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Wednesday Morning News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

Are you kidding me, actual Russian spies? No way. How could you not lead with this juicy story. So three Russian spies walked into a bar… But seriously, we caught some spies apparently:

Richard and Cynthia Murphy grew lettuce in a backyard garden, walked their daughters to the school bus each morning, and swapped Christmas cards with neighbors who had moved to Texas.

Their modest three-bedroom house sported maroon shutters and a wrap-around porch, and sat on a winding street in a well-heeled suburb across from Manhattan. They drove a green Honda Civic.

To all appearances, the Murphys were a typical, child-obsessed American family — not deep-cover Russian spies straight from a Cold War novel.

Their arrests, along with those of 9 other alleged Russian spies, has exposed a surprising side to modern espionage: The group led mundane lives far from the James Bond image. Instead of car chases and shootouts, they paid taxes, haggled over mortgages, and struggled to remember computer passwords.

As a result, the 11 — the biggest alleged spy ring every broken by the FBI — blended into American society for more than a decade. They joined neighbors at block parties, school picnics and bus stops. Four of the couples were married, and at least three had young children.

One suspect wrote columns for a Spanish-language newspaper in New York. Another ran an international consulting and management firm in Boston, while his wife sold high-priced real estate near Harvard University. Yet another drove a shiny blue BMW to his investment banking job in Seattle; he regularly updated his status on LinkedIn, a social networking site.

This all begs the question, um, why? I mean, people can just come and go and legitimately be a Russian with a green card, or otherwise legal resident work, learn stuff, and then return. And in those positions, try to influence. All legal. What’s with all the spying already. And spy us? Really? Haven’t they noticed the economy and all the other signs of us going down the tubes fast?

And speaking of obvious Russian spies, Larry King has announced his retirement:

After 25 years hosting a nightly talk show, CNN’s Larry King says “it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”

After weeks of speculation triggered by that anniversary and sharply declining ratings, King’s move — on his own terms, CNN says — ends his storied run on the struggling news network’s signature show this fall.

At the top of Tuesday’s broadcast, King, 76, told viewers he “talked to the guys here at CNN, and I told them I would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this fall and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time for my wife, and I to get to the kids’ Little League games.” But he promised regular news specials.

Larry has been around forever. I have to admit I never particularly liked his style and show — all softballs, just giving people a platform to say their side without real questions. But because of that style he would often get people to talk that otherwise wouldn’t I supposed. Who will be wearing the suspenders now one wonders.

And in related softball news, both Petraeus and Kagan are in confirmation hearings. From the Petaeus article:

Petraeus, President Obama’s nominee to lead U.S. troops in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if he is confirmed he will “look very hard” at how the rules and directives are put into practice.

“I am keenly aware of concerns by some of our troopers on the ground,” Petraeus said.

The committee approved the nomination Tuesday, clearing the way for a full Senate vote. Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he hoped to have that vote this week.

And then from the Kagan article:

Elena Kagan told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that her political outlook is “generally progressive,” but the glimpses she offered into her legal views defied Republican efforts to pigeonhole the type of Supreme Court justice she would be.

During the first day of questioning at her confirmation hearings, Kagan said that she respects legal precedent that upholds people’s right to own guns and that she supports the use of military commissions to prosecute enemy combatants — positions favored by many conservatives.

Oh sorry, I just fell asleep while looking at those articles. Yea, that boring. I actually watched some of the hearings yesterday too. If anyone has trouble sleeping, I strongly recommend them.

In blow hard, hot air news, Alex becomes a hurricane and Joe “foot in mouth” Biden visits the gulf. Blow hard #1 article:

Tropical Storm Alex strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night to become the first June hurricane on the Atlantic side of the United States since 1995, the National Hurricane Center said.

Alex gained strength and upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday night, the hurricane center said.

The hurricane center’s advisory issued at 11 p.m. ET said Alex was moving to the west at 9 mph and was expected to hit the northern Mexico coast Wednesday evening. The center reported the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

And then we have blow hard #2 article:

As storm winds pushed oil over booms protecting the Louisiana coast, Vice President Joe Biden made his first tour of the troubled gulf region Tuesday, assuring locals that claims filed against oil giant BP would be paid even if they exceeded the $20 billion the company set aside in an escrow account.

“That $20-billion fund, that’s not a ceiling,” Biden said. “BP is required to pay whatever it is [that] falls under their responsibility, whether it ends up being $25, $30, $40 or $50 billion.”

With some of those desperate residents serving as a backdrop in Louisiana on Tuesday, Biden said: “Some of the guys behind me made some claims, and they’ve gotten partial payment. The concern was: Is this it? It ain’t it. It ain’t it. This is the beginning. This is not the end.”

Although it was Biden’s first visit since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 people, President Obama has visited the region four times and top administration officials have made repeated visits.

Thanks for all the fish Joe. What a smart-ass.

And speaking of blow hards, Scott Brown scares all the Democrats so much that they pee their diapers and they remove the bank tax from the reform bill so Scott won’t call them bad names again:

Senator Scott Brown yesterday forced Democrats to remove a $19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds from the proposed Wall Street regulatory overhaul, the second time the Massachusetts Republican has used his pivotal role in the Senate to influence the legislation in favor of major financial institutions.

After Brown threatened in writing yesterday to oppose the package unless the $19 billion tax was eliminated, House and Senate lawmakers reconvened late yesterday and agreed on a new way to pay for the additional regulatory oversight in the sweeping legislation, which is intended to help prevent another economic crisis like the 2008 market meltdown.

Instead of the tax, Congress would use $11 billion in funds from the 2008 bank bailout, combined with a small increase in bank fees paid to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

I’m so impressed with the new Obama Democratic party. They’re so principled. That was sarcasm. I just got an email from Al Franken about what a great job they’ve all been doing. I assume he’s talking about Republicans. Also sarcasm. At this point it’s so bad it’s hard to put words together about that party. They’ve made themselves completely hollow and empty and irrelevant. Not an easy task. But they did it. And they did it with a supermajority. I’m stunned beyond the capacity for rational thought. Salon has more on the Brown running the senate:

Who calls the shots in Washington? Judging by the latest report from Bloomberg, the man who holds all the cards is Scott Brown, the (very) junior senator from Massachusetts. Within an hour of Brown’s announcement that he would not support the Dodd-Frank bank reform bill if it incorporated a $19 billion bank levy to pay for the costs of shutting down failing financial institutions, the Democrats appear to have buckled.

Shifting gears a bit, and I try not to let my bias come through, but this one is just too priceless. Apparently a leaked memo from Microsoft came out with their admiration for Apple because Apple actually makes products that just work. Apparently they’ve been making products for years that didn’t work and just now figured out the secret:

Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) has zeroed in on what makes Apple (NSDQ:AAPL) products so popular that people will wait hours in line just for a chance to purchase them. But will this realization be reflected in the next version of Windows, or just used as a compass for product development down the road?

