Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for September, 2013

Tom Emmer: He’s A Politician! He’s A Pitchman! He’s A Dessert Topping!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 30, 2013

2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer shows how to get a political ad on TV and get paid for it — by shilling for somebody else’s product at the same time you’re selling yourself.

Seriously, he actually did this. Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie has the deets:

Emmer is the apparent frontrunner for the Republican endorsement in the open seat created in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District with the retirement of Representative Michele Bachmann.

This morning he doesn’t disappoint Bluestem’s expectations for providing great blogger fodder, as he gives a short testimonial for Integrity Exteriors and Remodelers, Inc., an Anoka-based general contractor with headquarters in Anoka. According to records on file with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, Andrew Dahlberg, Elk River, serves as Chief Executive Officer of the firm.

A quick check with the Federal Election Commission and the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board individual contributor databases reveals that Dahlberg does not appear to have made any federal or state campaign contributions large enough to require disclosure by either agency.

The ad may raise eyebrows–if not legal questions–because Emmer introduces the testimonial ad as a candidate running for congress, while standing before a yard sign.

Just go and read Sally’s piece, and watch the (unintentionally) hilarious ad Emmer did. It’s straight out of The Onion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Thumbing through your dossier

Posted by Charles II on September 29, 2013

Laura Poitras and James Risen have published a story in the NYT that comes close to saying that the government has a dossier on every citizen (via Bob Swern at DK):

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes….

The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said.

N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing.

The agency did say that the large database of Americans’ domestic phone call records… was excluded.

In the 2011 memo explaining the shift, N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists. [emphasis added]

Why construct a dossier if you have all the data? Then you can use a search program to compile a dossier on any individual in nanoseconds, and deny you are keeping a dossier on anyone besides “suspects.” When anyone’s past actions can be compiled at will, everyone is a suspect, if only a future one.

By the way, I added the bolding because that’s a point that analysts like Bob Swern and Marcy seem to have missed. What conceivable legitimate function does targeting people based on their conversations with otherwise non-criminal businessmen, politicians, or activists have?

Posted in abuse of power, totalitarianism, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

The GOP’s #shutdown Insanity

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 29, 2013

A collection of links on the subject of the looming GOP-forced government shutdown:

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead, by James Fallows.

Harry Reid to House GOP and their new master, Ted Cruz: Grow up.

— Will Obama invoke the 14th Amendment to stop the Republicans from forcing America to default on paying for Bush’s wars? Possibly: “However, last night Rachel mentioned the section of the Constitution (14th amendment) that says the US has to pay it’s bills, meaning the President can act alone if the Congress can’t do it. This morning [Friday, 9/28], Sen Tim Kaine, good bud of the pres, quoted the same portion. I now think the President plans to use that and raise the ceiling himself. At this point, it seems the shutdown is inevitable though.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 27, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 8 Comments »

The NSA has met the enemy, and it is you

Posted by Charles II on September 25, 2013


A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country’s “anti-terrorism” law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.

When he objected that his political views had no relevance to security concerns, UK law enforcement officials threatened to detain him for the full nine hours allowed by the Terrorism Act of 2000..
…perceiving drone opponents as “threats” or even “adversaries” is hardly new. Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those “with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates”, special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are “peer reviewed” and that every edit made is recorded by user.

Also yesterday, the Libyan-American rapper Khaled Ahmed, better known by his stage name “Khaled M”, was removed from an airplane in the US without any explanation. …this was part of ongoing harassment he experiences when flying ….

Finally, Sarah Abdurrahman, an American Muslim and producer of the NPR program “On the Media”, was detained for 6 hours at the US border in Niagra Falls when returning from a vacation in Canada with her family (all US citizens).

The NSA is deep into policing political views. I happen to believe that drones are a lot less bad than, say, B-52s. But someone who believes that they represent illegal targeted assassination–and poorly targeted assassination at that– has a legitimate argument that deserves to be heard and not criminalized. Criminalizing dissent is the hallmark of totalitarianism.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, terrorism, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

How Some Rural County Clerks And The Blogger Who Heard Their Cries Stopped Minnesota Republicans From Putting Voter Suppression In The State Constitution

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 25, 2013

Remember how I spent much of last year talking up Sally Jo Sorensen’s efforts to fight the Voter ID amendment proposal that our (soon-to-be-voted-out) GOP-controlled state legislature was pushing?

