Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

The aftermath of last weeks election is still being felt. In fact, it’s not over yet. The Senate race in Alaska is still being counted. Regardless of whether the winner is Miller or Murkowski, the seat will be held by a Republican. But it will certainly be interesting to see who won. Both because of the tea party angle and because of the possibility of a write-in candidate winning. The latter outcome would be very interesting and perhaps eye opening to many citizens of the country. The fact that we don’t have to take the two choices given to us would be refreshing. Everyone seems to be talking about it including WaPo, Politico, and Reuters among, well, everyone. And of course as you’d expect, the lawyers are at the ready. Miller has already launched one lawsuit requiring that Murkowski name be spelled correctly and exactly as it is registered. That’s silly as the law clearly gives leeway to counters to determine intent. Some of the legal fun from WaPo:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) both urged supporters to donate money to Miller’s legal fund, in part to send enough lawyers and monitors to Juneau. In Anchorage, tea party supporters pooled their frequent-flier miles in hopes of sending about a dozen volunteers to be trained as official observers.

Murkowski, meanwhile, has reportedly hired lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 recount fight and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in his 2008 recount battle in Minnesota.

Miller has also argued that the law requires Murkowski’s name to be spelled properly, though election officials ruled that misspellings are okay as long as the voter’s “intent” is clear – a subjective standard that could lead to a litany of disputes.

Continue reading

Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

Let’s dive right in, so to speak. It looks like the deep water drilling band is lifted:

The U.S. is back in the deep water oil-drilling business. The question now is when work will resume. The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from the oil industry and Gulf states and with elections nearing, lifted the moratorium that it imposed last April in the wake of the disastrous BP oil spill.

The ban had been scheduled to expire Nov. 30, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday he was moving up the date because new rules imposed after the spill had reduced the risk of another catastrophic blowout. Industry leaders warily waited for details of those rules, saying the moratorium wouldn’t be truly lifted until then.

“The policy position that we are articulating today is that we are open for business,” Salazar declared.

The reality is more complicated. While the temporary ban on exploratory oil and gas drilling is lifted immediately, drilling is unlikely to resume for several weeks at least as oil and gas companies struggle to meet a host of new safety regulations. For example, the CEO of a company responsible for a well would have to certify it had complied with all regulations. That could make the person at the top liable for any future accidents.

“Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume,” Salazar said.

And as we heard yesterday, a judge ordered the Pentagon to put a stop to DADT:

US District Judge Virginia A. Phillips in California issued the injunction a month after she ruled that requiring gays in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret is unconstitutional.

The ruling permanently bars the Department of Defense from enforcing the law and goes a step further by compelling Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to suspend any ongoing investigations or discharge proceedings.

The injunction may be appealed within 60 days. If the Obama administration decides to appeal, it would be in the uncomfortable position of defending a law it has opposed. An appeal, however, might allow the administration and the Pentagon to implement a repeal of the policy in a more orderly manner.

Alternatively, the administration could decide to let Phillips’s ruling become law, acknowledging that the court was able to accomplish what the policy’s opponents in Congress and the administration have yet to do.

The Justice Department said yesterday that it had not yet decided how to respond. “We’re reviewing the ruling,’’ Tracy Schmaler, a department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Several legal observers, however, predicted the Obama administration would seek a stay of the judge’s order from the US Court of Appeals, a request they said would probably be approved as that court reviews the case.

So next is a simple test of the Obama administration. They could either stand by their word and campaign promise and let the ruling stand and allow it to become law, or they can go back on their word and do the stay or worse, appeal, so that they can proceed in a “more orderly manner”. You know, most every time we’ve pushed for more equality in our rights, we’ve been told to slow down and do things in a more orderly manner. We will soon see in the most clear way possible what Obama is made of. What kind of character the man has. I will give him praise and be happy if he does the right thing here. We’ll see.

As of this writing, the miners in Chile are being pulled out. Sometime later in the morning they will hopefully be all out. Here’s a write up as it started to happen:

The first of 33 gold and copper miners entombed half a mile below ground for more than two months were hauled into the frigid Chilean desert air early Wednesday morning, emerging from a cramped, life-saving haven and into the embrace of family members once forced to confront the likelihood of their deaths.

