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    • The Attack In Ottawa will be used to justify losing more rights
      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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“Step out of line, the Man come and take you away”

Read this account of a WaPo reporter, Wesley Lowery, who was arrested in Ferguson while he was charging his cell phone in a local McDonalds.

 For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald’s a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown’s shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby. But inside there’s WiFi and outlets, so it’s common for reporters to gather there.

That was the case Wednesday. My phone was just about to die, so as I charged it, I used the time to respond to people on Twitter and do a little bit of a Q&A since I wasn’t out there covering the protests.

As I sat there, many armed officers came in — some who were dressed as normal officers, others who were dressed with more gear.

Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn’t press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.

Read the whole thing.  It’s very upsetting.

Police presence in Denver for the Democratic convention in 2008 was huge and very intimidating.  I saw a girl step off a curb and get slammed to the ground by a couple of cops in what looked like paramilitary gear.  As far as I could see, there wasn’t anything threatening about the girl’s actions.  But Denver was dwarfed by the police presence in Manhattan during Occupy Wall Street.  I went to Zucotti Park on several occasions to cover the protests for this blog and used a local Starbucks to charge my phone.  I’ll probably never do anything like that again without a press pass (how do you get them?) but this story makes me realize that even the press is not protected anymore.

Enough is enough.  Americans are not the enemy.

One more thought: Battery problems plagued me when I was in Manhattan for a variety of reasons, not least of which there are a lot of tall buildings around blocking signal, there were a lot of signals in the air dogfighting and ATT (need I say more).  I’m guessing that more savvy people keep a spare charging pack in their pockets.  That’s probably a good idea.  Another good idea is to buy something when you go to Starbucks or MickyD’s to inhale some WiFi or amperage.  I used to get at least a hot chocolate and drink it slowly to show I was legit.

Update:  According to Bloomberg News, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is ordering St. Louis County police out of Ferguson.  He’s going to be making some kind of public statement soon.

Sounds like the jig is up and too many Americans are getting a good look at the militarization of the police and don’t like what they see.  Just a guess.

Here’s another interesting tidbit.  Representative William Lacey Clay “said that he has been urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “take over the entire situation because we will not get justice forMichael Brown and his family and friends if the St. Louis County police and prosecutor have a say.””

Update 2: Oh, wow.  I think Obama has given the game away.  He is sooooo out of touch with what happened in Ferguson it’s not even funny.  Trying to find summary of press conference but twitter consensus is that Obama cautioned Ferguson residents against looting and vandalism.

{{facepalm}}

Just forget about the troop carriers and guys with rocket launchers.

 

Revulsion

This is why more and more people are turning away from religion:

Any god that leaves little children to die because their government said their teachers couldn’t lead them in what would be overwhelmingly Christian prayers is an evil god. Or non-existent.

Yeah, I said it.  That god bystander who shrugs his shoulders at the bloody death of innocents when he could intervene and stop it?  That’s evil.

As one of the commenters to this video said:

so god is a petty, sulking baby because we dont kiss his butt?

stay classy god

God 2.0 needs a major rewrite and a better PR apparatus. (Hint: don’t hire this guy)

***************************
Update on the NPR “expert” and patterns:

This morning on Weekend Edition, it sounded like a different expert was on to tell us that, sure, we can find “patterns” but those patterns are not “profiles” and are therefore useless. It is only with “profiles” that we are able to predict the future and we can’t predict the future so that’s that.

Bullshit. Any dark skinned man passing through an airport or thrown off a plane by a bunch of hysterical passengers will tell you this isn’t true. Oddly enough, none of the recent shooters, with the exception of the psychiatrist at Fort Hood, were dark skinned or middle eastern looking dudes.

Any “profile” you develop is only as good as the data you have. You can’t predict with absolute certainty which compounds in a library of millions is going to be THE next PERFECT drug. All you can do is identify the potential drugs that you can work on. During the discovery phase, we add to our knowledge of the drug-target interaction and we get better at predicting future drugs but we’re never going to be able to just look at the structures of all of the compounds and pick out the blockbuster on the first, second or third go around.

What we can do is eliminate the non-starters and focus in on the potential winners. That investigation is still worth a lot of money because the potential winners still exhibit significant activity even if they are not perfect. We’re never going to get to the stage where we can identify them just by looking at them without any additional testing and that’s the case with people too.

