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Archive for June, 2010

Jack Layton has Obama/Rae Syndrome

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Below is the text of an email I just sent to the Federal New Democratic Party of Canada in response to this statement by the party:

Statement on the vandalism in downtown Toronto by NDP Leader Jack Layton
Sun 27 Jun 2010

New Democrats tonight add their voices to all those calling for an end to the violence and vandalism taking place in downtown Toronto.

Peaceful and lawful protests are important in a democracy and help raise important issues. Torontonians have often marched and protested peacefully on these streets, with virtually no serious incidents.

And then I wrote:

I am currently living in the U.S. but am a Canadian citizen and when I live in Canada I am a New Democrat. At one time I was active at the riding, provincial/territorial and federal levels. I was a federal councilor for the Yukon 1n the 1980’s and a provincial candidate for the NDP in the 1990 Ontario election.

From where I sit, it looks as though the NDP is making a horrible mistake by not condemning the police violence in Toronto as well as the vandalism caused by a small number of protesters. Actually, given that the police have used agents provocateurs in the past, perhaps we should be careful when talking about who did what in the streets.

Perhaps public opinion can’t yet see the police violence or the fact that almost all of the demonstrators were peaceful. But the truth will out.

Remember how Tommy Douglas and the NDP opposed the War Measures Act in the face of public opinion and media criticism. What does Canada think of Tommy Douglas now?

The NDP should be very wary of making the same mistakes Bob Rae made when he alienated his base, as Barack Obama is doing now. Many NDP supporters are horrified by the actions of the police as well as the vandalism. Oh and by the way, breaking a window is wrong but it is worse to break a peaceful demonstrators head.

No matter the short term cost, do the right thing and political rewards will one day follow.

Written by slothropia

June 28th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Toronto Cops Wait for End of O Canada to Charge Protesters and Shoppers

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I guess they didn’t want to interrupt Canada’s national anthem.

This occurred at the intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, a popular shopping, restaurant and entertainment area. My understanding is shoppers were caught with the protesters.

Written by slothropia

June 27th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Toronto Cops Following Miami Model

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Thanks to a poster on Babble who alerted me to this piece by columnist Catherin Porter in the Toronto Star. It’s all about the script that Toronto cops are following this weekend. It is a plan that is often followed in the United States at political conventions for example. Here are the main elements:

Information warfare. This starts weeks before the event. Protesters are criminalized and dehumanized, and described as dangerous “anarchists” and “terrorists” the city needs to defend against.

“Often, a faux cache is found,” says Archer. “They are usually ordinary objects, like bike inner tubes, camping equipment, but the police make them out to look threatening. It lays the groundwork for police to be violent and it means there’s a reduced accountability of law enforcement.”

Intimidation. Police start random searches of perceived protesters before any large rallies. They are asked where they are staying, why they are walking around. Police raid organizer’s homes or meeting places, “usually just before the summit, so there’s maximum chaos organizers have to deal with,” says Archer.

“All this is meant to dissuade participants. The best way to make sure you don’t have a critical mass of people taking over the streets like in Seattle is to reduce the numbers at the outset.”

This is usually made possible by last-minute city regulations, curtailing the right to protest. In Miami, the city commission passed a temporary ordinance forbidding groups of more than seven to congregate for more than 30 minutes without a permit.

“They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

“It’s the same lies every single protest,” she says. “It’s justification by law enforcement for their violent actions. This is a propaganda war.”

Job well done. At the end, regardless of the bodies clogging the temporary holding cells and hospitals, the police always congratulate themselves. And by the time the cases go to court, the story is long forgotten and the circus has moved to a new unsuspecting town.

More than 270 people were arrested in Miami during the summit seven years ago . How many were convicted, in the end? I called the American Civil Liberties Union to find out.

“None,” said lawyer Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who was the president of the Miami chapter back then.

Written by slothropia

June 27th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Maybe Canada’s Not a Socialist Paradise After All

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Why is it that cops everywhere seem to use these occasions to let their little ids go crazy? Do thier wives and lovers not love them enough?

In a remarkable series of Tweets early Sunday morning, journalist Steve Paikin of public broadcaster TV Ontario said he witnessed “police brutality” against a reporter and the arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

“I saw police brutality tonight. It was unnecessary. They asked me to leave the site or they would arrest me. I told them I was doing my job,” he Tweeted.

“As I was escorted away from the demonstration, I saw two officers hold a journalist. The journalist identified himself as working for ‘the Guardian.’ He talked too much and pissed the police off. Two officers held him a third punched him in the stomach. Totally unnecessary. The man collapsed. Then the third officer drove his elbow into the man’s back. No cameras recorded the assault. And it was an assault.”

Paikin had been at a demonstration in Toronto’s Esplanade neighborhood, a densely-populated area near the waterfront. He said police moved in on a crowd of peaceful, “middle class” protesters and began arresting them.

