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    • Ferguson and the brokenness of America’s “Justice” System
      There isn’t much to say that others haven’t, but let’s go through it anyway: There was never any chance that Darren Wilson would be charged; the prosecutor acted as defense attorney, not as prosecutor; A grand jury, for all intents and purposes does what the prosecutor tells it to; Doing the announcement at 8pm at [...]
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Saturday Morning Musings on Corporate Control and Internet Freedom

Good Morning Conflucians!!

It’s so nice to wake up to sun pouring in my windows after the horrible rains of the past couple of weeks. I guess I should consider myself fortunate that all I had to deal with was some water in the basement. And since my ex-husband liked to buy every kind of tool and gadget, I happened to have a sump pump and a shop vac down there.

Yesterday it was 70 degrees here in the northwestern Boston area, and it looks like the nice, warm weather is going to stick around for the next week.

Ah…Spring! The forsythia is coming out and lots of green stuff is appearing in the yard. Soon the cherry trees will be blooming all over the place. Somehow it’s a little easier to be optimistic at this time of year than in the dead of winter.

In my Saturday morning ramble around the blogosphere, I came across an interesting piece by Cory Doctorow: Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either) I found it thought-provoking, not because I was agonizing about whether to buy an iPad–I’m not even slightly interested in it–but because the arguments Doctorow makes are relevant to innovation in every area of life, including politics. Doctorow’s main point is that “incumbents make bad revolutionaries.”

I’ve spent ten years now on Boing Boing, finding cool things that people have done and made and writing about them. Most of the really exciting stuff hasn’t come from big corporations with enormous budgets, it’s come from experimentalist amateurs. These people were able to make stuff and put it in the public’s eye and even sell it without having to submit to the whims of a single company that had declared itself gatekeeper for your phone and other personal technology.

Doctorow argues that once any entrepreneur, no matter how visionary and innovative, gets enough power and control over a market, that entrepreneur/corporation/politician/journalist will try to corner the market and become a “gatekeeper” for what the rest of us are allowed to do, see, read, and buy.

We become nothing to them but anonymous “consumers” who will fork over our money and time and take whatever the controllers want to dole out to us. He says these gatekeepers have contempt for us as consumers–they want to “infantilize” us, keep us dependent on them, and prevent us from sharing the products we buy with others and modifying those products in ways that work for us as individuals.

Doctorow uses the example of a new iPad app offered by Marvel Comics. Not being a “comics person,” I don’t quite understand what it is, but here is Doctorow’s explanation:

I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to “enhance” its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites.

Isn’t this what is happening in every area of our lives these days? The internet has changed how we get our information and form our opinions; and the mainstream media, politicians, corporations, and the entertainment industry don’t like that one bit. They are going to fight to death to maintain control over the populace–making every effort to keep us passive and willing to settle for less than what we really need and want. As Doctorow says,

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of “content” isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed. Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert. We’ll miss your fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the Web so little that we’ll hardly notice it, and we’ll have no trouble finding material to fill the void.

Politicians are in the same boat as corporations–no wonder they have joined forces with big business in their joint efforts to control us and keep us consuming all the crap they want us to buy from them! The health care reform debacle is certainly a case in point. Most Americans want a single payer health plan–just expand Medicare to everyone and be done with it. Medicare already covers 40% of Americans, why not all of us? Medicare has very low overhead, so why should we have to buy insurance from corporations with 30% overhead?

It makes no sense, but the politicians tell us not to believe the obvious evidence that Medicare for all would be the best plan for the American people. They are going to do their best to try to convince us that we want to be forced to buy crap insurance from whomever they tell us to buy it from and that it was a fair trade-off for women to lose their reproductive freedom so that approximately 25 million more people can have crap health insurance that probably won’t provide the health care they actually need.

In 2008, the Democratic Party, along with the giant corporations who control the mainstream media, decided to force voters to sit back and just be consumers of whatever crap they decided to force down our throats. They selected a candidate for us instead of listening to what we wanted in a President. They weren’t interested in listening to us, and the President they chose for us isn’t interested in listening to what we think either.

Clearly Barack Obama and his corporate backers saw the danger of a vital, rough-and-tumble liberal blogosphere, and they realized they would have to deal with the big liberal blogs in order to win the Democratic nomination.

David Axelrod had a long history of running astroturf campaigns, and he knew just what to do. First, he needed to get young people involved. They would be attracted to a candidate who offered hope of “transformative change.” He introduced him to the product, Barack Obama, as a “transformative leader” and “inspirational speaker,” a “messiah” would would save the country from the Bush/Cheney gang.

Younger people wouldn’t know the difference. They wouldn’t really remember John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, or even Bill Clinton, all of whom were better speakers and who implemented much more transformative policies than Barack Obama was offering–even the campaign before he reverse himself on nearly every issue.

Axelrod organized Obama camps where these enthusiastic young liberals could be trained to be “ruthless for Obama,” doing whatever was necessary to sell the new product on the internet and in person.

