Friday, March 28, 2008

Walmart - The Worst

On Keith Olbermann's Worst Person's last night he gave the gold to Walmart for a truly unbelievable story. It seems one of their employees, Deborah Shank, got into a bad car accident and received brain damage so bad she is in a nursing home for the rest of her life and has no memory past the most recent minutes. She had insurance at Walmart and the bills were paid. The family sued the driver and was rewarded $470,000. Walmart then turned around and sued Deborah Shank to get the money to cover her medical expenses, they won and got the money back so now Deborah Shank's husband has to struggle to pay her outrageous medical bills.

Now let's be clear here, although this sounds about as awful as it can be Walmart has done nothing illegal or unusual - whether or not it is right goes to the heart of the greedy and corrupt culture that now exists in America, profits over people is the new golden rule. It is standard practice that money rewarded in a law suit for medical bills goes to the insurance company that paid those bills while the suit was ongoing. If you have medical insurance this will be in your contract somewhere.

And it gets worse, Deborah's son was killed in Iraq last week.

This is all over the news yet Walmart, as usual, has a tin ear for what is going on. People who hear this story say they will never shop in a Walmart again. This doesn't affect me as I already don't shop at Walmart and haven't for years and don't intend to ever do so. It is amazing that Walmart cannot see that to give the woman back her money would be the cheapest positive publicity they ever had. They don't want to set a precedent, you see. If they give the money back in one case suddenly anyone that this has ever happened to at Walmart will demand their money back and will have a case. It might actually cost them a couple of million dollars and your low prices will go right out the window and we can't have that now can we? And just imagine how many poor children will be out of work in China if Walmart has to cut back on their orders.

Keith put them in Worst Person's again tonight and says he will continue to do so. He must like tilting at windmills.

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hillary Plummets

With all the mess with the two democratic candidates their approval ratings are falling. But even with the Rev Wright story and Hillary's ridiculous dodging bullets in Bosnia not having emerged before this new poll, Hillary's negatives went way up and her positives way down. Obama's approvals only went down a little and are still better than McCain.

The video is Tim Russert explaining the numbers.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Day At The Office

OK, I know posting pictures of your grandkids on your blog is so cliche. But there is a reason for that and all grandparents know what it is.

Ally, a whole 7 years old now, spent the day at the office because this week is spring break. Tomorrow she goes up to see another set of Grands (she has several due to divorces, remarrying and great-grands) out in the country but on the California coast. Very cool place and she has her own horse there.

She was running all over the office with Diesel, the company's English bulldog, and making lots of noise. Her dad, Bennet, sat her in from of his iMac and shot some pictures and put them through filters so I had to create a web gallery of them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Richardson Endorses Obama

Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama today for president. This is very significant for several reasons, he knows Obama from the time both were on the candidate trail, and he is close personal friends with Bill and Hillary. He was even in Bill's Cabinet, and Bill went to Richardson's house to watch the Super Bowl with him. So for him to choose Obama is really saying something.

The most important part of Richardson's speech was his call to stop the bitter fighting amongst ourselves. This can only be a call for Hillary to step down - now, if not sooner. The fact is, and the media isn't reporting it much, that it's just about impossible for Hillary to win. Neither candidate can get the total number needed to nail the nomination, but Obama is going to reach the Convention with more delegates and the greater popular vote. The only way Hillary can win is to convince the Super Delegates to totally ignore the popular vote of the democratic party and go with her instead. This will be a disaster for the party and might cost us the election. The problem is the Clintons have enough power they have a chance of pulling that off, although some of that power seems to be slipping, if they don't stop now they might not have much left by the time this is all over.

Bill Richardson is one of those Super Delegates so his endorsement today is a call to the other SD's that it is OK to make a decision now and that one can survive going against the Clintons. I hope enough heed the message and side with Obama. Richardson was said to be on the short list for Hillary's VP, so taking this step leaves him out in the cold and is a clear sign of the depth of his conviction. This was not a power play, he truly believes Obama will make the better president.

Of course he could be Obama's VP, wouldn't that be something? A black man and a Hispanic on the same ticket, that would certainly be historic, especially if they win. It could work out well, Richardson could help them pull out wins in Texas and Florida which would give them the win for sure. Is America too bigoted to elect such a ticket? I really don't know but I hope not.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wall Street Wimps

This whole buy out of Bear-Stearns really ticks me off. It certainly puts the lie to the idea that all these rich people believe in a free market and are against government help. They just don't want to see the government help out the poor guy who is losing his home due to predator lending practices from these very same rich people, or the person dying of cancer without health insurance because their employers only gives them 36 hours a week so they can be listed as part-time and get no benefits. E. J. Dionne Jr. nails it in a very good article titled The Street on Welfare:

Never do I want to hear again from my conservative friends about how brilliant capitalists are, how much they deserve their seven-figure salaries and how government should keep its hands off the private economy.

