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    • What Toronto’s Election Means for Progressive Viability
      As many have heard, John Tory, the mainstream right wing candidate, won convincingly in Toronto and Olivia Chow came in third place, even doing worse than Doug Ford (brother of the famous crack-smoking Rob Ford.)  Much hand wringing has ensued that progressive just can’t win elections in Toronto. While it’s true that Toronto is hard [...]
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Friday Spaced-Out News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!

I’m getting a slow start today. I’ve been surfing around, and there is quite a bit of news out there, but no overarching theme that I can see. I’m a little spacey though, as I always am at the end of a semester.

I usually get to the point where I’m running on adrenalin, and as I get close to the end, I can feel that my body and mind are just about ready to shut down for a couple of days. I still have a little work to do, so I’m trying to stay alert and keep that adrenalin flowing just a little bit longer.

The British election ended this morning in a “hung Parliament.” I don’t know too much about British politics, so I hope someone else may be able to explain what all this means.

Map of election results at the Independent

BBC: What next for each party in event of a hung Parliament?

The constitutional convention states that – in the event of no party winning a majority – the sitting prime minister remains in place until he decides he cannot form a government and chooses to resign.

After returning to 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown has said it is his “duty to play his part” in securing a strong and stable government in the next few days.

He has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell to arrange for the Civil Service to provide support on request to parties engaged in discussions on the formation of government.

It is likely he will approach the Liberal Democrats to try and agree some form of coalition deal – a stance backed by senior Labour figures.

But it sounds like the Libdems have already sided with the Tories:

Cameron has ‘first right’ to form government, says Nick Clegg

David Cameron was today offered the keys to 10 Downing Street, after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the Conservatives had the “first right” to seek to form a government in Britain’s first hung Parliament since 1974.

The Conservative leader will give his initial public response in a statement at 2.30 this afternoon, but it was thought far from certain that he would accept any deal with the Lib Dems which included reform of Westminster’s first-past-the-post voting system.

I’m clueless–someone please help me understand this.

Some creepy news related to the health care deform bill: Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

The chairman of the Democratic Party in PA has issues a “stern warning” to party members, and says a win for Sestak in the primary would be “cataclysmic.”

As polls show Sestak, a second-term House member from the Philadelphia suburbs, cutting Specter’s advantage to single digits, Chairman T.J. Rooney told POLITICO in an interview that “if we want to keep this seat in Democratic hands, the only person capable of delivering that victory is Arlen Specter.” [....]

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showed Specter’s once formidable double-digit lead narrowing to only 8 percentage points, 47 percent to 39 percent. By midweek, the tracking poll sponsored by Muhlenberg College and the Allentown Morning Call showed Specter ahead by only 5 percentage points.

“Momentum is clearly on Sestak’s side at this point,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Well, I’m rooting for Sestak anyway. I just don’t see Arlen Specter as much of a Democrat.

Some interesting commentary on The New York Times’ biased coverage of the BP oil spill: A Gusher From the Newspaper of Record by Richard Ward at Counterpunch.

A couple of days ago I sent a comment in response to an article written by John M. Broder and Tom Zeller Jr. (“Gulf Oil Spill is Bad, but How Bad?” 5/3/10) that sounded like it could have come from the BP public relations department, downplaying the effects of the blowout in The Gulf of Mexico. Arguably the worst part of the article was a gross factual error stating that the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait in 1991 released 36 billion gallons of crude into the Persian Gulf. My comment: “Whoa! The Iraqis released nowhere near 36 billion gallons of crude in the Persian Gulf. The highest estimates are 500 million gallons. Somebody needs to activate the NYT’s fact checker. This is a real gusher. What’s going on here?”

The Times did not print this. A few hours later I tried again. Same comment, same result. Either they chose not to publish it or it wasn’t getting through. The next day I tried again, a sort of experiment, commenting on another article about the blowout, this time adopting a decidedly different tone: “Let’s all calm down and get a grip. In three weeks all this will be a memory. The best minds in the business are dealing with this. Relax people. Kudos to the Times for presenting us with a balanced point of view.” Not only did they print the comment, they put it in their highlight section, “a selection of the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.”

Speaking of gushers: Actress Scarlett Johansson Gushes She’s Drunk the ‘Kool-Aid’ of ‘Amazing’ Obama. Johansson:

admitted on Wednesday night’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson that she was amongst those who “drank the Kool-aid” at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday where she found him “amazing” and “hilarious.”

Obama administration continues its fight against the first amendment: Pentagon Bans Four Journalists From Guantanamo Bay for revealing name of witness.