So, it is still worth screening and testing even if you end up with a lot of first round hits that you have to narrow down later. I think most Americans would agree that we don’t want to take away the guns from every person who fits a pattern. What we want to do is take away the guns of people who can’t be eliminated. We don’t have to predict the future. We just need to find the pool of most likely shooters and take away their guns, if only temporarily.

The alternative is to treat all 300 million of us as false positives and force all of us to undergo ritual bodyscanning and metal detecting before we can pick up our kids from school for their dental appointments. While I’m sure the security industry is going to LOVE that idea, it’s another burden of time and frustration for busy parents and others who do not fit any pattern at all except that they’re human. Are “experts” suggesting that we are all potential shooters because they refuse to come up with a set of criteria that eliminates the vast majority of us? Is the second amendment so precious that a whole country has to be constantly inconvenienced to take off our shoes and be exposed to radiation on a regular basis? There isn’t any set of patterns that we could use to prevent that?

Right now, insurance companies can charge you a fortune based on your record and your peer group. Marketing companies can profile you and target ads to you based on your purchases, demographics and other behavior. But for some reason, the “experts” say that it will not be possible for the ATF to reduce the number of mass shooters from killing people because “we can’t predict the future”. There’s something very wrong with that picture aside from it being completely unbelievable. Normally, I’d be a freak about privacy but owning a lethal firearm puts things in a different light. Should you be able to own a gun for hunting purposes or to defend yourself against intruders or a potentially tyrannical government? Yep. Should you be able to own a gun if you’ve got the makings of a mass shooter? Probably not, at least not until you’ve been thoroughly checked out.

Today, we learn that the mother of the shooter was the registered owner of the guns. Leaving aside the fact that looking through patterns probably wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy, I have to wonder why she felt she needed these guns and how they came to be at her house. That’s a lot of firepower for a Kindergarten teacher. It was probably not to protect herself from 20 five year olds.

On the other hand, when your auto insurance representative asks you whether there are any permitted drivers or kids of a certain age living with you, they are recognizing the fact that cars can be dangerous in the hands of inexperienced or recklessly young drivers and presumably, their statistics back that up. So, gun buyers should be asked similar questions. Do you have any young males living at home with a history of behavioral or mental problems? Has your family undergone any significant changes lately? Divorce, loss of job, bankruptcy, relocation? This is not an insurmountable problem.

Wednesday: The Satire is Strong in this one

I’m talking about Charles Pierce. His piece on the Women’s Media Center’s recommendation that the FCC take a more proactive role in monitoring the public airwaves is priceless. But before we get to that, the Women’s Media Center* has a good point:

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh’s show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn’t carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really “doing humor” or “entertainment.” He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.

I happen to agree with this for the most part. As much as I would like to exile Rush to blogtalkradio, it’s not necessary to drive him completely off the airwaves. The problem is not that Rush gets away with murder unchecked. The problem is that he takes up so much space on the airwaves and he has spawned an industry of like minded blowhards like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Right wing friendly media corporations like Clear Channel own much of the spectrum so anti-female bloviating saturates the airwaves. It is not in the public interest for them to be so dominant.

Before anyone accuses the WMC of advocating censorship, let’s just nip that in the bud. There are plenty of ways for Rush’s voice to be heard. His free speech rights are not curtailed if he is left with nothing but a few radio outlets and blogtalkradio. He could even start his own internet network, like Leo LaPorte has done with TWiT.tv. Leo’s doing pretty good business and the internet presents a relatively low barrier for entry. But the public radio spectrum is not an infinite universe. And when one political party owns or dominates an overwhelming majority of it, it has an obligation to not spew toxic crap all over the place to the detriment of others, especially women who, after all, must continue to live as female. There’s not a lot we can do to change our gender, or that we even want to. It’s not a disease or a disability. So, why does 53% of the American population have to put up with this constant, discriminatory and hateful crap 24/7?

In the past, I have told critics of this blog that we do not practice censorship here when we bump trolls into moderation or the spam filter. The internet is vastly, amazingly big in the Douglas Adams sense of the word. You can start a blog in numerous places and pollute it to your heart’s content. Your free speech rights are not infringed if I moderate you. However, if this was the only blog on earth I would feel morally obligated to let you say whatever you wanted here. The same goes with radio and TV spectrum. If we had unlimited stations and everyone could own one at a low cost, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t be a problem. But radio frequency and signal strength is rationed. There aren’t an unlimited number of stations so there is a moral obligation on the part of the FCC to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. This is not political. Those licenses belong to the public and the public should have a right to revoke them when a particular point of view is so prevalent and toxic that it drowns out all other points of view and is harmful to particular segments of society.

