A Blog About Whatever I Want to Blog About
For readers in the Greater Chicagoland area (I love writing Chicagoland--it sounds like it comes from a fairy tale--once upon a time, in a Chicagoland far, far away . . .), you should come see Free Radicals, a world-premiere play by Brenda Kilianski from Stockyards Theatre Project.
A significant and intriguing copyright decision came down this week in California. Seventy years ago, two young professional sold a character and a story to DC Comics. The character was Superman, and the team was paid a full $130 between them to buy the concept. Now, due to a reversion clause written into the copyright reform act of the late 70s, the heirs of Jerry Siegel have been awarded their portion of the copyright of Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1. (For reasons I can't explain, Siegel's partner, Joe Shuster, didn't have any heirs eligible to pursue his share of the rights under these same provisions.)
Well, let's try that again. It's very late at night (or early in the morning), and now that I've had a couple of martinis in place, maybe it's time to expound a bit more on the subject of superdelegates.
The name D. B. Cooper hasn't been prominent for a while, but when his parachute may have been found earlier this week, it didn't take long for the story of the world's only unsolved skyjacking to start making the rounds again.
"Unless they find the harness with the chute, I'm not sure it's the same one," Cossey said. "Why would he take the harness off the parachute if he's wanted with $200,000 in ransom money?
"I think they're barking up the wrong tree."
Although I'll admit that I've been edging toward Obama, I've got no desire to come on here and beat up on Hillary. But then, why does she keep making herself such an easy target?
I've had this for a little while, but I keep forgetting to write about it. The post the other night about Japan's appointment of Doraemon as an ambassador reminded me, though, so here we are.
It's a sad irony, but we reached 4,000 American military dead in Iraq on Easter Sunday. Once again, somebody's dying for somebody else's sins.
According to Heidi MacDonald at The Beat, Japan has a new employee on the public payroll. Doraemon, a blue robot cat from the future, has been named Japan's anime ambassador. (He's not the first anime character to become an ambassador, though. As he has in other areas, Astro Boy got there first, being named ambassador for overseas safety at the end of last year.) Here we see Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura making the whole thing official with Doraemon and his friend Nobita.
This one's for Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk. A couple of weeks ago, while he was kept waiting by the presumptive Republican nominee, the Prez broke into a little dance. Cuing off of that and some other seeming out-of-character moments, Maureen Dowd wrote:
Everyone here is flummoxed about why the president is in such a fine mood.
The dollar's crumpling, the recession's thundering, the Dow's bungee-jumping and the world's disapproving, yet George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly, tap dancing and singing in a one-man review called "The Most Happy Fella."
To the Editor:
Surely it must have been a slip for Maureen Dowd to align the artistry of my late husband, Gene Kelly, with the president's clumsy performances. To suggest that "George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly" represents not only an implausible transformation but a considerable slight. If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.
When Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker — particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing — would have sent him reeling.
Graduated with a degree in economics from Pitt, Gene was not only a gifted dancer, director and choreographer, he was also a most civilized man. He spoke multiple languages; wrote poetry; studied history; understood the projections of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. He did the Sunday Times crossword in ink. Exceedingly articulate, Gene often conveyed more through movement than others manage with words.
Sadly, President Bush fails to communicate meaningfully with either. For George Bush to become Gene Kelly would require impossible leaps in creativity, erudition and humility.
Patricia Ward Kelly
It's not a good time to own a big box store. We talked quite a bit about Tower Records going down last year and the fire sale it left in its wake, and then the Chicago Virgin folded, as well. CompUSA closed a number of stores last year, and since then they closed almost everything before being bought out by Systemax, the parent company for Tiger Direct. At the same time, Borders was pulling back, as well. I wondered if it was a portent of things to come, and it turns out that it was. Borders came out on Thursday and admitted that it is looking into putting itself up for sale.
The trouble with straight talk, apparently, is that it's hard to keep the details straight. John McCain was in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday and said that it's "common knowledge" one of the problems in Iraq is that Sunnis are training Shiites to attack Sunnis. One would think that it's also common knowledge that Sunnis and Shiites hate each other, so that such an arrangement would seem quite unlikely, but I guess that's why I'm not in Big Time Politics.
Five years, and this is all we've got? It's the fifth anniversary of whatever it is we're doing in Iraq. What really is there to say about it at this point? Some of us might say that it's all a horrible mistake, but apparently that sentiment's not shared by the White House.