Then he sent these young people out to infiltrate the prog blogs, especially the biggest ones–Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. What the Obama crowd didn’t bank on was people like us who were a little older and/or wiser and just weren’t all that impressed with the packaging of the product. We wanted blueprints, details and specifics. We wanted to know what the guy really thought and believed. We looked past the packaging, and we decided not to buy the product.

Since, as Marcos Moulitsas likes to say, “it’s a big internet,” we headed out into the wilderness and started our own liberal blogs. No wonder they tried so hard to kill us off during the primaries. We weren’t interested in just being consumers of a product. We wanted to have a say in our own futures. We saw the government and the Democratic party as our employees, not our masters. We wanted freedom of choice.

Now that the banks, corporations and media have won the battle, now that they have their chosen front man and they have turned the “progressive blogs” into “access bloggers,” they are still doing everything possible to limit our choices so they can stay in control of the political system and keep us from gaining any real power over our lives. They are going to fight to the death to limit our control over our own internet experience, our choices of what media to consume.

We must be eternally vigilant in preventing the government and corporations from completely neutering the internet. Interacting with each other–with more and more people around the country and the world, freely exchanging ideas and information, is our best hope for saving what is left of democracy in America. They may have won this battle, but they have not yet won the war.

I’d love to get your take on this, but as always, please post links to what you are reading in the comments. Here are a few other stories that caught my eye this morning to get you started. Have a great Saturday everyone!!

Apple’s iPad hits store shelves


The Militia Man Next Door


Urologist Posts His Politics on His Florida Office Door


Terrifying Sea Critter Hauled from the Ocean’s Depths

Finally! Scientific proof that greasy breakfasts are good for us!

Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! We had a brief two-day break in the gloomy weather, but the dank, foggy stuff is back and today we’re getting a mixture of snow and rain. I still have a cold and the worst sore throat I can remember having since I was a kid. But all that pales in comparison when I reflect upon what Barack Obama has managed to accomplish during such a short time in the White House.

More than 40 years ago, when I moved to Boston, the Catholic Church controlled the government of Massachusetts. Now, thanks to our “progressive” President, the Catholic Church controls our federal government! That Koolaid is some amazing stuff! In just a little more than a year, Obama and his Democratic Congress have managed to wipe out 40 years of advances in women’s rights! Now they are setting their sights on destroying Social Security–and accomplishing that will create new jobs too! We’ll need a lot of government workers to pick up and dispose of the bodies of elderly and disabled people who have starved and died on the street or in their homes.

What’s next? How about getting rid of DADT and restoring the old policy of no tolerance whatsoever for gays in the military? Let’s create more low-paying jobs by building debtor’s prisons, poorhouses, and orphanages where the unfortunate poor can be warehoused so the wealthy don’t have to look at them. The possibilities are endless! Ain’t it great living in a third world country?

I’ve decided to focus this post on Catholic Church news–because there is just so much of it. The Catholic Church that controls our government is embroiled in an slowly unfolding scandal that looks to be literally global. The abuse of children by Catholic priests is coming to light all over the world. Why are these people allowed to tell American women what we can do with our bodies?

NYT: Pope May Be at Crossroads on Abuse, Forced to Reconcile Policy and Words

“He is at a crossroads,” said Marco Politi, a veteran Italian Vatican journalist. “What’s extraordinary is that the scandal has reached the heart of the center of the church. Up to now it was far away — in the States, in Canada, in Brazil, in Australia. Then it came to Europe, to Ireland.

“Then it came to his motherland,” Mr. Politi added of Benedict’s native Germany. “Then it came to his diocese, and now it’s coming to the heart of the government of the church — and he has to give an answer.”


In Ireland

Irish Bishop John Magee has resigned.

Boston Herald: Irish bishop steps down amid pedophile scandal

DUBLIN – Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop yesterday for his failure to report child-molesting priests to police, amid ever-unfolding accusations that church leaders have protected child abusers for decades.

Bishop John Magee – a former papal secretary – apologized to victims of pedophile priests who were kept in parish posts during his 23 years overseeing the southwest Irish diocese of Cloyne.

“To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon,” the 73-year-old Magee said.

And another Irish Bishop, Sean Brady, may have to resign next.

Yet another Irish bishop admits child abuse failure as Vatican may force Cardinal Brady to resign

Speculation is mounting that Pope Benedict may seek the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady as the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland as another Irish bishop admits he failed to handle a sex abuse case properly.

This comes amid fresh scandal in Ireland, with the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr William Lee, admitting he managed a sex abuse allegation case in the 1990s in a “seriously inadequate” fashion.

Lee waited two years before divulging the information he had about the priest to the relevant authorities.

Activist Irish pop singer Sinead O’Connor speaks out.

Sinead O’Connor: ‘There should be a full criminal investigation of the pope’

She shot to fame 20 years ago with her shaved head, chiseled cheeks and haunting rendition of the song “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Then she gained notoriety when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on American TV, calling him “the enemy” and urging people to fight child abuse.

