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Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!! TGIF!!!!!!

I got back to Beantown last night around 7PM, after having been in Indiana for more than a month. The drive was very pleasant, with nice weather and minimal traffic through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The first shock to my system came when I approached the end of the NY thruway and headed toward the Mass Pike. Suddenly, I was surrounded by lots of traffic, with cars switching lanes crazily and driving way too fast.

The Mass Pike is mostly a steep downhill grade for miles through Western Massachusetts. Just after I got on it, there was a sudden downpour–so intense that cars were pulling off the road. I turned into a rest area to wait it out. When I got back on the pike, I saw a magnificent rainbow arching over the highway–it accompanied me for miles as rain alternated with sunshine. The rainbow helped cushion the blow of returning from the rural beauty of Indiana to the urban gridlock of the Greater Boston metro area.

I already miss all the green open spaces of the Midwest. At the same time, I feel that I’m embarking on an adventure. Here I am, a woman in my early 60s, alone and unemployed, with no idea what I’ll be doing next. It’s a bit frightening, but also exhilarating.

Anyway, enough about me and on to the news!

As Dakinikat reported last night, the Senate once again rejected a jobs bill that would have provided some relief for desperate unemployed Americans and extended tax breaks for individual and small businesses. But the House and Senate have reached an agreement on a Wall Street “reform” bill. I’ll leave it to Dak to break down the contents of the bill, but I tend to be skeptical these days about what our “leaders” mean when they use the word “reform.” CNN has an analysis of the bill at the above link. And here’s the NYT take.

At The Nation, William Greider writes about the failure of our “leaders” to deal with the epic economic disaster they helped create when they sold their souls to the banks and corporations: Goodbye Keynes, Hello Hoover

Washington faces…a starkly underperforming economy in which 10 percent of the workforce are without jobs and income. Yet the President and Democratic Congress, spooked by the swollen federal deficits, are unwilling to do what Keynes prescribed in these circumstances—pump up federal spending enormously and run even larger budget deficits in order to force-feed a stronger recovery.

The results of this political decision will be tragic for millions of struggling families, but also potentially devastating for the Democratic party. Democrats are implicitly choosing to do nothing more to rescue the country from the deepening dislocations and lost output. Making mistakes can be forgiven, but not giving up.

The president and his lieutenants have evidently decided they have already done enough. Indeed, they keep reminding us they saved the country from something worse. Millions withhold their congratulations, since something worse is what they are now experiencing. The losses will last longer and multiply more widely so long as Washington declines to act more forcefully. Americans who never heard of Keynes will make their own judgments about whom to blame.

There’s lots of gossip in the news today. We already discussed the Enquirer story on Gore and the masseuse, but it is now hitting the corporate media. Howard Kurtz writes that the woman who accused Gore of attacking her tried to tell her story for $1 million, but the Enquirer refused to pay. Kurtz:

The executive editor of the National Enquirer says that the Oregon masseuse who made a sexual assault allegation against Al Gore asked the tabloid for $1 million but that the Enquirer did not pay her or anyone else in reporting the story.

Barry Levine said in an interview Thursday that the woman offered to sell her account through her lawyer but that “no money exchanged hands” and the paper conducted only a brief interview with her.

The Enquirer story was based primarily on documents.

Asked why the Enquirer published the piece despite the woman’s two-year delay in agreeing to be interviewed by authorities, Levine said: “We felt, if this was in legitimate police documents, that was a story that should be brought to the surface. We felt this was a significant story involving a very powerful man.” He said he had former police officers examine the reports to make sure they weren’t a “forgery” and felt “vindicated” Thursday when Portland authorities confirmed the authenticity of the documents.

The tabloid confirmed that Gore, who had just released the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” was in Portland at the time of the alleged incident to give a speech on global warming. The paper obtained the $540 bill — including a 20 percent gratuity — that the masseuse submitted to the Hotel Lucia, which retained her, along with her subsequent e-mail correspondence with the hotel.

Is it true? Who knows? But The Enquirer did help bring down John Edwards. Gore will probably have to deal with this somehow.

The other big gossip story concerns the “JournoList,” the e-mail list that all the big “progressive” blogger boyz belong to. Someone leaked some embarrassing comments from Dave Wiegel, who now blogs for the Washington Post.

