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    • Consequences Of Indicting Trump
      So, a New York DA has charged Trump. There’s some posturing by DeSantis, but Trump will almost certainly go to New York and surrender. This is a watershed moment, no former President has ever been charged with a crime. This is a political act. Many President have committed crimes and have not been charged. It will lead to red state DAs indicting Democratic p […]
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Vacation Journal Days 2 & 3 – Nature’s Canvas: The breathtaking experience of seeing evidence of the Earth’s processes

The amazing view from Yosemite’s Glacier Point: Half Dome

I admit it.  I love geology.  So much that I’ve been known to pull over on the highway just to take a picture of an unusual rock formation or vibrant striations in the the roadsides that have been cut through mountains.  These things are constant reminders to me that the earth is a living, breathing, growing, heaving, and moving planet and that I am only privileged to exist on its surface.  Because of this, traveling to a national park like Yosemite in California is truly an awe-inspiring event for me.

In Yosemite there are two big “star attractions.”  One is the amazing Half-Dome (pictured above); and the other is El Capitan.

As I stand before these enormous creations of nature’s canvass I am swept away by the idea of how they came to be.  Tectonic plates that crashed together, uplifting mountains high into the heavens.  Layers of dirt, stone, fossils, and minerals, that were laid upon the formations and created by heat and pressure within their layers exposing stark striations of color and texture.  Glaciers that covered the tops and centers of these formations and then receded to leave a U-shaped valley in their wake.  Water and air processes that both smoothed and scratched the surfaces of hard rock such as Half-Dome only to be frozen and thawed under a glacier, cracking off in one smooth section and crashing to the earth, or breaking off and crumbling into massive rockslides, leaving enormous boulders to roll down river beds where their edges would become smooth and rounded.

As I sit here feeling amazed, yet quite insignificant in the grand scale of things, I am grateful for this opportunity to experience some of nature’s most spectacular creations.  You can read about the geologic history of Yosemite at this link (h/t to myiq2xu) and at this link.

Today we’re relaxing for the early part of the day and then visiting Yosemite for the sundown experience.  Tomorrow we’re headed off to Napa Valley for some wine and some more wine.

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Summer Reading: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Oh, stop your whining.  You won’t have to write a paper or anything.  (hmmm, maybe that’s only meaningful to the users here who have kids in school.)

Stieg Larsson, Swedish journalist turned thriller/mystery writer, created a fascinating character in the shape of a spritely, stinging, punk avenging angel named Lisbeth Salander.  He got off 3 books out of a proposed 10 in the Millenium series before he died of a massive coronary caused by years of heavy smoking, proving that nicotine truly is the most evil substance on the planet.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the sophomore success to Larsson’s debut The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore and buy the sucker.  If you haven’t read the first one, you’ll be doubly blessed this summer as you kick back on the beach with your SPF 50 and cooler full of beer.  We won’t see book three until some time in 2010 but there is plenty in these two books to chew on like Swedish granola.

The Millenium series revolves around two characters: Mikhail “Kalle” Blomqvist, investigative journalist exposing the nasty, sexist underbelly of Sweden’s cool exterior, and Lisbeth Salander, the twenty something computer hacker extraordinaire with the obsessively private personality.  Blomqvist and Salander’s last adventure has made her rich beyond her wildest imaginings and she disappears for 2 years to travel the world, while Blomqvist and his business partner and part time lover, Erika Berger, delve into the seemy depths of the sex trade.  When one of their contract investigative journalists working on the importation of sex slaves from the former eastern bloc countries is executed in his apartment, newly returned Lisbeth Salander becomes the prime suspect.  It’s Blomqvist’s task to put the missing pieces together to exonerate her without much help from the decidely unhelpful Salander as she goes on the run and communicates with him by hacking into his computer at night.

