Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: August 2008 Page 1 of 9

Reconsidering Minnesota Nice: Raids in Advance of the RNC

Looks like even the Twin Cities are trying to live down to GOP standards:

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Now, I’ve seen (with my own eyes) enough high profile protests to know that there is always a dumbass who behaves in such a way as to give the police an excuse to come crashing down.  But it’s the crashing down that ends up *really* starting the ball rolling on the things for which protesters are arrested.  Honestly, if I were sitting in one of those houses this morning, and all of a sudden I had some guy kick in a door and start screaming at me and throwing me on the floor, it’s entirely possible (probable) that I’d be facing an assault and battery charge tonight.  You can’t treat people like this and not expect them to fight back.  And really, the fighting back?  It’s what they’re counting on.  I hope the folks in Minnesota can keep themselves to a higher standard than I could.

10:15/Saturday Night: ATL Edition

I don’t have many positive things to say about Atlanta these days, but I certainly have had some grand times there.  In the mid 90s, just after college and before moving to DC, I (along with M.) was among the first handful of gentrifiers* of downtown Atlanta’s Fairlie Poplar neighborhood.  We snagged the first lease of an apartment in the Muse’s Building, a renovated former department store that had been joined with a number of other buildings to form an interesting collection of residences.  But the residences weren’t nearly as interesting as the residents.  In one small community we had ourselves, a university president, a handyman, a fashion buyer, a stripper, a bank VP, an old writer, a political con man, pot-smoking business professors, and the mega-rich owners.  And we all knew each other, sharing spaces, drinks, and parties.  I sometimes wish I’d not been in such a rush with my life – it was an incredibly positive and stress free time (I mean,  lived at 50 Peachstree St. and worked at 100 Peachtree St.  Does it get any easier?).  Alas, time flows and we move on.  A few tracks, however, bring me right back there:




*Do you still count as a gentrifier if you’ve moved *from* Vine City, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area?  (Note that that article is from 1966.  Nothing had improved by the time I lived there.)

Photo courtesy coka_koehler

Integrity Bank: God Helps Those That Help Themselves

Taxpayers will be picking up the cost of the failed Integrity Bank, which was “centered around a Christian faith-based business model.”  What does that mean?  Well, part if it was tithing its net income (something tells me that it went to the churches of its officers).  Maybe this was the other part:

CEO Steve Skow earned $1.8 million that year, while senior lender and executive vice president Doug Ballard earned $847,222. A typical community bank CEO, banking consultants said, earn roughly $300,000 per year.

Nice.  Oh, and here’s a nifty little touch:

Integrity’s employees regularly prayed before meetings or in branch lobbies with customers[.]

Because it’s easier to steal when you get people to close their eyes.

Regulatory Capture: Perverse Government Regulation

“Regulatory capture” is what we call a situation in which an industry has taken practical control of a government agency and used it to serve its own – rather than the public’s – purposes.  This has happened to varying extents with most Federal agencies (say, the FCC and FEC).  Few industries, however, have managed to do it to the extent that the meat industry has done it.  There are, literally, shelves full of books on this subject, but a recent court decision upholding a USDA decision boils it down for us:

A federal appeals court says the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease. Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of  cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows. The government says it can’t.

Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.

Yes, the agency charged with ensuring your meat is safe has been used to ensure that no one is allowed to voluntarily test all of their meat for safety, because it might turn out that the public wants it.

Weekend Music: WTF Edition

Nothing much to say, really, beyond:




Bonus dedication from Mitt to John:


(Comments temporarily moderated – seems like Blacknell.net drew the short straw in today’s spammer contest)

Friday Notes: Ridiculous Things Edition

Palin?  Small-town mayor to heartbeat away from the Presidency in less than two years?  Heh.  This will be . . . interesting. Kay Bailey Hutchinson painful to watch, trying to spin this as a positive. Here’s a good observation, from a dkos commenter:

I welcome a VP nominee who has demonstrated that she has realized that the Republicans are the party of complete corruption and are void of any moral compass, let alone any patriotism.

Palin has moved against, accused, and turned in Murkowski, Don Young, Ted Stevens, and others.