On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush today attempted to recast it as a great success for the United States and a major blow to Osama bin Laden. But for the American people to go along with his construction will require a pretty severe case of amnesia.
The security situation in Iraq is undeniably somewhat better than it was a year ago, before Bush increased the number of American troops there to more than 160,000. But the violence nevertheless continues at an appalling level. And the political reconciliation the "surge" was intended to bring about remains a distant fantasy.
The supposed victory against bin Laden that Bush is celebrating is belied by the fact that al-Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before the invasion, that its Iraqi namesake is a mostly home-grown version with limited ties to bin Laden's organization, that the administration's own intelligence has concluded that the war has helped rather than hurt al-Qaeda -- and that bin Laden himself likely remains safely ensconced in Pakistan.
Looking at Iraq and seeing progress requires not looking back beyond the past 12 months or so. And even on that basis, it's hard to argue that the events of the past year have put us any closer to getting out. Furthermore, Bush's decision to arm anti-government Sunni militias may lead to even greater chaos when we do leave.
The only way the surge has been an unqualified success is one that Bush didn't mention today: It has bought him time.
Toward the end of 2006, after a Republican electoral rout and a devastating report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, it looked like Congress might force Bush to get us out of the mess he got us into. But the surge changed that political calculus, and the war will now be passed on for the next president to resolve. On that count, there is indeed cause for Bush to kvell.
I saw parts of Barack Obama's speech today, and I thought it was quite effective. I started to write, "It seemed to do what it needed to do," but then I realized that this was far too lame a cliche. What is it, exactly, that this speech needed to do? There are a couple of things. Most immediately, he needed to put some space between him and his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. He did that quite effectively, I thought, but he did it without denouncing and rejecting him. Obama had enough grace to make clear that though he doesn't accept the comments that have gotten so much exposure for Wright of late, he still holds him in respect. He tried to provide a context for the comments and the controversy. This is dangerous territory, because Obama's own comments can (and will, if they haven't already) be taken out of context to be used against him. But Obama has raised the bar in discussing race. He has to avoid being the affirmative action candidate, but he can't pretend that we're beyond race, so colorblind that race isn't an issue, either. I think he pulled it off. If you haven't seen it, the Obama campaign makes it very easy to watch and read.
So what's going on on Wall Street? Don't look at me. In fact, I'm a bit surprised you'd even ask me about that.
The news that J.P. Morgan bought investment house giant Bear Stearns for just $236 million, or $2 a share, sent tremors through financial markets around the world today. This is company whose stock was worth almost one hundred times as much a year ago. Its building alone is valued at close to $1 billion, which suggests that all the other assets of this 85 year-old investment bank had a negative value – Bear Stearns liabilities exceed its assets.
Further confirming this view is the fact that the Fed apparently had to make guarantees to J.P. Morgan of $30 billion in order to get the bank to take Bear Stearns even at this price. That suggests the bank had a lot of real garbage on its books. The markets are right to be worried. Of course with the $8 trillion housing bubble in full meltdown, there will undoubtedly be much more bad news for the banks in the months ahead.
Many people say that the government should let the chips fall where they may — that those who made bad loans should simply be left to suffer the consequences. But it's not going to happen. When push comes to shove, financial officials — rightly — aren't willing to run the risk that losses on bad loans will cripple the financial system and take the real economy down with it.
. . .
the important thing is to bail out the system, not the people who got us into this mess. That means cleaning out the shareholders in failed institutions, making bondholders take a haircut, and canceling the stock options of executives who got rich playing heads I win, tails you lose.
According to late reports on Sunday, JPMorgan Chase will buy Bear for a pittance. That's an O.K. resolution for this case — but not a model for the much bigger bailout to come. Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.
I found this story in today's New York Times awfully disappointing. A couple of days ago, I theorized, half in jest, I'll admit, that the real problem the superdelegates were having is that no one wanted to tell Hillary that her campaign was essentially over. The Times pretty much validates this. Various uncommitted superdelegates are "growing increasingly concerned about the risks of a prolonged fight between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and perplexed about how to resolve the conflict." I've got an idea for how to resolve the conflict: Make a decision! They've got the votes, it's their decision, so make it, already!