One of a series of purported Windows 8 slides that leaked earlier this week focuses on the uncomplicated, “It just works” nature of Apple product design. The slide describes a virtuous circle in which a user experience that’s “low in friction” makes the products easy for people to use, which in turn leads to satisfied customers placing high value in the products.

“This is something people will pay for!” reads the slide.

I couldn’t help laughing at that. Please, no Apple vs. Microsoft wars kids. You know who you are.

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, moved into the PM office:

The morning after the Rudds departed from Canberra residence The Lodge to return home to Brisbane – tweeting as they went – Ms Gillard opened her new office to photographers.

In the place of the Rudd accoutrements are photographs of her partner Tim Mathieson, Ms Gillard’s books, including one about leadership by women, and a pair of gumboots given to her by a students at Tasmania’s Penguin Primary school.

Ms Gillard also displayed a pair of yellow football boots sent to her by a footwear manufacturer to highlight her claim last month that there was more chance of her becoming full forward for her beloved Bulldogs AFL team than prime minister.

Back to the sad gulf news, we had day 70 yesterday. Here’s a summary of the latest at the NYTimes:

Strong winds from a tropical storm raised wave heights to seven feet or more, forcing the suspension of skimming operations and controlled burns on Tuesday. Rough seas make it impossible to contain oil so skimmers can pick it up or ignite it. Forecasters expected the storm, named Alex, to reach hurricane strength before making landfall Wednesday in northern Mexico or South Texas.

The State Department said the United States was accepting help from 12 countries and international organizations in dealing with the spill. Most of have offered skimmers, boom or dispersant chemicals. Among those whose offers have been accepted are Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Holland, Norway and Japan, as well as the International Maritime Organization and the Monitoring and Information Center.

And a bit more on the aid finally being accepted:

The United States is accepting help from 12 countries and international organizations in dealing with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the State Department said Tuesday.

The State Department said in a news release that the U.S. is working out the particulars of the help that’s been accepted.

More than 30 countries and international organizations have offered to help with the spill. The U.S. hasn’t made a final decision on most of the offers.

The United States rarely faces a disaster of such magnitude that it requires international aid, but the government did accept assistance after Hurricane Katrina.

Most of the countries and groups have offered skimmers, boom or dispersant chemicals, according to a chart on the State Department’s website.

“To be clear, the acceptance of international assistance we announced today did not mean to imply that international help was arriving only now,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “In fact, before today, there were 24 foreign vessels operating in the region and nine countries had provided boom, skimmers and other assistance.”

And just when some home sales numbers looked only slightly horrible, they’re not even as good as that. It appears that 1 in 3 home sales is a foreclosure with deep discounts:

Foreclosure homes accounted for 31 percent of all residential sales in the first quarter of 2010, with the average sales price of properties that sold while in some stage of foreclosure nearly 27 percent below homes that were not in the process, Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac said.

“In a normal market, only 1 to 2 percent of home sales are foreclosures, so this is certainly a significant level,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said in an interview.

Total U.S. foreclosure sales in 2009 were up more than 1,100 percent from 2006 and more than 2,500 percent from 2005. Foreclosure sales accounted for 29 percent of all sales in 2009, up from 23 percent in 2008 and a mere 6 percent in 2007, the real estate data company said.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Those poor, poor real estate agents, I think they need bailed out next. Yes, sarcasm again.

And speaking of, apparently the Treasury lacks the staff to monitor and manage the bailout funds:

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (Sigtarp) said Treasury was not meeting its responsibility for monitoring how insurer AIG, Bank of America, Chrysler, Citigroup, GM and GMAC use bailout funds.

“Twenty months into its administration of TARP, Treasury simply has no legitimate excuses as to why it has still failed to accomplish the critically important task of assembling a robust compliance staff,” the audit report said.

It said Treasury was “too slow” in conducting compliance reviews with the companies and said it has only begun to review three of the six companies’ documentation that shows whether they are meeting conditions for the receipt of funds.

Of course they don’t have the staff. Who is surprised at this. There are only two explanations for this. Either they are corrupt and don’t want the staff and don’t want to really monitor those moneys very closely, or they’re completely incompetent. I think this epitomizes the Obama administration: corrupt or incompetent. Perhaps both.

But Obama found the time, and someone in his office actually could handle the scheduling, to meet with the Saudi King to do some toe touching, ring kissing, and to get his marching orders. Obama will also meeting with Netanyahu:

Arab leaders are disappointed that Obama has not made more progress in pressuring Israel to give ground in U.S.-mediated peace talks. Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on July 6.

Obama said his lunch with King Abdullah ranged over various strategic issues, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as “the importance of moving forward in a significant and bold way in securing a Palestinian homeland that can live side by side with a secure and prosperous Israeli state.”

Netanyahu began indirect talks with the Palestinians in May but has imposed strict conditions for accepting their demand for statehood.

In addition, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier Tuesday that problems with the talks, and divisions among the Palestinians, meant no Palestinian state would be founded by 2012. This was an apparent reference to a call by the Quartet — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia — for an accord by that time.

Obama and King Abdullah “expressed their hope that proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians will lead to the resumption of direct talks with the aim of two states living side-by-side in peace,” the White House said.

NYTimes has an article spotlighting a West Virginia resident on the loss of Byrd and other political outlooks, and especially what the future might bring after losing such a strong Democrat:

A few things jump out from the fraying calendars and coal mine pictures Mr. Jones has collected: the life-size cardboard cutout of George W. Bush, wearing a Friends of Coal button; the photograph of Mr. Jones and his wife with Bill Clinton; and a McCain-Palin button pinned to the wall.

“These are the ones I liked at the time,” said Mr. Jones, a lifelong Democrat who felt kinship with Mr. Clinton but then voted for Mr. Bush twice, loves Sarah Palin and castigates President Obama for, he says, bailing out the wealthy bankers.

Worship of Senator Robert C. Byrd is a given in this small mountain town where he was raised and where, as throughout the state, flags have hung at half-staff since he died early Monday morning. Consistent with Mr. Byrd’s stature, the Democratic Party dominates West Virginia politics: it controls the State Legislature, both Senate seats and two of the three House seats. In 2008, Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, won re-election with 70 percent of the vote.

But in that same election, John McCain carried West Virginia with 56 percent of the vote. Here in Raleigh County, voters ignored the advice of their favorite son, Mr. Byrd, and gave the Republican presidential ticket 63 percent of the votes.

Tommy Lovell, 69, a mine union member who occupied one of the soft old chairs in this former shop, said he was among the minority here who had actually voted for Mr. Obama. Now he regrets it. “He’s not for coal, the health care scares me, and he’s spending too much money,” Mr. Lovell said.

