10/02/2012 archive

No Dancing XVI

Kind of in keeping with On This Day In History.  People will dance to this, but only on Halloween.  Don’t know why, it’s a song about a spy.

Twilight Zone

PA Voter ID Law Blocked for Now

Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson, who had previously ruled that the state voter ID  law could go forward, has suspended the portion of the law that would required voters to have a state issued ID to vote on November 6. Voters can still be asked for ID but if don’t have it, they can still go ahead and vote:

Judge Simpson said in his Tuesday ruling that for the presidential election of Nov. 6, voters in Pennsylvania could be asked to produce the newly required photo IDs, but if they did not have them could still go ahead and vote. The decision could still be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, one of the groups that challenged the law. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for the law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy.”

The ruling does not stop the law from being enforced in future elections and there are some serious concerns. Poll workers can still ask for ID and that creates confusion about provisional ballots, as David Dayen at FDL News points out:

Just think of the scenarios. A voter is asked for ID, and producing none, instructed to write a provisional ballot. Technically that ballot must be counted, but the voter might leave, suspecting their vote won’t count. Or they may not follow the provisional ballot instructions closely enough. Or poll worker error could easily lead to a voter being asked to leave without voting. [..]

So this all relies on poll workers knowing that the provisional ballot process is not in effect for voter ID, but that they have to ask for a voter ID anyway. I’m not necessarily confident in that approach, but it’s better than how it initially looked.

What Atrios said

I tried to read the ruling, but it’s written in gibberish. The smart lawyer people on the internet seem to agree that the judge has decreed that poll workers will ask for IDs, but if people don’t have them they should let them vote anyway. In other words, better than nothing but untrained poll workers are not going to have any idea what they’re supposed to do so this election in PA will be a complete mess.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial; Spanish Protests, German Prescriptions

Demonstrators have been filling the streets of southern Europe’s capitals in numbers too large for politicians to safely ignore, protesting the latest economic austerity measures. Hundreds of thousands have turned out in Lisbon, Madrid and Athens, and more such protests are likely in coming days.

The public’s patience is running out on austerity policies demanded by the German government and European Union leaders, which have conspicuously failed in their stated goal of reducing debt burdens and paving the way for economic revival. Instead, it’s clear that these measures will accelerate depression-levels of unemployment and damage social safety net programs when they are most needed.

Paul Krugman: After Making a Mess of Iraq, Bush Advisers Join Team Romney

I have to admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to Mitt Romney’s foreign policy; the domestic side already offers a target-rich environment. But my eyebrows shot up when Dan Senor popped up speaking for Mr. Romney in the aftermath of the protests in Libya and Egypt. Dan Senor? [..]

I understand, in a way, why these people are still at it; research shows that the truly incompetent often have high self-confidence, because they’re too incompetent to realize that they’re incompetent. But what does it say about Mr. Romney that he’s relying on this crew?

William K. Black: Let’s Test Romney’s Claims About the 47% by Offering the Unemployed Jobs

I have explained how Governor Romney and Representative Ryan have self-destructed because they have followed Charles Murray’s demands that the wealthy denounce working class Americans’ supposed refusal to take personal responsibility for their lives by refusing to work. Murray is the far right’s leading intellectual. Murray’s Myth is that the wealthy are rich because they are morally superior to the lazy poor and that the poor are not employed because they are lazy. Murray’s explanation for his support for Governor Romney says it all: “Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist?” [..]

I predict that the Republicans will fight ferociously to prevent us from testing the truth of their abuse of the poor. They cannot allow a test because they know they are slandering many millions of Americans. Their first nightmare is a job guarantee program that leads to television images of millions of Americans eagerly signing up to jobs. Murray’s Myth would be destroyed in full public view. Their second nightmare is that the job guarantee would speed the recovery and provide useful projects and services that Americans would love. The slander is despicable, but the fact that they will do anything to prevent a test of Murray’s Myth compounds the slander with a toxic mix of cowardice and hypocrisy.