Foreman Florencio Avalos, 31, was the first of the miners to ride up the shaft that rescuers hope will serve as the lifeline for all. Wearing sunglasses to protect his eyes from aboveground lights, Avalos squeezed into a specially fitted, bullet-shaped capsule only a shade smaller than the 28-inch diameter of the tunnel and was winched to the surface over 14 agonizing minutes.

As myiq posted last night, the last debate between Brown and Whitman leaves some looking for third party candidates:

One of the most aggressive segments of the hour-long debate began with Brown responding to moderator and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw’s question about a Brown campaign staffer caught on voice mail calling Whitman a “whore.”

Brown apologized to Whitman for the first time and called the remark “unfortunate,” but also chafed at Brokaw’s suggestion that to women the word is as offensive as the “n-word” is to African Americans.

“Women know exactly what’s going on here,” retorted Whitman, calling the word a “slur.”

That’s right Jerry, as we all know, bigotry towards women doesn’t count as much as bigotry towards most any other group. I mean come on, it’s only women. What a let down. But wait, there’s more:

On the Brown staffer’s use of the word “whore,” Whitman went on the offensive, saying that “slurs and personal attacks are … not what California is about.”

Brown retorted that “we’ve heard no outrage from you” regarding her campaign chairman former Gov. Pete Wilson’s use of the term “whores” to describe public employees unions.

Whitman’s comeback: “You know better than that Jerry, that’s a completely different thing.”

That’s pretty lame from Jerry. Just own up to it and apologize without that crap. What’s sad is Jerry is ahead by a bit, and if he just did something reasonable here, he’d move ahead. But he’s scared and feels the need to go this path. And what’s particularly tough with the path Jerry is on, is he’s opening unhealed wounds of misogyny within the Democratic party. From a state that chose to rise above misogyny in 2008.

But not to worry, he’s bringing out Obama to take care of that. Sigh.

Speaking of complete idiots out of touch, Paladino finally got word that he may have stepped in it, and now apologizes:

Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino apologized to the gay community Tuesday for what he called his “poorly chosen words” over the weekend as he sought to steer his troubled campaign back to the tax issues that won him the GOP nomination in September.

“I am neither perfect, nor a career politician,” Paladino said in an e-mail distributed by his flagging campaign. “I have made mistakes in this campaign — I have made mistakes all my life — as we all have. I am what I am — a simple man who works hard, trusts others, and loves his family and fears for the future of our state.”

He apologized and said he should have edited more of the phrasing out of a speech he gave to Orthodox Jewish leaders on Sunday. His speech did include opposition to what he said was schools’ “brainwashing” of students into thinking the gay lifestyle is just another choice. He also said being gay is “not the way God created us” and the gay lifestyle is “not the example that we should be showing our children.”

Ah yes, the old poorly chosen words excuse. So was he lying then or is he lying now? You decide. Hey, he’s a horribly hateful bigot, maybe he can write for the Washington Post (see yesterday’s post by BB).

OK, now for a bit of comedy relief. Turns out Obama and Palin and Limbaugh are related. Somehow I’m not surprised:

President Barack Obama is distantly related to two of his most outspoken critics — Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh — as well as to former President George W. Bush, according to a genealogy website.

Family trees revealed Obama and Palin, the former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, are 10th cousins through common ancestor John Smith, according to Ancestry.com Inc. Smith was Obama’s and Palin’s 12th-great- grandfather. Smith, a Protestant pastor, was an early settler in Massachusetts and was criticized by the ecclesiastical community for supporting Quakers, said Anastasia Tyler, a genealogist for the website.

Obama and Limbaugh are 10th cousins once removed through shared connections to Richmond Terrell, a Virginia settler who came to America in the mid-1600s, Tyler said.

Palin and Obama have ties to Bush, both through links to Samuel Hinckley. Maybe leadership “runs in the family,” the website said, because Hinckley’s son, Thomas, became the governor of Plymouth Colony before it united with Massachusetts.