Pierce says the WMC’s suggestion will lead to President Romney appointing the next FCC commissioners and says it will be a huge election year distraction. But that is not his target:

The first inkling that the FCC might take this suggestion seriously would set off a howling from the flying monkeys of the Right that would be audible on Saturn. It would quickly become The Only Issue in the campaign. You would have thousands of hosts in smaller markets pumping out hour after hour of very effective paranoia. (There is, after all, a genuine First Amendment issue in play here.) This paranoia would start turning into votes very, very quickly. It would cement the image of the porcine junkie sex-tourist as a victim just as the country — and its rich people who own companies and buy advertising—- seems to be turning on him all on its own. Good god, this is the same crowd who thinks the Affordable Care Act is the thin edge of the socialist-fascist blade. Can you imagine the ensuing ruckus if the FCC actually moved on this misbegotten plan? The president has enough trouble with these people. He doesn’t need to give them another excuse to draw little mustaches on his picture.

It’s a pattern with Obama. He didn’t stick up for homeowners, the unemployed, Shirley Sherrod or women whenever their reproductive health concerns got in the way of passing legislation. Don’t expect him to make a forceful first amendment argument against extremists either. I too suspect that he really is more worried about defacement of his campaign posters.

* Before you sign any online petition, ask yourself if the organization that will shortly flood your email inbox with bulletins and sell your information to third parties is being sufficiently demanding of Obama and the Democrats. Women’s organizations sold themselves to the Obama campaign in 2008 and it is partially their fault for the toxic crap that Rush is spewing today. If women’s rights advocacy organizations had held Obama, the media and the DNC to a higher standard and accountable for the misogyny of the 2008 election season, politicians wouldn’t be able to pass the anti-woman legislation without penalty and “entertainers” who really serve as propaganda mouths of Sauron for the Republican party wouldn’t have felt safe to call women feminazis and sluts for so long.

***********************

Have you been following Doonesbury this week? Oh, that’s right, your local paper may have been so distraught by Gary Trudeau’s satire of the slut shaming, anti-woman legislation that it has pulled his cartoon to protect you from what looks like an alternative view. Rush, Fox and the Washington Post can say whatever toxic or mindless drivel they want. But have a cartoon character get directed to the “Shaming Room” before her compulsory transvaginal ultrasound, well, THAT just crosses the line of decency and civility.

***********************

Heard on the DailyShow last night:

What’s the difference between a fertilized egg, a corporation and a woman in Oklahoma?

One of them is not considered a person.

(hint, it’s the woman)

Bring on the smelling salts.

Friday: On Religious Freedom

Gosh, it’s tough to be a high school atheist these days. No wonder Brooke wants to homeschool. Jessica Ahlquist of Cranston, R.I. is catching Hell for speaking up at school board meetings about the, well, there’s no other way to say this, offensive prayer that hung in the lobby of her high school for 49 years. It’s hard to believe that Cranston got away with it for that long. One suspects that it was some kind of “in your face, asshole” response to Madelyn Murray O’Hare’s 60’s crusade against prayer in public school. Here’s the text of the prayer:

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
Amen

What’s so wrong with that, you might ask? Several things. First, there’s a presumption that there is a God. You can believe what you want. I’m not an atheist but I also don’t believe in the God of the Bible. Secondly, that non-existant Biblical God doesn’t have a gender. Not only is this prayer offensive to atheists, it’s offensive to women and girls. The minute you walk into Cranston West H.S., you already know where you are in the cosmic pecking order. Starting the day as the lowliest of the low does not make for an affirming academic experience.  The majority of Cranston’s residents are Catholic and Catholics don’t really have a place in their theology for women except as virgins, martyred virgins, virgin mothers, cloistered virgins and babymakers.  It’s a very binary world for Catholic women.

