Jan. 26th, 2010 03:33 pm
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Melissa Harris-Lacewell: Citizenship is a Long-Term Game

In the wake of what some called the worst week for democracy since Bush v. Gore, with the Democrats seeming to give up after losing one Senate seat and the Supreme Court allowing unlimited corporate influence on elections, we turn to Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton professor, Nation contributor, and author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought for some clarification–and consolation.
Harris-Lacewell offers some thoughts on why it’s lazy and dangerous to refer to political opponents as crazy, on the way the health care reform process has provided a valuable civics lesson, and how political campaigns are beholden to money.

Though as I listen I think it may be problematic in its use of the terms "crazy" and "mad". Am I right?

Raj Patel has spent a lot of time studying the way resources are distributed among people, and he’s watched spiraling inequality leave many people with nothing while concentrating wealth in the hands of the few. From the food system, which he studied in Stuffed and Starved, to the bank bonuses still being handed out, he argues that something has to change.
In his new book, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, Patel lays out some solutions. He joins Laura in studio to talk about consumerism, labor, violence against women, and the way we need to think about happiness.

ETA: Raj Patel's voice is hitting my British accent kink. And my intelligence kink. AHEM. Back to the point.
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Where do human rights begin? Many would say they begin right here at home. Closing Guantanamo is a start but the fight for Human Rights goes much deeper. Catherine Powell, the author of Human Rights at Home: A Domestic Policy Blueprint for the New Administration and an associate professor of Law at Fordham Law School says that human rights should include access to health care, equal opportunity for education, a living wage, and the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination in U.S. prisons. And Barack Obama can initiate a process of human rights reform through his appointments to domestic agencies, the Justice Department and by reestablishing the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights created under Clinton and abolished by George W. Bush. There are opportunities. Laura Whitehorn a political prisoner for fourteen years and the editor of POZ magazine says that the United States can no longer use the war on terror and the threat of terrorism to justify the abdication of human rights law. In essence, preventive detention has been legalized under the Bush administration.
But improving the U.S. human rights record will not necessarily come from the top down. Ajamu Baraka a leading human rights activist and the Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network says that it’s up to activists and the American public to push for more sweeping reform. And he thinks the public is up to it. Contrary to the U.S. record abroad and at home over the last eight years, the American public is very much in support of global human rights.
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Why is a U.S. Army brigade being assigned to the "Homeland"?
They'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it. They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. . . .
The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them. MORE

Unleashing the army on protesters. Our freedoms indeed. WHERE THE FUCK IS THE MEDIA ON THIS?

Well fuck me. Why did I ask?

In non-financial crisis news, the long predicted alliance of telecoms and entertainment titans have joined up to fight for infinite copyright, unlimited spying powers on your computer by private companies AND against net neutrality. This time, the coalition is called Arts+Labs (though I am going to call it the Hot Soup coalition for reasons that will become clear), and it includes members AT&T, Cisco, Viacom, NBC Universal and the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), and Microsoft. The coalition is run by two savvy insiders, one from each party, so that it will be officially bipartisan and serious. Behind door number one is Bush campaign media advisor Mark McKinnon, who now works at a firm called Maverick Media and formerly launched the high profile success story HotSoup (edited by McCain advisor/AP political editor Ron Fourner). And behind door number two is our favorite former Clinton White House press secretary, Mike McCurry, who apparently doesn't mind his reputation turning to complete shit. MORE


he's 17

Sep. 4th, 2008 01:15 pm
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Boot print on his back: Photographs, video of 17-year-old RNC protester after run-in with police

Melissa Smith-Tourville says her 17-year-old son Keith is a pacifist and “he’d never hurt anyone.” But yesterday he was the target of violence by police, she says: Trying to leave Monday’s march on the Republican National Convention, Keith was wrestled to the ground by five officers, according to his mother, who were “repeatedly kicking, beating, dragging and hitting him.” [Read Smith-Tourville's account of what happened.] Bloody, he was taken into custody by police for two hours and, his mom says, his release by St. Paul police was in violation of Minnesota law.
Smith-Tourville is seeking legal advice from Coldsnap Legal Collective. They told her that as a minor, state law says that Keith should’ve been put in contact with his parents. “Keith repeatedly asked to call his parents,” she says. “He said he can’t even count how many times he said, ‘Can I call my parents?’”