“Despite political differences, they do have similarities,” Tyler said. “We are all tied together; we are all part of America.”

OK, I’ll admit it. That’s a very nice sentiment at the end. They got me on that one.

WaPo’s trail mix has a round up of a few political goings on:

Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle announced Tuesday that she raised $14.3 million in the third quarter of the year – apparently a record amount for a Senate candidate who is not self-funding.

With three weeks to go until Election Day, Democrats have canceled all of their ad reservations in at least six districts where their odds of winning appear to be shrinking.

Christine O’Donnell turned heads with her “I’m not a witch” ad. But that attention hasn’t translated into votes for Delaware’s Republican Senate nominee: A new Monmouth University poll shows her Democratic opponent, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, leading 57 percent to 38 percent among likely voters in the race for Vice President Biden’s former Senate seat.

As recently as several months ago, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) thought he’d have no trouble winning a fourth term. But recent polls have shown the incumbent facing a surprisingly tough challenge from millionaire businessman Ron Johnson (R). The latest survey, conducted by Reuters/Ipsos, shows Johnson now leading among likely voters 51 percent to 44 percent.

Nice run down of a few items. Looks like O’Donnell is going nowhere fast. Good. And sadly Feingold isn’t either. Not good. But neither are surprising.

Now for some more fun news. First, because some folks seem to have an irrational obsession with the Palins, even young Palins, Bristol managed to survive another week on DWTS. Turns out “The Situation” wasn’t so lucky.

And in sports news, the Giants and the Phillies will be playing in the National League Championship Series. It looks to be a great pitcher matchup:

In the year of the pitcher, what else should dominate the National League Championship Series, which begins in Philadelphia on Saturday?

Much of the national chatter has the Phillies with an edge because of their experience, as it should be. They have won the last two NL pennants. Also, in sweeping Cincinnati in their Division Series, Philadelphia’s Big Three starters choked off a Reds lineup that produced the league’s best offensive numbers during the regular season.

However, anyone who predicts another Philly massacre in the NLCS must consider how well the postseason novices on the Giants’ staff pitched against the Braves.

The Giants’ modus operandi in the best-of-seven series will not be a state secret: They must keep the games low-scoring and hope to get one or two good pitches to hit, a mistake here or there, and convert them into the decisive runs.

Hopefully it will be a good one. And of course hopefully the Giants will win. Your mileage may vary of course.

And finally, the Nobel prize for physics went to some scientists that came up with Graphene:

Two Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, won the 2010 Nobel Physics Prize Tuesday for pioneering work on graphene, touted as the wonder material of the 21st century.

Both laureates began their careers as physicists in Russia but now work at the University of Manchester in Britain. Geim holds Dutch nationality and Novoselov is both a British and Russian national.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences hailed graphene — “the perfect atomic lattice” — for its glittering potential in computers, home gadgets and transport.

It lauded Geim, 51, and Novoselov, 36, for having “shown that carbon in such a flat form has exceptional properties that originate from the remarkable world of quantum physics.”

The prize honors a breakthrough that paved the way to graphene, a form of carbon touted as the next-generation super-material.

Just one atom thick, it is the world’s thinnest and strongest nano-material, almost transparent and able to conduct electricity and heat.

As a result, graphene is described as the candidate material to replace silicon semi-conductors.

It’s a big thing. A really big thing. Though small. It’s nice to know, amongst all the corrupt politics and mega corporate control, some cool things keep going on, and progress can still happen.

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

Wednesday Morning News

It’s hump day already. Let’s have a look at a bit of the news.

Though it’s hump day, you may not necessarily want to take that literally. Apparently Gonorrhea may become a superbug:

Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhea from Britain’s Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bug repeatedly adapting to and overcoming drugs.

“This is a very clever bacteria. If this problem isn’t addressed, there is a real possibility that gonorrhea will become a very difficult infection to treat,” she said in a telephone interview.

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial sexually-transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

Globally, the WHO estimates that there are at least 340 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections — including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis — every year among people aged 15 to 49.