The rest of the prayer presumes that students can’t be moral, kind, supportive or friendly if they don’t believe in the non-existent, male, Biblical God.  This puts the atheist in an awkward position.  If they want to stay on the school community’s good side, they have to conform and keep their atheism a secret.  We can see by Jessica’s example what happens when they don’t.  Whenever someone proclaims that creationism is as good as evolution or that it’s Ok to ostracize someone who’s gay or call girls sluts if they have sex because that’s what it says in the Bible and it’s moral, the atheist can’t really challenge that ignorance and hurtful behavior without revealing themselves to be an UNBELIEVER.  I’m not quite sure why it is that believers can’t tolerate the unbelief of others.  It’s a mystery.

The prayer has a way of squashing dissent. Keeping the unbelievers quiet means that biblical “morality” and Fox induced Acquired Stupidity Syndrome goes unchecked and propagates, and we as a nation go further down the rabbit hole because unquestioned obedience to an authoritarian power trumps reason.   I’m sure that Rupert Murdoch and our financial industry overlords are fine with this but there’s no reason why any American should be complacent about it.  Unleashing the power of the faithful in a country that has been encouraged to embrace fundamentalism is leading to our own destruction.  Fundamentalists are trained to not trust their own understanding but allow others to interpret scripture and events for them.  This has the potential to empower dangerous people who will take advantage of that faith and unquestioning obedience.  We are now living in a country where citizens bully school girls who won’t comply with the indoctrination.  In this country, the majority presents us with the choice of letting the authoritarians and their useful idiots run the country or keeping silent.  If I were religious, I’d call that a sin.

Then there are the other students who attend Cranston West who are not from a Judeo-Christian background.  What about Buddhists?  They don’t have a God either, do they?  What about Muslims?  How would the good burghers of Cranston R.I. feel if the prayer started with “Allahu Akbar”?  What about the pagans?  I particularly like this pagan prayer:

Oh Goddess Mother

Let me act in wisdom

Conquer my fear and doubt

Discover my own hidden gifts

Meet others with compassion

Be a source of healing energies

And face each day with hope and joy

Short and sweet.  It says everything the first one does but doesn’t say anything about morality.  Of course, you do have to ascribe to a non-Judeo-Christian female entity but if Cranston’s going to complain about that then it might be a violating civil rights law, not just the first amendment, by creating a hostile learning environment for girls.

In the meantime, Jessica has had to put up with a lot of, ahem, disapproval from Cranston residents:

In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group.

WTF??  They won’t even deliver her roses? It sounds like Cranston’s citizens have never read the prayer they’re fighting so hard to preserve, especially the parts that ask for assistance being “kind and helpful”, “To be honest with ourselves as well as with others”,
“to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win”, “teach us the value of true friendship”, and “help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West”.  Maybe they think all that morality only applies to high school students.  I have to wonder if Cranston parents are being faithful to God if they are telling their kids to obey this prayer but are acting completely differently at home and in front of the school board.  Shouldn’t they be setting a good example for their kids?

Oh, the poor Judeo-Christians of Cranston, persecuted for their beliefs.  Doesn’t this 16 year old godless heathen know that the majority of Cranston’s residents are Judeo-Christians?  Why does she have to bring her intrusive governmental regulations into their quiet, peaceful, little village full of moral, upright citizens?  She’s probably a drug taking, low life, lazy, potential drop out who sleeps with the entire football team- all at one time. Or not.

No, Jessica is simply a minority in her school.  Well, as far as anyone will ‘fess up to she’s a minority.  I suspect that the whole honors level segment of her class, as well as the sleeper kids in the regular CP level courses, have already made the leap from “literally” true to “metaphorically” true.  It would be nice if they all had a “I am Spartacus!” moment in support of their ostracized classmate.  It would be nice, but knowing high school like I do, I wouldn’t count on it.  Minorities are minorities because there aren’t many of them.  That’s why the writers of the constitution took special care to protect them.

When it comes to matters of conscience, the first amendment was not written to protect the religious freedom of the vast majority of citizens of Cranston.  They already have that protection by virtue of their numbers.  The first amendment was meant to protect the religious freedom of the Jessicas.  And Suresh.  And Chengua.  And Rhiannon.  And Alia.  And who was it meant to protect them from?

The people of Cranston.

For more information on Jessica standing up for the First Amendment right of the minority to have religious freedom (or freedom *from* religion), check out the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  They have several podcasts about Jessica.  The latest one can be found here.

