Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

Obviously the news is still mostly about the Arizona tragedy and all the political and social issues being talked about. Let’s take a look at a few articles on the subject to see what’s new there. First as was mentioned yesterday, those crazy Westboro Baptist Church religious nut cases plan to protest the little girls funeral. Just when you thought those people couldn’t be more sick and evil. But heartening is the reaction and the people that plan on protected the family and funeral:

Arizona lawmakers moved quickly Tuesday to try to block protesters from the funeral of 9-year-old shooting victim Christina Green, passing an emergency measure prohibiting protests within 300 feet of any funeral services.

[...]

The actions were prompted by the Westboro Baptist Church, a publicity-seeking Kansas congregation known for demonstrating at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, arguing that their deaths are retribution by God for America’s acceptance of homosexuality. The church announced it would protest Green’s funeral, scheduled for Thursday, because the family is Catholic.

The protest drew instant and unanimous condemnation from Arizonans.

“Protesting or picketing outside the funeral of an innocent victim is despicable,” said House Speaker Kirk Adams. “It’s time to bring Arizona in line with the many other states that protect the sensitivities of victims against groups that use fear and hate to denigrate the lives of Americans.”

Adams sponsored the emergency measure that prohibits people from picketing or protesting within 300 feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, church, synagogue or other establishment during or within one hour of a funeral service or burial service.

The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously Tuesday. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure Tuesday evening.

If that’s the face of not accepting homosexuality in America, no wonder many in the GOP have been moving in the direction of repealing DADT and being open to gay marriage. Something to think about and understand when it comes to changing the tone and framing of a political/social topic.

Politico has a piece talking about three of the GOP potential campaign frontrunners for 2012 and how they’re fairing through this tragedy. I’ll save you the trouble, Pawlenty wins the day. That is, he comes out more moderate and unscathed. Palin of course is the target of many. And Newt seems to be playing the roll of Rush/Beck trying to drum up the base.

In an interesting op-ed at WaPo, Krauthammer (heads up, warning, winger alert) in addition to the some winger stuff (step carefully), has a few observations about language and symbols in politics:

Finally, the charge that the metaphors used by Palin and others were inciting violence is ridiculous. Everyone uses warlike metaphors in describing politics. When Barack Obama said at a 2008 fundraiser in Philadelphia, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” he was hardly inciting violence.

Why? Because fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historically speaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route to power – military conquest. That’s why the language persists. That’s why we say without any self-consciousness such things as “battleground states” or “targeting” opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoral contest – “campaign” – is an appropriation from warfare.

I think the best stab at the politics of this may be Jon Stewart’s clip posted in last nights post. Take a look again if you missed it.

Let’s look at a few other things going on. In news of the doublespeak delicately placed on a dungheap, it appears Obama and the Chamber of Commerce are getting cozy and mending all those faux rifts:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce signaled Tuesday that its rift with the administration is beginning to ease, just three months after bitterly sparring with the White House during midterm campaigns.

In a speech at the Chamber’s headquarters, directly across the street from the White House, Tom Donohue, the group’s president, said disagreements with the administration have “never been personal.”

He noted “a new tone” at the White House and praised President Obama’s selection of William Daley as his new chief of staff, calling him “a real pro.”

Donohue nonetheless struck a combative note as he vowed to fight for the Chamber’s policy goals this year, which include expanding trade, lowering the federal deficit and curbing regulations it thinks are excessive.

“We will not allow the business community to be intimidated, and we will use every tool at our disposal to challenge those who try to silence our voice,” said Donohue, referring to Democrats’ attempts to force the Chamber, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, to reveal its donors.

Such kabuki theater. Aren’t you so happy they’re getting along now? Yea.

Meanwhile in real leadership news, SoS Hillary Clinton is the first SoS to go to Yemen in over 20 years:

Hillary Clinton made the first trip by a U.S. Secretary of State to Yemen in 20 years on Tuesday to underline to the Sanaa government the urgency and importance of fighting al Qaeda at its grassroots.

Washington is anxious for Yemen, next door to the world’s top oil exporter, to step up its fight against an al Qaeda wing based in the Arabian peninsula state where militants have attempted ambitious attacks against U.S. and Western targets.

“It’s not enough to have military-to-military relations,” Clinton said before her plane touched down in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, where she was due for talks with President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“We need to try to broaden the dialogue. We need to have this dialogue with the government,” she added.

This is all part of the massive new workload Hillary has had to take on to repair the damages from the leaked State Department cables. At least we have Hillary doing this work and repairing those relations. I’d hate to think how this work would happen if Joe Biden had the position as he claimed he was offered.

