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Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! What’s happening out there in the world?


The big story of this slow news day seems to be the attempted “terrorist attack” in Detroit.

ABC News: Man Attempts to Set Off Explosives on Detroit-Bound Airplane

Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian man, who allegedly tried to “explode” a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, law enforcement officials said.

The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil, ABC News has learned. Authorities have no corroboration of that information, and the credibility of the suspect’s statements are being questioned, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.

The latest from CNN: Device was on fire in terror suspect’s lap, plane passenger says

A Nigerian man is “talking a lot” to the FBI, said a senior U.S. official, after what the United States believes was an attempted terrorist attack on an inbound international flight.

The initial impression is that the suspect was acting alone and did not have any formal connections to organized terrorist groups, said the official, who is familiar with the investigation.

The suspect, identified by a U.S. government official as 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, ignited a small explosive device Friday, shortly before a Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, landed at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan.

Passenger Jasper Schuringa told CNN that with the aid of the cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs, according to federal law enforcement and airline security sources.

CNN World: London police hunt airline terror link

Counterterrorism officers are searching buildings in London in connection with the alleged terrorist attempt aboard a flight to Detroit, police said Saturday.

The officers were believed to be searching locations including an apartment block in central London, but a spokeswoman for the city’s Metropolitan Police would not say specifically where and what they are looking for, or how many officers are involved.

She also said the police are making several inquiries at the request of U.S. authorities.

Continue reading

Friday Morning News and Views: Friday the 13th Edition

2007-04-16

Looming Nor'easter in New England

Good Morning Conflucians! It’s a gloomy Friday the 13th here in the Boston area. I guess we’ll be getting hit with the tail end of Hurricane Ida over the next couple of days. I’m feeling a bit lethargic this morning, but I’ll try to locate a few interesting news links nonetheless. Please add your own in the comments!

Did you know this is the third Friday the 13th in 2009? Maybe that’s why this year has been such a disaster. Anyway, its supposed to make today “extra freaky.”


THERE IS HOPE FOR THEM YET

Paul Krugman is finally back to criticizing administration policy–without mentioning the President. But it’s a step in the right direction. Will Krugman be summoned to the White House for another Koolaid injection? He explains why Germany isn’t suffering from massive unemployment as the U.S. is.

Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarized as “if you grow it, they will come.” That is, we don’t really have a jobs policy: we have a G.D.P. policy. The theory is that by stimulating overall spending we can make G.D.P. grow faster, and this will induce companies to stop firing and resume hiring.

The alternative would be policies that address the job issue more directly. We could, for example, have New-Deal-style employment programs. Perhaps such a thing is politically impossible now — Glenn Beck would describe anything like the Works Progress Administration as a plan to recruit pro-Obama brownshirts — but we should note, for the record, that at their peak, the W.P.A. and the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of Americans, at relatively low cost to the budget.

Alternatively, or in addition, we could have policies that support private-sector employment. Such policies could range from labor rules that discourage firing to financial incentives for companies that either add workers or reduce hours to avoid layoffs.

And that’s what the Germans have done. Germany came into the Great Recession with strong employment protection legislation. This has been supplemented with a “short-time work scheme,” which provides subsidies to employers who reduce workers’ hours rather than laying them off. These measures didn’t prevent a nasty recession, but Germany got through the recession with remarkably few job losses.

I’m really starting to wish I could move to a European country–preferably one with universal, affordable health care like Italy or France. On the other hand, I love the wide open spaces here in the USA and I would prefer to stay here if I could. Sometimes I even fantasize about moving to Western North Dakota near Theodore Roosevelt National Park or maybe way up near Canada where I can live really cheaply and relatively free from government interference. Not that I’d join a militia or anything, lol, just that I’d be less noticeable to the authorities and maybe I could survive the authoritarian crackdown that I think is coming when the economy really collapses.

