Archive for November, 2006

In a shocking example of protest (that went unnoticed by the media for days) a Chicago man named Malachi Ritscher set himself on fire on a Chicago street to protest the war in Iraq:

At 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 3 – four days before an election caused a seismic shift in Washington politics – Ritscher, a frequent anti-war protester, stood by an off-ramp in downtown Chicago near a statue of a giant flame, set up a video camera, doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire.

Aglow for the crush of morning commuters, his flaming body was supposed to be a call to the nation, a symbol of his rage and discontent with the US war in Iraq.

“Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country,” he wrote in his suicide note. “… If one death can atone for anything, in any small way, to say to the world: I apologize for what we have done to you, I am ashamed for the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country.”

There was only one problem: No one was listening.

It took five days for the Cook County medical examiner to identify the charred-beyond-recognition corpse. Meanwhile, Ritscher’s suicide went largely unnoticed. It wasn’t until a reporter for an alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader, pieced the facts together that word began to spread.

Jeeze, what do you gotta do to get peoples’ attention nowadays? Apparently setting yourself on fire just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Lame jokes aside, his point is well taken. We are over in Iraq, killing people for no apparent reason. They certainly don’t represent a threat to us. But the bastards have somehow placed their country on top of our oil!

Don’t worry, Cowboy George will get it back. I wonder if he can repair the dead and burnt flesh of a man who was so opposed to Bush’s policies he killed himself.

Turkey Uprising Fails! …And band news.

A belated “Happy Thanksgiving” to you all. Sorry if I’ve been, I dunno… – distant, lately. I had a great time with family and friends and I hope the same is true with you. As for my whereabouts, let me assure you they were… where I was… about.

We (meaning “the band”) have starting recording a new (okay, the) album. We worked on it every spare moment during Thanksgiving vacation, and we got a few songs pretty much in the can. But there are many that need a lot of work yet. A few of the songs are perhaps more… fluid than I would like. We hope to nail them down soon.

As for the band name, I’m open to suggestions. We’ve been trying to think of one for months to no avail. Help us, or we’re stuck with Geeech!

Man Tasered While Having an Epileptic Seizure

Apparently cops are quite likely to taser first and ask questions later (or never). The Epilepsy Foundation has a story about Daniel Beloungea, an epileptic from Michigan, who was tasered, beaten and handcuffed at gunpoint while having a seizure:

According to police reports, when Mr. Beloungea was unresponsive to police direction, the bag he was carrying was kicked by police from his hand, and when he flailed his arms involuntarily, he was tasered, sending 50,000 volts of electricity through his body (risking serious injury or death); hit with a police baton; threatened at gunpoint; and handcuffed behind his back. (The handcuffing itself is dangerous for persons experiencing a seizure, as it can lead to further seizure-related agitation and struggling, possibly causing asphyxiation or even cardiac arrest.) He was then prosecuted for assaulting police officers and disorderly conduct, notwithstanding considerable evidence, including the state’s own mental health evaluation, confirming that his actions were involuntary and solely the product of a seizure.

I’m sorry, but this would be fucking hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. I mean, this is a classic comedy setup of the mistaken-identity sort (medical identity in this case — the cops ignored his medical alert bracelet) in which our hero is repeatedly beaten by idiotic cops. Of course, in this case it actually happened and the protagonist in this tale is a real man who suffered real consequences, including having to plead before a judge.

It’s just another example of how our legal and law enforcement system has become a piece of machinery, devoid of human considerations. For the cops, lawyers, judges, etc. it’s just a job. They get so used to dealing with “guilty” people that they start to assume everyone they encounter is guilty, rather like the old proverb: If you only have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

We need to get a sense of humanity and blind justice back into our system. As is, the legal system is becoming an end unto itself, existing for its own benefit rather than for ours.

Police officers need to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty and that strangeness or rudeness is not illegal behavior. It might be convenient and efficient for cops to shoot/taser first and ask questions later, but that doesn’t make it right.

We would have crime-free cities and efficient courts if police officers were given more powers and if our rights were stripped away. North Korea, by most estimates, does not have a significant crime problem. But would you want to live there? That’s the curse of Freedom. We have to accept some bad with the good.