Wiegel apologized for comments he made about Matt Drudge:

I’m a member of an off-the-record list-serv called “Journolist,” founded by my colleague Ezra Klein. Last Monday, I was deluged with angry e-mail after posting a story about Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) that was linked by the Drudge Report with a headline intimating that I defended his roughing-up of a young man with a camera; after this, the Washington Examiner posted a gossip item about my dancing at a friend’s wedding. Unwisely, I lashed out to Journolist, which I’ve come to view as a place to talk bluntly to friends….

- “This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

I apologize to Matt Drudge for this — I was incredibly frustrated with the amount of hate mail I was getting and lashed out. If he wants to link to this post with some headline accusing me of wishing death on him, I suppose he can do so. But I don’t wish that. I was tired, angry, and hyperbolic, and I’m sorry.

Politico writes that this is the third time “confidential” information has been leaked from the JournoList, and members are worried.

“People are feeling betrayed by whoever the leaker is, once again,” said Eric Alterman, the Nation columnist and journalism professor who is a member of the listserv. “I think it’s unwise to put anything on that list that you can’t defend in public. There’s no such thing as off-the-record with 400 people.”

But the off-the-record nature of the listserve has been closely guarded, to the point that a previous article by POLITICO’s Michael Calderone on JournoList last year got only a handful of the three dozen listserv members he contacted to share even basic elements of how the list functions.

“The list is confidential,” said one member who, in typical fashion, declined to be named for this article. “Whoever broke the confidentiality of the list obviously has no respect for some pretty basic journalistic norms. But I can’t talk about it because it’s supposed to be confidential.”

Here is the Fishbowl story that started this whole tempest in a teapot.

Honestly, who cares what these people say to each other on their hoity-toity e-mail list? This story just emphasizes how self-important these people are and how highjacked our “news” really is. Here are these people who consider themselves to be “intelligensia”–keep in mind that Kos is a member of this list–and they are deciding with each other in secret about what to report or blog about. As Katiebird might say, I spit on these people!

Back to some more important news. The Afghanistan war is back in the headlines after the McChrystal firing, and the WP thinks Petraeus will have a difficult time replicating his “success” in Iraq.

This week’s confrontation between a senior Army general and the president of the United States may have signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. In a year or two, President Obama will be able to say that he gave the conflict his best shot, reshaping the strategy and even putting in charge his top guy, the general who led the surge in Iraq — but that things still didn’t work out.

Then he can begin pulling out.

This is not a vote of no-confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom the president has selected to lead the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, replacing the disgraced Gen. Stanley A McChrystal. It is a simple recognition that the conditions Petraeus enjoyed in Iraq are far from present in Afghanistan, and that the key skills he brought to bear in the first war won’t help him as much in the second.

But Obama says he’s “confident” in his “war leadership.” And Politico claims that “Obama [is] losing Hill liberals” on
Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has an editorial on President Obama being “missing in action” on gay rights.

President Obama celebrated Gay Pride Month earlier this week by telling guests at a White House reception that he still favors full equality for gays and lesbians. But despite a steady trickle of small steps Mr. Obama has taken to promote gay rights, on the big issues he is a disappointment.

First and most obviously, Mr. Obama has not made good on his campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing the military to continue stalling. Despite his earlier assertion that leadership was the only thing required to abolish this long-discredited policy, the administration’s efforts have been lackluster.

The rest story is subscription only–if you subscribe, please share.

To me, the top story is still the BP oil gusher. I don’t believe we have even begun to see the ultimate effects of this ecological and economic disaster on our country and the world. We have now seen the first known suicide linked to the gusher. Alabama boat captain Allen Kruse shot himself a few days ago on board his boat.

Kruse put a bullet through his head this morning at a marina in Fort Morgan, Alabama. His boat was about to launch today and he was reportedly upset with the oil leak, the cleanup efforts and loss of income, and wondering how he would be paid for taking part in the Vessel of Opportunity program.

The local coroner ruled that the gunshot was self-inflicted. Kruse was found right on the captain’s bridge. He had no known health problems, and leaves behind a wife and four children.

“He had just let his deckhands off the boat and sent them to get something,” Baldwin County Deputy Coroner Rod Steade told the local newspaper, the Press-Register. “He was going to meet them at the fuel dock. They heard a pop and when the boat didn’t come around, they went back and found him.”

