Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fascism in St. Paul

The Republican Convention starts Monday, and the police in St. Paul are rounding up activists to prevent them from demonstrating against the Guardians of Privilege.

Glenn Greenwald is all over the story at Salon, including video of residents and neighbors. I am particularly interested in the president of the local Lawyers Guild chapter, who is very informative.

In these raids, armed officers from a nearby county sheriff's department (that's right, they were operating outside of their geographic jurisdiction) burst into at least four homes, known in their neighborhoods as "hippie houses", handcuffed the residents and guests in the homes and forced them to lie on the floor for as long as forty-five minutes, and executed warrants authorizing them to seize such common household items as laptop computers, maps of St. Paul, twine, cardboard, spray paint, and paint thinner. A couple of people were arrested on the bogus charge of conspiracy to riot.

In one video one of the lawyers working as a liaison with the police at a home where journalists were being detained is seen speaking to the press in handcuffs.

It's obvious that they're doing this to prevent people from protesting the Republican Convention. It's too early to know if there has been any coordination between county sheriff Bob Fletcher and the RNC, but I assume people will be looking into that. Meanwhile, this is something that we need to follow very closely. As the Bush administration has attacked all forms of constitutional protection, including the right of habeas corpus, this comment from Firedoglake is particularly apt:

Didn’t the Chinese do the same thing to potential protesters (raid their homes, intimidate them, follow them around, force them to leave town, detain them) ahead of the Olympics and we denounced them as the repressive regime that they are.. even called our president to boycott their precious games? I’m so glad that we live in a country that would never do such things to its own citizens….

I'll keep this diary updated as I learn more.

More on Sarah Palin

You know McBush's line about Sarah Palin fighting the Bridge to Nowhere? Turns out it's a lie.

More details here.

Sarah Palin--Are they kidding?

This is the most blatant example of tokenism since Bush 41 nominated Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court.

This is an obvious grab for the Hillary Clinton dead-enders. Unfortunately for McBush, after this week I don't think there are that many of them. In addition, can they possibly think that women who wanted Hillary Clinton as president will vote for such a blatantly anti-choice ticket?

Democratic National Convention- Barney Smith

Random thoughts on the Convention

I missed some of the highlights, like the roll call, that I always enjoy. Still, I think there were some great speeches and events this week, and some that were a bit lacking. Here are some of my reactions.

Obama's speech: As I said before, I liked it. It had substance, it showed his ability to attack McBush, and it also brought in the emotional content that really pulls people together.

Al Gore's speech: the content was great, probably the best speech I've ever heard him give. I was dissatisfied by the presentation. He talked too fast, and stepped on all his applause lines. It made me wonder if they had the TelePrompter going too fast so they could hustle him off the stage to get Obama on. If they were running long, why not can that first boring song that Stevie did, or, better yet, can Michael McDonald completely?

The Clintons' speeches: I haven't watched his speech yet, but I thought Hillary Clinton's speech was really good. A number of people I talked to said it brought tears to their eyes. After eight years of Obama as president she'll still be qualified, and Biden will be too old.

Chelsea Clinton: After all the shit she's had to put up with from the right wing, especially Limbaugh, she's turned out great. Any parent would be proud to have raised such a smart, poised, articulate daughter. Whatever their personal failings, the Clintons obviously did something right.

Best line of the week: It's got to be Barney Smith: "I want a president who will put Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney." I don't know, or care, who wrote that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Supreme Court lies on abortion

I remain convinced that most of the anti-choice (I refuse to call them "pro-life") fanatics don't know anyone who has had an abortion. Still, for a group dedicated to the oppression of half of the population, they have had incredible success.

One recent victory is Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court's decision last year upholding a ban on so-called partial birth abortion. One of the points Kennedy makes in his opinion is that:

While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. See Brief for Sandra Cano et al. as Amici Curiae in No. 05-380, pp. 22-24. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow. See ibid.

If you unpack these sentences, what they say is that there is no evidence for what we're about to say, but it could be true that "some" --how many? don't bother asking--women have some regret; depression and loss of esteem "can" follow--we can't say for sure that they do follow, but it's possible. Thus, they couch their opposition to women's autonomy in a pretended concern for women's best interests. It's almost hard to believe that someone with training in close, logical reasoning could make such statements.

This week the American Psychological Association released a new study, finding that there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.

BOSTON—There is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women, according to a draft report released Tuesday by a task force of the American Psychological Association.

The APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion reached its conclusions after evaluating all of the empirical studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals since 1989 that compared the mental health of women who had an induced abortion to comparison groups of women, or that examined factors that predict mental health among women who have had an elective abortion in the United States. The task force, formed in 2006, was charged with collecting, examining and summarizing the scientific research addressing mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion.

"The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy," said Brenda Major, PhD, chair of the task force. "The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain."

To me, this is welcome news. Obviously, there is a vast category of people to whom the facts don't matter. Still, every chance we can get to demonstrate that there is no factual basis for their claims is important: it exposes the roots of their positions for the superstition and bigotry that they are.

A question of judgment

Can anyone be qualified to be president who doesn't have the urge to stick chopsticks through his eardrums when he hears this?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Georgia Link Dump

As I mentioned recently, I don't claim to know too much about the situation in Georgia, although my analysis so far is probably consistent with the general left consensus. You have to admit that it's kind of ironic though: finally something happens in the one part of the world that Condoleeza Rice is supposed to know something about, and she either gets it all wrong or is powerless to do anything about it.

