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    • Some actual serious sanctions proposed against Russia by the EU
      Not shabby: EU diplomats will weigh sweeping Russian sanctions on Thursday that include a proposal to ban all Europeans from purchasing any new debt or stock issued by Russia’s largest banks, according to a proposal seen by the Financial Times. The sanctions measure, contained in a 10-page options memo prepared by the European Commission and [...]
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Tuesday Mid-Morning News and Views

A confused-looking President Obama meets with NSC chief Denis McDonough about failed underwear bombing

Good Morning Conflucians!!! Dakinikat has jury duty this morning and Riverdaughter is tussling with the charts at Survey Monkey, so I’m going to get us started today with a few links to stories that interested me this morning. As always, post your own choice links in the comments.

First up, Joseph Cannon has provided more information and background on the Afghan bombing that I was speculating about yesterday. My head is spinning after reading that, but I plan to keep following this story anyway.

President Obama has finally returned from vacation and will be getting updated on all the latest crotch-bomber intel, according to CNN.

Obama will meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Tuesday, an administration official told CNN.

Obama will get an update from Mueller on the FBI’s investigation. Obama will get information from Holder on the prosecution of the suspect in the botched Christmas Day airline bombing. And he will get an update from Napolitano on her review on detection capabilities, the official said.

After the meeting, Obama will make public statements about his findings and an initial series of reforms to improve the country’s ability to thwart future attempts to carry out terrorist attacks, according to the official.

The president met with Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan for 90 minutes on Monday and is scheduled to meet with him again Tuesday, the official said.

And then I suppose Obama will be headed back to the golf course?

Mickey Kaus wants to know: Wherein lies the greatness of Janet Napolitano?

She gave an awful public performance in the wake of the Flt. 253 terror incident–assuring air travelers that “the system worked” when the one obvious thing was that for whatever reason the system didn’t work, as President Obama acknowledged a few days later. She then seems to have panicked and pressed the “Friends, Save Me” button.

Then he links to a lot of articles by smarmy villagers like David Broder and MoDo defending Napolitano. Will she stay or will she go?

The U.S. embassy in Yeman is open again, according to the LA Times.

U.S. officials said they reopened the embassy today because a Yemeni counterterrorism operation on Monday “addressed a specific area of concern.”

Yemeni officials reportedly killed two and injured two suspected Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives Monday. The Interior Ministry today said it had arrested five other “terror elements” in and around the capital and Hudaydah province.

The ministry said it had beefed up security measures around foreign embassies and residential districts favored by the international community in Sana, according to Yemen’s official Saba news agency. An unnamed official told Saba that security forces had imposed a “cordon” and round-the-clock surveillance around Al Qaeda militants.

Commenter Laurie posted this piece by John Pilger in the New Statesman: Welcome to Orwell’s world Pilger argues that the US is Oceania and I guess Obama is Big Brother. It would be hard to pick an except from this piece–you need to read the whole thing.

Here’s an interesting piece by Professor James Petras on how China and South Korea are beating the pants off U.S. in economic terms while our government focuses on military power and empire building.

The story told by the articles and headlines in a single day’s issue of the Financial Times reflects a deeper reality, one that illustrates the great divide in the world today. The Asian countries, led by China, are reaching world power status on the basis of their massive domestic and foreign investments in manufacturing, transportation, technology and mining and mineral processing. In contrast, the US is a declining world power with a deteriorating society resulting from its military-driven empire building and its financial-speculative centered economy….

[....]

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

When will we pick up the Financial Times or any other daily and read about our own high-speed rail line carrying American passengers from New York to Boston in less than one hour? When will our own factories supply our hardware stores? When will we build wind, solar and ocean-based energy generators? When will we abandon our military bases and let the world’s warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists face the justice of their own people?

What are you reading this morning?

HAVE A TERRIFIC TUESDAY, CONFLUCIANS!!!!!!!

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! What’s happening out there in the world?


The big story of this slow news day seems to be the attempted “terrorist attack” in Detroit.

ABC News: Man Attempts to Set Off Explosives on Detroit-Bound Airplane

Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian man, who allegedly tried to “explode” a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, law enforcement officials said.

The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil, ABC News has learned. Authorities have no corroboration of that information, and the credibility of the suspect’s statements are being questioned, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.

The latest from CNN: Device was on fire in terror suspect’s lap, plane passenger says

A Nigerian man is “talking a lot” to the FBI, said a senior U.S. official, after what the United States believes was an attempted terrorist attack on an inbound international flight.

The initial impression is that the suspect was acting alone and did not have any formal connections to organized terrorist groups, said the official, who is familiar with the investigation.

The suspect, identified by a U.S. government official as 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, ignited a small explosive device Friday, shortly before a Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, landed at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan.

Passenger Jasper Schuringa told CNN that with the aid of the cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs, according to federal law enforcement and airline security sources.

CNN World: London police hunt airline terror link

Counterterrorism officers are searching buildings in London in connection with the alleged terrorist attempt aboard a flight to Detroit, police said Saturday.

The officers were believed to be searching locations including an apartment block in central London, but a spokeswoman for the city’s Metropolitan Police would not say specifically where and what they are looking for, or how many officers are involved.

She also said the police are making several inquiries at the request of U.S. authorities.