Larsson’s Millenium series is part mystery and part commentary on society’s uneasy relationship with women.  Mikhail Blomqvist is the ideal man- for both men and women.  He’s a Matt Taibbi type who has the suave and debonnair touch of a James Bond.  Women want to sleep with him because he respects them and treats them like adults.  In fact, maybe Larsson just wanted to suck in as many readers as possible but most of Blomqvist’s lovers are women in their forties, independent and with highly developed erotic personalities.  Jeez, it makes me want to move to Stockholm.  Salander represents a new generation of women who’s not partial to one sex or another.  She uses sex to get the little amount of intimacy she allows herself to experience.  But it is Larsson’s uncanny knack of getting into the heads of men and revealing what they really think about women that feels just about right.  His characters are not politically correct.  The sex trade gangs reduce their victims to a collection of human parts, police commissioners make no attempt to disguise their contempt for their female subordinates and Salander’s colleagues at the security company she works for cavalierly expose women’s private lives for money.

Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza would be right at home in Larsson’s world.  Several reviewers have remarked that the book loses momentum in the middle while the interested parties begin their investigation of the crime.  But those of us who are tuned into how the media works will immediately recognize that Larsson has laid out the anatomy of a media smear campaign, directed at a woman with few allies and all for the purpose of sensationalizing and money making.  The life of the character in question, her hopes and dreams and even the most sensitive details of her personal life are exposed to the world to the point where the media image is unrecognizable to the character herself.  Larsson shows that you don’t have to be a member of a sex trade gang to brutally dehumanize a woman.  It can be done with the flick of a pen.

Highly recommended.

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Health-Care Nightmare “Waterloo” Reform

President Obama’s health plan passes key hurdle

President Barack Obama tallied a much-needed win Friday when a critical House committee approved legislation that would provide health care to millions of uninsured Americans.

But the bill’s turbulent passage widened longstanding rifts within his party, rifts that imperil his landmark push for vastly expanding health care coverage when Congress returns to session in the fall.

Boeing, Xerox Join 185 Groups Objecting to House Health Plan

Boeing Co., Xerox Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. are among 185 companies and business groups objecting to health-care legislation in the U.S. House that they say would hurt their ability to cover employees.

We wish a speedy and full recovery
Dodd has prostate cancer, prognosis good

Dodd told reporters at his Hartford office that he’s going to be “fine” and that he’s known about the cancer for six weeks but didn’t want to make himself a health care “exhibit” during health reform mark-ups and didn’t want to tell his sister, who died of small-cell lung cancer in July.

War On Terror 2.0

Did bad decisions set stage for 9 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan?

[O]n July 12, headquarters commanders diverted drones — remotely operated planes outfitted with cameras to spot enemy movements — to another area. Pry argued so hard to undo that decision that he said he breached professional etiquette. Still, he was unsuccessful.

“We had no support from brigade, division or theater level assets at the time,” Pry told Army historians in a study obtained by The Seattle Times.

That study, written by historian Douglas Cubbison of the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., documented missteps that preceded some of the bloodiest combat to date for American troops in the Afghanistan war.

Has America Been Too Nice in Afghanistan?

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the hard-driving American commander who took over a few weeks ago, went so far as to tell his troops at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan on June 25 that they have to make a “cultural shift.” This war isn’t about killing the enemy and accepting collateral damage as inevitable. “When you do anything that harms the people you just have a huge chance of alienating the population,” he said. A few days after McChrystal’s remarks, in a widely reported incident, Marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound, then allowed them to send out the women and children — only to discover the fighters had slipped on burqas and walked out as well.

M—–f##@ing bastards!

2 more US troops killed in deadliest month of Afghan war

Economy Watch

What does the not so badly shrinking GDP means? Tobin Harshaw of the NY Times Opinionator has a nice compendium of opinions and analysis, including that of our own Dakinikat
Happiness Is a Shrinking Economy?

“What do you need to look for in order to feel more secure about the rest of the year?” asks Dakinikat, the Confluence’s Cajun-country economist. Her answer:

Well, first, there needs to be some indication that small and medium sized businesses are willing to hire or rehire.