MORE pics and stories

Concert goers peacful, 102 arrested for "blocking traffic"

Hundreds of police (and dozens of media personnel) greeted concert-goers as they left the Rage Against the Machine concert at the Target Center in Minneapolis. No violence or property damage was observed, but 102 people were arrested for “blocking traffic.”
Police blocked vehicle traffic on 1st Avenue in front of the Target Center and many Rage fans simply sat on the curb waiting for something, anything, to happen. It would be half an hour before police ordered people to disperse or be arrested, and police on horseback had assembled a line on 6th Street.

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Via: The Campaign Silo at Firedoglake

ColdSnapLegal: reports the following was just on the Police scanner "Police are blocking 10th, 11th and St Peter and saying they are "going in for the kill because we are sick of this shit."

What, sick of allowing people their Constitutional rights? Really?

Along with the actions on the street, there are also a number of reports of mistreatment of those being held in the jail – a protester who is anemic and has passed out and was refused medical care, 15 others went on hunger strike to demand medical care for those who need it and there’s a report that one protestor being held has been pepper sprayed “all over her body” and is not being allowed to wash it off and now has 1st degree burns. We'll be getting contact information so folks can call and demand medical care for any in need.
Thanks to Doc Murphy, the contact numbers to use are:

St. Paul Mayor, Chris Coleman: 651.266.8510
Ramsey County Sherriff, Bob Fletcher: 651.266.8500

Complaint Number for the jail: 651-266-8989
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10,000 march, and then idiot anarchists start a riot. 250 arrested.

They had come in their thousands – grandmothers, veterans, young families and even disgruntled Republicans bearing banners and peace flags, to demand an end to the five-year conflict. And for the most part, the demonstrations passed off peacefully.

But once the main antiwar march had finished, splinter groups embarked on a violent rampage, smashing windows, slashing car tyres, throwing bottles and even attacking Republican delegates attending the nearby Xcel Centre.

Many of those involved identified themselves to reporters as anarchists. These protesters, some clad in black, wreaked havoc by damaging property and starting at least one fire.


The anti-war march was organised by a group called the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, whose leaders said they hoped for a peaceful, family friendly event. But police were on high alert after months of preparations by a self-described anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee, which was not among the organisers of the march.

Most of the trouble was in pockets of a neighbourhood near downtown, several blocks from where the convention was taking place. Police fired tear gas canisters and used pepper spray on protesters who tried to block key streets.

Up to 200 people from various groups marched in a noisy “Funk the War" march. Clad in black, protesters smashed windows of cars and stores, tipped over rubbish bins, pulled down street signs and bent the rear-view mirrors on a bus. Some wore gas masks and bandanas to protect themselves from smoke bombs and other chemical irritants. MORE

[ profile] janradder sums it up:

So a small group of idiots managed to make sure that the message of 10,000 played second fiddle to theirs. Now, if you're going to tell me that's the fault of the media, stop. You (the anarchists) know just as well as I do that that's what the media does. Of course people breaking stuff and trying to start a riot is going to get more ink and more air time than people marching peaceably in the streets, holding signs and chanting. You know that and I know that and to pretend otherwise is just making excuses for yourself. Sure, it's fun to run wild in the street, but tell me, how is what you did any different from the college kids who riot after their team wins a national title? Because I really don't see a difference. You may have a point to all this, but what is it? And how are your methods getting it across? How does slamming a dumpster into the side of an occupied squad car show you want the war to end? How does smashing the windows of a Macy's tell people you want a change in government? How does assaulting Republican delegates (including an 80 year old man who had to be treated for injuries) help convince people that what the Republicans are doing is wrong? How does throwing a brick through a bus window and injuring the blue collar driver let people know you care about unions and living wages? How does throwing bent nails, newspaper kiosks and garbage cans in the street show that you care about the environment? Because to me, your actions make you no better than the people you're "protesting" against. As many have said, the ends don't justify the means, but what exactly are your ends? To prevent the Republican delegates from attending their convention and thus suppressing their right to free speech because your rights are more important or valid than theirs? Maybe you do have a valid point to all this but I certainly don't see it. All I see is a bunch of self-righteous thugs using political action as an excuse to break the law.