In Illinois news, they are eliminating the death penalty:

After more than a decade of debate over whether the state’s system of capital punishment could ever be fair, state lawmakers voted on Tuesday to end the death penalty in Illinois.

The move, which came only hours before a new group of lawmakers takes office in Springfield on Wednesday, leaves the future of capital punishment to the Democratic governor, Patrick J. Quinn, who has not indicated whether he will sign the legislation. If Mr. Quinn agrees to the ban, Illinois will join 15 other states without capital punishment.

There’s some great news at least. We could use some.

In international monetary news, China is going to open the Yuan for US trade:

State-owned Bank of China Ltd has offered yuan trading to U.S. customers, a sign that Beijing this year may increasingly promote the use of the Chinese currency in major financial centers.

The change at Bank of China announced in a posting dated Dec. 2010 means that customers can trade in yuan in the United States for the first time rather than having to do so in Hong Kong.

The New York branch of China’s fourth-largest bank said it now lets companies and individuals buy and sell the yuan via accounts with its U.S. branches, although U.S. businesses and individuals can also trade the currency through Western banks.

“The authorities are promoting the use of the yuan in international trade and this is another step in that direction and this means we should see the growth of yuan trading in other regional centers across the world,” said Robert Minikin, senior currency strategist at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong.

The move is seen as another small step to redenominate trade in yuan after persuading mainland importers and exporters to reduce settling trade in the U.S. dollar and striking trade settlement agreements with Russia, Brazil and other countries.

Part of the reason behind this is China’s too high exchange reservers. Here’s more on what’s happening:

The thorniest problem in economic relations between the United States and China is getting worse, just as the world’s two biggest economies prepare for a summit next week in Washington.

At issue is the imbalance in their financial relationship. China’s central bank said Tuesday that Beijing’s holdings of foreign cash and securities amount to $2.85 trillion – a jump of 20 percent over the year before – despite Chinese promises to try to balance its trade and investment relations with the United States and other countries.

[...]

Foreign exchange holdings are a broad measure of a nation’s economic links with other countries, reflecting exports and imports, investment and the flow of speculative “hot money” into local markets. Some reserves are helpful, and Asian nations in particular, stung by their financial crises in the 1990s, seek to keep a war chest for times of trouble.

But with China’s foreign currency holdings far exceeding those of any other country, it has been urged by the United States, International Monetary Fund and others to import more, allow its exchange rate to rise in value, and use some of the reserves, for example, to boost the purchasing power of Chinese citizens. Although some recent statistics have shown a move in that direction – the country’s trade surplus has narrowed for the past two years, as China’s imports grew faster than exports – the surge in reserves is a pointed reminder of the difficult questions that still face Hu and Obama.

[...]

The renminbi, also known as the yuan, is considered by a wide range of economists to be undervalued in relation to the dollar, and China keeps tight control of the exchange rate, in part to protect its powerful export industries.

[...]

An administration official, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of discussions between the countries, said that it is an ideal time for China to let its currency float more freely. The lack of progress shows that the country’s export lobby still has the upper hand, the official said.

On the one hand we want China to let the value of the Yuan to float freely and find it’s proper value. On the other hand China wants to keep tight control and wants to start using that tightly controlled money it trade with others instead of the US Dollar. But China has to worry about its US holdings at the same time. And as long as they keep such tight control, it’s less usable as a trade currency. We’re in a strange dance together. But China plays rough. Let’s hope we and other parts of the world are up to the challenge.

In sad news, David Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet fame died. In other sad news, exactly one year ago today the Haiti 7.0 earthquake hit, and they’re still not much better off. But back with a bit of good news, mentioned yesterday, Tom DeLay got sentenced with 3 years of jail time.

That’s a bit of the news. Chime in with what you’re reading.

Sunday News – All Hallow’s Eve Edition

Boo!!

Happy Halloween Conflucians!! What are you dressing as today and tonight? I hope you all have a great Halloween.

Other than bats in the belfry, let’s see what else is spooky out there. Some fun yesterday was the Steward/Colbert rally yesterday. I quite liked Jon’s sentiment at the end. He basically echoed what we’ve been saying for a long time. Namely that all this crap and mud slinging and race baiting and nastiness on both sides is causing great harm. He called progressives out as much as he called wingers out. Which was such a change where we tend to only ever see wingers called out and hardly ever progressives called out except here and a few other places. More of that please. It was also nice to see his message of hope about how real Americans are out there working together and get things done, unlike people in washington or in the MSM. I liked it. Here’s a bit of the Miami Herald’s take:

“This is not . . . to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do,” Stewart said as he turned serious in his closing remarks. “But we live now in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies.”