One final thing:  Honestly?  I don’t have any problem with people believing whatever they want.  I do have a problem with them proselytizing.  When you tell a religious person that you’re not interested, they need to leave you alone about it- permanently.  Yes, you can cross us off your cosmic checklist. But people who knew me on the school board know that when I was a member, I was actually quite protective of the religious Christians.  I felt that sometimes the school administration and teachers were trying to teach values to children and I don’t think that belongs in school coming from the teacher.  (Remind me to tell the story about the AIDS activist and the giant purple dildo) Values should be taught at home. If Christians want to teach their children that abstinence is the only birth control allowed, homosexuality is a sin and Darwin was wrong, that’s their business.  I happen to think they’re whacked but as long as those kids come to school exercising good behavior and respect towards their peers, I don’t think the school can credibly ask for more.  It is good citizenship that schools have the right to enforce, not values.  Yes, you might legitimately argue that the right beliefs and values lead to good citizenship but you may be intruding on someone else’s conscience in this regard and at some point, we have to agree to hold people accountable for their actions, not their thoughts.

What I have found, from personal experience, is that even if a kid is raised in the strictest household where God’s word is law, once they are exposed to other ideas, the smart ones will figure it all out for themselves.  For the rest, school officials should content themselves with compliance and tolerance and that is what they should ask of religious parents and no more than that.  Their kids are just as constrained by a system that requires their attentive presence as the more liberal parents’ children.

When it comes to changing people’s behavior and attitudes, leading by example and modeling good citizenship is much better than teaching kids values.  And it keeps the fundamentalists out of your classroom in school.


WHO coordinated the raids?

Occupiers during the Zuccotti Park raid

One data point is just data.  Two points are a trend.  Three points are a correlation.

Denver, Portland, Oakland, New York.

And we musn’t forget Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  For years, an abandoned car dealership was a blight on the town’s business environment but no one did anything about it.  Then, the Occupy Movement stepped in and occupied the building and, voile!  Last Sunday, the cops moved in and arrested the occupiers for squatting.  Township authorities cleared their agendas and focused on solving the suddenly most important issue before them – condemning the building.

Why the rush?

On Monday, when Mayor of Oakland, CA, Jean Quan’s legal council quit, he said something cryptic about supporting Occupy Oakland and not the 1%.  That was interesting.  And then the deputy mayor quit too.  Then we find out that Quan was one of 18 mayors nationwide  on a conference call sometime in the past week where allegedly they planned to break up the occupy protests.

There are three possibilities for who coordinated the raids:

1.) The mayors were all good golfing buddies, got together over a few beers and decided all on their own to rid themselves of these meddlesome protestors.

2.) The 1% organized an online Mayor’s Retreat where participants offered charitable donations to the cities who took a more proactive approach to cleaning up their parks.  Does Oakland need to buy some property for a new school?  Does Chapel Hill find itself short on funds for their downtown business zone Renaissance project?  It wasn’t a coordinated effort to shut down the Occupy Movement.  It was simply a way for the 1% to give back to these communities and pair up interested benefactors with cities that have been stretching their tax dollars as far as they could go and were still falling short of their obligations.  Call it Noblesse Oblige.

3.) One (or both) of the political parties was involved in cleaning up the Occupy Movement.  It could have been either party because both take wads of cash from the 1% and have an interest in keeping their finance industry masters happy.  But there’s only one party in charge of the executive branch departments that might prove useful to coordinating the clean up.  But that’s just a conspiracy theory and you will never find the fingerprints of anyone in particular on the documents.  But I would love to know who set up that conference call.  And isn’t it conveeeenient that it all went down right after that off year election where so many politicians were forced to give lip service to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.  Maybe it was the Republicans.  They haven’t chosen a nominee yet and maybe they don’t want to be put on the spot, having to scrunch up their faces and make little strangled choking noises about how the Occupiers are speaking for some terribly misguided but well-meaning people who should be working.  But if that were the case, how did they manage to get Democratic mayors like Jean Quan and Portland Mayor Sam Adams (with a name like that, he really should be an occupier) to go along with it?

So, here we see clear evidence of a coordinated effort but we don’t know what motivated the mayors to terminate the occupations.  The timing is suspicious.  There is no doubt now that there was a conference call.  And the resignation of Dan Siegal in Oakland suggests that the 1% are involved, whether by itself or through some political/electoral coordinating committee.

I want to know WHO did it.

