Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Call to Action: Demand an independent investigation into Sean Bell’s death

In Civil Liberties, Netroots, New York City, Policing, Progressive Politics, Race on November 29, 2006 at 5:08 pm

I’ve had a hard time finding information about protests and other actions surrounding the police murder of Sean Bell in Queens this past weekend. Luckily, our very own Thoyalil forwarded me a link to an online action being conducted by Color of Change.

The action is an online letter writing campaign (MoveOn style) to demand that the city allows for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor, as opposed to the DA prosecuting in this case, with the worry that DA’s are too closely tied to the police dept.

All you have to do is fill in your info and a pre-deisgned letter will be forwarded to the appropriate NYC depts. A copy of the letter is below:

Dear <Recipient>,

In the wake of Sean Bell’s tragic death this weekend, there is a burning desire for answers, and for justice, in New York City and across the country. We believe that justice can only be served by appointing an independent, special prosecutor with no ties to New York’s law enforcement community, and we are writing to urge that you do so.

Without an independent prosecutor, the investigation into Sean Bell’s death will be compromised by an inherent conflict of interest. District Attorneys regularly collaborate and work with police officers, and they should not be asked nor expected to conduct an investigation into potential wrongdoing by their friends and co-workers.

In meeting with the family and calling 50 shots by the police “unacceptable,” Mayor Bloomberg’s response to Sean Bell’s senseless killing was heartening. But it seems as though the mayor missed the point: he did not publicly acknowledge systemic issues that caused the shooting in the first place. The last few years have witnessed an increase in civilian complaints against the NYPD for harassment, racial profiling, beatings and false arrests against people of color in New York City. The systemic issues causing this pattern of police brutality cannot be addressed by an investigation led by someone close to the NYPD.

Too many unarmed Black men have died at the hands of the NYPD to deny that there’s a serious systemic problem. The NYPD is a force of over 37,000 uniformed officers. It’s larger than some small towns. We would never expect a town to simply police itself. But the truth is that no one is policing the New York City Police Department. In any large organization without adequate checks and balances, one can expect the kinds abuses and corruption that we’re seeing with the NYPD.

External oversight is desperately needed to prevent future tragedies like this one. Appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Sean Bell’s death is a necessary first step, but it should not be the last. I urge you to make sure that justice is served in the case of Sean Bell by insisting on the appointment of a special prosecutor.


[your name here]

One warning: When I did it, I thought that the Comments box on the side was for comments in addition to the letter. When my letter came through, it seemed to only include my comments (which were meant to be supplemental).


More info released about the cops in Queens

In New York City, Policing, Race on November 29, 2006 at 9:14 am

Yesterday and today, newspapers started publishing names and backgrounds of the police who were involved in the shooting in Queens this past weekend.  From one NYTimes article, the most notable piece is this:

One detective, Michael Oliver, 35, fired 31 rounds, according to an individual who knew the identities of the officers involved but was not authorized to release them.

Detective Oliver, who is white, joined the department 12 years ago, and has more than 600 arrests to his name, and multiple arrests involving guns, which the individual said underscored a history of restraint with his own firearm. His name was reported yesterday in The Daily News and The New York Post.

The fact that the officer who fired the most shots is white serves as more ammo in the argument that this is in fact a racial case.   Many people have been citing the racial makeup of the group of police, arguing that it’s different than cases in the past because non-white officers were involved.  But if the white officer is the one who unloaded two full clips, and took the time to reload, then that creates a deeper set of issues.

Do 600 arrests really mean anything from a guy who is willing to fire off 31 rounds?  Who’s to say that all 600 were legitimate?  Who’s to say that none of those weren’t racially motivated?

I think we need some more info.

You Were Put Here to Protect Us, But Who Protects Us From You?

In Civil Liberties, Culture of Corruption, New York City, Policing on November 28, 2006 at 11:28 pm

KRS-ONE said those words back in 1989. It is now 2006, 17 years later, and the words are still VERY relevant. After all, it seems that you aren’t able to leave your bachelor party these days without the fear of getting shot up by the police.

Hopefully everyone has heard about the police shooting in Queens by now, but if you haven’t, there is a good wrap-up of articles here.  The basic summary is that police in Queens fired 50 bullets at three unarmed men, who had gotten inside of their vehicle after leaving a bachelor party at a strip club, leaving one man dead and the other two injured. To top it all off, the man who died was the groom to-be and it was the night before his wedding day.