CNN has a story and video with interviews of Kruse’s friends and family.

those closest to him say Kruse’s life unraveled when the oil spill hit the Gulf waters where he worked. Authorities say deck hands found the 55-year-old dead in his boat’s cabin, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, before he was scheduled to head out on the water Wednesday morning.

Friends, family and local officials say his death is another tragic casualty of the environmental disaster that has sent crude gushing into Gulf waters. And they’re worried others may be suffering in silence.

“There’s a lot of people on the edge. We feel hopeless. We feel helpless. We don’t feel like there’s an advocate out there,” said Tony Kennon, mayor of Kruse’s hometown of Orange Beach, Alabama.

Kruse was upset because he felt he and his boat were being used by BP not to help clean up the oil, but as a PR prop.

Marc and Frank Kruse said their brother would still be alive today if he had believed he was making an impact against the oil that was threatening the waters he loved.

Instead, he told them, cleanup boats were placed close to shore, just so onlookers would think work was being done.

“Madness. It’s just a dog and pony show,” Marc Kruse said. “Send them out. Ride around. Let everybody see them. Bring them back in.”

Government spokesman/coordinator Thad Allen originally claimed Kruse’s death was not linked to the BP oil gusher. My guess is this won’t be the last story like this we have to read.

Perhaps President Obama will say a few words after each tragedy before head to the golf course, the latest DC gala, or his next vacation. The rest of us are expected to live vicariously as we watch our “betters” having fun. I for one refuse to accept it! I won’t be beaten down by self-important prog bloggers and full-of-it politicians! Somehow we will survive all this.

What are you reading this morning? Let us know in the comments, and have a fabulous Friday!!!!!!
Wil

Friday News and Views

Good morning Conflucians!!! TGIF!!!!!

BP Chief Tony Hayward has finally decided that the oil spill his corporation caused is an “environmental catastrophe,” CNN reports. And the “junk shot” has begun:

Also Friday, engineers in the Gulf tried the “junk shot” method in an attempt to stop a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward said.

The procedure involved shooting debris such as shredded rubber tires, golf balls and similar objects into the blowout preventer in an attempt to clog it and stop the leak. The goal of the junk shot is to force-feed the preventer, the device that failed when the disaster unfolded, until it becomes so plugged that the oil stops flowing or slows to a relative trickle.

The company plans to resume its “top kill” method, pumping heavy mud into the leak, later Friday, he said.

President Obama flew to Chicago last night, as planned; and will drop in on New Orleans for awhile today.

where he will get a briefing on the BP oil spill that on Thursday officially became the worst ever in U.S. waters. Obama will deliver a statement on the spill, following up on Thursday’s press conference at the White House.

As the president listens and speaks, BP and other experts will be continuing their efforts to cap the well with a “top kill” procedure involving mud and, hopefully, cement. If they succeed, the gushing well could be dead, 38 days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

Mary Landrieau told Politico

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Don’t hold your breath, Mary.

At an oil hearing in the House yesterday, Charlie Melancon (D-LA) broke down crying while talking about the damage to the coastal wetlands. Watch:

From Politics Daily:

Melancon began by citing the string of natural disasters — including Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike — that have beset his constituents and all Louisianans. With his voice quavering and eyes filling with tears, he said of this latest “slow-motion” catastrophe: “Our culture is threatened, our coastal economy is threatened, and everything that I know and love is at risk. . . .Even though this marsh lies along coastal Louisiana, these are America’s wetlands.”

The three-term congressman, who is running for the Senate seat held by Republican David Vitter, could not go on, and asked that the remainder of his written comments be submitted for the record.

Some veterans are angry with Obama for blowing off a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day–an event that is traditional for U.S. Presidents.

Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed disappointment at the White House move. “Arlington is hallowed ground, and the center of our nation’s attention on Memorial Day,” Rieckhoff said. “Unfortunately, President Obama and his family will not be there with us.”

Fox News is also critical, of course, asking whether Obama is “stressed out or tone deaf.”

Presidents are never really off the clock, even when they go on vacation. But President Obama’s decision to skip the traditional Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington while on his second vacation since the BP oil spill began has some wondering what the schedule says about his priorities.