Ison said the highest incidences of gonorrhea were in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, but as yet the WHO has no breakdown by individual infection type.

Yikes. But let’s continue to have abstinence only sex ed in some quarters because, you know, what could possibly go wrong.

The guy that came up with the Gaia Hypothesis, James Lovelock, says we should dump democracy in order to save ourselves from a climate change catastrophe:

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists’ emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change,” said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. “The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.”

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is “modern democracy”, he added. “Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

Lovelock, 90, believes the world’s best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

Um, what democracy? If there is a place where they actually count your votes for these election thingys, I’d like to know. He’s got a point about people not making changes very easily. But then I’d say having leaders, and by that of course I mean corporations, who’s own self interest precludes such things, whether you have a pretend democracy or a dictatorship, the results will be the same since the very same oligarchy would be in charge either way. A large disaster like he says is the only thing that will do it. I personally think it’s too late, so who cares. Go out and party like it’s 2012!

USDOT is bringing in NASA scientists to help with the Toyota acceleration investigation:

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today said it was doing just by bringing in NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas.  The NHTSA review of the electronic throttle control systems in Toyotas is to be completed by late summer.

The DOT said engineers from the National Academy of Sciences – an independent body of scientific experts – will also look into the overarching subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry.

For NASA, the space agency’s engineers will focus on technology such as electromagnetic compatibility as part of a shorter-term review of the systems used in Toyota vehicles to determine whether they contain any possible flaws that would warrant a defect investigation, the DOT stated.

NASA’s expertise in electronics, hardware, software, hazard analysis and complex problem solving ensures this review will be comprehensive.  Currently there are nine experts from NASA assisting NHTSA, and additional personnel will join the team if needed, the DOT stated.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement.  “For the safety of the American driving public, we must do everything possible to understand what is happening. And that is why we are tapping the best minds around.”

It’s not unusual for NASA to get involved in such investigations.  Previous technology examinations involved electronic stability control and airbags.

And here we have it, it’s all the fault of magnets. I knew it wasn’t me. Apparently magnets can mess with your sense of morality according to a recent study:

Magnets can alter a person’s sense of morality, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries.

“It’s one thing to ‘know’ that we’ll find morality in the brain,” said Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. “It’s another to ‘knock out’ that brain area and change people’s moral judgments.”

Of course that can only mean one thing. Soon in court cases around the country, we’ll be seeing… the “magnet defense.”

While we’re looking at Discovery, here’s a nice find. A written language has been discovered of ancient Scotland:

The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

“We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English,” lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.

Although Lee and his team have not yet deciphered the Pictish language, some of the symbols provide intriguing clues. One symbol looks like a dog’s head, for example, while others look like horses, trumpets, mirrors, combs, stags, weapons and crosses.

The later Pictish Stones also contain images, like Celtic knots, similar to those found in the Book of Kells and other early works from nearby regions. These more decorative looking images frame what Lee and his team believe is the written Pictish language.

“It is unclear at the moment whether the imagery, such as the knots, form any part of the communication,” Lee said. He believes the stones also contain semasiographic symbols, such as a picture of riders and horn blowers next to hunting dogs on what is called the Hilton of Cadboll stone. Yet another stone shows what appears to be a battle scene.

Drill baby drill!! Obama’s going to push for more drilling for oil in Alaska among other places:

President Barack Obama today will announce a compromise to broadly open new areas off the U.S. coast to oil and natural gas drilling while protecting specific swaths, including Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The plan, to be announced at a late morning energy security event at Andrews Air Force Base may help Obama court bipartisan support for contentious climate change legislation but also could chafe environmental activists in states affected by expanded drilling.

A White House aide describing the details ahead of the announcement said that an upcoming Interior Department lease sale 50 miles off the Virginia coast would mark the first new offshore oil and gas sale in the Atlantic in more than two decades.

Drilling off the coast from the mid-Atlantic to the Southeast could be broadly expanded, pending further study. Drilling off the Florida coast would be subject to a minimum 125 mile distance. A previously scheduled lease sale in Alaska‚s Cook Inlet could go ahead, but Bristol Bay and pending lease sales in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, in North Alaska, will be canceled. No West Coast exploration is being announced.