Robert Reich: Why the Election Will Turn Less on Wednesday’s Presidential Debate Than on Friday’s Jobs Report

The biggest election news this week won’t be who wins the presidential debate Wednesday night. It will be how many new jobs were created in September, announced Friday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rarely in the history has the monthly employment carried so much political significance. If the payroll survey is significantly more than 96,000 — the number of new jobs created in August — President Obama can credibly claim the job situation is improving. If significantly fewer than 96,000, Mitt Romney has the more credible claim that the economy isn’t improving.

Roger Cohen: The Foreign Policy Divide

LONDON – China is a status quo power. It preaches dialogue, noninterference and the sanctity of national sovereignty because it does not want major global disruptions to its pursuit of the economic growth essential to political stability and full development by midcentury.

Russia is also a status quo power – the status quo of 30 years ago, that is. Under President Vladimir Putin, it wants to turn back the clock and restore the world to a place dominated by two superpowers going mano a mano. It has been prepared to watch thousands of Syrians die in order to demonstrate it still wields a big stick.

Melvin A. Goodman: [Time for Major Cuts in Defense Spending truth-out.org/opinion/item/11870-time-for-major-cuts-in-defense-spending]

Over the past decade, the United States has engaged in the most significant increase in defense spending since the Korean War. Trillions of dollars have been allocated for the Pentagon, with little congressional monitoring or internal oversight. The defense budget for 2012 exceeds $600 billion, nearly equaling the combined defense spending of the rest of world. Every U.S. taxpayer spends twice as much for the cost of national defense as each British citizen; five times as much as each German; and six times as much as each Japanese. Recent U.S. military expenditures include more than $2.5 trillion to wage unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have failed to enhance American security.

The current economic crisis and tepid economic recovery during President Barack Obama’s first term have created the imperative to reduce defense spending and the size of the U.S. military. More than 46 million Americans live in poverty; unemployment rates have remained at unacceptably high levels; and the economic concerns of the middle class have not abated. The income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the country continues to grow sharply. Millions of American have learned that their primary assets – their homes – have become a liability.

Andrew Simms: 50 Months to Avoid Climate Disaster – and a Change Is in the Air

“One or other of us will have to go,” Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said on his deathbed to the hated wallpaper in his room. The perilous acceleration of Arctic ice loss, and the imminent threat of irreversible climate change poses a similar ultimatum to the economic system that is pushing us over the brink. For society’s sake I hope this time we redecorate.

Fortunately, many people are queuing up to propose better designs, rather than just cursing the interiors, as you can read about here.

Monday 1 October marks the halfway point in a 100-month countdown to a game of climate roulette.

Direct Action: First Person- Keystone Tar Sands

Crossposted from DocuDharma

Tar Sands Blockade: Why are they so frightened of us? (#NoKXL)

By: Benjamin Franklin, Firedog Lake

Monday October 1, 2012 8:49 am

When I remember what happened, I remember the beauty first. The blue sky, the soaring hawk, the oak sapling mangled by the backhoe we’d stopped. That oak was very inspirational to us as we awaited our fate. By surviving TransCanada’s clear-cutting, it symbolized our own plans to weather the forces marshalled against us.

It was Tuesday, September the 25th. I was anchored to the back of heavy machinery with someone I’d just met. We’d both travelled to East Texas to help derail TransCanada’s massive tar sands pipeline. Climate change is a global problem, but this terribly destructive project was coming right to our backyard; how could I sit idly by?

It started with the arrival of TransCanada’s senior supervisor. The regular employees became scarce as the supervisor called for a huddle with the police. The huddle broke and a phalanx of officers marched on us to announce that we were under arrest. Failing to unlock immediately was resisting, which would result in additional charges and justify the officers’ use of “pain compliance.” I suppose TransCanada had grown tired of waiting.

They started like schoolyard bullies – taunting us while twisting my arm behind me, and jumping on my back to put me in a choke hold. The lieutenant asked, “Is your goal just to go to jail? You can go to jail without the pain; it’s your stubbornness that’s making us do this.” I had to stop myself from replying, “I wish this cup would pass me by.” I didn’t say it because I was sure they would misinterpret it as blasphemously casting myself as Jesus, but I meant it; I wished there was another way to accomplish our goals. I wasn’t looking forward to what my time with the ACLU led me to expect they would do to us. But I don’t believe in giving in to terrorism; to follow one’s moral compass in spite of extreme challenges is the way we move forward.

