Saturday, November 03, 2007

I'm All for Workers' Solidarity, but...

They're messing with my Daily Show! And my Colbert Report!

Hollywood's screen writers' union Friday announced an indefinite strike starting Monday -- a move likely to see popular shows yanked off air in the US film and television industry's biggest crisis in decades.

The 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America will strike from Monday morning unless a deal is struck with producers over demands on pay and profit-sharing, the union said after its leaders met Friday.


The effects of a strike will be felt most severely by television, with late-night chat shows hosted by David Letterman and Jay Leno -- which both lean heavily on teams of union writers -- expected to go off the air.

Other nightly shows such as Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report" are also tipped to shut down, according to reports.


It's All I Got


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Still Evil, Too

Bush is a man of his convictions. Unfortunately, he's convinced that kids should be left to get sick:
A defiant Democratic-controlled Congress voted Thursday to provide health insurance to an additional 4 million lower-income children, and President Bush vowed swiftly to cast his second straight veto on the issue.


Still an Idiot

Bush's historical comprehension continues to astound:
President Bush compared Congress' Democratic leaders Thursday to people who ignored the rise of Lenin and Hitler early in the last century, saying "the world paid a terrible price" then and risks similar consequences for inaction today.


Baby Steps

I guess we'll take what we can get...
America today took a first small step towards mandatory controls on green house gas emissions, in direct opposition to the Bush administration's policy on climate change.

Today's vote in a Senate subcommittee marks America's first move towards the direction of European-style cap and trade policies.

Although the caps approved today do not go as far as those in Europe, environmental campaigners said it marked a decisive break with the policies of the White House.


Phelps Gets Smacked

A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Justice

Blockading the bridge was apparently the right thing to do:
A grand jury will not charge anyone in a police blockade that kept hundreds of evacuees from crossing a Mississippi River bridge on foot after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, authorities said Wednesday.

Several hundred people claimed police from suburban Gretna blocked them as they tried to flee New Orleans on Sept. 1, three days after the storm hit.

Many of the evacuees, who had been stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water, said they were told to cross the bridge to be evacuated from the city, only to be forced to turn around upon reaching the other side.

Police later said they blocked the evacuees because there were no supplies or services for them on the other side of the river. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson also acknowledged that his officers fired shots into the air during the blockade in an attempt to quell what he described as unrest among the evacuees.



Consumer Safety? Meh.

I'm not saying everyone should necessarily be obsessed with the safety of products bought and sold in the United States.

But I really rather think that she should be:
The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

The measure is an effort to buttress an agency that has been under siege because of a raft of tainted and dangerous products manufactured both domestically and abroad. In the last two months alone, more than 13 million toys have been recalled after tests indicated lead levels that sometimes reached almost 200 times the safety limit.

Ms. Nord’s opposition to important elements of the legislation is consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration over the last seven years. In a variety of areas, from antitrust to trucking and worker safety, officials appointed by President Bush have sought to reduce the role of regulation and government in the marketplace.


Paging Bill O'Reilly

Surely our nation's greatest freedom fighter will decry this new War on Halloween:
The Iowa Department of Revenue, often accused of trying to squeeze blood out of turnips, is now searching for pennies in pumpkins.

A new department policy this year has made Halloween jack-o'-lanterns subject to the state sales tax, and many Iowa pumpkin growers are feeling tricked.

Is there room in the patch for both the Great Pumpkin and the tax man on this Halloween night?

"I don't mind paying taxes, but let's get real here, people," said Bob Kautz, owner of the Buffalo Pumpkin Patch in Buffalo, Ia., about eight miles west of Davenport.


Battle of the Bigots

The Klan turns against itself:

CULLMAN, Ala. -- Members of one Ku Klux Klan organization say they will assemble at the courthouse Nov. 10 to show their opposition to another Klan group that plans an anti-immigration rally there that day.

Ken Mier, who described himself as an investigator for the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and the national office of the Ku Klux Klan LLC, said in an e-mail to The Cullman Times that his group is against the tactics of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which held an anti-immigration protest last month in Athens.

"We are opposed to the ignorance and stupidity as displayed by the individuals that thumbed their nose at the area churches by continuing to use racial slurs, threats and avoided Christian deportment," he said.


Monday, October 29, 2007

United States Invaded!

It was only a matter of time before the Canadians got restless and swarmed across our hopelessly unguarded border:
An army of Canadian tourists, shoppers and companies is invading America in a mini-boom caused by a surge in the Canadian dollar and a collapse in the US currency. They come to buy everything from second homes to the day's grocery shopping. Canadians are buying while everything in the US is cheap for them.

It is a dramatic reversal in the love-hate relationship between the two countries. While America's 'almighty greenback' ruled the world economy, the Canadians had to contend with the fact that their own dollar's nickname was the comical-sounding 'loonie', coined after a native bird.

But no one is laughing any more. At least not in America. The Canadian dollar has reached virtual parity with the US dollar for the first time in more than three decades. In five years the loonie has surged by 62 per cent in value against the dollar. As far as avian symbols of national pride go, the loonie is more than a match for the bald eagle.


