My friendly, apolitical Sunday has been ruined, I hope yours is, too...

>> Sunday, August 31, 2008

The blog entry for today--and the only blog entry for today--was supposed to be a cute piece about "Chinese People Discover Fortune Cookies!" There's a funny video, John The Scientist has already shared an awesome comment expanding on the history of cookies-of-fortune in Japan, everything was going to be nice.

And then I made the mistake of looking at news.

The minor item that would otherwise be funny and negligible, is that "somebody" began massive edits of Governor Sarah Palin's Wikipedia entry just before the official announcement of her nomination. This is, of course, typical of the shenanigans that occur in politics--Democrats do it, Republicans do it. It's patently ridiculous. And nobody pointing out what's happened to the Palin entry should act offended, except to the extent that it's offensive that the entries of Senators Biden, McCain and Obama have been similarly "cleaned."

What is pathetic and would be funny, though, is that one supporter, apparently thinking people are idiots and obviously subconsciously disappointed by Governor Palin's paper-thin résumé, decided to pad out the Governor's entry with photographs of the Governor visiting soldiers, playing with a flight simulator, and doing other "military" things. (And here I find myself with a tough proposition: I would rather not sound like a sexist, but it's hard not to notice several photographs appear to have been chosen for their tight t-shirt/active soldier ratio--a subliminal message is possibly being attempted, though one skimming the photos out of context might be excused for assuming Governor Palin was a Playboy Enterprises employee traveling with a USO delegation and not a popular, reformist state Governor. Ahem.)

(A cached version of the August 30 edits can be found here as of this date, August 31, 2008; I haven't been able to dig up earlier cached versions to see what the page looked like prior to the announcement of her candidacy. Readers catching this entry in later days may see an even later cache by clicking on the link.)

Anyway this is no big deal. Happens all the time. Funny, yes. Sad (in that funny way we mean when we talk about dumb crooks and Darwin award nominees), yes. Important, no. But depressing in light of what is important:

Police in the Twin Cities have apparently engaged in Gestapo tactics against people who are presumed protesters of the upcoming Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The New York Times covers the story here, and Glenn Greenwald here (with video). Armed police officers entered several homes, allegedly with warrants permitting them to seize anything from "political pamphlets" to Molotov cocktails, did in fact seize computers and other items from the homes, and arrested several people for the charge of "Conspiracy To Commit A Riot." (I'm still trying to imagine exactly how one conspires to commit a riot.)

Police in Minnesota, it seems, are allowed to detain people for 36 hours without charging them with anything; how much do you want to bet that a number of possible protesters are locked up for three days and then released without being charged, or with charges that are quickly and quietly dismissed after they're handed over to the District Attorney's office.

At this date, there is less evidence that any of these people were involved in violent protest than there was that three meth heads were conspiring to murder Senator Obama in Colorado last week, a threat that's properly being seen as "not credible" (and one expects any charges will involve the drugs and armaments seized from the so-called "conspirators," and not their idle chatter). So we have the police raiding people's homes in the morning, sometimes with warrants (and possibly, it looks like, without warrants in some instances), seizing political pamphlets, photographs, cameras, computers and maps--and in no reported cases seizing anything more dangerous than a firecracker.

Who knew Minneapolis would make Colorado's speech cages look like marvels of free expression? In Colorado, they pen you up for your demonstrations; in Minneapolis, they break into your home the day before, steal your shit, and lock you up in jail.

The revision of Governor Palin's public history seems less amusing in the context of police raids on suspected political enemies. It may seem like a leap, but it's not: in isolation, the Wikipedia edits are a prank. In light of other events, they become a part of a mindset (not necessarily held by Governor Palin herself, but by her party and political class) that "free speech" is a weapon to be used for the ends of the privileged leaders and the public-at-large to be disarmed if they have anything to say against them. I'm not even going to say that this is an attitude unique to the Republicans, though one finds it showing up with disturbing frequency in politicians who follow their names with capital "R"s; I have no doubt that there are Democrats who have similarly fascist--and yes, I'm using that word in it's historic sense to describe the ideology that would have a boot crushing a human face forever, not merely someone I dislike--tendencies.