Continue reading

Christmas Day News and Views

Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas Conflucians! I hope everyone has a lovely day today. News events march onward, of course, despite the holiday season. Here are some stories that caught my eye this morning. Please add your own important and interesting links in the comments.

If you haven’t see in it already, please go read this excellent post at Corrente by Tony Wikrent: How the status quo can kill: the example of free trade

Boy, was this writer’s talent ever wasted on the progs at dailykos! There is really no way to provide an excerpt that will do this piece justice. You really do have to read the whole thing.

A woman leaped over a barricade at midnight mass at the Vatican and knocked Pope Benedict onto the marble floor. Here is some amateur video of the events.

More Vatican news:

NYT: Vatican Defends Status of WWII Pope

In an effort to calm growing tensions with Jewish groups, the Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision moving the wartime pope Pius XII closer to sainthood was not a “hostile act” against those who believe Pius did not do enough to stop the Holocaust.

Really?

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement saying that the beatification process evaluated the “Christian life” of Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, and not “the historical impact of all his operative decisions.”

Moving Pius toward sainthood “is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church,” Father Lombardi wrote.

That sounds a little odd and hypocritcal to me, but then I don’t really believe in the concept of sainthood. The Catholic Church made Maria Goretti a saint because she supposedly forgave the man who raped and murdered her. That tells me that the Church’s decisions about sainthood actually do send messages.

Amy Sullivan, Time Magazine: No Churchgoing Christmas for the First Family

But there’s one common Christmas practice not on the First Family’s schedule: a visit to Christmas Eve church services.

Why am I not surprised?

Church, in fact, has been a surprisingly tough issue for the Obamas. They resigned their membership with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 2008 after Obama renounced the church’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. And while the First Family intended to find a local church to attend when they moved to Washington, concerns about crowds and displacing regular worshippers has prevented them from finding a new religious home during their first year here.

The Obamas have attended Sunday services in Washington three times this year — once at the predominantly African-American 19th Street Baptist Church, and twice at St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House.

Three times in a whole year! Amazing, for such a deeply religious man {snort}

At Huffpo, the ever-hopeful Cenk Uygur argues that progs can move Obama to the left! {hysterical laughter}

There are many debates among progressives now on the true nature of Barack Obama. Did he mean anything he said on the campaign trail? Is he really a progressive? Did he ever mean to challenge the status quo or was he using the word “change” as a campaign gimmick? Is he just a corporatist like most other politicians?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! That’s funny. I know Cenk can’t possibly think there’s a chance in hell that Obama actually meant any of the promises he made while campaigning. Come on!

Does he mean well or does he have bad intentions? Come on, don’t be ridiculous. Of course, he means well. But in his own mind, George Bush thought he meant well too (for the most part). I’m positive that Obama thinks that he is doing the best he can to bring about as much change as he can within the limits of this system.

Ooops! I guess Cenk has a way to go before he finally gets all that Koolaid out of his system.

Is he a true progressive or a corporatist sell out? Well, that depends on what you mean. Has he wound up helping corporate America tremendously through health care “reform,” finance “reform,” etc.? Well, Wall Street certainly seems to think so (and so do most progressives). Did he do that because he thought, “I can’t wait to help corporate America and screw over the little guy”? No, I’m sure he thought he had to accommodate the powers that be in order to affect any change at all in this system. But the bottom line has been the same, either way – the system has been tweaked but corporate America chugs along with even more government largesse than before.

I’m sure Obama is a progressive that would help the average American if he thought he could. But apparently he thinks he can’t. He can only bring them a small amount of change because of what he thinks the system will allow.

Uh huh. Keep on telling yourself that, Cenk. Maybe it will somehow make you feel better about being hoodwinked into voting for Bush III.

Paul Krugman thinks that the Heath Care bill will save millions of future Tiny Tims–after 2014, that is.

Krugman scolds people like us who think the bill is nothing but a big mess of corporate giveaways and efforts to control women’s bodies:

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

Oddly, Krugman never mentions either the anti-abortion language in both the House and Senate versions of the bill; nor does he address the shoring up of the Bush conscience rules in the Senate version. How very very strange. I guess Krugman thinks it’s just fine if Congress passes a health care bill for men that allows the government and health care workers to control women’s choices.

The News side of Krugman’s paper isn’t as sanguine as he is.

Health Care Changes Wouldn’t Have Big Effect for Many

what about the roughly 160 million workers and their dependents who already have health insurance through an employer? For many people, the result of the long, angry health care debate in Washington may be little more than more of the same.

As President Obama once promised, “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.”

That may be true even if you don’t like your health plan. And no one seems to agree on whether the legislation will do much to reduce workers’ continually rising out-of-pocket costs.

Chris Good at The Atlantic: Insurance Industry’s Reaction: Senate Bill Would Raise Costs


And some Christmas-oriented stories:

BBC News: In pictures: Christmas around the world

Longmont Times-Call: The true Father Christmas: Before there was a Santa Claus, there was the generous St. Nicholas

BBC News: Christmas in Iraq: Muslims buy Christmas decorations in a Baghdad market, where both faiths have worshipped side by side for centuries

China View: World pray for peace on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

NYT Op-Ed: Everyone Is Invited

Kansas City Star: Excerpts from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

Christmas Eve in West Fargo, North Dakota

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!