While all the Twin-Cities-based bloggers and institutional groups took one look at the polling (which in May 2011 was at 80% in favor of Voter ID) and ceded the battle to the far-better-funded voter suppression groups, Greater-Minnesota-based blogger Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie was reading local news stories and talking to county and city clerks and elections officials in outstate Minnesota, who were all aghast at how much it was going to cost their local governments to implement this Voter ID plan. (Kittson County alone would have had to shell out $160 for every man, woman and child to meet the requirements of the proposed amendment. That’s money that won’t go towards plowing your roads, or hiring new cops, or fixing your schools.)

Sally Jo realized that all anyone needed to do to get started on sinking the voter suppression amendment was to get the rural county clerks talking to each other, to their local newspapers, and to their counterparts in the bigger cities. And that’s what she did, with a little help from me (with posts both here and at Firedoglake) in the later stages of the story.

Between the two of us, we forced the Twin Cities blogs, and then the Twin Cities establishment media, to cover it, just so they wouldn’t be repeatedly scooped by FDL, a blog with a national readership, on a big story in their own backyard. Then at the end of September 2012, new poll numbers came in, and the 80% approval of barely a year earlier was suddenly down to 52% for an amendment that needed 50% support to pass. And all without a single radio or TV ad up to that point.

That’s when the unions and other institutional groups started to put serious money and effort into the anti-Voter-ID fight. It was now an easily winnable fight, in large part because of Sally Jo and her hard work. Radio and TV ads were rushed into production.

The Republicans were furious. And I mean furious. They’d been counting on the Twin Cities prog-bloggers and institutional prog forces like the unions to stick to pointing out that the Voter ID plan was meant to keep nonwhites and poor people from voting. This is absolutely true, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t really see anything wrong with that; most of them won’t say so, but the Bradley Effect applies here. But when we hammered away on the cost issue — and when Gustavus professor and elections expert Max Hailperin came in and crunched the numbers — that freaked out the GOP so much they had the Center of the American Experiment cook up some numbers that allegedly showed that the Voter ID amendment wouldn’t be very costly after all; needless to say, Prof. Hailperin debunked their numbers without even breathing hard.

In the end, the Voter ID amendment went down in defeat, in large part because Sally Jo found a way when her “betters” in the Twin Cities media and political scenes had given up.

09/26/13 Update: Sally Jo has this to say about the fight to stop the Voter ID amendment:

Well, I do think that the clerks, the League of Women Voters, the League of Rural Voters and others deserve credit–and Luchelle Stevens’ strategy once she was hired. But yes, PW is right about the urban bloggers writing off rural areas based on early polling.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The patter of little lawsuits

Posted by Charles II on September 22, 2013

Curt Anderson of AP reports at HuffPo that Chiquita is facing lawsuits over its payments to a right-wing Colombian death squad, the AUC. Chiquita has admitted to paying $1.7 M to the AUC, which it called blackmail, and pled guilty to assisting terrorists. It is now facing civil actions in Florida. It has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court on the basis that the victims families can’t prove a connection between the payments and the murders. One would think that Chiquita’s best defense would be that it also made payments to the FARC, the people who the AUC was supposedly fighting while, in fact, terrorizing the entire population.

The 11th Circuit has previously ruled that a Bolivian Minister of Defense can’t be held liable for killings that resulted from his orders, issued on the battlefield, to fire at certain locations. You know, because pulling the trigger doesn’t necessarily mean that someone at where the gun is pointing is going to be wounded and perhaps die. Or whatever.

According to Telesur, the objective of the AUC violence, according to Raúl Emilio Hasbún alias Pedro Ponte o Pedro Bonito, was to displace local communities in areas where Chiquita wished to grow bananas.