McCain needs to be asked:  in just a few years Palin has moved against the total corruption that has gutted the Republican Party in Alaska.  What, Sir, have you done in Washington to address the total corruption of the Republicans there?

And Palin needs to be asked:  has the Republican Party served Alaska well?  Is this what we need for the country?

CNN just talking about today’s McCain event “This is something we never – never see at a McCain event – a full packed house in a large venue.”  Ouch.

Update: Oh, lord.  This is just too good not to share.  Fox News’ Steve Doocy explains to us how Palin does have foreign relations experience (seriously):


Update II: And just to show that there’s a market for that kind of stupidity, there are already idiots repeating it as an actual argument online.

Update III: Blueweeds gives this pick the serious consideration it deserves.


Brits are managing to make the proverbial Ugly Americans look like pikers.  C’mon, guys, this is what Spain is for.  Keep it there, please.


A plan to go to a Yankees game before Yankee Stadium came down recently fell through, and this makes me completely fine with that:

The Yankees are serious about their bizarre prohibition on going to the bathroom during the playing of “God Bless America” during the Seventh Inning Stretch: a man was dragged out of the stadium for daring to stand up and move around instead of singing a patriotic, religious song.

If I were still to go, I’d probably buy this t-shirt for the occasion.

Happy 72nd, John McCain!

I know, it’s raining on your birthday.  But you and your friends didn’t let Katrina get you down on this day in 2005, so I’m sure you’ll handle it just fine today.

Campaign Event Soundtracks: A Few Suggestions

I am ashamed to say that the Democratic National Convention has been just as successful as the Olympics in running 24/7 at Blacknell.net World Headquarters.  So I’ve seen almost all of the primetime speeches (with varying levels of attention) and heard much of the music.  The choices, for the most part, have been uninspiring (Isn’t She Lovely, following Michelle Obama?  Ugh.)  And music matters (Don’t Stop still brings the 92 convention right back, for me).  So, free of charge, I’m going to offer up some advice for political fundraisers and campaigns, present and future.

Obama might want to take a more aggressive approach, with this:


More cynical supporters might be won over with:


A Terry McAuliffe dinner:


For the Inaugual Ball that Hillary hosts:


Because I’m a bipartisan kind of guy, here’s a couple for McCain:




And for the Republicans on November 6th:


I think we’re alone now,
There does’t seem to be anyone around.
I think we’re alone now,
The beating of our hearts is the only sound.

I’m Not Sure I Understand . . .

the excitement of some folks at the prospect of Mitt Romney as a VP.  Let’s review Romney’s apparent downsides – 1) out-of-touch rich, 2) values his religion more than good public policy, and 3) is a complete phony.  Maybe it’s just me, but that’s the sort of thing that Republican voters just eat up, no?  And it’s worth remembering that it describes George Bush pretty well, too.  I’m not saying that Romney’s anything to be concerned about (as a VP candidate, anyway)*, but as a Dem, I’d far rather see a freakshow like Huckabee or sadsack Lieberman on the ticket.

*This would be a completely different race if the GOP had had the sense to pick Romney as its nominee.

The Hope of Message Control

Interesting NYT piece on the firm editorial hand of the Obama campaign:

“Above all,” it said, “we can’t have a Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to our country as we build a wall on the Southern border. Instead, let us build bridges of friendship and cooperation with our Southern neighbors.”

But when Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx submitted his three-minute speech as required to the high command of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, the remark was excised.

[ . . . ]

That was not all that was missing; the speech he delivered here on Monday bore little resemblance to the one he had written. The deletions appeared to reflect political sensitivities of a campaign seeking to attract moderate voters in the general election.

[ . . . ]

Gov. David A. Paterson of New York also felt the firm nudge of the Obama campaign. Mr. Paterson had hoped to emphasize the poor state of the economy, a central issue on his agenda, during his turn at the lectern on Tuesday. Instead, the campaign persuaded Mr. Paterson, who is legally blind, to talk about his disability, which he often avoids discussing in detail for fear of being pigeonholed as an advocate for the blind.

I don’t mind a bit of caution and control in a campaign.  But it’s a tricky task to manage – I hope they’re up to it.

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