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    • The Attack In Ottawa will be used to justify losing more rights
      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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Saturday Morning Musings on Corporate Control and Internet Freedom

Good Morning Conflucians!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple’s iPad hits store shelves


The Militia Man Next Door


Urologist Posts His Politics on His Florida Office Door


Terrifying Sea Critter Hauled from the Ocean’s Depths

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

Things that make you go “hmmm…”

Moving in different directions?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Ottawa this week for the G8 Summit, and she had something to say about abortion rights (in Canada).

“I’m not going to speak for what Canada decides, but I will say that I’ve worked in this area for many years,” Clinton told reporters. “And if we’re talking about maternal health, you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.”

More from Clinton on abortion rights in Canada:

“We should be beyond arguing about family planning. Rich women in every culture have access to family planning. It’s poor women who don’t. And I’ve always believed if it’s good enough for a woman of education and affluence, then why isn’t it good enough for a woman who is struggling to raise the children she already has? So family planning, to me, should be just obvious and available.”

Hmmm…

Now isn’t that interesting? Of course it must be just a coincidence that President Obama recently issued an executive order that will effectively make insurance coverage for reproductive health care unavailable for most U.S. women.

Conservative Canadians are quite put out that Secretary Clinton saw fit to lecture them on abortion rights, especially considering Obama’s recent actions. For example, Lawrence Martin of the Globe and Mail writes:

On the issue of maternal mortality and the need for access to abortion, Ms. Clinton’s views should have come as no surprise. In case anyone wasn’t aware, they got the news brusquely at a news conference.

Martin wonders why Clinton’s criticisms of Prime Minister Harper’s views on abortion couldn’t have been delivered privately. Is it possible her message was intended for someone other than Harper?

What do you think?

Friday Morning News and Views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In Ireland

Irish Bishop John Magee has resigned.

Boston Herald: Irish bishop steps down amid pedophile scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Activist Irish pop singer Sinead O’Connor speaks out.

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

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

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


In the US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smyth died several years ago in prison.

In Germany

NYT: Pope Was Told Pedophile Priest Would Get Transfer

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

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

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

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

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

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

And In Many More Countries

Swiss Catholic Church investigates 60 claims of sex abuse

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

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

Swiss Catholic Church investigating 10 abuse cases

Vatican investigating 14 sex abuse cases in Spain

Abuse cases surface in Austrian Catholic Church

More on priest abuse in Austria

Dutch Catholic Church faces child sex abuse scandal

Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal goes global

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

Should Pope Benedict Resign the Papacy?

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

I am ashamed – the pope should resign

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

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

Eric Massa Fights Back

Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY)

Suddenly the Eric Massa story is everywhere. I don’t know what finally set him off. He seemed pretty resigned about the whole thing just a couple of days ago. From Hotline this AM:

Embattled Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) lashed out in an emotional radio appearance Sunday, accusing Dem leaders of what he suggested was an orchestrated campaign to force his resignation.

“There’s a reason that this has all happened, frankly one that I had not realized,” Massa said on WKPQ radio on Sunday. “Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill, and this administration and this House leadership have said, quote unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they’ve gotten rid of me and it’ll pass.”

Massa admits he made an “inappropriate” remark to a male staffer at a New Year’s party, which led to a House ethics investigation, but he claims he was set up by Democratic leaders because of his votes against the health care bill and other administration initiatives. Massa had harsh words for White House enforcer Rahm Emanuel:

“When I voted against the cap and trade bill, the phone rang and it was the chief of staff to the president of the United States of America, Rahm Emanuel, and he started swearing at me in terms and words that I hadn’t heard since that crossing the line ceremony on the USS New Jersey in 1983,” Massa said. “And I gave it right back to him, in terms and words that I know are physically impossible.”

As for Steny Hoyer’s claim that he talked to Massa about the ethics inquiry,

“Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me at all, never, not once,” Massa said. “Never before in the history of the House of Representatives has a sitting leader of the Democratic Party discussed allegations of House investigations publicly, before findings of fact. Ever.”

“I was set up for this from the very, very beginning,” he added. “The leadership of the Democratic Party have become exactly what they said they were running against.”

The New York Daily News has even more:

“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn,” he said. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”

Massa alleges that Emanuel ripped into him a number of times over votes, including in the House shower.

“I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me,” said Massa.

Here is some audio from the radio interview:

The latest thing I heard is that Massa is going to go on Glen Beck’s show tomorrow–that’s what Dave Wiegel says anyway.

Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-N.Y.) scorching attack on Democrats — while a lot of attention is going to a silly story about Rahm Emanuel, he accuses his party of trying to “shove the [health care] bill down our throats” — will be amplified tomorrow with a full-hour interview on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show.

That may be pushing things a little too far. I’ll update if I get more info. Please add your own links in the comments.

Monday Morning News and Views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!!

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

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

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

According to The New York Times,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awwww….

So what are you reading this morning?

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! TGIF.

The weather continues to be very very strange. We in southern New England are being left out of another terrible winter storm. I’m reading that there is an “intense winter storm” in the Northeast:

A huge, windy winter storm lingered Friday over the Northeast, cutting power to at least a half-million customers, fanning a hotel fire in New Hampshire, and disrupting air and road travel across the region.
Power failures were so bad in New Hampshire that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator. Winds across the region were near 50 mph as utility companies prepared for even more outages due to toppled trees and near-blizzard conditions.

Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest utility, reported power cut to at least 237,000 customers and said it would take days before everyone’s lights flickered back on.

New Hampshire? How did this storm miss us here in Boston? I’m looking out my window and I see sun. We did have strong winds blowing around last night and some rain, but that was it.

Officials in Massachusetts said the storm had knocked out power to 100,000 homes and businesses by early Friday, mostly in the northeastern part of the state. The numbers were 200,000 in New York, mostly in the Hudson Valley north of New York City, 25,000 in Vermont and more than 1,500 in New Jersey.

In New York City, 10 inches of snow had fallen before dawn and more was expected. A man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park, one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.

The storm it somewhere in Massachusetts apparently, but not in my part of the state. I hope all you Conflucians who did get it are surviving okay.

In other news, the President held a “health care summit” yesterday. I missed the whole thing, but I got updates from the live blogs here at TC. It didn’t sound to me like much got accomplished. I don’t see a whole lot of new reaction in the big media outlets. I wonder if the whole thing is just going to fall down the memory hole.

Via right wing blog Hot Air, self-important pompous ass and CNN talking head David Gergen thinks “the Republicans had their best day in years and that they were intellectually superior to the Democrats in their arguments. Is he for real?

The Boston Globe lists some “exchanges” that took place at the “summit.” It’s a pretty short article for the highlights of a 7 hour meeting.

Jake Tapper posted a kind of open thread at his blog Political Punch, but didn’t even get many comments. This one was pretty good:

What an interesting look into the fall-out of “accelerated promotion.” You have a junior member of congress who catapults into the presidency after serving only 28 months in the body. The setting yesterday revealed Obama’s continued need to prove himself worthy of his title. What he lacks in experience and rapport with other members of congress is replaced with bravado-the only card he can play..as if his arrogance in some way makes up for his lack of qualifications in the eyes of the people in that room-most of whom, up until last year, vastly “out-ranked” him.

I think most Americans have just about given up on this administration doing anything for anyone but giant corporations.

Looking at more liberal media outlets, Lindsay Beyerstein at Alternet had this to say:

arguably, the real purpose of the summit was to captivate the attention of the media while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., figured out how to push ahead with health care reform through budget reconciliation — a parliamentary procedure that would sidestep the filibuster and the 60-vote supermajority required to overcome it, allowing Democrats to pass Senate legislation by a simple majority of 51 votes.

I still have no idea what is in this bill. Does anyone know? If they still plan to force me to buy crap insurance I can’t afford, I’m not sure what to do.

At Talking Points Memo, Greg Sargent tries to put the best possible face on Obama’s performance, while not sounding very confident about it. Sargent seems to agree with Beyerstein that the only point of the summit was to put the Republicans’ arguments on display and then go ahead and push the bill through. But did Americans get the message that Obama wanted them to get? I don’t know.

In other news, David Patterson is in more trouble in New York.

A range of political allies and even some close friends urged Mr. Paterson privately and publicly to end his bid for election. They said his political standing had been irreparably damaged by revelations on Thursday that the State Police had contacted the woman pressing a domestic violence complaint against a close aide, and by the allegation that the governor had spoken with her a day before she was due back in court.

While no prominent Democrat called for Mr. Paterson to resign, several said it would be impossible for him to both govern and run a campaign while dealing with the allegations, which the governor has asked Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate. Other officials said that if an inquiry showed that Mr. Paterson tried to influence the woman’s decision not to continue the case, he should resign.

While I was at Alternet, I found this fascinating and horrifying article by Mark Ames on Ayn Rand, who is the favorite author of many of the public officials who are destroying our country:

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer

There’s something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

The answer is Ayn Rand’s writings. Among her fans are

former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox — along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate “entitlement programs” increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked “Atlas Shrugged” as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after The Bible

And according to Rand’s biographer, the novelist based her most famous male characters, John Galt and Howard Roark, on a serial killer named Walter Hickman, with whom Rand was obsessed and described as “genuinely beautiful soul.” You can read more about Hickman at the link. This is a must-read.

Speaking of serial killers, I’m guessing Rand would also have been an admirer of Amy Bishop. The latest news on Bishop’s case is just incredible. There’s video at the link of Norfolk County DA William Keating making an announcement last night that the case of Bishop’s shooting of her younger brother Seth in 1986 has been reopened, and he is asking for an inquest. The reasons for this are first that Bishop’s parents have refused to speak to investigators and second that new evidence has been found.

Keating also said there were inconsistencies in the police reports, including two different accounts of Seth Bishop’s body position when he was found, with one saying he was face-up and another saying he was face-down.

And he said that a crime scene photo from that era showed that next to the rifle shells found in Amy Bishop’s bedroom, there was a newspaper with an article that chronicled a similar attack to the one she allegedly committed.

Keating said he questioned whether the shooting was truly accidental, and he added that an inquest could lead to a homicide charge against Amy Bishop.

During the press conference, Keating said that the article lying next to Bishop’s bed was about someone who killed a family member and then escaped by stealing a car from a dealership, which is exactly what she tried to do. What more can come out about this woman? My only question is, was she planning to kill her brother or her father? The father is the one she had had an argument with just before she went upstairs to get the shotgun. Keating wants to know what that argument was about.

So what are you reading this morning, and are you buried in snow?

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!!!!

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