I think many of us are trying to learn more about it, so I thought I'd share what seem like valuable links for background and analysis.

Putin Walks into a Trap

By Mike Whitney

13/08/08 "
ICH" --- - The American-armed and trained Georgian army swarmed into South Ossetia last Thursday, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, sending 40,000 South Ossetians fleeing over the Russian border, and destroying much of the capital, Tskhinvali. The attack was unprovoked and took place a full 24 hours before even ONE Russian soldier set foot in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans still believe that the Russian army invaded Georgian territory first. The BBC, AP, NPR, the New York Times and the rest of the establishment media has consistently and deliberately misled its readers into believing that the violence in South Ossetia was initiated by the Kremlin. Let's be clear, it wasn't. In truth, there is NO dispute about the facts except among the people who rely the western press for their information. Despite its steady loss of credibility, the corporate media continues to operate as the propaganda-arm of the Pentagon.

McCain: Let's Compound the Blunder!

We live in a season of risible "3 AM moments", where the breathless commentariat in this country overhear a strange overseas country's name--perhaps with tales of some military action underway--and rush off towards dim-witted debates about what candidate would better handle that resultant red-phone ringing in the middle of the night (this phenomenon I guess most immediately derivative of Mark Penn's desperately lame "positive ad"). This infantile fare passes for serious debate on generally well-regarded sites like, or among the beard-stroking class chiming in from a Situation Room near you. There is really nothing we can do about it, this is the sad echo-chamber we dwell in, and it's not going to change anytime soon--so I won't belabor the point here.

Georgia On My Mind

The commentary being churned out in the Western press regarding Georgia is rather pitiable in the main (most notably this dreary WaPo piffle, stinking of knee-jerk group-think as it does from beginning to end).
Yes, it's true, my use of this same title wasn't startlingly original after all.

Russia's aim in Georgia battle was strategic

The Neocons And The Soviets

14 Aug 2008 08:50 am

It's very bizarre to read the neocons' speaking about Russia as if the Soviet Union were still in existence. Here's a classic slice of the mindset from Max Boot, who wants a third little war in the Caucasus:

It should be no surprise that Russian spokesmen are masters of the Big Lie–their Soviet predecessors practically invented the technique.

Condi Rice, who really should know better, said:

"This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed."

Block Evan Bayh

For his whole political career, Evan Bayh has been trading on his family name, and his connection to his father, liberal senator Birch Bayh. Now there is a threat that Bayh, who is showing every sign of being Lieberman Lite, is posing a threat to become Obama's vice presidential candidate, and activists don't like it.

I wrote about Bayh two years ago, when he was one of a handful of Democratic senators to support a flag-burning amendment; he lined up with the likes of John McCain, Bill Frist, and George "Macaca" Allen in support of this amendment. He was also one of the cochairs, with Lieberman and McCain of a prowar coalition, although he now claims he doesn't remember that.

Once again, activists are working to stop Obama from making this disastrous choice. Let's hope we can be more successful than we were in the FISA fight.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia on my Mind

One region of a country rebels against the central government, and establishes its own independent rule. They manage to maintain their independence from the central government for ten or fifteen years, and they argue that if the central government tries to reassert control the people in the breakaway region will be subjected to reprisals and oppression. Is a bigger, more powerful country with ties to the breakaway region entitled to invade to protect the regional inhabitants?

Does it make a difference if the country is Iraq and the region is Kurdistan, or the country is Georgia and the region is Ossetia?

Apparently. Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected.

I don't know enough about the situation in Georgia to pick sides. It's always natural to side with the little guy, especially when it's a democratic country. Still, from what little I know about it, it seems that the "breakaway" status of Ossetia was well-established, and that the government of Georgia was acting precipitously by invading. On the other hand, if Russia was justified in invading Georgia, would they be any less justified in invading other neighboring countries with Russian minorities who are ready and willing to make the same claims of oppression?

One thing is clear, though. The United States, and George Bush in particular, have forfeited the moral high ground. There is no way the community of nations will take what we say seriously after the invasion of Iraq.

One more reason that Bush has weakened our ability to defend our national interest. What's more important, though, is what it means for our future. In 2006 McCain cosponsored legislation that passed the Senate endorsing an expansion of NATO to include Georgia and Macedonia as well as Albania and Croatia. If this had taken place, we would now be legally required to commit American troops to go to war against Russia. At a minimum, doesn't this demonstrate the recklessness and danger that McCain presents?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No more child abuse!

That's right, there was an interesting piece on NPR the other day about a new camp dedicated to protecting children from child abuse. Maybe nothing new, but the child abuse that this camp fights against is the systematic practice of telling lies to children and demanding that they reject evidence and rationality.
In short, this is an atheist summer camp.

"It's a brain spa," says Angie McQuaig, one of the counselors. McQuaig is an elementary school administrator in Georgia.

"As an educator, I like to teach critical thinking at a deep and erudite level, because it's not embedded in the curriculum as much as I'd like to see," McQuaig says. "And this provides a place for kids to talk about deep questions that many into adulthood don't even consider and contemplate."

Is this camp just indoctrination of a different kind? Not unless teaching critical thinking and respect for logic and evidence meets your definition of indoctrination.