Monday Midday: Zombietime News and Views

This is how I feel this morning

Hello Conflucians!! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’ve been sitting here staring off into space like a zombie since I woke up at 7AM Eastern time. The only time I’ve gotten up was to make a cup of tea and go to the bathroom. I guess it’s the end-of-the-semester syndrome–nearly compete emotional, physical, and spiritual burnout.

Here are a few interesting stories for you to discuss when you finish reacting to myiq’s post–maybe seeing that headline about Obama’s grade for his first year that bumped me into zombieland. B+?! What is that guy on? We’re in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, real unemployment is around 20%, the banksters are being bolstered by Obama’s free hand with the U.S. Treasury, health care reform is dead for at least another decade, and Congress is pushing for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. In my gradebook, that would be grounds for an F.

Anyway…where was I? Oh yeah. Headlines…..


Developing nations walked out of the Copenhagen climate talks this morning:

A little more here

THE Copenhagen climate summit is in chaos after poor countries walked out of negotiations en masse today.

The G77, a group which represents 130 developing countries, walked out because it is concerned the existing Kyoto protocol will be abandoned.

Australia’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong confirmed that organisers were trying to fix the problem and coax back the developing world.

Many countries at the UN climate summit want a brand new treaty to tackle climate change, but the developing world wants the Kyoto protocol to continue as well.

The protocol forces rich countries to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator Wong said the walkout was “most unfortunate”.

“It is regrettable that we appear to have reached a gridlock on process,” she said.

I was getting excited, but the developing nations have already walked back in:

Developing nations return to Copenhagen climate talks

Talks at the UN climate summit resumed on Monday afternoon after protests from developing nations forced a suspension.

But talks have been limited to informal consultations on procedural issues, notably developing countries’ demands for more time on the Kyoto Protocol.

The G77-China bloc, speaking for developing countries, said the Danish hosts had violated democratic process.

Some delegates talked forlornly of the vast amount of negotiating left to be done before the summit concludes.

The countries that suspended co-operation were those which make up the G77-China bloc of 130 nations. These range from wealthy countries such as South Korea, to some of the poorest states in the world.

Italy’s Berlusconi to stay in hospital after attack (with video)

Italian Prime Minister is in the hospital after having a statue thrown at his face.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi will stay in hospital at least until Tuesday after having his nose broken by an attacker, doctors say.

A medical bulletin reported in the Italian media said Mr Berlusconi was able to eat, but only with difficulty.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, suffered a broken nose, two broken teeth and a cut lip after being hit with a model of Milan cathedral after a rally in the city.

A 42-year-old man was arrested and has been charged with aggravated assault.

The suspect, Massimo Tartaglia, was said by police to have had a history of mental illness, receiving treatment over a 10-year period.

Excuse me, I started laughing inappropriately and had to take a short break. {wiping tears away}


The Horrible Health Care Destruction Nightmare Continues unabated. Will it ever end?

Health Care Progress Report: December 14

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — one of the Democratic caucus members the plan was intended to appease — dropped a bombshell Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” when he said he would not vote for a bill that expands Medicare.

“From what I hear, I certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that the public option did,” he said about the Medicare buy-in.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another conservative who may or may not vote for the health care bill, said on “Face the Nation” that the Medicare buy-in is “the forerunner of single-payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option.”

WTF are Lieberman and Nelson doing in the Democratic party anyway?


Is Reid Cursed by the Lucky Number 60?

Sixty is the number of senators in the Democratic caucus, and the precise number needed to overcome Republican filibusters. It is the magic number of votes that Mr. Reid needs to pull together to advance major health care legislation.

In many ways, 60 is also a mirage – falsely raising Democratic hopes, particularly those of more liberal senators, that they have the muscle to push the health care bill without making painful concessions to centrists in both parties.

To be sure, controlling 60 votes has generally been advantageous to the Democrats. They have repeatedly cleared procedural obstacles that Republicans set in their path, even on routine bills that ultimately are approved by overwhelming majorities.

But on the health care bill, in particular, the notion of nominally controlling 60 votes has emboldened many Democrats, especially liberals, to make demands that they might otherwise have regarded as unreasonable if their party held even one less seat.

WTF?!! Wanting Americans to have reasonably priced health care like the civilized countries do is “unreasonable?” Maybe it’s reading assinine stories like this every day that is making me feel like a zombie.

ProPublica.org is running a series of stories on police misconduct after Hurricate Katrina–highly recommended.