Update: It turns out that Norman Abrams, the Acting Chancellor of UCLA has written a book called Anti-Terrorism and Criminal Enforcement, (2nd ed., 2005) which makes me wonder if his views about combating terrorism have affected the way he “protects” students on campus. I suppose if you’re jumping at shadows and seeing terrorists in every corner (or library) then you might be inclined to overreact to minor incidents, turning a molehill into a mountain. Something to consider as the investigation (assuming there is one that’s more than a PR whitewash) continues…

Fascism is on the rise in California as campus security felt obliged to taser a student at least 4 times for not having his ID in the library. He was on the ground for at least 3 of those tasers, and he is not accused of acting violently. Here’s a quick recap from the campus newspaper:

At around 11:30 p.m., CSOs asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check. The student did not exit the building immediately.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

The student began to yell “get off me,” repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition.

It’s at about this point that the video you’re about to watch begins. The audio is loud and painful to listen to as the student is shocked repeatedly. This video is disturbing to anyone who values freedom. You have been warned!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyvrqcxNIFs]

The video doesn’t have the best camerawork, that’s for sure. But you can get an impression of what happened from it.

A follow-up story in the student newspaper makes clear that the student was handcuffed for at least one (probably more) of the taser shocks. The story also offers some information about the use of tasers:

But according to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.

“It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control,” said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

“The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death,” Eliasberg said.

According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

My main question is this: How do the campus security officers’ actions protect anybody? During this huge commotion that followed their illegal tasering, anything could’ve happened in that library. Women could’ve been raped in the bathroom. Laptops could’ve been stolen. It could have sparked a riot. So, how do their actions help anything?

It seems to me that these were just a bunch of thugs trying to assert and protect their authority, which is clearly more important to them than human rights or the students’ constitutional liberties.

I am simply disgusted with the actions of the campus security team. First, they caused a scene that didn’t need to happen by laying hands on the exiting student. Second, they tasered the hell out of him when there was no need to. With several officers present and no violent actions on the part of the student there was simply no reason to taser him. Being loud in a library is not a taser-able offense. Third, they tasered him again and again and again as he was lying helpless on the ground! That is absolutely unacceptable.

I can think of no other word but “fascism” to express my feelings about the actions of the officers in this video. Certainly, “abuse of authority” and “police brutality” come to mind, but they don’t really sum up the mindset of the officers fully.

The mindset is the scariest thing. It seems to be that “authority must be obeyed at all times, no matter what.” That is not consistent with the student’s constitutionally protected rights, which place his inalienable rights far above any sort of convenience achieved by granting limited authority to officers of the peace. I’m sure it would be much more convenient to give police officers unlimited power to use and abuse as they saw fit, but such an arrangement is totally incompatible with the concepts of freedom and liberty for which our forefathers fought and died. Freedom is far more important than being quiet in a library or being cooperative with police.

I hope that these “cops” will be fired and arrested for their gross breach of this student’s constitutional rights, not to mention sued for monetary compensation to make up for the excruciating physical pain he must’ve experienced (those screams will stick with me longer than I might wish).

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. All over the country police are acting with impunity as they violate citizens’ rights and trample over civil liberties. I’ve covered some of these including when Miami police shot peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and then laughed and joked about it, or when cops beat and arrested a man trying to get a form to report police brutality. Also disturbing is a video of cops using vicious chokeholds on peaceful protesters.

How can we bring sanity back to our government? Who will protect us from the police? Well, the answer is: No one! We must protect ourselves, and each other. If you witness police brutality, be sure to report it, and capture it on tape if you can. Of course, be careful that you don’t get beaten when you try to file that report.

A quick update for you. First, for those of you whose ears are still ringing from my previous post on instant-runoff voting (IRV) will be glad to know I’ve found an article that deals with the Hutchinson/Hatch/Pawlenty spoiler question in a much calmer fashion:

There are three reasons why the conventional wisdom about Hatch’s defeat is wrong. First, according to the Star Tribune’s own exit polling, 43 percent of self-proclaimed independents voted for Tim Pawlenty, and 43 percent voted for Hatch. This suggests that independents — who were the people Hutchinson most appealed to — were equally inclined to vote Republican as DFL. Therefore, a strong argument could be made that Hatch’s defeat would have been no worse without Hutchinson in the race.

Many of Hutchinson’s most visible and prominent supporters were Republicans, including former Lt. Gov. Joanell Dyrstad; former House Speaker Rod Searle, and scores of other prominent business leaders.

Second, and again using the Star Tribune’s own polling, Peter Hutchinson’s support in the polls from the time of the State Fair through Election Day remained consistent at about 7 percent. This implies that any last-minute erosion of Hatch’s support did not go to Hutchinson, but straight to Pawlenty.