Christmas Eve at The Confluence

Good Morning Conflucians! It’s hard to believe, but The Confluence is nearly two years old. In early 2008, Riverdaughter started this blog as an oasis for disaffected Kossacks who dared to question whether Barack Obama was the right choice for the Democratic nomination.

Riverdaughter hung in day after day, posting her intelligent and snarky commentary on daily events in one of the most hard-fought nomination fights I can remember. Gradually this blog grew into a small but powerful alternative voice in the liberal blogosphere.

After the RBC meeting on May 31, 2008, when the deal was sealed to install Obama as nominee, SM came up with the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) acronym, and her idea went viral. Although we have been reviled for our dissident views, and we had to fight off numerous ugly troll-storms, we hung together through the Convention farce and the general election campaign.

After the election we continued on as an alternative liberal voice–a thorn in the side of the prog blogs and Obama syncophants who thought we would slink off and never be heard from again. Fat chance! Unfortunately, the puma label was twisted into things we had never intended, so we don’t use it anymore. We’ve moved on to be a voice in the wilderness, providing political commentary from the point of view of people whose eyes were wide open all along instead of clouded by Koolaid haze.

Each day that passes shows how right we were in our trepidation about Obama. More and more Americans are waking up to the reality that Obama isn’t much of a change from Bush. These days you see griping about Obama’s policies all over the liberal blogs, but no one wants to acknowledge that we were right all along. Jane Hamsher, for example would rather work with Grover Norquist and the tea party crowd than include us in her efforts to fight the health insurance bailout bill.

Something tells me we’ll continue to hang in there. My best Christmas present this year is waking up in the morning knowing that TC is here and I can count on all you Conflucians to pick me up when I’m down. And lately there have been more mornings when I wake up to find a brilliant Riverdaughter rant to read! I appears that RD’s hypergraphia is back, and that makes me really happy this holiday season.

So on this Christmas Eve, 2009, I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions to this blog. That is the best Christmas present I can think of.

Here are some links to get the discussion going. Please post your own choice links in the comments.

Danny Glover: I See No Difference Between Bush And Obama Policies

“I think the Obama administration has followed the same playbook, to a large extent, almost verbatim, as the Bush administration. I don’t see anything different,” the activist movie actor said of Obama’s policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. “On the domestic side, look here: What’s so clear is that this country from the outset is projecting the interests of wealth and property. Look at the bailout of Wall Street. Why not the bailout of Main Street?”

That’s a good start, but Glover goes on to blame the system for Obama’s actions:

“What choice does he have—in four years, eight years? Let’s just call a spade a spade. Really. There are no choices out there. He may be just a different face, and that face may happen to be black—and if it were Hillary Clinton, it would happen to be a woman—but what choices do they have within the structure?”

Um…How come the Republicans always had choices–even when they didn’t control Congress–but the Democrats don’t? The Democrats have a supermajority and they’re still acting like Republicans. Danny Glover has a way to go before he completely wakes up to reality, but it’s a start.

And from the Black Agenda Report where no one was fooled by Obama’s lies: Barack Obama and Langston Hughes on “Grumblers” and “Merry Christmas”

When US presidents offer us their holiday greeting messages, do we know what are they really saying? How hard can it be to figure that out? Langston Hughes died in 1967, but he knew what every US president, including Barack Obama is really saying, underneath and behind the mask.

Go read the whole thing!

Of course the big news of the day is that the Senate has passed their monstrosity of a “health care reform” bill.

Senate Passes Sweeping Health-Care Bill

Thursday’s vote was a victory for President Barack Obama, who made the issue his top domestic priority despite lingering divisions among Democrats and the fierce opposition of Republicans. And it was a validation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to build consensus on his side of the aisle, rather than reach across party lines, a move that would have forced a lowering of ambitions.

What a pile of crap that is! What ambitions? Does the WSJ really believe that Republicans don’t want to hand over wads of money to giant health care corporations? And if Obama is the victor, who are the vanquished? Women mainly.

If the Stupak and Nelson language survives reconciliation between the House and Senate versions of the bill, abortion will effectively be abolished in many parts of the U.S. If the abortion isn’t covered by health insurance, doctors won’t perform them, and medical schools won’t provide training (many already do not). On top of that the conscience rules are strengthened in this bill to protect health care and pharmacy workers who refuse to provide treatment to women who need abortions, including rape victims who ask for the morning after pill and women who want birth control in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

More articles on the Senate vote:

NYT: Senate Passes Health Care Overhaul Bill

Ezra “anything Obama does is OK with me” Klein: Winning ugly, but winning

From some formerly united-behind-Obama prog blogs:

Crooks and Liars: State Prosecutors Probe Constitutionality Of Nelson’s “Nebraska Compromise” In Health Reform Bill

Emptywheel: Peace on Earth Air Strike in Yemen

David Sirota at Open Left: Permanent Militarism: When Bioweapons & Land Mines Aren’t Even Mentioned

At the Great Orange Cheeto, they are still busy bashing their new object of hatred, Jane Hamsher.

HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!

Saturday Morning at The Confluence

Good morning everyone! What are you reading this morning? I recently started the new book by John Perkins, Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them.