He lambasted the cable TV news mentality that amplifies outrageous statements, stokes fear and seeks out confrontation, singling out the left-wing media for equating tea partyers with racists and the right-wing media for “the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims.”

“The press can hold its magnifying class up to our problems,” he said. “Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire. . . . The press is our immune system. If they overreact to everything we get sicker.”

The message struck a chord with the large throng of people; the National Park Service no longer provides official estimates of crowds, but the National Mall was densely packed with many tens of thousands of people.

“It’s the first time a message like this has resonated with me,” said Jonathan Dugan, 37, a product engineer who flew from San Francisco to stand on the mall on a sunny fall afternoon. “We need to get people to talk to each other in a meaningful way.”

So as you’d expect, politics is in much of the news. WaPo has a bit about Obama’s “closing arguments” for the election:

Obama laid out a sharp contrast between his party’s agenda and the GOP, saying that Republicans have done little but play politics as his party has made hard choices to revive the economy, change the health-care system and regulate the finanical industry.

“We don’t want to relive the past. We’ve tried what their selling and we’re not buying,” he said. “We’re not going back.”

While Obama told supporters that the election two years ago wasn’t about him, Democrats are betting that his lingering appeal among first time voters, African-Americans and Hispanics will boost turnout – in Philadelphia volunteers handed out leaflets with a picture of Obama and his wife on one side and a plug for Rep. Joe Sestak, running for the Senate, and Dan Onorato, who is running for governor, on the other side. Polls show Onorato trailing behind Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, and Sestak gaining ground on former Republican congressman Pat Toomey.

But the best part, and why I didn’t think of this before, he’s now out talking about, wait for it, party unity after the election, sort of:

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, it’s time to put aside partisanship, President Obama is telling Democrats and Republicans.

Yet his appeal for unity includes a jab at GOP leaders in the House and Senate for comments that the president said were troubling.

House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio “actually said that ‘this is not the time for compromise,’ ’’ Obama said yesterday in his weekly radio and Internet address. The president added that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one.’’

The address was released shortly before Obama left Washington for a day of campaigning in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago. The three states have competitive House and Senate races, as does Ohio, where the president was slated to hold a rally today in Cleveland.

In the weekly Republican address, Boehner said Obama has failed to deliver the change he promised. The man who probably would become House speaker if Republicans win control of the chamber also promoted party pledges to cut spending and keep taxes at current levels.

Meanwhile Bill Clinton is out campaigning his ass off. He was in Youngstown yesterday:

Clinton spoke to a crowd of 1,800 to 2,000 people, most of whom stood rather than sit during his speech, at Mr. Anthony’s.

The former president urged the audience to vote and urge others to do the same for the Democratic slate, particularly Gov. Ted Strickland.

“Where’s the enthusiasm gap? Where is it?” yelled Yvette McGee Brown, the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee. “You guys do us proud. We are winning on Tuesday because of you! I just want to tell you, this has been a long year. There are people who counted us out just like people counted out the Valley.”

National polls have shown that those most likely to vote lean Republican.

But Strickland said momentum is swinging in favor of Democrats at the right time.

Republicans “won this race in August,” he said. “We’re going to win this race in November, when it really counts.”

And Bill is returning to Orlando to help Meeks again in his campaign. You know, the guy the media lied about and said Bill pushed out of the race, even though everyone disagreed before they ran those stories. The Miami Herald article includes some of that:

Clinton will join Meek and the state’s other major Democratic Party candidates at a last-minute voter rally Monday night in Orlando, the Democratic Senate candidate’s campaign said Saturday.

The announcement comes after two days of media reports over whether Clinton privately asked Meek to step aside and endorse Crist, who left the Republican party to run as an independent. Meek and Clinton have denied those reports, even those confirmed by Clinton’s spokesman.

Both Meek and Crist trail Rubio, the tea party-backed Republican. To win, Crist would need at least some of the Democrats who plan to vote for Meek.

Meek has accused Crist of starting the rumors about Clinton and says Crist directly asked him to withdraw.

“I think he’s a nice guy, but I don’t think that that plays a role and I think it’s wrong to try to paint me into the corner and say that I’m the reason why he’s not winning,” Meek told reporters at Wilton Manors city hall, where he and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz were courting early voters. “I don’t blame the position of my campaign at any time on any other opponent.”

It was Meek’s only public event Saturday. He was resting up for 24 hours of nonstop campaigning across much of the state, beginning Sunday night in Tampa.

Meek said the rumors about him possibly dropping out of the three-way race have energized his supporters.