It’s not like I expect any lawsuits against American corporations for their crimes to succeed in the present unjust judicial system, but perhaps, like the patter of raindrops on an autumn afternoon, they may awaken Americans to the dark side of our engagement in Latin America.

Posted in judicial rulings, judiciary, Latin America | Comments Off on The patter of little lawsuits

My response to a Daily Kos rah-rah about how Dems will win in 2014

Posted by Charles II on September 22, 2013

It wasn’t an important thread. It had four comments and five recommendations. It was clearly written by someone with a young, good heart. But it annoyed me enough to respond. Here, edited, is what the post said:

There is a great diary on ACA where the writer shares his/her experience finding out about what “ObamaCare” will really do for his/her family and their friends and neighbours.

I sent a link to the site to my girlfriend, who is self-employed and will be sharing it with my family, and friends, and everybody I know. Once people realize what ObamaCare will actually mean, they are going to either 1) love it, or 2) realize it isn’t the second coming of the evil one.

And they are going to be pissed at the Republicans for blocking it and thankful that the Dems got it passed.

And will vote in the 2014 elections…once people …realize what the ACA means to them and their families, they are going to go Dem

My response:

Talk is nice…

Democrats are in the minority because they have not fielded attractive candidates in enough districts. Do that and you depress Democratic turnout in those districts. The net effect is to lose the statewide races, like for governor and Senator. The governorships have a lot to do with the gerrymander of 2010…which, to complete the circle, is why Democrats are in the minority despite winning more votes in congressional races than did the Republicans.

Howard Dean recognized this and established the 50-state campaign. That was a tremendous advantage, which the Democratic Party regulars renounced as soon as they were able to get Howard Dean off stage.

The ACA is a nice selling point, sort of like 50 mpg. But you need a car to go with it. The Democratic Party seems to be determined not to do that.

True story: After 2010, my state Democratic chair asked for input on how to recover the situation. I responded that the reason the Party loses elections is because it is widely perceived as corrupt. Democrats, of course, are not more corrupt than Republicans. But because they are wishy-washy, not fully committed to their political beliefs, every time that one does something ethically questionable or even illegal, the media message is able to paint that misdeed as a mark of corruption.

I urge every Kossack who can to consider a run for office. Every time a talented, articulate, caring person stands up and says, I’m a Democrat, it does something to dispel the poisonous image created by the Democratic Party regulars, who are concerned with their careers and advancement over healing the suffering and national decay their incompetence has facilitated.

Voters want people who genuinely listen, know what they believe, say what they believe, and are willing to suffer a little to do the right thing. They are much less concerned with ideology than with character.

And if they are offered a Republican and nobody, you can pretty well guess that the Republican is going to win.

I shouldn’t rain on a guy who is inspired to do something good by pointing out how ultimately futile it is. The optimism of the young is the only reason this nation hasn’t reverted to monarchy. But I see the movements of today, notably Occupy, and I see such a lack of realism about how the magnitude of the problem and what genius and energy it is going to take to overcome it. Fixing things is the work of a lifetime, one that will take the courage and the endurance of the civil rights movement. It’s definitely worth doing, no matter how much one suffers or is defeated, because not to engage is to participate in doing wrong.

But change is not going to happen just because of some clever advertising.

Posted in activism, Occupy movement | 7 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 20, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 4 Comments »

If you really want to know what the Founders said…

Posted by Charles II on September 19, 2013

The National Archives has made it possible: see here.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Phyladelphia Octr. 9. 1774

My Dear

I am wearied to Death with the Life I lead. The Business of the Congress is tedious, beyond Expression. This Assembly is like no other that ever existed. Every Man in it is a great Man—an orator, a Critick, a statesman, and therefore every Man upon every Question must shew his oratory, his Criticism and his Political Abilities.

The Consequence of this is, that Business is drawn and spun out to an immeasurable Length. I believe if it was moved and seconded that We should come to a Resolution that Three and two make five We should be entertained with Logick and Rhetorick, Law, History, Politicks and Mathematicks, concerning the Subject for two whole Days, and then We should pass the Resolution unanimously in the Affirmative.

Posted in Congress, history | 2 Comments »

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