Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Harper lifts Howard's speech

As aka Mycroft said at babble, small minds think alike:

I hate to say this, but kudos to the Liberals for finding this. And as others have already noted, the big story is not the alleged plagiarism, but the possibility that both Harper and Howard were reading from the same script, straight off Karl Rove's desk.

Tactical voting

You probably have heard the term "strategic voting" tossed around a lot. Well, the first point I have to make is that the rest of the English-speaking world calls it "tactical voting", and this is a much more appropriate term for it. Tactics are about achieving a short term, clearcut goal (such as defeating the Conservatives); strategy is about achieving a long term, perhaps more nebulous goal (such as creating a just society). Voting for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservatives is an example of this.

So is tactical voting worthwhile? I'm not sure. Fortunately, for me it doesn't matter, since I live in a pretty safe NDP riding, but what if I lived in a riding where the best chance of defeating the Conservatives was to vote Liberal or Green? I'm inclined to think I'd still vote NDP, because even if the Conservatives are held to a minority, they will likely govern as if they had a majority anyway, thanks to the virtually nonexistent Liberal opposition. After all, they've had a de facto majority for the last two years. And when you vote for the party you most believe in, you're helping to provide them with funds, thanks to the proportional funding rules that federal elections run under.

However, if you do decide to vote tactically, it's important to make sure you do it properly. Don't blindly vote Liberal; check out this website (in fact, it's worth a look even if you've already decided who you're voting for; it's quite an interesting site). You can select your riding (or enter your postal code if you don't know your riding) and it will tell you who to vote for. In non-swing ridings, it will tell you to vote for whoever you like, whereas in ridings where the Tories have a chance of winning it will tell you who has the best chance of stopping them.

Do-not-call list comes to Canada

But how effective will it be?

Starting Tuesday, Canadians will be able to register their phone numbers on a national do-not-call list, but they may find telemarketing calls replaced by junk mail and spam.

Two polls suggest the do-not-call list will be a tremendous success, with participation rates ranging from 64 per cent, according to a poll conducted for the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, to 72 per cent, in a poll conducted for PitneyBowes Canada.

However, the do-not-call list won't make as much of a dent as some Canadians are hoping, since much telemarketing is done by companies that are exempt from the ban, meaning they can continue to call someone who has registered on the DNC list.

The telemarketing exemption list includes:

  • Registered charities seeking donations.
  • Newspapers looking for subscriptions.
  • Political parties and their candidates.
  • Companies that have an existing business relationship with a consumer within the previous 18 months.
  • Organizations directing calls and faxes to businesses.

If you're cable customer, for instance, you may find yourself fielding the occasional call from your cable company about a cellphone. It's the same for your bank, which may call to sell insurance or credit cards. Or if you've given to a registered charity in the past year, you may get calls for other upcoming charity events.

From here. The thing is, it might not be a good thing:
The face of marketing is set to change, said Chopra. When the U.S. do-not-call registry came into effect, 30 per cent of nearly $2 billion spent on telemarketing moved into direct mailing and traditional media advertising.
In other words, if they can't phone you, they'll kill more trees to reach you. Not to mention, we might all be looking for telemarketing jobs in the near future, judging from the way the economy is going.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Elizabeth May on the Afghan mission

This is a bit of a surprise:

Thanks to Spaceman Spiff at babble for drawing my attention to this. In fairness, it's actually worth watching the entire interview, since most of what she said is quite reasonable. Ultimately, though, it's pretty clear that she favours keeping a military presence in Afghanistan, which to me seems like a fatally flawed proposition. Certainly there is a significant need for peacekeepers in that country, but I don't think we should be doing it -- after all, why the hell should they trust us? We invaded their country for fuck's sake. We helped create the need for peacekeeping in the first place. I'm not sure who should be doing the peacekeeping there, but whoever it is should be someone who didn't participate in the invasion -- maybe Indonesia, South Africa, and Sweden could do it.

Bailing on the bailout

Well, as we all know, the big bailout is being held up in the US House of Representatives, with dramatic results. I don't honestly know what to think of this. The folks at Kitco, and to a large extent iTulip as well, are applauding the defeat of the bailout. Of course, most of these people lean in the direction of libertarianism (in the contemporary North American sense of the term), so their opinion is to be taken with a 10 kg bag of salt. However, although the bailout was mostly opposed by Republicans and supported by Democrats, there were substantial numbers of people in both parties that broke ranks on the issue. What's interesting is that among its critics are Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, two of the most progressive elected officials in the entire country, as well as the (on the surface at least) libertarian-leaning Ron Paul. I say "on the surface" because there are reports that suggest he has some strongly socially conservative views (thanks to bugsybrown for the tip); in any case, though, Paul is usually at odds with his own party, be it about the war or about monetary policy. It seems to be opposed by "mavericks" of both the left and the right; ironically the guy who's always billed as a maverick is shitting himself trying to figure out a way to move it forward. Go figure.

It remains to be seen whether or not the House can be brought to agreement on the bailout, and if so what changes are necessary to allow it to pass -- not to mention whether or not it will be effective. Again, interesting times...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

NDP close to overtaking Liberals??

The Conservatives have a tenuous grasp on a majority government, while the Liberals and New Democrats are in a dead heat for second place, a new poll shows.

The survey, conducted for the Toronto Star by Angus Reid Strategies, found that 40 per cent of Canadians would vote Conservative if an election were held tomorrow.

The Liberals under Stéphane Dion continue to drop, losing core supporters to the Tories as well as to the other parties. For the first time in the campaign, the Liberals and New Democrats, under Jack Layton, are tied at 21 per cent support. The Greens register 7 per cent support nationally.

The possibility of a Conservative majority is disturbing, to say the least, but Malcolm French, APR, in this babble thread, puts it in perspective:
Wake up, folks.

A Harper majority is inevitable.