“What some meant for bad ended up being for good. People are now awakened of their responsibility to get out to vote,” he said. “Because now the ant bed has been kicked. Folks are highly disappointed.”

The other big news of the day was the apparent terrorist plot to blow up some synagogues in the Chicago area. It’s now being reported that Yemen has made some arrests:

Yemen has arrested a female student suspected of mailing the explosive parcels from the country to the US that sparked a global security alert, sources say.

The arrest took place on Saturday in the capital, Sanaa, after security forces surrounded a house where the suspect was hiding.

The woman’s lawyer said she was a “quiet student” with no known links of religious or political groups. Her mother was also detained, but was not a prime suspect, the lawyer said.

A Yemeni security official said the woman, a medical student in her 20s, had been traced through a telephone number she left with a cargo company.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, confirmed her arrest, saying: “Yemen is determined to fight terror but will not allow anyone to intervene in its affairs.”

Security officials have been on high alert since the UK and the United Arab Emirates intercepted two packages containing explosive material that were being shipped by air from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago.

Who’s to know if that person really had anything to do with anything. They need an arrest and need it now. I’m not sure the truth really matters. But we’ll watch the events unfold. BBC has a list of Sunday papers with stories on this issue.

In other news of the world, Brazil is having elections, and with all the economic problems, the main race is about which candidate is the crazier religious wacko:

The pocketbook is battling the pulpit in Brazil’s presidential elections Sunday, as government candidate Dilma Rousseff faces opposition leader Jose Serra in a runoff election to lead this burgeoning economic power of 190 million people.

Issues that most Brazilians thought didn’t belong in national politics — in particular, abortion — have taken center stage, and both candidates are catering to the concerns of evangelical and Roman Catholic voters.

By abandoning her previous public stance on liberalizing the country’s anti-abortion laws, and attending church before the television cameras, Rousseff, a former atheist, appears to have outmaneuvered Serra. A national poll Thursday night gave her a 13-point advantage over the former governor of Sao Paulo state.

That’s some crazy shit. And I thought my congressional race was bad.

That’s a bit of what’s in the news. Chime in with what you’re doing for Halloween and what else you’re finding in the news.

Author of Uganda’s anti-gay bill to attend Washington prayer breakfast

I can’t believe this.

In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of Washington DC.

David Bahati

Mr. Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.

“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati – himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast.

The bill assigns a penalty of life imprisonment for a person convicted of homosexuality and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as homosexual sex with someone under 18 or a disabled person or if the “offender” is HIV positive. All activities that would promote homosexuality–even blogging–are banned, and the bill requires anyone who knows of anyone engaging homosexual activities to report them to authorities. The entire text of the bill is at the above link.

According to the Box Turtle Bulletin, Mr. Bahati is

a member of the secretive American evangelical group known as the Family, which founded and organizes the National Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in February, typically at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W. The Monitor reports that the Family has invited Bahati to the prayer breakfast.

This profile in The Independent UK provides some interesting background on Bahati and perhaps gives some clues to his motivations.

Left orphaned when he was three-years-old Bahati was sent to live with his grandmother. Later she also passed away and the boy had to work at the local market selling and carrying bananas to raise money for school fees. He was separated from his siblings and only reunited with them at 13 when his sister came to the market to buy fruit and recognised him….

The story of how Bahati came to be the face of the anti-gay campaign in Uganda goes back a couple of years. The MP, a father himself, first became interested in the issue of homosexuality after hearing testimony from sexually molested children. “I’m passionate about the issue of homosexuality because of both the danger for our children and our society,” he said.

Is President Obama really going to attend this prayer breakfast in February? If so, what is he planning to say to Mr. Bahati? Inquiring minds want to know.

CDS never dies


Sometimes you read stuff that makes you want to go townhall on the author.  From Political Punch:

ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost her cool Monday after a Congolese student, speaking through a translator, asked her what “Mr. Clinton” thought about a Chinese trade deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” Clinton replied, clearly irked by the thought of being her husband Bill’s spokeswoman.

“My husband is not secretary of state, I am,” she replied. “If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.”

The only problem? Apparently the translator made a mistake and the student had wanted to know what President Obama thought of the deal. A State Department official tells ABC News the student went up to Clinton after the event and told her he was misquoted. No immediate word yet how Clinton responded.

Regardless of the error, the notion of Secretary Clinton’s deference to her husband clearly touched a nerve with America’s top diplomat. Just a week ago the former President stole his wife’s thunder when he appeared in North Korea to rescue two American journalists detained there. His trip came just as Secretary Clinton embarked on a swing through Africa she hoped would shine light on the plight of the continent.