<a href=”After Katrina, police shot first and asked few questions.“>After Katrina, NO police shot first and asked few questions

Matt McDonald left his native Connecticut and headed to New Orleans in the summer of 2005, shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck and floodwaters engulfed the city. McDonald was a troubled soul, a heavy drinker who had lived on the streets, but he kept in touch with his family, calling from time to time.

After the storm, his brother John, an auto-body technician who lives in Norwich, Conn., began working the phones, reaching out to anyone in Louisiana he thought might know something. “I heard so many different things,” John McDonald recalled.

John McDonald’s wife, Kerry, spent the next month making one phone call after another. “It was such a big runaround,” said Kerry McDonald, who recalled speaking to FEMA officials, American Red Cross staffers, New Orleans police officers and numerous others. “One person would say he was shot to death; the next would say he was found floating.”

Eventually, despite the conflicting stories, one thing became clear: Matt was dead at 41. His body was identified by several distinctive tattoos, including the name of his daughter, Crystal, and a pair of black bat wings.

His girlfriend, Martha Dziadul, paid to cremate the body.

Four years later, a reporter looking at the conduct of the Police Department in the aftermath of the hurricane called Dziadul to ask whether she had ever seen the official report on McDonald’s death. The document said a police officer armed with an AR-15 assault rifle had shot him to death on Sept. 3, 2005.

She was staggered. “They never, ever told me the police shot him. They told me it was a homicide,” she said. “They said: We don’t even know what day it happened because we weren’t there.”

Shot or Not, Dead or Alive? Two Men’s Fate Lost in Chaos

A motionless body lay on the pavement. Perhaps 20 riled-up police officers milled around. On the shoulder of the road, an RTA bus was parked at a crazy angle, like a dislocated elbow. Nearby was a long white limousine, crashed into a pole.

What had we stumbled upon?

Then there were guns aimed at us, and my face was pushed against a wall. I heard lots of shouting and cursing.

It was three days after the levees broke: Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 — in my limited view, the day things completely fell apart in New Orleans.

The desperation was mounting. The cavalry wasn’t coming, it seemed. We were in it alone.

The heat was brutal, punishing. Supplies were minimal, and shrinking.

Can any country that permits this kind of abuse and neglect of its people survive? I honestly don’t think so.

There are a couple of terrific opinion pieces at Truthdig today:

Scott Ritter on Afghanistan: Our Murderers in the Sky

The true test of a society and its leaders is the extent to which every effort is made to both properly define a problem as one worthy of military intervention and then exhaust every option other than the use of force. It is true that President Barack Obama inherited the war in Afghanistan from his predecessor and therefore cannot be held accountable for that which transpired beyond his ability to influence. But the president’s recent decision to “surge” 30,000 additional U.S. military troops into Afghanistan transfers ownership of the Afghan conflict to him and him alone. It is in this light that his decision must be ultimately judged.

In many ways, Obama’s presentation before the Long Gray Line at West Point, in which he explained his decision to conduct the Afghanistan surge, represented an insult to the collective intelligence of the American people. The most egregious contradiction in his speech was the notion that the people of Afghanistan, who, throughout their history, have resisted central authority whether emanating from Kabul or imposed by outside invaders, would somehow be compelled to embrace this new American plan.

Chris Hedges: Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War

I have spent enough time inside the American military to have tasted its dark brutality, frequent incompetence and profligate ability to waste human lives and taxpayer dollars. The deviousness and stupidity of generals, the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy, especially as we head toward economic collapse.

Barack Obama, who is as mesmerized by the red, white and blue bunting draped around our vast killing machine as the press, the two main political parties and our entertainment industry, will not halt our doomed imperial projects or renege on the $1 trillion in defense-related spending that is hollowing out the country from the inside. A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat.

Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska and 2008 presidential candidate, sat Saturday on a park bench in Lafayette Park facing the White House. Gravel and I were in the park, along with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and other anti-war activists, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a sparsely attended rally. Few voices in American politics have been as consistent, as reasoned and as moral as his, which is why Gravel, on a chilly December morning, is in front of the White House, not inside it.

Hedges is one powerful writer!

Please add more links in the comments. I’m sure I missed something big….

HAVE A MARVELOUS MONDAY!!!!!!!!!