Because even if Harper doesn't win a majority, the Liberals will hand him one like they did on the last Parliament.

We're going to have a Harper government, and it will be effectively a majority whatever the seat count.

Who do you want standing up to Harper?

Jack Layton?

Or no one at all?
Interesting way of looking at it, though there is a distinction worth considering, namely that even if the Liberals don't offer any real opposition, a minority Conservative government won't be locked in for four years. In any case, some indications are that the Bloc Quebecois will be able to deny the Cons their coveted majority, even as the Liberals are sinking. The best of all possible worlds, of course, would be for Harper to be denied his majority and Layton moving into Stornoway, though that might be a bit much to hope for.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pirates Seize Ship Carrying Tanks

This could be straight out of a Tom Clancy novel:

For a moment, the pirates must have thought that they had really struck gold — Somalia-style.

The gun-toting, seafaring thieves, who routinely pounce on cargo ships bobbing along on the Indian Ocean, suddenly found themselves in command of a vessel crammed with $30 million worth of grenade launchers, piles of ammunition, even battle tanks.

But this time, they might have gotten far more than they bargained for. Unlike so many other hijackings off the coast of Somalia that have gone virtually unnoticed — and unpunished — the attack Thursday evening on the Faina, a Ukrainian vessel bringing military equipment to Kenya, has provoked the wrath of two of the most powerful militaries on the planet.

The United States Navy was in hot pursuit of the ship on Friday. And the Russians were not far behind.

“This is really getting out of control,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “You see how many countries are involved now? These pirates aren’t going to get away with this.”

From the New York Times, via don in this iTulip thread. I think these guys may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew.


Well, it's often said that "the personal is political". But, as politically incorrect as it may be, I'm going to run a political blog (the one you're reading now) and a personal one (my old one). The LJ one is going to be "friends only"; if you're not a LJ user, just get an account (you don't have to actually make any blog entries) and friend me. Some of my links will migrate as well. If I'm feeling ambitious I may start migrating entries from one blog to another, if they don't belong where they are.

Why am I doing this? Well, you've probably noticed that the personal content has dropped of late. That's partly because there's been so much going on in the outside world, but partly because I've started to see it as imprudent to write about my life on a blog that anyone can read. So I've decided to adopt this as a solution.

Edited to add: I've resigned myself to the idea that I can't migrate all entries. Several have comments that I don't want to delete, and I don't know any way of transferring them. So there will be some entries on this blog that probably belong on the other one. Oh well.

As well, although I refer to this as a political blog, it's not exclusively so; it's more a news blog with a political focus. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Politics in the Internet age

We've heard a lot of dumbass gaffes by politicians of late. From Lee Richardson's comments about immigrants, to John Shavluk's anti-Semitic rants, to Simon Bédard advocating use of force against Mohawk protesters, to the NDP's own Andrew McKeever's appalling rants, none of the four national parties has escaped. Warren Kinsella has this to say about it:
LOSERS: Blogging politicos! In the past three days, I’ve been interviewed half-dozen times – by the CBC, by the Hill Times, by many others – about idiots like Ryan Warawa. Why are so many gaffes happening to so many supposedly-smart political people, journalists want to know. My answer: everyone, me included (cf. Cookiegate) says stupid things. All of the political parties have gotten into trouble with naked or idiotic or extremist or acid-dropping candidates in the online campaign. All of them! Why? Three things: (a) Google (b) the popularity of blogs and (c) the unique loudmouth culture of politicos. Taken together, those three things are lethal. And the gaffes aren’t over, either – not by a long shot.
To avoid this kind of thing in the future, parties should probably endeavour to find candidates well in advance of elections so they can be properly screened. Live and learn, I guess...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The fate of empires

A while ago, my friend Ixion remarked on an article, or website, or something (ask him) that discussed common flaws in alternate history fiction. One of these common flaws is "the eternal empire" -- for instance, a story set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell but expanded around the world and survived into the modern technological age. That empires don't last forever shouldn't be a huge leap, given the fate of great empires in the past. The Persian Empire? Gone. Greek? Roman? Byzantine? Ottoman? How about the Mayan, Incan, or more recently the French, Spanish, British and Soviet empires? All gone. The Empire of Japan is now an empire in name only as well.

Despite this, though, those who live within an empire often have a hard time recognizing this simple fact. In particular, many in the American empire, at least those at the heart of it, can't possibly imagine that it won't go on forever.

Well, Dmitri Davydov knows empires. And here he discusses the collapse of the Soviet Union, and compares and contrasts the situation in the United States (thanks to BC_Gold_Guy in this Kitco thread for the link):
I anticipate that some people will react rather badly to having their country compared to the USSR. I would like to assure you that the Soviet people would have reacted similarly, had the United States collapsed first. Feelings aside, here are two 20th century superpowers, who wanted more or less the same things – things like technological progress, economic growth, full employment, and world domination – but they disagreed about the methods. And they obtained similar results – each had a good run, intimidated the whole planet, and kept the other scared. Each eventually went bankrupt.
There's a lot more, with nice PowerPoint style slides (rendered as embedded images so you don't need presentation software to view it, and can read the detailed commentary after each one). Definitely worth a look.

Turning to things that might help bring down the empire, there are reports that the Chinese government is ordering its financial institutions to stop lending money to their American counterparts. Then, not too long after those reports came out, there was a denial. Rather confusing; but then came a clarification:
Some Chinese banks have cut lending to foreign banks in China's interbank money market because of the global financial crisis, but trade continues and foreign banks remain able to operate, traders said on Thursday.

Dealers at over half a dozen Chinese and foreign institutions, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said U.S. and some other foreign banks were finding it harder to borrow from the market.

A number of Chinese banks have temporarily stopped offering new lending to U.S. banks in yuan and other currencies, because of uncertainty about risk, three traders said. Similar caution in lending has been seen in markets around the world.