On “vacation,” Obama still holds staff meetings, occasionally attends local events and often gets his “relaxation” time swallowed up by pressing national and international business — his vacation to Hawaii in December coincided with the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. The retreat this weekend is marked by a side-trip to Louisiana to inspect the damages from the oil spill.

But some conservatives, still smarting over the criticism George W. Bush fielded for his frequent trips to Crawford, Texas, say Obama’s trip to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend is conspicuously poor in its timing.

Joe Sestak’s brother (and political adviser) has spoken to the WH about Sestak’s claims that he was offered a job if he would drop out of the PA Senate Democratic primary race against Arlen Specter. Sestak won the primary even though the Democratic party machinery and the WH supported long-time Republican Specter.

Richard Sestak, who has served as his brother’s top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got ahold of my brother on his cellphone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with his brother.

Joe Sestak first alleged the White House offer in February, but the matter has caught fire since the upset victory over Specter, Pennsylvania’s senior senator, in last week’s primary. The White House has refused to explain its version of events; press secretary Robert Gibbs has said legal aides have reviewed the situation and have declared that nothing “inappropriate” occurred.

Congress is making some progress on the DADT “compromise.”

After a heated Thursday night floor debate, House members voted 234-to-194 to approve a repeal amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy. [....]

Earlier Thursday evening, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a companion amendment by a 16-12 vote in a closed-door session.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the lone Republican on the committee joining 15 of her Democratic colleagues to approve the measure as an attachment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia was the only Democrat to vote against it.

If signed into law as part of the Defense funding bill, the measure would not immediately repeal the law. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” would continue as the official policy of the military until two events occur: the Pentagon completes an implementation study due in December; and the secretary of Defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and President Barack Obama certify that repeal will not weaken military readiness. Once those two requirements are met, a 60-day waiting period will begin before the policy is finally lifted.

That’s all I’ve got for now. What are you reading this morning? Please post your links in the comments. And have a fabulous friday!!!

Monday News and Views: Global Ecological Catastrophe Edition

Good morning, I think. Will we see any action from the Obama administration today, or will they continue their laid back, ho-hum attitude toward the planetary nightmare taking place in the Gulf of Mexico?

The video above is just a few minutes worth of the oil gushing out of the ocean floor like a volcano. Here is the live feed of the disaster from Ed Markey’s website.

All of us need to demand that our Congresspeople light a fire under the Obama administration. This has gone on far too long. The U.S. response to this global tragedy is pathetic and nearly useless. We need action and we need it now!

As the Miami Herald points out today,
this spill is not unprecedented. A similar disaster took place in 1979. So why wasn’t BP prepared for this to happen? Why didn’t the Obama administration review every single offshore well approved by the Bush and Obama administrations to make sure emergency plans were in place? In fact, why didn’t Obama stop all off-shore drilling as he promised? From the article:

The year was 1979. The blowout of the Ixtoc I, drilled by the Mexican-run Pemex, retains the dubious record of causing the world’s largest accidental oil spill, dumping an estimated 138 million gallons over nine months. Eventually, Pemex cut off Ixtoc I with two relief wells and a cement seal.

With top BP executives, scientists and Obama administration officials searching for a solution to capping the Deepwater Horizon blowout off the Louisiana coast, perhaps they could find a blueprint in the Ixtoc I experience, observers say. They also may find lessons from the Montara oil spill last August off the northern coast of Australia, where it took five tries and nearly three months to stop the flow of as many as 84,000 gallons a day into the Timor Sea.

If some scientists, who say BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are underestimating how much oil is leaking now, are right, the current gusher could easily eclipse the demise of Ixtoc I in the Bay of Campeche. By their count, instead of the 210,000 gallons leaking per day, it’s more like 4 million.

The UK Guardian reports this morning that BP isn’t even siphoning off the 3,000 barrels a day of oil that it has been claiming. What BP has done and is doing is criminal, and they should be stopped immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The federal government should have taken over this process a month ago, and yet Obama is still dithering and putting on a show of being angry in public while scolding reporters behind the scenes for asking about BP.

BP is now delaying their latest effort to stop the leak. The New York Times reports:

The oil company has been planning to attempt a procedure known as a top kill, in which heavy fluid would be pumped into the well. Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production, said in an interview on NBC on Monday morning that the top kill would be attempted Wednesday morning. BP had previously said it hoped to execute the procedure on Tuesday.