That spending too much money meme sure is working. Probably doesn’t help that most of the money spent so far was for bankers and wall street and heath insurance companies other wealthy people and companies. Perhaps it’s reasonable to assume that this administration will never spend money on work programs or on anything to actually create jobs or help people in need. I frankly find it hard to imagine him spending money to actually help anyone that needs help. Of course I don’t expect a Republican to either. Oh wait, Obama is a Republican. Now it all makes sense.

That’s a bit of what’s going on. Chime in with what you’re finding.

Lazy Saturday News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!! I don’t know what’s wrong with me this morning–I just can’t seem to get myself going. I don’t know if it’s all the bad news or just a hangover from my long trip home. Anyway, I’m going to throw out a grab bag of news stories and hope you can help me out with some more. Here are the stories that caught my eye so far this morning.

From the New Scientist: 24-week fetuses cannot feel pain

Fetuses aged 24 weeks or less do not have the brain connections to feel pain, according to a working party report published this week by the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Its conclusion is the latest to challenge the rationale for a law introduced in the US state of Nebraska in April. This law, which bans almost all abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, was introduced primarily on the grounds that the fetus feels pain.

The report, which reviews recent scientific literature on the subject, also concludes that the fetus is sedated throughout pregnancy by chemicals such as adenosine contained in the amniotic fluid that surrounds it.

This probably won’t convince the anti-science crowd though.

The NYT on the endless BP gusher: How Much Has Spilled, and How Far? Seeking Answers as Questions Mount This piece is in question and answer format and provides basic info on the current state of the emergency.

The Seattle Times on Tropical Storm Alex: Storm could be latest problem in spill cleanup

Forecasters can’t say yet if Alex – which blew into a tropical storm early Saturday – will hit the northeastern part of the Gulf, where the spill has spread over the past 10 weeks.

Somewhere between 69 million and 132 million gallons of crude have spewed into the water since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

Most storm prediction models show it traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend and into the southern Gulf by Monday. Where it goes next is the question.

CNN: Tropical storm plus oil slick equals more fear and uncertainty

The disaster thousands of feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico may be exacerbated by a different type of calamity in the coming week — a tropical storm — that could push the oil farther along Florida’s pristine Panhandle beaches.

Tropical Storm Alex — the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season — formed in the Caribbean on Saturday. Alex had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was about 250 miles away from Chetumal, Mexico. It was moving toward Belize and over the Yucatan Peninsula.

“The greatest nightmare with this storm approaching is that it takes this oil on the surface of the Gulf and blows it over the barrier islands into the bays and the estuaries,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, told CNN. “And that is where you really get the enormous destruction, because it’s just very difficult to clean up those pristine bays.”

Will that make it a National Emergency, President Obama? Will anything shake your inertia or will you continue to fight for your right to par-tay?

The Wall Street Journal: Judge In Moratorium Case Sold Exxon Stock This Week

The U.S. federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling sold stock in Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on the same day he issued his ruling, according to documents released Friday.

Exxon Mobil was among the companies affected by the administration’s moratorium. It used a rig whose operations were suspended under the ban, according to Exxon spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman White.

The judge in the moratorium case, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, says he only learned of his holdings in Exxon Mobil on Monday, the day before he issued his ruling.

Global Post: Troops wonder what McChrystal was thinking

Soldiers knew more than anyone else what damage had been done when news broke that their commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the U.S.-led international force’s 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, had criticized his commander in chief in an inflammatory Rolling Stone article.

They knew because they abide by the same rules McChrystal has to: the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice. The code subjects an officer to a court martial if he uses any “contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, Congress,” and other civilian leaders in the U.S. government. Any one of the soldiers in Afghanistan would be removed from their positions, if not face a court martial, for a similar offense.

At No Quarter, Larry Johnson opines on the McChrystal firing: McChrystal versus Obama

Consider this–Barack Obama has taken more vacation days in the last 18 months than Stan McChrystal has taken in the last seven years. Why? Stan put his mission above all else, including family. This stat alone tells you the difference between the General and the manchild who inhabits the White House.

And why the hell do pundits and the media continue with the absurd meme trying to compare General McChrystal to General Douglas MacArthur. Mac actually challenged the authority of Harry Truman. McChrystal never did. Although he is reported commenting to his staff that Obama appeared intimidated by the roomful of Generals (and the boy from Hawaii was) at no time and in no way did McChrystal ever suggest or state that Obama was not legally entitled to be President. Never did he refuse to obey an order. And never did he suggest the policy he was implementing in Afghanistan was any other than that ordered by Obama.

McChrystal also is getting blamed for the Rules of Engagement, which have imposed strict conditions for shooting suspected insurgents in Afghanistan. Those rules did not originate with Stan McChrystal. Nope.

They were the result of demands from the Afghan leader, Karzai and Ambassador (retired General) Eikenberry. But it is McChrystal, charged with implementing the guidelines, who gets the blame.

Found at Truthdig:

Is the BP gusher really the worst ecological disaster in American history? Well, we really don’t know yet, but here are a couple of articles that debate the issue: From Reuters and The Seattle Times.

I have to say, I think this disaster could end up being on the scale of the 1930s Dust Bowl, forcing people to set out in search of jobs in other parts of the country. Since there are no jobs most places, lots of people could be in for really tough times. Grapes of Wrath, anyone?

So what are you reading this morning? If you can snap me out of my daze, I’ll be very grateful! Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday Morning News and Views

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

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

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

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

Anyway, enough about me and on to the news!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Enquirer story was based primarily on documents.

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

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

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

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

Wiegel apologized for comments he made about Matt Drudge:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he can begin pulling out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing in the iPhone 4 line

So, about a month ago, a terrible thing happened. I dropped my iPhone in the toilet. I felt like I lost a part of myself. The damn earbuds were permanently inserted in my ears. What to do?
Well, since the new iPhone was about to be released, I thought I’d just buy a cheap temporary replacement and wait it out. I’ve been cold turkey for the past month. No, I a haven’t gotten over it yet.

Then, the day apple and ATT started taking orders, I was in the lab and couldn’t get to a computer to order one until ATT *stopped* taking orders because their system was overwhelmed. I went to the apple store to see if I could still get one on launch day. Nope. The orders are now backlogged until the end of July. But there was an eensy weensy chance I could still get one if I came to the store on launch dat and stood in the walk-in line.

Which is where I am. I have no hope. The lines are really long. Steve, I am so disappointed. I have sold a ton of ipads recently. I am a walking talking advertisement. And this is the thanks I get.


What are you doing this morning?

Watch What I Say, Not What I Do

I’m thrilled to introduce you to the newest front-page blogger at The Confluence, sandress. You know her as our frequent commenter, Sandra S. and she also blogs at New Agenda Report as Sandra.