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Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

For me the biggest news of the day comes from Jeremy Scahill’s revelations about the relationship between Blackwater (aka Xe) head Eric Prince and the CIA. According to Scahill Prince has been working as a CIA asset for years, and that Blackwater contractors with U.S. backing are effectively engaging in a covert war in Pakistan.

In addition, Scahill revealed that there are more than 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan now in addition to the 100,000 U.S. military troops who will be there after Obama’s latest troop “surge.” Scahill wrote the cover story for this week’s The Nation. Unfortunately the story is not yet available on-line to non-subscribers. However Scahill did appear on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program last night. Here is the video.

A few days ago, Scahill also talked about his latest Blackwater research in an interview with Laura Flanders:

There is also a major story on Eric Prince in the January issue of Vanity Fair.

I put myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.

I haven’t had time to read the full interview yet. I hope to get to it over the weekend.


In other news….

Top Congressional Researcher on Afghanistan Fired

The top congressional official who oversees research on foreign policy and defense issues, including the war in Afghanistan, has been fired from his job after publishing a newspaper op-ed criticizing the Obama administration’s recent decision about bringing Guantánamo detainees to trial.

Morris Davis, the assistant director of the Congressional Research Service’s foreign policy and defense division and the former chief prosecutor of the U.S. military commissions, says that the American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge his dismissal in a letter to CRS’s longtime director, Daniel Mulhollan, on Friday. The letter will contend that Mulhollan violated Davis’s First Amendment rights to free speech by firing him and will threaten the service with a lawsuit if he is not reinstated, says an ACLU spokeswoman.

Politico thinks the Massachusetts Senate Race is boring Could that be because a woman–Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley–is leading the race by double digits? Politico seems disappointed that there are no Kennedys in the race. Massachusetts citizens are more interested in electing a Senator who will be responsive to their needs than having a celebrity studded primary.

Get this–according to Politico, Michael Capuano, Coakley’s nearest rival, is terrified of a “Rick Lazio moment.”

“We all learned from his mistake,” Capuano said in an interview of the former New York congressman’s debate badgering of Hillary Clinton, which has become political shorthand for what male candidates ought not to do against female opponents. “There are certain rules of engagement.”

It’s not just debates where the gender issue has surfaced — it hangs over the campaign because of the otherwise liberal state’s not-so-progressive history when it comes to women candidates….

…in last year’s historic Democratic presidential primary, much of the state’s political establishment — including the governor and both senators — rallied behind the man over the woman.

“That left a bad taste in women’s mouths,” said Marsh, adding that it seems to be playing out again this year, with nearly all of the men in the House delegation backing their colleague.

Oh really? Izzat so. Poor Mikey C., getting beat up by woman because of the “rules of engagement.”

Also from Politico, a number of opinion leaders weigh in on whether Ben Bernacke should get four more years as head of the Fed.

President Obama is running some PR operation and calling it a “jobs summit,” but The New York Times reports that there won’t be any money to speak of to back up any job creation effort by the administration. That’s as to be expected–unlimited funds for bankers and war, while middle-class, working-class, and poor Americans can go f**k themselves.

Mr. Obama said he would entertain “every demonstrably good idea” for creating jobs, but he cautioned that “our resources are limited.”

The president said he would announce some new ideas of his own next week. One of those, he indicated when he participated in a discussion group on clean energy, would be a program of weatherization incentives for homeowners and small businesses modeled on the popular “cash for clunkers” program.

What about the people who have lost their houses Mr. President–and the people who were already homeless? What kind of weatherization program will you recommend for them. I can’t wait for the big speech!

The Wall Street Journal reports that Allentown, PA workers and business people may not welcome President Obama’s “Main Street tour” with open arms.


Main Street Tour Faces Frosty Greeting

When President Barack Obama launches a multicity tour Friday to take Main Street’s temperature, he will likely get a cool reception from business leaders and workers here who say he hasn’t delivered.

Swing voters in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley helped Mr. Obama win this pivotal, populous state. But the region’s jobless rate inched up another half percentage point in October to 9.8%. About 41,000 people are out of work, the highest number since 1984.

Finally, here’s a “just for fun” story:


Cat Cams: What DO Cats Do Home Alone?

Fifty house cats were given collar cameras that took a photo every 15 minutes. The results put a digital dent in some human theories about catnapping.

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

What are you reading this morning? Please post links in the comments.


HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!

Wednesday Warmongering

19.ss_full

 


 

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

- Rudyard Kipling

 


New York Times:

 

President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional American troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux.