I have made fun of Chris Bowers and Open left over the past couple of years because of their slavish adoration of Obama, but I am starting to read them again. They are really standing up to their former “precious” of late. I’ve always like Paul Rosenberg’s work, and Natasha Chart has been on fire. Here’s her latest:

DNC, OFA Abandon Women In Healthcare Action Alert

Nancy Keenan, head of the national NARAL group (and most obedient of the obedient losers) was apparently personally promised before the health care battle by the Obama administration that they would look after the organization’s constituency interests in the health care bill and preserve the status quo. In return, NARAL was asked to stand down its activism.
They did. So with all their colleagues, they got caught with their pants down when a floor vote on the Stupak amendment was imminent.

Today, I got a press release from the DNC, and their Organizing For America project, on their plan to drum up more support for the health care reform bill: targeting Republicans.

It says nothing about women’s healthcare. Nothing. Like it isn’t even at issue. OFA is still watching NARAL’s back, women’s backs, as well as they always have.

OFA is crowing about the 500,000 phone calls they’ve prompted on the health care issue. Were any of them centered around preserving reproductive health care when it mattered? Ha! As Femlaw says at the link, “The idea is to build organizational capacity, so when really critical moments in the campaign happened, OFA could deliver huge numbers.”

Targeting Republicans is critical. Encouraging Democrats to stand together for women’s health and rights, not critical.

Even The Huffington Post has begun to rag on Obama’s policies. Here’s the big headlined post this morning:

Goldman To Private Insurers: No Health Care Reform At All Is Best by Sam Stein

A Goldman Sachs analysis of health care legislation has concluded that, as far as the bottom line for insurance companies is concerned, the best thing to do is nothing. A close second would be passing a watered-down version of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill.

A study put together by Goldman in mid-October looks at the estimated stock performance of the private insurance industry under four variations of reform legislation. The study focused on the five biggest insurers whose shares are traded on Wall Street: Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellPoint, CIGNA and Humana.

That must be why the Goldman Sachs administration Obama administration is doing it’s darndest to kill health care reform by excluding women’s health coverage.


LATEST BREAKING STORIES

This news is just breaking around the world: ‘NY trial’ for key 9/11 suspects

Alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be sent from Guantanamo Bay to New York for trial in a civilian court, reports say.

Citing unnamed government officials, the reports said he would be transferred from the US prison camp in Cuba with four other suspects.

US Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the decision later, the officials say.

Mr Mohammed has admitted planning the 9/11 attacks, the US military says.

That seems like a step in the right direction. Maybe we will see Guantanamo closed after all. I’d sure like to see that happen.

Politico: After spending binge, White House says it will focus on deficits

Bloomberg:
Home-Purchase Index in US Plunges to Lowest Level Since 2000

NYT: Among Obama Aides, Debate Intensifies on Troop Levels

The Nation: Whose Team Is It, Anyway? by Katha Pollitt

The Hill: Tensions brim between GOP and CEOs over healthcare reform

The Latest Lecture from Charles Krauthammer: Medicalizing mass murder (he does have a few good points)


WEEKEND ESCAPES

What’s Friday the thirteenth without the release of a big horror/disaster movie?

‘2012’ Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

It’s 2009 and a couple scientists discover the sun is freaking out and heating up the Earth’s core. Good news for anyone who likes a nice subterranean sauna. Bad news for anyone who wants the Earth not to fall to pieces in the few years.

Disaster kingpin Roland Emmerich’s “2012” then cuts to the year 2012, which looks pretty much like 2009, except the governments of the world are scrambling to come up with a secret survival plan for humanity. Which they are going to need — stat! — because it’s not too long before a few Los Angeles tremors make way for mega-quakes, lava-gushing volcanoes and tsunamis that no amount of human fortitude can combat.

Into this apocalyptic mess comes John Cusack’s struggling novelist Jackson Curtis, who has to rescue his ex-wife and kids while trying not to pee himself.