The top kill is one of several proposed methods of stanching the flow of at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day that has been threatening marine life and sensitive coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. BP officials have emphasized that none of the methods have been tried before at the depth of this leak, and Mr. Suttles noted the difficulties of working at such depths in explaining why the attempt was being delayed.

The Obama administration and Congress need to wake up and understand that when something has never been done before and could cause a global ecological catastrophe, there needs to be careful planning and there need to be plans and back-up plans for how to deal with emergencies. And if not enough is known for corporations to do those things, then they need to be sent back to the drawing table until they do know how. OR DON’T TAKE THE RISK AT ALL!

As for whether BP is really doing the best they can, via Corrente, Jefferson Parish commandeers 40 boats BP hired, then left idle

Here are a couple of links that Dakinikat posted down below:

Federal agencies must be vigilant on oil spill

Louisiana coast’s battle against drifting oil expected to last months if not years

I’m too f*cking angry to go on. What are you reading this morning? Post away in the comments, and have the best Monday you possibly can!

Monday Morning News

Summer Tanager (male)

Good Morning Conflucians!!

I’m “back home again in Indiana,” visiting my mom. This afternoon we saw a beautiful bird–a Summer Tanager. It was bright red all over and gorgeous. I never even knew they existed. The females are beautiful too. They look something like a goldfinch, only they are olive green.

Summer Tanager (female)

It’s little moments like these that remind me that life is worth living even while the world economy is crumbling, the Gulf Coast may become a permanent dead zone, and we still have an incurious, uncaring, narcissistic President, even though George W. Bush has left the public stage for now.

As for the news, you’ve probably heard that BP finally managed to get their 100-mile-long siphon into the Deepwater Horizon gusher, but government officials say this is “not a solution.”

“This technique is not a solution to the problem, and it is not yet clear how successful it may be,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a joint statement.

“I don’t think we should get our hopes up until we know for sure that all of the oil is staying down,” said Edward Markey, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts.

“With reports of miles-long undersea clouds of oil floating around the Gulf of Mexico, and the very real possibility that more oil has been spilled than previously estimated, this crisis is far from over,” he said.

According to BBC News, the chemicals that BP has been using to break up the oil may be causing the huge oil slicks that are building up down below the surface of the water.

Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said they had detected the slicks lurking just beneath the surface of the sea and at depths of 4,000ft (1,200m).

Samantha Joye, a marine science professor at the University of Georgia, said: “It could take years, possibly decades, for the system to recover from an infusion of this quantity of oil and gas.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s impossible to fathom the impact.”

MSNBC reports that BP rig inspections were fewer than advertised

The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.

In fact, the agency’s inspection frequency on the Deepwater Horizon fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management Service records….Since January 2005, inspectors issued just one minor infraction for the rig. That strong track record led the agency last year to herald the Deepwater Horizon as an industry model for safety.

And did you hear that Brit Hume thinks the BP oil spill is no big deal? Here, from Think Progress, is an exchange that took place on Fox News this morning between Hume and Juan Williams:

WILLIAMS: First of all, don’t you think, this spill now is going to be in excess of what happened with Exxon Valdez.

HUME: Let’s see if that happens. There’s a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf, and that is: Where is the oil?

WILLIAMS: “Where is the oil?”

HUME: It’s not on — except for little of chunks of it, you’re not even seeing it on the shore yet.

WILLIAMS: But I think it will damage the environment in the gulf and damage tourism and damage fishing. I don’t think there’s any question this is in excess of anything we’ve previously asked the ocean to absorb.

HUME: We’ll see if it is. We’ll see if it is. The ocean absorbs a lot, Juan, an awful lot. The ocean absorbs a lot.

Here’s the video:

The Washington Post says that Obama is about to have another legislative victory–a financial “reform” bill.

Administration officials, along with Dodd and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), have walked a fine line: fending off most conservative efforts to scale back core elements of the legislation while resisting most liberal attempts at harsher regulations, including strict caps on the size of big banks. Senate Democrats also have courted key Republicans, including Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, by accepting some of their recommendations, including adding rules tying capital requirements to risk and clarifying which businesses would be covered by the new consumer agency.

Something tells me this bill is going to hand over a lot more money to banks and their lobbyists. I hope I’m wrong.