(“Hillary voted for the AUMF! Obama opposed the war!”)

More:

In declaring Tuesday that he would “finish the job” in Afghanistan, President Obama used a phrase clearly meant to imply that even as he deploys an additional 30,000 or so troops, he has finally figured out how to bring the eight-year-long conflict to an end.

What a fucking maroon. Obama doesn’t have the first clue how to bring the war to an end. If he did he would declare victory and bring our troops home.

(“Fairy tale is racist!”)

 


What else is happening this morning?

 

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Peter Galbraith Tells His Side of the Afghan Election Story

Peter W. Galbraith

Peter W. Galbraith

A couple of days ago, I predicted we would be hearing more from Peter Galbraith on his recent firing from his post as deputy special representative of the United Nations in Afghanistan, by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Today Galbraith tells his side of the story in The Washington Post. Galbraith says he was ordered not to talk to the press, but since the UN chief didn’t honor their agreement on the public announcement of his firing, Galbraith no longer feels bound by that agreement.

Peter Galbraith is the son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and the author of two books on the war in Iraq: The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End (2007), and Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies (2009). In 1987, Galbraith discovered Saddam Hussein’s systematic genocide of the Kurds. In 1997, Bill Clinton appointed Galbraith U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. He worked for the UN in East Timor and has taught at the National War College. Galbraith tried to convince the Reagan administration to act by writing the “Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988″
, but the bill was never passed, and Colin Powell convinced Reagan and Bush to let the gassing of the Kurds slide.

Now Galbraith is making an impassioned plea for the U.S. to recognize the fraud that took place during the recent election in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s presidential election, held Aug. 20, should have been a milestone in the country’s transition from 30 years of war to stability and democracy. Instead, it was just the opposite. As many as 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent, and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates. In several provinces, including Kandahar, four to 10 times as many votes were recorded as voters actually cast. The fraud has handed the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners. Continue reading

Message to Obama from Left, Right, and Center: Cool It!

Wearing out his welcome?

Wearing out his welcome?

Talk about pearls before swine, true lefty Harvey Wasserman, author of Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States, has a diary up at the Cheeto today. It hasn’t been very well received so far–only four recs, including mine; and the tip jar has two HRs (troll ratings). Like lots of other people across the political spectrum, Wasserman has something to say about President Obama’s “stunning rejection” by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday in Copenhagen. Wasserman draws a parallel between Obama’s condescending treatment of the IOC and his attitude toward the War in Afghanistan.

Ignoring fierce grassroots resistance in Chicago itself, the Obamas flew to Copenhagen with Mayor Richard Daley to “persuade” the International Olympic Committee to give the games to the Windy City.

Imagine yourself a member of the Olympic Committee as the almighty President of the United States and his entourage, with the world media in tow, swoops down from Olympus to tell you how to make your decision.

Are we surprised Chicago was summarily bounced?

Imagine yourself an Afghani villager as the almighty President of the United States shoots down from Olympus those murderous drones that kill your family and your neighbors, to be followed by heavily armed troops who—after eight years of brutal slaughter—now want to “help.”

Obama’s decision on Afghanistan will define the rest of his presidency—and the fate of our nation.

I wonder if Mr. Wasserman would like to write for The Confluence? I think we would give him a much better reception than the desperate Koolaid addicts at the Cheeto. Can you believe some of the Obama loyalists over there are accusing Wasserman of spreading Republican talking points? Continue reading

Friday Morning: What’s Happening?

valentine-underpants-w-hearts-picking-up-paper-784998

Good morning everyone! These are the news stories that caught my eye this morning. Be sure to add your own links in the comments.

The All-Encompassing Health Care Nightmare

Boston Globe: Democrats oppose tax in health bill

To pay for the 10-year, $856 billion bill Baucus wants to tax high-value insurance plans, those worth $21,000 for a family and $8,000 for an individual. The Montana Democrat says those are “Cadillac plans’’ enjoyed by a small minority of Americans. Aides said about 10 percent of plans and 8 percent of taxpayers could be affected.

The tax, which President Obama embraced in his speech to Congress last week, is a major source of revenue for Baucus’s bill, bringing in an estimated $215 billion over 10 years. Baucus and other supporters of the measure say it would help drive down health care costs over the long term by encouraging companies to move toward less expensive health plans and workers to use less care.

But other Democratic senators fear that the tax would reach deep into middle-class pocketbooks, and labor unions are upset. Senators John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, members of the Finance Committee, say they want to limit the tax before signing off on the bill.