“To set America on a path to energy independence, the President believes we must leverage our diverse domestic resources by pursuing a comprehensive energy strategy,” said the aide who was not authorized to speak on the record ahead of the president’s announcement.

Bill Clinton to co-chair committee overseeing funds to Haiti:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will co-chair a committee overseeing at least $3.8 billion in post-quake aid to Haiti, the ravaged country’s prime minister said.

The announcement was made ahead of a critical donors conference Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Haitian officials will ask representatives from more than 130 countries for reconstruction help at the meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration would pledge $1.15 billion over the next two years to rebuilding Haiti. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hillary Clinton would announce the pledge at the conference later Wednesday.

Some serious rumbling is happening in the gene business world after a ruling throwing out a gene patent:

Many biotechnology stocks fell on Tuesday as investors struggled to understand the impact of a ruling that threw out parts of two gene patents and called into question thousands more.

Stock market losses were muted, with two major indexes that track the shares of the industry falling by less than 1 percent each. In part, that was because biotechnology executives hastened to reassure their investors that the ruling would not necessarily undermine their businesses, at least in the short run.

But the executives themselves were struggling on Tuesday to figure out what the long-term impact would be. Biotech companies spend billions every year trying to develop new tests and treatments based partly on genes they have isolated and patented.

Those are a few things rattling around in the news today. Chime in with anything you’re finding to day. Or just whatever is on your mind.

Saturday Morning News and Views: Populist Uprising Edition

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

President Obama was in Ohio yesterday trying to impersonate a populist.

“I won’t stop fighting for you,” he thundered in a campaign-style speech in economically sagging northeastern Ohio, remarks that provided a likely preview of the themes in his first State of the Union speech next Wednesday.

Trying to shore up public support, Obama urged people to “stand by me, even during these tough times.”

Like you stood by us Mr. President? When did you fight for us anyway?

Obama acknowledged that the healthcare overhaul — suddenly in limbo on Capitol Hill — had run into a political “buzz saw.” He dismissed concerns that his lengthy focus on healthcare meant he had taken his eye off the economy, the country’s No. 1 problem.

“Let me dispel this notion that we were somehow focused on that (healthcare) and so as a consequence not focused on the economy. First of all, all I think about is how are we going to create jobs in this area,” Obama said in Elyria, Ohio.

The president’s switch to a more populist tone followed his own admission in an ABC News interview earlier this week that he had lost a direct connection with everyday Americans.

I’m not so sure he ever had a connection with “everyday Americans”–those gun-toting bitter knitters? And those uppity women who don’t know their place? No, I don’t think so.

If Mr. Obama wants to make a “direct connection” with “everyday Americans,” he is going to have to give them more than “just words.” He is going to have to pretty much do a complete about face and become as “transformational” as he pretended to be when he was campaigning. He is going to have to stop impersonating Herbert Hoover and start impersonating Franklin Roosevelt. I’m really not sure if he is capable of that, but if he manages to do it, I’ll be the first to cheer him on.

From the Toledo Blade:

A defiant President Obama assured Ohioans yesterday that he will continue to fight for health care, banking, and energy reform despite recent political setbacks that some argue have endangered his agenda.

He made the promises at Lorain County Community College even as Ohio announced its unemployment rate had hit 10.9 percent in December, up from 10.6 percent the month before. The national jobless rate is 10 percent.

“I did not run for President to turn away from these challenges,” he told a town-hall meeting of about 1,300 people.

“I didn’t run for President to kick them down the road. I ran for President to confront them once and for all. I ran for this office to rebuild our economy so it works not just for the fortunate few, but for everybody who’s willing to work hard in this country,” he said.

Uh huh. Talk is cheap, Mr. President. Now lets see some action. Continue reading

If the Dems want to get back on their feet, they need to kick the moles out of NPR

Tokyo Rose

So, the Wurlitzer is on full crank and the Villagers are all a-twitter about how the Democrats took the country too far left.  Of course, that’s what they would say.  They’re THE VILLAGERS.  They are paid to keep the status quo nice and comfy for themselves and their friends. I’m going to let the Democrats in on a little secret:

No one on the left pays any attention to them anymore.