In the news, I’m half-heartedly following the health care bill’s progress and wondering what is going to happen with the Fort Hood story. Even though there seems to be a lot happening, I get the feeling that absolutely no progress is being made on anything whatsoever. Is it just me?


SENATE HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL

I know I should be all worked up about the health care bill, but I’m not. The Senate will have a vote tonight at 8PM to see if debate on the bill can go forward, but who cares? The bill doesn’t seem worth all the months of arguing and haranguing. The politicians haven’t listened to the people’s concerns at all, as far as I can tell. It has all been just a big kabuki dance leading up to the next corporate bailout.

The New York Times has an editorial on the situation, but it’s hard to tell if they are endorsing the bill or not:

The Senate bill is weaker in many respects than the trillion-dollar bill passed by the House, which would cover more of the uninsured and provide greater subsidies. It would postpone many reforms until 2014, a year later than the House bill, delaying benefits for millions of Americans. It also lacks an explicit mandate on employers to offer coverage. The House bill does a better job of closing the gap in Medicare that leaves many elderly beneficiaries struggling to pay for medicines.

Conservative Democratic senators whose votes will be needed to break a Republican filibuster are restive over the costs of the overall plan and over including a public option, even with an opportunity for states to opt out. Some may also object to provisions that would allow enrollees to buy plans that cover abortions on the exchanges using their own money, a more reasonable standard than the virtual ban on abortion coverage under the House bill. Despite these concerns, conservative Democrats owe it to the nation to help break a Republican filibuster and allow debate to proceed.

Whatever….

More health care reform links:

Reuters: Healthcare bill faces first U.S. Senate test

Bloomberg: Reid, Democrats Face First Big Senate Test on Health-Care Bill

CNN International: What to expect in Senate’s Saturday health care vote

Politics Daily: Pollster Celinda Lake: Where Women Really Stand on Health Care

Washington Post: Health Bill Opponents Turn Up the Volume


FORT HOOD SHOOTINGS

News 8 Austin: Hasan to have first court hearing Saturday

Wall Street Journal: Army Taps General to Probe Shootings

AFP: Fort Hood Shooter Talked with Radical Cleric

Boston Globe Editorial: Questions swirl in Fort Hood

CRUCIAL QUESTIONS need to be answered about the motives and contacts of Colonel Nidal Hasan, the suspect charged in the mass murder at Fort Hood, Texas. Was the army psychiatrist radicalized by a Yemeni-American imam who had known two of the 9/11 hijackers and who called the Fort Hood massacre a “heroic act’’? Could the killings have been prevented if the FBI had notified the army about an exchange of e-mails the bureau was monitoring between Hasan and the radical imam?

These are questions that may not be the focus of prosecutors but are rightfully the concern of congressional committees with oversight responsibilities. Irritating as Senator Joe Lieberman’s grandstanding on other matters might be, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was doing what needs to be done when he opened hearings Thursday to determine if federal agencies “missed signals or failed to connect the dots in a way that enabled Hasan to carry out his deadly plan.’’

LA Times: Senate inquiry into Ft. Hood misplaced

Sen. Joe Lieberman insists on pushing ahead with a Senate inquiry into the mass murder at Ft. Hood, despite White House and Pentagon anxieties that the probe could compromise the prosecution of alleged killer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

It’s always interesting to see how many friends due process has in times of extreme stress. Given what looks like the security authorities’ wretched mishandling of the Hasan case — the guy appears to have done everything but paste an “Osama bin Laden Rocks” bumper sticker on his car — there’s every reason for the administration and the FBI to want to put off a legislative reckoning for as long as possible. “We want to guarantee everyone a fair trial” is always good cover. But in this case, it has the additional virtue of being true.

Lieberman isn’t the only Senator calling the Fort Hood attack “terrorism.” Now Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is saying it too:

The Hill: Sen. Levin: Fort Hood shooting rampage was likely a terrorist attack

“It probably could be labeled as a terrorist attack. I am not uncomfortable with thinking that’s the likely outcome here or the likely accurate description,” Levin added.

[....]

Levin said his panel has to receive a number of closed-door briefings from the military and other involved agencies before it holds a public hearing. Levin did not offer a timeline as to when the hearings will occur but said he is committed to holding them.

He also stressed that Congress has an important oversight role to play in regard to the shooting and identifying deficiencies within military processes and policies.

This could get ugly.


THE ECONOMY

NYT: New Consensus Sees Stimulus Package as Worthy Step

WSJ: Goldman Holders Miffed at Bonuses

WSJ: House Attacks Fed, Treasury

Obama Says Asia Trip Focused on Economy and Creating U.S. Jobs


ODDS AND ENDS

Man arrested at LAX with fifteen live lizards strapped to chest

In an apparently cold-blooded attempt at smuggling, a Lomita man was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport this week with more than a dozen wriggling lizards strapped to his chest.

Michael Plank, 40, was detained by U.S. Customs agents after they discovered 15 live lizards stuffed into his money belt, officials with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said Friday.

Ancient Crocs Ate Dinosaurs

Thursday, University of Chicago dinosaur hunter Paul Sereno writes about five skeletons of ancient crocodiles that lived 100 million years ago.

“We have crocs that ate plants and galloped and ate dinosaurs and were flat as a board,” said Sereno, who unearthed the skeletons over the last several years in the Sahara.