Blogger has been acting up horribly this evening, so we'll see whether this actually shows up online or not. Hillary, of course, is working desperately hard to come up with extra delegates, but it's Obama who's actually raising the number of delegates in his column. Iowa held county conventions today, a step closer to selecting the delegates who will actually attend the Democratic convention in August. Eight of John Edwards's elected delegates have shifted over to Obama, as has one of Hillary's so that actually provides Obama with a net gain of ten delegates over Hillary. The same Washington Post linked to above also reveals that a final count of delegates in California provides Hillary with a gain of two and Obama with a gain of five. Put all of that together, and Obama ends up with 14 new delegates while Hillary gets only one, meaning that Obama increases his lead by 13 delegates. All--or at least most--of the caucus states have a similar system--the delegates aren't firmly in place, and they may change their allegiance in county and state caucuses. It'll pay to keep watch over these caucus states as they progress through each level. The number called on caucus nights is not necessarily the same number who will show up at the Democratic convention, so it looks like there's an oportunity there for somebody.
Good stuff coming from the House of Representatives today. The Democrats kept their wits about them under pressure of a Republican-demanded secret sessions and voted for the FISA bill without telecom immunity. Yeah, we've had our hopes raised before, and we're not all the way there yet, but this is closer than we've been. Over at Daily Kos, Kagro X, who was writing yesterday before the vote was held, explains some of the parliamentary maneuvering between the House and the Senate that's been in the works for a while and that makes it difficult for the Republicans to undermine the measures when they go back to the Senate. We've had the House approve a bill, the Senate approve a totally different bill, the House--in today's action--respond to the Senate bill; now the bill goes back to the Senate, but it will be more difficult for the Republicans to bring telecom immunity back into it. Not impossible, of course, so don't get over-confident, but they'll have to go through the front door to do it rather than just being able to kill it on the sly.
Last week the media in Washington indulged in one of those clubby, elitist, members-only moments that they seem to enjoy from time to time. The Gridiron Club, a prestigious and storied journalistic organization in Washington (John Philip Sousa was the first musical director--I didn't even know he was a journalist). They put on one of their fairly regular shows last week, and they got one surprise performance: The Prez stepped up with a musical number. It flaunted his various controversies and scandals, but typical of the Gridiron Club, it was all in good fun.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was quite a hoot. All that joking by the president about Brownie, the guy in charge of the New Orleans disaster, and, of course, Scooter Libby, the guy involved in a CIA cover-up. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's reporters -- the best of them -- laughing at events and political acts that warrant anything -- I mean anything -- but laughter.
There is nothing, nothing funny about Bush's reference to Brownie, that disastrous appointment followed by that catastrophic handling of the Katrina horror in New Orleans. Nothing funny about a war fought for bad intelligence and a top aide, Scooter Libby, who committed perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it up. Nothing funny about a president who commuted that sentence to keep the cover-up protected. Otherwise, I'm sure it was an enjoyable get-together between journalists and the people they're charged with covering.
I've just got time for a quick question, tonight. We know that Hillary's said a number of times that, unlike herself and John McCain, Barack Obama has just not had enough tough foreign policy experience to be qualified as Commander-in-Chief. There's been a spirited debate over that in various places (all of which you can find yourself if you bother to do a little Googling--don't look to me to make everything easy for you), but whichever side you come down on that point, it still leaves open the question of who, besides herself and John McCain, does live up to the standard.
Harrowing? Not that Sinbad recalls. He just remembers it being a USO tour to buck up the troops amid a much worse situation than he had imagined between the Bosnians and Serbs.
In an interview with the Sleuth Monday, he said the "scariest" part of the trip was wondering where he'd eat next. "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.'"
Clinton, during a late December campaign appearance in Iowa, described a hair-raising corkscrew landing in war-torn Bosnia, a trip she took with her then-teenage daughter, Chelsea. "They said there might be sniper fire," Clinton said.
Threat of bullets? Sinbad doesn't remember that, either.
"I never felt that I was in a dangerous position. I never felt being in a sense of peril, or 'Oh, God, I hope I'm going to be OK when I get out of this helicopter or when I get out of his tank.'"
In her Iowa stump speech, Clinton also said, "We used to say in the White House that if a place is too dangerous, too small or too poor, send the First Lady."
Say what? As Sinbad put it: "What kind of president would say, 'Hey, man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot so I'm going to send my wife...oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you.'"