The four journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. They are not being thrown off the base, but, as of now, they are barred from returning. [....]

While the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, issued an admonition yesterday for reporters to respect the anonymity of the classified witnesses, he did not rule that any reporter here had violated the protected order. The decision to block the four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay is a matter of policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And those four are not the only ones within the press corps here to have reported Interrogator #1’s name.

Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge.

Huffpo: Senate Votes For Wall Street; Megabanks To Remain Behemoths

A move to break up major Wall Street banks failed Thursday night by a vote of 61 to 33.

Three Republicans, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Ensign of Nevada, voted with 30 Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in support of the provision. The author of the pending overall financial reform bill in the Senate, Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, voted against it. (See the full roll call.)

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

I guess most Senators would rather bring down the system than give up their campaign contributions from Wall Street.

Newsweek: Why the Media Ignored the Nashville Flood

As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.

Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines—the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill—the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results—many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”

Mike Allen at Politico says Obama will nominate Elena Kagan to SCOTUS next week, and he will also ask for a line-item veto (Dear God, no!)

NYT: Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans

Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all and left their imprint in the human genome, a team of biologists has reported in the first detailed analysis of the Neanderthal genetic sequence. [....]

Scientists say they have recovered 60 percent of the genome so far and hope to complete it. By comparing that genome with those of various present day humans, the team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role in human evolution, they said.

Experts believe that the Neanderthal genome sequence will be of extraordinary importance in understanding human evolutionary history since the two species split some 600,000 years ago.

The article also includes comments from a number of archaeologists and paleontologists who are skeptical of the conclusions of this study.

Here’s a new movie documentary that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That’s all I’ve got this morning. What are you reading? Please share. And have a fabulous Friday!!!!

The Brits are Bored with Barack

Brown and Obama meet the press

Brown and Obama meet the press

First thing this morning, commenter Fif, posted a link to a hilarious blog entry by Iain Martin at the Telegraph UK,
“Barack Obama really does go on a bit.”

Isn’t it time for him to go home yet? It is good, in theory, that the new President of the United States is taking so much time to tour Europe. He arrived in London last Tuesday, has been to Strasbourg, Prague yesterday and now he’s off to Turkey. It shows, I suppose, that he cares about the outside world and that is ‘A Good Thing’. But his long stay means that we are hearing rather a lot from him, way too much in fact.

His speeches have long under-delivered, usually leaving a faintly empty sensation in this listener even though I welcomed, moderately, his victory last year as offering the possibility of a fresh start and a boost to confidence.

Yet, we are told that he is a great orator and in one way he certainly is. He does have a preternatural calm in the spotlight and a mastery of the cadences we associate with the notable speakers in US history – such as JFK and MLK. But beyond that, am I alone in finding him increasingly to be something of a bore?

It looks like the Brits–at least the Conservative ones–are beginning to discover the real Barack Obama. His hopey changey act gets old very quickly unless you’re an adolescent with no basis for comparison except George W. Bush speeches or you have suffered acute brain damage from overdosing on Kool-aid.

Martin writes of Obama’s speech in Prague:

Today, we were treated to another set-piece Obama speech, and my didn’t he go on a bit? The crowd in Prague was huge, and initially wildly enthusiastic, but what he served up was not any more impressive than his damp squib in Berlin last year. Is there a computer which churns this stuff out for him?

Martin has also noticed Obama’s embarrassing, over-the-top narcissism.

“When I was born,” (Everything usually leads back to him, you’ll notice)… “the world was divided, and our nations were faced with very different circumstances. Few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become an American President.” (Him again)…

“Few people would have predicted that an American President would one day be permitted to speak to an audience like this in Prague. And few would have imagined that the Czech Republic would become a free nation, a member of NATO, and a leader of a united Europe. Those ideas would have been dismissed as dreams”.

{Sigh} Can we really stand four years of this guy? It’s the same way in all his speeches. He always comes back to himself and the wonder of it all: his specialness, his amazing achievements, his judgement, his ability to bring people together, etc., etc. By the way, don’t miss the comments on the Martin post.

In the Daily Mail, another British blogger, Quentin Letts rips Gordon Brown up, down, and sideways for his fawning treatment of the U.S. President at their joint press conference last week. Of Obama, Letts writes:

Allegedly the most charismatic politician in the world, Mr Obama was a disappointment. It sounded as though he had a blocked nose and so his lack of energy may have been a symptom of a cold. Jet lag, too. He probably wished he could have stayed in bed….