This one, on the other hand, looks really worthwhile, even if you need to bring a box of Kleenex with you.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

It’s hard to believe that a movie that traffics so operatically in images of brutality and squalor can be so fleet, assured and lyrical. But such breathtaking contradictions abound in “Precious,” which in the course of introducing the viewers to unspeakable despair, manages to imbue them with an exhilarating sense of hope — if not in a bright and cheery future for the film’s beleaguered protagonist, then at least in the possibilities of cinema as a bold, fluent and adamantly expressive art form.

That beleaguered protagonist is Claireece “Precious” Jones (played in an astonishing debut by Gabourey Sidibe), a 16-year-old girl who, as the movie opens, is still attending junior high school in 1980s Harlem. Morbidly obese, functionally illiterate, pregnant with her second child after being raped by her father, Precious lives with her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), in a squalid apartment where she endures the latter’s near-constant verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Precious’s only escape from this lurid tableau is rich, glittery fantasy life, in which she has a “light-skinned boyfriend” and “good hair,” dresses in ball gowns and carries a little terrier.


HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!

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Why is Health Care Reform Being Held Hostage by a Fundamentalist Cult?

300px-Bart_Stupak_official_109th_Congress_photo

Bart Stupak

No, I don’t mean the Catholic Church. I mean the super-secret, ultra-creepy fundamentalist sect that calls itself

“the Family,” or “the Fellowship,” and they consider themselves a “core” of men responsible for changing the world. “Hitler, Lenin, and many others understood the power of a small core of people,” instructs a document given to an inner circle, explaining the scope, if not the ideological particulars, of the ambition members of the avant-garde are to cultivate.

That’s a quote from the introduction to Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Early this morning I learned from Jeff Sharlet’s piece in Salon that the two men responsible for the Stupak amendendment–Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA)–are both members of the Family and both live in the group’s C-Street residence. These two nutty fetus fetishists are trying to end abortion in this country by making sure that insurance companies will stop covering this essential and perfectly legal medical procedure.

I’ve been obsessing on this news all day long while trying to concentrate on writing an exam. As hard as it is for me to accept, I now have to face the face that the forces of theocracy not only control of the Republican Party, but also they are well on the way to taking over the Democratic party.

Sharlet writes:

American women will pay the price for the Democratic dithering that allowed Saturday’s passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, a worm virus inserted into the House healthcare reform bill with surgical precision. But the Democratic Party will suffer collateral damage.

Stupak-Pitts isn’t just “the biggest restriction on women’s right to choose in our generation,” as Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado puts it; it’s also evidence that on abortion the Democratic Party is now captive, just like the GOP, to Christian conservatism. Of course, Republicans traded away their party’s moderate wing for real electoral gains, a base that propelled them to power for decades. The Democrats, already in power, sucker-punched themselves, and all they have to show for it is a big fat shiner in the shape of Bart Stupak’s knuckles.

Sharlet thinks it’s unlikely that Stupak and Pitts came up with their plan on their own. The Family supposedly doesn’t directly try to influence political policies–they just offer support, guidance and powerful connections to their followers.

Pitts

Joseph Pitts

Which raises the question: Who’s pulling whom? Did backbencher Bart Stupak really come up with the bluff that led pro-choice Democrats to abandon not one but two compromises, one of which Stupak himself seemed to be signing off on earlier this summer? Or was it Pitts, an abortion-wars warrior since the 1970s, and a longtime leader of the House Values Action Team — an off-the-record caucus of religious right organizations and members of Congress — who drew up the blueprint?

Neither Stupak nor Pitts is talking. Of course, if they just keep quiet, the press will pin it on the bishops — who, to be fair, are more than happy to take credit. That version of events neglects the role of relationships forged within the evangelical context of the Family — a group founded in the spirit of virulent anti-Catholicism, and which maintains to this day that being Catholic brings you no closer to Christ than being Jewish or a Muslim — and the growing evangelical movement within the Democratic Party. A source close to the Faith Table, a gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians helmed by evangelical leader Jim Wallis, notes that the group has been agitating for Stupak-Pitts for months, with Wallis declaring Stupak-Pitts the most important vote of the year.