Who decided to get together and terminate the peaceful assemblies of these occupiers to protest and speak?  Who decided to use the excuse of “cleaning” (or, more accurately, “cleansing”) the parks?  Who put together the trigger words that they all used about health and safety and danger and crime?  Who has associated those words with a group of people who are protesting social inequality brought on by the unchecked and reckless behavior of the 1%?  And while we’re at it, if the cities were so concerned with sanitation and hygiene, why did they make it so difficult to get porta potties at the sites?  And why do they permit vampire romance addled teenagers to camp out in a parking lot in front of a theater for 5 days for tickets to a silly movie without subjecting them to pepperspray, batons and arrests for unlawful, unpermitted assemblies?

And what is the meaning of an unpermitted assembly?  The very idea violates the spirit of the first amendment that says that citizens have the right to assemble and speak.  If you have to ask for a permit to do this, isn’t that the same as saying you don’t really have this right because someone else has the power to deny you the permit?  I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that the Constitution was written broadly enough that powerful people have been able to argue that just about any truncation of your rights are permissable because the Constitution didn’t explicitly say “no”.  Why is it that movements like Occupy Wall Street are routinely shut down?  Why is it that so many grassroot movements such as the Occupy movement fail to take root because they can’t get permits?

Anyway, I want answers.  I want mayors who have been “forced” to cooperate for fear that their local and state parties might lose campaign funds to come forth and tell us the truth.  It won’t go well for them if they don’t tell the public the truth and the truth comes out anyway. Now that the press have had their own rights violated and reporters roughed up, they have an interest in finding this out for themselves.   The timing was really, really bad from a PR standpoint.  It came way too soon after an election.  And now a whole year stretches before us so that those of us who have questions and demand answers can keep this issue going.

The coordinators didn’t end the movement.  No, the idiots focussed the concentration of the nation with laser like intensity on the Occupiers now.  The way these raids were carried out, complete with jack booted thugs and helicopters in the middle of the night, is enough to make even the most whacked out 2nd amendment nutcase sympathetic and make the most liberal minded crunchy granola type think that owning a gun to defend yourself against governmental overreach isn’t such a bad idea.  So, whoever it was who planned this hamhanded operation should be congratulated for finally finding common ground between the two extremist ends of the parties.

Concern in Chapel Hill after Sunday's raid

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d go with Rahm Emmanuel’s syndicate.  Yep, he’s got the whole mayor thing going, he’s in Chicago, which has a reputation, he’s familiar with how to use the 1%’s money to gain political influence in an election year and he’s not into subtlety.  There’s just enough distance between him and the 1% and the Obama campaign and just enough irritation from the merry pranksters of Occupy Chicago that it would make it look entirely reasonable for him to want to squelch them and help his fellow mayors squelch them.

That’s my hypothesis.  What kind of data to we need to make a correlation?

What America needs now is …. Pirates??

Logo of the United States Pirate Party

This Pittsburgh hometown girl is already there.  My first complete sentence was “Beat’em Bucs!”

Many of us might have missed this little bit of hopeful news, what with our seasonal preparations for the next GOP presidential candidates’ debate already underway, but it appears there has been what is being called a rout in the political makeup of the German parliament.  The Pirate Party won enough seats in parliament in the elections a couple of days ago that now they have to be taken seriously.  Even the Pirates were surprised:

As Berlin election results came in on Sunday evening, sweaty members of the Pirate Party danced arm in arm beneath a disco ball at popular club in the city’s Kreuzberg district. The smell of marijuana spread through the informal party, where guests made their own sandwiches and drank bottled beer.

“I can’t believe it,” said newly elected parliamentarian Christopher Lauer as he fell onto a sofa, sending a message of thanks out via his Twitter account for the 8.9 percent of voter support. “It is breathtaking, a surreal feeling, because there is nothing that compares to this.”

Standing before the television screen, the leader of the Pirate Party, Sebastian Nerz, called the historic moment “cool.”

“It’s the first time since the 1980s that a new political power has come onto the stage,” he said.

Indeed, the support for the party — founded in 2006 on a civil liberties platform that focused on Internet freedoms — was sensational. Not only will the Pirate Party enter a regional government for the first time, but its results far surpassed the five percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. The success was so unexpected that the party had only put 15 candidates on its list of nominations. Had their support been just a little higher, some of their seats would have remained empty because post-election nominations of candidates isn’t allowed.