This appears to be the new CDS meme – “Hillary is a mad b**ch.” They used to say she was “cold and calculating” but now she’s out of control. Exactly how do they think she should have responded to the “What does your husband thnk?” question coming from the translator?

As for the Big Dawg stealing Hillary’s thunder that is complete and utter horseshit. Bill flew to North Korea on a humanitarian mission approved by Hillary and the White House. If Hillary didn’t want him to go he would not have gotten on the plane.

He flew over there, waved to the cameras, sat for some pictures, welcomed Laura Ling and Euna Lee when they got on the plane, flew home, smiled and waved to the cameras when they arrived and never said a word.  The only people saying anything bad about the trip are the Clinton haters.  As far as they’re concerned the Big Dawg could have grabbed Little Kim by the scruff of the neck and made him agree to get rid of their nukes and hold democratic elections and it still wouldn’t be good enough.

Until yesterday Hillary’s trip to Africa has been mostly ignored by the major media – but not because of Bill. Do you see any mention in the report from Political Punch about sexual violence? Here’s what Hillary is doing in Africa:

Speaking at a public forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Secretary Clinton previewed her upcoming stop in the eastern DRC city of Goma by saying she will use the occasion to denounce violence against women in the conflict area.

“I’ll be in Goma. And I will be there primarily to speak out against the unspeakable violence against women and girls in eastern Congo. It is the worst example of man’s inhumanity to women,” she said.

Hillary is trying to do something about the rape and murder of women in Africa – and the media focuses on her reaction to a mistranslated question about trade with China.  As Violet Socks said:

I know if I’d just spent a day or two listening to mind-bogglingly horrific accounts of gang rape, I would be ready to beat the shit out of the next guy who said boo. I’d be all, fuck with me now, flipper. Bring it the fuck on.

One last thing – as Obamacare is spiraling and about to go down the drain guess what the Failbots are talking about?

Hillarycare.

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A Sad Anniversary

This has been hard for me to write. It’s part of the reason I haven’t wanted to write anything for a while. I didn’t think I’d be here at this point.

I started my blog because I was devastated that the US was torturing people. Worse, the powers-that-be were making excuses for it. The US has been guilty of crimes before. But in the bad old days that was just it: they were guilty. The thing was to pretend it wasn’t happening. Now they were doing something much worse. They were saying it was okay.

I come from a family that fled Communists, Nazis, and Fascists. (Yes, that was a lot of fleeing and it took three decades.) Maybe that’s made me hypersensitive to the ultimate personal price of dictatorships. They are horrible, awful, terrifying places and nobody really survives. You can try to escape with the clothes on your back, or become subhuman, or die. That’s all. There are no other choices. So it’s a matter of life or death to avoid that road at all costs. Never put so much as one toe on the path that ends in that hell.

There are two hallmarks shared by dictatorships: detention without trial and torture.

We’re doing both. We’re saying that committing crimes is legal. Is there any way to make the rule of law more meaningless?

At first, I never thought that people would stand for it. I knew there’d be a convulsion and the whole country would reject the lethal disease we had. But instead the shock became dulled. Too many people in the US patted themselves on the back for not being as bad as those other real dictatorships. We’d only put both feet on the beginning of the path. That was totally not the same as reaching the end.

You know what? Once you’re on that path, in terms of what happens next it doesn’t matter who started it. It doesn’t matter if you do nothing. All you have to do to reach the end is not get off. It’s downhill all the way.

I had to do something. The whole Government needed to be changed from top to bottom. The people who made excuses for it had to be changed. Corporations, media, education, it all had to be changed.

I didn’t know how to do any of that. What I did was start a blog in feeble protest, five years ago last May. I’d never understood how the Good Germans could stand by while their government went to the devil between the two World Wars. Now I know. I never thought I’d become the sort of person who could understand that.

I never thought I’d see liberals making excuses for bigotry and war, just because it was their own side doing it. I never thought it would hurt to remember how much hope I felt that the long nightmare of criminal government was coming to an end. I never thought I’d find out that it can get worse than having an unpopular dictator. You can have a popular one.

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Morning Read

The “homosexual agenda” on the march
After MA, CT, IA, VT, ME too has decided to get into the “marriage-ruining” business. NH is waiting around the corner.
Maine Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday minutes after the Legislature sent it to his desk, saying he had reversed his position because gay couples were entitled to the state Constitution’s equal rights protections.