Yep. It’s true.  The Washington Post and the NYTimes could be spending the money they pay those courtiers on beefing up their international news bureaus.  People might actually start reading their papers again.

Frankly, my Dems, we don’t give a damn what David Brooks or David Broder says anymore.  We only pay attention to Joe Klein because his stupid musings are so easy to debunk and his name is, well, amenable to juvenile mockery.  Paul Krugman *used* to be our goto guy but he’s lost the plot recently and thinks that propping up Obama is more important than actually Change!™ing things.

But people have to still get their news from somewhere.  I gave up TV news of all kinds last year.  I don’t watch network or cable “news” of any kind.  I got sensitized to the propaganda and now, whenever I hear the prepared talking points with just the right psychological spin, I break out in hives and can’t breathe.  No, now I’m forced to surf the net both domestically and internationally and sift through the information with the skills of a professional data miner looking for nuggets of truth among the truthiness.

Not everyone has the time to do this.  So, verily I say unto you Democrats who are wringing your hands that your message is failing to get out among all of the “Americans are really center right people” and “Obama is a socialist” BS, don’t forget about NPR and the Public Broadcasting System.  I used to be a faithful listener and donater to NPR news programming for nigh on 20 years, ever since I was in college.  But during the Bush years, the place got so infested with GOP moles and taken over by the “both sides of the story are equal” folks that I don’t listen anymore.  Planet Money was pretty good for the first couple of months until their sponsors became the same kinds of companies they were reporting on.  My morning and evening commutes are now podcast only hours.

One thing you guys failed to do, (ok, one of the THREE things you failed to do right after 1.)failing to elect the true Democrat and 2.) handing the keys of your party apparatus to a bunch of neo-liberal jerks from Chicago who cut their teeth at Enron) was you failed to control the message.  Maybe you can’t restore the fairness doctrine right away, not that you shouldn’t at least try, but you didn’t make use of the tools you have.  You have the power of the purse.  You could get rid of the “Wealth Management” underwriters.  You could have kicked Steve Innskeep type guys to the curb and restored NPR to its former glory of reporting fairly and accurately instead of turning the place into a incubator for Juan Williams and Mara Liason who took their Tokyo Rose acts to Fox News.

In fact, why *didn’t* you do all of those things when you had a chance?  Republicans with your numbers would have done it.  Sometimes, I have to wonder about your personal safety in a room with sharp objects.

So, if you don’t want to lose your shirts and reputations this fall, and it looks like that’s where you’re headed if you don’t do something quick, you’d better shore up your messaging machine and push left as hard as you can.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


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Saturday Morning: We’re Living the “Shock Doctrine”

Good Morning Conflucians!

Is it just me? Suddenly, I’m feeling almost in shock at what’s happening in our country and around the world. Maybe I could just regress back to childhood and watch cartoons on TV this morning? No. I have to stay present and face the reality of what is happening.

When Reagan was elected, I kind of checked out for awhile. I refused to read newspapers or watch TV news. I knew it was going to be bad, and so I just focused on other things than politics.

I did that again for awhile after 2000. I was so devastated by what happened–how the election was stolen with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court. I checked out again for awhile–until Bush used 9/11 to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve been paying attention since then. For some reason, this time I just can’t check out and pretend it isn’t happening.

In her book,The Shock Doctine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein writes:

“The history of the contemporary free market was written in shocks….Some of the most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market reforms.”

Klein’s book is about the most influential political-economic philosophy of our times, Neoliberalism–which originated with Economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics. I’m sure Dakinikat can articulate it all much better than I could. I only understand it from my experience and reading–from living it. Klein writes:

Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market would rule every aspect of life, from school to health-care, and even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices, and eviscerating government services. These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock….

Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical ‘free market’ crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. he called this method “economic shock treatment.”