Sinead O’Connor is still singing. And she’s still speaking out against abuse — only now her 1992 stunt on “Saturday Night Live” almost seems prescient as the Roman Catholic Church faces a growing catalog of complaints about child sexual and physical assault by priests in her Irish homeland and across Europe


In the US

NYT: Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

Boston Herald: Vatican halted trial for Wisconsin priest accused of molesting 200 deaf boys

On Thursday, a group of clerical abuse victims provided the documentation to reporters outside the Vatican, where they staged a press conference to denounce Benedict’s handling of the case. During the conference, a policeman asked for identification and they were subsequently detained, police said.

“The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret,” said Peter Isely, Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

“This is the most incontrovertible case of pedophilia you could get,” Isely said, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger. “We need to know why he (the pope) did not let us know about him (Murphy) and why he didn’t let the police know about him and why he did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from him.”

CBS News: Rome Detains U.S. Church Abuse Protesters

Four American victims of clergy sexual abuse say they were detained and questioned by Italian police in Rome after showing photos of the pope during a news conference outside St. Peter’s Square.

Barbara Blaine, one of the victims, said Thursday after emerging from a police station near the Vatican that officers told them a judge will decide if they will be charged. She says they were detained because they didn’t have a permit for the outdoor news conference.

Time: After U.S. Abuse Revelation, the Vatican Fires Back

As the Times posted its story on the accused priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who died in 1998, the Holy See responded on the Web. In a statement linked on the Vatican’s brand new Twitter account, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Papal spokesman, declared, “By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him.” But Lombardi defended the decision not to remove Murphy from the “clerical state,” saying the priest was “elderly and in very poor health” and that he was “living in seclusion, and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years.”

Grand Forks Herald: Priest in Irish church abuse scandal had ties to North Dakota parishes

A key figure and the most notorious abuser in the Irish clergy sex scandal served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Fargo from 1979-83, where he was accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in St. Alphonsus parish in Langdon, N.D., and also served briefly in Park River and Ellendale, as well as other parishes.

The Rev. John Smythe, as he was known in North Dakota, was the Brendan Smyth who sexually assaulted boys over 30 years in Ireland and the United States and whose abuse and the cover-ups surrounding it was credited with bringing down the Irish government in late 1994.

Smyth died several years ago in prison.

In Germany

NYT: Pope Was Told Pedophile Priest Would Get Transfer

MUNICH — The future Pope Benedict XVI was kept more closely apprised of a sexual abuse case in Germany than previous church statements have suggested, raising fresh questions about his handling of a scandal unfolding under his direct supervision before he rose to the top of the church’s hierarchy.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope and archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.

Guardian UK: Pope implicated in allegations over sex abuse by second Catholic priest

Fresh revelations have been made directly implicating Pope Benedict XVI in mishandling the case of a paedophile priest in his former archdiocese of Munich. The allegations come a day after the Vatican responded angrily to the allegation that the former Cardinal Ratzinger had ignored an American diocese’s request that another predatory priest should be defrocked.

According to the New York Times, the former cardinal, as Archbishop of Munich, attended a meeting in January 1980 at which the transfer of Father Peter Hullermann from the diocese of Essen, where his parishioners had accused him of abusing boys, to Munich was agreed.

The move was meant to allow him to undergo therapy, but instead he was immediately posted to a parish in Bavaria, where he continued to abuse children.

And In Many More Countries

Swiss Catholic Church investigates 60 claims of sex abuse

The Catholic Church in Switzerland is investigating sixty claims of sexual abuse by priests, the Swiss news agency SDA reported.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln told the newspaper Mittelland-Zeitung that the church is looking into the claims. The church itself will not press charges, Werlen emphasized, and intends to advise victims to do so themselves.

Swiss Catholic Church investigating 10 abuse cases

Vatican investigating 14 sex abuse cases in Spain

Abuse cases surface in Austrian Catholic Church

More on priest abuse in Austria

Dutch Catholic Church faces child sex abuse scandal

Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal goes global

Where will it all end? Many people think the pope should resign.

Should Pope Benedict Resign the Papacy?

Pope Benedict Should Do The Right Thing And Resign So Healing Can Begin

I am ashamed – the pope should resign

Good idea, but that won’t end the corruption, IMHO. It is systemic. I would much prefer criminal prosecution. Every state in the US should have required reporting of child abuse for anyone of authority within a church or religious school, with failure to report designated a felony. Furthermore, President Obama should be mandated to stop allowing the Catholic Church to control women’s bodies.

So what are you reading this morning? All rants about anything will be accepted in the comments. Have a fabulous Friday!

The GOP beats Obama and Emanuel at 11 dimensional chess

When you're so busy being awesome that you don't notice that Republicans checkmated you 10 moves ago.

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy piece about poor put upon Rahm Emanuel.  He is so tired of all of the nasty things said about him.  He is so tired of the Republicans playing hardball.  He is so tired of Democratic activists acting retarded.  He is so tired.  Period.

He gets blamed for everything he does.

