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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!!!!!!!

Friday Morning News and Views

Good morning Conflucians!!! TGIF!

When I first wrote that I really thought it was a good morning. I just spent around 2-1/2 hours writing a long morning news post, and when I tried to save it, I discovered that WordPress had logged me out. Therefore, my entire post was wiped out. I’ll try to recreate some of it, but here are some non-political stories to get you started. Too bad I got so involved in writing that I didn’t save till the end…

We were back in the deep freeze this morning in New England–12 degrees where I live, but we aren’t facing what the Twitter folks are calling “snowmageddon” and “snowpocalypse.”

the main event with this storm will be heavy snow in the Mid-Atlantic States. Snow will begin in the Washington area this afternoon and spread northward towards Philadelphia by evening.

Heavy snow will continue into Saturday before winding down by evening. Travel may grind to a halt for a time, especially overnight and Saturday.

By the time the storm ends, many areas in northern Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and southern Pennsylvania will have over a foot of snow. Some places may end up nearly two feet of snow from this storm.

As the low pushes off the coast, it will strengthen quickly and produce very strong winds, especially along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Gusts between 45 and 50 mph are possible from southern New Jersey to the Norfolk area Friday night and Saturday morning.

Blizzard warnings are in effect for southeastern areas of New Jersey as well as much of Delaware.

It is also worth mentioning that this storm will spread snow as far west as the Ohio Valley.

Amazingly, the storm is expected to blow out to sea before it can get up here to New England. It’s our second weekend of nice weather while those south and west of us suffer. I feel for the people in the areas that will be hard-hit, but I’m sure glad I won’t have to shovel snow this weekend (fingers crossed, because you never know with the weather).

Police Arrest Drive-by Ass Grabber (with video!)

RIDGELAND, Miss. — A Madison man was arrested by Ridgeland police and is accused of driving up and grabbing a woman’s butt, police said.

Christopher Johnson, 26, was arrested Friday and is charged with disorderly conduct, Ridgeland police said.

He is accused of grabbing Debbie Thweatt’s butt as she was walking out of Walmart in Ridgeland Tuesday, police said.

The guy grabbed another woman’s ass before he was arrested!

Beware lottery winners: Friend of slain lottery winner arrested on accessory charges

A Florida woman has been arrested in connection with the death of a lottery millionaire, whose body was found buried under recently added concrete at a home, authorities said.

Dorice Donegan Moore, 37, was arrested Tuesday evening on charges of accessory after the fact regarding a first-degree murder in the death of Abraham Shakespeare, 43, said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.

Moore befriended Shakespeare after he won a $31 million Florida lottery prize in 2006 and was named a person of interest in the case after Shakespeare went missing, authorities said.

******************************************************************************

Can I just say again that I love Al Franken?


Al Franken lays into David Axelrod over health care bill

Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats.

Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.

The sources said Franken was the most outspoken senator in the meeting, which followed President Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats at the Newseum on Wednesday. But they also said the Minnesotan wasn’t the only angry Democrat in the room.

“There was a lot of frustration in there,” said a Democratic senator who declined to be identified.

“People were hot,” another Democratic senator said.

But apparently Franken was the only one with real guts.

And then there’s this: Sen. Al Franken Rips NBC, Comcast Execs Over $30 Billion Merger

and this: Franken telling weak-kneed NARAL to beware of the current SCOTUS, especially Chief Justice Roberts.

What redeems my faith in the system is the fact that every so often, a politician comes along who actually exceeds my expectations, who comports themself the way we expect a politician to — without fear of losing, with more of a focus on the people they represent than the next election. The late, great Sen. Paul Wellstone, DFL-Minn., was one of those politicians. He ran a spirited campaign and talked a good show, but once elected he backed up his words with actions. He walked the talk.

And now, the man who holds his seat in the Senate is doing the same thing.

On Tuesday, Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., served as the keynote speaker for the NARAL Pro-Choice America Roe v. Wade anniversary luncheon. And his remarks to the group were outstanding. Franken gave a full-throated, unapologetic defense of the right of women to choose their own reproductive destinies — and did so with both humor and grace.

I like this piece on Franken by Allison Kilkenney at True/Slant

Kilkenny is very good. She had a great snarky post yesterday too: Another columnist asks administration for blanky, cup of cocoa. It’s about “Terrorism Derangement Syndrome.”

Another loudmouthed politician whom I don’t like or trust as much as I used to, Barney Frank, made a very good speech recently about how the Right Wing Noise Machine works.

I have to agree with Frank that John Fund is a slimy, scurrilous liar and he deserves to be shunned.

Dennis Kucinich (another member of the House whom I don’t trust as much as I used to) has a post at Truthdig on health care reform after Massachusetts.

The verdict in Massachusetts was a verdict on the overall economy. But it was also a commentary on how the entire health care debate was flipped upside down by insurance interests who were able to intervene so that the final product that was offered out of the Senate was nothing more than a sell-out to the insurance industry.

We can still have health care reform in America. We need to take a short-term and a longer-term view. On the short-term: We need to take away the antitrust exemption that insurance companies have. We need to make sure, on the short-term, that we can see everyone with a pre-existing condition have access to insurance. There are things that we can do with single-initiatives to help regain the momentum on health care.

And for the longer-term: The answer is “Medicare for All.” The answer was never to continue to give the insurance companies one out of every three dollars in our health care system.

