

Andrew Lahde, the hedge-fund manager who quit after posting an 870 percent gain last year, said farewell to clients in a letter that thanks stupid traders for making him rich and ends with a plea to legalize marijuana.

Lahde, head of Santa Monica, California-based Lahde Capital Management LLC, told investors last month he was returning their cash because the risk of using credit derivatives -- his means of betting on the falling value of bonds and loans, including subprime mortgages -- was too risky given the weakness of the banks he was trading with.

``I was in this game for money,'' Lahde, 37, wrote in a two-page letter today in which he said he had come to hate the hedge-fund business. ``The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government.

``All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other sides of my trades. God Bless America.''

Lahde, who managed about $80 million, told clients he'll be content to invest his own money, rather than taking cash from wealthy individuals and institutions and trying to amass a fortune worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.

``I do not understand the legacy thing,'' he wrote. ``Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.''

Request for Soros

He said he'd spend his time repairing his health ``as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces at universities, and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not.''

He also suggested that billionaire George Soros sponsor a forum in which ``great minds'' would come together to create a new system of government, as the current system ``is clearly broken.''

Lahde ended his letter with a plea for the increased use of hemp as an alternative source of food and energy that segued into a call for the legalization of marijuana.

``Hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products,'' he wrote. ``Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term.''

`Innocuous Plant'

He added, ``The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country.''

Lahde said the only reason marijuana remains illegal is because ``Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other addictive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers.''

Ye Olde Google Charts Directions for Columbus' First Trip

This is how Ye Olde Google Charts would have mapped directions for Christopher Columbus, right before he took on his first trip to India defying the common knowledge of the time: The idea that Earth was flat and had edges with monsters, giant falls, and other terrible things at their end.

Behind the GOP's voter fraud hysteria

As Republicans warn of catastrophe at the polls, an expert on election fraud explains the real partisan hoax -- the suppression of Democratic votes.

By Andrew Burmon

NewsEden Tolley registers to vote Oct. 1, 2008, at Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, Ind.

Oct. 15, 2008 | Warnings about voter fraud prior to a U.S. presidential election are nothing new. But to listen to conservative Republicans lately, you might expect Nov. 4 to bring a voting catastrophe of epic proportions. Writing in the New York Post in early October, Ken Blackwell -- yes, the former Ohio secretary of state of 2004 election infamy -- warned about "the kind of chaos you expect from a category-five hurricane -- with radical groups sending the nation into a protracted legal battle even worse than the mess back in 2000."

"To prevent it," Blackwell urged, "we must act now." Many Republicans, including operatives from the McCain campaign, have indeed been raising the specter of voter fraud across battleground states, from Nevada to Michigan to Pennsylvania, and pushing for action by government authorities.

But according to Lori Minnite, a professor of political science at Barnard College, who has spent the last eight years studying the role of fraud in U.S. elections, the Republican crusade against voter fraud is a strategic ruse. Rather than protecting the election process from voter fraud -- a problem that barely exists -- Minnite says the true aim of Republican efforts appears to be voter suppression across the partisan divide. According to Minnite, investigating voter fraud has become a Republican cottage industry over the last 20 years because it justifies questioning the eligibility of thousands of would-be voters -- often targeting poor and minority citizens in urban areas that lean Democratic. Playing the role of vigilant watchdog gives GOP bureaucrats a pretext for obstructing the path of marginalized and first-time voters headed for the polls.

Block the Vote

Will the GOP's campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?


These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.

Maez was not alone in being denied his right to vote. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20 percent of the county's voters were absent from the rolls. With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast "provisional" ballots, which can be reviewed and discarded by election officials without explanation. On Super Tuesday, more than half of all provisional ballots cast were thrown out statewide.

This November, what happened to Maez will happen to hundreds of thousands of voters across the country. In state after state, Republican operatives — the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics — are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."



by George Newton
2008, Un-rated, 52 minutes, Schrader's X
Few hospitals would rip a baby out of its mother's womb without anesthesia. Fewer still would wait until she passed out and then give her baby to the nearest crack head without at least saying they were sorry. Some would say comparing a movie to a child is heartless and exaggerated. Anyone who's ever tried to make a movie will find it to be an understatement. While putting his heart and soul into his prequel to "The Exorcist," Paul Schrader never expected to have it ripped away and remade by another filmmaker. This documentary shows the unexpected path the movie took and helps explain why Hollywood excels at putting out mediocre movies.

I always find it amusing how few movie executives understand movies. They think test screening after test screening will make a movie better. They don't understand how to read the cards, but use the information anyway. They read the screenplay and know the filmmaker's reputation, but are surprised when the film is a simple combination of these two elements. According to this documentary, the studio was happy during the making of Schrader's film. It was only afterward that they developed buyer's remorse.

It's never easy to get used to being punched in the balls. It takes a special type of person to not only keep coming back, but have a sense of humor about it. It may be due to an unexpected redemption, but Schrader is less bitter than you'd think. He is pained by what has happened, but lets his humor shine through. He knows he made the best film he could, which makes this film powerful and heartbreaking.