There is a saying going back to the Spanish Civil War: "If you tolerate this, your children will be next." This is what we have come to, where we have arrived. I have seen a great deal of writing this week that Governor Palin is a nice human being and would make a good Vice-President or even President. As an individual that may be true--she played no part in the assaults upon the rights of protesters and I doubt she played a part in the attempt to rewrite her public record. But the bait-and-switch the Republican Party engages in with her selection as a Vice-Presidential candidate is just that, to put a smiling face on a party that has become increasingly dishonest and repressive in its tactics. Vote for the nice human being in the second slot on the ticket, get the party of jack-booted thugs in Minneapolis. And your children will be next.

So much for my pleasant Sunday.

UPDATE 2008-09-01, 12:23 A.M.: Greenwald is reporting on his blog at Salon that the FBI was involved in planning and executing this past weekend's raids. Well. Isn't that nice of them.

UPDATE 2008-09-02, 11:34 A.M.: It appears they're arresting journalists, now.

In the comments, Nathan points out that similar tactics were used at the Democratic National Convention several years ago. I'd forgotten the full-extent, but of course he's right. I also don't remember whether anything like this occurred, with a reporter being arrested and charged with "conspiring to riot" while trying to assist her producers, who also appear to have been arrested unlawfully.

I don't know Minnesota law, but North Carolina law is pretty clear: advising someone who is under arrest is not a crime. (Combined with some other overt act, it might be: attempting to talk to someone who is under arrest is probably not illegal, but attempting to brush aside police officers and to climb into the back of the squad car might be.) Given that the issues are fundamentally Constitutional--the right of free speech being the primary one--I think it's a reasonable assumption that Minnesota courts have reached the same conclusion as North Carolina's: that it's not illegal to ask why someone is under arrest and to try to offer lawful advice and assistance to the detainee.

To be absolutely clear: this is not primarily a partisan issue. One fears that this escalation of police state tactics will ratchet up: the Democrats in New York have a massive police presence, the Republicans in Minnesota raise with preemptive arrests, the Democrats raise with some other disgusting tactic, until finally somebody goes all-in. On the other hand, it is partisan to the extent that wonders why there's not more outrage from the Right--or is there, and I'm missing it?

Disturbing times.


Leanright,  Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 4:49:00 PM EDT  

It is refreshing to know that the supposed "inexperience" is at the BOTTOM of the GOP ticket, as opposed to the TOP of the Democratic ticket. I assumed the election was between McCain and Obama, NOT Palin and Obama; Apparently the media has fooled us all.

Eric Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 5:29:00 PM EDT  


I appreciate your input, and I hardly mean to be rude, and in the past you've often offered useful comments even when I disagreed with you. But there is absolutely nothing in this blog entry about Governor Palin's experience or lack of it. This is a blog entry about one set of ordinary political shenanigans seeming less ordinary in light of some thuggish police activity in the Twin Cities that ought to offend and horrify any American worthy of the label.

In some sense this is an election between Obama and Palin or between McCain and Biden: should anything tragic or scandalous happen to a President Obama or a President McCain, we will have a President Biden or a President Palin. Furthermore, the reasons Obama and McCain had for picking their running mates, aside from their running mates' own merits, tell us something about these candidates.

I'll be blunt, Leanright, your unoriginal and irrelevant response suggests you're not taking any of this particularly seriously--neither the election in general or the recent activities in preparation for the Republican Convention. The so-called "experience" issue is a red herring whether it's applied to Palin or Obama, and I'm not interested in letting you change the subject: the subject is whether or not you approve of the jackbooted suppression of political dissent, and how much you're willing to tolerate a political party that benefits from thuggery.

vince Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 8:15:00 PM EDT  

Since the disastrous 1968 Democratic convention, security around conventions has generally been tighter. In Denver, they had helicopters with armed commandos practicing, over a million dollars spent on "personal protection equipment" for police, and the following quote from Denver mayor John Hickenlooper: "The nice thing about hosting one of these conventions is that you can show off. We don't want some traffic jam, protest or unfortunate incident to become the big story, because there's too much good stuff going on here."