What exactly does the shooting mean in the context of police policy and average shots fired by police?

One NYTimes article said:

Officers are trained to shoot no more than three bullets before pausing to reassess the situation, Mr. Kelly said in his most detailed assessment of the shooting yet. Department policy also largely prohibits officers from firing at vehicles, even when they are being used as weapons.

Another NYTimes article said

One of the officers fired more than half the rounds, pausing to reload, and then emptying it again, 31 shots in all, according to the police. Another officer fired 11 shots. The others fired four shots, three shots and one shot apiece, the police said…

Statistically, the shooting is an aberration. The number of shots fired per officer who acted in the 112 shooting incidents this year, through Nov. 19, is 3.2, said Paul J. Browne, a department spokesman. Last year, that number was 3.7 shots fired per officer in 109 incidents. They are down from 4.6 in 2000 and 5.0 in 1995.

Another NYTimes article says:

But Saturday’s shootings may have violated department rules, which largely prohibit officers from firing at vehicles. According to police guidelines, officers can fire only when they or another person is threatened by deadly physical force, but not if that physical force comes from a moving vehicle alone.

“The theory is that if the cops have time to set up a clean shot, they have time to get out of the way,” said Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The cops shouldn’t be firing unless they have a clean line of fire. If they have the time to establish that shot they probably have time to get out of the way.”

What does this mean? Well in my opinion, these police committed a crime and used excessive force. Not only did they fire without seeing a gun, they fired way too many bullets and fired at a vehicle, which clearly violates policy. This goes especially for the cop who reloaded and fired 31 shots in total.

Last night, Mayor Bloomberg seemed to agree with me by calling the incident “unacceptable” at a press conference with family members and community leaders. Now, everyone wants to praise Bloomberg for creating dialogue with community members and for his initial stance on the incident. I do have to admit that this is praiseworthy, especially when comparing it to similar incidents during the time of Giuliani. BUT, we can’t let this be the end of it. Severe pressure needs to be put on Bloomberg and Kelly to not only address this situation by punishing the officers involved, but also to make steps to change policies and tactics, particularly when it comes to policing communities of color.

And to that you might say, “Why is it a racial issue? Some of the police involved were Black and Latino.” Well it’s a matter of sytematic and instituional racism. Why is it that incidents like this always victimize people of color? Why do they always occur in communities of color? It has nothing to do with the color of the police. It has to do with police policy, tactics, training, and the culture of the police force.

I will post up other actions and events about this case as they occur, but the first news I have on that end is the following (from the blog linked to above):

The police officers’ group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care said it was issuing a vote of no confidence in Kelly over the shooting.

Community leaders planned a rally Dec. 6 at police headquarters.


The above image is from a post on The Gothamist about this topic, which is also worth a read. One piece of the story mentioned here that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the following:

Police officers were also criticized for handcuffing Guzman and Benefield to their hospital beds for much of the day. While the police say they were uncuffed when it was realized they had been unarmed, their relatives say they were only uncuffed after “press inquiries.”

Paul Mooney comments on Michael Richards

In Misc., Race on November 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm


For the most part, Michael Richards going on a wild racist rant is last week’s news. However, I thought this clip was so good that it deserved to be posted up. The clip is Paul Mooney offering his opinions about the situation during a CNN interview. Even though it’s not a light subject, he says some very funny things and puts everything in a slightly new perspective.

(For some reason the video isn’t showing up here, so go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cuX2uYOi4g)

Guilty of Independent Journalism; “Live, act — and report back — like them!”

In Brad Will, Civil Liberties, Consumerism, Culture of Corruption, Direct action, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Trade, Land rights, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City, Progressive Politics, US Politics on November 26, 2006 at 6:49 pm

From SF Bay Guardian:

The pogrom against independent journalists who refuse to conform to corporate media definitions of what a reporter should be continues full throttle. The murder of Indymedia correspondent Brad Will on Oct. 27 on the barricades in Oaxaca by gunmen in the employ of that southern Mexican state’s bloodthirsty governor segues into the denial of the courts to release 24-year-old Josh Wolf from prison during the life of a federal grand jury…

Read the rest and as the author, John Ross, writes “Live, act — and report back — like them!”

