Friday, October 17, 2008

Camera Obscura: Dance of The Dead Arrives; Palin Lands Sitcom?; Tarantino's WW2

For many months now I have been crowing with delight about my brother, who landed a part as a zombie extra in the horror/comedy "Dance of The Dead", filmed last summer in north Georgia. In addition to gaining fantastic reviews, the best news this week is that you can rent/buy it right now on DVD at yer favorite video/DVD outlet. So here's a preview ... and just kept telling yourself, it's only a high school zombie movie, it's only a high school zombie movie:

Dance of the Dead 2008

Move over, Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live. Sarah Palin is aiming for her very own TV series, called "Cadillac Ranch". The set-up for the show is revealed here:

" ...
it's about a female character who's a mayor in this town with the crazy family and the kids and the stay-at-home dad, and everyone couldn't help but think of Sarah Palin now that they've read it."

With her hilarious catch-phrase ('You Betcha!"), she might just make it. I suggest the producers add-in a Russian neighbor whose house is right next door.


There is one and only one reason to read the magazine Entertainment Weekly - Stephen King's column. But Star Trek fans must have felt like they were "goin' down to Eden, brother" this week with the release of the full cast photos for the new "Star Trek" movie. My only thought when reading/seeing the tale via Cinematical was "Sylar is Spock"???


Brad Pitt is taking the lead in the long-rumoured-and-now-finally-in-production of Quentin Trantino's World War II action tale "Inglourious Basterds" (that's Q.T.'s spelling of the title). And what's next for the action star -- would ya believe ... an outer-space version of Homer's "The Odyssey"? Rumor's say that "Road Warrior" director George Miller. Pitt is also slated to be a producer for the movie ... see, it starts out when this gang of apes gets lost on their way home from Troy and hitch a ride on a boat helmed by an insane Cap'n HAL ....

Speaking of Mr. Pitt, the most recent release date for the unusual romantic tale of a child born as an old man who ages backwards into youth "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", directed by the multi-talented David Fincher , is now slated for Jan. 2009. A spectacular preview is here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

At Long Last, Have You No Sense of Decency?

The McCain plan for the presidency seems to hold fiction higher and higher above fact.

As Senator Barack Obama continues to gain support on a national level, American are left to endure the constant barrage of childish - perhaps even dangerous - fearful whining via the talking heads on right-wing radio and television, and even on the GOP (aka FOX network) campaign trail which evoke a witless desperation, akin to the whimpering cries of a bully who runs from a confrontation bellowing "this ain't over yet!"

For example, the surreal rantings of Rush Limbaugh (whose talent he claims was loaned to him by God):

have been training young black kids to hate, hate, hate this country, and they trained their parents before that to hate, hate, hate this country. It was a movement."
" ...
it has been part of an entire movement that has been going on for two, maybe three decades, right under our noses."

Then there is more nonsense, designed to evoke panic and fear via Sean Hannity, who cheers the philosophies of Andy Martin:

"But an appearance in a documentary-style program on the Fox News Channel watched by three million people last week thrust the man, Andy Martin, and his past into the foreground. The program allowed Mr. Martin to assert falsely and without challenge that Mr. Obama had once trained to overthrow the government.

An examination of legal documents and election filings, along with interviews with his acquaintances, revealed Mr. Martin, 62, to be a man with a history of scintillating if not always factual claims. He has left a trail of animosity — some of it provoked by anti-Jewish comments — among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states over more than 30 years.

He is a law school graduate, but his admission to the Illinois bar was blocked in the 1970s after a psychiatric finding of “moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.”

As for his background, he said: “I’m a colorful person. There’s always somebody who has a legitimate cause in their mind to be angry with me.”When questions were raised last week about Mr. Martin’s appearance and claims on “Hannity’s America” on Fox News, the program’s producer said Mr. Martin was clearly expressing his opinion and not necessarily fact."


And there's this (now removed web site comments) screed from Sacramento Republicans:

"Sacramento County Republican leaders Tuesday took down offensive material on their official party Web site that sought to link Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden and encouraged people to "Waterboard Barack Obama" – material that offended even state GOP leaders."

Taking credit for the site ( and its content was county party chairman Craig MacGlashan – husband of Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan.

But he defended his Web site. "I'm aware of the content," he said. "Some people find it offensive, others do not. I cannot comment on how people interpret things."