There has been a LOT of unhappiness here in Minnesota over a lot of the restrictions and activities going on surrounding the Republican convention.

I can understand having good security in this day and age, but what has been happening has gone way overboard. And my research suggests that the 36 hour holding time period is not unusual in other states and in other democratic countries.

Some good Minnesota coverage of this incident can be found on the Twin Cities Daily Planet site. You might also find an interesting take on what's going on on the Minnesota Independent News site.

Eric Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 8:34:00 PM EDT  

Thanks for the news links, Vince! They were definitely worth reading.

You're right that a lot of this goes back to '68. And I understand that security and order need to be maintained at these things. Unfortunately, I think you have a lot of law enforcement, city and party officials using the '68 riots as a pretext for stifling protest.

There's no excuse for arresting people on pretexts to keep them from exercising fundamental rights. That's supposed to be something that happens in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, not here.

The developing irony is that it looks like the Republicans are scaling back their convention plans because of Gustav, with the President and Vice-President planning on being no-shows and Senator McCain cutting the schedule--much to their credit, I might add. Which means that the crackdown this weekend--whether orchestrated by the party or by overzealous local authorities--may have been for little or naught in the first place.

Random Michelle K Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 8:45:00 PM EDT  

Apropos of nothing...

I like the new digs. You gonna keep 'em for awhile?

Eric Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 9:36:00 PM EDT  

Apropos of nothing...

I like the new digs. You gonna keep 'em for awhile?

Now that's a hijack I can get on board with! :-)

Thanks, and yes, I plan on keeping these for awhile, especially with the pain in the ass it is to get all the widgets, etc. back in place. I realized after I added the "slideshow" widget to the previous incarnation that I really needed a three-column template. I was going to put it off, but I felt creative without feeling literary today, so I started auditioning templates; I liked this one a lot.

The problem right now is that I would like to have a picture in the header, and the template is overriding the Blogger easy-ass "upload a picture" option: there should be a picture, but there's no HTML for it. So I'm working with that, and wouldn't mind suggestions if anyone has any.

Your UCF logo will be coming back as I get this place in shape.

Random Michelle K Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 10:24:00 PM EDT  

Umm... there *is* a picture in your header?

Eric Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 10:42:00 PM EDT  

Was there one when you first arrived?

Because on Firefox and IE, there wasn't one until I grafted in some code from another template, and that code is acting pretty wacky. I get a picture, but it's sized and framed wrong. And now I don't get a picture at all. So I'm still working on it.

Feel free to keep me posted about what you saw and when--seriously, I'm trying to get this thing done right and am screwing things up enough I may have to start over, which will suck.

vince Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 11:38:00 PM EDT  

I like the new design a lot. I don't see a picture in the header with IE, Firefox, or Opera.

I agree with you about the arrest, and that the 68 convention is used for it way too much. Just like the war on terrorism is used to hack away our constitutional rights.

Eric Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 11:55:00 PM EDT  

I think I'm going to have to give up on a picture in the header until I have a better grasp on HTML/XML; I've reverted back to a "purer" form of the template.

It makes me a little sad: I had an awesome banner for October, using one of the photos from the "Antibody" behind-the-scenes and everything done up in a font aptly named "zombified."

Oh well, I'll see if I can tweak it this week.

Nathan Monday, September 1, 2008 at 7:49:00 AM EDT  


None of this is new. At the 2004 DNC in New York, they made the same kind of indiscriminate arrests and then hauled people off to temporarily erected pens built at either the Dept. of Sanitation pier or a Bus Depot. (I forget which it was, but conditions were said to be fairly abysmal.)

They did the same thing with 36 hour "holds".