"We have had difficulty borrowing money from Chinese banks since the start of this week," said a dealer at the branch of a U.S. bank in Shanghai.

However, he and others said U.S. institutions had not been completely cut off from access to funds.

So they're not forbidden to lend to American banks, but many of them seem to think it's a bad idea. I have a sneaking suspicion that their caution is quite justified. We've been hearing a lot about China's connection with the US (one of the posts that seem to lead a lot of people to this blog from search engines is this one, for instance), and they definitely hold a lot of American bonds, as do many other countries. Of course, they will take a hit themselves if there's a big selloff, and nobody wants to be the first country to start the dump, but once it starts it'll be like a stock market crash, but on a global scale.

Yes, we indeed live in interesting times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

US generals planning for resource wars

We could have guessed this, of course...

Under the auspices of the US department of defence and department of the army, the US military have just published a document entitled 2008 Army Modernization Strategy which makes for interesting reading against the current backdrop of deteriorating international fiscal, environmental, energy resource and security crises.

The 2008 modernisation strategy, written by Lieut Gen Stephen Speakes, deputy chief of staff of the US army, contains the first explicit and official acknowledgement that the US military is dangerously overstretched internationally. It states simply: "The army is engaged in the third-longest war in our nation's history and . . . the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has caused the army to become out of balance with the demand for forces exceeding the sustainable supply."

Against this backdrop, the 90 page document sets out the future of international conflict for the next 30 to 40 years - as the US military sees it - and outlines the manner in which the military will sustain its current operations and prepare and "transform" itself for future "persistent" warfare.

The document reveals a number of profoundly significant - and worrying - strategic positions that have been adopted as official doctrine by the US military. In its preamble, it predicts a post cold war future of "perpetual warfare".

From The Irish Times, via DrYB/C in this iTulip thread.

More comments on the financial crisis

Heather Mallick has this to say about the current crisis:
"The cost of a funeral can be more than $10,000," American International Group was telling – OK, threatening – Canadians in a TV commercial on the same day the memorial service for its U.S. parent was held courtesy of the Bush administration. The cost of the funeral for the world's biggest insurer was $85 billion. Even as they expired, the insulated Canadian branch that shares the AIG name was trying to sell low-income Canadians insurance to pay for their own coffins.

These huge, shambling gambling firms haven't caused enough trouble for their sentient customers; now even the corpses are headed for a pauper's grave.
But what does one say to a fallen giant? Shame on you? You Lehman boys go straight to your rooms and think about what you've done!?

So the Lehman lads are weathering it out upstairs because they didn't technically do anything wrong and they won't suffer. They created jewels out of old chunks of sewer brick and played them in a casino. The laws that sent Conrad Black to jail were ye olde obvious ones that anyone would have been a fool to break. What Wall Street did en masse was greedy and stupid, but there are no rules against that. Quite the contrary: everything in our modern ethos encourages it.
Some people find Mallick irritating, but she definitely has a way with words.

And as to how to pay for such a huge bailout, independent Senator Bernie Sanders (from that island of civilization, Vermont) has some ideas:
Amid one of the worst financial crises in American history, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today laid out a four-part plan to cope with the collapse of financial institutions and avoid future failures of businesses “too big to fail.”

First, Sanders proposed a surtax on the very wealthy to pay for bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American International Group.

“The wealthiest 400 families in America saw an increase in their wealth of $670 billion since President Bush has been in office. They have seen extraordinary benefits under Bush’s reckless economic policies. The middle class, whose standard of living has declined, should not be paying for these bailouts. Rather, we need an emergency surtax on those at the very top in order to pay for any losses the federal government suffers as a result of necessary efforts to shore up the economy,” Sanders said.
He has other ideas too, notably this:
Third, he said giant businesses like Bank of America should be broken up so no company in the future could bring the American economy down with it. Said Sanders, “This country can no longer afford companies that are ‘too big to fail.’ If a company is so large that its failure would cause systemic harm to our economy, if it is too big to fail, then it is too big to exist.”
Thanks to Atomicat for the link.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Do you live in Vermont?

If you do, here's someone worth voting for:
Lots of political candidates make campaign promises. But not like Charlotte Dennett's.

Dennett, 61, the Progressive Party's candidate for Vermont Attorney General, said Thursday she will prosecute President Bush for murder if she's elected Nov. 4.

Dennett, an attorney and investigative journalist, says Bush must be held accountable for the deaths of thousands of people in Iraq — U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. She believes the Vermont attorney general would have jurisdiction to do so.

She also said she would appoint a special prosecutor and already knows who that should be: former Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, the author of "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," a new book.

"Someone has to step forward," said Dennett, flanked by Bugliosi at a news conference announcing her plan. "Someone has to say we cannot put up with this lack of accountability any more."

Dennett and two others are challenging incumbent Attorney General William Sorrell, a Democrat, in the Nov. 4 election.

Bugliosi, 74, who gained fame as the prosecutor of killer Charles Manson, said any state attorney general would have jurisdiction since Bush committed "overt acts" including the military's recruitment of soldiers in Vermont and allegedly lying about the threat posed by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in speeches that were aired in Vermont and elsewhere.

