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      The Ukrainian military clearly doesn’t care enough to actually fight: The day began inauspiciously for Ukrainian forces as they sought to establish an operating base in the city of Kramatorsk, moving in units from a nearby military air base. According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and a witness who spoke by phone, a column of six [...]
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Monday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!!!

The big story in the mainstream media is President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget. From the LA Times:

President Obama today will propose a $3.8-trillion federal budget that includes a $100-billion jobs package, more education spending and higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year.

The budgetary blueprint for fiscal 2011, which starts Oct. 1, is 3% more than the government is spending this year, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The White House envisions a $1.267-trillion deficit in fiscal year 2011, smaller than this year’s projected $1.56 trillion. That would be 8.3% of the gross domestic product, down from 10.6% this year. The White House Budget Office forecasts that it could be trimmed to less than 4% of the GDP by 2015.

The “jobs package” consists of:

$100 billion for investments in small-business tax cuts, infrastructure and clean energy, all designed to create jobs. This includes a new Small Business Jobs and Wages Tax Cut to spur small-business hiring and wage increases, at a cost of $33 billion.

I’ll defer to Dakinikat on this, but it doesn’t sound that dramatic to me. And how do we know those jobs that are created will go to Americans anyway? Isn’t it about time for something a little more FDR-like?

The budget also include $270 million to buy and renovate Thompson Prison in Illinois:

The administration hopes to house detainees from Guantanamo there, as part of its effort to close the controversial camp in Cuba. But the purchase of Thomson “would be warranted in any case to house maximum security prisoners,” according to Orszag. The federal Bureau of Prisons will require additional space, he said.

That’s a lot of money just to move the prisoners from Cuba to Illinois. I suppose there will be jobs involved in renovating the prison, and of course jobs for prison guards. Will those jobs go to Americans? And will anything be done about the fact that many of those prisoners may not be guilty of anything? They have already been held for years without being charged.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s good buddy Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, who helped crash our economy and put millions of Americans out of their jobs and homes is “expecting a $100 million bonus” this year.

Goldman Sachs, the world’s richest investment bank, could be about to pay its chief executive a bumper bonus of up to $100 million in defiance of moves by President Obama to take action against such payouts.

Bankers in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) told The Times yesterday they understood that Lloyd Blankfein and other top Goldman bankers outside Britain were set to receive some of the bank’s biggest-ever payouts. “This is Lloyd thumbing his nose at Obama,” said a banker at one of Goldman’s rivals.

Thumbing his nose? {wink, wink, nudge, nudge} I’m not sure. Goldman Sachs was Obama number one donor in 2008 and former Goldman executives are pretty much running our government. And Blankfein wouldn’t be getting that bonus without the money they raked in from the bailout and AIG.

The Illinois primary is tomorrow, and President Obama’s basketball buddy and campaign donor and bundler Alexi Giannoulias is still leading in the Democratic race for the Senate seat briefly held by Obama.

One of Giannoulias’ rivals for the Senate nomination, Jacob Meister, has dropped out and endorsed Giannoulias. Giannoulias’ main rival, David Hoffman, claims that Meister was only in the race in the first place to help Giannoulias and that this was all planned ahead of time. Hoffman has been attacking Giannoulias for his role in running the Broadway Bank, owned by the Giannoulias family.

“This is something we knew all along, that he was in the race to help the treasurer. That being said, he was only pulling 1 percent at best. So I think it was inconsequential.”

Meister dismissed as “preposterous” any suggestion that he was a Giannoulias plant.

Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and city of Chicago inspector general, started the day with a news conference challenging Giannoulias to answer more questions about his four years as vice president and chief loan officer at Broadway [Bank].

Citing a New York Times column, Hoffman said that under Giannoulias, the bank saw a six-fold increase in the granting of risky loans and a 400 percent increase in brokered deposits, during a time in which the average community bank would have seen an increase of about 36 percent.

“Mr. Giannoulias is still refusing to answer questions about the extent of his role in the decisions that look like they will lead to the bank’s collapse.

If Giannoulias does get the nomination, as appears likely, will Illinois see a repeat of what happened in Massachusetts?

Public opinion polls ahead of Tuesday’s party primaries in Illinois show five-term U.S. Representative Mark Kirk likely to win the Republican nomination easily.

Favored to win the Democratic primary and face off Kirk for the vacant seat is Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois treasurer and Obama’s basketball-playing buddy.

“The Democratic candidates are second-tier. They’re not particularly exciting, not particularly experienced,” DePaul University political analyst Michael Mezey said.