What interests me, though, is the many incidents of pepperspray and teargas aimed directly, not at protestors, but at press people and observing lawyers and in one case, Donna Brazile

The Uptake and I-Witness Blog have more.
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The History of Breaking Up Protests Before They Can Happen, How Cops Have Spent Years Squashing the Right to Assembly and Free Speech

Today Jane and Lindsay -- together with Glenn Greenwald, Twin Cities Indymedia, and Pacifica -- gave us compelling reports from the Twin Cities: frontline du jour in corporatist America's seemingly endless War On The Commons. Congress - with eager support from Senator Amy Klobuchar - put out a trough of 50 million dollars to pull local "law" enforcement into the RNC feeding frenzy. As Amy K helpfully pointed out, Congress also set out 50 million troughs for local cops before the nominating convention in Denver last week and those in Boston and New York in 2004. That's on top of the tens (hundreds?) of millions for the Federal "Fusion Centers" and the FBI, Fatherland Homeland Security, Secret Service, and our very own Pentagon's Northcom -- the domestic strong arm of General Smedley Butler's enforcement racket—to criminalize public assembly and speech during yet another major party coronation. Why do America's corporatist controlled organs of "State Security" need to pay hundreds of millions every four years to keep paper maché puppets off the streets and out of the parks?

Today in the Twin Cities and last week in Denver—just as in New York and Boston in 2004 and LA and Philly in 2000—the nominating conventions pageants' "law" enforcement sit below the Department of the Treasury's Secret Service in the power pyramid. That's why every time local citizens and demo organizers go to Federal court to beg for some shard of the First Amendment to cover a "permitted" march route near the convention sites, their attorneys end up hearing the Secret Service has the final say in "security" decisions affecting the conventions. No surprise, then, that when local Twin Cities "law" enforcement went on a round-up rampage today, FBI and Fatherland Homeland Security were right there with the locals for (yet another) warrantless search.MORE

RNC Stasi Sweeps: A Bob Fletcher Special?

What the hell were Ramsey County sheriff's department people doing invading houses in Hennepin-fricking-County? That last question, as it turns out, helps to answer some of the others.
Bob Fletcher is the sheriff of Ramsey County. Bob Fletcher is a Republican from the formerly lily-white St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, which has for decades had an uneasy relationship with its southern neighbor. Bob Fletcher is also on the verge of losing his job, as a long-standing FBI corruption probe that has already taken out two of his buddies is drawing its net around him; he may well feel that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by using extralegal methods to please his RNC pals.
Sheriff Fletcher justified his tactics by amping up the alleged threat posed by the media groups and protesters whose lodgings were invaded:
In a statement Saturday morning, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the St. Paul raid targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group he described as "a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists...intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention."
"These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers," Fletcher said. Deputies seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience: a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots, homemade "caltrops" for disabling buses, even buckets of urine.
Some folks begged to differ:
But the raids drew immediate condemnation from activists and St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune, whose district includes the former theater at 627 Smith Avenue South, which was rented by activists as a gathering space.
"This is not the way to start things off," Thune said Saturday morning. "This is sending the wrong message. Regardless of how you feel about these people...they had a right to be there."
Thune was especially critical of Fletcher for taking action within St. Paul city limits.
"I'm really ticked off...the city is perfectly capable of taking care of things," Thune said. "If they had found anything that could have been used to commit a crime they would have arrested somebody."
Said Thune: "Unless they come up with anthrax or weapons of mass destruction, I think they came up short."