According to CNN, Obama has (unsurprisingly) won the Mississippi primary. He's making up six delegates on Hillary's win last week (unless he's making up nine, as CNN says on this page, but, it's too bad he's not doing it in a state that actually matters. As for superdelegates, everybody has a different count, but CNN also says that, right now, Obama is only 32 behind Hillary in pledged superdelegates. That's not very many. Most people have suggested that the superdelegates should stay out of the contest so we can see how the remaining voters are going to go before they step in and decide the contest. Over at TAPPED, The American Prospect blog, Mori Dinauer (via Kevin Drum) asks, "What are they waiting for?" Certainly, some superdelegates are waiting for the right offer--probably from the candidate they already intend to endorse--before they commit. Others don't want to go out on a limb and are waiting for the other superdelegates to choose so they can be sure to get on the winning bandwagon. But if they're waiting to see how the elected delegates play out, it sure doesn't look like there are any surprises in the offing. Obama has a lead in delegates from the various contests so far, and even based on Jonathan Alter's very generous results in Hillary's favor for future contests (which has already proven too rosy, as Hillary didn't take Obama 53-47 in Wyoming or 52-48 today in Mississippi), there's no way Hillary can catch up. So no matter what, barring an airplane going down somewhere or something, when all the votes are counted, Obama will have the most popularly elected delegates. The only question left is what will be the margin of victory. If superdelegates want to follow the popular vote, they know where it'll be. If they want to vote specifically for Obama or Hillary no matter what the popular vote is, there's no reason not to commit now.
All right, all right, I'll jump on the Eliot Spitzer bandwagon, too. The obvious question, of course, is What could he possible be thinking? He's the crusading attorney general who busts up prostitution rings, not the stupid john who gets caught with his fingers in the cookie jar (so to speak). I'm not sure he can claim that he's on an undercover mission, either. He copped to the charges of buying prostitutes (or do you just rent them?) pretty quickly, so there was never a chance to question whether the charges are valid or not. But Jane Hamsher has some interesting questions about how and why the investigation was undertaken in the first place. ABC News and The New York Times have some of that back story. And even without that, there's no question that Eliot Spitzer has made a number of powerful enemies over the years. You don't prosecute Wall Street without somebody vowing to take you down. People are going to be watching for a misstep, an error that can make a whole career unravel.
It was a good day for Illinois Democrats. Obama got his winning groove back in Wyoming, racking up a 23-point lead. That's not enough to impress Chris Cillizza, who pointed out that it doesn't compare to the 70-some-point percentages had racked up a couple of weeks back. That's true enough, but I imagine Obama and his supporters prefer it to the scores he was getting in the 40s earlier this week. And while it's good not to raise expectations too high, Mississippi is coming up on Tuesday, and it's got all the hallmarks of an even larger win.
The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellwether of what happens this fall.
The whole Samantha Power thing moved very quickly today. I'm not sure when the original story from The Scotsman, broke, but I saw a reference to it sometime in the mid- to late evening yesterday. Even being jet-lagged and exhausted is not a good enough excuse for an Obama advisor to call Hillary a "monster." I saw an apology from her before I left for work this morning, but I'm not sure if it was actually before or after participants in a Hillary conference called for her to resign from the Obama campaign. In what's probably the most surprising aspect of the whole thing, that's exactly what she did late this morning.
The secret is finally out. We now know what George W. Bush intends to do when he finishes up his stint in the Oval Office. He's going to go on the road as a song and dance man. John McCain kept him waiting yesterday when the Prez was going to endorse him at the White House, and when you're the leader of the free world, I guess you don't necessarily have anything better to do. So there he was at the White House portico, vamping and killing time. The campaign blog at The Washington Post has the play by play, and there's video at Think Progress. Starting out not quite a year from now, keep an eye out for him at a dinner theater near you.
Does anybody know if Corner Bakery is paying a licensing fee to Avery Schreiber's heirs?
Although everything allegedly changed last night, it doesn't really feel like much is different. The Democrats are still bickering, Obama still has a decent-size delegate lead (even if I heard NPR news call it a "slight lead" earlier this afternoon--it certainly seems like "slight" shouldn't be nearly as close to 100 is this is), and McCain is promising little more than an extension of the Bush administration.