Sandress, I’m so excited to welcome you — Thank you for this wonderful post! — katiebird

It’s no shock to any of us here at The Confluence that Obama’s popularity is finally tanking. Apparently people don’t like incompetence in their leaders during a massive ecological crisis. Who knew? The media has tried to spin this as voters demanding tears and emotional outbursts, which Obama has thus far failed to deliver. But the fact is that people want Obama to have a Plan, and now that he doesn’t have the smart girl to crib off of, he’s got nothing. And we all know what that means: A MAGIC SHOW!

Actually, it means someone is getting thrown under the bus, and since Obama is running out of members of his inner circle to sacrifice, that can only mean one thing: we need a woman to burn in effigy! Hillary is already in trouble, what with standing apart in the McChrystal scandal, and being talked up by Sally Quinn as Biden’s replacement. I’m fairly certain we’ll see some solid anti-Hillary sentiment stirred up unless Obama can find a way to take credit for her good work. But no, I think Sarah Palin is going to bear the brunt of this particular witch hunt. After all, this is the woman who champions drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife National Refuge. Who would make a better target for progressive ire while Obama fails to make gains combatting the devastating Gulf Oil Spill?

As we gear up for another fun round of Pin the Blame on the Scapegoat, we’ll all be reminded over and over again that we only know what They want us to know. The average voter, and the average opinionated blog-stalker, has no idea what Obama’s actual voting record was, and certainly none of them have any idea about what Palin was actually like in office.

So here’s a quick quiz, just to brush up. Heck, use it to challenge the most politically savvy people you know. (Note: Since Obama chooses to be judged on his words rather than his actions, I’ve leaned heavily on rhetoric in the quiz)

The All-New Obama/Palin Quiz

  1. Who said “I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.”
  2. Who said “I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues”?
  3. Who said “I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles”?
  4. When asked if s/he would support an abortion ban in their state if Roe v. Wade were overturned, who responded: “It would be up to the people… to discuss and decide how we would like our society to reflect our values”?
  5. Who more than tripled funding in their state for an organization providing programs for homeless, runaway, and pregnant youth?
  6. Which political figure appointed a notably anti-choice and anti-contraception woman to a prominent position in charge of health-related funds?
  7. Who responded to the aftermath of a major ecological disaster by saying: “The oil companies are our partners in a sense, in that they do hold the leases, the rights to develop our resources, but it’s our duty… to make sure that we have… sound, responsible oversight… that there are the commitments by industry to safely and responsibly develop our resources… We will make sure that something like this does not happen again”?
  8. In 2007, who wished to impose sanctions on Iran and its allies, and to designate the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group?
  9. When asked about increasing state-funded faith-based initiatives in 2006, which major political figure responded that current levels of funding were adequate?
  10. Which political figure is responsible for the assertion that the prosecution of warrantless wire-tapping represents “exceptionally grave harm to national security”, and that the United States government possesses “sovereign immunity” which allows them to use surveillance violating federal privacy statues and not be sued?
  11. Who said “If we’re going to end genocide and stop the scourge of HIV/AIDS, we need people of faith on Capitol Hill talking about how these challenges don’t just represent a security crisis or a humanitarian crisis, but a moral crisis as well”?
  12. When asked about Thomas Jefferson and the Separation of Church and State, who replied “His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on people. And Thomas Jefferson also said never underestimate the wisdom of the people. And the wisdom of the people, I think in this issue is that people have the right and the ability and the desire to express their own religious views, be it a very personal level, which is where I choose to express my faith, or in a more public forum”?
  13. Who said “To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition”?
  14. Which political figure was willing to compromise on the mandated reporting of leaks at nuclear energy plants?
  15. Who cited a trip abroad as a college student as foreign policy experience in 2008?
  16. Bonus Question: According to Frank Llewellyn, national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, who is more socialistic, Obama or Palin?

Continue reading

Wednesday News – Breaking: McChrystal Out

Good morning Conflucians!!

We’re awaiting the final nail for McChrystal’s coffin, here are some things happening today. When the news breaks, I’ll update it at the bottom.

New home sales plummet:

New home sales plummeted to a record low in May, the first month following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. This snapped a two-month streak of gains.

New home sales declined 32.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 last month, down from an downwardly revised 446,000 in April, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Sales year-over-year fell 18.3%.

This is the slowest sales pace since the Commerce Department began tracking data in 1963. The prior record was set in September 1981, when new homes sold at an annual rate of 338,000.

“We expected a slowdown, but the extent of this decline was a surprise,” said Anika Khan, an economist at Wells Fargo. The figure was even worse than her relatively pessimistic forecast of an annual rate of 380,000 in May.

A consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected May sales to slide to an annual rate of 430,000.

“Clearly, the lack of a tax credit had a lot to do with it, and it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy road ahead as we get a few more months of payback,” Khan said.

It’s just hard to compete with a really large inventory of non new homes at lower prices. I’m not surprised at all. And combine that with the homebuyer tax credit expiration, it’s no wonder. Of course the underlying disastrous economy is the big picture issue. And on top of that, the general impression of how bad things are I think has been greatly effected by the oil gusher.

The nurse in the famous WWII picture dies at 91:

A nurse who was photographed being kissed in Times Square in New York to celebrate the end of the second world war in 1945 has died, aged 91.

The iconic VJ Day picture of Edith Shain by Alfred Eisenstaedt was published in Life magazine.

The identity of the nurse in the photograph was not known until the late 1970s when Shain wrote to Eisenstaedt to say that she was the woman in the picture. It was taken on 14 August 1945 when she had been working at Doctor’s Hospital in New York.

After a judge recently reinstated deepwater drilling, Obama is seeking a new ban:

The White House was set on Wednesday to step up its legal battle to keep deepwater drilling on hold in the Gulf of Mexico following the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

A U.S. judge on Tuesday overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet (152 metres) after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he would seek to replace the ban with a new order clarifying why it was necessary. The moratorium was imposed after a well operated by British oil company BP ruptured on April 20 and began spewing millions of gallons of crude into the sea.

“We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP’s well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling,” Salazar said in a statement.

Late word is the cap is fallen over, so getting the ban back in place should not be hard. We’ll update on the cap failure as we learn more.

Eliot Spitzer has been hired by CNN to host a new show:

CNN, the 24-hour cable news network owned by Time Warner Inc., said former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and journalist Kathleen Parker will host a nightly roundtable TV show.

The new show will start in the fall and air weeknights at 8 p.m., Jon Klein, the president of CNN U.S., said today in an e- mailed statement.

CNN is revamping its prime-time lineup to reverse ratings that have fallen after the 2008 U.S. presidential election amid increasing competition with NBC Universal’s MSNBC and News Corp.’s Fox News. Parker, who describes herself as a “rational conservative,” and Spitzer, a Democrat whose call-girl scandal forced him to resign as governor in 2008, will exchange opinions and analysis with guests and contributors, CNN said.