[ profile] permibus reports:


Please Post Far and Wide including any Media Contacts You May Have

At approximately 6:25 pm on August 30, 2008 Minneapolis Police, Minnesota State Troopers, Ramsey County Sheriffs, Saint Paul Police, and University of Minnesota Police pulled over the Earth Activist Training Permaculture Demonstration Bus (Permibus) by exit 237 on Interstate 94. Initially the police told the people on the bus to exit. When the people on the bus asked if they were being detained they were told that they were but police were unable to provide justification. When asked why they pulled the bus over they refused to answer. After repeated requests to explain why the bus had been stopped Officer Honican of the Minneapolis Police explained that this was just a routine traffic stop though he did not explain the reason for the traffic stop. The police then told Stan Wilson, the driver and registered owner of the Permibus, that they were going to impound the bus in case they wanted to execute a search warrant later. After more than an hour of being questioned by Stan and Delyla Wilson as to the legalities of their detainment and the impoundment of the Permibus, the police then informed Stan that the bus, which is legally registered as a passenger vehicle in the state of Montana, was being impounded for a commercial vehicle inspection. Shortly afterward Sergeant Paul Davis, a commercial vehicle inspector arrived on scene. Despite the polices insistence that the reason for impoundment was for a commercial vehicle inspection the Permibus crew were not allowed to remove anything from the bus including computers, toiletries, and 17-year-old Megan Wilson's shoes. The police finally allowed the animals to be removed from the Permibus before it was towed, leaving the Permibus family standing beside their chickens and dogs, homeless on the highway.

The Permibus was relocating from the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, where they had spent the day teaching Urban Permaculture, to a friend's house in Saint Paul for a well deserved break. The Permibus has been in the Minneapolis area since August 2nd when the crew appeared at the Midtown Farmers Market for a morning of Permaculture education including Permaculture 101, chicken care, seed ball making for kids, and the Permi-puppet show. During the past month the Permibus has parked at several local businesses and, as a neighborly gesture of respect for local police, Mr. Wilson contacted the appropriate precincts just to let them know the Permibus was in the area and had permission from the business owners to be parked on their lot. Through this, as well as other casual discussions with Minneapolis and Saint Paul police officers, the Permibus crew found the local police to be interested and respectful. However on August 30th all that changed when, for no apparent valid reason the police pulled over and seized the Permibus. After the incident Stan Wilson said, "If the combined law enforcement of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, and the State of Minnesota can pull over and impound a vehicle and home used to teach organic gardening and sustainability, one has to wonder what it is our government really fears. After all, we seek to teach people that the real meaning of homeland security is local food, fuel and energy production. For that we have had our lives stolen by government men with guns."

As of now, after repeated requests to be present at any vehicle inspection, with an list of what they are inspecting for, as well as requests to be served any warrants for searches of the vehicles prior to a search and to be present during the search the Permi-family has been unable to ascertain the current status of the Permibus. On site Mr. Wilson was told that Officer Palmerranky was the inspector in charge of the case and would determine if the Permi-family's rights protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure would be respected. Neither Officer Palmerranky nor his supervisor has yet to return Mr. Wilson's calls.MORE

Pics of teh seizure here

Goodman now released:

September 01, 2008
Update: Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar Released After Illegal Arrest at RNC


September 1, 2008

Contact: Mike Burke


Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar Released After Illegal Arrest at RNC

Goodman Charged with Obstruction; Felony Riot Charges Pending Against Kouddous and Salazar

ST. PAUL--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:
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First they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim. Then they came to detain immigrants indefinitely solely upon the certification of the Attorney General, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant.
Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a suspect.
Then they came to prosecute non-citizens before secret military commissions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a non-citizen.
Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peek" searches, and I didn't speak up because I had nothing to hide.
Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn't speak up because I had stopped participating in any groups.
Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America's enemies, and I didn't speak up because...... I didn't speak up.
Then they came for me....... and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer and President of the ACLU of Southern California, is indebted to the inspiration of Rev. Martin Niemoller (1937).