Tips for the Admissions Test … to Kindergarten

Test preparation has long been a big business catering to students taking SATs and admissions exams for law, medical and other graduate schools. But the new clientele is quite a bit younger: 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents hope that a little assistance — costing upward of $1,000 for several sessions — will help them win coveted spots in the city’s gifted and talented public kindergarten classes.

Motivated by a recession putting private schools out of reach and concern about the state of regular public education, parents — some wealthy, some not — are signing up at companies like Bright Kids NYC. Bright Kids, which opened this spring in the financial district, has some 200 students receiving tutoring, most of them for the gifted exams, for up to $145 a session and 80 children on a waiting list for a weekend “boot camp” program.

Quick restart of Big Bang machine stuns scientists

The nuclear physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider were surprised that they could so quickly get beams of protons whizzing near the speed of light during the restart late Friday, said James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The machine was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault in September last year.
Some scientists had gone home early Friday and had to be called back as the project jumped ahead, Gillies said.

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY, EVERYONE!!!!


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Friday Morning News and Views: Friday the 13th Edition

2007-04-16

Looming Nor'easter in New England

Good Morning Conflucians! It’s a gloomy Friday the 13th here in the Boston area. I guess we’ll be getting hit with the tail end of Hurricane Ida over the next couple of days. I’m feeling a bit lethargic this morning, but I’ll try to locate a few interesting news links nonetheless. Please add your own in the comments!

Did you know this is the third Friday the 13th in 2009? Maybe that’s why this year has been such a disaster. Anyway, its supposed to make today “extra freaky.”


THERE IS HOPE FOR THEM YET

Paul Krugman is finally back to criticizing administration policy–without mentioning the President. But it’s a step in the right direction. Will Krugman be summoned to the White House for another Koolaid injection? He explains why Germany isn’t suffering from massive unemployment as the U.S. is.

Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarized as “if you grow it, they will come.” That is, we don’t really have a jobs policy: we have a G.D.P. policy. The theory is that by stimulating overall spending we can make G.D.P. grow faster, and this will induce companies to stop firing and resume hiring.

The alternative would be policies that address the job issue more directly. We could, for example, have New-Deal-style employment programs. Perhaps such a thing is politically impossible now — Glenn Beck would describe anything like the Works Progress Administration as a plan to recruit pro-Obama brownshirts — but we should note, for the record, that at their peak, the W.P.A. and the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of Americans, at relatively low cost to the budget.

Alternatively, or in addition, we could have policies that support private-sector employment. Such policies could range from labor rules that discourage firing to financial incentives for companies that either add workers or reduce hours to avoid layoffs.

And that’s what the Germans have done. Germany came into the Great Recession with strong employment protection legislation. This has been supplemented with a “short-time work scheme,” which provides subsidies to employers who reduce workers’ hours rather than laying them off. These measures didn’t prevent a nasty recession, but Germany got through the recession with remarkably few job losses.

I’m really starting to wish I could move to a European country–preferably one with universal, affordable health care like Italy or France. On the other hand, I love the wide open spaces here in the USA and I would prefer to stay here if I could. Sometimes I even fantasize about moving to Western North Dakota near Theodore Roosevelt National Park or maybe way up near Canada where I can live really cheaply and relatively free from government interference. Not that I’d join a militia or anything, lol, just that I’d be less noticeable to the authorities and maybe I could survive the authoritarian crackdown that I think is coming when the economy really collapses.

I have made fun of Chris Bowers and Open left over the past couple of years because of their slavish adoration of Obama, but I am starting to read them again. They are really standing up to their former “precious” of late. I’ve always like Paul Rosenberg’s work, and Natasha Chart has been on fire. Here’s her latest:

DNC, OFA Abandon Women In Healthcare Action Alert

Nancy Keenan, head of the national NARAL group (and most obedient of the obedient losers) was apparently personally promised before the health care battle by the Obama administration that they would look after the organization’s constituency interests in the health care bill and preserve the status quo. In return, NARAL was asked to stand down its activism.
They did. So with all their colleagues, they got caught with their pants down when a floor vote on the Stupak amendment was imminent.

Today, I got a press release from the DNC, and their Organizing For America project, on their plan to drum up more support for the health care reform bill: targeting Republicans.

It says nothing about women’s healthcare. Nothing. Like it isn’t even at issue. OFA is still watching NARAL’s back, women’s backs, as well as they always have.

OFA is crowing about the 500,000 phone calls they’ve prompted on the health care issue. Were any of them centered around preserving reproductive health care when it mattered? Ha! As Femlaw says at the link, “The idea is to build organizational capacity, so when really critical moments in the campaign happened, OFA could deliver huge numbers.”

Targeting Republicans is critical. Encouraging Democrats to stand together for women’s health and rights, not critical.

Even The Huffington Post has begun to rag on Obama’s policies. Here’s the big headlined post this morning:

Goldman To Private Insurers: No Health Care Reform At All Is Best by Sam Stein

A Goldman Sachs analysis of health care legislation has concluded that, as far as the bottom line for insurance companies is concerned, the best thing to do is nothing. A close second would be passing a watered-down version of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill.