Black Friday (narrated by Cool Calm Pete)

In Consumerism, Media Criticism, New York City, Sexuality, US Politics on November 25, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Since Black Friday was yesterday, I thought i’d post up this video by Queens based rapper Cool Calm Pete. It touches on topics of consumerism, politics, drugs (prescription and otherwise), sex, media, and America’s ADD, among other things. What a perfect compliment to holiday cheer, just like those department store stampedes! What’s even better is that all of the footage in the video is vintage tv shows and commercials. It sort of makes you think about how much things have and haven’t changed.

Happy Thanksgiving – No thanks to Ratner

In class warfare, Economic Justice, Housing, Land rights, New York City, Urban Planning / Space on November 25, 2006 at 1:31 pm


For Thanksgiving Day, the folks over at NoLandGrab made up a list of things to be thankful for.  The one that caught my the most was the last on their list – Bruce Ratner being listed as the #1 most loathsome New Yorker on the New York Press’ list of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers.  That most definitely is something to be thankful for!  Here is what the NYPress had to say:

1 Bruce Ratner

Nets Owner & Developer

Where’s Jackie O. when you need her? The Atlantic Yards project and the rest of the properties this comb-over-mini-Donald’s got his greenbacked mitts around aren’t exactly Grand Central Terminal, but bear with us. Think of all the upper-middle-class homeowners who will be displaced after long, hard years of work carving a viable neighborhood out of a once-desolate area of Brooklyn. Then there are the many working-class people living in Prospect Heights, and the small businesspersons in the area. Aren’t their homes and businesses worth saving? The Empire State Development Board, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz don’t think so. The centerpiece of the proposed development is a 19,000-seat arena that will house the Brooklyn (née New Jersey) Nets, in which Ratner has a major stake. Also on the table are 17 high rises, which will be as high as 55 stories, 628,000 square feet of commercial space and residences. The housing bit is a ruse to assuage the masses. The “affordable” residential buildings will, however, remain out of reach for a single mom of four surviving on a sub-poverty-line paycheck. Ratner’s attempts to evade official processes for major real estate projects and the use of Supreme Court-endorsed eminent domain have been met with challenges from underfunded groups like Develop Don’t Destroy. What really pisses us off is the imminent razing of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, which is in the 22-acre footprint. With the Freddy’s gone, where will we get our $4 beers when that’s all we have in our wallet? Oh, and don’t look for criticism in the Newspaper of Record: Ratner’s building the Times’ gleaming new headquarters building west of Times Square.


Food Justice 1: Two New Yorks

In Economic Justice, Food Justice, New York City on November 24, 2006 at 4:00 pm

Liftwhileclimbing has decided to make our second theme Food Justice. Over the next month or so, we will try to place a focus on food and health issues, particularly in urban areas Prospect Parkwhere there is often a large disparity between different neighborhoods in terms of what types of food are available and how healthy that food is. We will place a focus on what problems are out there in terms of food, as well as on programs and organizations that are offering interesting ways of remedying the situation.

The example that I am the most familiar with is New York City, where you can have neighborhoods with a wide variety of specialty grocers and health food stores, while other neighborhoods have hardly any fresh produce or grocery stores at all.

In my neighborhood, Crown Heights, there are several grocery stores, but i still often find myslf bringing home a sack of goceries from stores in Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, or a green market, so that I can have healthier meals and better selections of produce. When it comes to restuarants, there are also very few healthy options (although there aren’t a lot of fast food chains, which is an advantage over other neighborhoods). Crown Heighst is just one example across the city, and its nowhere near the worst.

Earlier this week, Gotham Gazette ran an article on this very topic entitled “The Challenge of Eating Healthy.” This is the perfect article to kick off this topic for our blog. Some highlights are below:

A lot of attention is being paid to the split personality of the American diet. We live in both the United States of Arugula described in David Camp’s new book by the same name, where citizens “are demanding – and paying for – the freshest and least chemically treated products available”, and Fast Food Nation, depicted first in a book and now in a movie that opened on Friday, where meals consist of food that is dangerous to eat and environmentally damaging to produce. While evidence of America’s fitness fixation is everywhere, the rate of obesity has doubled in the last 20 years.

This contrast is particularly sharp in New York. The city tops Bon Appetit’s list of best “restaurant cities” in America, but has whole Zip codes without a single grocery store. The accompanying health problems are dismaying city officials. Over half of New Yorkers are overweight, and one in five is obese. Health Commissioner Thomas Freiden says that the related conditions of obesity and diabetes are the only health problems in the city getting worse.