I wish Ms. Dennett the best of luck. I know I'd vote for her...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A potpourri of factoids, commentaries, and anecdotes

Remember Nick Leeson? He was the rogue trader who, in 1995, ran a 233 year old company into the ground with a bit of reckless speculation on the markets. Well, he obviously knows something about financial mismanagement, so naturally the Guardian got him to comment on the current international financial crisis:
The world's financial markets remain at the eye of a perfect economic storm. The architects of this almighty financial sell-off? The banks themselves. The markets are in complete disorder, yet they remain unable to solve the situation themselves, and so go looking for a public sector bailout. Risk management, the buzz word of the financial markets since the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995, is clearly an oxymoron.
One could be forgiven for a bit of eye-rolling for that last sentence, where he conveniently omits his role in the fiasco. However, he does acknowledge his role in the collapse of Barings, and in the process highlights his point about the lack of care in who financial institutions give credit to:
Quite simply, the banks have traded recklessly over the past 10 years and have put everybody's wellbeing at risk. Anybody and everybody could get whatever credit they wanted as recently as three years ago. I returned from Singapore in 1999, responsible for £862m worth of losses that brought down Britain's oldest investment bank, personally liable through an injunction for £100m, and yet within the space of a week had been offered five different credit cards. Ridiculous! Any central bank will tell you that the system exists on the premise of "responsible lending"; but the experiences of the past few years clearly show this is utter rubbish.
Yeah, that's right. A convicted felon, convicted of financial crimes at that, who was a hundred million pounds in debt, was offered credit, apparently without asking for it. And the thing is, the crisis of credit card defaults hasn't even hit in a big way yet. When it does, watch out, because this whole mess will start to hit the fan just as they're cleaning up the subprime mess. And despite what Americans like to think, their Treasury doesn't have infinite resources -- sooner or later China, the EU, many of the OPEC countries, and others will have to wonder if it isn't time to cut their losses and get out of the US dollar as the default reserve currency. Let's just hope that Sarah Palin isn't president when it happens. Remember Martin Sheen's character in The Dead Zone? "The birds are in the air. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"

Now Americans (at least nominally) have the opportunity to stop such a situation in November (perhaps; I'm not giving Obama a free pass either, but he's less likely to do something crazy like that than McCain, and far less likely than Palin). The question is, even if Diebold allows it, will they? This article raises an unsettling fact about how Joe and Jane Sixpack process information:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

Unfortunately, what this means is that organizations like FactCheck.org are very double-edged in their effect when they deal with, say, the lies that the Republicans are telling about Obama. They acknowledge this themselves in this article:

A Sept. 4 article in the Post discussed several recent studies that all seemed to point to the same conclusion: Debunking myths can backfire because people tend to remember the myth but forget what the debunker said about it. As Hebrew University psychologist Ruth Mayo explained to the Post, “If you think 9/11 and Iraq, this is your association, this is what comes in your mind. Even if you say it is not true, you will eventually have this connection with Saddam Hussein and 9/11.” That leaves myth busters like us with a quandary: Could we, by exposing political malarkey, just be cementing it in voters’ minds? Are we contributing to the problem we hope to solve?
This is particularly scary. Of course, these organizations have to continue their work, but they also have to be careful how they present their findings. Fortunately, the aforementioned Post article discusses how such things might be handled:

Mayo found that rather than deny a false claim, it is better to make a completely new assertion that makes no reference to the original myth. Rather than say, as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) recently did during a marathon congressional debate, that "Saddam Hussein did not attack the United States; Osama bin Laden did," Mayo said it would be better to say something like, "Osama bin Laden was the only person responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks" -- and not mention Hussein at all.

Still, it's unsettling, because this handicaps you in trying to present the truth. Furthermore, ignoring the enemy's lies isn't an option either:

So is silence the best way to deal with myths? Unfortunately, the answer to that question also seems to be no.

Another recent study found that when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true, said Peter Kim, an organizational psychologist at the University of Southern California. He published his study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Myth-busters, in other words, have the odds against them.


On a (very) distantly related note, here's another psychological study that came out recently:

People who are easily startled by loud bangs or gruesome pictures are more likely to vote for right-wing policies compared to calmer people who take a more liberal approach to life, according to a psychological study of political beliefs.

The findings support the idea that personality type influences political attitude, which could explain why voting differences appear to be entrenched. "Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals' experiences, recent research suggests a possible biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with psychological traits," said John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

From the Independent. This doesn't fit me very well, because I tend to be a jumpy sort, and I'm certainly not right wing. Maybe I'm an anomaly, or maybe this study is full of shit. It's always good to remember that a lot of psychological studies are garbage, or at least oversimplify their findings (and media that report those findings oversimplify them even more). So maybe, just maybe, the studies about factchecking are inaccurate or incomplete and we can find better ways of bringing out the truth. Let's hope so, anyhow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mounties doing Harper's dirty work

It should come as no surprise that a lot of cops support the conservatives (indeed, one of them is running in St. Boniface). The Mounties who provide security for Stephen Harper, though, seem to be doing more than simply keeping him safe:
The swarm of suits chatter up their sleeves as Stephen Harper arrives at a suburban home construction site for his campaign promise du jour, this one a $750 tax goodie for first-time home-buyers.

As usual with Harper's travelling film clip, nothing is left to chance, especially not a photo op for the night news.

Incredibly, it is the Mounties who help make sure it is all picture perfect.

Charged with ensuring the prime minister's safety, the RCMP security service has instead been forced to become the Conservative party's armed public relations agency for the election campaign.

Last week, the Mounties were used to corral a television crew doing its job. Yesterday morning, it was about a dozen angry autoworkers losing their jobs who threatened Harper's sound bite of the day, and wound up on the wrong end of the Horsemen.

One of them began yelling protest slogans on a bullhorn while the Conservative leader was giving his speech on a vacant lot across the street, out of sight and all but safely out of earshot.

Suddenly, the bullhorn guy was nose-to-nose with a giant bald cop with a wire in his ear and a gun on his hip, a member of the prime minister's formidable RCMP bodyguards.

On this day, one of the nation's finest was pressed into service as a political PR operative, trying to silence pesky protesters.

The cop ordered the man to shut off the bullhorn that was apparently being picked up on media microphones recording the PM's every word for the night news.

"You're disturbing the peace," the Horseman said to the autoworker, who naturally interpreted the growling notice as a threat of handcuffs.