Kirk has lent his own twist to Brown’s best-known line in the campaign, saying: “This is not Obama’s seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

One poll showed Kirk trailing Giannoulias if the two face off — but only narrowly. That’s a far cry from the 62 percent of Illinois voters who cast ballots for Obama against 37 percent for the Republican John McCain in November 2008.

I want to call attention to a couple of stories the the mainstream media is soft-pedaling.

Jeremy Scahill interviewed the father of “Blackwater’s Youngest Victim,” 9-year-old Ali Kinani who was shot in the head in Bagdad’s Nisour Square on September 16, 2007, by Blackwater thugs who had left the Green Zone against orders and for no reason whatsoever murdered 16 and wounded 20 innocent Iraqis that day. I broke down sobbing while reading this story yesterday, and had to take a break before finishing it. All I can says is that Ali’s father, Mohammed Kitani is a true hero. He may yet succeed in holding the murders and their employer Eric Prince accountable for their disgusting actions.

Mohammed’s American lawyers contend, as did federal prosecutors, that the Blackwater men disobeyed orders from superiors not to leave the Green Zone, which ultimately led to the shooting at Nisour Square, and that they did not follow proper State Department guidelines for the use of force, instead shooting unprovoked at Mohammed’s car and the other civilians in the square. They also allege that Blackwater was not guarding any US official at the time of the shooting and that the Nisour Square killings amounted to an offensive operation against unarmed civilians. “Blackwater was where it shouldn’t have been, doing something it was not supposed to do,” says Mohammed’s lawyer Gary Mauney. They “weren’t even supposed to be in Nisour Square, and if they hadn’t have been, no shootings would have occurred.”

Unlike the other civil suits against Blackwater, which were settled in federal court in January, Mohammed’s case was filed in state court in North Carolina. It is also different because Mohammed is directly suing the six Blackwater men he believes were responsible for the shooting that day. The suit also argues that Prince and his network of Blackwater companies and affiliates are ultimately responsible for the conduct of the men at Nisour Square. The Blackwater shooters “weren’t doing anything related to their work for the government,” Mauney says. “After the events happened, Blackwater came out and said, ‘We support what they did. We think it was justified.’ They ratified the conduct of their employees.”

Moreover, Mohammed’s lawyers contend that the evidence that was ruled inadmissible in the criminal Nisour Square case because it was obtained in exchange for a promise of immunity and reportedly under threat of termination is valid evidence in their civil case. Several statements by Blackwater guards who were at the square that day directly bolster Mohammed and other Iraqis’ claim that it was an unprovoked shooting.

Remember that “break-in” in Senator Mary Landrieu’s offices in Louisiana last week? Much of the focus in the media has been on James O’Keefe, a young conservative “activist” and independent filmmaker who was involved in a sting on Acorn awhile back. But Raw Story learned that the two other men arrested with O’Keefe “have links to” the CIA.

Two of the three men arrested on Monday along with “ACORN pimp” James O’Keefe for “maliciously tampering” with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) phones in her New Orleans office have ties to the United States intelligence community.

The three accused by the FBI of “aiding and abetting” O’Keefe are Stan Dai, Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel. O’Keefe is 25, and the other three are 24.

Dai’s links to the intelligence community appear to be particularly strong. He was a speaker at Georgetown University’s Central Intelligence Agency summer school program in June 2009, and is also listed as an Assistant Director at the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity in D.C.

The university’s president Patricia McGuire told The Associated Press that it promoted careers in intelligence but denied that it trains students to be spies.

The Trinity program received a “$250,000 renewable grant from the U.S. Intelligence Community” upon launching in 2004, according to its Web site.

The article goes on to detail Dai’s intelligence connections at length.

The CIA and Office of Director of National Intelligence have both told Politico that despite Dai’s evident connections to the intelligence community, he never officially worked for them. Then it discusses the intelligence connections of Dai’s “co-conspirator,” Robert Flanagan.

Dai’s co-conspirator Robert Flanagan is currently seeking a Master of Science degree from the Missouri State University’s (Fairfax, Virginia) Defense and Strategic Studies program, according to his LinkedIn profile (which was captured by Beyerstein before it was taken down Tuesday.)

The DSS Web site description affirms its connections to “the intelligence community”

Curiouser and curiouser.

So what are you all reading this morning? As always, please post your own links in the comments.

HAVE A MARVELOUS MONDAY!!!!!!!!!!!

Mather does not Cotton to the Pseudo-Puritanism of O’Keefe and Giles

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O’Keefe and Giles, in their portrayal of pimp and prostitute, reek of puerile classism. Were it not for the overwhelmingly noxious fumes emanating from the handful of ACORN employees who were apparently willing to enable a child prostitution ring exploiting illegal immigrants, the stink of the ill-informed moral superiority of O’Keefe and Giles would drive evolutionarily advanced members of our species to avoid contact.