These problems are particularly severe in low-income neighborhoods. The disparity of access to affordable, healthy food between New York’s wealthy and poor neighborhoods is regularly cited as a contributing factor, as Gotham Gazette wrote about last Thanksgiving in our article the Grocery Gap.

“It is not possible easily to get a healthy diet in many of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City,” said Freiden….

Food is a multibillion-dollar business in New York City. There are more than 1,100 grocery stores of at least 4,000 square feet. New Yorkers shop at gourmet groceries like Dean and Deluca or Zabar’s, ethnic specialty shops like Kalyustan’s (which carries dozens of different kinds of rice), a huge fish market open only late at night, and numerous markets where local farmers showcase their wares.

Despite all of that, many New Yorkers confront what the American Institute of Nutrition has called “food insecurity” – an inability, either because of money or availability, to get safe, nutritional food.“Where to Grab a Bite,” a 2004 survey by City Limits, looked at the number of grocery stores in each ZIP code. If it’s not surprising that affluent SoHo has the most places to buy food per resident, it is certainly startling to discover that several ZIP codes in Queens, including ones covering parts of College Point and Bayside, have no grocery stores at all. Overall, Manhattan has the most grocery stores per resident; Brooklyn the least.

Some in the food industry predict the grocery shortage could spread to more affluent areas as New York becomes an ever more expensive place to do business. “The better the neighborhood, the less supermarkets there are going to be” because rents are too high, said Morton Sloan, part owner of 10 Associated supermarkets in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Overall, said John Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristedes, the picture is “bleak” for grocery stores throughout the city, largely because of high rents. No one – from Whole Foods to the small mom and pop – is immune to the industry woes, he said, adding, “Something’s got to give….”

Numerous studies have shown that fresh produce, meat, and fish are hard to find in low-income neighborhoods. The New York Coalition Against Hunger recently mapped the availability of food resources across the city. It found that residents of low-income neighborhoods are forced to choose between bodegas and unhealthy restaurants because they lack access to larger grocery stores and farmers markets common in affluent areas. (See the interactive map).

Eight of every 10 food stores in Bedford Stuyvesant are bodegas, according to a study published this year by the city’s Department of Health. While almost every supermarket carries apples, oranges, and bananas, less than three in 10 bodegas do; supermarkets are also three times more likely to carry reduced fat milk.

Food stores generally lose money by carrying fresh fruit and vegetables, but supermarkets carry such products to attract customers, according to JC Dwyer, co-author of a recent report on food availability in three of the city’s poorest neighborhoods…

When bodegas do carry produce, it is generally much more expensive than it would be at a larger grocery store. In one study researchers found that a mango cost 67 cents at Pathmark, 79 cents at Associated — and $1.79 at an East Harlem bodega.

The article goes much more indepth, and I strongly recommend that people read it. It includes some of the impacts of the problem – including high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also details some of the movements that are trying to remedy the situations, such as green markets, CSAs, campaigns for supermarkets in particular neighborhoods, tax breaks for grocers, and incentives for bodegas to sell low fat milk and produce.

In Egypt, You Could Be Arrested for Blogging

In Civil Liberties, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Technology on November 24, 2006 at 3:08 pm

I missed this story ealier in the week. According to the BBC, bloggers in Egypt who have been critical of the government and police are being arrested. I guess Egyptian authorities don’t realize that bloggers internationally can pick up their causes and that the same information will still be out there. I reposted the story here:

Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, was detained along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger late at night.

No reasons have been given for Mr Siyam’s detention. The other friends were released after being questioned.

Human rights groups have accused Egypt of eroding freedom of speech by arresting several bloggers recently.

BBC Arab Affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says blogging in Egypt is closely associated with political activism in a culture where democratic freedoms are severely restricted.

In recent weeks, bloggers have been exposing what they say was the sexual harassment of women at night in downtown Cairo in full view of police who did not intervene.

Mr Siyam’s host on Saturday night, Muhammad Sharqawi, was detained for several weeks earlier this year.

The most recently detained blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, was detained in Alexandria on 6 November and was charged with disrupting public order, inciting religious hatred and defaming the president.

Amnesty International says Mr Amer appeared to have been detained for expressing critical views about Islam and Egypt’s al-Azhar religious authorities.

