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    • The End of the Rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s Future
      We’re down to street fighting in Donetsk.  The Russian leaders resigned in the last two weeks.  The rebels appear to be done, at least in terms of their conventional military phase (of course, I could be wrong depending on how much stomach Ukrainian troops have for house to house fighting).  It seems like that would [...]
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“Never attribute to malice…

…that which can adequately be explained by stupidity”

- Robert Hanlon

For those who are curious, I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been living in interesting times, in the Chinese sense of the term.  I’d love to be a passive observer, sort of an anthropologist, watching fault lines develop and empires rise and fall.  There’s a book to be written about this period of time when the Ozymandius we call the American Dream started to crumble. Fortunately, there will be plenty of documentation for the future author to sift through. Oh, well, it’s very hard to reverse the bad decisions of 2008 when the king makers deceived the general public.  Who could have guessed that Obama would be the guy most likely to reintroduce feudalism?

Um, actually, I think we might have been on to that.  But whatchagonnado?  We’re just a bunch of uneducated working class menopausal sino-peruvian lesbians.  (Sorry, myiq)

Anyway, I thought I’d weigh in on topics I haven’t been following closely because we are all entitled to our own uninformed opinion.

Elena Kagan: All I need to know about Kagan is that Obama is appointing her.  Perhaps this is unfair guilt by association but as I’ve said before, “nothing good grows from a bad seed”.  Obama’s meteoric rise to fame and glory had some notable unpleasant features and starred some very bad actors giving him scads of money and encouraging party officials to reshape the rules to favor a predetermined outcome regardless of the voters’ sentiments.  That was a bad sign of things to come and our concerns were largely born out.  If you want to see what this has done to the party as a whole, you need look no further than BTD’s post from yesterday and the exchange in the comments that followed where several people straighten out his ass.  The Democrats really don’t know what to think about much of anything anymore.  That’s what you get when you opt for political expedience over guiding principles.

Anyway, about Kagan, I would hope that Al Franken questions her about stuff related to commerce and business and labor relationships and finance and pensions and whether investment brokers have an obligation to tell their clients what they’re really up to and free speech and net neutrality and stuff like that.  The abortion ship has sailed.  Roe never meant equality, ladies.  Let it go.  Work on getting real equality.  If the USSC wanted to outlaw abortion today, it has the votes to do it and that’s not going to change with Kagan’s vote.  If it remains the law of the land, it’s only because both parties find it politically expedient, except now we know that the Democrats are hyprocrites.  Let this be a warning to young Democratic women.  Never join a club that has less than 34% women.  If Democrats want my vote back, they’d be wise to implement a quota system in their party membership guaranteeing no less than 34% women running for office.  Scandanavian political parties have a quota system and they have some of the highest living standards and gender equality statistics in the world. But we can save an argument in favor of gender equality in the political parties for another post.  Let’s just say it’s past due and there are very good arguments in favor of it.

Facebook: As many of you may have discovered, I am not a facebook addict.  Send me an invite and I’m likely to ignore it.  I like friends as much as the next person and believe me, it’s not personal.  But I just don’t like the idea of facebook, it’s kludgy interface or the pressure to join it.  In my humble opinion, I feel it has the potential to become the tool to use for social engineering.  Imagine an army of Obot marketers and political psychologists getting their tentacles into facebook through some back room deal with facebook’s founder. The very thought gives me chills.   It would be like the Big Orange Cheeto on crystal meth.  Before you knew it, half the country could be convinced that social security is a commie plot and Democrats have always been against it.  I love to connect with people but prefer my GD independence.  If I wanted peer pressure, I could attend a DFA event.  Not really my thing.  I know some of you don’t see the harm in it and that’s ok.  But that’s how consensus reality works.  You get subsumed into the culture of a thing and before you know it, your perception has changed.  And when your reality is shaped by another entity, how are you going to be sure you’re making up your own mind?

I’ve been following some of the controversy around facebook privacy settings.  This Week in Google, had a very good discussion around the facebook issue and the potential dangers.  (the facebook discussion starts about 1/3 of the way through the podcast)  Also, Al Franken has instructions if you want to disentangle yourself from facebook.  Your choice.

Or it *should* be.