Desperate times I supposed. Of course despite Eliot’s transgressions, I always wonder if he hadn’t been going after Goldman Sachs like he was, would he have been exposed in his sex scandal. Who knows.

Back to the McChrystal issue, the WP has some background:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s belittling critique of some of the Obama administration’s top officials has left the president with a stark choice: overlook comments that border on insubordination, or fire his top commander at a critical moment in Afghanistan.

Even as thousands of U.S. troops were moving into Kandahar province for what is expected to be a crucial phase in one of the longest U.S. wars, McChrystal appeared dangerously close to losing his command because of the incendiary remarks he and members of his inner circle had made in an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

While a U.S. official said that McChrystal had already made an informal resignation offer to senior military officials before flying to Washington Tuesday, President Obama made it clear that it is up to him to decide the general’s fate.

McChrystal met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon early Wednesday morning before arriving at the White House for a private session with Obama that began about 9:45 a.m.

“I want to make sure I talk to him before I make any final decision,” Obama, whom aides described as furious over the article, told reporters Tuesday.

Obama met with McChrystal earlier today. But seems to be taking quite a while to make the decision and to announce it.

That’s only a few items, but we’re all sort of waiting for the shoe to drop. I’ll do an update here as soon as it hits the fan. Stay tuned. Chime in with updates and other news.

Update: Breaking News

Obama has accepted McChrystal’s resignation. Here’s the story from USA Today and here it is from AP.

First from USA Today:

President Obama has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command in Afghanistan, administration officials said.

Obama is scheduled to make the dismissal official at 1:30 p.m.

The news comes just a few hours after McChrystal suddenly left the White House following a 30-minute meeting with Obama — and less than 90 minutes before a major national security meeting on the Afghanistan war that McChrystal had been scheduled to attend.

When Obama address McChrystal’s status at 1:30 p.m., he will appear by himself.

And then from AP:

A senior administration official tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and is replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command.

McChrystal was pushed out over his blistering remarks about administration officials quoted in a magazine interview.

After an Oval Office meeting with McChrystal in the morning, Obama huddled with his war advisers and planned to announce his decision on the general’s fate to the nation at 1:30 p.m. EDT in the Rose Garden.

The official spoke only on condition of anonymity, because the president’s announcement was not yet public. Petraeus now oversees the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A source tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama will name Gen. David Petraeus to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top war commander in Afghanistan.

There you have it. Reasonable decision, and really the only decision about McChrystal. Interesting decision to replace him with Petraeus. We’ll have to watch how that plays out.

Unsung Hero – Katiebird

The Confluence was originally intended to be a refuge from the authoritarian aggression of the Obot mobs. Apparently telling the Obots they were not welcome here made them determined to get inside cause trouble.

The Obots acted pretty cocky because thought they could beat or bypass our moderation and filtering defenses with their video game experience and internet savvy.

They knew they were younger, smarter and better looking than us because Obama told them so. They knew no one could stop them, especially not an old white woman. who was probably an illerate racist. They smirked at each other, knowing that she didn’t stand a chance.

Someone forgot to tell that to Katiebird.

For most of 2008 the Obots had us under constant attack. Wave after wave of Obot trolls hopped up on Kool-aid and hopium charged our comment threads.

These were 4chan veterans who had been hacking and trolling the world wide web since they were still in diapers. If even a single troll got through they could contaminate our whole blog and prevent polite, rational online debate for months or years to come.

Standing in their way was a soft-spoken retired librarian armed with nothing but a razor-sharp 12-inch metal ruler in one hand and a rolled-up guide to the Dewey Decimal System in the other.

It was a bloodbath.

In the end, it was just Katiebird standing there, not a single living troll in sight and thousands of gutted and disemboweled troll bodies scattered around her.

Spammy and me loaded up wheelbarrows full of troll bodies and hauled them out back. The health department wouldn’t let us flush that shit so we had to burn them.

The stench of those burning Obot trolls was actually and improvement over the way they smelled originally.

Those of you who were here at the beginning may have noticed that Katiebird is a little different now than she was before. She’s a little quieter, a little less outgoing. She has that 1000-yard stare that combat veterans get when they’ve been in the jungle too long.

Katiebird still doesn’t like to talk about it.

Come to think of it, she didn’t talk very much before either. She probably has PTSD or is crazy or something but since we don’t have a health insurance plan here at TC we just keep Katiebird stocked up with liquor and cigarettes.

That’s how they did it back in my grandfather’s generation and only the weak ones cracked.

If you want to show your appreciation to Katiebird she likes cuban cigars and 20 year old scotch. If you bring them to me I’ll see to it that they’re delivered.

Book Review: The Passage

Summer is upon us and the time has come to go to the beach and get lost in a book.  But what to take?  If you’re like me, you don’t do trashy chick-lit.  That Candace Bushnell crap will never see my library shelf.  I want plot, action, good character development, some profound meaning.

So, The Passage, by Justin Cronin, may or may not be for you.

This was one of the most frustrating books I have ever read.  Er, listened to.  One word of warning, it is a loooooonnnnnngggg book.  The audible version is 40 hours long.  Maybe the audiobook is not the best format for this book but I’ll get to that in a moment.

I think part of my frustration is that the author tries too hard to be all things to all people.  Is the book an eschatological parable?  Science fiction?  An On-The-Road buddy story?  A love story?  An epic horror story spanning generations ala Stephen King’s interminable It?  A long winded luddite lecture on the perils of modern technology with a soupçon of magical realism?  A Beauty and the Beast fairy tale?  Who the frak knows?  It could be all of these things.  Some of them hang together.  Some of them hang separately.

There are two messages I got loud and clear from The Passage.  As Jackie Kennedy is reported to have said, “If you mess up your childern, nothing else you do really matters”.  The other one is, if you’re going to tinker with viruses, be sure NOT to use sociopathic murderers for your in vivo studies.  I made a note to self on this one because, *clearly*, scientists need to be reminded, ALL THE TIME, of their pretensions to divinity and the hubris that is inextricably linked in their DNA to their interest in biology.  Only scientists are capable of destroying our civilization.  Oil companies and investment bankers can not come close in destructive power to a guy in a white labcoat with a test tube.  We just can’t be trusted.


Actually, it was the military that did it.  They recruited the scientist.

Ok, does anyone doubt that the Army has stocks of mutated biological agents that make smallpox look like a bad case of poison ivy?  Of course not.  But it’s not like they’re out to create a race of orcs.  I mean, come on.