“We need to make it fairer to working people so that working folks don’t get dragged into this at a level where they just don’t have the incomes to support it,’’ Kerry told reporters after a closed-door committee meeting to discuss the bill.

Insurers and business groups also oppose the new tax and other fees in the bill, and the US Chamber of Commerce is wasting no time making its objections known.

New York Times: Rockefeller stands up for liberals on health care

All summer, the White House deferred to Senator Max Baucus, the Democrat from Montana who heads the Senate Finance Committee, as he negotiated with two moderate Democrats and three Republicans. Their failure to agree on a bipartisan bill left the administration scrambling to pass an overhaul with Democratic votes alone.

And that has emboldened liberals like the 72-year-old Mr. Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat. He heads the health subcommittee of Mr. Baucus’s panel, and yet he was relegated to the sidelines as the so-called Gang of Six talked and talked. Senate liberals are now pushing for an overhaul fully on Democratic terms — legislation more like that in the House, where liberal Democrats dominate.

Washington Post: Affordability Is Major Challenge for Reform

How to make insurance more affordable to the estimated 30 million uninsured people who would be required to buy coverage under the Baucus proposal is emerging as a central challenge as the long-awaited plan advances to full committee debate Tuesday. Democrats and Republicans alike worry that a bill intended to address one source of financial hardship — the skyrocketing cost of health care — could lead to another, in the form of hefty premiums.

“It’s very clear that the driving issue of this debate is affordability, particularly for middle-class folks. And the Democratic caucus is very much committed to getting this issue right,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a Finance Committee member who said he will offer amendments next week in an effort to improve affordability and choice.

Some Senate Democrats, along with a key moderate Republican, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), are now discussing ways to increase assistance for individuals and families who could face premium costs of up to $15,000 per year by 2016. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on Baucus’s committee, is suggesting government assistance to insurance companies to help them control premium costs. And lawmakers in both parties are questioning whether Baucus’s main revenue source, an excise tax on insurance companies for their most generous insurance policies, would simply be passed on to consumers.

Continue reading

Friday Morning News

bd_morning_paper

California Wildfires

Arson caused California blaze

A massive fire that has charred nearly 145,000 acres in Southern California and destroyed dozens of homes north of Los Angeles was caused by arson, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Thursday.

A homicide investigation has been initiated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department into the deaths of two firefighters as a result of the Station fire, said spokeswoman Rita Wears. The firefighters died Sunday in a vehicle crash while trying to escape fast-moving flames.

Arson fire is most unacceptable crime, Sheriff says

Massachusetts Senate Contest

Martha Coakley has officially thrown her hat into the ring

“We face a crisis of confidence. We have lost our distinguished and tenacious senator, Ted Kennedy,” Coakley said Thursday at an event surrounded by supporters. “We have depended upon him in the commonwealth and in Washington, and we will miss his strength, his leadership and his sense of humor. As some have noted, no one can fill his shoes, but we must strive to follow in his footsteps.”

Coakley is the first candidate on either side to officially enter the race for the seat that for more than four decades was held by Kennedy, who died last week.

On a more bizarre note, former Red Sox pitcher, and right wing nut Curt Schilling would not rule out running for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

“I do have some interest in the possibility,” Schilling wrote Wednesday on his blog, 38 Pitches (named after his uniform number with the Red Sox). “That being said, to get there from where I am today, many, many things would have to align themselves.”

A registered Independent, Schilling campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004 and for John McCain last year, and often vents, in populist voice, against Washington insiders who have lost touch with constituents.

Ted Kennedy’s Autobiography

Chappaquidick haunted me ‘every day of my life’

In a memoir titled “True Compass,” to be published Sept. 14, Kennedy called his actions in the 1969 car crash that led to the death of his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne “inexcusable.” When his car drove off the bridge, he wrote, he was afraid, overwhelmed and “made terrible decisions.” The senator was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and given a two-month suspended sentence.

Writing at the end of his life, as he struggled against brain cancer, Kennedy concluded: “That night on Chappaquiddick Island ended in a horrible tragedy that haunts me every day of my life.” Forced to live with the guilt over his failure to report the accident for hours, he acknowledged that Kopechne’s family suffered far worse. “Atonement is a process that never ends,” he wrote.