If only someone would listen to him!

Please check out this autobiographical piece on living under DADT by Retired Navy Capt. Joan E. Darrah.

OK, that’s about all I can remember of my lost post. I know I had more links, but I can’t remember them all. I’ll leave it to you Conflucians to post your stories in the comments. I love you guys!

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

Weird Weather Weekend Open Thread

What Oklahoma looks like today (photo by Native1)

Another snowy view from Native1

It’s a weekend for strange weather. We’ve had heavy snow down south, and way below normal temperatures up here in New England. Dakinikat said it was only about 38 degrees down in New Orleans today. My aunt lives down on the coast in Alabama, and they only had temperatures in the 40s. Our Virginia Conflucians have had heavy snow today too. Here’s the picture that Indigogrrl took of her barn this morning.

I’ve always found weather exciting. Even though I don’t love dealing with snow and ice, I still find big snowstorms kind of thrilling, and there is a nice feeling I get when I know I’m snowed in and don’t have to go out till the storm is over. I love thunderstorms too. I was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in the middle of a terrible blizzard. My mom actually had to go to the hospital a day early because the doctor was afraid if they waited, she wouldn’t be able to get there.

I’ve heard stories about extreme weather from my parents all my life. Maybe that’s where my fascination with weather comes from. My mom often talked about having to dig a tunnel out of the front door of their house back in Hope, North Dakota, in order to get to school. And my mom has talked about the time the temperature went up over 120 degrees, in 1934. That same year in the winter it got down to 60 below 0. That is still a record for extreme temperatures in one location in a year, and it is still the hottest year on record in the U.S. Those were the dustbowl days. My mom says the dust storms were horrible. I found this photo on-line. I’m not sure where it was taken.

In Fargo, where my dad grew up, they have periodic floods when the Red River overflows its banks. Those can get really bad. In 1997, a flood completely destroyed Grand Forks. Much of the downtown burned and had to be rebuilt.

Grand Forks after the 1997 flood and fire

This picture was taken in Fargo during the big flood a couple of years ago.

A dog looking at the swollen Red River in Fargo

My first fully conscious experience with extreme weather came when I was three years old. We lived in Iowa then, and we experienced a tornado. I still have a picture of my three-year-old self sitting on a huge fallen tree. The next year, we moved to Kansas where I was exposed to extreme heat. Many of my memories of Kansas involve us kids playing outside on 100-degree afternoons while our parents took shelter inside. I’ll never forget the day it went up to around 115 degrees and the heat broke the big thermometer in downtown Lawrence. Of course there were the usual pictures in the paper of people frying eggs on their sidewalks. Here’s a classic of the genre.

Hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk!

Here in New England we get some pretty extreme weather at times–though not as extreme as the hurricanes down south, the tornadoes in the midwest, or 40-below-zero days they get up in the north country where I was born. But we get some wild nor’easters–those can be really bad, and if they come in the winter it can mean a blizzard with a couple of feet of snow. In February of 1978, Governor Dukakis had to close down the entire state for a week because of the terrible blizzard we got. Here’s a shot of a highway north of Boston after the ’78 blizzard.

Of course New England weather is notoriously unpredictable, and we never know when we’ll get a snow or ice storm in April or even May In the late summer and fall, we often get the tail-end of hurricanes, and once in awhile we get a full-blown hurricane. One October in the 80s we lost our electricity for a week because of a hurricane–I think it was Gloria.

This is an open thread, but if you’d like to share your extreme weather stories, please do.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! It is 3 degrees here in the Boston western suburbs!!

Nevertheless, we are better off than you guys in the southern states where there is a winter storm going on. Yesterday, Texas and Oklahoma got about a foot of snow, and today the storm will move east into the Carolinas and Virgina and then out to sea.

California Conflucians are getting a break from the storms, but the state still needs more to end the long-term drought.

Our economics-challenged President is threatening to veto spending bills (except money for wars, banks, and insurance companies), because he thinks cutting the deficit is as important as creating jobs. I wonder when he’s going to figure out that the U.S. economy is dependent on consumer spending; and if people don’t have jobs, it’s kind of hard for them to buy things. Since he never held a full-time job before getting elected President and all his friends are rich corporate types, he doesn’t quite get what us ordinary people are so worried about.

“Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t,” Obama said. “And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.”

In an effort to make a dent in the growing federal deficit, White House officials announced earlier this week that their budget proposal would keep non-military discretionary programs at fiscal 2010 levels (Greenwire, Jan. 26). The proposal would exempt some of the largest parts of the federal budget including defense and entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

It will be up to Congress to decide whether to comply with this request in its spending bills, and Obama pled with them last night to toe the line — addressing critics from his own party and calling the effort vital to keep markets in line and avoid increases in the cost of borrowing.

I guess Obama thinks he can solve our economic problems by creating jobs in the military and defense industries. Maybe he is hoping a lot of us will go to work for Blackwater? I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I like Joseph Cannon’s idea of replacing Geithner with our own Dakinikat.

Eric Holder has been taking a lot of criticism from the right for locating the 9/11 conspiracy trial in New York City, and now he will be getting critiques from not non-Obots on the left. The Justice department review has cleared the Bush torture memo writers of professional misconduct.

Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.)

By this time everyone should be aware that the Obama administration is not going to hold anyone accountable for planning or participating in torture. Continue reading

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