Until Harper was safely on site, the protesters were actually barricaded behind police lines a half-kilometre away, too far for the TV camera operators to walk.

From here. The idea of keeping nonviolent protesters at a distance on pain of arrest is straight out of Karl Rove's operating manual, don't you think? Remember the "free speech zones" from the US?

Actually, there's a lot of stuff going on in this election campaign that I'd rather see remain south of the border (well, I'd rather it wasn't happening anywhere, but it hits home harder when it happens in one's own country). The fact that the Conservatives are using the fact that Dion has been a professor against him in ads is another page from the Republican handbook.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Since when did the right like to nationalize corporations?

When they realized there was no choice, it seems:
American International Group will get an $85 billion bridge loan from the federal government in exchange for an 80 percent stake in itself, sources have told CNBC.

Sources said the loan, which will allow AIG to avoid bankruptcy, will be secured and include incentives for quick asset-sales by AIG.

Government warrants for most of AIG’s equity will severely dilute existing shareholders.

AIG has been racing the clock to avoid a bankruptcy filing on Wednesday, making efforts to work out a deal with the Federal Reserve to shore up its finances.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke met with Senate and House leadership Tuesday night to discuss how to assist AIG, sources said.

The Fed's financial aid to the troubled insurer marks a reversal of its decision on Monday to refuse a bridge loan to AIG.

The Fed met with the company's advisers throughout the day and came to a better understanding of what is needed to help the company through its current crisis, people familiar with the negotiations told CNBC.

From here, via The Outback Oracle at iTulip. Don't get me wrong; there may not have been any alternative. It's funny, though, how laissez-faire capitalists are suddenly willing to socialize losses. Of course, if and when AIG returns to profitability, the US government will probably sell it off rather than keep it as a source of revenue. After all, it wouldn't do to have an example of how continued public ownership could be good. Instead, the American taxpayers, having absorbed the enormous losses, will be spared the indignity of actually turning a profit later.

In any case, one does have to ask one thing. How long can they continue doing this? If they keep bailing out every company that's too big to fail, they'll have to do one of three things -- raise extra revenue through taxation, cut back on spending on other things (such as their military adventures overseas) or run the printing presses like crazy. The first two would be the best policy of course, but somehow I suspect the third will be the way they actually do it. Of course, such a policy is insanely inflationary, but they may be hoping that other countries will devalue their own currencies so the Yanks can keep buying what they're selling. Unfortunately for them, this won't continue indefinitely.

And, in spite of everything, the prices of gold, silver, and other traditional hedges against inflation remain fairly reasonable. If you can afford to, consider buying them while you can; things might get exciting quite soon. Like, any time after the 4th of November.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WTF is with the US??

Like my friend atomicat, I initially thought McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate was good news for those of us who want McCain to lose. After all, she seems totally out of her depth, a major liability on the campaign trail. But is she? This Huffington Post article by Adam McKay seems to suggest otherwise:

"Stop saying that!" my wife says to me. But this is not a high school football game and I'm not a cheerleader with a bad attitude. This is an election and as things stand now, we're gonna frickin' lose this thing. Obama and McCain at best are even in the polls nationally and in a recent Gallup poll McCain is ahead by four points.

Something is not right. We have a terrific candidate and a terrific VP candidate. We're coming off the worst eight years in our country's history. Six of those eight years the Congress, White House and even the Supreme Court were controlled by the Republicans and the last two years the R's have filibustered like tantrum throwing 4-year-olds, yet we're going to elect a Republican who voted with that leadership 90% of the time and a former sportscaster who wants to teach Adam and Eve as science? That's not odd as a difference of opinion, that's logically and mathematically queer.

How can this be? McKay thinks he knows:

So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.

Think this is some opinion being wryly posited to titillate other bloggers and inspire dialogue with Tucker Carlson or Gore Vidal? Fuck that. Four corporations own all the TV channels. All of them. If they don't get ratings they get canceled or fired. All news is about sex, blame and anger, and fear. Exposing lies about amounts of money taken from lobbyists and votes cast for the agenda of the last eight years does not rate. The end.

So one side can lie and get away with it. Now let's throw in one more advantage. Voter caging and other corruption on the local level with voting. Check out the article here on HuffPost about Ohio messing with 600K voters. If only five thousand of those voters don't or can't vote that's a huge advantage in a contest that could be decided by literally dozens of votes. That takes us to about a 52 to 48% advantage.

I'm not even getting into the fact that the religious right teaches closed mindedness so it's almost impossible to gain new voters from their pool because people who disagree with them are agents of the devil. I just want to look at two inarguable realities: A) we have no more press and B) the Repubs are screwing with the voters on the local level.

The last paragraph is rather interesting, because McKay here alludes to an even deeper problem that America suffers from -- and then proceeds to ignore it (perhaps it's too scary for him to want to think about). It's scarier than the simple fact that the press isn't doing its job, because it means that a lot of people simply will not be educated into a better understanding of the issues. After all, we're talking about a country where being dumb, or at least ignorant, is seen as a virtue by a sizeable chunk of the population.There's a story I've heard (though I haven't found confirmation anywhere) that says that Bill Clinton, who is fluent in German, made use of that skill in casual conversations with Helmut Kohl at some international conferences. What's shocking, though, is that Clinton's handlers felt the need to keep this fact from the public. Yes, it was feared that being seen to be fluent in a foreign tongue was bad for the president's image. Just think about that for a moment. Then think about the Palin gaffes that have been covered by the media, and the fact that McCain went up in the polls after selecting her, in spite of this.

Yes, in America, ignorance is strength.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lose your house, lose your vote?

In some parts of the US, it might come to that:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”

From here, via jk at iTulip. Of course, the Republicans secretly would love to make it official, and go back to the "good old days" when the vote was reserved for white male property owners. Fortunately, the legality of this move is being questioned:

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

As for the practice of challenging the right to vote of foreclosed property owners, Hebert called it, “mean-spirited.”