In other news, Glenn Beck gave the commencement address yesterday at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and received an honorary degree. Beck told the graduates that he

…never graduated from college but spent one semester at Yale University when he was 30…leaving because he could not afford the tuition.

Beck, who is Mormon, delivered a speech that emphasized the power of faith in righting a country that he said has gone off track.“I look at the things that are facing you today: the worst economy in generations, the euro on the road to collapse, we’re spending ourselves into oblivion…” he said. “We live in a time where you must have great courage; you must have great faith. We live in a time where it seems truth is on the run.”

His message to the graduates was peppered with tears, humor and even some offbeat wisdom, such as “cabs smell worse in the summer” and “labels are meaningless, but Louis Vuitton shoes are really the best.”

The article didn’t say if Beck had been drinking heavily before his speech.

At Boston University a very special graduation ceremony was held today for the class of 1970.

The accouterment and spirit of their era still radiate from the class of 1970, despite the harsh and abrupt ending to their years at Boston University.

That spring was supposed to bring a flowery conclusion to their four years of academe. But President Richard M. Nixon had invaded Cambodia. National Guardsmen had gunned down students at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Young men still faced the draft. And this campus, like many across the country, was in turmoil, with strikes, sit-ins, building takeovers and fire-bombings.

The situation became so incendiary that, for safety’s sake, university officials called off final exams, canceled graduation and sent students packing.

This weekend, on what would have been the 40th anniversary of that ceremony, the university sought to make amends with a proper graduation.

What the heck is going at Ohio colleges these days? It’s a lot worse than anything in Animal House from the reports I’ve been reading.

Sorority at Miami University of Ohio accused of drunken debauchery at Underground Railroad museum

Members of the Alpha Xi Delta at Miami University and their dates are accused of a laundry list of bad behavior at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati during a spring formal, the Associated Press reported.

Accusations include smoking inside the museum, excessive trashing of the dance floor and bathrooms, vomiting in different places, leaving puddles of urine in the men’s bathroom, stealing bottles of booze from the bar and smuggling their own alcohol inside the museum in flasks and plastic bottles.

But that’s not even the worst of it. In a letter to Miami U. officials, event coordinator Rhonda Miller wrote that

…she followed a male partygoer who ducked under the stanchions around the Slave Pen exhibit, which was built in the early 1800s and was used by Kentucky slave trader, Capt. John W. Anderson.

“In catching up with him, I found him about to relieve himself on the corner of this priceless and sanctified artifact,” Miller wrote.

“I told him to get out of the closed off area and use the restroom on the main floor. A Bensons Catering employee later found the same boy attempting to relieve himself on the freight elevator where Bensons had stored their food.”

After a sorority member vomited at the dinner table about a half hour into the 7 p.m. event, Miller said “we realized that seemingly every single sorority sister had illegally brought alcohol into the building in plastic juice or soda bottles and flasks.”

Previously, the Pi Beta Phi sorority at Miami of Ohio had been suspended by the university for similar behavior at another event venue. The suspension came after

a lodge owner complained about damage and unruly behavior at a spring formal including guests urinating in sinks, men scrambling over the bar for drinks, and couples caught having sex.

And at the University of Dayton,

A third Ohio sorority is in trouble after a wild party that authorities said involved vandalism.

The University of Dayton’s Alpha Phi sorority faces a May 27 disciplinary hearing for a March gathering at the Top of the Market banquet hall in Dayton.

Authorities said students were accused of urinating and vomiting on carpet and alcohol theft. A men’s bathroom sink was ripped off the wall and mustard and ketchup was sprayed around the facility.

And Obama thinks this younger generation is going to clean up the mess we baby boomers supposedly made back in ’60s and ’70s?

Here’s a WTF story for you: Congress may override Gates’ plans to cut defense spending

Lawmakers from both parties are poised to override Gates and fund the C-17 cargo plane and an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — two weapons systems the defense secretary has been trying to cut from next year’s budget. They have also made clear they will ignore Gates’s pleas to hold the line on military pay raises and health-care costs, arguing that now is no time to skimp on pay and benefits for troops who have been fighting two drawn-out wars.