Press and Politicians Silent in the Face of the RNC Police Harrasment and Snatch Squads Speaks Louder Than Words

It's notable that as of this writing, at midnight, I see nothing on the NY Times front page or on their US page about the RNC harassment, arrests and snatch squads. I see nothing on the Washington Post's front page, or its Politics page. As best I am aware no major Democratic politician has made a statement that warrants should be required before busting down doors, or that protesters have a right to protest, or that people even have a right to see a warrant.
Why is that? Is it that there's a bipartisan consensus that civil liberties are just for talk, but when the handcuffs get slapped on people who have done nothing, when people are punished for crimes they haven't commited, that it's no big deal as long as they aren't anyone important? Is it that Democrats stirring words about civil liberties were as sincere as many of their promises to vote against warrantless wiretapping?MORE

Breaking: As Police Mass Downtown and 9 More People Are Arrested, Legal Groups File Emergency Motion to Stop Cell and Camera Seizures During RNC

Update: ColdSnap is reporting 9 arrests downtown near the Excel center and police massing all over the downtown core.

The National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality have filed an emergency motion to stop the seizure of cell phones and cameras during the RNC.

The groups will hold a joint press conference at Hennepin County Government Plaza to discuss their application for an emergency injunction, according to a tweet issued by the ColdSnap Legal Collective.

Habeas Corpus in Ramsey County, MN

he 6 activists arrested during police raids in advance of the Republican National Convention are being held without charge by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota Independent reports.

The arrestees are being held on probable cause holds. These holds give the authorities 36 hours to charge them or let them go. Holds are typically used to give investigators more time to gather evidence before filing formal charges.

Holds allow police to charge first and ask questions later. Sometimes that's a good thing. Arrest opportunities are unpredictable. A suspect could slip away in the time it takes to turn a solid suspicion into sufficient evidence to file charges. A probable cause hold buys the police some time to dot the i's and cross the t's.

However, it doesn't take a genius to see how the power to detain people without charge can be abused. For example, unethical police officers have been known to use frivolous holds as quickie jail terms. Piss off the police, spend 3 days in jail—no trial required. MORE
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Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.
In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.
Several of those who were arrested are being represented by Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild. Nestor said that last night's raid involved a meeting of a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee", and that this morning's raids appeared to target members of "Food Not Bombs," which he described as an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group. There was not a single act of violence or illegality that has taken place, Nestor said. Instead, the raids were purely anticipatory in nature, and clearly designed to frighten people contemplating taking part in any unauthorized protests.See videos and more reports here

Now, [ profile] haddyr has come up with a possible pretext for the raids, the fact that an organization calling itself the RNC Welcoming Committee was planning to disrupt the convention. However, other organizations such as Food, Not Bombs, to say nothing of members of I-Witness, a group that has the bad habit of filming the police doing rather illegal things (like arresting people without cause and lying about the circumstances) were also targeted and held in place until the raids were finished.

[ profile] fengi adds even more context to the story:
Now, there are some people I consider confrontational idiots among the protesters. I don't like dealing with them in Chicago either. It should be pointed out their plans to disrupt traffic was just one part, one page of the anti-RNC organizing site. They were not, in fact, the organizers of all protests. Nor is a public discussion of such tactics necessarily count as a criminal conspiracy. In fact, that's why it's public. The police used their plans as an easy excuse for their behavior, but that makes it no less of an excuse and no more legal.

Meanwhile, this flimsy pretext has been stretched to justify a general crackdown on activists. Including surrounding a house where a video activists which specialize in monitoring police behavior, this raid without a subpoena may have had FBI involvement and ended without any arrests.

Earlier this week, Minneapolis police officers detained three filmmakers from the New York based Glass Bead Collective and confiscated their cameras:
According to a statement from the collective, the officers refused to file an official incident report or fill out a receipt inventorying seized property, claiming that they were allowed to conduct the search and seizure under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security due to security risks leading up to the Republican National Convention.

Afterwards, the three journalists/artists were released without receiving any charges or tickets. (Police kept their belongings.) Teichberg said he recently learned that the Minneapolis Police Department is claiming they are being investigated for trespassing on train tracks. “We were targeted. They knew who we were. This was an attempt not to let us document what is happening at the convention… They’re taking away the media’s ability to protest,” he said.
The Glass Bead Collective was one of the groups involved in lawsuits against cops who assaulted Critical Mass riders.

There were incidents and rumors of police intimidation of reporters and protersters leading to the Society of Professional Journalists to issue a statement of concern.And that breathless police report?