Yeah, "mean-spirited" is one way to describe this.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another plot against Chavez

Surprise surprise:
President Hugo Chavez denounced on Wednesday evening a coup and assassination plot against the Venezuelan leader in a TV program. He announced that some of the people involved in the conspiracy were already arrested.

The Venezuelan president said the new plot was another attempt by the United States against the countries of the region, mentioning Bolivia as another victim of Washington’s interfering policy.

A video broadcast by the TV program, La Hojilla, reveals the organization of a coup and assassination plan against President Chavez by retired and active military officials.

The video features a telephone conversation between Brigadier General Wilfredo Barroso, Vice Admiral Carlos Alberto Millan and Major General Eduardo Baez, reported Telesur’s website. They talk about seizing the Miraflores Presidential Palace and aim all their efforts against Chavez. “If he (Chavez) is in Miraflores will strike there,” said the source.
From here, via M. Spector at babble. No wonder Venezuela has expelled the US ambassador.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Court: U.S. can block BSE testing

Yes, you read it correctly:
The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a U.S. appeals court said Aug. 29.

The dispute pits the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

From here. I've heard of minimum safety standards, but maximum safety standards?

The evils of helping poor people

Back here I related some of the troubles Food Not Bombs has run into as a result of committing the heinous crime of feeding people. Well it seems they're not the only ones:

An Abbotsford, B.C., church has upset parts of a neighbourhood by feeding the homeless.

About seven weeks ago, Peace Lutheran Church decided to reach out to the marginalized residents near Jubilee Park by offering them something to eat every Thursday morning.

But now Abbotsford Council is asking the church to stop, saying the food program is attracting more than just the homeless.

"We're told drug dealers are driving in there, making deals with people that are in there," said Abbotsford Mayor George Ferguson.

Lovely. Fortunately, the church is uncowed by this:

The church plans to keep serving the free breakfasts, despite the council's request to stop, said church Pastor Christoph Reiners.

"We don't feel that whether we feed people or not has anything to do with creating the problems of homelessness," he said.

"We feel the only difference (from ending the program) there would be is that people would go hungry."

Quite so. Kudos to Pastor Reiners for telling Mayor Ferguson to go to hell (even if only figuratively). I'd like to be all smug and say that this would never happen in my own city, but sadly that's not true:
Two portable toilets installed by a Winnipeg architect on land near his inner-city office to provide proper facilities for local homeless people have been removed.

Wins Bridgman and the Downtown Business Improvement Zone set up two portable toilets near Bridgman's newly renovated building on the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street in an attempt to provide a more dignified way for homeless people in the area to relieve themselves.

In the few weeks the toilets were in use, indigent people in the neighbourhood had been using them, and the smell of urine that had once been prominent in the area had disappeared, Bridgman told CBC News earlier this week.

But the portable toilets, which had been rented for three months, were removed Wednesday, after the city told Bridgman they couldn't stay.

In this case, it's not only bad but stupid, because people will start pissing on the sidewalk again- or better still, maybe this suggestion from the article's comments page will be acted upon:
I would like to create a simple leaflet with directions to the city hall washrooms and hand them out to all the homeless. Would anybody like to help me hand them out?
Interesting idea, to be sure, though I also like the idea of using Mayor Katz's yard.

Will May regret entering the debate?

If she says things like what's attributed to her here, she might. I had previously posted the YouTube video (still reachable at Buckdog's blog as linked here) but there's some dispute over whether the audio clip properly illustrates what she said, so in the name of fairness I refer readers to that blog (before I'm slapped with a cease and desist order).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Understanding the Large Hadron Collider

If 3-2-1 Contact were still on the air, maybe they'd use something like this:

In any case, it seems to work, and we still exist. Good news all round, I'd say.

May to participate in leaders debates

She's in:

Green Leader Elizabeth May will get a chance to debate her fellow party leaders after all.

The broadcasters consortium has invited Ms. May to the Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 debates, and received assurances from the other four party leaders that they will attend if Ms. May is invited, spokesman Jason MacDonald confirmed to The Globe and Mail.

The broadcasters made the change after Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton both backed down from their opposition to Ms. May's involvement.

Ms. May shouted with joy in her New Glasgow, N.S. campaign office as she watched a television report that the Conservatives had backed down from their threat to boycott the debates if the Green leader was invited.

The Conservative announcement came just minutes after NDP leader Jack Layton came to the same decision.

This is a good development, and it probably won't seriously hurt the NDP either. If May performs well, she'll likely pull votes from across the spectrum, (and perhaps some who wouldn't otherwise have voted), and if she performs badly, she might drive some people who'd parked their votes with the Greens to the NDP (since their core supporters, historically, have tended to be left wing). Not to mention, it will make the debate a lot more interesting.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tories to cut diesel, jet fuel excise

Now if it were just diesel, that might actually be a good idea, but jet fuel?
In his first promise of the election campaign, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is pledging to cut federal excises taxes on diesel and aviation fuel in half within four years.

Mr. Harper is vowing he would the tax by two cents -- reducing it to two cents per litre from the current four cents.

He says it will offer welcome relief for consumers because it would reduce shipping costs for goods they buy, from food to furniture. The levy reduction will cost the federal treasury $600-million.

“It's modest, affordable and responds to real needs,” said the Conservative Leader, who used a Winnipeg warehouse of vegetables as a backdrop to illustrate the impact of fuel taxes on consumer goods.

Now diesel does indeed have an impact on the price of these things, and the demand is fairly inelastic. Jet fuel, on the other hand, is a luxury. Sorry Steve, but flying to the Dominican Republic every winter is not a "real need". Well, it might be a real need for Steve someday, when an angry mob is after his head...