“Police on one side screamed at the crowd to leave one way. Then police on the other side said leave the other way. There was no way out,” he Tweeted. “So the police just started arresting people. I stress, this was a peaceful, middle class, diverse crowd. No anarchists. Literally more than 100 officers with guns pointing at the crowd. Rubber bullets and smoke bombs ready to be fired. Rubber bullets fired.”

Paikin, a respected journalist who has hosted national election debates in Canada, said he was “escorted” away by police before he could see how many people were arrested, “but it must have been dozens.”

“I have lived in Toronto for 32 years. Have never seen a day like this. Shame on the vandals and shame on those that ordered peaceful protesters attacked and arrested.”

Toronto cops have always had a mean streak and now they get to use it.

Written by slothropia

June 27th, 2010 at 9:49 am

Joanna Newsom and The Incredible String Band

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Joanna Newsom – a woman and her harp against the world. Although I hear she plays with other musicians these days.

Joanna would have loved the 60’s. she could have opened for The Incredible String Band.

Or vicey versa.

Written by slothropia

June 26th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Congressional Votes by Central Illinois Critters and Senators

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A bit over a month ago I promised to keep an eye on votes in the House of Representatives by three local Reps: Debbie Halvorson, Phil Hare and Aaron Schock. I also thought it would be a good idea to monitor actions by Illinois’ one and a half Senators (I can’t really consider Burris a real Senator. Can you?)

I am ashamed to say I have gone several weeks without recording such an update, but I will now try to redeem myself. If you are keeping score at home you can get roll call votes and all sorts of info on House actions at the House Clerk’s office.

Yesterday (June 24) the House passed a bill imposing tougher sanctions on Iran. All three locals voted yea. The Senate passed their version way back in March.

The House vote btw, was 408 to 8. The 8 nays included six Dems (among them Conyers and Kucinich) and two GOP (such as Ron Paul).

Also yesterday the House passed its version of a Medicare update bill to make sure Doctors are properly reimbursed for treating Medicare patients. This is the bill that Nancy Pelosi said would not be passed until the Senate dealt with a jobs/unemployment benefits bill. The Senate in fact dealt with such a bill this week, although it did not pass.

The House this week passed and sent to the Senate a bill to provide consumer protection to users of prepaid phone cards. Hare and Halvorson voted to protect consumers. Guess who Aaron Schock voted to protect. Yup. Corporations.

Other major legislation (excluding resolutions and amendment votes) passed by the House in recent weeks include:

  • The FHA Reform Act of 2010. All three locals voted for.
  • The Small Business Lending Fund Act, designed to give greater tax breaks to small businesses. Hare and Halvorson voted for but Aaron Schock and his Republican brothers and sisters apparently don’t think small businesses should get tax breaks to create jobs.
  • The DISCLOSE Act, to (among other things) require CEOs to appear in campaign ads their corporations pay for.
  • Again, Halvorson and Hare on one side and Aaron Schock on the other, the side of corporations of course. Quel surprise, non?

    OK, so that’s your quick and dirty summary of major House action over the last few weeks. I will be more diligent in the future.

    Coming soon, a rundown of Senate action since the Memorial Day break.

    Written by slothropia

    June 25th, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    D.O.A.: World War 3

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    And here, follow the bouncing ball:

    WW III, WW III, WW III, don’t you bloody see? WW III
    It doesn’t matter what you say, you won’t make it no bleedin way
    You haven’t got any choice, you really haven’t got any voice
    Preventive measures have been taken, it’ll really help against
    nuclear rapin
    No streets, no people, left on the land, the policy ran out on our
    That’s right…
    World war, lotsa fun
    People in a panic, on the run
    World war, lotsa fun
    White House is aimin the gun
    World war, lotsa fun
    People in a panic on the run
    World war, lotsa fun
    The kremlin’s aimin the gun
    We’re pawns in the middle, sittin ducks with no acquittal
    They’re gonna make us fight, protectin oil is our right
    Unlock them now on the flag deck, Soviet bombers you’re gonna net
    It’s breakin up the Richter scale, bombs away, they’re gonna sail
    No human lives stand in the way, cause we’re on our way to a new
    clear day
    That’s right…
    I really don’t want to die, World War III
    With A-bombs droppin from the sky, World War III
    Don’t give me your reasons why, World War III
    Just know I don’t wanna die, World War III
    Give’em any chance they’re gonna take it, give’em any rules they’re
    break it
    It really ain’t no riddle, I just know it ain’t gonna be little
    We haven’t got a clue on what we’re gonna do
    So we’re just pawns in the middle, sittin ducks with no acquittal
    End up dead, end up dead, end up dead
    End up dead, end up dead
    World War III, World War III, World War III, World War III
    Give’em any chance they’re gonna take it, give’em any rules they’re
    break it
    It doesn’t matter what flag you hoist, you really haven’t got any
    No human lives stand in the way, cause we’re on our way to a new
    clear day
    We’re just pawns in the middle, sittin ducks with no acquittal
    World war, world war
    World war, I don’t want it
    World war, I don’t need it
    World war, I won’t take it
    World war, world war, world war

    Written by slothropia

    June 21st, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Posted in Music

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    The GOP Thinks Joe Barton was Right

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    House Republicans may have pressured Joe Barton to retract his apology to BP for the $20 Billion “shakedown”, but they really agree with him. Also, they see a chance to snag a larger share of oil company political donations if they are nicer to them than Democrats are.
    Phoenix Woman at Firedoglake gets it right.