So, here’s the premise of this weighty tome: A grief stricken biologist goes to South America to investigate a bat virus that has the power to cure terminally ill cancer patients.  Well, cure them temporarily.  There are a few kinks that need to be ironed out, like getting them to stop turning into immortal blood thirsty killers.  The Army sees this side effect as a feature, not a bug.  So, it makes the good doctor an offer he can’t refuse and gives him his own personal research lab in the mountains above Telluride, CO.  Enter the FBI agent, Wolgast.  Wolgast’s job is to recruit “volunteers” among death row inmates to participate in “clinical trials”.  The subjects are not told what’s going to happen to them but seeing as they don’t have many alternatives, most of the recruits sign up.  Then, the doctor says his research has progressed to the point where he needs a much younger subject.  He needs a child.  That’s where 6 year old Amy Harper Bellefonte comes in.

Amy is the abandoned child of a homeless woman turned prostitute.  When Amy was born, she and her mom lived with her grandfather in a poor but idyllic existence on an Iowa farm.  A series of unfortunate events leads to Amy’s abandonment at a convent with the eccentric Sister Lacy, and her subsequent abduction by Wolgast.  It doesn’t take long for Wolgast and Amy to bond.  Wolgast can’t bring himself to turn her over to research so he goes on the lam with her.  They’re both caught and Amy is subjected to a mutated form of the virus that brings her close to death.  Then, one night, all hell breaks loose on the mountain, the subjects escape and the world changes.  Once again, Wolgast disappears with Amy.  They retreat to an old summer camp in Oregon and hide from the chaos of the world around them.

And, Oh, what chaos ensues.  This is the most gripping part of the book.  Most of the details are provided by out of date newspapers that Wolgast finds while they’re hiding.  But there is one section concerning the evacuation of children from Philadelphia that is particularly harrowing.  The girl who tells it ends up in a FEMA camp in California.  She is part of the founding generation of survivors.  This is the end of the first part.

The second part concerns the California colony’s kibbutz-like existence.  They’re out in the middle of nowhere, 90 years later.  They haven’t heard from FEMA or the Army or nearly any other non-infected human beings for years.  For all they know, they’re the only ones who are left.  They sleep with the lights on, literally.  Light is the only thing that keeps the soulless virals at bay.  And their wind turbine powered batteries are starting to die.

That’s where the story starts to fall apart.  There are so many logical inconsistencies from this point on that even though the plot is still compelling, the stuff that doesn’t hang together started to grate on my nerves.  For example, the colony seems to have forgotten about modern medicine.  They don’t have antibiotics or anesthesia.  Ok, I know they may have used up the contents of their 50 ton push pack in 90 years but no one bothered to write down the recipe for chloroform or how to make penicillin from cheese mold?  And the battery problem: the guy responsible for running the power supply tells one of the more senior members of the colony of their impending fate and- they keep it to themselves?  No “let’s get together and brainstorm a solution or all 100 of us are going to die horrible deaths in, Oh, about a year”.  No, they just sit on that information.  Then, when a couple of the members of a clique get into trouble, the whole group takes off, leaving the colony to fend for itself, unaware that the lights are about to go out.  The colony is described as being kind and gentle to their children even after they learn the bitter truth about the world but they seem to not to have instilled a sense of moral responsibility to their community in them.  If you think you’re the last 100 people on earth, wouldn’t you go out of your way to make sure that community survival was paramount?

Amy comes back into the story.  Of all of the characters, her thoughts on being and existence are the most convincing.  But in the presence of others, you get no sense of the internal workings of her mind.  She is silent and passive, a mystery that drives the others to take action and her relationship to Peter, the reluctant leader of the group, remains woefully underdeveloped.  The other characters of the second half, trained survivalists, have all of the emotional depth of Degrassi High School students.  The action is punctuated by heart to heart conversations that lead nowhere and resolve nothing.  I don’t care about a bunch of college aged adolescents mooning over each other for months at a stretch.  Grow up and get to the frickin’ point already.

We do come to the point.  It should be thrilling but it seems a bit anti-climactic.  This is where the audiobook has its limitations.  Because, if you had the book, there are certain pages that you could comfortably skip right over but with an audiobook, you have to listen to the words to make sure you haven’t missed anything important and this. takes. for. ever.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the book really is good.  The first part is gripping and hair raising.  There are passages of astonishing beauty that make you ache for Wolgast and Amy.  There is no doubt that Cronin is a talented writer.  I think that the scope of the saga just got a bit too big and unwieldy.  He could have used a better editor to pare some of it back and focus the motivations of the characters.  And I have never heard so much overuse of the word “frown” in my life.  If a character has to express displeasure in any way, the frowny face seems to be the only option.  Didn’t Cronin have access to a Thesaurus?  Were there no other words to describe a furrowing of the brows?  A look of worry and concern?  A sense of disapproval?   But I digress.

Here’s my prediction: The book is going to be wildly popular.  There will be sequels.  The way the book ends, there almost has to be. If I were pushy enough to advise the author, I’d suggest that he spend more time world building.  An epic of this magnitude deserves an almost Tolkienesque attention to detail.  Take your time.  Please, please, please, tighten up the character relationships.  And try to figure out how things actually work. I realize that English majors don’t all flock to the hard sciences but make an effort to extrapolate.

As for the fate of this first of three books, there will be HBO miniseries or movie and a franchise and all sorts of character re-enactments.  There will be Halloween costumes and video games.  I hope they make a Wii version.  Get in on it early enough and you can say you were there when the phenomenon started.  Enjoy it while you can.

You never know when the world might end and the lights go off.

(Bwahahahahahhh!, she says, shaking her test tube)


Don’t be a hater

Ever have a what-the-fuck-moment of clarity?

That’s when you see something and your first reaction is what the fuck? but then it hits you:

So that’s how we got in this fucking mess!

I pulled this little butt nugget from an otherwise forgettable post by Paradox over at The Left Coaster:

The lame theater clanked along through the years, Ronnie’s successor absolutely vilified and despised for the attempt at being responsible in raising taxes, Clinton the moderate Republican actually coming through with a modicum of adherence to principle and luck with a few booms to produce a surplus, Bush the Palin Clone naturally blowing up our money with fission tax bombs.

Let me break this into two pieces:

Clinton the moderate Republican

There has been exactly one Democrat since FDR who was elected and completed two full terms in the White House. He was enormously popular when he left office (without the benefit of being the media darling for a single day) and he remains popular today.

So what’s the best way to promote the Democratic brand name?



Oh, wait, that doesn’t sound right. In fact, it sounds kinda stupid.

I take that back, it’s completely fucking moronic.

Check out this little gratuitous slur

and luck with a few booms to produce a surplus

Let’s say you’re one of those super smart “progressive blogger” types we hear so much about these days. If you wanted to help Democrats win elections, wouldn’t it make just a teensy-weensy bit of sense to emphasize the longest period of sustained economic growth since . . . uh . . . ever?