Anita Petche speaks

Well, it seems that Ms Petche is disputing the accuracy of this article, which states that she compared Food Not Bombs to al-Qaeda. She has responded with a new piece in the Record:

The recent firestorm of controversy including numerous angry letters to the editor in response to The Record's report is most unfortunate, and has reached a point where I must defend both my personal and business reputations.

At no time did I use the word "terrorist" in my presentation, although others did in the course of the evening.

I did not make a direct link between Food Not Bombs and al-Qaeda, nor did I at any time "foolishly," or otherwise, compare one to the other.

I did not suggest that the other organizations named in my reference to the website www.discoverthenetworks.org A Guide to the Political Left had terrorist affiliations of any kind.

My only intention was to demonstrate that the groups I had mentioned are all included within the full spectrum of the 800-plus political left-wing organizations listed on www.discoverthenetworks.org.

The website creates the "link," if any, and is there for anyone to see and review. My goal was to enlighten the public by enabling members of the community to develop a greater understanding of the political nature of the organization Food Not Bombs and the issues at hand, so that they could ultimately draw their own conclusions.

I'm not sure what to think about this, but since the claim in Saturday's post is in dispute, it's only fair to include her side of the story. It is indeed true that discoverthenetworks.org includes this summary of the organization. Not having been at the contentious city council meeting, I can't say what the truth is.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Food Not Bombs activists charged under anti-terrorism law

The more I read about that country, the more freaked out I get:

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the federal USAPATRIOT Act, Ramsey County prosecutors have formally charged eight alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7½ years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50 percent increase in the maximum penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement, which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.

From here. If indeed there's no evidence, they may well be quietly released, but this is a great way to put a chill on protests, don't you think?

Incidentally, Food Not Bombs have run into troubles in a lot of places, including the city I called home for several years:

The volunteer group that hands out free food and meals every Saturday in front of City Hall is not the problem and should not have to move, a spokesperson for Food Not Bombs told council last night.

"First we were asked by the City of Kitchener to stop serving, now we have been asked to move away from downtown businesses. We, however, are not the problem, and stopping us and hiding us will not solve anything," Laura Hamilton said.

More than 180 supporters of Food Not Bombs packed council chambers last night to protest the city's attempt to move the organization away from the location it has been using for nine years at King and Young streets.

"I have been volunteering with Food Not Bombs for five years and I can assure you there have not been any violent incidents or panhandling, aggressive or otherwise, at our servings," Hamilton said.

Source. Pretty typical stuff really; in Kitchener they particularly like to keep the poor out of sight (much of the public housing, for instance, is on the outskirts of town where the bus service is terrible, so as to keep the "problem" contained). It doesn't work, of course. But the real zinger in that story is this:

Anita Petsche of Petsche's Shoes linked Food Not Bombs to the terrorist group al-Qaida, a remark that drew jeers and boos from the group's supporters.

Hard to know what to say to someone like that, except maybe "fuck you and everyone who looks like you".

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tory spending priorities totally spaced out

You may have heard of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation. If you haven't, a look at their webpage should tell you all you need to know about them; basically they're a right wing lobby group whose mission is exposing what they see as "waste" of taxpayers' money. Not surprisingly, I disagree with a lot of what they consider to be wasteful spending and/or inappropriate taxation. But even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, and I can't fault them for being critical of this:

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the Harper government's pre-election spending is out of this world.

The group says the Conservatives have doled out a whopping $8.8-billion since June — including a $2,000 grant to commemorate a UFO sighting.

Federation director John Williamson says there have been almost 300 pre-election commitments, adding up to about $94-million a day, or almost $4-million every hour.

Mr. Williamson says the spending binge is exactly the kind of pre-election splurge Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized the Liberals for in the run-up to the 2006 federal election.

From the Globe and Mail, via this babble thread. I think the thread title says it all, really.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

War spills over into Cambodia...

...er, I mean Pakistan:

The war in Afghanistan spilled over on to Pakistani territory for the first time yesterday when heavily armed commandos, believed to be US Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold.

The surprise attack on Jala Khel was launched in early morning darkness and killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than one mile from the Afghan border.

Local residents were quoted as saying that most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. It was not known whether any Taliban or al-Qaida militants or western forces were among the dead.

Furious official Pakistani condemnation of the attack followed swiftly, amid growing concern that the Nato-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could spread to Pakistan, sparking a region-wide conflagration.

From the Guardian, via this iTulip thread. So why the hell are we still helping the Yanks on their ill-advised adventure there? Oh well, at least we can win, just like the Soviets did before us, right?

Oh. Right.

Canadians almost as dumb as Americans: poll

Many years ago, a friend of mine was running for the presidency of our university's students' association. He ended his campaign speech with a statement to the effect that he was "counting on the intelligence of the electorate". He soon got a slap in the face from reality, finishing at or near the bottom of a fair-sized field of candidates. It seems that at the national level, betting on stupidity is a good bet as well:

Canadians would vote for the Conservatives in a federal election and believe Stephen Harper and Jack Layton would make better prime ministers than Stéphane Dion, according to a new poll sponsored by CBC News.

The survey, conducted by Environics between Friday and Tuesday, found that 38 per cent of Canadians would vote for the Conservative party if an election were held immediately.

By comparison, 28 per cent would vote for the Liberal party, 19 for the NDP, eight for the Bloc Québécois and seven for the Green party.

Even when undecided voters were asked to reveal whom they were inclined to vote for, the Conservatives still kept the lead: Conservatives (33 per cent), Liberals (24), NDP (16), Bloc (7), Green (6).

From the CBC. And this is dangerously close to majority territory for the Tories. Particularly puzzling is this:
The NDP, along with the Greens, were also considered strong when it came to the environment — Liberals got 21 per cent of the vote, with the NDP, Greens and Conservatives tied with 20 per cent.
Go figure -- people see the Cons as equal to the NDP and Greens on the environment. What the hell are they thinking? Oh yeah, I forgot -- they're thinking about what's happening on Canadian Idol.