Next, look for any continued improvement in the housing market where much of the world’s troubles began.

The Beginning of the End of the Recession?

The second quarter saw a much slower real GDP decline, an indication that the economy has hit bottom and is ready to grow

The stimulus money is not all bad.
House Approves $2B to Extend ‘Clunkers’ Plan

The House approved a bill Friday afternoon to provide $2 billion to continue the federal government’s week-old “cash for clunkers” program, which has proven so popular with consumers that it was almost out of cash.

No ‘rhyme or reason’ to bank bonuses

CITIGROUP, Merrill Lynch and seven other US banks handed out $US32.6 billion ($39.4 billion) in bonuses last year while receiving $US175 billion in taxpayer funds, according to a report by the New York Attorney-General, Andrew Cuomo.

Why is China’s stimulus working so much better than ours?

The major signposts for the U.S. economy–namely GDP growth and employment–have stopped plummeting, but that is the best that can be said. China, meanwhile, has seen its economic activity recover faster than almost anyone anticipated, and on July 15, the government reported its most robust sequential economic growth ever. In short, China’s stimulus has exceeded expectations to date, while the U.S. response has been underwhelming.

How did this happen?

Around The Nation

Gates Sends Flowers to Woman Who Called 911

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has sent flowers and a note to the woman who unwittingly sparked a national debate on race by calling police to report what she thought might be a break-in at Gates’ home.

Was there a better way to conduct Gates-Crowley debate?

The national discourse over the Harvard professor’s arrest, fueled by bloggers and media, was torrid. Some who leaped into the fray got burned.

BU student fined $675,000 for illegal music downloads

A Boston University graduate student was ordered yesterday to pay four record labels a total of $675,000 in damages for illegally downloading 30 songs and sharing them online in only the second such lawsuit to go to trial.

Corzine’s Re-Election Woes in New Jersey

The corruption arrests are just the latest boon to Christie’s challenge of Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine, an off-year race that both parties are watching for its national implications. In the midst of a recession, Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs CEO, would seem to have a natural advantage over Christie, who boasts no policy experience and in fact seems to delight in telling crowds, “I will never be the smartest man in the room.” But with Wall Street (and in particular Goldman Sachs) being blamed for much of the financial crisis, Corzine’s professional background has turned into a major liability. His unpopular moves of late — he’s raised taxes and cut services, and New Jersey still faces massive budget deficits — have only made things worse

We know: there’s no sexism. People like us who complain about this stuff are just humorless and politically correct.
Time To Cancel “Mouthpiece Theater”

Milbank tells the viewer, “And we won’t tell you who’s getting a bottle of Mad Bitch.” At that point, a photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears briefly on screen.

That’s unacceptable. I realize this was supposed to be a silly comedy routine, but this is offensive and stupid. Milbank doesn’t get to say he “won’t tell” us who the “Mad Bitch” is, and then show a photo of Clinton, as if coy and unsubtle rhetoric makes his little “joke” tolerable.

Opinion Columns & Editorials

America’s healthcare should no longer be tied to jobs (By Matt Miller)

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has been the lonely voice arguing that America must move beyond job-based healthcare to boost business competitiveness while assuring family health security. Mr Wyden mustered a small bipartisan coalition around such a plan, but the weight of dead ideas in Washington has stifled the proposal.

Take Me to the River (or Somewhere Nearby) (By Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God)

If I no longer believe in a personal God, looking down and judging me, why do I still feel guilt over my wrongdoings and shortcomings? Why do I still want some father figure (a God, ideally, though a resurrected version of my dad would do) to pat me on the shoulder and tell me I’ve done O.K. and can now go play golf for a millennium or so? Is godlessness not, in fact, as some born-again atheists seem to promise, a path to happiness? And, anyway, where did this need for forgiveness and affirmation come from?

Trying to Recover (NY Times Editorial)

The stimulus is helping, and more stimulus would help even more. But going forward, new policies to stop foreclosures and to jump-start lending must also be part of the plan for economic recovery.