Not to worry, the Republicans continue to be WAY out in front in the race to flush our Constitution down the toilet.
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Glenn Greenwald has two articles that need serious reading. Article number 1: The motivation for blocking investigations into Bush lawbreaking give a taste of a new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Hardcover), which chronicles how some of the highest ranking Democratic leadership were complicit in Bush's torture and other lawbreaking, and thus had powerful incentives to vote for the Patriot Act and FISA, as well as run away from the very possibility of impeachment as fast as they possibly can. Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Jay Rockefeller, and more, knew about illegal surveillance and torture from the very start, and thus, quote obviously, do not want investigations that reveal many inconvenient truths. The details are shocking, and revealing. Please, go get informed.

You may come away from that revelation feeling discouraged and disillusioned about the political process. You may even decide to drop out and say that politics is a dirty business anyway. But you can't. You really can't. You don't have the luxury to do that anymore. You need to act. Here is one idea how, from Article number 2: Accountability Now and Strange Bedfellows: The strategy and rationale

As the 2006 election and these subsequent events conclusively demonstrate, mindlessly supporting and electing more Democrats for its own sake doesn't solve or even mitigate anything. But it's also true that actions which result in handing Republicans control over any branches of the Government -- including supporting third-party candidates or abstaining from the process altogether -- makes matters worse still. Nobody who finds the above-documented events objectionable can rationally embrace a course of action that directly or indirectly empowers those who are the prime forces behind these events: namely, the mainstream GOP in its current incarnation.


All of that, in turn, leads to this pressing question: what is the best course for those who want to battle against these civil-liberties-destroying, rule-of-law-trampling, war-making policies that the GOP leadership pushes and the Democratic Party leadership supports, enables, and/or passively accepts? In a two-party system where blind support for either party will do nothing but perpetuate these policies, how can they be undermined?

The campaign we announced back in March to target "Bad Democrats," which has now evolved into Accountability Now and the Strange Bedfellows coalition, is designed to develop strategies for addressing that dilemma (I first announced and detailed how that coalition works here). Grounded in the premise that the Democrats are going to control both houses of Congress for the foreseeable future -- a premise virtually nobody disputes -- the primary objective has to be to alter the behavior of those who control the Congress.
Increasing the Democrats' margin of control doesn't achieve that goal. It does the opposite. Conveying to Democrats that you will support all of them no matter what they do, no matter how egregiously they trample on your values, only ensures that they will ignore your political priorities and values even more.

You can read about the groups accomplishments and future plans here.

Finally, Via Open Left, I came across the notion of Fusion Voting. What is that?

Fusion Voting

Voting issues instead of personalities

Fusion Voting is an old and time honored system used throughout the United States in the late 1800's and early 1900s. Fusion voting allowed some of the most progressive political leaders in America to be elected to public office because the Populist Party and Democratic Parties were able to "fuse" their nominations. Under fusion voting more than one political party can nominate the same candidate for the same office in any particular election. Therefore, a voter could, for instance, vote for Joe Solidarity for governor as either a Populist or as a Democrat as both parties are able to nominate the same candidate. Joe Solidarity's name could appear on the ballot twice for the same office, once as a Populist and then again as a Democrat.

This is what the ballot would have looked like:

Jack Bigbucks Republican
Joe Solidarity Populist
Sam Poor Socialist
Betsy Lost Independent
Joe Solidarity Democrat

The voter would mark one choice for each office just as the voter does now.

In this example the voter could vote for Joe Solidarity as either a Democrat or a Populist. The voter in effect chooses both the candidate and the party. First the voter chooses the candidate to vote for. Then the voter looks to see if that candidate is on the ballot for more than one party and, if so, chooses which party to vote for. In choosing the party, the voter declares his support for the principles of that party. The votes are tallied separately for each party, and Joe Solidarity gets the combined total votes from both ballot lines. If the race was especially close, the winner could see that without the votes cast on the "third Party" line, he might not have won. Third parties thus have leverage over that candidate.