Klein drew an analogy with the CIA methods of mind control and torture, which were used in federally funded experiments back in the ’50 and ’60s in government programs with weird names like MK-ULTRA, Project BlUEBIRD, later called Project ARTICHOKE.

Klein quotes from CIA interrogation manuals:

It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are in essence methods of inducing regression of the personality… Experienced Interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the subject is far more open to suggestion and far likelier to comply than he was just before he experienced the shock.

And another quote:

The subject should be apruptly awakened and immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. When arrrested at this time, most subjects experience feelings of shock, extreme insecurity, and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

This is what our government is doing to us. Bush was pretty good at it, but the shocks somehow seem more harsh under Obama. Maybe it’s because–even though most of us here at TC knew Obama wasn’t going to bring “change we can believe in,” it still seems more shocking when these beat-downs come from a President with a D next to his name, backed by an overwhelming majority of D’s in Congress. And somehow, the fact that these shocks are being administered in the name of health care reform seems so hideous and cruel, that it’s hard to remain present and keep educating yourself about what is happening. Sometimes, I really feel like I’m being hit in the head with a hammer–again…and again…and again.

Here are a few of the latest news stories and opinions. Let’s hang together and fight back against the forces of shock!

From Robert Reich’s blog: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them….

…we…end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs or the costs of pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.

MSNBC: U.S. grapples with child hunger ‘epidemic’

Three weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama set an audacious goal: end hunger among children in the United States by 2015.

Since his inauguration, Obama has seldom broached the subject. His aides brainstorm weekly with several agencies, but their internal conversations so far have not produced fundamentally new approaches. The president’s goal could prove daunting: Childhood hunger is more complex than previously understood, new research suggests, and is unlikely to be solved simply by spending more money for food programs.

NYT: Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Boing Boing: Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

“In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”

Robert Scheer: Dear Barack, Spare Me Your E-Mails

Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.

In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.

With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.

Let’s face it: President Obama is Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.

What are you reading this morning, fellow Conflucians? I hope you can find something to cheer me up. No matter how bad things are, we are all still here and we are in it together, so….

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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Lazy Saturday Mid-Morning News and Gossip Update

Wow, I slept till 8:30 this morning. It sure is nice being on vacation. I’ve done practically nothing but sleep, read, eat, and surf the ‘net since Tuesday afternoon. Today, I guess I’ll have to get moving and prepared to return to teaching on Monday. I heard a couple of interesting stories on Twitter last night. Did you hear that Amy Goodman was stopped and interrogated at the Canadian border?

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now , a radio and television show aired by public and college broadcasters across North America, was entering Canada around 6 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday evening, set to speak at the Vancouver Public Library in an event co-ordinated by a campus radio station at Simon Fraser University.

“When I handed our passports over the border guard, they told us to pull over. We had to go over to the border facility. And they started asking me questions about what I was going to be speaking about. I was totally taken aback. They wanted to see my notes,”

Amy Goodman

Goodman was going to Canada to promote her new book. Oddly, the guards kept accusing her of giving a talk about the Vancouver Olympics. She had no clue what they meant by that, but they wouldn’t believe her. They searched all of her notes and her and her colleague’s computers and took photographs. It sounds truly Kafkaesque. Apparently Canada is really worked up about the Olympics. They didn’t care that she was going to talk about opposing wars or the economic meltdown–just whether she would criticize the Vancouver games. Goodman didn’t even know there was a Vancouver Olympics. I didn’t either. Did you?

In another strange story, Tiger Woods left his house in the middle of the night and drove right into a tree and a fire hydrant. He was barely conscious after the accident and his wife had to break open the car window with a golf club to get him out. Did they have a fight or something? Apparently there was no alcohol involved. From the LA Times story:

The initial media reports that instantly spread around the globe sounded dire: Tiger Woods had been “seriously” hurt in a car accident early Friday and was hospitalized.

It turned out the superstar golfer’s injuries, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, weren’t as dreadful as the word “serious” implied in the police report. But as additional details emerged, it appeared Woods certainly suffered more than a fender bender.