I almost feel sorry for him.  Really.  Because, ya’ know, he’s just doing his job.  There was a reason why Barack ” NOW with a WHOLE 142 days in the Senate!” Obama hired Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.  It’s because Obama didn’t know what the hell he was going to do on legislation.  He didn’t have enough experience, er, legislatin’.  He spend the great bulk of his time in the Senate getting recruited, lining up sponsors and shmoozing the Old Boys Club who liked the cut of his jib and the whack of his mashie niblick.  If Obama has any political genius at all (and I have my doubts, big time), it’s being in the right place at the right time with the right genetic mutation for melanocyte expression.  But I digress.

I found this segment about Rahm particularly interesting because it shows his usefulness to Obama:

By the time Obama was headed for victory in 2008, Emanuel’s name was coming up as an obvious choice to run the new White House. But he had other ideas. Just a few weeks before the election, we met for one of those expense-account dinners, and he flatly rejected any suggestion that he might become chief of staff. He had set his sights on eventually becoming speaker of the House of Representatives, keenly aware that Nancy Pelosi was approaching 70, as were the two others ahead of him on the Democratic ladder, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn of South Carolina. Emanuel, two decades their junior, could afford to wait them out and would still have a long tenure ahead of him in the speaker’s chair. The typical White House chief of staff, he knew all too well, lasted only two years or so. And then what?

There you go.  Obama needed someone to interface on his behalf with Congress and he needed someone who swung a big dick.  That was Emanuel’s job.  He serves at the pleasure of the president.  When he is no longer pleasuring the president, he’ll be out.  But then, Obama will have to find an Emanuel replacement.  Someone who knows who’s in, who’s out.  Someone who understands the legislative process because they’ve actually had to work it.

But replacing Rahm won’t make the legislation better or Obama more to our liking.  After all, Rahm is only carrying out what Obama wants to do.  And by the looks of it, it isn’t much.  If you read the piece, you get the idea that maybe Rahm wanted to approach health care incrementally by expanding medicaid and SCHIP.  Stuff like that might have been doable and a good stop gap measure while the Obama administration worked on more pressing issues like the economy.  Rahm would have known what this congress was capable of since he was one of the chief architects for bringing some nasty conservative actors into the Democratic fold.

(BTW, I am noticing a troubling tendency of the NYTimes to refer to these blue dog reactionary elements as ‘moderates’.  They’re not.)

The country voted in Democrats in 2008, or what they *thought* were Democrats anyway.  They could have voted in small government, tax cutting, hard hearted, authoritarian, rugged individualist, dog-eat-dog, Hobbseian, warmongering, Glenn Beck worshipping, Enron-esque Republicans instead but it appears the country was tired of them so they voted those types out in favor of the party who they thought would protect their   nest eggs, jobs, civil rights, reproductive rights and put the country back on the right track.

When it came to health care reform, Obama decided to go for comprehensive reform.  But he was more interested in the kill (enter Emanuel) than the policy.  He ordered Rahm to do the dirty work and just get it done.  So, Rahm did the bi-partisan thing and got a bill, any bill.  In it, the Republicans have gotten their pound of flesh.  They were never going to sign off on the thing anyway but like predators toying with their food first, they have been seeing just how far the Obama was willing to go to score health care reform.  Now they know and we know that Obama was willing to negotiate with insurance company terrorists, backstab their most fervent union supporters and betray everything Democrats ran for when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.  If the Democrats pass this bill, it will be a Republican triumph.

We have to wonder why Obama, and let’s put the blame where it belongs, it is Obama, was so eager and anxious to pass health care reform without really reforming health care.  Let’s put aside the fact that he didn’t really have a plan.  He was just crudely plagiarizing Hillary’s plan during the primaries, that is, when he wasn’t trying to stab her in the back with Harry and Louise ads.  I don’t think he really came to the White House with well developed policies on anything, and it shows.  So much for his political gifts.  In essence, here was a guy obsessed with winning at all costs but had absolutely no idea what to do once he got there.  So, he hires Rahm.

But why health care?  Why is it so important to score a win in that area above everything else?  Why does this POS legislation have to have his stamp on it before the 2010 elections?  If it passes and there is no meaningful reconciliation before he elections, there will certainly be none after the Democrats lose their majorities.  And Republicans will fight tooth and nail from now until November to keep Democrats from fixing the bill.  They like it just the way it is.  It’s going to disgust the Democratic base.

So, why would Obama and the Democrats walk into a trap like this, other than the obvious reason that Republicans can control the message and play this game so much better than they do?  Could it be because Hillary is still out there?  After all, Obama’s numbers took a dip in the past couple of weeks.  Right on schedule, the Washington Post writes about how Hillary Clinton runs the State Department.  Actually, except for the gratuitous bit of revisionist history at the beginning and generally negative spin such pieces are famous for, it sounds like she’s doing a pretty good job of winning her employees’ loyalty and staying on top of things.  She is practicing what appears to be a political version of Lemov’s rules, making cold calls, keeping everyone on their toes and engaging in debate with people who may not agree with her (she then rewards them).  Um, she sounds like the ideal boss, to be honest.  I want to work for Hillary.  I’m betting that if Rahm could ever get over his macho, testosterone fueled disdain for Hillary Clinton, he might wish he were working for her too.  And she’s still out there.  If Obama doesn’t put his stamp on health care reform, there’s always that remote possibility that Democratic moneybags who still have some Democrat principles will want to give Hillary a shot in 2012.