Not only that, but since the Republicans always claim to be fiscally responsible that “surplus” thingie that the Big Dawg left us is a big ole gob of hocked-up phlegm in the GOP’s eyes.

I don’t want to step on Dakinikat’s toes by spoutin’ off like I know something about that econumberolgy mumbo-jumbo-gumbo she’s always droning on talking about but I seem to recall that most of the wealth created in the nineties went to the poor and the middle class, and the gap between rich and poor actually shrunk a little bit.

(I understand that there are lots of graphs and charts out there on the innertoobz that prove what I just said and all you have to do is use teh google but if I could read graphs and charts I’d be a rich and famous graph and chart readin’ guy.)

Now some people might disagree with me because they think if we talk about how good it was back in the nineties everyone won’t appreciate how much better they have now. So we could try to convince people that the prosperity of the nineties was just an accident, and it had nothing to do with the guy who was running our country. I guess that guy that was running things back then was only in charge of bad stuff.

One thing I haven’t noticed much of yet are the lefty Clinton haters holding Obama to the same standard as Bill. I guess it’s not their fault – How do you hold Obama to the same standard as Bill when he will never measure up to the Big Dawg?

Kool-aid is a helluva drug:

John Cole at Buffoon Juice:

You point out the fact that this is the most successful Democratic Presidency in my lifetime and all you hear is but, but but… He didn’t get single payer!

I was alive during the Clinton years. They were pretty good years, if you like peace and prosperity. Some people prefer war, depression and ecological catastrophe I guess.

John Cole spent the nineties as a Clinton-hating Republican. In fact, he spent most of this millenium as a Clinton Hating Republican too. Then late in 2007 he became a Democrat. A month or so later he became an Obama supporter. Before the end of 2008 he appointed himself Credentials Chairman for the Democratic party and began declaring who the “real”Democrats were. (hint: You, me and Hillary weren’t on his list.)

Now the lefty blogosphere didn’t implode back in 2008 just because a few purists and some CDS infested GOP carpetbaggers bad-mouthed Bill Clinton. But I was thinking the other day about many Obama supporters (then and now) were really Clinton Haters.

Remember the “check his website” bullpucky? It was one of many ways that Obama had no form or substance, he was just “not Hillary.” I saw lots of Clinton hating GOPers in the nineties, but suddenly we had Democrats hating them worse than the Republicans ever did.

But not just the Clintons, they also hate everyone associated with the Clintons, including Clinton supporters. (They especially hate Clinton supporters with them vajajay thingies.)

Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.

Bob Altemeyer wrote about Right Wing Authoritarian followers:

When I say authoritarian followers are aggressive
I don’t mean they stride into bars and start fights. First of all, high RWAs go to church enormously more often than they go to bars. Secondly, they usually avoid anything approaching a fair fight. Instead they aggress when they believe right and might are on their side. “Right” for them means, more than anything else, that their hostility is (in their minds) endorsed by established authority, or supports such authority. “Might” means they have a huge physical advantage over their target, in weaponry say, or in numbers, as in a lynch mob. It’s striking how often authoritarian aggression happens in dark and cowardly ways, in the dark, by cowards who later will do everything they
possibly can to avoid responsibility for what they did. Women, children, and others unable to defend themselves are typical victims. Even more striking, the attackers typically feel morally superior to the people they are assaulting in an unfair fight. We shall see research evidence in the next chapter that this self-righteousness plays a huge role in high RWAs’ hostility.

That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Except for the part about the right-wing that sure sounds like Obamanation to me. I’ve debated many conservatives, formally and informally, and I never saw anything like the arrogance and sneering condescension of the Obots. But even worse was the hostility and aggression against other Democrats.

Anger, hostility and hatred seem to be etched into Obot DNA, and it’s kind of scary watching them engage in team-hate exercises with designated hate receptacles like Sarah Palin.

Remember when Left Blogistan despised conformity and groupthink? On many blogs they are now considered virtues and on many others independent thought can be fatal, at least for your account.

Think about this:

While we’re pariahs and proud of it, what happened to the Hillary blogs and bloggers that didn’t go PUMA?

If you visit the Obama blogs (aka The Kool-aid Kingdom) you’ll notice that the former pro-Hillary blogs/bloggers have still not been fully reintegrated into Left Blogistan. So even if we hadn’t put principle before party the Kewl Kidz would still hate us.

The Obots keep very close watch on anyone associated with Bill or Hillary. They despise Mark Penn, Peter Daou and the other members of Hillary’s campaign staff. As for Hillary herself, since she is a loyal supporter of Teh Precious they can’t criticize her, so they rarely mention her at all.

This comment from the Buffoons thread will give you an idea how perceptive and well informed Cole’s minions are:

Many “bloggers” (Edwards/Hillary supporters) never got over the primaries. To some race was/is a factor, but to most, they couldn’t believe the lost to someone who only had been a senator for 4 years. They simply never understood the reason they (Edwards/Hillary) lost is because of their support of the iraqi invasion. In short, there are alot of sore losers behind keyboards.

I started the primaries over there with the Buffoons and I was a regular there for a couple years before that. I remember what the issues were that people were talking about. The Iraq War vote was a blogospheric thing mostly , in the real world it didn’t matter as much. But it only really mattered because they could use it against Hillary. in 2008 many Democrats got harassed and hounded over it?

Whatever happened to that Iraq war anyway? It used to be so important. Where are those Commie Pinko Ladies these days?

It’s always kind of weird and amusing when some clueless idiot begins speaking with conviction to an expert on a subject in which he himself is so profoundly ignorant he is ignorant of his ignorance.

I’m something of an expert on Hillary supporters and PUMA types. Like most of you I’ve been hanging around TC and other non-Kool-aid blogs for the past 2+ years. We went from pro-Hillary to PUMA to please god make it stop but I don’t recall EVER seeing a former Hillary supporter saying “I can’t believe she lost to someone who only had been a senator for 4 years.”

I have seen Obama supporters say things about us that are so far off base you have to wonder how they could possibly be that stupid and wonder if they are being intentionally dishonest. According to the Obots, we’re all old, uneducated white women who were never into politics until we identified with a candidate who had a dried-up vagina just like ours.

I don’t know where I put my dried-up vagina but I can say that the former Hillary blogs and bloggers are as good or better (mostly better) than any in the blogosphere. Despite what we always keep hearing (from Obots) racism is their thing, not ours.

Generally speaking, in the United States racism is covert rather than overt these days. And when racism is overt it’s whacka-doodle-doo. It’s a big blogosphere and they don’t keep it locked- up at night. I’ve seen all kinds of crap over the years. (In fact, if you really want to see some crap they got websites that just show crap)

So there’s weirder people than me and Captain Spaulding wondering around loose on the internet. Some of them have turned up at TC from time to time, we sent them packing.