Medicare proves health insurance reform will work (By Senator Sherrod Brown)

Forty-four years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. Medicare, the program that ensures our parents and grandparents have access to affordable health care. Medicare, which protects seniors and their families from backbreaking health expenses. Medicare, which operates more efficiently than any other health care coverage – public or private – in our country.

Around The World

The New Colonialism: Foreign Investors Snap Up African Farmland (Highly recommended)

Governments and investment funds are buying up farmland in Africa and Asia to grow food — a profitable business, with a growing global population and rapidly rising prices. The high-stakes game of real-life Monopoly is leading to a modern colonialism to which many poor countries submit out of necessity.

Divided, demoralized Palestinian movement hopes to hit ‘restart’

For half a century, the fortunes of the Palestinian people have been inextricably linked to the fate of Fatah, the once-dominant political movement founded by Yasser Arafat. Five years after Arafat’s death, the movement is divided, and hopes of establishing even a weak Palestinian state alongside Israel appear as elusive as ever.

Iraqis fear latest bombings signal return of al Qaida in Iraq

Bombings at five Shiite Muslim mosques killed 29 worshippers Friday in a series of attacks that Iraqi army and police officers are interpreting as a sign that insurgents are determined to destabilize the country now that American forces have withdrawn from Iraqi cities and towns.

Trials of Iran election protesters under way

The defendants face a variety of charges that include attacking government facilities and setting fire to them, destruction of public property, creating panic in public and beating up members of the security forces.

In memoriam
People Power’s Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009

The arc of Corazon Aquino’s life lent itself to maxims, but two hard-nosed ones seem particularly worth pointing out. First, political sainthood is a gift from heaven with a Cinderella deadline — once past midnight, you are a pumpkin. Second, personal virtues are never a guarantee of effective or successful governance. What was truly shocking about Aquino’s tumultuous six-year term as President of the Philippines was that those maxims proved untrue.

From The Media World

Is another beer summit on the horizon?
Murdoch and Immelt tried to broker MSNBC-Fox News peace accord

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch and General Electric chief Jeffrey Immelt met up at — appropriately enough — the Microsoft CEO summit in Redmond, Wash., to figure out how to diffuse tensions between the two channels, Company Town has learned. The primary focus of the chit-chat was the back-and-forth sniping between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. The two often exchange insults, Olbermann by name, O’Reilly by insinuation.

Fox and G.E. Reach Deal to End O’Reilly-Olbermann Feud

It was a media cage fight, televised every weeknight at 8 p.m. But the match was halted when the blood started to spray executives in the high-priced seats.

Should the rest of us really care about this? Some pompous asshole against another asshole. And no, I don’t which one is douchier.

From The World of Science

What do you see here? (the answer could say a lot about you)

For decades, the Rorschach test has been used to decode the human mind. But now the secret’s out – and psychologists are hopping mad.

7 Ways Your Siblings May Have Shaped You

Ah, siblings: both a blessing and a curse. Approximately 80 percent of Americans have at least one brother or sister; in fact, kids today are more likely to grow up with a sibling than a father, experts say. What’s more, the sibling relationship is the longest relationship that most people will have in their lives. Yet brothers and sisters have gotten short shrift in the research about what affects who we are and how we behave, experts say.

Reportage of The Week

Why it’s time to end the war on drugs

For decades many academics and professionals have regarded the current blanket prohibition on recreational drugs (though not alcohol or tobacco) as absurd, counter-productive and destructive. But there has never been any political imperative for change, and a thousand reasons to do nothing.
But 2009 has seen a change: among the academics and professionals who study this issue, from Carlisle Racecourse to the think-tanks of Washington, there is growing sense that reform is possible and increasingly urgent. The argument is not that drug use is A Good Thing. It is that the collateral damage caused by the so-called war on drugs has now reached catastrophic proportions. And even some politicians have started to think this might be worth discussing.

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