Support Press Freedom, Demand Justice

In Brad Will, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Economic Justice, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City on November 21, 2006 at 6:33 pm

I’ve posted a few things about the murder of Brad Will in Oaxaca, Mexico in late October. Here is something straight-forward that I implore readers to consider regarding both Brad’s murder and the way it was used by Mexico’s federal forces…

Sign on to the letter discussed below. I did and encourage you to do the same.

Keep plugged into NYC Indymedia, Zapagringo, and El Enimigo Comun to stay up-to-date with actions in Oaxaca and solidarity actions taking place up here. Also, be sure to stay on top of the heated developments in Atenco, Mexico.

Thanks again to Josh Breitbart for being one of the many taking the lead on this and laying out a solid argument on why to sign the letter. Below are excerpts from his post…

Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”

This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”

Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.


Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:

All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…

Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

I’ve revised it and posted it to the Friends of Brad Will site to allow more people and organizations to sign on.

Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).

The letter ends:

The undersigned implore the United States government to:

  1. Give full governmental protection throughout the world, in word and deed, to community-based journalists from the United States.
  2. Ask the Mexican Government to make a formal, federal inquiry into the killing of journalist Bradley Roland Will in Oaxaca on October 27, 2006.
  3. Ask that the Mexican Government bring his killer(s) to justice.
  4. Ask that the Mexican Government state clearly that it will not tolerate the targeting of journalists covering conflicts, no matter what their affiliations or nationalities.

If the tragic killing of Bradley Roland Will results in the strengthening of protections for independent journalists, then his death will not have been in vain. More importantly, we will have stood together as a nation against an attack on our free press and the many freedoms which are built upon it.

I encourage you to sign it. Encourage friends and allies to do the same.

Police Taze UCLA student, twice!

In Children and Youth, Civil Liberties, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, Misc. on November 21, 2006 at 1:17 am

Just watch. Thanks Olbermann.

Bring that Draft Back?

In Children and Youth, class warfare, Economic Justice, Global War On Terror, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Misc. on November 20, 2006 at 8:23 pm

I don’t know how I feel about this, from the Gothamist. I can see Rangels point, but… Any counterpoints?


Rangel Is All About The Draft

2006_11_rangeldraft.jpgCongressman Charles Rangel is in the news again, but this time he’s not upsetting Southern states – he’s scaring the bejesus out of young Americans! He told CBS’s Face the Nation that he will will propose legislation to bring back the draft. Why? Because it might act as a war-deterrent, as well as fulfill the need for more troops.

There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way. If we’re going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can’t do that without a draft.

Additionally, when speaking to Baruch College, Congressman Rangel said, “If the country’s in danger, everyone should share in the sacrifice.” Naturally, there is little support for bringing back the draft, though many agree that U.S. policy in Iraq has been unsuccessful. Rangel would be introducing the legislation in January, but even if it passed the House, it would need to be passed by the Senate and approved by President Bush.

A Bit of Good News

In Civil Liberties, Election 2006, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism on November 19, 2006 at 3:36 am

From the Jurist

US Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation Thursday that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees and make other amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). A key provision in the MCA, which President Bush signed into law last month, strips US courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. Dodd’s bill, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, would restore those protections. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA’s habeas restriction. Among other key provisions are the exclusion of evidence acquired by coercion and the exclusion of hearsay evidence that judges deem unreliable.

Earlier this month, lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to declare the suspension of habeas rights unconstitutional. In an amicus brief in the case, seven retired federal judges urged the appeals court to rule that parts of the MCA violate the Constitution. Dodd’s bill would also provide for expedited review of the MCA to ensure its constitutionality.

Another Conspiracy Theory

In Election 2006, Election 2008, Iraq War, US Politics on November 16, 2006 at 10:57 am

Heather Wokusch over at Commondreams.org wrote another conspiracy theory about why the Democrats won this year.  She also gives some ideas about how to help stop the republicans from winning in 08.  I reposted the entire piece below:

As much as I enjoyed the midterm rout, I just can’t shake the feeling that it might be a set up.

A number of bloggers have noted the perfect storm which helped drive the GOP out of power: Bob Woodward’s book on the administration’s mishandling of Iraq, intelligence estimates that Iraq had become a recruitment vehicle for terrorists, the steady stream of corruption scandals culminating in Mark Foley’s timely resignation over the Congressional page scandal. Too good to be true usually is.