I’ve got a lot of things to say but limited time these days.  But as I watch events around me, I continue to be surprised, but not at all astonished, at the level of incompetence and pointless ambition of the people who we have entrusted to run things.  I can’t imagine why BTD wouldn’t want Bill Clinton back at times like these.  Nor can I understand why the Democrats would slit their throats and destroy the country rather than do the right thing.  If there’s an enthusiasm gap with voters, they brought it on themselves through what I hope is just stupidity. So, to them and all the other clueless who are cannibalizing each other these days, um, have a nice day.

Saturday News: Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagen?

Good Morning Conflucians!!

I’m even more spacey today than I was yesterday. Now that I finish turning my final grades, my body and mind want me to drop everything and state into space for a few hours, then go back to sleep. Of could I’m still going to have to deal with the barrage of e-mail complaints from students who think they should have gotten an A even though their semester average was in the B- range. And then there are the ones who want me to give them a C even though they failed all the exams. {{Heavy sigh….}}

So anyway….I did stare into space for a long time and listened to the thunder and lightning outside….finally decided to focus on Elena Kagan’s supposedly immanent nomination for SCOTUS. I don’t know if the WH just leaked her name to get a preview of the reactions or if Obama really plans to submit her name next week. We’ll see, I guess. In the meantime, everyone is talking about it and breaking down her record.

Here’s the latest reaction from Glenn Greenwald. He pulls together most of the criticism of Kagan. And here is his original Case Against Elena Kagan, which we have already discussed at TC.

Much of the criticism has been of Kagan’s hiring record at Harvard, where she mostly hired white men. Some of the most pithy articles I read:

The White House’s Kagan Talking Points are Wrong

The White House’s primary response — like the magician performing a trick–is to point our attention elsewhere. The White House says the hiring numbers are misleading because they do not reflect the number of offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. But this seems a bit hard to believe. Do women and people of color find a tenured or tenure-track professorship at Harvard Law School less attractive than white men? Do they really prefer to teach at less prestigious schools? Or if they only prefer not to teach at Harvard because of perceived hostilities to women and people of color, why is it that Kagan could somehow overcome these perceptions when it came to conservatives, but not women and people of color? After all, part of the praise for Kagan is that she made Harvard Law School welcoming again for conservatives—in this case, conservative white men.

In order to assess whether Dean Kagan effectively reached out to women and scholars of color, we need the number of tenure and tenure-track offers she made to women and scholars of color. But the White House does not provide us the number of tenure and tenure-track offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. In fact, they provide everything but those numbers. An honest defense would provide those numbers in the first instance. (The White House memo implicitly cites the privacy of the individuals who received offers as a basis for refusing to release names — but we wonder how many law professors would be embarrassed by the public revelation that they turned down a Harvard Law School offer.)

There is quite a bit of discussion of this article around the ‘net because it was written by three top law professors. Lots of other blogs have commented on this article. Here’s the response from Darren Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice.

From Chris Good at The Atlantic: Kagan Could Be Hard to Hit

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

Another problem for Kagan is her ties to Goldman Sachs, according to Matt Kelley of USA Today:

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute, according to the financial disclosures she filed when President Obama appointed her last year to her current post. Kagan served on the Goldman panel from 2005 through 2008, when she was dean of Harvard Law School, and received a $10,000 stipend for her service in 2008, her disclosure forms show.


And from Sam Stein at Huffpo:

On Friday, a slew of inquiries was made to the White House and Justice Department about a minor post Solicitor General Elena Kagan once held at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank under fire over controversial mortgage securities transactions. Kagan served on a Goldman advisory council between 2005 and 2008, with the task of providing expert “analysis and advice to Goldman Sachs and its clients.” For her work she earned a $10,000 stipend.

This was actually old news. Kagan disclosed this information during her first confirmation hearings for the post of Solicitor General.

Unless you’re a committed (or commitable) Obot, I can’t see why the Goldman issue should be on the table. After all, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Kagan’s previous confirmation hearings.

Charlie Savage discusses the issue of executive power and SCOTUS

As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power.

Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood.

And the there’s the “is she gay” issue. I don’t know if the Repubs will bring it up or not–maybe in sneaky ways.

