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      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Lazy Saturday News and Views: Snowpocalypse!

A Washington DC neighborhood yesterday


Good morning Conflucians!!!!

It’s a repeat of last weekend–only worse–for those in the Mid-Atlantic states and stretching west all the way to Ohio and Indiana. Coastal areas are experiencing blizzard conditions and record snowfalls in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia and all the way up to New Jersey and New York. Let us know how things are going where you are. I hope everyone is safe and warm and doesn’t lose power. Stay inside until this think winds down. I speak from experience. There’s no use fighting it, just surrender and enjoy being snowbound for a little while.

From Weather.com:

A punishing winter storm will continue to blast an area from the eastern Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic coast today.

The focus for the heaviest snow today will continue to be near and along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Heavy snow will stretch from eastern Pennsylvania to southern New Jersey through the Delmarva Peninsula into the early afternoon hours.

An additional six to as much as twelve inches of snow will fall today bringing snow totals in this region up to the eighteen to twenty-four inch range with locally higher amounts possible.

Washington Post: Snowstorm’s intensity has D.C. region hunkering down

The full weight of winter brought life in much of the Washington region to a standstill Saturday as a storm predicted to be one of the most powerful on record dumped 12 to 21 inches of snow overnight.

New York Times: East Coast Is Hit by ‘Potentially Epic Snowstorm’

WASHINGTON — One of the largest winter storms the Mid-Atlantic region has seen in decades swept into Washington and Baltimore on Friday, grounding flights, closing schools and government offices, and sending residents racing to stock up on groceries and rock salt before the snow accumulated to what are expected to be record-setting depths….

Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent agency of the weather service, called the blizzard “a potentially epic snowstorm” that could rival the 28 inches of snow that a January 1922 storm dropped on the capital.

“The National Weather Service has been very clear that this is a storm to take very seriously,” she said. The halls of the Capitol building were quiet, and the federal government sent many workers home four hours early on Friday. Dr. Lubchenco said she was making contingency plans for all government offices in and near the capital to be closed through Tuesday.

“If it is as much and as heavy as they are forecasting, it may be a number of days before people are actually moving around again,” she said. “This is a serious storm.”

Here are some gorgeous snowstorm pics donated by our own Indigogrrl:

A Mama Cardinal

Two Downey Woodpeckers

Just breathtaking! And here is a picture contributed by Riverdaughter:

RD's neighborhood in anticipation of blizzard conditions

We’d love to hear more reports from Conflucians in the hard-hit areas. I’ll be glad to post more photos too. Be careful out there!


THE ECONOMY

Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz has an article in the Guardian this morning: Obama’s muddled solutions. Stiglitz argues that the message of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts is not for Democrats to move even further right. Instead he says that voters are sending the same message they sent to Bill Clinton and that he was smart enough to act on: “It’s the economy, stupid!” and “Jobs, jobs, jobs”

The US economy is in a mess, even if growth has resumed, and bankers are once again receiving huge bonuses. More than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one; and 40% of the unemployed have been out of a job for more than six months.

As Europe learned long ago, hardship increases with the length of unemployment, as job skills and prospects deteriorate and savings gets wiped out. The 2.5-3.5m foreclosures expected this year will exceed those of 2009, and the year began with what is expected to be the first of many large commercial real-estate bankruptcies. Even the Congressional budget office is predicting that it will be the middle of the decade before unemployment returns to more normal levels, as America experiences its own version of “Japanese malaise”.

Just as Dakinikat predicted way back at the beginning of the financial crisis.

Stiglitz also has a new book outFreefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. More from the Guardian piece:

Continue reading

Monday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!!!

The big story in the mainstream media is President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget. From the LA Times:

President Obama today will propose a $3.8-trillion federal budget that includes a $100-billion jobs package, more education spending and higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year.

The budgetary blueprint for fiscal 2011, which starts Oct. 1, is 3% more than the government is spending this year, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The White House envisions a $1.267-trillion deficit in fiscal year 2011, smaller than this year’s projected $1.56 trillion. That would be 8.3% of the gross domestic product, down from 10.6% this year. The White House Budget Office forecasts that it could be trimmed to less than 4% of the GDP by 2015.