Isn’t it about time Obama undertakes something about this pervasive homosexual agenda? So far he’s been silent on DADT, hasn’t said a word about the proliferation of gay marriages, and has kept mum while some are talking about a gay Justice on the SCOTUS. At least we know Hillary would have shot gays in the face.
With Gay Issues in View, Obama Is Pressed to Engage

Dems to Specter: Watch out!
I count myself amount those who were happy Arlen Specter left the Republican Party to join to Dems, not for the sake of Specter himself but simply because it’s a zero-sum game. He has to be reminded that Dems have him by the nuts sack.
Meltdown: Specter stands alone

Since declaring himself a Democrat last Tuesday, Specter has defied Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House on virtually everything that’s come down the pike: the budget, mortgage reform, the Al Franken-Norm Coleman race, even President Barack Obama’s appointment of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
All while quibbling over whether he said he’d be a “loyal Democrat” — and insisting that he had an “entitlement” to transfer his Senate seniority from one side of the aisle to the other.

Specter Isn’t Sitting Too Pretty These Days

What to do with “Torturegate” architects?
Bush attorneys who wrote terror memo face backlash

Iraq, the good and the bad

The Good:
Blackwater era ending in Iraq

The Bad:
Ambush by an Ally Chills Trust in Iraqi Units

When the gunfire broke out, Capt. Sean K. Keneally scrambled over to Master Sgt. Anthony Davis, who was lying flat on his back, and dragged him to a nearby building.
It was too late. Sergeant Davis, a member of a small team of American military advisers embedded with an Iraqi Army battalion in this remote town, was dead.

Af-Pak
Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War

Clinton expresses ‘deep regret’ over deadly US airstrike in Afghanistan

Pakistan Strife Fills a Hospital With Refugees

Obama applauds Afghan and Pakistan cooperation

Entertainment recommendation for SoS Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton, Watch These Movies!

High Noon, Godfather II, Grand Illusion, and 22 other indispensable movies for understanding war and diplomacy.

Staving off a Depression
Budget Proposes Cuts in 121 Programs

President Barack Obama’s detailed 2010 budget plan, due out Thursday, will propose to eliminate or consolidate 121 domestic and defense programs to save $17 billion, administration officials said Wednesday.

After being stress-tested, BofA needs another $34,000,000,000, Wells Fargo $15,000,000,000 and Citi $5,000,000,000
Fed’s Bank Results ‘Reassuring,’ Show No Insolvency

Banks Need at Least $65 Billion in Capital

American stocks surge after leaked results of banking stress tests bring relief to investors

Timmy explains the methodology. (Wasn’t it some giant Monte Carlo simulation?)
How We Tested the Big Banks (Timothy Geithner)

U.S., Europe Are Ocean Apart on Human Toll of Joblessness

Rupert wants to charge the Internets
News Corp will charge for newspaper websites, says Rupert Murdoch

He wasn’t only a big time crook
The Bernard Madoff I knew: former secretary tells of sexist, sex-mad swindler

What Does “Qualified” Mean?
People opposed to identity politics on the SCOTUS like to propagate the trope about the “most qualified” person for the job. Let’s forget the fact that a SC Justice doesn’t have to be a lawyer, there are a gazillion people with a law degree in the US. Who’s the most “qualified” for any single job among them? “The SCOTUS is not the place for identity politics.”Really? Why not? It’s all about the best fit.
Identity Politics Not New to Supreme Court

W.E.B. Du Bois was quick to endorse the appointment of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. “As a Jew,” Du Bois said, quoting Isaiah, Brandeis knows the experience of “being despised and rejected of men.”

Prepare to be awed by Odd Day


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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Morning Read

The other downside of “swine” flu
American Airlines passengers held for flu test

Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles were detained for several hours in Tokyo after Japanese officials suspected one passenger of having swine flu, according to the airline.

Mexico to start China flu airlift

Robert Barro has an op-ed column about the economic toll the swine flu could take
Pandemics and Depressions

We’re all waiting with bated breath
Obama assures Hatch he’ll pick a pragmatist

Orrin Hatch: White House may announce Supreme Court nominee this week

G.O.P. Picks Conservative for Senate Judiciary Post

After Specter switch: buyer’s remorse?

GOP, Quo Vadis?
GOP Tries to Dig Out of Its Hole

Young Ross Douthat and David Brooks have some thoughts about how to save the GOP from a massive shrinkage
A Hole in the Center

The Long Voyage Home

The GOP leadership meanwhile is grasping at straws
For GOP, it’s Coleman or bust

With former Sen. Norm Coleman now standing between Democrats and their 60-seat supermajority, the GOP is prepared to back the Republican’s appeal to the federal level if even a shred of doubt emerges in the case currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

How do we fix the economy?
Nation Ready To Be Lied To About Economy Again (The Onion via Yves Smith)

Fed Stress Test Results May Show 10 U.S. Banks Need Capita

Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini say we shouldn’t keep throwing money and banks
We Can’t Subsidize the Banks Forever

Wall Street and ZOMBIES

What financial crisis? A George W. Bush library. Quel oxymoron!
Bush Library Raises $100 Million in 100 Days

[T]he Bush center will not be used to “defend or promote something that he did in the past” but will offer a record to help future generations learn about what happened during a presidency, so they make better decisions.”