A taser is sold as a weapon-tool for halting controlled motion: to make someone stop. While the torture device was on, I was able to remain standing and silent, but the pain was intense. I could not have gathered the concentration required to detach the carabiner even if the pipe hadn’t twisted it out of my grasp.

I had a few seconds to clear my head, then he switched to my upper left arm – the arm where they had handcuffed me. It’s hard to describe. The world was pain, and I repeated Valerie’s quote from V for Vendetta to myself as I heard the lieutenant speculate to the TransCanada supervisor that my fat was insulating me, making it harder for the taser to “bite into the meat,” which is why it wasn’t hurting me as much as they were hoping. The pain was fluid, and by the fifth second, my left pectoral muscle was tingling. But like all things, it passed. The pain, like the fear, washed through. The taunting, however, continued.

The officers informed us that I was too “mule-headed” to be chivalrous and spare Rain pain I had just experienced. When they moved on to torture Rain, the young Wood County deputy who had been selected to taser her was reluctant. He asked if he really had to; he interrupted his count to ask if she was sure she wouldn’t let go.

As soon as we were fully in custody, the TransCanada supervisor thanked the Wood County lieutenant for “a job well done.” The lieutenant’s reply? “If this happens again, we’ll just skip to using pepper spray and tasing in the first 10 minutes.”

TransCanada Urges Texas Police to Use "Aggressive Pain Compliance Tactics&quot on Keystone XL Blockaders

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 26, 2012 1:23 pm

I spoke with Sprague today about the use of physical force against two protesters, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, who handcuffed themselves to equipment being used to cut down trees so that the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline could be built.

According to Sprague, Bebe and Franklin began their peaceful protest yesterday at 10:30 am, along with several observers.  Sprague indicated that the group’s interactions with the police had been amicable and peaceful until TransCandada representatives showed up and encouraged the police to “run off” the observers.

Once there were no cameras in sight, Sprague says that TransCanada officials huddled with police.  Shortly thereafter, the police commenced putting Bebe and Franklin in stress positions by bending their free arms backwards as far as possible and twisting their handcuffed hands backwards, and holding them there for 10 minutes.

Police then tasered both Bebe and Franklin.  Franklin was tased a second time, and the two relented when police threatened to keep tasering them until they did so.  Sprague said that because of a heart condition, one of the protesters feared for their life.  Franklin described the pain as “immense and almost physically unbearable.”

There is no way to classify the use of such tactics against people who cannot defend themselves other than torture.  Which the protesters indicate was carried out, by the police, and the specific request of TransCanada.

I do not have the words to fully express my admiration for what Franklin and Bebe were willing to do in order to stop this pipeline from being (literally) railroaded through the country, against the will of its citizens – especially those whose lands are being seized.  They are true heroes and their courage and conviction are inspirational.

Keystone XL Body Blockaders Need Help

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 26, 2012 7:49 am

Activists climbed 80 feet to set up “Tree Village” and locked themselves to critical machinery directly in the path of the planned oil pipeline. They have pledged to stay there until construction has stopped once and for all, but living in a tree or chained to machinery, exposed to the elements, is no easy task.

Work on the Keystone XL pipeline can’t continue until the Blockaders have been removed, so Firedoglake is sending supplies to help demonstrators stay in the way for as long as possible.

TransCanada Tarsands Blockade Call Reports

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Thursday September 27, 2012 12:16 pm

Today we launched calls into TransCanada’s offices protesting the treatment of Tarsands Blockade activists, who report they were tortured by police after a huddle with TransCanda representatives.

You can sign the petition demanding TransCanada CEO Russell Girling denounce the torture of the Keystone XL Blockaders.

Then call TransCanada’s corporate offices to demand immediate action.

On This Day In History October 2

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 2 is the 275th day of the year (276th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 90 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, “The Twilight Zone” premiered on CBS television.

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising plot twist and was usually brought to closure with some sort of message. The series was also notable for featuring both established stars (e.g. Cliff Robertson, Ann Blyth, Jack Klugman) and younger actors who would later became famous (e.g. Robert Redford, William Shatner, Mariette Hartley, Shelley Fabares). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host, delivering on- or off-screen monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. During the first season, except for the season’s final episode, Serling’s narrations were off-camera voiceovers; he only appeared on-camera at the end of each show to promote the next episode (footage that was removed from syndicated versions but restored for DVD release, although some of these promotions exist today only in audio format).