The “jobs package” consists of:

$100 billion for investments in small-business tax cuts, infrastructure and clean energy, all designed to create jobs. This includes a new Small Business Jobs and Wages Tax Cut to spur small-business hiring and wage increases, at a cost of $33 billion.

I’ll defer to Dakinikat on this, but it doesn’t sound that dramatic to me. And how do we know those jobs that are created will go to Americans anyway? Isn’t it about time for something a little more FDR-like?

The budget also include $270 million to buy and renovate Thompson Prison in Illinois:

The administration hopes to house detainees from Guantanamo there, as part of its effort to close the controversial camp in Cuba. But the purchase of Thomson “would be warranted in any case to house maximum security prisoners,” according to Orszag. The federal Bureau of Prisons will require additional space, he said.

That’s a lot of money just to move the prisoners from Cuba to Illinois. I suppose there will be jobs involved in renovating the prison, and of course jobs for prison guards. Will those jobs go to Americans? And will anything be done about the fact that many of those prisoners may not be guilty of anything? They have already been held for years without being charged.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s good buddy Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, who helped crash our economy and put millions of Americans out of their jobs and homes is “expecting a $100 million bonus” this year.

Goldman Sachs, the world’s richest investment bank, could be about to pay its chief executive a bumper bonus of up to $100 million in defiance of moves by President Obama to take action against such payouts.

Bankers in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) told The Times yesterday they understood that Lloyd Blankfein and other top Goldman bankers outside Britain were set to receive some of the bank’s biggest-ever payouts. “This is Lloyd thumbing his nose at Obama,” said a banker at one of Goldman’s rivals.

Thumbing his nose? {wink, wink, nudge, nudge} I’m not sure. Goldman Sachs was Obama number one donor in 2008 and former Goldman executives are pretty much running our government. And Blankfein wouldn’t be getting that bonus without the money they raked in from the bailout and AIG.

The Illinois primary is tomorrow, and President Obama’s basketball buddy and campaign donor and bundler Alexi Giannoulias is still leading in the Democratic race for the Senate seat briefly held by Obama.

One of Giannoulias’ rivals for the Senate nomination, Jacob Meister, has dropped out and endorsed Giannoulias. Giannoulias’ main rival, David Hoffman, claims that Meister was only in the race in the first place to help Giannoulias and that this was all planned ahead of time. Hoffman has been attacking Giannoulias for his role in running the Broadway Bank, owned by the Giannoulias family.

“This is something we knew all along, that he was in the race to help the treasurer. That being said, he was only pulling 1 percent at best. So I think it was inconsequential.”

Meister dismissed as “preposterous” any suggestion that he was a Giannoulias plant.

Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and city of Chicago inspector general, started the day with a news conference challenging Giannoulias to answer more questions about his four years as vice president and chief loan officer at Broadway [Bank].

Citing a New York Times column, Hoffman said that under Giannoulias, the bank saw a six-fold increase in the granting of risky loans and a 400 percent increase in brokered deposits, during a time in which the average community bank would have seen an increase of about 36 percent.

“Mr. Giannoulias is still refusing to answer questions about the extent of his role in the decisions that look like they will lead to the bank’s collapse.

If Giannoulias does get the nomination, as appears likely, will Illinois see a repeat of what happened in Massachusetts?

Public opinion polls ahead of Tuesday’s party primaries in Illinois show five-term U.S. Representative Mark Kirk likely to win the Republican nomination easily.

Favored to win the Democratic primary and face off Kirk for the vacant seat is Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois treasurer and Obama’s basketball-playing buddy.

“The Democratic candidates are second-tier. They’re not particularly exciting, not particularly experienced,” DePaul University political analyst Michael Mezey said.

Kirk has lent his own twist to Brown’s best-known line in the campaign, saying: “This is not Obama’s seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

One poll showed Kirk trailing Giannoulias if the two face off — but only narrowly. That’s a far cry from the 62 percent of Illinois voters who cast ballots for Obama against 37 percent for the Republican John McCain in November 2008.