Curious that the Republicans failed to use its army of attorneys to challenge the election results. Curious also that Rumsfeld’s inevitable departure came after the elections.

The obvious fear is that six years of Bush & Co.’s gross mismanagement will be pinned on the Democrats in 2008.

Take the economy. Why would the administration continue to stave off inflation, a bursting housing bubble and high interest rates if the Democrats will be blamed? Why continue to arm-twist Asian central banks into propping up the US dollar or continue to hide the shrinking economy? Just blame the Democrats for the tough economic times ahead.

And take Iraq. Please. While the Democrats’ recent call for a phased redeployment of troops is welcome news, there’s hardly party unity about how best to proceed. Consider the fact that Tom Lantos (D-CA) is slated to chair the House International Relations Committee in the next Congress. As Paul George of PeaceandJustice.org recently noted, “Lantos isn’t just a Democrat who voted for the Iraq war, he was one of its co-authors. And his name appears high on the list of credits for Gulf War I. Lantos has never met a war he didn’t like. His unblinking defense of Israeli policy gives him tunnel vision with the rest of the Middle East. That’s a potent combination of volatile materials.”

It’s troubling enough that Lantos channels the neo-cons’ Middle East policy and can’t be expected to support sustained troop withdrawals in Iraq or a moderate approach elsewhere in the region. But even worse, if the US and/or Israel actually goes ahead and bombs Iran, Lantos would not be the lone Democrat supporting an escalation of the conflict, ostensibly in order to protect Israel.

Signals from top Democrats that they will stand behind Robert Gates to be the next Defense Secretary are also disturbing, given ongoing questions over Gates’ role in the Iran-Contra affair and charges of his having politicized intelligence at the CIA. If the Democrats give Gates a blank check during his confirmation hearings, they will have some explaining to do in 2008.

It’s also dangerous to ignore the Republicans’ ongoing internal coup – tossing overboard tokens such as Rumsfeld (and soon, UN Ambassador John Bolton) to strengthen the party’s chances in 2008. For that reason, impeachment hearings, if any actually land on Pelosi’s “table,” will have to cast a wider net than merely Bush. He’s already a lost cause to the Republicans and could act as a fall guy for more viable GOP candidates in the next elections. So what would help the Democrats in 2008? Serious investigations into the US electoral system, for one. Victory doesn’t mean the voting was free or fair – to think otherwise is both hubris and a trap. The systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans and Hispanics, the lack of integrity of voting machines and the multiple dirty tricks demand justice between now and 2008.

In fact, there should be investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings across the board, including into prisoner abuse, war profiteering, executive branch misconduct, intelligence manipulation, taxpayer subsidies for crony energy companies… you name it. (How telling that only yesterday the administration asked for Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against Cheney and others to be dismissed on grounds of immunity. The White House is obviously getting nervous.)

Investigations, subpoenas, and the forced handover of secret administration documents would help the Democrats shed light on many levels of Bush & Co. corruption and malfeasance, which if properly communicated to the US public, could only help the Democrats in 2008. Unfortunately, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he’s “not heavily into investigations,” adding, “That should be way down at the bottom of our agenda.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the Democrats prevailed in the midterms. It’s just that Bush’s remaining lame-duck years present both opportunities and traps. The Democrats must be careful not to be blamed for the administration’s wrongdoings. Systemic electoral corruption must be addressed and progressives must challenge Democratic warmongers before it’s too late. 2008 is fast approaching.

Action Ideas:

  1. To learn more about investigations on Bush & Co. already carried out, visit the site of Rep. Waxman’s Government Reform Committee. Topics range from Abstinence-Only Education to the Cheney Energy Task Force. Expect more investigations soon…
  2. Before the 110th Congress is in place, contact your senators and representatives with your ideas and demands. It’s never too early.

I think she makes a lot of good points.  Overall, it seem slike the Democrats aren’t interested in any type of investigations or impeachment hearings.  Pelosi and Dean already said they wouldn’t go after Bush.  Who knows if they’ll go after anybody else.  All of the factors listed in this article, combined with the other conspiracy theory that Keeley posted up recently, don’t paint a pretty picture.  Hopefully the Democrats will prove this all to be wrong, but there’s nothing we can do but wait and see.