Apparently, the tack was so successful that the Republicans succeeded in effectively banning it in most of the nation starting in the late 19th century In addition, the Supreme Court decided in 1997 that fusion voting is not a constitutionally protected right. (So much for Democracy.) Anyway, it is now legal in seven states, but the one in which it seems to be most successful is New York.
The Nation published The Power of Fusion Politics in 2005, which takes a look at the Working Families Party in New York, and how they have worked to enact progressive policies by playing Democrats against Republicans, and getting more progressive Democrats into power, to the benefit of the People of New York.

A few months earlier, the WFP operation hit Westchester County. Volunteers trawled suburban streets delivering the message: "We're telling State Senator Nick Spano that New Yorkers need a raise in the minimum wage." A few residents cursed and slammed doors. But more often than not they agreed, and received a sheet of paper, a pen and a chance to handwrite a plea to the Senator. "It's about time!" exclaimed an expensively groomed woman as she took a clipboard.

That wasn't the first or last time Spano, a high-ranking Republican, heard from his constituents--and the greeting wasn't always so polite. A few weeks earlier, Spano had endured an "accountability session," a public event community organizers use to extract commitments from elected officials. In a YMCA hall packed with some 150 union members and other activists, filled with cries of "$5.15 is not enough!" Spano expressed surprise at the turnout--and, knowing he had little choice, signed a poster-size pledge to push legislation raising New York's minimum wage to $7.10. "I am on your side," Spano declared. "I will deliver this personally to the majority leader."

But it was not just because he was caught on the spot that Spano came around on this issue--he knew that the Working Families Party, which organized the session, had a card to play: the ballot line in elections throughout New York State that it has wielded since 1998. In New York, election laws allow "fusion"--candidates for any public office can run as the nominee of more than one political party. The votes candidates receive are tallied separately by party, then combined. Like many candidates in New York State, Spano was hungry for the extra boost of that additional ballot line, which could make all the difference on election day. With the WFP's progressive seal of approval, Spano could expect some votes from people who might never otherwise support a Republican.


But the Working Families leadership was satisfied. In exchange for the endorsement of Spano and other Republicans in a tight race, state Republicans relented after years of opposition and hiked the minimum wage, which raised pay for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. By wielding the power to make or break one of its top leaders, Working Families pushed the Republican Party to take a progressive stance.


Items on the party's legislative agenda include universal healthcare, rent regulation, a living wage and closing the income gap through progressive taxation. Founded and led by a coalition of labor unions and community organizations--including the Northeast regions of the United Auto Workers and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), locals of the garment and hotel workers' union UNITE HERE and the service workers' SEIU, ACORN and Citizen Action--Working Families claims an organized bloc of voters committed to economic populism, and the party uses them to get major-party politicians to follow the Working Families agenda. Its organizers strive to appeal simultaneously to Nation-reading liberals, people of color alienated by the Democrats, and working-class whites.

The WFP's ability to reach that third group, which Republicans have so successfully wrested from the Democrats, says a lot about what fusion can accomplish. A poll of New York State CWA members found that non-Democrats were likelier than Democrats to use the WFP ballot line to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in 2000--of the 38 percent of that group who went for Clinton, eight in ten cast their vote under Working Families. Votes on the WFP line helped Democratic challenger Tim Bishop beat a conservative incumbent Republican Congressman on Long Island--in a district that went overwhelmingly for Republican Governor George Pataki on the same ballot.

WFP executive director Dan Cantor and a leadership circle of labor union political directors, community organizers and staff hunt for practical legislative and policy campaigns that will resonate with the party's target constituencies. "What issues do you want to move?" asks Cantor. "What moral disgrace brings issues into the electoral moment?" They then put those issues into play with a one-two punch: a grassroots field operation anchored by local chapters in the state's biggest counties, coupled with the ability, through fusion voting, to cross-endorse Democrats or Republicans for public office. Targeted politicians can't afford to ignore the party's agenda.

Imagine, ladies and gents, if more progressive organizations were pulling stuff like this during the FISA debacle. Imagine if we the people had been fighting using this and more tools for the cause of universal healthcare, or for or against any number of issues that are very important to our welfare and wellbeing.


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