But enough wistful regret at what might have been.  This is the reality: Obama is out of his league, he’s naive at a  in our nation’s history when naivete is a phenotype we should be selecting against and he’s got a fricking pitbull for a Chief of Staff.  There is enough stuff in here about Rahm’s workouts in the House gym and pressure tactics he employs there that make Massa’s report of an encounter with him very credible.

The Republicans are taking the Democrats to the cleaners because, damn it!, they just play 11 dimensional chess better.  We don’t have to love their policies to admire their ability to adapt to their environment and survive.  Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to know the White House is playing the strategy badly but, hey, she was also stupid enough to buy into the “easy win with the first black president” idea back in 2008.  Nooooo, can’t have Hillary.  The press would savage her, like she wasn’t winning in spite of all the $%^& they hurled at her during the primaries.  What Pelosi and her ilk failed to realize is that the Republican tactics that have been so successful blindsided the Clintons in 1992.  But they adapted and Hillary had a much better chance of neutralizing them in 2008 because she learned from experience.  Obama ran on his advertised political gifts and newness but has no experience whatsoever.  In any area.  So, Pelosi is a very slow learner but now she has a clue, as do many other Democrats who were infatuated with Obama and assumed he was a demigod of political gifts.

Too bad they stuck us with a newbie against a party full of Gary Kasparovs.

Monday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! I know I’ve been a bit out of if for the past few days–is that why I have a feeling that there is no news worth discussing? Sure, there is another earthquake, this time in Turkey; there are elections in Iraq, there is a new “Al Quaeda” arrest in Pakistan, and there is the ongoing nightmare of “health care reform.”

So why do I feel as if nothing is really happening? Is it just me, or is this country paralyzed, waiting for–what? The other shoe to drop? Another depression er– “recession?” Is there anything that can get us moving? Can anything force this scaredy-cat President to do something–anything!–to change the disastrous course we are on?

In the big media and at “progressive” blogs Rahm Emanuel is being blamed for the paralysis. The Hill had a long piece by Sam Youngman about this “controversy” yesterday.

A spate of recent reports have portrayed Emanuel, known for his aggressive brand of Washington politics, as either the voice of reason in a weak, liberal White House or the wet blanket preventing President Barack Obama from pursuing the kind of change he promised as a candidate.

Emanuel has become the flash point in those arguments as liberals express betrayal over Obama’s failure to convince Congress to pass a public option in healthcare reform and close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

According to Youngman, “Democratic strategists” are blaming the netroots for the attacks on Rahm, but other anonymous sources say that efforts to undermine him are coming from inside the White House. The article references Huffington Post pieces by Dan Froomkin and Michael Moore. As we at TC know all too well, these “progressives” still can’t face the fact that they helped elect Bush III. They want to believe that Obama is being duped by Emanuel–and the subtext is that it’s the Clinton’s fault. From the Hill article:

But what Rahm represents to the left dates back to liberal anger with Clinton and his kindred spirits at the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Emanuel is seen by some progressives as wanting to win, to a fault by sacrificing principles of the party.

“Rahm believes in being elected; not in the glory of losing or failing,” the strategist said.

In another “think piece,” at Business Week, veteran Village insider Al Hunt calls this “faux White House intrique.” Hunt doesn’t seem to want to blame Obama either, but he nibbles around the edges of doing that:

Yet there is a larger self-created problem for which Emanuel and Axelrod are only partly to blame. Go back to the remarkable Obama campaign of 2007-2008. More than any of its rivals, it had a strategic sense of what it was, where it wanted to go.

This provided a shield against setbacks: losing the New Hampshire primary, the candidate’s careless remarks about rural Pennsylvania voters or even the incendiary remarks of Obama’s pastor. These became speed bumps in the strategic narrative.

That is missing in the Obama presidency. Too often it seems situational rather than strategic, reactive more than proactive. Thus setbacks, from minor ones, such as the handling of the Christmas Day bomber, to major ones, like the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts, throw team Obama off stride, and leave voters confused.

Hint, hint…but no one wants to come out and say it: Obama is clueless–he has no idea how to lead our country and no goal in mind even if he could lead. How are we going to survive three more years of this kind of inertia? Continue reading

Message to Democrats: Don’t mess with us

I’m not sure that Democrats are getting the message.  They still think there is no place for us to go.  It’s either them or Republicans and we know that the Republicans are morally bankrupt.  Lately, we’ve seen that moral bankruptcy extends to the other party as well.  Two recent communiques stand out for me in this respect.

First, take this post, Does the Obama Administration Even Want to Win in November? , from Simon Johnson as proof that the Democrats just don’t give a f^&*.  Simon says:

There’s no story in the culture about what the big banks did and why. There is no attempt from the top to push through the key message for the day — financial reform — and to explain what this can do and how. The administration, in effect, is not even trying.