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard. They have lost “confidence“ in each other, you see, because none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another's portfolios.

So they have stopped investing. The biggest, most respected investment firms threaten to come crashing down. You can't have that. It's just fine to make it harder for the average Joe to file for bankruptcy, as did that wretched bankruptcy bill passed by Congress in 2005 at the request of the credit card industry. But the big guys are “too big to fail,“ because they could bring us all down with them.

Everything for the rich guy and nothing the rest of us. Does anyone still think the Republicans are for anyone BUT the very rich? Bush was happy to spend $20 billion to help the them but for the rest of us it's our own faults for not being smart enough and good enough to be rich.

But if this near meltdown of capitalism doesn't encourage a lot of people to question the principles they have carried in their heads for the past three decades or so, nothing will.

Nothing will, the ideas of the neocons and the rich have reached the point of an ideology as powerful as any religion. No amount of reality will shake their beliefs. But I hope the rest of us can learn their idea of less government was never more than a sham. A complete lie meant only to put more money in their pockets.

So now the bailouts begin, and Wall Street usefully might feel a bit of gratitude, perhaps by being willing to have the wealthy foot some of the bill or to acknowledge that while its denizens were getting rich, a lot of Americans were losing jobs and health insurance. I'm waiting.

Don't hold your breath, E. J. That could really damage your health.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Makes a Speech

And what an amazing speech it was. I haven't heard anything that good since the 60's when we had Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. I often lament at how different the country might be today if we had 8 years of Jack then 8 more years of Bobby, but it wasn't to happen. Which makes me wonder if Obama is taking his security seriously, I sure hope so. This speech was brilliant, a frank discussion about race that was not condescending or scolding. In fact, I think he connected with everyone with his story of his grandmother. I am constantly amazed that, no matter what happens Obama remains cool and in charge, and when attacked does not stoop to the attackers level but raising himself to a higher level. One thing for sure he showed himself to be in an entirely different league than anyone else currently running, or anyone who has run since Bobby Kennedy. I've long wondered where the great leaders were today, they were simply absent, finally after decades we have one.

But this stuff about Rev. Wright really ticks me off. Certainly what he said would anger many people but none of it reaches the level of the church people supporting
John McCain who spew outright hate and bigotry. Falwell said God had damned America and delivered 9/11 on us because we harbored gays and no Republican presidential candidate was required to denounce him. Here's a story on Mother Jones by David Corn that talks about McCain's spiritual adviser, Rod Parsley, whose endorsement he actively courted. Where is the outrage about this? Why isn't McCain being called on the carpet to denounce his association with Parsley? The double standard here just reeks:

Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser an Ohio megachurch pastor who has called upon Christians to wage a “war“ against the “false religion“ of Islam with the aim of destroying it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dave Stevens

I just found out yesterday that Dave Stevens died last Saturday at the age of 52 from leukemia. Anyone in the comic biz knows who he was, and any comic fan as well. For everyone else he was the creator of Rocketman, which was made into a movie in 1991 with Bill Campbell in his first starring role. He was also the artist who started doing the paintings of Betty Page that made her famous and got her a movie as well a few years ago.

I didn't know him well, only met him a couple of times at the San Diego Comic Con but I worked with some of his art through Bob at Graphitti Designs. I knew his art very well, he was one of the best in the business, and I've never heard anyone in the biz have a bad thing to say about him. A while ago Bob told me that Dave was trying to learn how to paint in the computer and wanted to know if he could give me a call for some advice. Of course I said yes, and I waited for a call that never came. A few months later Bob came by with a disk of a painting Dave did that blew me away. In 15 years of comic coloring I never did anything as good that piece.

Right now I can look up and see the signed, limited edition print of Vampirella painted by Dave that my wife bought me several years ago. The name of the painting seems quite bizarre at this moment - “Back From the Grave.” I have #4 of 850.

“Well, I do expect a lot of myself. I'm a harsh critic because I know what I'm capable of. I have hit those occasional peaks amongst the valleys, but the peaks are so few-things like genuine flashes of virtuoso brush inking, like I've never executed before or since-I can count on one hand the number of jobs where I've been able to hit that mark. The same with penciling. Sometimes it just flows, but more often than not, it's pure physical and spiritual torment just to get something decent on paper. I often get very discouraged with the whole creative process.“ – Dave Stevens

Monday, March 17, 2008

George Carlin: Still Funny After All These Years

George Carlin on religion and rights, and stupid shit somebody made up. He's getting a bit old but his humor is still sharp. His genius lies in cutting through the layers of bullshit and showing us the brutal, sharp and horrible truth underneath. Then making us laugh about it.