Un-Scary Immigrants

Turns out they are no more criminal than our own homegrown scofflaws. Or maybe it means that immigrants are just smarter than Americans and so don't get caught as often:
Reliable statistics on crime by undocumented immigrants are hard to come by. But the Chicago Sun-Times has learned that less than 4 percent of the adults in Illinois prisons have been identified as illegal immigrants. And as of mid-July, less than 3 percent of the inmates in Cook County Jail were illegals.

Those incarceration figures nearly mirror the undocumented immigrant population.

The U.S. has 11.5 million illegal immigrants, about 4 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Illinois has an illegal immigrant population of about 432,000 -- just over 3 percent of the state's population, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study.

The figures show illegal aliens "are not over-represented [in jails], despite the conventional wisdom that they are much more involved in criminal activity," said Ronald Weitzer, a criminologist at George Washington University.

"Criminologists see it as something of a myth that immigrants are involved in more crime," Weitzer said. "The public thinks that with higher immigration comes higher crime, but that just isn't borne out by the data."


American Bar Association v. Capital Punishment

Serious problems in state death penalty systems compromise fairness and accuracy in capital punishment cases and justify a nationwide freeze on executions, the American Bar Association says.

Problems cited in a report released Sunday by the lawyers' organization include:

  • Spotty collection and preservation of DNA evidence, which has been used to exonerate more than 200 inmates;
  • Misidentification by eyewitnesses;
  • False confessions from defendants; and
  • Persistent racial disparities that make death sentences more likely when victims are white.
  • The report is a compilation of separate reviews done over the past three years of how the death penalty operates in eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

    Teams that studied the systems in Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania did not call for a halt to executions in those states. But the ABA said every state with the death penalty should review its execution procedures before putting anyone else to death.


    Killing the Treme

    This is just appalling. That someone would call the cops, and that the cops would respond in this ridiculous manner, sickens me.
    On the evening of Oct. 1, some two dozen of New Orleans' top brass-band players and roughly a hundred followers began a series of nightly processions for Kerwin James, a tuba player with the New Birth Brass Band who had passed away on Sept. 26. They were "bringing him down," as it's called, until his Saturday burial. But the bittersweet tradition that Monday night ended more bitterly than anything else -- with snare drummer Derrick Tabb and his brother, trombonist Glen David Andrews, led away in handcuffs after some 20 police cars had arrived near the corner of North Robertson and St. Philip streets in New Orleans' historic Tremé neighborhood. In the end, it looked more like the scene of a murder than misdemeanors.

    "The police told us, 'If we hear one more note, we'll arrest the whole band,'" said Tabb a few days later, at a fundraiser to help defray the costs of James' burial. "Well, we did stop playing," said Andrews. "We were singing, lifting our voices to God. You gonna tell me that's wrong too?" Drummer Ellis Joseph of the Free Agents Brass band, who was also in the procession, said, "They came in a swarm, like we had AK-47s. But we only had instruments."

    The musicians were no longer playing but instead singing "I'll Fly Away" when the cops converged and the cuffs came out. A New Orleans police spokesman claimed the department was simply acting on a neighborhood resident's phoned-in complaint. And the department maintains that such processions require permits.

    But when they busted up the memorial procession for a beloved tuba player, arresting the two musicians for parading without a permit and disturbing the peace, they didn't just cut short a familiar hymn -- they stomped on something sacred and turned up the volume in the fight over the city's culture, which continues amid the long struggle to rebuild New Orleans.

    In that fight, Tremé is ground zero. Funeral processions are an essential element of New Orleans culture, and the impromptu variety in particular --- honoring the passing of someone of distinction, especially a musician -- are a time-honored tradition in neighborhoods like Tremé, which some consider the oldest black neighborhood in America. For black New Orleans residents who have returned to the city, these and other street-culture traditions -- second-line parades and Mardi Gras Indian assemblies -- offer perhaps the only semblance of normalcy, continuity and community organization left. In a changing Tremé, within a city still in troubled limbo and racked by violent crime, long-held tensions regarding the iconic street culture have intensified. The neighborhood, the breeding ground for much of this culture, has a history of embattlement. And now more of that history is being written.

    "I've been parading in the Tremé for more than 25 years, and I've never had to deal with anything like this," said tuba player Phil Frazier, who leads the popular Rebirth Brass Band. He's brother to James, who died of complications of a stroke at 34. "I told the cops it was my brother we were playing for, and they just didn't seem to care. He's a musician and he contributed a lot to this city in his short life."

    Katy Reckdahl, a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, had rushed to catch up with the Monday-evening procession when her 2-year-old son Hector heard tubas in the distance. What she didn't expect was a sudden flood of patrol cars, sirens blaring. Her front-page, full-banner-headline report two days later described police running into the crowd, grabbing at horn players' mouthpieces, and trying to seize drumsticks out of hands. "The confrontations spurred cries in the neighborhood about over-reaction and disproportionate enforcement by the police, who had often turned a blind eye to the traditional memorial ceremonies," she wrote. "Still others say the incident is a sign of a greater attack on the cultural history of the old city neighborhood by well-heeled newcomers attracted to Tremé by the very history they seem to threaten."