Frankly, it sounds like dude read my post and just toned it down a bit and threw in some salient facts. I suppose I could’ve done the same, but I have a blog so I don’t have to get in print to be heard. Was my voice heard? Who knows…

Next on the list, I was surprised and delighted to learn than Minneapolis voters have chosen instant-runoff voting (by a 2 to 1 ratio!) for most city elections, starting in 2009:

There are still hurdles to be cleared before instant runoff’s planned launch three years from now — for one, setting the ground rules on precisely how the system will work. Then there’s an estimated $1.2 million to $1.4 million cost to implement the system, mostly for new voting equipment. And there’s a chance that opponents will mount a legal challenge.

But if all goes through, the 2009 election for mayor and City Council will be like nothing Minneapolis voters have seen.

Instead of two elections for those offices — a primary and a general contest — there will be just one. The ballot will ask voters to rank their first, second and third choices for each seat, provided there are that many candidates.

Those second and third choices could end up putting a candidate over the top, if the race is close.

Congrats are in order for Minneapolis voters. They have chosen a good system — way better than the current one. Perhaps this type of referendum is the way to get IRV involved in elections across the nation.

As TJ made clear in the comments of my previous IRV-related post, IRV does NOT eliminate possible electronic voting machine fraud. And in fact, IRV almost demands voting machines (tallying the votes is really hard otherwise). Personally, I’d be fine with going back to pen and paper, but I’m not sure if that’s in the cards. We may have to focus on securing the optical scanners we currently have. I see no reason why we need touch-screen voting machines. That’s just crazy — and highly insecure. At least with optical scanning machines there is a paper record that can be recounted if there is evidence of fraud.

Speaking of fraud, it sounds like it might have occurred in Florida:


It’s just the first step of what is likely to be a litigious aftermath to a close and ugly election (thanks in part to the NRCC’s rampant robo calling in the district). The state began a recount and audit of the election yesterday. Once the audit and second recount is completed and the results certified on November 20th, the Jennings campaign has ten days to contest the results of the election if they still show Jennings down. Before the recounting began, she was down 386 votes.

The fight will center around the district’s Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) — what’s called an “undervote.” That’s compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.

A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials “had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record” on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.

This is just one example of electioneering. There have been numerous reports of fraud, machine problems and mysterious results across the nation. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to assemble a complete list, but a good place to start is Greg Palast’s place. I’m hoping he will have a comprehensive report on the 2006 midterms soon. The Brad Blog is another great resource, as is BlackBoxVoting.org. Let me know in the comments if you find anything juicy!

You can’t make shit like this up:

The two-part television interview, titled “O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened,” will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 on Fox, the TV network said Tuesday.

“O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes,” the network said in a statement. “In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade.”

Not only is he a murderer, he’s also a publicity hound.

Normally I’d insert something snarky and sarcastic here, but is there really any need? I mean, this pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? He’s had 10+ years to think about it, and now he’s going to tell us how he would rather have done it, given what he knows now. Well, that’s just great.

Perhaps he can take on the Kennedy assassinations next. Hell, why not do a reality TV show:

“It’s O.J. Simpson in… How I Would’ve Murdered Those People: The Most Famous Murders in History, Seen Through the Eyes of a Calculating Psychopath. This week O.J. tells us how he would’ve whacked JonBenet Ramsey!”

Look for it on Fox.

Shitty day.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

What a shitty day. Nothing too horrible, just left me wondering: When’s Timmy-time? When do I get time for me? It seems like I’m working my life away… and I am. Is this really what I want to do with my life? It’s so short, and it’s slipping away… Is this it?

Why does it seem like we get busier and busier every year? Why don’t Americans use their supposed wealth to stretch out their leisure time? Isn’t that the definition of freedom? But I bet most of you are stuck with whatever PTO time the company gives you… and the rest of you can only wish you had PTO time.

Is this freedom? Is this wealth? How come I feel so poor in the time department? I’d gladly trade some money for some more time… but I don’t have enough money either.

They keep telling me that Americans are rich, richer than most of the rest of the world. Is that so? Then how come we have to work so much? After cost of living expenses and inflation are factored in it seems to me that we’re just like everybody else. Just trying to get by, day by day. Working more than we should because we can’t control our own hours. We can’t get the job we really want, we can’t spend as much time with friends and family as we’d like and if we complain too much we’re out on the streets. You call this freedom? I call it economic bondage.

So this is what it feels like to be a wealthy slave.

It certainly seemed as if he was trying to brag about how “democratic” we are to actually bother holding elections during war time in his radio address:

“We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war.”

We won’t make that mistake again!

Bush is trying to use his loss to make himself look magnanimous. Secretly, I think, he’s wishing he had invented an excuse to suspend elections.