More on the ludicrous Hannity/Martin madness:

"As noted above, I put excerpts from some of Martin's filings below the fold. I thought it might be a good idea to provide some context that would allow you to assess his credibility. If crazed and ugly anti-Semitic ravings upset you, do not read them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Myths of Voter Fraud

It appears very little in the way of actual facts or consistent information is needed to whip up a frantic panic on behalf of talking heads and GOP pundits who wail about voting fraud. (Of course, many of these same fervent faithful are repeating such myths while demanding Sen. Obama is a terrorist and treasonous Destroyer of Worlds.) (NOTE: R. Neal has more on this sad tactic.)

So some facts (sure to be ignored by the anxiety-ridden voter):

Via ProjectVote. org:

• Voter fraud is extremely rare. At the federal level, records show that only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year. The available state-level evidence of voter fraud, culled from interviews, reviews of newspaper coverage and court proceedings, while not definitive, is also negligible.
• The lack of evidence of voter fraud is not because of a failure to codify it. It is not as if the states have failed to detail the ways voters could corrupt elections. There are hundreds of examples drawn from state election codes and constitutions that illustrate the precision with which the states have criminalized voter and election fraud. I f we use the same standards for judging voter fraud crime rates as we do for other crimes, we must conclude that the lack of evidence of arrests, indictments or convictions for any of the practices defined as voter fraud means very little fraud is being committed.
• Most voter fraud allegations turn out to be something other than fraud. A review of news stories over a recent two year period found that reports of voter fraud were most often limited to local races and individual acts and fell into three categories: unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.

Via Salon:

On Sept. 10, the 240,000 Wisconsin voters who had registered by mail since 2006 found their voting status up in the air as the state's attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen -- a McCain campaign co-chair -- sued the state’s Government Accountability Board. In Michigan that same week, Macomb County GOP party chairman James Carabelli told a reporter that he would use publicly available lists of foreclosed home addresses to “make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.” In early October, the Montana Republican Party challenged the eligibility of 6,000 voters in university towns and heavily Native American counties."

"But Minnite says that the latest Republican uproar over ACORN is part of "a far broader effort to corrode public confidence in the electoral process." Minnite is a co-author of the forthcoming book “Keeping Down the Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Voters" and a research fellow at Demos, a public policy think tank based in New York. She predicts that as Nov. 4 approaches, Republican allegations about voter fraud are certain to continue. Minnite spoke with Salon by phone recently from her office in Manhattan.

Do you believe that voter fraud poses a threat to the validity of American elections?

No. No threat.

The statistics bear me out. From 2002 to 2005 only one person was found guilty of registration fraud. Twenty people were found guilty of voting while ineligible and five people were found guilty of voting more than once. That’s 26 criminal voters -- voters who vote twice, impersonate other people, vote without being a resident -- the voters that Republicans warn about. Meanwhile thousands of people are getting turned away at the polls.

Political parties and corrupt election officials, on the other hand, do seem to present a potential problem. We should be a great deal more worried about who has access to the ballots. In terms of illegal aliens voting and people voting twice -- the popular images of voter fraud -- no I don’t think that there is any risk at all.

How did you come to this conclusion?

It is very difficult to find information on voter fraud. I’m quite fluent with political science data sets, but the more I would look, the less I would find. There was simply no information.

People were also uncooperative. Starting in late 2000 -- under state open-election laws -- I sent letters to all the attorneys general and secretaries of state in the U.S. asking them for statistics on voter fraud and those sorts of election crimes. Pennsylvania said they wouldn’t respond to me because I wasn’t a citizen [of the state]. I got the same from Virginia and Oklahoma. The attorney general of Michigan wanted me to pay $1,400 for the information because "it was going to take this many hours and this outrageous copying fee." I started to realize why there were no studies on the incidence of voter fraud, no criminal justice statistics. I also sent Freedom of Information requests to the Department of Justice. That became a two-year deal of delay and obstruction as well.

Under the “Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the Department of Justice’s Voting Section is legally bound to stop “voting practices and procedures ... that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group.” Do you think the Bush administration's Justice Department has fulfilled this mission?

Threatening localities for not taking enough names off voter rolls in reaction to nothing and based on no evidence of fraud -- while increasing the possibility of disenfranchisement -- suggests a department more interested in furthering a political agenda than following that legal outline.

Let’s talk about the Ballot Access and Voting Integrity initiative that was started under Ashcroft in 2002. It was advertised as a program that would combat voter fraud and voter suppression equally. But if you look at the program, it actually was geared almost entirely toward voter fraud. They wanted to see if they could bring cases against individual voters. The [federal] government has spent a lot of money pursuing this over the years and convicted almost no one. Then we hear all this propaganda about how much voter fraud there is.