The inner team apparently thinks that 2012 will go just fine — as long as unemployment is down around 6 percent. And, they reason, the people who lose their seats this November won’t be around to complain.

Really?

If the administration fights hard and loses in November, that is one thing. If it fights on clear issues — forcing the other side to support Too Big To Fail structures — they may still lose, but such a loss will clearly communicate that the political strength of the big banks is now out of control. That is an issue to run on — and win big – -in 2012.

And if the administration doesn’t even care and hardly tries now, who will come out for them (or send a check) in two years?

The Obama team — both political and economic wings — seems to feel that their base has nowhere else to go, and all they need to do is drift towards the right in a moderately confused fashion to assure re-election for the president.

In short, the Obama administration is betting that you will be too desperate to salvage what little safety net is left after the GOP retakes control of Congress in 2010 that you will vote for Obama in 2012.  That’s what they’re betting on.  You will be so strapped, penniless and depleted of your retirement savings that you will automatically vote for Obama as a defense mechanism.  Who knows?  Maybe in September of 2012, we can expect the stock market to take another dizzying plunge, just to rattle everyones’ cages a bit.  Won’t that be fun?

Is that the Hope and Change that Obots voted for or does that sound like the machinations the oligarchy of some third world nation?

The second message is more disturbing considering its source.  I love Al Franken.  Everyone knows I do.  And I would walk over hot coals to vote for him if I were a Minnesotan.  But I really did not like the email I got from him on the Health Care Reform bill.  He is urging us to put pressure on House members to vote for the Senate bill with reassurances that it will be fixed later in reconciliation.  Al, there’s only one thing that Reagan ever said that I took to heart: “Trust, but verify”.  Any smart progressive or liberal would have to be nuts to believe that there will be a successful reconciliation *AFTER* the Senate bill passes in its present form.  I don’t want to know about secret deals or 11 dimensional chess or any other supposed secret plan to scuttle the Republicans.  I want you guys to act like Democrats.  If the House members vote for the Senate bill as is, they’re signing their political death warrants with the base.  The Senate bill violates core Democratic principles and so does many elements of the House for that matter.

So, let me deliver a message from the base to the Democrats.  Here are the things we want to see you guys get your asses in gear to do before November 2010.  And remember, there are just enough of us marginal voters out there to really harsh your electoral mellow going forward.  Just keep Corzine and Martha Coakley in mind.  We don’t have to vote.  If you want to stay in power, you need to start kissing up to us and fast.  And just forget about our support for Obama in 2012.  Nothing could make us vote for him now that he’s proven to be the empty suit, opportunist that we predicted he’d be.  If you don’t want a Republican in the White House, you’d better start working on the Obama problem now.

Here’s the CHANGE we want in very simple, straightfoward terms:

  • NO MANDATES WITHOUT REAL COMPETITION in the health care insurance market.  For EVERYONE.  That means strengthening antitrust legislation and allowing everyone who has a policy to go shopping for a better one with a standard benefits package. We’ll know it when we see it.  So far, we haven’t seen it.  Don’t expect support until this requirement is met.  You may have to piss off Max Baucus.  That is fine with us.
  • We want you to SOAK THE RICH.  This is what you were elected to do.  You may have thought you were just riding the coattails of the first black president phenomenon but that’s not true.  The CHANGE we wanted was protection of the middle class against the rape and pillagers who had Bush’s ear for 8 years.  Go back to the Clinton tax levels for everyone.  Claim a national emergency.  Put in a sunset provision for 2020. Dump the excise tax or pay for it with your seats.
  • We want you to SOAK THE RICH when it comes to the financial industry.  Get the bonus money back.
  • We want you to SUPPORT GENDER EQUALITY.  No more deals with Stupak.  Draw a line in the sand with him and then dare him to cross it.  Don’t give him money to run in November.  Make HIM the poster child of bad behavior.  If you don’t, your party can never again use protecting reproductive rights as an incentive for any woman to vote for you.  Your credibility will be permanently shot.  No, this is not negotiable.  No one will ever believe you again.  It’s up to you.  There are a lot of American female voters out there.  You gotta ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky today?”
  • We want you to SAVE AMERICAN JOBS.  Figure out a way to keep the TARP money from going overseas to speculate in emerging markets.  That’s our money and we shouldn’t be betting against ourselves.
  • DON’T TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY.  Some of us have been paying the extra payroll tax all of our working lives.  That’s our insurance policy, we’ve paid for it and we have every expectation that it will be paid to us as advertised.  No, don’t even go there.  We aren’t buying it.  You depleted the trust fund?  You figure out how to get that money back.  See SOAK THE RICH above.

If you don’t start playing the game by our rules, you’ll be out on your asses before you know what hit you.  This is the age of mass communications and viral memes and social networking.  Your ability to fool enough of the people most of the time is going to lose it’s mojo pretty soon.  Cable news audiences are going away.  More and more people are looking at the wreckage of their middle class lives and they’re not buying the propaganda you’re catapulting anymore.  They’re starting to trust their lying eyes.  All you need is one good movement to catch fire.  It ain’t the Tea Party movement.