I want to call attention to a couple of stories the the mainstream media is soft-pedaling.

Jeremy Scahill interviewed the father of “Blackwater’s Youngest Victim,” 9-year-old Ali Kinani who was shot in the head in Bagdad’s Nisour Square on September 16, 2007, by Blackwater thugs who had left the Green Zone against orders and for no reason whatsoever murdered 16 and wounded 20 innocent Iraqis that day. I broke down sobbing while reading this story yesterday, and had to take a break before finishing it. All I can says is that Ali’s father, Mohammed Kitani is a true hero. He may yet succeed in holding the murders and their employer Eric Prince accountable for their disgusting actions.

Mohammed’s American lawyers contend, as did federal prosecutors, that the Blackwater men disobeyed orders from superiors not to leave the Green Zone, which ultimately led to the shooting at Nisour Square, and that they did not follow proper State Department guidelines for the use of force, instead shooting unprovoked at Mohammed’s car and the other civilians in the square. They also allege that Blackwater was not guarding any US official at the time of the shooting and that the Nisour Square killings amounted to an offensive operation against unarmed civilians. “Blackwater was where it shouldn’t have been, doing something it was not supposed to do,” says Mohammed’s lawyer Gary Mauney. They “weren’t even supposed to be in Nisour Square, and if they hadn’t have been, no shootings would have occurred.”

Unlike the other civil suits against Blackwater, which were settled in federal court in January, Mohammed’s case was filed in state court in North Carolina. It is also different because Mohammed is directly suing the six Blackwater men he believes were responsible for the shooting that day. The suit also argues that Prince and his network of Blackwater companies and affiliates are ultimately responsible for the conduct of the men at Nisour Square. The Blackwater shooters “weren’t doing anything related to their work for the government,” Mauney says. “After the events happened, Blackwater came out and said, ‘We support what they did. We think it was justified.’ They ratified the conduct of their employees.”

Moreover, Mohammed’s lawyers contend that the evidence that was ruled inadmissible in the criminal Nisour Square case because it was obtained in exchange for a promise of immunity and reportedly under threat of termination is valid evidence in their civil case. Several statements by Blackwater guards who were at the square that day directly bolster Mohammed and other Iraqis’ claim that it was an unprovoked shooting.

Remember that “break-in” in Senator Mary Landrieu’s offices in Louisiana last week? Much of the focus in the media has been on James O’Keefe, a young conservative “activist” and independent filmmaker who was involved in a sting on Acorn awhile back. But Raw Story learned that the two other men arrested with O’Keefe “have links to” the CIA.

Two of the three men arrested on Monday along with “ACORN pimp” James O’Keefe for “maliciously tampering” with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) phones in her New Orleans office have ties to the United States intelligence community.

The three accused by the FBI of “aiding and abetting” O’Keefe are Stan Dai, Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel. O’Keefe is 25, and the other three are 24.

Dai’s links to the intelligence community appear to be particularly strong. He was a speaker at Georgetown University’s Central Intelligence Agency summer school program in June 2009, and is also listed as an Assistant Director at the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity in D.C.

The university’s president Patricia McGuire told The Associated Press that it promoted careers in intelligence but denied that it trains students to be spies.

The Trinity program received a “$250,000 renewable grant from the U.S. Intelligence Community” upon launching in 2004, according to its Web site.

The article goes on to detail Dai’s intelligence connections at length.

The CIA and Office of Director of National Intelligence have both told Politico that despite Dai’s evident connections to the intelligence community, he never officially worked for them. Then it discusses the intelligence connections of Dai’s “co-conspirator,” Robert Flanagan.

Dai’s co-conspirator Robert Flanagan is currently seeking a Master of Science degree from the Missouri State University’s (Fairfax, Virginia) Defense and Strategic Studies program, according to his LinkedIn profile (which was captured by Beyerstein before it was taken down Tuesday.)

The DSS Web site description affirms its connections to “the intelligence community”

Curiouser and curiouser.

So what are you all reading this morning? As always, please post your own links in the comments.

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

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