There’s this from the Washington Post: Obama navigating high court nomination with more ease this time

After listing the ways the administration is handling things better, supposedly, there this:

….in other respects, the process is the same as a year ago, with senior administration officials hinting about who is on the shortlist — for the past couple of weeks, it has been Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit and Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit — but remaining relatively opaque with outside interest groups. Activists with liberal interest groups said White House officials have kept open communication lines but have been circumspect about Obama’s thinking. “The contact has typically been one-way, which is, ‘We’ll hear what you want to tell us,’ ” said one activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending the administration.

Another said that there have been several meetings but that the White House has not much shared its point of view. Still, one outside source said the president’s preference is less apparent than at the same point a year ago, just before he nominated Sotomayor. “Last time around, you knew Sotomayor was going to be the candidate,” the person said. “She was such a home run on so many different counts. . . . I would say this one is much, much, much more difficult for them.”

As the process draws to a close, officials in several groups handicapped the race as between Kagan and Garland, giving Kagan the edge. Kagan, they said, has weathered criticism from conservatives and liberals. The left has criticized her defense of some of the terrorism policies of the George W. Bush administration, although her defenders point out that she was only representing the policies of the Obama administration.

Via Greenwald, there’s also this horrifying headline: Supreme Court Watchers Wonder: How Conservative Is Kagan?

If Obama nominates her, I’d have to guess she is pretty conservative.

What do you think? And what are you reading today? Have a great Saturday, and I apologize for my lack of energy this morning.

Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

Spring Morning

Good Morning Conflucians!! TGIF! And it’s Spring! What more could we wish for? How about a little bit of socialism? The tea party folks decry it, but what do they know? Not much. Check out this story from The Boston Globe on the recent tea party rally in New England, featuring Sarah Palin (via Reclusive Leftist).

Early yesterday morning, Valerie and Rob Shirk corralled their 10 home-schooled children into their van for the 2 1/2-hour drive from their home in Connecticut to Boston, arriving just in time to hear Sarah Palin denounce government-run health care at the tea party movement rally on Boston Common.

They thought it would be a learning opportunity for their children, who range in age from 9 months to 15 years old and who held up signs criticizing the government for defying the “will of the people.’’

“The problem in this country is that too many people are looking for handouts,’’ said Valerie Shirk, 43, of Prospect, Conn [....]

The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation’s new health reforms.

When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband’s income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.

“I know there’s a dichotomy because of what we get from the state,’’ she said. “But I just look at each of my children as a blessing.’’

Shirk? That can’t be their real name, can it? It’s just too perfect.

Here are a few other stories I’ve been reading this morning. From the New York Times:

C.I.A. Document Details Destruction of Tapes

Porter J. Goss, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in 2005 approved of the decision by one of his top aides to destroy dozens of videotapes documenting the brutal interrogation of two detainees, according to an internal C.I.A. document released Thursday.

Shortly after the tapes were destroyed at the order of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, Mr. Goss told Mr. Rodriguez that he “agreed” with the decision, according to the document. He even joked after Mr. Rodriguez offered to “take the heat” for destroying the tapes.

“PG laughed and said that actually, it would be he, PG, who would take the heat,” according to one document, an internal C.I.A. e-mail message.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Mr. Goss did not approve the destruction before it happened, and was displeased that Mr. Rodriguez did not consult him or the C.I.A.’s top lawyer before giving the order for the tapes to be destroyed.

It’s so nice to know that the rule of law is still such an important guiding principle in Washington, isn’t it?

Reuters: Foreclosure Actions Spike Despite Aid

The government aid, intensified in late March, has so far failed to overcome the staggering effects of nearly double-digit unemployment and wage cuts on borrowers.

Foreclosure activity jumped 19 percent to a monthly record in March, driving first-quarter actions up 7 percent from the prior quarter and 16 percent from a year ago to a record of more than 932,000 properties.

One in every 138 U.S. households got a foreclosure filing in the quarter such as a notice of default, auction or bank repossession.

Banks took back more than 257,000 properties in the quarter, a record high, putting repossessions on pace to shatter last year’s record of more than 918,000 properties.

“If there’s going to be a modification program that really has a material effect this year, it’s not there yet,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, told Reuters.