Credit goes to Pharyngula, where I first saw this.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's Far Worse Than We Think

Anyone who doesn't read Grag Palast needs to, he reports on the stories all other media sources are afraid to touch. Fortunately, with this story I will provide a link to his blog. This is a story that is incredibly frightening in it's implications:

Spitzer not only took on Countrywide, he took on their predatory enablers in the investment banking community. Behind Countrywide was the Mother Shark, its funder and now owner, Bank of America. Others joined the sharkfest: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup’s Citibank made mortgage usury their major profit centers. They did this through a bit of financial legerdemain called “securitization.”

What that means is that they took a bunch of junk mortgages, like the Grinning’s, loans about to go down the toilet and re-packaged them into “tranches” of bonds which were stamped “AAA” - top grade - by bond rating agencies. These gold-painted turds were sold as sparkling safe investments to US school district pension funds and town governments in Finland (really).

When the housing bubble burst and the paint flaked off, investors were left with the poop and the bankers were left with bonuses. Countrywide’s top man, Angelo Mozilo, will ‘earn’ a $77 million buy-out bonus this year on top of the $656 million - over half a billion dollars – he pulled in from 1998 through 2007.

But there were rumblings that the party would soon be over. Angry regulators, burned investors and the weight of millions of homes about to be boarded up were causing the sharks to sink. Countrywide’s stock was down 50%, and Citigroup was off 38%, not pleasing to the Gulf sheiks who now control its biggest share blocks.

Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That’s Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure – and got to keep the Grinning’s house. There was no ‘quid’ of a foreclosure moratorium for the ‘pro quo’ of public bailout. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.

Every mortgage sharking operation shot up in value. Mozilo’s Countrywide stock rose 17% in one day. The Citi sheiks saw their company’s stock rise $10 billion in an afternoon.

And that very same day the bail-out was decided – what a coinkydink! – the man called, ‘The Sheriff of Wall Street’ was cuffed. Spitzer was silenced.

So once again the rich rip off the poor and middle class and get away with it while ordinary people are screwed. The thing that always puzzles me is why they are so greedy. One hundred million dollars isn't enough, they want 2 or 3 times that. I don't think the people they screw over are real to them, it's all just a game.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Nightmare Girl Comic

My big graphic novel project is starting to take shape with the first 13 pages done. I've set up a Web Gallery using iPhoto 08, first time I've used it and it's great. Down at the bottom of the web page there are various settings for how to view the thumbnails so everyone can use what they like best. Carousel let's you flip through it like you would flip through album covers in iTunes, very cool.

Then there is the head of the project, Jimmy Leigh's MySpace page, which will have artwork show up occasionally. And, of course, there is the main Nightmare Girl and Dark Matter Comics web page
where he is going to set up a Flash flip book for the pages.

I'm really having fun with this. Once we get into her nightmare world I get the chance to really let loose and do all kinds of fun stuff. And Jimmy and Duval put in a lot of single panel pages which is the colorist's best friend. Allows us to really go into detail and do some nice rendering.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Keith Goes After Hillary in a Special Comment

For the first time Keith turns his blistering commentary on a democrat. There is a difference to this one, though. When hitting Bush or Cheney or any other Bushite there has only been anger and contempt, all well deserved, well-aimed and well said. But this time he goes after Hillary Clinton and there is obvious pain in his face and voice that he needs to do this, and he pleads with Hillary to change course. There is still anger and his commentary is still very much to the point and very, very biting and he's saying all the things I've been thinking for weeks. I voted for Hillary here in California but if the vote happened today I would go for Obama.

At the end of the second to last debate it looked like Hillary was going to take the high road even if it meant she lost and I breathed a sigh of relief, but only days later she turned the negative rhetoric into high gear and it's been getting worse ever since. It's already at the point where if she gets the nomination I will still vote for her but very, VERY reluctantly. And I won't be voting for her but against McCain, who I think will be as bad as Bush since Bush has already set the course of MacCain's presidency. At one time I would have been very happy to vote for her but not any more, her scorched earth policy, to win at any cost is just too distasteful and getting worse every day.