    But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Tories on both sides of the Atlantic, and the media organs that prop them up (the Economist, Torygraph and Daily Hitler Worshippers in the UK, FOX News et al in the US) have been doing everything in their power to shield the poor ickle BP from the oil-soaked pelicans coming home to roost.

    Written by slothropia

    June 20th, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Posted in Republican Party

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    The Clash: Know Your Rights

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    This video was put together a few years ago and of course the Clash hadn’t performed together for years before that. Last I heard, though, a lot of cops are still out of control, if one is to believe The Existentialist Cowboy. who says:

    I am of the opinion that police –presumably ‘public servants’ as we have been taught –ought to be video-taped, documented in any and every way possible. There is simply no reasonable compromise on this point. Either we are a free people or we are not! You are either for a free state or you are for a dictatorship that the right wing, the GOP in particular, is intent upon imposing upon us. It really matters little who occupies the White House; the U.S. government is owned!

    Watch the following video and try to remember what a free America used to be.

    Written by slothropia

    June 20th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

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    Which Side are You On?

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    Here’s the Dropkick Murphys’ version of Florence Reese’s Which Side are You On?

    It was posted on Union TV
    but I found it in this post at at Open Left. In this post, Paul Rosenberg discusses Glenn Greenwald’s response to the Blanche Lincoln victory over Bill Halter in last Tuesday’s Arkansas primary runoff. As Greenwald puts it:

    The run-off between Democratic Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln and challenger Bill Halter, which culminated on Tuesday night in Lincoln’s narrow victory, brightly illuminates what the Democratic Party establishment is…. Obama loyalists constantly point to the Blanche Lincolns of the world to justify why the Party scorns the values of their voters: Obama can’t do anything about these bad Democratic Senators; it’s not his fault if he doesn’t have the votes, they insist.

    Lincoln’s 12-year record in the Senate is so awful that she has severely alienated virtually every important Democratic constituency group — other than the large corporate interests that fund and control the Party….

    So what did the Democratic Party establishment do when a Senator who allegedly impedes their agenda faced a primary challenger who would be more supportive of that agenda? They engaged in full-scale efforts to support Blanche Lincoln….

    Ordinarily, when Party leaders support horrible incumbents in primaries, they use the “electability” excuse…. That excuse is clearly unavailable here. As Public Policy Polling explained yesterday, Lincoln has virtually no chance of winning in November against GOP challenger John Boozman….

    What happened in this race also gives the lie to the insufferable excuse we’ve been hearing for the last 18 months from countless Obama defenders: namely, if the Senate doesn’t have 60 votes to pass good legislation, it’s not Obama’s fault because he has no leverage over these conservative Senators. It was always obvious what an absurd joke that claim was; the very idea of The Impotent, Helpless President, presiding over a vast government and party apparatus, was laughable. But now, in light of Arkansas, nobody should ever be willing to utter that again with a straight face. Back when Lincoln was threatening to filibuster health care if it included a public option, the White House could obviously have said to her: if you don’t support a public option, not only will we not support your re-election bid, but we’ll support a primary challenger against you. Obama’s support for Lincoln did not merely help; it was arguably decisive….

    Rosenberg pretty much concurs with Greenwald’s argument, while acknowledging differing opinions from some commentators who are more quick to excuse the institutional corporatism in the Democratic Party, pundits such as Mori Dinauer at Tapped. Rosenberg also links to Ezra Klein who argues that Obama gives in on issues like the public option and off shore drilling because he the Presidency isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

    Rosenberg concludes:
    Of course no president gets everything they want. There are things beyond their power that prevent that. But what they do get is dependent on two things within their power: Their priorities, and their willingness to fight for those priorities. And the situation with Blanche Lincoln is deeply illustrative of both, regardless of whether Obama could have prevailed.

    The question, ultimately, is not whether Obama could have won. He himself said many times that change is hard. We all know that. The question, rather, is whether he would struggle. And, of course, the ultimate question: Which side is he on?

    I have asked myself the same question and the painful answer I keep coming up with is “Not the side of liberals, labor and working people, progressives, peace activists, civil libertarians or environmentalists.” On the other hand, he always seems to be able to do something for the corporations.
    On nearly every issue of national consequence that has been on the table since January 20, 20009, Obama has gone out of his way to distance himself from those constituencies that worked like hell to elect him. How many Sister Soulja moments does one President need anyway?