On the other hand, the campaign hasn't actually started yet, and it's possible that these numbers will start to shift once things get going and people are forced to notice what's going on, even if on a superficial level. Let's hope so, anyway.

Biden says Obama might pursue charges against Bush

Could it be that Bugliosi's book is actually reaching the right people?

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden said yesterday that he and running mate Barack Obama could pursue criminal charges against the Bush administration if they are elected in November.

Biden's comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

But his statements represent the Democrats' strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.

"If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued," Biden said during a campaign event in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to ABC.

"[N]ot out of vengeance, not out of retribution," he added, "out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president -- no one is above the law."

From the Guardian, via Economic Policy Journal. I really hope this happens, but I know better than to count on it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More politics, north and south of the 49h

As readers of this blog will know, I'm not particularly enamoured of the Green Party of Canada. Nevertheless, now that they have an MP in the House of Commons, I think it's only fair to let Elizabeth May participate in the TV debates. Whether she will be allowed to is still an open question; the party is threatening to go to court if necessary, which leads me to think that they are concerned.

The only possible basis for excluding them would be that Blair Wilson was not elected as a Green. That argument might have some substance, except for one inconvenient fact:
When questioned about the legitimacy of Wilson's seat as a Green, given he was elected as a Liberal, May countered that the Bloc Québécois was included in the national debates prior to 1993 federal election, despite none of the candidates being elected as Bloc members.
Whatever you think of the Greens, or of floor-crossers, it would be hard to justify excluding May from the debate.

As a side note, which party do you think would have the greatest interest in keeping May out? The NDP? Bloc? Liberals? Think again:

Harris's remarks come as the federal Conservatives are seeking to block May from the debates, citing a deal struck by May and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion where they agreed not to run candidates against each other in their respective ridings.

"You can't have one leader onstage that has already endorsed the candidacy of another and signed an electoral co-operation agreement," Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

The thing is, while widely perceived as left of centre (and some of their policies do fit that description), the Greens have a significant following among the dissatisfied right as well (don't forget that both May and her predecessor, Jim Harris, have had ties to the PCs in the past). As well, a lot of their supporters may be people who wouldn't otherwise vote. So if May makes a good impression on those folks, she could do harm to the Tories. Alternatively, if she makes a bad impression on left-leaning voters, or even fails to differentiate the Greens from the other parties on environmental issues (quite possible, since the parties' policies are pretty similar in that regard) those folks might be less likely to vote Green, and more likely to vote NDP, Bloc, or (ugh) Liberal, than they would if she wasn't in the debate.

Turning to that benighted country to our south, no doubt you've all heard by now that John McCain has selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, and that she hasn't exactly received the kind of media coverage that the Republicans might like. It's unfortunate that a disproportionate amount of the attention has been on her daughter's pregnancy, but I guess that's the part of the story that makes good copy (as compared with, say, the fact that she supports teaching creationism in schools, that she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and stuff like that). I guess it does help to highlight her stridently anti-abortion views, not to mention that she reportedly advocates abstinence-only sex ed. Still, I think those could have been pointed out without dragging her daughter into the mess. Incidentally, on this issue, wisdom sometimes comes from an unlikely source:

I've been watching the news all morning, like everyone else - and i keep hearing about the issues related to 'teen pregnancy'- It's all related to Sarah Palin and her 17 year old unmarried pregnant daughter. Well, I think the real problem comes from the fact that we are taking the focus off of getting to know Sarah Palin and her political views, and what she can do to make our country a less destructive place. Its distracting from the real issues, the real everyday problems that this country experiences.

I am concerned with the fact that Sarah Palin brought the attention to her daughter's pregnancy, rather than all world issues and what she believes she could possibly do to change them-if elected. I get Sarah Palin's views against abortion, but i would much prefer to hear more about what she can do for our country rather than how her daughter is going to have a child no matter what.

Maybe focus on delivering some words and policy with stronger impact like Joe Biden.

Thanks to writer in this babble thread for the link (come on now, you didn't think I've been lurking at Hollywood stars' blogs looking for tidbits like this, did you?)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Journalists arrested at Republican National Convention

Needless to say, they weren't from Fox News:
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released from police custody in St. Paul following their illegal arrest by Minneapolis Police on Monday afternoon.

All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar's violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, "I'm Press! Press!," resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman's arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

On Tuesday, Democracy Now! will broadcast video of these arrests, as well as the broader police action. These will also be available on: www.democracynow.org.

Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a felony. While the three have been released, they all still face charges stemming from their unlawful arrest. Kouddous and Salazar face pending charges of suspicion of felony riot, while Goodman has been officially charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a "peace officer."

From AlterNet, via this Kitco thread.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Scab Day!

Well, that's what I call it anyhow, since it was brought in as a replacement when the real Labour Day was locked out. May Day became associated with the labour movement after the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886, when violence broke out at a rally held by the labour movement:

The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies spoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Des Plaines Street while a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. According to witnesses, Spies began by saying the rally was not meant to incite violence. Historian Paul Avrich records Spies as saying "[t]here seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called 'law and order.' However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it."

The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Samuel Fielden, the last speaker, was finishing his speech at about 10:30 when police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers' wagon. A pipe bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. The police immediately opened fire. Some workers were armed, but accounts vary widely as to how many shot back. The incident lasted less than five minutes.
The sudden appearance of a bomb at the very end of this previously peaceful rally is mysterious, to say the least, and some have alleged that agent provocateurs were responsible. Nevertheless, four of the speakers at the rally were hanged for Degan's murder, in spite of the fact that none of them seem to have been calling for violence. But of course, that's the way the authorities like to handle situations like this...