At the very least the Department of Justice has had its priorities backward. There are thousands of people having trouble casting ballots and the federal government has decided to go after poor people in Milwaukee and Florida to create the impression that there is voter fraud. The U.S. attorney firing scandal made it hard for anyone to claim that the Bush Justice Department wasn’t politicizing voter fraud."

Tennessee Pig Jailed - Again

You never know what type of criminal will earn time in the ol' cross-bar hotel

Deputies found it in a creek with its mouth duct taped. They’ve even had some jail birds.

“We had some Japanese chickens we found in the wilderness area,” said Harris.

Their latest arrest, a pig.

“The pig actually got out of its pen and was rooting up people’s yards,” said Harris.

This wasn’t the porker’s first offense.

“In fact a few weeks ago, one of my deputies picked it up and drove it around in the back of her cruiser until she could find the owners,” said Harris.

The pig clearly doesn’t like to be penned up or jailed. As soon as deputies put him in this yard the pig was trying to dig out.

“It actually dug down to the footer,” said Sheriff Harris.

Just like any criminal, the sheriff needed to figure out what’s next for the pig, but he couldn’t treat it the same way.

“Of course, there’s no pig court, so we had to deal with it in different ways,” said Sheriff Harris."

I just hope they don't try and serve him bacon for breakfast.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Youngest Blogger In The USA Celebrates Birthday

Young and vibrant, this blogger is a big fan of playing peek-a-boo and singing songs and watching birds fly. And she has a near-daily chronicle of her many experiences, which are well worth reading for their insight and in inherent adorableness.

She is Tessaroo and her blog is A Day In Her Life.

And please send her a happy birthday wish, as today is her birthday.

I am delighted to be a near-relative and to send her hopes for the very happiest birthday wishes.

BONUS: Here is recent image of Tessaroo in a pumpkin patch as part of the celebration of the season.

Right-Wingers Blame Poor For Financial Chaos

The imaginary and the fearful have glommed onto this notion that the one group of Americans to blame the most for the 'financial meltdown" in the housing market is the poor and other 'minority' sections of America.

Hence, the spinners and blame-anyone-but-the-culprits, have labeled programs such as the CRA - the Community Reinvestment Act - as part of an Evil Liberal Plot to destabilize the economic health of the nation. I guess it makes for a good catch-phrase to bolster the idea that Po' Folks Are Liberal Demons.

But the fact is - those claims are just not a part of the reality.

Some samples from various sources:

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote recently that while the goal of the CRA was admirable, "it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — who in turn pressured banks and other lenders — to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity."

Fannie and Freddie, however, didn't pressure lenders to sell them more loans; they struggled to keep pace with their private sector competitors. In fact, their regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, imposed new restrictions in 2006 that led to Fannie and Freddie losing even more market share in the booming subprime market.

What's more, only commercial banks and thrifts must follow CRA rules. The investment banks don't, nor did the now-bankrupt non-bank lenders such as New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest that underwrote most of the subprime loans.

These private non-bank lenders enjoyed a regulatory gap, allowing them to be regulated by 50 different state banking supervisors instead of the federal government. And mortgage brokers, who also weren't subject to federal regulation or the CRA, originated most of the subprime loans.

In a speech last March, Janet Yellen, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, debunked the notion that the push for affordable housing created today's problems.

"Most of the loans made by depository institutions examined under the CRA have not been higher-priced loans," she said. "The CRA has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households."

In a book on the sub-prime lending collapse published in June 2007, the late Federal Reserve Governor Ed Gramlich wrote that only one-third of all CRA loans had interest rates high enough to be considered sub-prime and that to the pleasant surprise of commercial banks there were low default rates. Banks that participated in CRA lending had found, he wrote, "that this new lending is good business." (Via)


[C0lumnist Ann Coulter says] traditional yardsticks of a mortgage applicant's ability to make payments were replaced with "nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named 'Caylee';" the result, Coulter continues, is that "middle-class taxpayers are going to be forced to bail out the Democrats' two most important constituent groups: rich Wall Street bankers and welfare recipients."

To make sure her meaning is clear, Coulter echoes a line from the famous anti-affirmative action "White Hands" commercial Jesse Helms used in his 1990 campaign against black challenger Harvey Gantt. The ad shows a pair of white hands crumpling a job rejection slip as the voiceover intones, "You needed that job, you were the best qualified. But they have to give it to a minority because of a racial quota."

Coulter is in the forefront of a concerted drive to shift the partisan consequences of the collapse on Wall Street from helping Democrats to favoring the GOP. To this end, conservatives have initiated a racially explosive argument, shifting the blame for the current economic crisis to legislation designed up improve access to mortgage financing for African Americans, other minorities and residents of low-income neighborhoods generally." (via)


Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.

Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.

Subprime lending offered high-cost loans to the weakest borrowers during the housing boom that lasted from 2001 to 2007. Subprime lending was at its height from 2004 to 2006.

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

  • More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.
  • Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year

Fannie, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., don't lend money, to minorities or anyone else, however. They purchase loans from the private lenders who actually underwrite the loans.

It's a process called securitization, and by passing on the loans, banks have more capital on hand so they can lend even more.

This much is true. In an effort to promote affordable home ownership for minorities and rural whites, the Department of Housing and Urban Development set targets for Fannie and Freddie in 1992 to purchase low-income loans for sale into the secondary market that eventually reached this number: 52 percent of loans given to low-to moderate-income families.

To be sure, encouraging lower-income Americans to become homeowners gave unsophisticated borrowers and unscrupulous lenders and mortgage brokers more chances to turn dreams of homeownership in nightmares.

But these loans, and those to low- and moderate-income families represent a small portion of overall lending. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, Republicans and their party's standard bearer, President Bush, didn't criticize any sort of lending, frequently boasting that they were presiding over the highest-ever rates of U.S. homeownership.

Between 2004 and 2006, when subprime lending was exploding, Fannie and Freddie went from holding a high of 48 percent of the subprime loans that were sold into the secondary market to holding about 24 percent, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance, a specialty publication. One reason is that Fannie and Freddie were subject to tougher standards than many of the unregulated players in the private sector who weakened lending standards, most of whom have gone bankrupt or are now in deep trouble." (via)

Or as it most succinctly stated in Slate:

Lending money to poor people doesn't make you poor. Lending money poorly to rich people does."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Real Maverick Family Shuns McCain

The current descendants of the Maverick family of Texas say Sen. John McCain may be many things, but he is no Maverick.

The word was coined in honor of Samuel Augustus Maverick, who was a heroic figure in Texas history and who allegedly did not brand the cattle he owned, allowing them to roam at will (whether from disinterest in ranching or as a method of claiming all cattle without brands were his is a matter of some debate).

And the Maverick family have been Democrats throughout U.S. history, and today's descendants are quoted in the press shaming the McCain for President campaign and his self-declaration of being a "maverick":

I’m outraged McCain could claim to be not running with the herd,” Robin Lloyd says. “He has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time.”

Chris Lloyd, a retired publisher, agrees. “I’ve watched with increasing dismay as they appropriate ‘maverick.’ It’s offensive to me. That word only applies to people who break the mold or stand out from the crowd.”

"The Lloyd siblings’ perspective might seem tame compared with that of Bebe Fenstermaker, a second cousin who lives with her two sisters on the original Maverick ranch 25 miles northwest of San Antonio. She tends “old-time Texas longhorns,” some of them with bloodlines that reach back to the pioneering bovines.

“They’re not mavericks,” Fenstermaker says of the McCain-Palin ticket. “They’re Republicans. They’re already branded. They’re all robbers and rustlers.”

Another family member echoes the sentiment:

What has McCain done to call himself maverick? I want to know why he calls himself a maverick," Mrs. Maverick asked. "Because he talks to Democrats? In that case, everyone's a maverick."

And it doesn't stop at McCain. His partner on the "Maverick Squared" ticket gets the same treatment from the family. In fact, Mrs. Maverick was ready with a knock-knock joke:
Knock, knock?
Who's there?
Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin who?
Exactly. "

The NYTimes story about the unhappy Maverick family is here. Their reports notes:

Sam Maverick’s grandson, Fontaine Maury Maverick, was a two-term congressman and a mayor of San Antonio who lost his mayoral re-election bid when conservatives labeled him a Communist. He served in the Roosevelt administration on the Smaller War Plants Corporation and is best known for another coinage. He came up with the term “gobbledygook” in frustration at the convoluted language of bureaucrats.

This Maverick’s son, Maury Jr., was a firebrand civil libertarian and lawyer who defended draft resisters, atheists and others scorned by society. He served in the Texas Legislature during the McCarthy era and wrote fiery columns for The San Antonio Express-News. His final column, published on Feb. 2, 2003, just after he died at 82, was an attack on the coming war in Iraq.

Terrellita Maverick, sister of Maury Jr., is a member emeritus of the board of the San Antonio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas."

The story of the Maverick family - from the arrival in the U.S. to their role in politics for generations is truly fascinating. And it seems not only the Maverick family, but much of Texas is mighty upset with how their legend has become misused:

As a Texan, I have to admit that it makes my blood boil to see the term “Original Maverick” so misused and abused in the current political season."

More Texas reaction here, and here.