Anybody who thought tonight would wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination was always subject to wishful thinking. Obama would've had to have completely blown Hillary out of the water for her to have gone home, and that never looked to have been likely in the least. In fact, tonight has worked out pretty much like it was billed. Except for a couple of days on Zogby, Hillary was always in the lead in Ohio. Rhode Island was tracked less closely, but it was always expected to go to Hillary. On the other hand, Vermont, also lightly tracked, was expected to go heavily toward Obama, just as it did. Texas always appeared to be neck and neck and--hey, look!--it is. We're where we always should've thought we'd be, at least if we were paying attention. This day doesn't really change much of anything.
I'm working on a longer post that I'll get up in a little while, but I just had to mention that I've been watching Nightline, and in response to Mike Huckabee's concession speech tonight, he wondered whether the losing Democratic candidate--whoever it may end up to be--would be nearly as gracious in defeat.
Not that it comes as a terrible shock, but we're beginning to see that Hillary Clinton doesn't respond well when something she considers rightfully hers is taken away. Although I've been leaning toward Obama, I've always said that I thought Hillary would be a strong candidate in the fall if she won the nomination, and that I'd have no problem supporting her.
[The Hillary phone bank caller] then launches into a two-minute spiel on all the very specific initiatives and proposals Hillary has put forth on health care, the war in Iraq, etc., etc. At the end of her spiel, she says, "And we haven't heard anything that specific from Osama bin Laden."
I say, "You did not just say that." She replies, "I'm sorry . . . just a slip of the tongue." She then thanks me for my time and encourages me to vote for Hillary on Tuesday.
I'd intended to write something looking forward to Tuesday's primary contests, but it's just too late. Still, I can't go to bed before I pass this along. You may or may not think that Obama's argument about Hillary's lack of judgment has been getting traction over the last few weeks, but here's some new evidence that seems pretty hard to ignore. She's apparently coming up with sound bites that John McCain can use in the fall if Obama pulls off the nomination. This is what she had to say on Monday:
I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.
Speaking of things that appeared in The Washington Post yesterday, here's something that might as well be from several yesterdays. It's the 1950s, or maybe even the teens, before we had to give in and give women the vote. Remember when we used to think that women were adorable but not too bright? Charlotte Allen does. In fact, she thinks it's still true today. Of course, at some point it becomes a circular, self-defeating argument, but I guess that's how it goes in the hot-shot world of national journalism.
It may be too little too late, but it seems like a few people are starting to catch on to the real dynamics of the telecom immunity debate. We talked about it a couple of weeks ago, but now some of the big boys are getting into the act. Yesterday, The Washington Post spelled out some of the details, although in a very weird construction:
President Bush said last week that telecommunications companies that helped government wiretapping efforts need protection from "class-action plaintiff attorneys" who see a "financial gravy train" ahead. Democrats and privacy groups responded by accusing the Bush administration of trying to shut down the lawsuits to hide evidence of illegal acts.
But in the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration's surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.
Amnesty not only lets the companies off the hook without answering any questions, it assures that the American people will never learn about the breadth and extent of the lawless program. Some seem to suggest that we should not have our day in court because a select few members of Congress have been able to review documents about the spy program operated by the White House. The judgment of a few Washington insiders is not a substitute for the careful scrutiny of a federal court.
Congress is supposed to act to protect the rights of American citizens, not sacrifice those rights to large corporate entities. The House and Senate should resist the bullying tactics of the Bush White House and ensure that we have our day in court to vindicate our rights and reveal any illegality engaged in by the telecoms. We need to know about the Bush White House's secret program.
Remember back in the days when we batted around fun phrases such as "rule of law"? When it was frequently stated that the United States is a "nation of laws, not men"? Those were good times.
The reasons for the Democrats' two-pronged approach were about much more than the balance of power. They were unmistakably political, a point the White House highlighted in its response.
Democrats did not even spend much energy denying it.
Democratic aides involved in the progression of the contempt citation acknowledged its political benefits, notably cheering up a base demoralized by Pelosi's inability to get the caucus to force Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.
The local Chicago public radio station is going through their fundraising drive, and I suppose that means the rest of the stations are going through theirs, too (and sure, go ahead and give, if you feel like it; it's a worthy cause). But this idea of listeners volunteering to give however much they want to (or not) has been going on for a long time--as long as I remember public radio and public TV. But it's very similar to something that a lot of theaters do. If they're trying to fill seats at a performance at which they're expecting a reviewer, they'll sometimes offer the deal to their friends or other people they might be able to bring into the theater. A few companies even build the opportunity into their schedule, calling it, "Pay what you can."