With the addition of the unexpected victory of the Pirate Party in Germany to the unexpected victory of the NDP in Canada, we have two points towards a correlation.   Is it too early to predict a break in the stranglehold that traditional party systems have in many countries?  We may also be seeing the demise of the Green Party.  It doesn’t seem to be able to break out and, let’s face it, when it comes to voting next year, do we really want to vote Green?  They pick candidates that no one has ever heard of and their platform is almost alien to many American voters.  I still consider myself a Democrat, albeit one that is in exile.  I’m quite proud of the Democrats that preceded the current bunch.  But this current bunch is scared of its own shadow and after years and years of choosing the least offensive, machine candidates to run, we have a very uninspiring and ineffective party.  The Pirate party could provide  that little bit of random craziness and energy that we need in the political landscape.

And think of the possibilities.  The Pirates are tech geeks.  They’re into net neutrality and expanding access to digital media.  Could we also expect an American Pirate party to put modernization and de-monopolization of broadband on the top of its agenda?  Who’s to say that’s not the right thing to focus our attention on?  We spend so much time on deficits and social spending but maybe what we really need is to protect our first amendment rights from the relentless creep of corporatization.  How many times have we gnashed our teeth in frustration that the media wasn’t covering something we felt was important or had the ability to slow our messages down or curtail them altogether?  If you want to change your country and create a movement, you have to first be able to spread your message.  So, maybe the Pirates are on to something.  Keep it simple, stupid.

The other cool thing about having an American Pirate party is that it might be easier to find it on a ballot where third parties can not land in a consistent position from county to county.  The name and concept are easy enough to grasp that a motivated voter wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for it.  It could appeal to the very people the parties are trying to reach but who are now disaffected – those of us who were young enough to have spent much of our working lives in the high tech and internet age.  We’ve given up on the old fogeys who are running the Democratic party, along with their weird attitudes towards women, and have a hard time reconciling the Republican party with, um, reality as we know it.  It’s time to go marauding for big political booty.

There is a Pirate party in the US.  It’s in its infancy and is currently represented by the Florida Pirate Party.  It’s registered as a recognized party in Massachusetts and Florida but considering how low the bar is to getting on the ballot in many states (even if you’re relegated to an obscure location on it), starting a legitimate Pirate party movement here in the US isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  It just might work.  And 8.9% of 535 is, hang on, let me get my calculator… 47.6.  Round it up to 48 to include the arms and head of one representative.  48 is a number that should put fear into both parties.  Works for me!

 

THE most serious question at Sotomayor’s hearing was asked by… Franken?

Holy Hemiola, Republicans are a repetitive bunch.  Did any one of them ever have an independent thought?  The way they zeroed in on her “wise latina” word combination was like some SETI scientists looking for meaningful patterns in vast field of verbal graffitti, like none of the other billions of words Sotomayor has ever uttered made sense.  In some very no-so-subtle ways, they managed to communicate that a latina woman should show more deference to a southern white gentleman, that life experiences are strictly forbidden for Democrats but perfectly OK for Republican nominees like Concerned Alumni of Princeton Alito and “high tech lynching” Thomas, and that with 7 white men out of 9 members of the court (that’s 78% for those of you who are keeping track), this is a population that needs to be protected, the poor things.  Let me get this straight:  white males are the downtrodden of the earth, put upon and underpriveleged and that’s why we need so many of them on the court.  Women?  ehhhhh, not so much.  I would hope that women voters in Republican districts would keep this in mind when they go to the polls in 2010 but as my mom says, people have short memories.  They will forget what empty headed, arrogant, clueless, condescending jerks Jeff Sessions and Lindsay Graham were.

Franken, on the other hand, will be known for his Perry Mason moment instead of the most important question asked at the hearings.  Here’s the question:

Now, you may be wondering why Franken would be concerned with “net neutrality”.  I’m going to take a guess here that it’s for the same reason he was a founding member of Air America.  Back in 2003, corporate media controlled the horizontal and the vertical.  Well, it still does.  The propaganda might be coming from a pseudo-Democratic White House but it’s still propaganda and there are precious few sources of push back.

Air America’s flagship station was a tiny station in NYC, WLIB, with a very weak signal.  In central NJ, just 36 miles away, I could barely pick it up on my car radio.  During some of the more critical news stories of 2003-2004, I couldn’t get it at all.  There was a competing station from Indiana, of all places, that was a superbroadcaster.  The Indiana station would crank up the volume up to 11 and blast right wing talking points, overwhelming that tiny whisper from Air America.  I noticed that Indiana wouldn’t always be blasting away.  It only happened when I wanted to hear a different opinion on an important news story.