You will be surprised what people can do from the comfort of their own homes.  A protest doesn’t require hordes of people marching in the streets carrying banners and shouting slogans.  Self organizing is remarkably easy to do without the sting of tear gas or police batons.  It can be quick and painless.  Just because it’s quiet out there now doesn’t mean that the atmosphere isn’t charged.  Depending on the energy behind the movement, the pendulum may swing a lot farther than you anticipate.

If you have any sense of political self-preservation, you won’t test us.

Eric Massa

I met Eric Massa in Las Vegas in 2006 at the first YearlyKos convention.  He was milling around the lobby of the Riviera, trying to round up people to walk down the street to the tackiest bar you’ve ever seen for a drink.  I thought he was buying.  As we sat in the faux fur covered lounge pit groups around a blazing fire, in a scene that was more like apres ski cross pollinated with Hooters, Eric Massa delivered a riveting stump speech.  He was an energetic, charismatic, full monty, unapologetic politician with principles.  At the end of it, he asked for twenty bucks from all of the rag tag followers hoping to get a free beer from him.  I ponied up my share, bought my own drink and thought it was money well spent.

I wasn’t at all surprised when he won his district in 2008.  But I was very surprised that there are allegations of harrassment against him.  Call me a cockeyed, pollyannaish type but I’m not buying it.  In fact, I am not the kind of person who thinks everyone has a heart of incorruptible gold.  Most people have something they would prefer to hide from the world.  There’s  a Stranger lurking in the dark recesses of every human soul. But this ethics charge doesn’t quite ring true.  All of the breathless reports from  Politico and WaPo sound more like tabloid journalism.  It’s all extremely vague.  Someone said something about something else and they were brought to the ethics committee in chains and forced under duress to suggest that there was something going on.  Well, what can you expect from Politico?  You know where they stand.  They’re the Fox news of what appears to be legitimate political journalism.  They specialize in rumor, innuendo and wild speculation.

I can do wild speculation too.  So, here’s my best guess as to why Eric Massa is retiring.  He bucked his leadership on the health care reform bill.  He held out for single payer.  Being a Navy vet, he probably sees the benefits to a single payer system. (We should at least explore the idea)  And now he is being made a poster child for what happens to you if you cross Steny Hoyer.  Maybe they told him he wouldn’t get any help from the home team in his re-election bid this fall.  Massa comes from a swing district.  Just to put the cherry on the sundae, Hoyer follows up on Massa’s announcement by idly speculating on the ethics charges.  It *almost* sounds like he’s instigating whoever is making them to go to the ethics committee and report Massa.  Now, why would you knife one of your own like that?  Presumably, you still need Massa’s votes for upcoming bills, at least until he actually goes back to NY.  Maybe it’s because Massa isn’t expected to cooperate on much of anything Hoyer wants, to which I say, good for Massa.

But it must be putting a chill on anyone else who doesn’t want to play the establishment political game.  Step out of line and not only will we make your re-election difficult, we’ll ruin your reputation and your family life.  Nice.

Well, I’ll just leave it at that.  What more is there to say?  I hope that Massa hasn’t suffered a relapse of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and I really hope that the ethics charges are a whole lot of sound an fury signifying nothing.  But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see  Congresscritters with a lot less determination than Massa cave to the demands of the House leadership on health care reform.  Let’s face it, most of them are craven, don’t-rock-the-boat, let’s-all-get-along, student council types anyway.  Even the bravest among them still want to be loved by their friends.  They’ll cave.

Good luck, Eric.  We’ll miss you.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!!

A giant 8.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Chile and triggered a tsunami

President Michelle Bachelet confirmed 47 deaths and said more were possible. Telephone and power lines were down, making damage assessments difficult in the early morning darkness.

“Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it’s like the end of the world,” one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital.

According to The New York Times,

The quake downed buildings and houses in Santiago and knocked out a major bridge connecting the northern and southern sections of the country.

It struck at 3:34 a.m. local time and was centered about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was some 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live.

Phone lines were down in Concepcion as of 7:30 a.m. and no reports were coming out of that area. The quake in Chile was 1,000 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused widespread damage in Haiti on Jan 12, killing at least 230,000, earthquake experts reported on CNN International.

The U.S. Geological Survey and eyewitnesses reported more than a dozen aftershocks, including two measuring magnitude 6.2 and 6.9.

Only hours earlier, there was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake off the southern coast of Japan. A tsunami was predicted, but did not take place.

The late late night TC crowd was discussing this insane video of Trent Franks (R-Arizona) being asked about hate radio and Rush Limbaugh and then doing a quick pirouette to talking about abortion and “killing innocent babies.” He calls Obama “the abortion president” and he thinks African Americans were better off under slavery because (he claims) “half of all black babies are aborted.” Oh, and Rush Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox because he cares so much about humanity.

Just who is voting for politicians like this? Thinking about the possible answers to that question gives me the creeps.