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Bush eats a kitten, gets boost in polls

Glenn Greenwald has pointed out how the media silently covers Bush’s tracks by changing their own stories to hide evidence of Bush’s bald-faced lying:

At some point, the Post changed what was the accurate reporting — that Bush expressly acknowledged that he “misled” reporters because he had “indicated that he had made the decision to replace Rumsfeld before the elections” — by claiming in the new version that he merely “contemplated” Rumsfeld’s exit before the election. Worse, the Post deleted entirely the accurate statement that the President “appeared to acknowledge having misled reporters.”

I don’t see why he’s incredulous. Bush has been protected like a princess by the press from day one. This is certainly not his first blatant lie, and the media has ignored most of those as well.

Hell, Bush could eat a baby kitten live on TV and the networks would censor it from all subsequent broadcasts, deny that it was a big deal, and then accuse anyone who made a stink about it of suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. No doubt some neo-cons would manage to smear the kitten’s good name by implying that she was a terrorist sympathizer. Democrats in Congress would be conspicuously silent and once the networks had completed their Orwellian re-writing of history no one would be able to prove that there even was a kitten.

Now, let’s all just assume that the photo above is just a really good Photoshop job.

Yes, the elections went pretty well — better than we might have expected, but we’re still stuck with two factions of the Business Party. At least now there’s some hope — a fool’s hope, but we have nothing else.

We’re gonna need all the help we can get given what Bush has in store for us. If we don’t lean on the Democrats and make them demand accountability from the Bush Regime and the 109th Congress we can kiss our freedom and our future goodbye.

In an excellent article on Yahoo write Ted Rall lays out the terrifying anti-Constitutional laws that the 109th passed (and Bush signed) shortly before the election:

On October 17, 2006 Bush signed the Military Commissions Act. The new law, scarcely mentioned in the media, is breathtaking for the breadth of its attack on basic rights. Under the MCA either the president or the secretary of defense may declare you an “enemy combatant”–as usual, without proof. Under that designation you may be jailed, without the right to an attorney, for the rest of your life. You can even be tortured. Your U.S. citizenship can’t protect you. And it’s all “legal.”

The Military Commissions Act got all the press for taking away Habeas Corpus:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUzUljH8EHU]

But the John Warner Defense Authorization Act might be even more onerous.

About a week ago some left-wing bloggers began circulating rumors that Bush had secretly signed something called the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007″ that “allows the president to declare a ‘public emergency’ and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to ‘suppress public disorder.’” I couldn’t find the text of the law at the time, formerly H.R. 5122, or a reliable media account, so I decided not to report on it.

I can now confirm the bloggers’ account. Bush signed the JWDAA hours after the MCA, in a furtive closed-door White House ceremony. There is, buried deep down in Title V, Subtitle B, Part II, Section 525(a) of the JWDAA, a coup. The Bush Administration has quietly stolen the National Guard away from the states.

Oh great. Bush has a standing army at his disposal. We can only guess what he’ll do with that power. If it’s like anything else he’s done he’ll fuck it up. But that could mean anything from invading Iran with our National Guard to… well, enslaving America under his fascist tyranny.

Given the way Bush has ruled for the last 6 years which do you think is most likely?

What can you do about it? Well, you can start by educating yourself about the underlying causes of our current bout of fascism.

Jesus Criminey Christ on a fucking pogo-stick. The Democrats just swept to power in both houses of Congress and here they are attacking 3rd party voters in Minnesota for not voting for Mike Hatch and Patty Wetterling:

What makes Peter Hutchinson any less hypocritical than the politicians he thinks he is so different from? If he really cared about the issues that will make this a better state for Minnesotans, he would have thrown his support to Mike Hatch.

As for all those who voted for him, you too are sadly self-centered in your approach to the world. I am sorry for the personal, psychological neediness that always seems to manifest with spoiler candidates. Spoiler candidates impact the course of history — sometimes as dramatically as the 2000 presidential election. Is this the goal in the end — to leave your mark no matter how many people you drag down with you?

ELLEN WILCOCK, MINNEAPOLIS

First of all, Fuck you, Wilcock. What gives you the right to tell me how to vote? Why don’t you talk to the Republicans who elected Pawlenty rather than bitching about people who dared to vote for a candidate that wasn’t Hatch or Pawlenty? What so offends you about my right to choose who I vote for? Perhaps you would feel better in a setting more akin to Iran wherein the candidates are selected by the state ahead of time so nobody even has a chance to vote against the approved candidates. Would you prefer that, you fucking fascist?