The Ongoing Health Care Nightmare

Health Care Idea Has Public Plan Only as Backup

As President Obama faces conflicting pressures from the left and the right over his proposal for a new public health insurance program, White House officials are investigating a possible compromise under which the government would offer its own health plan only if private insurers failed to provide affordable coverage.

No, Mr. O, that just isn’t going to be good enough. Think again.

Obama Will Lay Out Specifics in Health-Care Speech, Aides Say

Uh huh….I’ll believe that when I see it. Obama has never been specific about any policy yet.

Don’t be fooled by the public option

The fight over the public option has occupied much of the media coverage, but left unsaid is the fact that weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations have weakened the public option proposal to the point that it is hardly an option at all.

Who’s Blocking Health Care Reform Now? Blue Dogs? Senate Dems? House Progressives? Or the White House Itself?

The only obstacle to passage of the president’s health care — or health insurance legislation is the White House itself. Barack Obama knows better than any of us the difference between what he promised and what is about to be delivered. The undeniable difference is dawning on much of the public too, and is reflected in sagging poll numbers for Democrats and the president. The dozens of Democrats who have declared they will vote against any health care — or health insurance — bill that does not contain what they call a “public option,” are only trying to insulate themselves and protect President Obama from the worst consequences of his own treachery in selling out the vision of universal health care to big pharma and the insurance companies. They aren’t blocking the president’s bill. They’re trying to ensure that there is something in the bill they can defend to the outraged public who elected them to pass health care reform.

Black Caucus warns Obama on speech

Man bites off another man’s finger at Obama health care rally in CA

Ventura County sheriff’s deputies were called to Lynn Road and Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks near Los Angeles, according to TV station KTLA.

There, an estimated 100 supporters of healthcare reform affiliated with MoveOn.org had gathered as part of a nationwide array of pre-Labor Day rallies to attract attention in support of Obama’s reform plans currently before Congress.

Instead, the rally attracted the attention of a group of anti-healthcare-reform protesters across the street….

A scuffle ensued. And the pro-protester had a finger bitten off. (Updated at 8:18 a.m.: Conflicting later reports indicate the biter was a healthcare proponent and the now nine-fingered man an opponent.)

Interview with man who had finger bitten off at town hall

State Department

U.S. Suspends $30M to Honduras

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Thursday that the United States would formally suspend nearly $30 million in aid to the coup-installed government in Honduras. She also suggested for the first time that the United States might not recognize the country’s elections this fall if the ousted president was not returned to power by then.

How will Hillary Clinton, State Department respond to obscene behavior at U.S. embassy?

U.S. embassy in Kabul bans alcohol at guard camp

Torture

Report Suggests Physicians Experimented on Detainees in U.S. Custody

CIA doctors face human experimentation claims

The American Medical Association, the largest body of physicians in the US, said it was in open dialogue with the Obama administration and other government agencies over the role of doctors. “The participation of physicians in torture and interrogation is a violation of core ethical values,” it said.

The most incendiary accusation of PHR’s latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA’s interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was “a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation”.

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.

Has everyone completely forgotten about MK-Ultra? More on MK-ULtra:

Project MK-ULTRA, or MKULTRA, was the code name for a covert CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used United States citizens as its test subjects.[1][2][3] The published evidence indicates that Project MK-ULTRA involved the surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methods, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.

Project MK-ULTRA was first brought to wide public attention in 1975 by the U.S. Congress, through investigations by the Church Committee, and by a presidential commission known as the Rockefeller Commission. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-ULTRA files destroyed in 1973; the Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations relied on the sworn testimony of direct participants and on the relatively small number of documents that survived Helms’ destruction order.[4]

Although the CIA insists that MK-ULTRA-type experiments have been abandoned, 14-year CIA veteran Victor Marchetti has stated in various interviews that the CIA routinely conducts disinformation campaigns and that CIA mind control research continued. In a 1977 interview, Marchetti specifically called the CIA claim that MK-ULTRA was abandoned a “cover story.”[5][6]

Doesn’t anyone remember the Church hearings? Come on people, the seventies weren’t *that* long ago.

Afghanistan

Obama’s meaningless war

Gates open to sending more troops to Afghanistan

Afghanistan War is not slipping away

Famous last words before Gates goes the way of Rumsfeld?

Science and Nature

Are there specific genes that make us uniquely human?

New Antibodies to HIV found

Arctic warmest in 2,000 years

We’re all mutants, say scientists

Oddball News: Boston Gangsters

Famed Boston gangster Whitey Bulger turned 80 on Thursday.