The asses are asses too

In class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War on November 15, 2006 at 11:21 pm

I was IMing with my friend Breanne last night, and she expressed shock about the new bill passed by the house, which “makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent protests that result in businesses losing money.” Apparently, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (HR 4239, S3880) was stealthily added, on friday, to the House calendar for Monday. Thus, it would have no debate, just an up/down vote.

9:22 PM Breanne: i can’t believe that…

what a sneaky move

I replied that I knew not to celebrate too soon. House Dems have been “compromising” for 6 years. It doesn’t take the slickest serpent to get them to bite the apple (put the word “terrorism” in a bill, and it gets passed; put the word “patriot” in a bill, and it gets passed).

today, Breanne sent me an email entitled “affirmation for point you made last night.” It reads:

again from democracynow.org

Reid Elected Democratic Senate Leader
Here in the United States, Democratic Senator Harry Reid was elected new Senate Majority leader on Tuesday. In an interview with the Washington Post, Reid said one of Democrats’ first priorities will be to increase the US military budget by $75 billion.

Asses Handin’ Their Asses to ‘Em

In Election 2006, US Politics on November 15, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Handin it to em

Something you should all care about

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror on November 14, 2006 at 11:31 pm

This was emailed to me by my friend Breanne:

Non-violent protest now a felony (could be charged with terrorism,
even) if it causes a business to lose profits.  although it is aimed
toward animal rights activists, i don’t see what would stop them from
trying to apply the law to other activists.  only in a capitalist
society would it be considered a felony to contribute to profit loss.

transcript today from www.democracynow.org:

House Passes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The House has passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act despite
opposition from dozens of organizations including the National Lawyers
Guild, Humane Society and Natural Resources Defense Council. The bill
makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent
protests that result in businesses losing money. Legal experts say a
protester could be charged with terrorism if they engaged in a sit-in
that caused a business to lose profits. Congressman Dennis Kucinich
said the law would have a chilling effect on non-violent protest.
Kucinich said the country has to be very careful of painting everyone
with a broad brush of terrorism.

Mile High Club Faces Charges; 7-Yr Olds in Congress; etc; etc

In Civil Liberties, Freedom of Speech, Laws & Regulation, Misc., religion & politics, Sexuality, US Politics on November 14, 2006 at 9:36 pm

From FindLaw News:

A couple traveling on a cross-country Southwest Airlines flight faces federal charges for allegedly having “overt sexual activity in the cabin of the plane.”. According to an FBI agent’s affidavit used in support of their arrest, the defendants were seated in the second or third row on the plane when flight attendants and passengers observed them “embracing, kissing, and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable,” including particularly intimate conduct.

Another snip:

Second-grader Saul Arellano, a U.S. citizen, appeared in Mexico’s 500-member Chamber of Deputies to plead for help in lobbying Washington to stop the deportation of his mother, an illegal Mexican immigrant who has taken refuge in a Chicago church.

Valuation Review, dropping a small bomb Garden State style:

New Jersey’s leading home foreclosure database warned today that a key indicator of housing market instability in the state has jumped substantially from 2005 to 2006 – indicating that the state’s stalled-out housing market may have a rocky road ahead to recovery.

Insurance Journal over-amps 18 grand, in my opinion:

GoodWorks Insurance, a new insurance ageny that gives half of its profits to local non-profits in accordance with a unique charitable contract, is expanding its business model to permit its use by established insurance agencies across the country… GoodWorks Insurance makes contributions to local non-profits that agree to distribute donations toward identifiable, tangible enhancements within 12 months after receipt of funds. The company anticipates that approximately 70 percent of its donations will support education with the remainder divided equally between healthcare and public safety. To date, GoodWorks Insurance reports it has contributed nearly $18,000 to community organizations in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

From Washington Technology, it’s like the self-check-out at the grocery store:

When officials at Joint Forces Command got a look at voice-to-voice translation technology that IBM Corp. was developing for use at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the focus of that work quickly changed. “We demonstrated the technology, and they immediately said, ‘We need that in Iraq in Iraqi Arabic,’” said Gary Ambrose, an IBM vice president who works with Defense Department customers.   So instead of developing the software to initially work with Mandarin Chinese, the focus changed to Iraqi Arabic…  “At the tactical level, where human translators were also required, there just weren’t enough to go around,” he said. “That presented a very significant challenge for our forces.”

and WashTech with this non-story that is critical to national security (really!)…

The United States scores better in protecting privacy than do the United Kingdom, Russia and China but worse than Australia, Canada and the rest of the European Union, according to a new report issued by Privacy International, a British organization.   The United States earned an overall grade of 2.0 out of 5, the eighth lowest overall in the world, followed by Thailand, graded 1.9; Philippines, 1.9; UK, 1.5; Singapore, 1.4; Russia, 1.4; Malaysia, 1.3; and China, 1.3. In the categories of enacting and enforcing privacy laws, and intercepting communications, the United States was ranked at the bottom, along with Russia and the Philippines. The United States and Singapore received the lowest privacy-protection scores in the category of workplace monitoring. 