A study put together by Goldman in mid-October looks at the estimated stock performance of the private insurance industry under four variations of reform legislation. The study focused on the five biggest insurers whose shares are traded on Wall Street: Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellPoint, CIGNA and Humana.

That must be why the Goldman Sachs administration Obama administration is doing it’s darndest to kill health care reform by excluding women’s health coverage.


LATEST BREAKING STORIES

This news is just breaking around the world: ‘NY trial’ for key 9/11 suspects

Alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be sent from Guantanamo Bay to New York for trial in a civilian court, reports say.

Citing unnamed government officials, the reports said he would be transferred from the US prison camp in Cuba with four other suspects.

US Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the decision later, the officials say.

Mr Mohammed has admitted planning the 9/11 attacks, the US military says.

That seems like a step in the right direction. Maybe we will see Guantanamo closed after all. I’d sure like to see that happen.

Politico: After spending binge, White House says it will focus on deficits

Bloomberg:
Home-Purchase Index in US Plunges to Lowest Level Since 2000

NYT: Among Obama Aides, Debate Intensifies on Troop Levels

The Nation: Whose Team Is It, Anyway? by Katha Pollitt

The Hill: Tensions brim between GOP and CEOs over healthcare reform

The Latest Lecture from Charles Krauthammer: Medicalizing mass murder (he does have a few good points)


WEEKEND ESCAPES

What’s Friday the thirteenth without the release of a big horror/disaster movie?

’2012′ Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

It’s 2009 and a couple scientists discover the sun is freaking out and heating up the Earth’s core. Good news for anyone who likes a nice subterranean sauna. Bad news for anyone who wants the Earth not to fall to pieces in the few years.

Disaster kingpin Roland Emmerich’s “2012″ then cuts to the year 2012, which looks pretty much like 2009, except the governments of the world are scrambling to come up with a secret survival plan for humanity. Which they are going to need — stat! — because it’s not too long before a few Los Angeles tremors make way for mega-quakes, lava-gushing volcanoes and tsunamis that no amount of human fortitude can combat.

Into this apocalyptic mess comes John Cusack’s struggling novelist Jackson Curtis, who has to rescue his ex-wife and kids while trying not to pee himself.

This one, on the other hand, looks really worthwhile, even if you need to bring a box of Kleenex with you.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

It’s hard to believe that a movie that traffics so operatically in images of brutality and squalor can be so fleet, assured and lyrical. But such breathtaking contradictions abound in “Precious,” which in the course of introducing the viewers to unspeakable despair, manages to imbue them with an exhilarating sense of hope — if not in a bright and cheery future for the film’s beleaguered protagonist, then at least in the possibilities of cinema as a bold, fluent and adamantly expressive art form.

That beleaguered protagonist is Claireece “Precious” Jones (played in an astonishing debut by Gabourey Sidibe), a 16-year-old girl who, as the movie opens, is still attending junior high school in 1980s Harlem. Morbidly obese, functionally illiterate, pregnant with her second child after being raped by her father, Precious lives with her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), in a squalid apartment where she endures the latter’s near-constant verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Precious’s only escape from this lurid tableau is rich, glittery fantasy life, in which she has a “light-skinned boyfriend” and “good hair,” dresses in ball gowns and carries a little terrier.


HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!

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Monday Morning News and Views

Ida

Hurricane Ida batters coast of Cancun, Mexico

Good Morning, Conflucians! This morning more than ever, I’m so grateful for all of you, and so glad we have this blog where we can discuss, argue and rant about politics and news events. I can’t begin to imagine what I would have done with out TC and all of you Conflucians over the past couple of years. Thank you all for being here! I hope you have a marvelous Monday, despite the bad news.

This has been a very tough weekend to be a liberal who saw through Obama from the beginning when so many other other people who previously seemed sane and reasonable just gulped down the Koolaid and adjusted their blinders so as to see only “hope ‘n change” filtered through their rose-colored glasses. I don’t enjoy saying “I told you so” anymore. The consequences of electing an inexperienced, narcissistic, apparently amoral, misogynistic, homophobic man to the presidency are becoming all too clear. And those results are tragic.

From where I sit, the pain of the unconscionable betrayal of women by the President and the U.S. House of Representatives still feels fresh. Stateofdisbelief said it so well yesterday in a comment on Quixote’s post:

Yep. Last night was it for me. They can all pound. F#$K Sestak, F#$K Specter, F#$K Holden. I am done. No help. No phone calls. No canvassing. No money. No vote.

I hate them all.

There is no one that can argue with a straight face that women should vote for Democrats. There is nothing. They burnt the bridge.

It’s over for me too. I can never again consider myself a Democrat. We need a new party to represent those of us who were FDR, JFK, LBJ, WJC, HRC Democrats–there is no longer room in our former party for liberals who believe in equal rights for all and compassion for our fellow humans. Both of the parties now represent only the superrich and giant multinational banks and corporations. We’re on our own now. As Quixote wrote so eloquently:

But women are just, as always, the expendable canaries in the coal mine. Their rights are toast, which means so are everyone else’s.

I’m going to shout that: WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE TOAST WHICH MEANS SO ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S.

Rights are for all. When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away….

The right to control one’s own person is fundamental. Even the right not to be murdered is secondary, since killing is allowed in self-defence.