Whitey Bulger needs his candles blown out

FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive

Where the heck is he, anyway?

Former mob underboss laid to rest

The Two Dons are Dead

Have a Fabulous Friday!!

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Thursday Morning at The Confluence: Going to Carolina in My Mind

Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshire?

Here in the Boston area, you can hardly tell day from night anymore. The gray skies and rain have been with us day after day for more than a month. July 2, and it’s 57 degrees outside my house. I had to turn the furnace on for awhile last night! What the heck is going on with our weather?

The Eastern U.S. was expected to continue seeing severe storm development on Thursday from a slow-moving low pressure system hovering over the Great Lakes region.

Widespread scattered showers were to continue across the Northeast and New England, with moderate to heavy showers over New York.

A slow-moving low pressure system? I’ll say it’s slow-moving. It’s been hovering over us since May. Will we ever see the sun again? That’s what I want to know.

So what else is happening out there?
BostonRedSoxLogo
This time the Red Sox stole a win from the Orioles, rallying in the ninth inning for a 6-5 win.

One day after the team had left shards of dignity on the field at Camden Yards, their best-in-baseball bullpen obliterated by 10 runs in two innings, the Sox were down by four runs with three outs to go.

But Dustin Pedroia worked a walk. And, as Orioles manager Dave Trembley said afterward, “If you’re going to walk people, it’s not the time to do it in the ninth inning.’’

[....]

It spiraled, spurred on by an energizing two-run home run by Kevin Youkilis, and ended two innings later on a redemptive single by Lugo that capped off a 6-5 triumph in 11 innings that turned the night before on its head, turned the series around, and left the Sox with a celebration for the plane ride home.

And the Red Sox still lead the Yankees in the American League East by 2.5 games. All right! It sure doesn’t feel like summer, but at least the Red Sox are doing well.

Politics

Moving on from New England-centric news, in politics, Chris Cillizza has a lengthy wrap-up of how Al Franken finally won the Minnesota Senate seat from Norm Coleman. Apparently Franken had good lawyers and consultants, and he was smart to stay out of the limelight during his long legal battle.

Right wing blogs are still buzzing over the Helen Thomas-led mutiny of the White House press against the Obama administration’s worse-than-Nixon efforts to control public perceptions. That Robert Gibbs sure is a smarmy, arrogant SOB, isn’t he? Continue reading

Afghanistan: “Obama’s War”

This was the lead story – front-page, above-the-fold-in yesterday’s edition of USA Today: Obama’s war: Deploying 17,000 raises stakes in Afghanistan.

I found this striking because almost every other news venue was covering economic issues, devoting attention either to the slightly expanded mortgage-holder relief program that the Obama administration is beginning to push or the new requests for billions of dollar in corporate welfare requested by GM and Chrysler.

Like most Americans, I cannot judge how much of a threat to international or national peace the Taleban continues to pose: I simply do not have access to the relevant information. But I do think we need to keep an eye on foreign military adventures as we ride the all-too-adventurous roller-coaster of economic affairs.

This deployment to Afghanistan, while not at all expected, is scheduled to occur before any draw downs in troops in Iraq. That’s worrisome. But what is also worrisome is the tendency Presidents have to use military buildups to jumpstart the economy. How will be know whether the build-up in Afghanistan addresses national security (we have the same Secretary of Defense we had under the George W. Bush administration) or whether it is serving as a locus of unquestionable spending, rather like Operation Desert Shield during the George H.W. Bush term or Grenada during the Reagan years?

For those of us who would like to see government spending meant to help the economy concentrated on domestic infrastructure, rebuilding our own country rather than ravaging another one, how will we hold this administration accountable for assuring us that it is not using the good old military-industrial complex and the new tactic of shouting “terrorist” to siphon funds to the special interest groups that will push for military spending in Afghanistan but who have little or no interest in domestic improvements?

Obama Keeps A Promise

article-1035293-01f0dd9700000578-382_468x286The news media is all a-twitter about President Black Obama’s decision to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan, like this is something newAll accounts suggest the decision is in response to a standing request by General David McKiernan, but, it seems more likely to be a campaign promise fulfilled.  In his own words, here’s what he said in the New York Times in July:

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

In January of 2008, the video below was posted on You Tube, and, though he has been accused of blowing off Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the subject, going after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan is probably the one thing Barack Obama has been consistent about since Day One.

X-posted at Cinie’s World

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