Someone I work with was telling me a story the other day about a friend of his who works as a reporter in Arizona. She wanted to do a story about how ridiculous the "Free Speech Zones" are. As a way to illustrate her point, she went to one during a Presidential visit and stood there (alone), with a sign sure to garner Secret Service attention, (It had a blatant threat written on it). The "Free Speech Zones" are placed so far off the beaten track as to be unnoticeable. She might as well have been protesting from her own bedroom with the doors locked and the blinds drawn. She never did get noticed by officialdom.

And her paper backed off from running the story.

So yeah, I'm pretty disgusted with the tactics that are being used to promote "law and order" when peaceful citizens are trying to exercise their rights...tactics used by both sides. This isn't a Left vs. Right issue. It's a Citizen vs. Government issue.

Eric Monday, September 1, 2008 at 8:41:00 AM EDT  

I remember the "Free Speech Zones" at the 2004 DNC, but I don't remember the arrests. Thank you for educating me. And depressing me still further.

I'm quickly reverting to "my country deserves what it gets" disgust. I dwell on this much longer, I'll probably enter a state of secretly hoping that McCain/Palin wins, followed a year later by a nuclear war with Iran in which our opponent is of course obliterated and we stumble away with the mere losses of two or three of our larger cities. If the Iranians are smart enough to bypass first-tier population centers in favor of first-tier banking centers, maybe politics will no longer be a problem for me.

Looks like I rolled out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, didn't I? Wish I could remember which side I got up on so I don't do it again....

ScooterMcfee,  Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:12:00 AM EDT  

you have the body of a god.

Random Michelle K Monday, September 1, 2008 at 1:07:00 PM EDT  

Eric, if you want to e-mail me (in Notepad) what the code in your header region says, I can try to see if I can make sense of it.

No promises though.

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 12:33:00 PM EDT

Based upon the NY Post article, the "heavy handed tactics" were not completely unnecessary.

Eric Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 3:41:00 PM EDT  

The Post article fails to explain the arrests of the journalists, the charges against the Democracy Now reporter, or the raids this weekend. It appears that of thousands of protesters, some 250 (characterized by a report in the Times Online (UK) as "splinter groups") did engage in some violent conduct that merited arrest--whether the conduct merited heavy-handed tactics like arresting the press, pepper-spraying the whole crowd, or harassing people before they did anything remains questionable.

Furthermore, one can only speculate as to whether groups of "anarchists" would have emerged had the police forces spent the weekend doing something more productive than breaking into people's homes and confiscating their staplers. Obviously it's one of those unknowable things, but I just have to wonder.

Leanright, I've been an assistant public defender for nearly eleven years and a civil libertarian nearly my whole life: I'll be honest, you're not going to convince me the full gamut of tactics on display the past several days were necessary or even (in some instances) legal. Arresting rioters who are breaking windows and attacking delegates: fair enough, and I can think of a variety of legitimate charges that could issue. Arresting a reporter who's trying to find out why her producers were arrested, entering people's homes with slim pretexts for probable cause (and possibly, per some sources, without warrants in several cases), and harassing peaceful demonstrators: un-American, if you define us by our laws and beliefs and not by our frequent missteps and flirtations with police state-ism.

(Additional statements for and against police conduct can be found at this article as well.)

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 5:02:00 PM EDT  

I actually find something we agree on (just a little bit, though)...being a civil libertarian. I have always believed that the far right wants to get into my bedroom, and the left wants to get into my wallet. Both are a private matter. As for arresting the press? I fully agree that they have not only a right, but a protection by the constitution, regardless of where they come from.

Although I am pro-life, I tend to be moderate on social issues. My conservatism comes from my career as a Certified Financial Planner, and my desire to keep an many dollars in the pockets of my clients as opposed to the government. (I know you'll scold me on changing the subject, but I've been married for 16 years. That's nearly two decades of experience at being scolded for changing the subject, so have at it :)

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 5:04:00 PM EDT  

I did not complete my first paragraph...sorry. I do believe the press have a right to report without being hindered in doing so. If indeed reporters were arrested, THAT is unacceptable.

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