UN: Pro-poor mortgages to curb growth of slums

In Children and Youth, Disaster Relief, Economic Justice, Environment, Housing, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Land rights, Laws & Regulation, Progressive Politics, Technology, Urban Planning / Space on November 14, 2006 at 2:24 pm

From the UN late last month:

Mortgages that allow poor people to buy housing will soon be needed to curb the worldwide growth of slums and improve living standards, the head of the United Nations agency charged with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable housing has warned, saying that her organization has already begun testing various financing methods… But she said that there were some signs of progress, noting in particular that new rules, effective since August, meant that UN-HABITAT could finally act as a catalyst, enabling countries to meet the slum upgrading and water and sanitation targets of 2015.

First off, has there been a sudden crisis in the world’s urban slumdwelling population that is in such an emergent need for an innovative tool, but only in need of this tool “soon?” I guess the living standards are deteriorating, but at a slowth enough speed that they’re not needed now… soon will do.

I agree that the expansion “pro-poor” financing options will be useful to the “poor,” but enforcing contracts/mortgages can also be a dangerous tool.

Let’s pull this string through:

Living in a slum, oftentimes on squatted land, and then, as this articles alludes to, water and utility infrastructure improvements shift people off squatted land and onto land where they will be formally recorded and deeded. If they’re not shifted, they are at the very least recorded and deeded. (Here’s a post about utility work and land displacement.)

This deed is then exchanged for a mortgage, be it a “pro-poor” mortgage or what seems under this framework to be an “anti-poor” or perhaps “pro-wealthy” mortgage. Times get tough though because, say, unfair subsidies artificially deflate the prices of the goods these “pro-poor” borrowers can get for their crops. These “pro-poor” homeowners fall behind on their mortgage and while they are unable to sell their goods in an open economy (due to maladjusted subsidies) they are certainly going to tossed from their home, which will then be sold on an open market.

“Pro-poor” mortgage means nothing unless the strongest protections are reserved for the homeowner, not the lender. Shift the “pro” in “pro-poor” to be short for “protection.”

And don’t think this call for protection is paternalistic… it’s actually self-serving.

We all need protections brought back a bit more to the borrowers of the world; the scales are tipped too far in favor of “investors’ rights” at the expense of human rights, in my not-so-modest opinion.
If this were in fact for the urban poor the alarm for this innovative tool would have sounded to have it developed NOW; the call was made for this tool to be developed “soon.” This is for investors, not for the world’s “pro-poor” urban slumdwellers.

“Beginnings of an Immigrant Electoral Machine…”

In Civil Liberties, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Election 2008, Immigration, International politics, Labor, Laws & Regulation, New York City, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, US Politics on November 12, 2006 at 5:20 pm

From AlterInfos America Latino:

A majority of voters followed this year’s immigration rallies closely and felt that Democrats did a better job on the immigration issue, according to the New Americans Exit Poll, which was conducted in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle by researchers at Barnard College of Columbia University, the City University of New York, Loyola Marymount University, and the University of Washington…

The surveys found that two out of three voters in New York and Seattle , and three out of four voters in Los Angeles , followed news of the immigration rallies closely or somewhat closely. The high level of interest in the immigration debate was just as prominent, if not more, among native-born voters as among foreign-born voters. Ten percent of New York voters indicated that they or a family member took part in the immigration rallies, while in Los Angeles , a stunning 33 percent of foreign-born voters and 16 percent of native-born voters participated in the rallies…
“This was the year that immigrant groups across the nation conducted unprecedented voter education and mobilization campaigns. A new kind of immigrant voting block is forming. We have the beginnings of an immigrant electoral machine that will continue to build and flex its muscle in 2008 and beyond,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of Hate Free Zone, an immigrant and civil rights group based in Washington state.