So what’s happening in the news this morning? It’s hard for me to work up much enthusiasm for surfing the ‘net right now, but I’ll post a few links and you can add your own in the comments.

It looks like Hurricane Ida has weakened to a Category 1, so I hope Dakinikat and her fellow N’awlins citizens will be able to safely weather the storm. Fingers crossed.

Hurricane Ida chugged toward the Gulf Coast, and despite warnings extending more than 200 miles across several states, residents seemed to take the first Atlantic hurricane to target the U.S. this season in stride.

Authorities said the hurricane weakened early Monday to a Category 1 storm, with 90 mph winds, and could make landfall as early as Tuesday morning.

The New York Times has a very good story on the background of the shooting at Fort Hood.
Fort Hood Gunman gave signals Before his Rampage

Major Hasan’s behavior in the months and weeks leading up to the shooting bespeaks a troubled man full of contradictions. He lived frugally in a run-down apartment, yet made a good salary and spent more than $1,100 on the pistol the authorities said he used in the shootings.

He was described as gentle and kindly by many neighbors, quick with a smile or a hello, yet he complained bitterly to people at his mosque about the oppression of Muslims in the Army. He had few friends, and even the men he interacted with at the mosque saw him as a strange figure whom they never fully accepted into their circle.

It is beginning to look like Major Hasan was a very likely suffering from clinical depression at the very least. He had turned to his religion for solace, but he needed much more help than any religion could provide. Sadly, it appears that many of his superiors either ignored or simply did not notice the ominous signs and they did not listen to those who tried to warn them. Continue reading

Friday Morning News and Views

morning_paper

Good Morning, Conflucians. The big story of the day is the massacre at Fort Hood in Texas. Last night it was reported that the shooter, Major Malik Nadal Hasan, was dead. But he is still alive and in stable condition even though he was shot several times. It still isn’t clear what motivated Hasan, who was a both a devout Muslim and a psychiatrist and was going to be deployed to Iraq at the end of November. A short time ago, the 13th shooting victim died. Reports say that 31 victims were injured.

From The New York Times: Suspect Was ‘Mortified’ About Deployment to War

Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small Palestinian town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying Da

Hasan may have posted sympathetic writings about suicide bombers on the internet. Someone with the same name did so, according to this and other stories. Hasan had not told his family he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq.

More Stories on the Shooting and Aftermath:

Army post shooting rampage leaves 13 dead, 30 hurt

NYT:
Army Doctor Held in Fort Hood Rampage

NYT: Shooting Victims Flood Local Hospitals

Raw Story: Muslims fear backlash in wake of Fort Hood massacre

Other stories on Hasan:

SF Examiner: Troubling portrait emerges of Army psychiatrist suspected in rampage at Fort Hood, Texas

Roanoke Times: Suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan: Social awkwardness kept with him into adulthood

Analysis of the Fort Hood Story

There is an excellent discussion of the significance of the story by Dahr Jamail at Truthout: Mass Shooting Indicates Breakdown of Military

Jamail interviewed a soldier at Fort Hood who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The soldier says that the mood on the base is “very grim,” and that even before this incident, troop morale has been very low.

“I’d say it’s at an all-time low – mostly because of Afghanistan now,” he explained. “Nobody knows why we are at either place, and I believe the troops need to know why they are there, or we should pull out, and this is a unanimous feeling, even for folks who are pro-war.”

After a similar incident in May, in which

a US soldier gunned down five fellow soldiers at a stress-counseling center at a US base in Baghdad. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon that the shootings occurred in a place where “individuals were seeking help.”

“It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress,” Admiral Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments.”

Commenting on the incident in nearly parallel terms, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon needs to redouble its efforts to relieve stress caused by repeated deployments in war zones; stress that is further exacerbated by limited time at home in between deployments.

The condition described by Mullen and Gates is what veteran health experts often refer to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How much longer will our government continue sending people back to Iraq and Afghanistan even though they are suffering from serious psychological disorders?

We need to end both of these wars, but will President Obama have the courage to do it when it might mean he’ll be a one-term President? That is what Gary Wills claims in a recent blog post at The New York Review of Books blog. Wills foolishly believes that Obama has the will and the guts to do what Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon didn’t do when we were in Vietnam. Poor Gary. He’ll wake up to reality eventually, no doubt.


OTHER NEWS


Wall Street Firms getting H1N1 Vaccine ‘ahead of hospitals’

Pelosi scrambles for health care votes

Details on Health Care Bills in House, Senate

Pentagon pursuing new investigation into Bush propaganda program

Deal Over Honduran Crisis ‘Dead’

Families in Cleveland Wait for ID’s of Victims

Texas polygamist sect member found guilty of sexual assault


After all that horrible news, here’s an interesting story from developmental psychology and specifically my own field–language development.


Babies ‘cry in mother’s tongue’

Babies Cry With an Accent, Study Finds
Newborns Cry With the Melody of Their Parent’s Language

I hope today will be a better day than yesterday.