And speaking of forced servitude, why don’t they just set Tilikum the serial killer whale free?

Three years ago, Russ Rector, a Fort Lauderdale dolphin trainer turned marine mammal activist, said he wrote SeaWorld a letter warning it was pushing its show mammals too hard to wow audiences, thereby inviting attacks on trainers.

On Wednesday, a killer whale named Tilikum implicated in two previous fatalities attacked a trainer during a show at the Orlando theme park, dragging her around like a toy and drowning her in front of horrified visitors.

“I warned them this was going to happen,” Rector said. “Happy animals don’t kill their trainers.”

Another opinion:

Naomi Rose, a senior scientist for the Humane Society of the United States, which has campaigned at marine parks, said Tilikum’s reputation was well known and that SeaWorld specifically forbade trainers from entering the orca’s tank.

“He clearly has some sort of issue with people in the water with him,” she said of the orca.

Rose and many marine mammal activists believe the stress of life in a tank is acute for orcas, large animals that roam deep waters in close-knit pods.

“They’re moody,” she said. Rector, who has campaigned for years to free Lolita, a female orca that has spent nearly four decades in captivity at the Seaquarium in Miami, says it leaves them “demented.”

Lolita, Rose said, has not been linked to any serious attacks on trainers, but its old tank-mate, Hugo, died of a cranial bleeding in 1980 that activists blamed on the orca ramming its head against the sides of a small tank.

Can you blame a whale for getting mad when he is kept in a tiny container and forced to perform tricks for humans instead of being able to swim freely in the ocean? And get this, another trainer says Dawn Brancheau’s horrible death was all her own fault.

A former co-worker told the station that trainer Dawn Brancheau was to blame when her hair floated over the mouth of killer whale Tilikum. The massive creature responded by dragging her under Wednesday, and she drowned.

Thad Lacinak, a former head trainer at SeaWorld, said the trainers knew to stay away from the whale’s mouth. “The protocol was not to be around Tilikum’s mouth while you’re laying down,” he said.

Reporter Emily Turner explained that Lacinak said Brancheau “became too comfortable with the animal she loved so much.”

And can you believe there are still pictures and video on-line of Breacheau’s last moments? What is wrong with us? Set these beautiful, intelligent animals free!

Did you know that Matt Taibbi and an expat named Mark Ames ran an alternative newspaper in Russia for years? I didn’t. Yesterday I posted a link to an article by Ames on Ayn Rand’s obsession with a vicious serial killer who liked to dismember little girls.

From there, I was directed to Ames’ website and learned that this month’s Vanity Fair has an in-depth story on the “The unlikely life and sudden death of The Exile, Russia’s angriest newspaper.” Ames is also the author of a book on workplace and school shootings in which he argues that Americans don’t want to face what is really going on in this rage killings–that bullying and alienation in schools and workplaces are driving both kids and adults to the point where they just can’t take it anymore. Sounds controversial yet interesting. I reserved it at my local library.

President Obama got up really early this morning so he could offer more “compromises” to Republicans in his weekly radio address.

“I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge,” Obama said.

“The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses cannot wait. Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.

The President didn’t mention that the bill he supports doesn’t do anything to help lower health care costs for ordinary Americans or prevent insurance companies from refusing to pay for care for people with preexisting conditions.

This article in New Scientist reports on research suggesting that ancient humans may have communicated in a written language much earlier than previously thought: The writing on the cave wall

Until now, the accepted view has been that our ancestors underwent a “creative explosion” around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, when they suddenly began to think abstractly and create rock art. This idea is supported by the plethora of stunning cave paintings, like those at Chauvet, which started to proliferate across Europe around this time. Writing, on the other hand, appeared to come much later, with the earliest records of a pictographic writing system dating back to just 5000 years ago.

Few researchers, though, had given any serious thought to the relatively small and inconspicuous marks around the cave paintings. The evidence of humanity’s early creativity, they thought, was clearly in the elaborate drawings.

While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful – perhaps even the seeds of written communication.

I’ll wrap this up with a feel-good story from a few days ago about a 3-year-old girl who was saved from freezing to death by her dog Blue: Police Credit Dog With Saving Lost Girl’s Life

“She was able to stay warm with the dog. And it probably was one of things that saved her life. It was extremely cold out here,” Sgt. Jeff Newnum of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office told KPHO, a CBS news affiliate in Phoenix. “God watched over her last night.”

Victoria Bensch vanished while playing outside with the family’s Queensland Heeler around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Search teams scoured the rocky terrain surrounding Victoria’s Cordes Lakes, Ariz., home, but as the night wore on, and temperatures dipped into the 30s, there was still no sign of her.

When the sun rose Friday morning, a rescue helicopter spotted movement below. It was Blue, hovering close to the missing girl, nearly half a mile from their home.

Even as medics approached, Blue kept Victoria, who was only wearing a T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes, safe.

“I think the dog was initially apprehensive of me. I was a little concerned he might bite me when I first walked up, but as I just walked right past the dog, the [animal] realized I was there to help,”

Awwww….

So what are you reading this morning?

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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