The competing agendas could lead to a major clash between Congress and the Obama administration this summer. Gates has repeatedly said he will urge President Obama to veto any defense spending bills that include money for the F-35’s extra engine or the C-17, both of which he tried unsuccessfully to eliminate last year.

Let’s all keep this in mind when Congress and the President try to take away our Social Security and Medicare. There’s always plenty of money for weapons and banks and nothing for the ordinary people who pay the bills with our taxes.

I’ll end with this old song about Indiana, sung a cappella by “Straight, No Chaser,” a choral group from Indiana University.

So what are you reading this morning? Got any good news? Any bird sightings or other nature stories to share? Post whatever stories you like in the comments, and have a marvelous Monday. Where there’s life there’s hope!

Thursday Morning News Brief

Good Morning Conflucians!! This will be a brief news post, because I have to get to my office at 10 to start working on my final grades for my two classes.

You won’t be surprised by this news–it’s just one more “we told you so” moment–but I suppose the progs will be mystified.

Hotline: Dem Turnout Falls off a Cliff

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.

In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

But supposedly, the Dems aren’t worried. Could that be because they really want the Repubs in charge so they don’t have to take any responsibility for the passage of Republican policies? Just imagine if the Dems were in the majority when Obama repeals Social Security. The Party would be dead. Oh wait…it’s already DOA.

“We had historic increases in registration in 2008 and we are working to turn out those first time voters again this fall, and we’ll do so united behind our nominees — which can’t be said of Republicans,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said. “The real story in looking at motivation of the base from yesterday was a deeply divided Republican party that nominated deeply flawed candidates that overwhelming majorities of their own voters couldn’t support.”

Oh really? We’ll find out in November, I guess.

SoD sent me this quote from poor befuddled Chris Bowers:

“…these turnout figures paint a picture significantly worse than just the expected 2% drop-off. This is more than just a demographic problem based on age–there really is a meaningful enthusiasm gap.

And yet, despite this, there are still no public, national polls looking for answers on why Democratic turnout is so low. All it would take would be to ask a single, open-ended question to 500 people who voted in 2008, but self-identify as unlikely to vote in 2010, “why don’t you intend on voting?” Everyone has theories, but those theories lack empirical supporting evidence and invariably little more than “I speak for all unlikely voters, and they are unhappy for the exact same reasons I am.”

You’re probably right, Chris. I’m sure all those polls about how much Americans hate the forced crappy health insurance bill and the historic win of a Republican Senate candidate in ultra-Democratic Massachusetts are just outliers. Let’s wait for an empirical study and several peer-reviewed journal articles before we wake up and realize the American people wanted a Democratic President and instead you and the rest of the progs forced Bush III down our throats.

More bad news for Democrats: David Obey is Retiring

Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the third-most senior member of the House and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that he was retiring after four decades in Congress, a decision that reflected both a generational shift and the difficult political environment for Democrats.

“I’m ready to turn the page,” said Mr. Obey, 71. He told lawmakers and reporters crammed into the committee room where he has held sway for so long that he was “bone tired,” before adding, “And frankly, I think that my district is ready for somebody new, to make a fresh start.”

That is a very serious loss for Congressional Dems.

Lots more is coming out about the inept Times Square terrorist. It turns out he has been on the Homeland Security “travel lookout list” since 1999. The New York Times is reporting that there is Taliban involvement in the failed attempt to blow up a car in a busy area of NYC.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

The London Times is reporting that Shahzad “carried out a dry run” before his failed bombing attempt.

Faisal Shahzad, who is in custody in New York on terrorism and weapons charges, drove from his home in Connecticut to the theatre district on April 28 in the vehicle that days later he would pack with explosives, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

Mr Shahzad then returned on April 30 – the day before the attack – to drop off a black Isuzu get-away vehicle near to the target site.

But despite these preparations his escape from the scene on May 1 was hampered when Mr Shahzad discovered he had left the keys for the getaway vehicle inside the explosive laden car, the official said.

Gee, this guy sounds real sophisticated-like, doesn’t he?

The horrifying and depressing oil leak continues onward. I don’t even want to think about it. In case you haven’t heard already, President Obama was the top recipient of BP campaign cash.

While the BP oil geyser pumps millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama and members of Congress may have to answer for the millions in campaign contributions they’ve taken from the oil and gas giant over the years.

BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees — $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals.

On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy.