Woods, 33, was backing out of his driveway in the Isleworth community near Orlando, Fla., at 2:25 a.m. when he struck a fire hydrant and then hit a neighbor’s tree, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

It was almost 12 hours before the police issued an accident report, and it is still unknown why Woods was out driving at that hour and much about the incident remains unclear.

The police plan to question Woods about the incident.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt Kim Montes said two troopers had attempted to contact Woods on Friday evening, but his wife said he was sleeping and they had agreed to come back on Saturday.

According to the highway patrol, alcohol was not a factor in the incident.

Chief Daniel Saylor of the Windermere Police Department said: “From what we understand, his wife came out of the house when she heard the accident, him hitting the fire hydrant, (and) used a golf club – that’s what we were told – to break out the rear window to gain entrance into the vehicle, removed him from the vehicle and laid him down in the street.

“He was in and out of consciousness with lacerations to his upper and lower lip, with a little bit of blood in his mouth, but he was conscious enough to be able to speak a little bit. According to my officers, it was not life-threatening injuries.”

In comments to the Associated Press news agency, Chief Saylor said his officers found the 33-year-old lying in the street with his wife hovering over him.

This just broke on Google, could explain what happened: Tiger Woods’ Car Crash Came After Explosive Story Claiming Affair

Tiger Woods’ bizarre overnight car crash outside his Florida home came only two days after the National Enquirer publish an article claiming the golf champ was having an affair.

Police said they had no knowledge of a fight between Woods, 33, and his wife, Elin, before Woods left their house at 2:25 a.m. Friday — backing out of his driveway and plowing into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree in a gated community near Orlando.

The Enquirer’s explosive story hit the stands Wednesday contending that Woods has been seeing New York night club hostess Rachel Uchitel and that the pair recently were spotted in Melbourne while Woods was playing in the Australian Masters tournament.

Take it with a grain of salt, since it’s The Enquirer and Fox, but it sounds like a reasonable explanation to me.

There were a few articles yesterday about how the story spread around the world through Twitter and other social media before it could even be reported in any detail by the MSM.

In the Age of Realtime, Twitter is Walter Cronkite


Tiger Woods and Car Accident: CNN and Twitter


This is Why the Internet (and Twitter) Wins

Tongues are still wagging about the couple who supposedly crashed the President’s state dinner the other day. The couple are still claiming they were invited, and it was revealed yesterday that they did meet President Obama.

The White House said late Friday that Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the Virginia couple auditioning for a Bravo reality show, not only got past layers of experienced, executive-branch security but also shook the president’s hand in the Blue Room of the White House during the Obamas’ first state dinner. Late Friday, the White House also released a photo of Michaele Salahi’s audience with the president, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh smiling nearby.

The security breach has caused hand-wringing inside the White House, bewilderment among Tuesday night’s guests — and late on Friday, prompted an apology from the Secret Service.

From Politico: President Obama Orders Review of Crashers

President Barack Obama has ordered a full review into how a Virginia couple managed to make their way into the White House for last week’s state dinner without an invitation, even getting so far as to meet the president in the official receiving line, according to a White House official.

Three days after a pair of Virginia socialites and reality TV wannabes crashed the administration’s first state dinner, the White House acknowledged for the first time Friday that they met Obama himself at the event – raising even more questions about whether the breach could have posed a security risk.

No kidding.

I saw this on Twitter too: Hillary’s Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process

Hillary made a short statement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and a number of blogs are breaking it down piece by piece to divine it’s true meaning. I don’t know enough about I/P to really understand it, but thought the analysis was interesting just the same. No fighting about this in the comments, please, but if you can make sense of it please discuss politely.

Here’s another analysis of the statement from a Palestinian point of view.

Just breaking news:

Russia train crash ’caused by bomb’

The Nevsky Express derailed in remote countryside on Friday night as the train travelled between the capital Moscow and St Petersburg.

Investigators found “elements of an explosive device” at the scene, the Russia’s federal investigative committee said in a statement.

A senior intelligence official said a bomb had derailed the locomotive.


Dubai World Unit Faces Default Test Monday With Bond Payment

European Stocks Fall for Second Week as Alpha, Compass Decline

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!

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