Let’s cut to the chase. The child prostitution enablement shown in the videos is beyond the pale. It is wholly unacceptable. Giles and O’Keefe deserve credit for exposing this potential for promoting abuse with ACORN’s structure.

For ACORN to continue doing the good they do for the community, they must clean their house. This said, many houses and streets in the U.S. are in need of a good cleaning.

Credit granted where it is due, I am discomforted by the prurient form of Puritanism implicit in the method O’Keefe and Giles chose to expose ACORN’s illness. Their sting starts with a young female sex worker trying to buy a home, before it lures the ACORN workers into the ugliness of underage sexual exploitation. My issue with O’Keefe and Giles is that they appear to believe that people engaged in the sex trade should not be able to have normal life dreams.

Life in the Sex Trade

Life circumstances lead some people to prostitution. In our culture, it is rarely a profession of choice. This is something our political class should be well aware of, given the large number of personally undertaken, hobby social science, in-depth probes they have engaged in over the years.

There are volumes of research on the various factors and dynamics that create the participants in the world’s oldest profession. In our culture, an experience of sexual abuse and economic vulnerability are common themes in the dynamic of becoming a prostitute.

Should being a sex worker be a barrier to living as other citizens live?

If a sex worker wants to buy a home, and she meets all of the relevant requirements for obtaining a mortgage, other than that she cannot state her profession on the mortgage application because her form of employ is illegal, what is she to do, other than lie? If that sex worker wants to do the proper thing as a citizen and pay her taxes as a self-employed person, what is she to do, other than lie?

The simple answer is that citizens who want to pay taxes and buy homes should not choose to live the lifestyle of a prostitute. This is the type of answer one expects from those who are ignorant of the dynamics that create prostitution, especially in the underage realm. For example, leaving is often not merely a personal decision and few pimps are as non-threatening as the one portrayed by James O’Keefe. Accordingly, it fits that such an answer would come from those who choose to disregard how the practice of their political philosophy enhances the conditions that create the sex trade.

In this regard, Ms. Giles words to Sean Hannity on how she conceived the project:

It’s amazing what girls think about when they are jogging. And that was just something that popped into my head. I had never seen an ACORN office, I really didn’t even know that they existed and I jogged into the wrong part of town, saw some homeless people and street ladies and I put two and two together when I turned around to get back into a safe neighborhood. And it’s like — what if these people went into ACORN — a prostitute and what would come from that? No bills, no nothing — would they get a house? Could they start a business? So we put it to the test.

It is telling that Giles was interested in whether or not ACORN would help a street lady buy a home and, apparently, not so interested in what caused the women to become street ladies. Then again, perhaps that’s simply a feature of rarely running into the “wrong part of town?” Regardless, Giles began her project with two targets, ACORN and street ladies who wanted to buy a home.

For O’Keefe and Giles, having to live with the danger, and adopt the stigma, attached to selling sexual services does not seem to be enough punishment. They appear to think there is something improper about a prostitute wanting to own a home, which, if she worked there, would also be a brothel. They seem unable to see that owning a home might serve as a base upon which to leave the sex trade. Thankfully, many ACORN employees are not afflicted by the anti-New Testament immorality that informs that type of thinking.

ACORN: The Bad and the Good

ACORN has problems at a variety of levels. It is reasonable to call for a proper audit of the organization, given their government funding. A good time for the audit might be immediately after a full accounting of every dollar of TARP funding is released to the public.

Notwithstanding ACORN’s many problems, it provides valuable community services. ACORN employees work to bring a better life to many citizens and many of these citizens reside in the underclass. Working with people in the underclass requires empathy for their circumstance and a pragmatic attitude that involves working with limited resources to bring about optimal results, which will necessarily be modest at best. To me, it is entirely appropriate for an ACORN accountant to bend a category to find a way for a sex worker to pay her taxes so she can buy a home. (Perhaps the idea of a citizen wanting to pay taxes is outside the worldview of the young Republican film makers?)

O’Keefe and Giles have done a community service by exposing rot in the structure of ACORN. Unfortunately, their methodology lacks the discipline of the precautionary principle. As a tool for the healing of the body politic, therefore, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is flawed, because they are willing to worsen the lives of sex workers to achieve their aim of disarming ACORN. Accordingly, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is unethical because it causes a wholly unnecessary amputation, where a good anti-biotic would have done the job. For this reason, I reject the pseudo-Puritanism implicit in their methodology for its lack of empathy and wisdom.

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