May I remind you that Jim Wallis was a major supporter of President Obama and is one of his close “spiritual advisers?”

Terri Gross did an interview with Jeff Sharlet last summer. You can listen to it here and read an excerpt from Sharlet’s book if you’re interested. I heard that Rachel Maddow covered this story last night, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video.

What is happening to our country? Is there any way to turn it around?

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Common Sense and the sensus communis: anatomy of an American pressure cooker

romesenate1

Gay-Lussac

The pressure of a fixed mass and fixed volume of a gas is directly proportional to the gas’s temperature.

This relationship is known as the Gay-Lussac’s Law and a pressure cooker is an example of the law in practice. Cooking under pressure creates the possibility of cooking with high temperature liquids because the boiling point of a liquid increases as its pressure increases. High pressure and high heat can result in delectable dishes.

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Cooking under pressure can be also dangerous because as liquids change phase into gases their volume expands greatly. For example, at atmospheric pressure the volume of steam is about 1700 times greater than the volume of water. To prevent pressure cookers from becoming bombs, relief devices (pop safety valves) are employed that are capable of relieving all of the steam the vessel is capable of producing.

America the Beautiful Pressure Cooker

The political pressure cooker is beginning to heat up. The power brokers and institutions that drive the nation have arrived unannounced on the doorsteps of America like a gaggle of unwanted, high maintenance relatives that demand hospitality for an unforeseeable time and that won’t take no for answer. Furthermore, they’ve announced that more relatives are on the way. Whatever plans America’s householders had, they’ve just gone out the window, with their household budgie and the relatives’ cat in hot pursuit.

People are justifiably angry with this incursion. Their budgie might not have been much, but it was “their budgie”, nurtured from birth into what it had become. Justifiably angry householders are trying to work out why the relatives arrived on their doorsteps and why they brought their fucking cat. Continue reading

Uncle Sam Contracts Frater Magnus to Safeguard his Healthcare Liberty

Lincoln_A

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. – Abraham Lincoln

There’s a sucker born every minute. – P.T. Barnum

BenjaminFranklinWe, the People, are born every minute. The last ten years provides ample evidence about the regularity to which Lincoln alludes.

Geese are but Geese tho’ we may think ‘em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho’ it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful. – Benjamin Franklin

The Constitution of the United States is like a manual for building a nation of equals before the law. It embodies the wisdom that some people gain power and freedom by stealing the power and freedom of others. It enacts principles to thwart those who conduct such thefts. “Liberty” is a common code word for describing the nation’s promise of power and freedom to its citizens.

Interestingly, the founders were all too aware that the apparatus they made to uphold the liberty of the nation’s citizens, i.e. the government, could also fall under the influence of those who would thieve the liberty of others. Accordingly, citizens must be mindful of what they, and others, ask of their government, while using the government as a tool to promote liberty, and other Constitutional and DOI objectives, and thwart liberty thieves. Unfortunately, some citizens are so focused on defending their liberty from the government that they lose sight of the reason that the government was created, i.e. they lose sight of the enemies of liberty. They are so focussed on the tree, that they lose sight of the forest that is being clearcut all around them. Continue reading

It’s about who decides

This has been brought on by a comment thread at Reclusive Leftist. The post was about feminism, but the thread kept veering off into abortion. Could you be a feminist and be antiabortion?

Folks, that is the wrong question. And asking the wrong question can never lead to the right answer, any more than looking for your socks in the bedroom when you lost them in the dryer is going to help you find the things.

So let’s start by asking the right question.

Maybe the first thing to do is figure out whether abortion really does kill babies. (I’m using “babies” as shorthand for “legal person with the same right not to be murdered as everyone else.”) If it does, even that’s not the end of the matter, as we’ll see in a bit, but first let’s figure that out. It’s a sticking point for many people.
Continue reading

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