He spoke slowly, in a meandering manner. Some might say that he was thoughtful and professorial. Others might call his manner circuitous, even yarny. Am I saying that he was a bore? Oh dear. I find that I possibly am.

Ouch!

Letts on Obama’s responses to questions from the press:

Those replies were, as I say, on the chewy side and came out at the speed of an action replay on Match of the Day.

So slow, in fact, that at one point a man from the Guardian dropped his tape recorder on the floor. Mr Obama’s best moment was when he was charming about the Queen.

Our old donkey Gordon, by comparison to this American visitor, was for once Mr Eloquent, Mr Quick-Off-The-Mark.

Mr Obama had managed to make Mr Brown look good. Another amazing achievement.

Oh my, those British bloggers really know how to cut to the quick. But Obama really wowed every one during the campaign. He’s the second coming of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy! At least that’s what we heard again and again from the Obot media and bloggers. Just check out this doozy of a stump speech.


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Presidentin’ Is Hard

20obama1480Though I make no claims of being a financial wizard, or a political maven, even I can see that all is not right on Wall Street, D.C. where the heart and soul of our country is on life support, currently being administered to by second graders who want to be doctors when they grow up.  And, I’m sophisticated enough to recognize that a lot of what I read about our dire national situation is presented in the media by people representing the political party so far out of favor they have to look to bloviating blowhards for advice, or worse, can be made to appear to need to do so.  I get that.  However, in spite of all that, the forces pretending to represent the white-hatted good guys in this classic Adventures in Administration movie, armed with their heralded sky-high approval ratings for their poor man’s Dark Gable leading man, simply can’t mount enough of a stampede to disguise the fact that the dustcloud that follows them like Charlie Brown’s pal Pigpen’s is not the result of riding hard and strong over the dusty trail, but merely the wispy smoke trails from their “throw ‘em off the path,” hastily built, diversionary cookfire.  In other words, they got nothing.

Stalwart bastion of the Obamedia protection service, Salon Magazine, has an article by former Clinton labor secretary and Obacolyte, Robert Reich, in which he pitifully attempts to pooh-pooh rightwing claims that the Obamessiah himself is responsible for our economic woes by trying to lay them at the feet of the finger-pointers:

When it turns out that people like Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, who took home $68 million in 1997, was the only Wall Streeter in a meeting last September at the New York Federal Reserve to discuss the initial AIG bailout with Tim Geithner, then New York Fed chair, among others, at the very time Goldman was AIG’s largest trading partner, a distinct scent of self-dealing begins to emanate. When it turns out that Citigroup got a bailout deal last October far more generous than that given to any other distressed bank, when a top Citi executive was advising the Treasury and Fed, the scent increases. Goldman’s past CEO was treasury secretary at that time, by the way, and another former Goldman CEO was a top Citi official and also a former treasury secretary. I am not suggesting anything so crude as corruption. But could it be, given these tangled webs, that — innocently, unintentionally, perhaps even subconsciously — the entire bailout effort was premised on saving these companies rather than protecting the public? Or that the distinction between the two was lost, and still is?

Yet, Reich gleefully and disingenuously, ignores the fact that the people he’s defending his ObaMaster against are the people who funded his campaign.  Not only that, the central figure in Reich’s little morality play, Turbo Tax Timmy Geithner, tax cheat, (TTTG,tc)  has a family history of sorts with Barry Sutoro, and is currently employed as the Blameless One’s lapdog and whipping boy.  To point out that he may have colluded with the banksters against the public in ripping off the country on the other team’s watch is…well…stupid.

Why would anyone purporting to defend the Obama administration draw attention to the man quickly becoming the public face of its incompetence?  Especially when the author can’t even make it through to the end of his own piece without acknowledging at least some of the complicity of the Obama Drama Troupe?

The Wall Street and Republican media attack machine doesn’t know exactly what to make of this. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, along with CNBC, alternates between attacking Obama for bailing out Wall Street and excusing Wall Street’s excesses. But then again, Obama doesn’t seem to know exactly what to make of it either. He seems to vacillate as well — one moment scorning Wall Street, the next moment justifying further bailouts. I do hope he takes a firmer hand, drawing a clearer distinction and making a clearer connection between clearing up these financial balance sheets and helping average people. Otherwise, the next populist uprising will be born in this moneyed quagmire. It is here — within the muck that was created by AIG, Citigroup, Fannie and Freddie, other giant financial institutions, now in combination with the U.S. Treasury and Fed — that the public is most confused, bears its most serious scars, and is potentially most burdened in future years, by decisions still made in secret.

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