THANK GOODNESS IT’S FRIDAY

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Friday Morning News and Views

balloon001

Good morning Conflucians! You know it’s a slow news day when the top story on all the popular news sites is a about a six-year old boy who may or may not have helped his family fake a crisis in order to get on TV. The New York Times even had this story linked on its front page! Supposedly, the boy, Falcon Heene of Fort Collins, CO., had been carried off by a helium balloon, and there was a frantic search until the boy was found hiding in the attic of his parents’ house in fear of punishment. According to the NYT The Lede blog,

But on Thursday evening, after Falcon and his family appeared on CNN, the blogosphere was skeptical. The Internet — from social networking forums to comments on news media Web sites — came alive with suggestions that the balloon incident might have been staged.

Here is a clip from the family’s interview with Wolf Blitzer, filling in for Larry King last night:

The suspicions began after the family was interviewed on the CNN program “Larry King Live,” which was being hosted by Wolf Blitzer.

As law enforcement personnel searched frantically for the boy, Falcon Heene said he had heard people in the house calling his name, calling for him to come out. When asked on camera by his father, Richard Heene, why he hadn’t responded, the boy said, “You guys said we did this for the show.”

Richard Heene looked uncomfortable upon hearing the comment, but later in the program said he was “appalled” at any suggestion that the incident had been staged.

I can testify from personal experience that six-year-old boys are not very good at keeping secrets. We’ll have to wait and see how this thing plays out, I guess.

The New York Daily News has more lurid details on the “balloon boy” story:

The kind that chases storms for fun, volunteers for “Wife Swap,” and brags that their kids have no fear.

Amateur scientist Richard Heene and wife, Mayumi, were bucking convention long before the youngest of their three sons untethered a silver balloon and sparked panic across Colorado.

The 48-year-old dad has no formal science training but is obsessed with extreme weather and extraterrestrials and fantasizes about meeting “real aliens from outer space” on his MySpace page.

There is even more weird stuff about this family at the Denver Post

We didn’t know the Heenes were weather chasers (who slept in their clothes to be at the ready) or extraterrestrial chasers or, for that matter, ABC reality-TV chasers.

Or that ABC would describe the family for its “Wife Swap” audience this way: “Richard calls Mayumi his ‘ninja wife’; she maintains equipment, drives the storm-mobile, films tornadoes and waits with the kids while Richard . . . heads into the eye of the storm and launches rockets to measure magnetic forces. At home the family are as chaotic as a twister: The kids have no table manners and throw themselves around the house, and while Richard devotes every moment to his research, he expects Mayumi to cook, clean and run the house without any help.”

And here’s the LATEST BREATHLESS UPDATE: the balloon boy threw up twice in two different TV appearances! You’ll have to google it, because I’m afraid to link to AP stories. Continue reading

Friday Morning News and Views

morning_coffee_mouse_pad_mousepad-p144713796404088123trak_400

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

The big news this morning is that President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. WTF??!!! Am I living in an alternate universe from the Nobel committee? What the heck has Obama done to earn the Nobel Peace Prize? Give me a break!

U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world “hope for a better future” and striving for nuclear disarmament.

The decision to award one of the world’s top accolades to a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, came as a major surprise.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

For a malignant narcissist like Barack Obama, this has to be major validation. I guess the Nobel committee members either haven’t been paying attention or they have been injecting Koolaid straight to the vein. I admit, I don’t get it.

The other big story this morning is that we are going to bomb the moon at around 7:30AM Eastern time.

NASA moon ‘bombing’ a plunge into the mystery of lunar water

Within the past two weeks, three other moon missions have reported finding evidence for water across virtually the entire surface of the moon. Now, two projectiles are scheduled to slam into one frigid crater – the first at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time Friday – in hopes of confirming that water is there concentrated as ice.

“This is really exciting stuff,” says Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist of the mission, called LCROSS. “Who woulda thunk that the moon has a water cycle on it, perhaps,” with water concentrations in the moon’s surface changing throughout the lunar day.

Let’s see…what else is going on? It looks like the FHA is going to need a bailout now.

Problems at the Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees mortgages with low down payments, are becoming so acute that some experts warn the agency might need a federal bailout.

Running questions about the F.H.A.’s future — underscored by interviews with policy makers, analysts and home buyers — came to the fore on Thursday on Capitol Hill. In testimony before a House subcommittee, the F.H.A. commissioner, David H. Stevens, assured lawmakers that his agency would not need a bailout and that it was managing its risks.

But he acknowledged that some 20 percent of F.H.A. loans insured last year — and as many as 24 percent of those from 2007 — faced serious problems including foreclosure, offering a preview of a forthcoming audit of the agency’s finances.

That can’t be good, can it?

Here’s an important story–NOT. Lawmakers play hoops with Obama at White House

President Barack Obama and a few members of his Cabinet played basketball Thursday night at the White House with a handful of House members, two of them Republicans.
“We ran into a president with some serious game,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.
Obama had “a sweet crossover move” and appeared to be in great shape, Inslee said. “He put a real nice move on me and beat me along the base line.”
On the president’s team were Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Also playing with Obama was his personal assistant, Reggie Love, once a forward for the Duke Blue Devils.
The game was closed to the press. Expected on the House side were Democrats Mike Arcuri of New York, John Boccieri of Ohio, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill of Indiana, Inslee and Rick Larsen of Washington state, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania and Heath Shuler of North Carolina. Republicans invited to play were Jeff Flake of Arizona and John Shimkus of Illinois.

Isn’t that just so cute? {{Gag!}} {{{{Sigh…}}}}

More stories….. Continue reading

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