As Gomer Pyle would say, “surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Greece has instituted “austerity measures” to deal with their debt.

Is this what’s coming for the U.S.?

A whole raft of measures, which include huge cuts to Greece’s public sector, have been announced since December last year, when the Greek government acknowledged the need to tackle Greece’s dire public finances.

The plans hope to achieve budget cuts of 30bn euros over three years – with the goal of cutting Greece’s public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

Implementing them is also a condition of Greece receiving the billions of euros in loans it needs as part of the EU-IMF rescue deal agreed this month.

The people of Greece aren’t taking government actions as quietly as we are in the U.S.

At least three people were killed Wednesday in Athens when rioters set a bank ablaze during protests by tens of thousands of people over austerity measures demanded by a multibillion-dollar international bailout of Greece.

A 24-hour national strike morphed into the strongest – and most violent – show of defiance yet over the austerity plan as millions of workers walked off the job and thousands took to the streets to vent their anger against the government.

What are you reading this morning? Please share! And have a terrific Thursday!

Saturday Morning News and Views: May Day Edition

Beltane Fire Ritual, Edinburgh, Scotland

Happy May Day, Conflucians!! It’s the feast of Beltane. In Edinburgh, 12,000 people gathered for the Beltane Fire Festival spring rituals. Here is a little information on the pagan holiday:

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These “need-fires” had healing properties, and skyclad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.

Other May Day customs include: processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of “…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…” retain such memories. And the next line “…to see a fine Lady on a white horse” is a reference to the annual ride of “Lady Godiva” though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

May Day is also an important day for the labor movement.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

Back here in the 21st Century, it’s been quite a week for news.

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Lazy Saturday News and Views

Out of Town News, Harvard Sq., Cambridge, MA

Good Morning, Conflucians!!!!

It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning here in the Boston ‘burbs. I just love Spring!

Personally, I’m still mainly interested in the Blago-Rezko-Obama story, but there is some other news today.


ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

The New York Times informs us that Rating Agency Data Aided Wall Street in Mortgage Deals Yes, as you probably already guessed, the fix was in on those “complex investments” from the very beginning. The ratings agencies were collaborating with the investment banks to make sure all those “high risk” bets came out the way the banks wanted them to.

The rating agencies made public computer models that were used to devise ratings to make the process less secretive. That way, banks and others issuing bonds — companies and states, for instance — wouldn’t be surprised by a weak rating that could make it harder to sell the bonds or that would require them to offer a higher interest rate.

But by routinely sharing their models, the agencies in effect gave bankers the tools to tinker with their complicated mortgage deals until the models produced the desired ratings. [....]

But for Goldman and other banks, a road map to the right ratings wasn’t enough. Analysts from the agencies were hired to help construct the deals.

In 2005, for instance, Goldman hired Shin Yukawa, a ratings expert at Fitch, who later worked with the bank’s mortgage unit to devise the Abacus investments.

It really is time to break up these greedy “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks, but the Obama administration still defends their right to exist. Scarecrow at FDL has a great post on Larry Summers’ latest excuse for TBTF: Why Is Larry Summers Afraid of Having Many Small Banks? Summers says we can’t do that because that’s what was tried before the Great Depression, and it failed.

…if we broke up the megabanks and instead had many smaller regulated banks, it would be the end of America and the financial industry as we know it.

And that would be bad why? Scarecrow:

Funny, I always thought the smaller bank system, if that’s what it was, failed because Wall Street wasn’t sufficiently regulated, and the local bank runs happened because we didn’t have the FDIC at the time. So is Larry now saying that having the FDIC to take over smaller bank failures has been a failure?

And what’s he saying about needing diversified megabanks that lose money on risky stuff but loot, uh, borrow money from better managed activities? Surely he doesn’t mean to argue for letting the investment casino borrow from the government-guaranteed deposit-based divisions?

Reuters: Goldman emails: firm lauds profits from shorts

Goldman Sachs Group Inc officials discussed making “serious money” in 2007 off the subprime crisis as mortgages were starting to falter in rapid numbers, according to a collection of e-mails released by a Senate panel on Saturday.

“Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,” Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in an e-mail from November 2007.

“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” said Goldman Sachs executive Donald Mullen in a separate series of e-mails from October 2007 about the performance of deteriorating second-lien positions in a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO.

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