Ahhhhh…good times! You just knew if we voted for “the Democrat” those happy days were coming back, didn’t you? If only the Democratic Party had nominated a Democrat, it might have happened.

Neil Armstrong is angry with President Obama for ruling out future manned moon landings.

In an open letter obtained by NBC News, the first man to set foot on the moon takes Obama to task for marginalizing NASA and the nation’s space program.

“For the United States, the leading space-faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature,” wrote Armstrong in a letter also signed by Apollo 13 commander James Lovell and Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan.

But hey…what do they know? Anyway, Gregg Easterbrook says, Get over the moon. We need NASA to save the Earth. Easterbrook thinks a better job for NASA would be preventing a giant asteroid from striking Earth.

Just because an asteroid strike was the premise of a ridiculous Bruce Willis movie is no reason to think this can’t happen. As recently as a few decades ago, researchers believed asteroid strikes were extremely unlikely, or had been confided to the mists of the far past. Recent research shows that near-Earth asteroids are far more common than thought, while major strikes have occurred much too recently for comfort: including a probable asteroid strike in the year 536 that might have caused mass extinctions, if the rock had hit land instead of the ocean. Here is detail on asteroid-threat research. And here is the running count of asteroids that might threaten Earth – 280 as of Wednesday, and nearly all of them discovered in the last 10 years.

Yet NASA has no program to counter an asteroid threat – not one piece of equipment in development. This 2008 Air Force “war game” concluded that it would be possible to deflect an asteroid away from Earth, but that five to 10 years of preparation would be needed. So why are we gambling the existence of humanity by doing nothing? True, an asteroid-deflection rocket might never be used. But we built ICBMs in the hopes they would never be used. And an asteroid-deflecting project should cost substantially less than the amount NASA is eager to waste on the Moon.

One can appreciate that neither the space agency, nor the White House, wants to announce a program that sounds like a Bruce Willis movie. But the threat is genuine, and if we wait until a large asteroid is observed approaching, it will be too late. Unlike a Moon base, asteroid protection could return tangible benefits to the taxpayer. Stopping an asteroid from striking the Earth could be, well, the greatest achievement in human history. Didn’t somebody say NASA needs an inspirational mission?

Good idea! OTOH, if an asteroid wiped out humankind, the tea partiers wouldn’t have to worry about socialism anymore, and the rest of us wouldn’t have to worry about torture, illegal spying, lack of Habeas Corpus rights, and our current rapid slide into corporatist tyranny. And speaking of large objects approaching Earth from space….

People are still talking about the meteor that lit up the skies over Wisconsin and the Midwest.

It was an impressive sight to see and if you missed it this is what the meteor looked like from a dashcam inside a Bayside police car.

Alec Preston saw it in real time. “It was white first and a tail kind of grew and then in turned bright green, said Preston. “I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately and I was like what could this possible be.”

It was also captured on a dashcam from a sheriff’s squad car in Portage, Wisconsin.

In Iowa, the meteor looked like a mid air explosion on another police car dashcam.

Video available at the link.

In the category of “everything old is new again,” Democrats are wooing Senator Susan Collins of Maine again. That woman sure does know how to get attention from Democrats. This time she’s playing hard to get on the “Financial reform” bill. And, of course The Hill is calling Collins a “centrist” again… {sigh….}

A GOP aide said Collins is the only Republican senator who has not signed a letter promising to filibuster a motion to proceed to the bill unless Democrats reopen bipartisan negotiations. The letter has not been made public.

In order to torpedo the measure crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs 41 votes.

Feeling the wind at their backs, Senate Democrats say they will vote next week on the legislation. But it’s unclear if they have the 60 votes necessary after an intense whipping effort this week by Senate GOP leaders.

Whatever…I’m relatively confident that it’s not going to be real reform anyway.

And finally, Howard Kurtz reports that CBS is spreading rumors about Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation.

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”

Didn’t the corporate media do something similar to Sonia Sotomayor? You mean we could end up with two lesbian Supreme Court Justices? Maybe then all the right wingers on the court would resign? Now that’s a great Friday morning fantasy.

So what are you reading this lovely spring morning? Have a fabulous Friday everyone–and post your links freely in the comments.

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