So where are all the racists? I’ll tell you where at least one or two of them are – Over at Blogstalkers. They have one or two regulars over there that like to post comments in our threads like:

“Why don’t you just call Obama a Ni**er and get it over with?”

(In the original blogstalker version the word was spelled out.) So they use racial epithets and project them onto us, and then blame us for words that are not in our vocabularies.

Here’s one Buffoon turning on another :

By using the word “colored,” that commenter just proved that they didn’t want him in office and that they’d turn on him the first moment he wasn’t perfect. They’d accept less than perfection from Hillary Clinton and they accepted it from Bill Clinton. But someone like Obama had to be beyond perfect.

In that regard, the commenter and others of his ilk, are worse than the GOP. At least you expect racist crap from them. But ever since he was elected I’ve had the feeling that the Jane Hamsher type of “progressive” (and I’m not saying every progressive) thinks Obama owes them an apology for winning the election. Every day I’m more and more sure

(I urge you all to check out the comment thread over there. I spent a couple hours just wallowing in scadenfreude)

We have over 4,000 posts and over 450,000 comments in the archives here at TC – RD started cranking them out in January 2008 and we kept it going ever since. If someone really wanted to know about us they could read through what we produced with hard work and drunken inspiration. Or they could just ask us.

This is Obot “truth”:

“. . . this is the most successful Democratic Presidency in my lifetime . . . .”

(Only if John Cole is eight years old)


Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

Mid-Morning Under the Eucalyptus, by Scott Wynn

Good Morning Conflucians!!! TGIF!! Sorry to be so late with my morning post. I stayed up too late last night watching the Celtics go down to the Lakers late in game 7 of the NBA playoffs. Bummer. So what’s happening in the news this morning?

After Obama’s speech Tuesday, I saw Newsweek contributor Julia Reed on Anderson Cooper giving her reaction. Originally from Mississippi, Reed moved to New Orleans in 1991, and lived through Hurricane Katrina, and is now experiencing the BP oilspill as a local. She was pretty worked up and spoke in a rather colorful way about what the President had said and not said.

This morning, I found out that Reed is a racist. Ooops! She said that if President Obama thinks that the only people who will be affected by the 6-month moratorium on offshore drilling, he must be “out of his cotton-pickin’ mind.” To be honest, I was listening only to the substance of her remarks and completely missed the underlying racial meaning. In fact, I was impressed with her willingness to speak honestly. Even Newsbusters is chiding her for racism. What do you think? Sorry for the poor sound quality.

Here’s a sample of the reactions: Did she call Reed the “b” word? Did she say the “f” word and the “n” word too? Wow.

I don’t even know what to say about all this. Yes, Reed’s words were poorly chosen…so now that should become more important than what she was talking about–millions of people being hurt by BP and the President’s slow and half-assed reaction? Again, I just don’t know what to say. Is calling the President’s reaction “half-assed” racist too? I honestly don’t know.

In other news, Paul Krugman is in Berlin, and he’s having “that thirties feeling.” Uh oh…

Suddenly, creating jobs is out, inflicting pain is in. Condemning deficits and refusing to help a still-struggling economy has become the new fashion everywhere, including the United States, where 52 senators voted against extending aid to the unemployed despite the highest rate of long-term joblessness since the 1930s.

Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.’s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. And here in Germany, a few scholars see parallels to the policies of Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor from 1930 to 1932, whose devotion to financial orthodoxy ended up sealing the doom of the Weimar Republic.

But despite these warnings, the deficit hawks are prevailing in most places — and nowhere more than here, where the government has pledged 80 billion euros, almost $100 billion, in tax increases and spending cuts even though the economy continues to operate far below capacity.

Our so-called “leaders” are taking us headlong into Great Depression 2.0. Can they be stopped?

Oil companies say that there is no need for changes in regulation of offshore drilling, according to the LA Times.

Oil and gas companies have told the Obama administration that environmental regulations for deep-water drilling rigs do not immediately need to be toughened because the Deepwater Horizon explosion was an unforeseeable event, not a failure of federal oversight, according to documents filed last week with the White House.

The industry’s chief lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, submitted written comments to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The council is reviewing whether the federal Minerals Management Service — the now-splintered and much criticized agency charged with regulating oil drilling — has appropriately conducted reviews mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA.

“One accident does not mean that the practice and procedures of MMS are inadequate to implement NEPA’s requirements, especially when the cause of the accident has yet to be determined,” wrote the lobbying group, which represents 400 oil and gas companies, including BP.

Okay then. I guess that settles it. Moving on…

CNN reports on the UK media reaction to the “savaging” of BP CEO Tony Hayward.

PR guru Mark Borkowski writing in The Daily Telegraph, said that Hayward “couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer most of the questions. In fact, he looked like a tired undertaker who was rather bored with having to look mournful.”

Later Borkowski added: “The man has the communication skills of a tax inspector; dry and arrogant. Its incredible that one of the most important corporate jobs in the world has been entrusted to him.”

Hayward’s tone was likened to “that of a weary registrar in a South London crematorium” by The Times’ Giles Whittell, writing from Washington.

“As to the meager substance of his answers, he appeared to have drunk deeply of the wisdom of his lawyers. The committee members knew it, and it did not make them happy.”

“Whatever he was thinking, what he said made him look like an oil man on the skids. Americans say he looks like Mr Bean. Make that Mr Has-been.”

How come we don’t have commentators like that here?

In violence against women and girls news, here is a shocking story from Alternet: After Cutting Little Girls’ Clitorises, Ivy League Doctor Tests Handiwork With a Vibrator

Not only is FGM [Female Genital Mutilation] being practiced relatively widely in the United States, it’s happening in the most hallowed halls of American medical science. In fact, the head of the pediatric urology department at Cornell University’s New York Presbyterian Hospital — which is often ranked among the top 10 hospitals in the country — has been operating on young girls who suffer from what he (and likely the girls’ guardians) have decided is “clitorimegaly,” or oversized clitorises.

In order to relieve these girls from what seems like little more than a cosmestic issue, Dr. Dix P. Poppas cuts out parts of the clitoris’ shaft, saving the glans, or tip, for reattachment. Poppas triumphantly calls the procedure — rebranded a clitoroplasty — a “nerve sparing” one unlike the FGMs practiced in other countries.


How does the good doctor know that nerves have been spared? Well, Poppas and his nurse practitioner developed a series of sensory followup tests involving Q-tips, their fingernails and vibrators. But don’t worry, a family member was always present in the room. As the resulting journal article notes, management of such situations requires a “compassionate and multidisciplinary approach.”

Jesus H. Keeeerist! Is this still the 21st Century?

I think that’s about all the news I can handle for right now. What are you reading this morning? Please post your links freely in the comments. And have a fabulous Friday!!!!