Some have even said she is trying to make sure Obama will lose to McCain if he gets the nomination so she will be able to run again in 2012. Unfortunately, that she could be so cynical and would be willing to screw the country over just to get her win, is not all that hard to believe.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The REAL News

Elliot Spitzer is a huge boon to the Bush administration. Why? Because the story of his scandal blanketed the news and knocked the real news out of center stage so most Americans will never know of it. The first one is all about KBR, an off-shoot of Halliburton, who has been supplying water to our troops that make the sick:

A report obtained by The Associated Press said Soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Pentagon's inspector general found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

Just imagine how bad things could be if the right wingers in power weren't patriots who support our troops!!!

Then there is this one about Bush vetoing legislation that would make torture illegal. He says the US doesn't torture but then why would he veto this law? The obvious and clear answer is that the US does torture and Bush is afraid if it's made illegal he could be held accountable:

'We do not torture," President Bush insists, yet that assurance is accompanied by an unspoken "but." In vetoing legislation,1,218858.story that would require CIA interrogators to abide by the same humanitarian standards imposed on their counterparts in the U.S. military, Bush again has drowned out his denials with an ominous silence about just what "enhanced" interrogation tactics he considers appropriate.

"because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet." So, of course, are the Geneva Convention In a shameful Saturday radio address justifying his veto, Bush argued that CIA interrogators can't be confined to techniques allowed by the Army Field Manualand the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibit "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." By the president's logic, acceptance of the humanitarian standards included in those documents also deprives the United States of the element of surprise.

He pretty much says that the CIA has been torturing people and will continue to do so. I remember one survivor of the Hanoi Hilton saying that one of the things that gave them strength was the knowledge that the US would never do what the Vietnamese were doing to them. No longer true, thanks to Bush.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Flock It!

I'm trying out a new web browser called Flock. I first looked at it months ago and thought it had potential but was not ready for prime time yet. When I discovered they had a new update I downloaded it again and it is much improved. Seems to be incredibly fast, especially in Gmail, and it works very nicely with Photobucket. I'm using their blog editor to write this to see how it turns out. Seems a bit picky in many ways but using Blogger itself works far better on Flock anyway even if their blog editor doesn't work well.

Really, there seems to be little advantage to using the blog editor instead of Blogger. And as far as being social on the web, I'm not, but I do have Gmail, Photobucket and Blogger and Flock seems to work quite well with them. More user friendly for these services than other browsers and the most important part is it's faster everywhere than Safari. Time will tell if I keep using it but I like it so far.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday, March 8, 2008

McCain's Temper

There is an article at by Mark Benjamin about McCain's temper. But it sounds like this is more than temper, apparently he can go far enough out of control that some generals who know him don't want his hand close to the button:
"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. "I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."

"I studied leadership for a long time during 32 years in the military," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a one-time Republican who is supporting Obama. "It is all about character. Who can motivate willing followers? Who has the vision? Who can inspire people?" Gration asked. "I have tremendous respect for John McCain, but I would not follow him."

"One of the things the senior military would like to see when they go visit the president is a kind of consistency, a kind of reliability," explained retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Republican, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former fighter pilot who flew 285 combat missions. McPeak said his perception is that Obama is "not that up when he is up and not that down when he is down. He is kind of a steady Eddie. This is a very important feature," McPeak said. On the other hand, he said, "McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile." McPeak is campaigning for Obama.

Obama's coolness under pressure sure looks like a plus compared to McCain. I wonder how messed up the guy really is from his 5 years at the Hanoi Hilton. I mean I respect him for surviving that ordeal, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it, but something like that has GOT to mess a guy up for life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Junior Super Tuesday

I voted for Hillary on Super Tuesday but as time goes on I'm leaning more and more to Obama. I think if I were voting today it would be for him, she's really been pissing me off the last week or so.

She has really gotten dirty in her tactics; for instance, she said she has experience and McCain has experience but Obama has a speech (she claims his entire campaign is based on his speech at the 2004 Convention). That is just plain stupid because if Obama takes the nomination McCain can now use this against him. She sounds like she moved over to the pubs camp on that one.

The one that pisses me off the most is her ambiguous answer on 60 Minutes when asked if she thought Obama was a Muslim. All she said was she didn't "believe" he was and didn't know of any evidence that supported that. She purposely left it open so those who think so can say "See, even Hillary doesn't know for sure, she just believes he isn't." The honorable thing to do would have been to say she knows he is a Christian and that she also knows that the rumor is a right wing attack campaign, the very kind aimed against her many times.

I was hoping she would take the high road but she didn't and I think less of her for it. Some things are more important than winning. That's where I have to hand it to Edwards for pulling out when he did. He knew he wasn't going to win so he bowed out so he wouldn't be the spoiler, so it would be a fair fight between the front runners. I hope Obama picks Edwards as his VP, or at least Attorney General. A fiery fighter is just what's needed to clean up the horrible mess in the justice dept.