Do you wanna know why I didn’t vote for Hatch, Mrs. Wilcock? BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU. That’s right, YOU are the reason that Hatch lost. You, and people like you who are so fucking sure that people who vote for independent/3rd party candidates would vote for Democrats if there wasn’t another option on the ballot. Well, guess what: You’re wrong. Don’t ever fucking try to tell me how to vote again you ungrateful, self-righteous bitch.

The Democrats are just as much a part of the problem as the Republicans. Democrats are like the abused wives who continually back down and let — even encourage — abusive husbands (the Republicans) continally beat the shit out of them. In this horrible, yet oddly appropriate analogy the third parties are like their children. The abused wife likes to take out her frustrations by screaming at the children because she’s too weak to take on the abusive father. Get a fucking clue, Wilcock, and move out! Aim your venom at the people who deserve it — the Republicans! Stay the fuck off my back.

And although you may be too stupid and weak to understand, some of my readers are not so I will explain to you how it works. Point 1: There is only one major political party in America: The Business Party. The Business Party (a.k.a. The Corporate Party) has two factions. These factions are called Republicans and Democrats. They serve the same master — the corporate interests that utterly control our country and, by extension, the world. The two-party system is a sham. The corporations simply do not allow anti-corporate candidates into their party, either faction. Try to name me an anti-corporate senator or congressman. There aren’t any. Questioning corporatism is a legitimate (even populist) position, but you won’t find any of those people in the halls of Congress. You will find candidates who are opposed to corporate power, but they are almost all Green Party candidates.

Watch this video clip of Noam Chomsky’s explanation of our political system, starting with The Business Party:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk8pxyAWTBk]

Point 2: Democrats and Republicans have a symbiotic relationship, which is to say that they feed off of each other and support one another. One cannot exist without the other (in their present form — the names of the factions are irrelevant). You notice how the excesses of the Republican Congress/Administration pushed the American people right into the waiting arms of the Democrats? Well, it works both ways, as you’ll remember from 1994. When the Democrats go too far the Republicans step in. They seized power because of the corruption and stupidity of the Democrats in 1994 (sound familiar?). Do you see how they trade power back and forth, like a ping-pong ball? So no matter how inept and corrupt a party (faction) gets the Corporate Party still wins! They win every election. They choose every major candidate and they are never disappointed on election day.

As Chomsky pointed out, this is the way the Republic was designed. We are not a democracy any more than North Korea is. Remember, when this nation was founded the only people who could vote were white males, most of whom were rich landowners. Today, the only people who can afford to run for office are the rich, and the only people who can afford substantial campaign contributions are also rich. Thus, the rich are the only ones who matter. The rest of us merely choose between two rich guys with rich backers, both of whom support the business party and the business class.

So, Mrs. Wilcock, are you still determined to disparage my vote against the Business Party? Well, maybe that’s because you’re a part of the ruling class. Or maybe you’re too stupid to know the difference. Either way you contribute to its continued rule. My vote against the ruling elite had no effect — it’s designed to be that way. But at least I voted my conscience and I did it as an educated person rather than a bandwagon-jumping automaton who doesn’t realize that she’s voting against her own interests — assuming you’re not part of the ruling class. If you are, well then what are you complaining about?

America was never quite what it was advertised as. But over the years it’s gotten better as minorities and women (even women like Mrs. Wilcock) were given the right to vote. If we really want to change the system we have to look honestly at what we have; it’s not so great. People like me are utterly shut out of political decisions and people like Wilcock are so fucking deluded and confused that they might as well live in a completely different country. So why not make a change?

The solution to our problem is called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). There are many ways to structure the system, but most boil down to this: Rank your preferred candidates in order of preference. Don’t rank candidates that you dislike. Then the results are tabulated so that if no candidate gets 50% the lowest vote getter is eliminated and the voter’s second-choice candidates are added to the totals of all remaining candidates. See a Flash demonstration here.

Next time, Mrs. Wilcock, rather than writing into the newspaper and screeching at people who exercised their constitutional right to vote for whomever they wish, you should write in and encourage Minnesota to adopt Instant Runoff Voting. Of course, since I called you a fascist bitch you’re not likely to do that. But the rest of you should know that Instant Runoff Voting is better than having to listen to this lecture again, which is what you’re gonna get if you try and tell me who to vote for. So support IRV!!

This is something of a shocker. I thought they were gonna keep Rummy until the bitter end. But after the Democrats took the House and now — possibly — the Senate, Rummy and friends probably realized that he was going to be eaten alive before committees of all kinds. He’ll probably still have to testify, but cutting him loose was a smart move. The ready-made replacement, Robert Gates, is an old CIA hand who was investigated during the Iran/Contra scandal. Not exactly inspiring. We can expect more of the same from Gates.