That left me with live streaming Air America from the internet.  Now, I might live right in the heart of telecommunications R&D central, not far from ATT and Lucent and all the rest.  But my internet providers are very, VERY limited.  There are days that I swear they are blocking access or slowing down the download speeds to sites I want to access.  I’m sure I’m just being paranoid but isn’t this Franken’s point?

Who owns the internet?  Is it the corporations who laid the cables or us?  Do we have a right to access it to exercise our first amendment rights or is it possible for a Supreme Court judge to say, “I said you have a right to free speech.  I didn’t say Verizon FIOS had an obligation to carry your words to the rest of the world.  If you want to be heard, buy a megaphone and try not to get arrested for disturbing the peace”

The corporations might say they own the cables but *WE* paid for them.  Everytime we made a phone call or emailed our mothers or purchased that electric raclette grill from amazon or downloaded Lady Gaga from iTunes, we pay for laying down new lines through the hefty fees added to our bills every month.  Isn’t that the excuse that these companies are always making for raising the rates?  They have to add new lines, update the technology?  Ok, we paid for that.  Did we forfeit our right of free speech when we entered into an agreement with these companies?  That is essentially the question Al Franken asks.  Sotomayor responds that it depends on the policy established by Congress.

Ahhh, back to those bastards.  So, if Congress gives away the store to ATT, FIOS, Embarq and the like, is our only recourse to vote them out of office?  And if we want to run alternative candidates, how to we make sure these candidates get a fair hearing?  The internet has the capacity to change the electoral landscape by allowing candidates to circumvent the corporate media gatekeepers.  But if you don’t have free, unfettered access, is this really possible?  Is it possible that in 2010, we will see candidates who want to primary incumbents blocked by service providers from doing so?

The problem is not a hypothetical “maybe”.  It could happen now.  The question goes to the very heart of our system of democracy.  The right to free speech, to be heard, to foment insurrection if necessary, was the first right that was granted to us in the Constitution by people who knew what it means to need to overthrow your government.  These days, we would prefer to overthrow our government at the ballot box. But if you can only make your voting decisions based on disinformation, if it is legal for corporations to promote disinformation for its own benefit and if those corporations are granted the protection of “personhood”, doesn’t this infringe on the rights of the individual to be heard and have the power of full citizenship?

We need only look to Iran for the answer to this question.  Their election was highly questionable, so highly questionable that they demanded a recount or a new election.  Instead, the government cut off their access to the internet, their ability to organize and then ruthlessly suppressed the protestors.  Could it happen here?  Hell, yes.  All we need is a bunch of hyperbolic blowhards on cable news networks terrifying people into thinking it could provoke another 9/11 and we’re there, baby.

How do we prevent that from happening?  That’s essentially what Franken is asking.  How do we exercise our free speech when someone else has our voice and can turn down the volume?  Does that old playground boast, “It’s a free country, I can say whatever I like” still have any real meaning?  Sotomayor’s answer, to me, was less than satisfying.  I think she will be deferential to the corporation’s lawyers when the issue finally makes it to the USSC.  I’ve been wrong before but let’s just call it a hunch.  It’s like her answer on abortion.  Yes, women have a right to privacy with their doctors- under certain circumstances.  Maybe I’m dense or something but if someone else is setting the “circumstances” under which you have a right to privacy, then there isn’t much privacy.  But I digress.

The more important issue is freedom of speech.  It precedes all others.  It allows you to question authority and persuade your fellow citizens.  Without it, there would be no discussion of abortion or gun rights or health care.  Or at least, no competing opinions.  And as technology has changed the way we access our information, allowing us to benefit from the internet’s advantages of speed and relational information, those of us who do not control that access will be at a severe disadvantage as citizens.  We might as well be wearing a gag.

Which is just how the monopolies like it.

Podcast of the day: Control of the media has been going on ever since there was a printing press.  Check out Melvyn Bragg In Our Time’s Seventeenth Century Print Culture.  King Henry VIII was one of the first to crack down on the press by banning the vernacular bible and forbidding women and servants from reading it.  They might get the notion that they knew what it meant.  Sounds like Lindsay Graham’s kind of guy.


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