Growth graph

Say Goodnight, Jesse

by Susan Estrich

A Barack Obama victory in less than three weeks will mean many things at home and abroad. It will mean a new team on foreign and domestic policy and new political leadership for both the Democratic Party and the country. And it will mean, finally, the end of any excuse to listen to the self-involved, selfish and stupid rantings of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Earlier this year, Jackson made a complete fool of himself with his jealous tirade against Obama, spoken into an open mike and ultimately heard by millions. It doesn't bear repeating, and I would not be writing about it today were it not for the sad but not surprising fact that Jackson is now selling himself as a member of Obama's "family" — or vice versa — and pontificating in an ignorant and divisive way about the changes an Obama administration will bring.

If you didn't know better, you might think Jackson wants Obama to lose. And I wouldn't be surprised if he does. A President Obama makes Jackson politically irrelevant.

Jackson's latest outburst came during the inaugural World Policy Forum held at some fancy resort in France. The only surprise here is that it seems to have taken almost a week for Jackson's drivel to reach American shores. But it's arrived now, proving once again that the man who once called New York "Hymietown" has learned very little from his mistakes.

If you haven't seen it yet, you will. Check out The headline is impossible to overlook. "Jesse Jackson: Under Obama, 'decades of putting Israel's interests first' would end." According to Jackson, the "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" will lose clout.

Could he have really said these things? So it appears. But why?

Let's eliminate the obvious reasons for concern about such a comment. Could Jackson know something about Obama's plans that the rest of us don't? Short answer: No.


by Ted Rall

A Plan to Bail Out Scared Homeowners

  • Evictions must stop

  • Feds should bail out troubled homeowners

  • Government would take equity stake in home mortgages

  • Cost less than Iraq War

    NEW YORK--Unemployed and desperately worried about losing his home in a California gated community, Karthik Rajaram shot his wife, kids and mother-in-law before turning his new handgun upon himself. "We believe this individual had become despondent recently over his financial dealings and the financial situation of his household," Los Angeles police said. One of his sons, age 19, was a Fulbright scholar.

    The previous week, a 90-year-old Ohio woman tried to commit suicide when cops tried to evict her from her foreclosed house. Fortunately, the gunshot wound wasn't fatal.

    The financial crisis has claimed a number of lives, but few as poetically as that of Ian Beach of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like a character in a Kate Chopin novella, the 47-year-old father of two "apparently took painkillers, drank a bottle of whisky and walked into the sea," reported The Daily Mail in 2006, when the current epidemic of home foreclosures began to ramp up. "My trade in electronics gradually faded away and profit margins collapsed," Beach explained in his suicide note. "I was not able to get another trade going to support us in time, and meanwhile debt built up. Bankruptcy was an option but the house problem was the last straw."

    He figured his wife could use his life insurance to keep their family home. Guess again. Death by suicide is usually exempt.

    It's time to stop the bleeding. It's time to stop the evictions.

  • Attack! Attack! Attack!

    ROLLING STONE: It's Already Stolen

    Investigation by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast released today

    Don't worry about Mickey Mouse or ACORN stealing the election.  According to an investigative report out today in Rolling Stone magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, after a year-long investigation, reveal a systematic program of "GOP vote tampering" on a massive scale.

    - Republican Secretaries of State of swing-state Colorado have quietly purged one in six names from their voter rolls.

    Over several months, the GOP politicos in Colorado stonewalled every attempt by Rolling Stone to get an answer to the massive purge - ten times the average state's rate of removal.

    - While Obama dreams of riding to the White House on a wave of new voters, more then 2.7 million have had their registrations REJECTED under new procedures signed into law by George Bush.

    Kennedy, a voting rights lawyer, charges this is a resurgence of 'Jim Crow' tactics to wrongly block Black and Hispanic voters.

    - A fired US prosecutor levels new charges - accusing leaders of his own party, Republicans, with criminal acts in an attempt to block legal voters as "fraudulent."

    - Digging through government records, the Kennedy-Palast team discovered that, in 2004, a GOP scheme called "caging" ultimately took away the rights of 1.1 million voters.  The Rolling Stone duo predict that, this November 4, it will be far worse.

    Administration Abuses Public Trust ... Again

    A federal law that "prohibits the use of public funds or resources for partisan political activities" didn't stop Bush administration officials from traveling around the country in 2006 to "to lend prestige or bring federal grants to 99 politically endangered Republicans that year."

    [A] draft report released by the Democratic majority of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ... said the trips were freely described as political in subpoenaed e-mails and interviews. A master list prepared at the White House two weeks before the election listed the names and dates of appearances by cabinet secretaries in 73 key congressional districts, all under the heading "Final Push Surrogate Matrix."

    "This is," the report said, "a gross abuse of the public trust."

    Granted, there is often an ambiguous line between politics and policy, and it isn't unusual for presidents to use their office to help members of their political party. The report concludes that the Bush administration's approach was markedly different from that of previous White House occupants. [more ...]

    The House committee probed the Clinton effort in the 1990's, at the behest of its then-Republican chairman, but "received no evidence of practices...resembling the coordinated and comprehensive strategy the Bush White House employed to use taxpayer resources to support Republican candidates for office," the report states.

    The report traces the abuse of public funds to Sara Taylor, an aide to Karl Rove.

    A new strategy