Ergh!!!

Obama proposes tax fix. Not everyone is happy

President’s Tax Proposal Riles Business

President Barack Obama’s plan to revamp international tax rules stirred opposition from many multinational businesses and questions among a few leading lawmakers. But even if the proposal doesn’t advance rapidly, policy makers said a broader corporate-tax overhaul is becoming increasingly likely over the next two years.

Corporations cry foul over tax fix

Silicon Valley voices concern over new rules

Tax Salvos

The Obama proposals oversimplify the challenge, both technically and politically.

The other headaches
In Preview of Surge, U.S. Calms Afghan Valley but Peace Is Fragile

U.S. military says Afghan bibles have been destroyed

Stay classy Newt, stay classy
Gingrich: ‘Obama endangering Israel’

Forty-four killed in attack on Turkish wedding

Watch out Blackberry
Companies Shed Initial Resistance to iPhone

Malcolm Gladwell penned a great piece in the New Yorker about David v. Goliath
How David Beats Goliath

Vive La France
Sleeping and eating – the French do it best

True to their reputation as leisure-loving gourmets, the French spend more time sleeping and eating than anyone else among the world’s wealthy nations, according to a study published Monday.

Why we love Europe
US shock-jock, Jewish extremist and Hamas MP on list of 16 banned from UK

The list includes Erich Gliebe, the leader of an American neo-Nazi group, Michael Savage (real name Michael Weiner), a radio presenter in America, Mike Guzovsky, a Jewish extremist, and Stephen “Don” Black, a former Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan.
Also on the list is Fred Waldron Phelps Snr, an American Baptist pastor and his daughter, Shirley, who were barred last year for their homophobic views.

WTF?
Girl finds condom in McDonald’s Happy Meal

Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Newspaper reading

  • Forget the 100 Days nonsense. Here comes the first test for Obama.
    Justice Souter to Retire From Court

    Justice Souter, 69, has been a reliable member of the court’s liberal wing, and President Obama is unlikely to appoint a successor who would significantly alter the court’s ideological makeup. He is likely to select a candidate young enough to serve for decades, bolstering the court’s aging liberal faction. Most observers expect he will nominate a woman to join the seven other men and one woman remaining on the court.

    White House Cheat Sheet: Souter Retirement (Further) Roils Political Landscape

  • Nobody is safe from the “swine” flu
    Obama guard on Mexico trip ‘has swine flu’

    A US security aide involved in Barack Obama’s recent visit to Mexico became the latest probable victim of swine flu yesterday, though the White House was quick to point out that the president was in no danger of contracting the virus.

    “The Gaffetastic One” makes life miserable for “The One”
    Biden’s Remarks Derail President’s Temperate Message

    On Thursday, Mr. Biden upended the Obama message machine on NBC’s “Today Show,” saying he would advise his own family not to ride a plane, take the subway or put themselves in any confined spaces. The appearance infuriated airline and public-transit industries and highlighted how difficult it is for the administration to find the right message about the new flu — and how different the careful president is from his free-speaking second.

  • Charles Krauthammer endorses torture uses the nonsensical “ticking bomb” scenario from 24
    Torture? No. Except . . .

    Here’s a must-read for all torture fanatics
    When Israel Confronted and Rejected Torture

    Reading about the Bush administration’s convoluted attempts to justify torture takes me back to reporting I did 12 years ago on the anguished debate in Israel over its secret service’s use of violence in interrogations. That was two years before the Israeli Supreme Court banned the practice. “This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it,” wrote the president of the court, Aharon Barak.

  • I have listened to many interviews from William Cohan about his latest book House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street. The book has been languishing in my shopping cart for a while but that’s about to change. How did I miss this diatribe from Jimmy Caine (former Bear Stearns CEO) about Timmy: (via NY Magazine, h/t Brad Delong) (I tried to fill in the blanks)
    Bear Stearns’ Jimmy Cayne’s Profane Tirade Against Treasury’s Geithner

    “The audacity of that p(ric)k in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a h(ar)d-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s got a big d(ic)k. He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who the f(uc)k asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this f(ucke)r, that’s all I can tell you.”

  • Thank Goodness thehere are some sane people in the midst of totally insane creeps
    Marriage of Saudi Arabian girl, eight, annulled

    An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a man in his 50s has had the union annulled, it was reported yesterday. The case, which had generated local and international outrage, ended with an out-of-court settlement.

Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Morning Papers

  • David Rothkopf identifies the clear winner of Obama’s first 100 days. I agree with him
    Hillary is ‘suprise winner’ of first 100 days, Rothkopf says

    FP blogger David Rothkopf has picked his surprise winners and losers of Obama’s first 100 days, and one of the winners is Secretary Clinton. After stating that National Security Advisor James L. Jones is the surprise loser in the “foreign policy division,” Rothkopf writes:

    [A] good place to look if [Jones] wants an example [of] how to do it all right thus far is over in Foggy Bottom where the surprise winner of the first 100 days in this division is Hillary Clinton. She was supposed to be the uncontrollable ego, but instead she has turned out to be the team player who is using her star-power to very effectively advance the Obama agenda.

    Indeed, check out the powerful response Clinton gave to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence

  • Not too long ago, Karl Rove, Tom Delay and other Right-wing apparatchiks were talking about a permanent majority for the GOP. How’s that going?
    G.O.P. Debate: A Broader Party or a Purer One?

    A fundamental debate broke out among Republicans on Wednesday over how to rebuild the party in the wake of Senator Arlen Specter’s departure: Should it purge moderate voices like Mr. Specter and embrace its conservative roots or seek to broaden its appeal to regain a competitive position against Democrats?

    Republicans feud over Specter

    Faced with a high-profile defection and the prospect of political irrelevance in the Senate, Republicans took off the gloves Wednesday for a ferocious game of finger-pointing.

A letter to President Obama (or should I say “Jock in Chief”)?

(crossposted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

Dear President Obama:

One of your Cabinet Secretaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is striking a chord with women abroad and at home as she mixes in, with her discussion of global warming and economic security, the issue of women’s empowerment, as a matter of democracy and social justice. Might you consider taking a lesson from the Secretary of State? If you did, you would incorporate her message about the importance of women to democratic politics and economic security into every aspect of your own programs and many of your public statements.

Those of us interested in the emancipation of American women would be delighted to hear you echo Secretary Clinton when she states, “I think that it’s imperative that nations like ours stand up for the rights of women. It is not ancillary to our progress; it is central” or “We have to highlight the importance of inclusion for women. We have to make clear that no democracy can exist without women’s full participation; no economy can be truly a free market without women involved.” (Secretary Clinton, February 20, 2009).

You, Mr. President, are in a flurry of summits, initiatives, and speeches, leading up to the announcement of your budget this Thursday, February 26, 2009. Those who wonder whether you understand the significance of women in the U.S. economy need to hear you speak at home in terms your Secretary of State speaks abroad. We need to hear this partly because many of us doubt whether you are as forward thinking about women’s issues as we would expect a Democratic president who will be seeking our votes again ought to be but also because we doubt you are as forward thinking about economic matters as we expect a Democratic president to be. Women do not dominate the boardrooms and executive suites of Fortune 500 companies; they do depend heavily on Social Security; they are a major source of small business initiatives in this country. When you discuss “entitlements” or “business” this means something different to the majority of women than it does to the majority of men.

Even in symbolic ways, we need you to do better if you want us to trust your commitment to women’s empowerment. Just recently you cooperated with Men’s Journal, a men’s lifestyle magazine, that along with so many other publications, decided to devote a cover story to you. This is the cover:Mj_cover

For those who cannot read the headline, running alongside a photo of you holding a football in your hands, it says: “Barack Obama, Jock in Chief: His Moves, His Trash Talk & His Weekly Power Basketball Game.”

Mr. President, I am not sure whether you are proud of being depicted as a trash-talking jock-in-chief – that seems to me to fulfill both sexist and racist stereotypes you yourself might find personally offensive. But the magazine editors certainly mean this headline to be laudatory, although they would never write the same sort of headline about a woman president or cabinet secretary and mean it to have the connotations of hipness and coolness they meant this one to carry. (“Trash-talking” is not a phrase used to praise powerfully positioned women.)

You, Mr. President, could by word and deed use your bully pulpit to discourage this sort of sexist pigeonholing not only of yourself but therefore of what power is supposed to look like or be like. I have written before about the need for you to convene a Presidential Empowerment of Women Advisory Board, to be as significant and influential with you as you suggest your PERAB and PIAB (Economic Recovery and Intelligence boards, respectively). This is becoming more urgent, not less. If you want the American economy and American democracy to remain strong, you must empower the 51 percent of the population who are women to participate as fully and on fair terms in our society.

Yours truly,

Heidi Li Feldman, founder and president, 51 Percent

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