The “twilight zone” itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but rather a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarized the episode’s events in tones ranging from cryptic to pithy to eloquent to unsympathetic, encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had “entered the Twilight Zone”.

What Banging on Pots Has Wrought for Québec

The 2012 Quebec student protests in the Canadian Provence of Québec has won big. The nightly demonstrations in the streets that began in February over tuition hikes, won the support of the general population, fought an unjust law that criminalized protests, did not back down. They ousted the government of Premier Jean Charest, replacing him with progressive Pauline Marois. This is what they have accomplished for the citizens of Québec and Canada:

Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois’ government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.

After rescinding the Charest government’s special bill that criminalized student demonstrations, they abolished the tuition increase that universities had already begun charging (many students have received a rebate). The Parti Québecois also eliminated a highly regressive two hundred dollar per person health tax and have moved to shut down a controversial nuclear power plant. In another decision prioritizing the environment and people’s health, they placed a long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracking and eliminated subsidies for asbestos mining, which prompted the federal Conservative government to announce it would no longer block the Rotterdam Convention from listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic product. [..]

(T)he PQ appears to be reevaluating the $3 billion Turcot Interchange highway expansion that the Montréal city council has criticized and the Plan Nord resource extraction initiative, which has been criticized by environmental, socialist and indigenous groups. [..]

To pay for abolishing the health tax and tuition freeze the government announced a tax increase for those making over $130,000 and another higher tax bracket for those making over $250,000. Additionally, the government announced that it will increase certain corporate taxes and reduce capital gains tax exemptions, which allow those who make their money from investing to pay lower tax rates than those who make their money from working. [..]

For those in Québec, recent gains should inspire further mobilizations. For those outside, the PQ’s reforms are a reminder that determined grassroots movements can create a political climate in which governments place environmental concerns and social rights over the interests of corporations and the wealthy.

Here are some lessons that can be learned from the Québec students:

1. Vote

Voting doesn’t need to mean choosing between two candidates who don’t represent their views, but backing someone who participates in their struggle, like frequent Occupy arrestee and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.

2. Expose Injustice

American protesters must showcase the police brutality and unlawful arrests intended to discourage demonstrations to prove how the rights Americans take for granted are actively being taken away, hopefully enlivening them to take action and build support

3. Popular Movements Require a Populace

Find ways to encourage people out of their homes and places of work and into the streets so that their numbers cannot be ignored.

4. Persistence Is Key

A constant presence was essential in reminding authorities that they were not going anywhere and that their concerns were not to be taken lightly. Protests every six months are nice, but protests every evening show you mean business.

5. Find Common Ground and Align

Two of the largest student organizations in Quebec, CLASSE and FEUQ, employed different tactics and different end goals. At the same time, however, they had a significant amount of overlap in their desires and chose to focus on the similarities to work together and bring about change.

6. Stand By Your Allies

Hoping for compromise, Quebec’s government agreed to hold talks with the more temperate student groups, but would not allow representatives from CLASSE to participate in these discussions. Instead of taking the opportunity to put their own interests first, these student groups walked out on the talks altogether.

7. Reach Out to Unions

When mobilizing a movement, one of the quickest ways to grow your numbers is to connect with large groups of people who are already politically active, namely unions. While the student unions themselves were the most crucial, their networking with labor unions was also important.

8. Pick a Cause

The Canadian students adopted a single cause to rally around, which proved effective in achieving change. [..]

That does not mean abandoning reform on all fronts, but rather dividing to focus on specific issues, while still coming together to support peers’ efforts on days of action.

9. Champion Education Specifically

If you’re looking for one particular cause to rally people behind, education is a great place to start. Not only does offering affordable education to everyone give opportunities to people who would otherwise be impoverished, but it also encourages people to think critically and question the status quo.

10. Do Not Become Complacent with Your Victories

If the government has tried to screw you over before, chances are they’ll do it again. [..]

Sure, the recent election seems promising, but a consistent, diligent presence by the student unions will help to dissuade the government from trying to backtrack a couple of years down the road.

Bang on!